Dinner and Drinks at Darkhorse, in Stratford’s East Village

It’s remarkable how much living in Stratford has changed in the four years we’ve been here: in that time we’ve seen the former Olympic Village move from being boarded up, to having a few ghostly residents, to now being the full of life year round. For me and my greedy stomach, the highlight of this has been the array of great restaurants and coffee shops that have now popped up on our doorstep, including Darkhorse among others.

The menu is southern European inspired, but with British roots: think tiger prawns on a bed of swiss chard, roasted guinea fowl with gratin dauphinoise, pork chop with celeriac remoulade, and was all perfectly cooked and presented. The desserts were especially good. I opted for a bitter chocolate tart while J had the hot chocolate bread pudding, which he promptly declared the best he’d ever had. Another highlight for us was the interesting cocktail menu – I tried a bergamot gimlet while J went for a classic Aviation. Delicious, but one was definitely enough on a Wednesday evening as they were pretty strong!

Darkhorse’s menu has been designed so that you can go for the traditional starter and main combo, or make your own ‘picky bits’ selection built up from charcuterie and smaller plates which are fantastic for sharing. It made the perfect mid-week date spot and would be a great way to finish off your day if you’ve been shopping in Westfield and want to get away from all the hustle and bustle for a far more relaxed meal than you can otherwise find.

A review of Darkhorse in E20's East Village: the perfect grown up date spot

Our meal at Darkhorse was complimentary, but we’ll definitely be back (especially as I have my eye on the Baked Vacherin Mont D’Or to share) 

Cooking from Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite

I tend to think the mark of a good cookbook is when you find a recipe so good, and you cook it so many times, that after a while it just becomes a reflexive part of your cooking rotation. Except of course the problem with this is that after a while, you stop picking up the cook book. The recipe has become part of your routine, you take it in your own direction, you make changes according to whatever happens to be in your fridge that evening.

The japanese chicken with smashed cucumber salad from Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite is one such recipe for me. The original page is soy splattered and and sprinkled with ginger, but since I knew how to make it back to front (totally delicious by the way), I had stopped picking up the cook. And then last weekend, looking for something interesting to do with some pork shoulder, not too carb heavy, I pulled the book back off the shelf again, and wondered why I’d stayed away from it so long.

We had spiced pork steaks with a fiery ginger mango salad on the side on Sunday evening which was just so good. I’ve never bothered to put mango alongside a meat before, and now I realise I’m missing out. We were so pleased with that one, the next evening we tucked into schwarma chicken with sumac onions and chickpea puree. I promptly ignored all the spicing instructions for chicken, switching mixed spice and turmeric for ras al hanout instead, loved the garlic heavy chickpea puree, and crunched my way through the thin onion. Perfect chilly summer evening eating.

This is such a great cookbook – it tapped into healthy eating just before bone broth and spiralising took over, and actually, it’s a much tastier way of eating. I love Diana Henry’s sensible, well-researched thought on what (and what not) to eat sprinkled throughout the book, and how the recipes are structured into seasons, to take you all year round.

While I’m not quite sure why I stayed away from this so long, it’s been a delight to rediscover this book – and assuming the forecast of 23C on Sunday holds, I expect the next recipe I’ll try out will be the greek yoghurt, honey and apricot ice cream.

Schwarma chicken from Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite

 

Canada Water | Hawker House

A review of Street Feast's latest venture, Hawker House at Canada Water
What better way to spend a damp, miserable evening than hiding out in Canada Water’s Hawker House? Street Feast’s latest pop up has taken up residence in Canada Water for the next seven weeks (down to six now), and it’s the perfect spot to spend a Friday or Saturday night evening.

While Street Feast haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel with their latest spot, it means you’ll know exactly what to expect: multiple bars, all your favourite street food traders, free entry before 7pm, and neon lights all over the space. Only since it’s winter, there’s a roof.

Korean pajeon from Busan BBQ at Hawker House, Canada Water

I tucked into my first ever dish from Busan BBQ, of korean pajeon. Super light spring onion filled pancakes, one topped with spicy pork belly and the other with fried chicken. While neither had quite the level of spice I was expecting, they were bloody delicious, and the highlight of the evening for me. The pork melted apart, and the chicken was fried in a really light batter, so you had none of the usual greasiness of fried chicken. J went for a classic pulled pork bun from SmokeStack, and finally admitted that just maybe, he appreciates a heavy hand on the vinegar in a coleslaw. Long overdue my friend…

Arepas at Hawker House, Canada Water

We also tried an arepa from Petare, which I’d seen Lisa recommend a few weeks before. Made from venezuelan cornbread, and packed full of shredded beef brisket, fried sweet plantain and plenty of black beans, they sounded totally delicious. In reality, I wasn’t such a fan. The beef was only right at the top of the cornbread, rather than running the whole way through the cornbread pocket, which in practice meant only two mouthfuls in you were out of brisket and into the sweet plantain, rather than having balanced mouthfuls of each. Great idea in theory, but perhaps not so tasty in the execution that evening. To finish we dropped by the Meringue Girl’s neon pick stand for an ultimate eton mess, made from their beautiful pastel pink meringues. Safe to safe, meringues + cream + fruit is always a winning combination, and tonight was no exception.

Overall we had a great evening at Hawker House, and it was nice to break away from my usual favourites of Yum Bun and Breddos Tacos in favour of some new traders. Safe to say, I’ll be back before they leave.

Hawker House , Canada Street, Canada Water, SE162XU

Meringue Girls at Hawker House, Canada Water