karohemd: (Photo)
On Thursday I had the opportunity to shoot the action in the kitchen at The English Pig, Johnnie Mountain's restaurant in Barbican, London. I've been a fan of the place since I was there last month and tried their signature pork belly dish.
Since Tom Kneale started as head chef, they revised their menu to feature only pork based dishes (no other meat, no fish, no vegetarian option) to pay justice to the restaurant's name. Yes, there's even a chocolate and bacon creme brulee as dessert.
When head chef Tom posted some phone photos of the new dishes on twitter I made an off-handed comment offering to come down and take some nicer ones and he took me up on the offer so on Thursday after work, I made my way down to London.
The restaurant is on the ground floor of a large office building just down the road from Barbican tube station on Aldersgate St. and if it wasn't for the signature blackboard on the street you might even miss it as you walk past. The blackboard is one of Johnnie's trademarks and always has something entertaining on it. See for yourself:
One side of the trademark board The other side of the trademark board

The restaurant itself is rather dark, all dark woods, indirect lighting and lots of candles everwhere, simple, yet elegant.
Considering the size of the place, the kitchen is small but efficiently laid out. As the evening wasn't very busy, I managed to stay mostly out of the way, taking photos from the service side of the pass and occasionally peering around the corner. Sadly, this also meant I didn't get a chance to see all the dishes.
Starters: On the left, crispy pig's ears salad, on the right, braised cheeks (my choice)
Crispy Pig's Ears Salad Braised Cheeks

Mains: The Pig's signature dish is the 21 hour roasted pork belly with mustard mash and savoy cabbage:
Plating the Belly 21 hour Pork Belly

Chargrilled chop, prepared by head chef Tom Kneale:
Head Chef Tom Kneale Pork Chop

Smoked Hock:
Smoked Hock

Coriander Fillet:
Coriander Fillet

Iberico Pork Rice Pudding:
Iberico Pork Rice Pudding

Shoulder Steak, braised in cider with vegetables and strawberries. The latter might sound odd but they really worked because the other ingredients and seasoning balanced the flavours. I had this as my main and really enjoyed it.
Shoulder steak braised in cider Shoulder steak braised in cider

Desserts: Chocolate fondant with white chocolate sauce (between the layers) and dark chocolate "soil" in a plant pot. This was fun, rich and very yummy indeed and my choice of dessert.
Chocolate Fondant

A "deconstructed" Lemon Pie:
Deconstructed Lemon Pie

Chocolate and Bacon(!) Creme Brulee:
Chocolate & Bacon Creme Brulee

The brigade: Sous Damian, Head Chef Tom, Pastry Chef Wyman (plus Tom from Stokey Secret Supper who wasn't available for the group photo):
The Brigade

A few more shots from the kitchen action )

Many thanks to head chef Tom Kneale for this insight into a pro kitchen and to the whole team for feeding me afterwards.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Friday I took [personal profile] ginasketch out to Johnnie Mountain's (you might have seen him on The Great British Menu) The English Pig as a belated birthday treat.
I'd booked in advance but I don't think it would have been necessary because when we got there at 6:30, we were the first guests (it filled up later, though). The room is quite big but divided into several sections. As it's held in dark wood throughout and there was only indirect lighting and a short fat candle on each table, it was quite dark. That was probably the only slightly negative aspect of the place as I'd like to see clearly what I'm eating and, if I have a camera, take photos. The latter was impossible without flash.
Our friendly waiter brought us the menu (five choices for each course) and some nice fresh bread with a small bowl of oil and balsamico. Everything looked great but I'd set my mind on trying the slow-roast pork belly, the chef's signature dish so I chose something light as starter, the garlic and chilli prawns.

The English Pig - Chilli & Garlic Prawns

Three large prawns cooked to perfection in aromatic oil. They were shelled but with the tails left on and the heads included for sucking. Full of flavour, slightly sticky with an afterkick of heat, mellowed by the salad leaves. I could easily have eaten a plate of those as a main. It was obviously meant to be eaten by hand as a fingerbowl was provided.

The English Pig - Puy Lentils with Chorizo

[personal profile] ginasketch had the puy lentils with chorizo as starter and she loved the dish.

Then, the main event:
The English Pig - Pork Belly

The pork belly was staggeringly good. The fat was completely rendered, creating a soft, sort of sponge/pumice texture with crispy but not tooth threatingly hard crackling on top. The meat was rich and flavourful and the accompanying mash and red cabbage rounded everything off beautifully. I actually salivated when the first forkful hit my palate. Two minor bits of criticism: For the size of portion a little more sauce would have been good and the crackling could have done with a few more lines of scoring as it was quite hard work to carve off slices. Still, those were miniscule negatives. The dish was definitely among the best pieces of pork I've ever tasted at a restaurant.

My companion's main was the seabass which she didn't stop ooohing and aahing about. :)
The English Pig - Sea Bass


After two generous portions we were quite sated already but decided we would have some pudding after all:

The English Pig - Chocolate Fondant

I went for the chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream. As you can see, the fondant was cooked perfectly, crumbly on the outside with a gooey, molten centre. The ice cream was lovely, too and real (you can see the tiny vanilla seeds).

The English Pig - Chocolate & Amaretti Mousse

This was Gina's chocolate and amaretti mousse which she loved but couldn't finish so I took one for the team. I was glad I had opted for the fondant because it was a touch sweet for me and a bit too firm in texture. I prefer egg-white only mousse with really dark chocolate but that's a personal preference.

All in all, a fantastic meal at - for central London - very reasonable prices. Under 80 pounds for two at three courses and a glass of wine each is, for the quality of food provided, extremely good value for money and you certainly won't leave hungry.

Unreservedly and highly recommended.

April 2016

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