The London Fox | Currently on sabbatical in New York City

Category: Food

Brunch at Freemans

“You’re coming to brunch, right?” She asked.

The London Fox looked up and thought for a moment. He does have a busy weekend and needs to study.

“Because if not, we can no longer be friends. Brunch is the most important meal of the week.”

He pictured the scene: a group of thirty-something ladies occupy a circular table, consoling each other, as if trying to defuse the ticking timebomb that is their youth; a crowd of fratboys and their drapy girlfriends sit around the table in the centre, still profusely downing drinks as though the night before never ended; the couple sat in silence, enjoying the eggs and bacon that they so easily could have made at home but didn’t because they can’t fucking cook.

“Yeah, go on then.”

I guess it’s becoming like this in London now too, but the brunch scene really has been institutionalised here in New York. Everywhere serves the same range of eggs, granola and pancakes. And everywhere has that decrepit, dark interior that is so popular these days. Nonetheless, it’s a good way to see the friends you’ve just seen and talk about the events that occurred a couple of hours ago.

Freemans is one such place located at the end of an alleyway in Nolita (doesn’t get cooler than that) serving a pretty commendable brunch menu. There were a big group of us, so we managed to wangle the private room which was very beautiful.

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I had the granola and yoghurt as I already ate a big breakfast and washed it down with a Bloody Mary (not too salty, which I find the Marys here to be usually). They also serve this great artichoke pâté with the table bread.

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The granola was great, but my issue is that it seems to taste the same everywhere. I suppose brunch is one of those things that is very samey. fond memories of Nopa in London pop to mind though, which offers something different for brunch dwellers. Nonetheless, Freemans is worth a look, if you’re into the brunch thing.

Freemans
Chrystie & Houston

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Another cheeky snack

It was a gorgeous evening here in Manhattan so I did what all professional, twenty-something New Yorkers do: go for a jog in Central Park. It was either that or go spinning.

Sweaty, tired and hungry, I began searching for my evening graze. After my cheeky snack at Bi’ang, I couldn’t seem to get that succulent, spicy taste out of my head, so headed there.

I take my Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles and cold cucumber salad to the park opposite to make the most of the beautiful weather.

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I think this will become a regular of mine…

Biang!
45th & 6th

Cheeky snack

On the way back to the den one day, I stumbled upon a small Chinese snack store called Biang!. Feeling rather peckish from the day’s activities, I thought I’d go and grab a quick snack to satisfy the hungerbeast.

Biang! is the second venture of some college graduate who made it big into the New York food scene by opening a Western Chinese restaurant in Flushing called Xi’an Famous Foods. After making some headlines, Biang! was created, offering similar servings to the tourists, financiers and media moguls of Midtown West (there are other locations in Chinatown, East Village and Brooklyn too). I’ve always been a big fan of the cumin-riddled, meaty, steamy, noodle-filled dishes from that region of China. The menu is cheap and simple. Anything from lamb buns to offal noodles are on offer here. There’s just something so comforting about it all.

I went for a modest serving of one lamb bun and jasmine iced tea. Did the trick marvellously…

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Biang!
45th & 6th

Lower East Side

Filthy, smelly, and in real need of a good wipe, the Lower East Side (or LES if you’re a real New Yawker) is the arse crack of Manhattan. Albeit quite a delicious arse crack, and one the London Fox like to venture down to for a quick taste every now and then…

I have been to the LES on several occasions before and last night decided to revisited several of my favourite spots. Drinks at the Stanton Social: a very chilled out, quite chic restaurant/bar kicked off the evening’s proceedings. My first poison was the Brooklyn Lemonade which tasted like soup. My second was the Cucumber-Vanilla Cosmopolitan a lovely light drink, and not too sweet (I actually swapped this for my initial order of the Basil-Lime Gimlet, which also tasted like soup. I think the barman may also be a chef).

It was a cold night, but we braved the (very) short walk to Family Recipe on Eldridge. I had been here about three months ago by chance and was thoroughly impressed by the simple but tasty menu. Our bellies already quite full with soup from the Stanton Social, we decided to order some light appetizers to share. The shrimp salad was a deliciously light plate, complementing the Ginger Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings perfectly. Then came the Heritage Pork Belly Buns which were gorgeously tender the last time I had them but disappointingly undercooked this time round.

A selection of Family Recipe’s delights:

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The night ended with one more drink at Beauty and Essex, probably one of my favourite bars in NYC so far. I’m a sucker for high ceilings and grand lighting, and B&E has both in excess. It is a busy spot on weekends so worth booking in advance.

As always, a stellar evening spent in the LES. The Fox will be back again for another taste soon…

Stanton Social
Stanton & Ludlow

Family Recipe
Eldridge & Stanton

Beauty and Essex
Essex and Stanton

 

Wake up, Mr. Fox

The London Fox wakes from his hibernation. The winter in New York was cold, harsh and long. A chink of light teases his eyelids open making him yawn. The murmur of traffic outside his New York apartment starts to clarify into a familiar street symphony. The regular march of car engines and the short hiss of the local bus starting and stopping play the percussion line. The harsh ambulance siren, so much louder than the London melody…crescendo then diminuendo. Against it, the brass band of car horns play purposefully out of rhythm to the time signature of the rest of the traffic.

The London Fox smiles. How he has missed the New York tune.

I’ve been busy exploring, tasting, hosting, capturing and hosting some more lately and have had little time to document all these experiences. It seems that when you move to New York you become some kind of hotel and tour guide to everyone you know. Well, that’s fine because it gives me an excuse to try new things.

Spring has almost ended here in NYC, and the Summer promises to be hot and humid and full of pleasurable offerings. Speaking of which, I wanted to write about one particularly great restaurant of which I have become somewhat of a regular patron.

Catch sits on top of a makeup store in the middle of the Meatpacking district (a glossy, pretentious spot where models and bankers frequent). A part of the EM Group empire, who is responsible for most of New York’s hotspots, Catch is predominantly a seafood restaurant with a random top floor bar.

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Fish tacos

The great thing about Catch is how cool it is. Not too try-hard, with just the right amount of bare-walled New Yorkness. And oh, the food is delectable. One side of the menu offers sharers, while the other serves larger portions of fish. The cuisine is mainly Japanese sushi/robata with a few curve balls kicked in like fish tacos and lobster. The closest thing we have in London is probably Roka (which I love).

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Cook-it-yourself wagyu beef

I’ve been to fancier places, I’ve been to cooler places with better food. However, if I were to take a group of people out here in the City for a nice dinner, Catch is the first place that comes to mind.

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The lobster mash – to die for

Catch
W13th & 9th

New York Burger Adventure

“So you like burgers, huh?” She asked, raising her right eyebrow and pouting her glossy bouche.

The Fox nods, enthusiastically.

“Well then there’s only one place to go to in New York.” She states with goddess-like authority.

Gazing at the Fox with those fuck-me eyes that effortlessly pull him by the lapels, she lures him in and utters two words. “Shake Shack.”

I wrote about Five Guys not too long ago which is a New York burger staple. Rather luckily, I live right next door to one of these joints. However, I wasn’t greatly impressed by these guys so am still on the hunt for an impressive burger in the Big Apple.

And boy did I find some. Having not had a burger in a month, I decided to binge out this week.

The Shake Shack Attack

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First up was the much coveted Shake Shack. If you ask anyone about burgers here in NYC, they will almost certainly direct you here. There a few of them dotted around, but I headed to the original in the park near Madison Ave. Queues extended pretty far for these babies. I went for the single Shack burger, fries and an ice tea (keep the the calorie count somewhat low). The burger was not really what I had expected. Thin patty-ed, small and densely packed. It was, however, delightful. Not too heavy, and in combination with the crinkly fries, made a perfect Saturday lunch.

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Dirty Burger Joint Found in Posh Hotel

A most bizarre thing occurs in the Parker Meridian in midtown, Manhattan. When you enter, you will see a perpetual queue inside the concierge. No, it’s not the hotel lounge or the posh hotel restaurant. It is in fact a line for Burger Joint, a purposefully rustic burger joint.

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Expect to wait a long time to be seated here during eating hours. The burger was of a thicker variety, more packed out than the Shack burger but somehow less satisfying. Fries very standard. Nothing to write home about.

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Sliders at the Boom Boom Room

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A rather in promptu experience. Most bars here serve food, and it is not uncommon to see lone rangers grabbing a beer and a bite at most nice bars. The Boom Boom Bar at the top of the Standard hotel in the Meatpacking district deserves its own post. This shimmering room resembles a treasure cave filled with gold.

The sliders here are sublime. Tender, melting meat with a subtle smoky scent. You get two of these in one serving but you are left wanting more.

The London Fox Goes to White Castle

Amid the sleepy roads of Williamsburg, Brooklyn at around 4am, the Fox spots a gleaming standalone white building. White Castle. He had to go.

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10 sliders, 2 fries and a pack of chicken hoops. $10. What a bargain. However, this was a vastly disappointing experience. The burgers were a sloppy mess, packed with a thin slither of vomit-like spam meat. If there was anything else in there, it was overpowered by the flavour of diarrhoea. And the chicken hoops; why? Why are they hoop shaped? Onion rings are so because an onion cuts into rings. Chicken made into hoops serve no incremental benefit. Oh, and they also tasted like shit. The fries aren’t even worth mentioning. Thanks for the terrible recommendation, Harold and Kumar.

Shake Shack
23rd & Madison

Burger Joint
57th & 6th

Boom Boom Room
(Top of the Standard Hotel)
13th & Washington

White Castle
Don’t bother

The Dinner Bell

The London Fox swoops down the grimy steps at the 47-50th street subway. In this underground city, he feels at home when presented with the familiar sights of tracks, signs and stairs and the smell of soggy concrete. But somehow, he is lost. With no colour coded lines to rely on, he looks at the subway map, and tries to figure out how on Earth he is to reach his destination.

This was my first experience in the New York subway. It was as confusing as hell at first, but became very intuitive and simple once I worked out how it works. I was on my way to Brooklyn, where in my first week in New York, I managed to secure a place at the much hyped Dinner Bell supper club. I’m told that New York is full of these clubs, whereby someone hosts a dinner for an array of random, paying guests.

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Julia, our chef, is an artist-come-untrained-chef. The Dinner Bell began as a hobby of cooking which turned into an experiment with friends and has now become a hugely popular and oversubscribed affair among the New York foodie scene.

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And there is much grounding for the hype. The food was exquisite. Intense flavours, paired with some well thought out wines. I particularly enjoyed the dessert of Panettone Bread Pudding, and I’m not even into sweets. Of course, the main of Braised Beef Brisket, perfectly balanced with a pickled red cabbage was also a favourite.

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The thing that struck me most about the Dinner Bell, though, was the freshness of the experience. Surrounded by a fashion PR and several social network extraordinaires, whilst sat around a stranger’s dining table, you wouldn’t be mocked for thinking his was a bizzare experience for me. However, with some dutch courage (helped by the wine pairings) and everyone’s love of food, I ended up meeting some truly great people.

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Don’t expect Michelin starred presentation at the Dinner Bell, but it shouldn’t be. The food is too comforting, and the setting too homely for that kind of sterility. Overall, an absolute pleasure.

The Dinner Bell
Brooklyn, New York

The Bar With No Name

Too many times has the Fox seen people pretend to be someone they are not, only to falter at their efforts and end up appearing uncomfortable in their own skin. That’s why the first rule of the Transaction of Love is to ensure you are having a good time. Pick a place you will enjoy, crack the joke that you will find funny, be yourself, damnit and the rest will follow.

One of my favourite London hang outs is the bar at 69 Colebrooke Row. I don’t think anyone knows the name of this place, but it has a great big Martini sign outside. Hidden away in a corner off Upper Street, this is a tiny, delightful speakeasy serving great cocktails with the widest of smiles. I will always have a good evening here.

The waitress, tall, blonde and French lures us to our seats. We each take a menu from her slender, diamond encrusted hands which we squint to read due to the ungenerous lighting. A piano sits in the corner yearning to be played. Next to it is the bar, behind which two bearded bartenders shake up gorgeous looking concoctions. The tiny room is packed with Islington’s most handsomely dressed, a couple of whom sit on the steps leading up to the washrooms due to a lack of space. Condensation drips from the windows to the beat of the jazzy rhythm that fills the room. The waitress returns as soon as we are settled, bringing glasses of water and takes our order.

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Usually I pick the Spitfire, which is no longer on the menu. I have no idea what is in it, but it is delicious. It is kind of a light cider, quite sweet with a tinge of sour. This time round, I picked the Avignon, which I believe is cognac with a splash of camomile liqueur. It was great. My guest chose the Apple and Hay Bellini of which I had a taste, but can’t remember if it was any good.

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Conversation flows as easily as the martini in this bar. I always find myself excited at the prospect of coming here. There are also snacks on the menu for the fiendishly peckish, and those who don’t drink cocktails can choose the beers or wines available.

The waitress returns, as beautiful as ever. She fills our glasses with fresh water and asks us if we wish for any more drinks. What great service.

69 Colebrooke Row
N1 8AA

Duck for breakfast

It’s 6:30am.

The Fox is soaring vertically up towards the misty London sky at an incredible pace. The London skyline gradually becomes a pool of clustered buildings below his paws.

No, I wasn’t high from shooting smack. I was in fact shooting up to the 40th floor of Heron Tower in the City in a glass lift. The tower is a relatively new addition to the City, and I had previously been here for drinks and canapés at Sushisamba which I enjoyed immensely (for the views if nothing else).

It had been a long night of partying and afterpartying. Then someone had the idea of going for breakfast at Duck and Waffle at 6am.

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Open twenty-four-seven, Duck and Waffle boasts incredible city views coupled with clean, non fussy food. At least the breakfast menu at 6:30 was not too fussy anyway. Of course I went for the signature dish: a leg of duck, perfectly cooked, with two slices of soft waffle and a fried duck egg, drizzled with a mustard maple syrup. Sounds pretty strange at first but the combination works. I’m not sure I’d have it for breakfast or brunch, but noone can doubt how well they’ve executed the dish. The skin on the duck has just the right amount of crisp, and the waffle never too soggy.

Admittedly, I don’t think anyone is going to rave about the signature dish, and it’s certainly not amazing to warrant a host if copycat restaurants. However, the novel experience and location (and loose opening hours) means it should receive at least a look in.

Duck and Waffle
EC2N 4AY

A burger across the pond

The London Fox was over in New York for a short trip to take care of some business. Whilst wandering down Bleecker Street to purchase some garments from Ralph Lauren Rugby (soon to be discontinued, shockingly), his nostrils were hit by that familiar smell of fried patties and potatoes. It did not matter that it was 11am and his stomach was full of hotel breakfast buffet. He had to go in.

I was the only customer in the shop when I went in, and it looked like they were just opening up. This is a good sign, as it means your food will be as fresh as can be.

I’d heard about Five Guys from various sources. It’s a modest burger joint that boasts several awards. They’re known for their fries, which are made from different potato suppliers depending on the day. You can pick your toppings. Other than that, it looked like a run down burger shop. Red and white signs, sterile surroundings and spotty servers. Think late 90s Mr Wimpy.

The burger was good. No, it was great. Sloppy as hell, good balance of meat and bread. And that rubbery American cheese (unmelted) that somehow works well. No complaints there. But the fries were overrated. I found them pretty dry and over portioned (my regular would have filled two pint glasses) which just made them boring to eat.

There are three Five Guys in NYC. Worth having a burger if you’re in the area and peckish, but I’m sure NYC has better to offer.

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