We were lucky enough to catch up with Big Apple Hot Dogs at Feast. This foodie festival by London Bridge featured a range of the top food stalls currently plying their trade around London, within a vibrant atmosphere of eager eaters. But we headed straight for these posh sausages.
“So what makes this a posh hot dog?”
First issue: it’s one of those dishes. Yes, that’s right: it’s almost completely impossible to eat. At least not with a) your dignity intact or b) your clothes unstained. It’s served simply in a bun with optional fried onions – but adornment is where the ‘little’ starts and ends – it’s huge, juicy, dribbly and oozing with flavour. Could I eat another one straight away? You bet I could!
So what makes this a posh hot dog? Time Out seems to have real trouble with this notion – though it seems perfectly happy with posh hamburgers, and haven’t we had ‘posh bangers’ in the UK for years? The answer is that it is made from good cuts of free range meat, presented in a freshly baked (though relatively plain) bun, and yes, it’s grilled not boiled – we aint on a New York street corner!
The rest of Feast was somewhere between delicious and disappointing. ‘Small portions so you can try lots’ weren’t accompanied by corresponding reductions in prices – or at least not to levels that you or I might consider cheap tasters. And this is generally street food not Michelin-starred restaurant fare, which you might expect to come with a plastic-knife-and-fork pricetag. Everything I ate was delicious, however, and the range was good – though some things disappointingly sold out.
We arrive at Eyre Brothers with really high hopes.
“I’m still convinced that Iberico pork is in a whole different league”
For me, ‘grilled pork’ at a place called ‘Eyre brothers’ had conjured up an image of a stuffy old-time city steakhouse with besuited middle-aged salarymen chomping down on expensive expense-account lunches. On looking at the website, therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised that, in spite of the name, Eyre Brothers is actually a Spanish restaurant – in fact, another in a run of tapas joints on Time Out’s list. And the grilled pork? Not a slab of Germanic gristle, but an Iberico pork steak, of the sort that at Fino I struggled to believe had not come from a cow. So expectations were raised.
I’m still convinced that Iberico pork is in a whole different league, and as succulent, tender and delicious as the best beef steak. I’m still convinced it must be cooked rare, and needs minimal seasoning. The trouble was, that’s as far as they seem to go at Eyre Brothers. Sure, people – including me – frequently demand that chefs don’t get in the way of letting their first-rate ingredients shine. As a tapa nestled among a tableful of other tasty morsel, simply-grilled pork would be outstanding. But costing £21 served atop some fried sliced potatoes? It left me a little cold. Everything it had going for it was the deliciousness of one ingredient, which tells me more about the restaurant’s shopping-strategies than the chef.
Maybe I’m just not an (expensive) steak and chips guy, or maybe I had set the bar too high. Or maybe I just love tapas too much to go to a Spanish restaurant and settle for a single large dish, no matter how delicious the central element is.
Satay is, of course, the Malaysian national dish, at least as far as the country’s tourist board is concerned. Every Malaysian restaurant offers a couple of varieties of the mini-kebabs whose only requirements appear to be a) skewered, b) grilled and c) served with peanut-based sauce. So, given its wide availability, and that Satay House is charging above the odds for this standard starter, you might expect something a little bit special. But there’s no deconstruction here, and we’re presented with exactly the plate you might expect.
“If Time Out identified a sprinkling of magic when they tried the dish, I wasn’t feeling it this time round”
And that’s about where it starts and ends. Yes, the chicken was fresh, juicy, and cooked till coloured pleasantly without being charred. The peanut sauce had a little chilli kick, with peanuts crushed small and fairly smooth. But that’s pretty much the case whenever and wherever you eat chicken satay (which has made it to many a pub or pan-Asian menu as well).
If Time Out identified a sprinkling of magic when they tried the dish, I wasn’t feeling it this time round. Sure, it was pretty good. Nice enough. Fine. But definitely nothing to write home about.
Add to this the laksa which lacked laksa leaves, and relatively bland breads, and my impression was that this wasn’t a challenging or revolutionary take on the cuisine, but a tried-and-tested formula that has been around long enough to know how people like their standard Asian food. But for fireworks, I’d head elsewhere.