No luck with the bread yet. Because I didn’t make any. I ended up running up and down town looking at furniture, equipment and more furniture.
I saw some really good chairs In Kensal Green of all places, which goes to show that anything can happen. For those of you who have never heard of it, Kensal Green is a north London suburb, most famed , if I can use that term, for its Victorian graveyard and a pub called paradise.
Not a joke.
My designer friend sent me there to a salvage shop – I suppose the graveyard location naturally attracts salvage shops, And the place itself does have that graveyard feel, but in a good way. I saw some chairs I really liked, reasonably priced and there were enough of them, but it felt silly to buy them before I signed the lease. What do I do with 27 stools if the deal doesn’t go through? But what if I lose them? something to think about this weekend.
Scary how fast this week went, and how little got done.
My lawyer, a sweet but super scary lady, has taken over negotiation from me, and the gap between how by-the-book she is and the estate agents` ghetto ways leaves me in constant fear that something will go wrong. They have exchanged 4 e-mails trying to establish the property number. I had to go down there and count houses.
I would love to post pictures of the place, but not untill the lease is signed. Bad luck you see.
Had a design meeting with my designer friend, who came up with some really important insights, and some great ideas. It was great fun talking to someone professionally about how to realize all these notions I had, and to see the beginning of a floor plan forming. Exciting stuff.
But the one thing I can’t seem to nail, the biggest hardship so far has been the issue of bread – I can’t decide what sort of bread I want to serve in the restaurant.
I know the obvious choice for middle eastern food is flat bread or pita, but I really want to avoid the obvious, and there are so many types of bread that can work, But getting it right takes a while: you can only taste the result when the loaf is ready, and then you have to start from scratch, adding 10 gr. of yeast or half a teaspoon of salt. And if something goes wrong, It goes horribly wrong. This was meant to be a beautiful loaf of spongy type bread I thought will work beautifully, and I really hoped to have a golden-crusted-crown-of-bread picture for the end of this post.
That won`t be the case. I will spare you the details, and myself the embarrassment but due to a unique combination of cold weather, lethargic yeast, oven malfunction and incredible stupidity on my part, this loaf did not provide the Kodak moment I was hoping for, and was quite disgusting to eat as well.
The lease has been agreed, I hired a lawyer to go through the details, hope it will all go smoothly. Now that it’s all happening I realize that I havent done as much as I could these last few months: I still don’t know where to get all the equipment, which bank offers the best rates, what the place is going to look like, and to my shame, even the recipes are not final (on the plus side, I am the holder of the spider solitaire house record, and have mastered the dish `linguini marmite`). Not much I could do over the weekend except cook.
Cooking in olive oil is a very turkish thing to do; In any restaurant in Istanbul you are more than likely to get at least one vegetable cooked this way, usually as mezze. I don’t mean frying in oil, but actually submerging a vegetable in oil and aromatics and gently simmering – somehow it accents the flavor of the main ingredient, and gives it a unique buttery texture.
of course, cooking in olive oil is not cheap, but you can use the same oil again three or four times, and the result will actually be better for it. In fact the oil that remains has so much flavor, it makes for amazing seasoning.
Don`t judge this dish by this picture, It is really delicious and special, and my favorite way to eat fennel. About the pictures, I really thought I would get better at this, but the picture quality of this blog seems to be going down by the post. Drastic action must be taken I know. If anyone has some entry-level food photography advice or links, I would be very grateful.
Supposedly, This week should see me setting up a business account, starting to work on finding equipment and on the design, finding builders to do the place up, and to work on bread and dessert recipes, a task I was dreading to tackle. Again, any advice from readers of this blog who are not married to me is most welcome.
A quick one, If there is anyone reading these pages that I don`t personally know: my offer on the property has been accepted.
By the way, if there is anyone reading this that I don`t personally know, A great big Thank you!
Unfortunately, starting a restaurant does involve more than just playing within the kitchen.
Yesterday I had an appointment with Vicky Pollard, She works in HSBC now, in business accounts. She wanted to specify the finance options available to me, which didn’t take that long as there are none, But she did leave me with that delightful morsel of information – approx 2/3 of all new food ventures fail to break even in their first year, and around a third fail to make it to their second year. Nice to know – Thank you Vicky and HSBC. Had as much luck with Santander and I am still waiting for a call back from Nat West. Maybe they just want to spare me further disappointment.
Barclay’s tomorrow, and that is pretty much the last bank on the list, and if they don’t come through I will have to resort to plan B, which I havent come up with yet.
Read on metro today That 2011 will be one of the hardest years for the british economy, and the hardest hit will be small businesses. That, along with the statistics provided me by Ms Pollard, really make me feel like I am driving a Porsche into a brick wall.
But there are some good things,I am pretty sure I got the property I want. Still waiting for a written confirmation from the lazy estate agent, I don’t want to jinx it so let us say no more. I`ve formed a company ; My wife and I are now incorporated. Does that mean we need to be more professional around the house? sign a release form before we have sex? The protocol is not yet determined.
And than this happened: a true story, I swear – I found a lamp on the street today. Not exactly on the street, in a shop in Marylebone that was closing down. I asked if I can take it and they welcomed me to it. Rather big, so I had to take it home in a cab, and it was quite dirty, so I found myself scrubbing the lamp with bleach, to make it shine. The Aladdin aspect didn’t come to mind immediately, but It would have been neat if a genie suddenly popped. One that looked in my mind a bit like Vicky Pollard.
Whats with the puns? I can`t shake it! I think it`s to do with Evening standard Overexposure. Hope I`ll get it out of my system soon, and these pages wo`nt be so painful to read anymore.
The phrase `Overexposure` also comes to mind looking at this picture. I still like it though.
Everybody tried stuffed vine leaves. Or so they think. I thought I had stuffed vine leaves.In fact, I even thought I make quite good vine leaves. I learned of my mistake at a food fare in the basement of a shopping mall in Tel Aviv. This guy had a stall there, pots full of bubbling broths, dumplings and stews, all looking and smelling gorgeous. His mother and Father cooked it all, he boasted, hand-made and fresh Iraqi food. I saw a Claudia Roden quote somewhere, saying that Persian cuisine is the last undiscovered secret in middle eastern cooking. No disrespect to that great lady, but I think she forgot their neighbours; In Israel, with its huge community of Iraqi jews, their cooking is very highly regarded.
I bought some kibe from this guy, and he was upselling hard. I wasn`t having it, so he gave me these vine leaves to try, and said `you havent tried vine leaves till you tried these` and I had to reluctantly admit, the pushy little man was right, I never had anything even remotely similar; warm and slightly sticky rice, bursting with minty freshness, lemony but not sour, wrapped in soft silky leaves…of course I bought as many as I could, trying to remember every bite so I can recreate them.
And indeed I did – took a lot of trial and error, but I got there finally – I am using risotto rice, for that sticky texture of the grains, cook it slightly with equal amount of chopped onion to rice, season with turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne and ridiculous amounts of mint, fresh and dried.
After the leaves are rolled they are cooked in lemon juice and olive oil with leeks and grapes for a couple of hours.
The results are so good I don`t think there is a limit to how many of them I can eat. If they weren’t so time-consuming to make, I would have it every day, and so would my wife, but these are special affair treats, at least untill the restaurant opens, which seems very near now, I think I am going to close the deal on the location today.
Quick update for readers that are not married to me (according to my stat chart there is one, but I think its my friend Kuskusul) ; meeting at the bank turned out to be a business start-up seminar attended by the deluded (me) and the elderly(everybody else). It was all flow charts and brochures, but there was free tea and coffee so it wasn`t a complete waste of time. On the finance front I am back to square one. Square Zero, rather.
Still waiting to hear about the property I put an offer on, In the meantime I am going there again today with my celebrity chef friend, to see what he thinks, and to measure it again as I keep thinking that I got it wrong. I hope to be wiser by the end of the day.
On Sunday we had a few people (14 of them) over to celebrate the birthday of my previous head chef, An incredible guy with incredible taste and talent. He just moved to his new 5 bedroom home, so I was a bit embarrassed about inviting him to our little run down shoebox, but I wanted to invite him over for a while now. Also, It was a good opportunity to try a few recipes for the restaurant, and take a few pictures for this blog.
I don’t think I mentioned this but my wife is a chef as well, and is now setting up a very big restaurant that is opening very soon. We know that we are not going to see much of each other in 2011, with me setting up a restaurant and her running what will probably be one of londons` busiest kitchens, So we spent a day together cooking at home which we havent done in a while (maybe because our kitchen space has shrunk since we moved here, in opposite relation to our bodies) so the chubby little hands you see in the pictures are hers. The lady with the dinosaur hands they call her at work. It was great, cooking together again, it’s the one place I can criticize what she does without her going mental and vice versa. We cooked a lot and I intended to get at least 6 posts out of it, but we didn’t end up with as many pictures as we should have, and I blame it on Poland, and on vodka.
There is a reason we decided to have vodka instead of wine: Our Polish friend B is famous, amongst other things, for the vodka-and-polish-canapes nights she hosts in her Dalston flat, and it is always tremendous fun. We usually end up at Mangal, topping ourselves up with flasks of vodka that we hide under the table, so the notion of middle eastern food and Polish vodka is tried and tested and is great. But than again, few things aren’t great when you’ve had a pint of vodka in you. She brought us a bottle of my wifes` favorite brand, and we supplemented with some stolli
Needless to say, 15 minutes and two drinks into the evening and I was not thinking of pictures. Or anything for that matter. At first I was still trying to play host, but I soon gave up the pretence, and just plonked the ice bucket in the middle of the room, for all vodka fiends to help themselves.
Ourselves, I should say.
It was a good night, even though I didn’t get all the pictures I wanted, And today is a big day with plenty to do. It’s a good thing vodka doesn’t leave me hung over