East end pub grub

Long gone are the days when Shoreditch was purely a cutting-edge grimey destination, boasting raves in carparks and sketchy bars. These days, it’s less rave, more gastro and as a result there are plenty of foodie destinations to explore.

I found myself in the Owl and the Pussycat on Redchurch Street last weekend for a friend’s birthday. In the space of about 3 years, Redchurch Street has gone from being a standard backstreet with the odd gallery, to a hive of drinking and eating establishments.

All low ceilings and rustic charm, this pub emanates the east-end tavern vibe. Downstairs is full of your classic, trendy crowd and on a Saturday night, it’s heaving. If that’s not your thing, head back on a quieter night and take advantage of the original bar snacks such as parmesan chips with black truffe mayonnaise washed down with a pint of Hobgoblin.

Upstairs is the more formal dining room which they have styled in the self-proclaimed ‘Dickensian swish’ look. Here you can sample the full menu which has a predominantly fishy range of choices including oysters, white bait, mussels and crab. I’ve heard they also serve up a mean Sunday roast…and who can resist that?!

(The Owl & Pussycat, 34 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DP)

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Squid ink on the menu

Squid ink – it’s a must-try in my opinion!

(Jamie Oliver’s crab and squid ink risotto, Jamie’s Italian, £13.50)

My first experience of trying squid ink was in a seafood linguine at a fine Italian restaurant in Guildford, Surrey named Cambio when I was 17. I was drawn to the colour palatte and was amazed that black food could be both tasty and beautiful. Cambio still offer a spaghetti neri (black spaghetti) with a lobster and prawn ragout on the menu, so it’s clearly a perennial favourite.

Squid ink is a highly prized cooking ingredient. Released from the squid as a defense mechanism, it seems like a rather unlikely choice, but apart from visually enhancing your cooking, it also adds a certain briney flavour to a dish. Nothing overpowering, but certainly a point of difference. Take Jamie’s Italian for example – he serves up a mean crab and squid ink risotto in his restaurants which I’ve enjoyed twice now – large portions too so it’s well worth the spend.

So where can you buy this delightful spciality for cooking yourself I hear you asking? Good question, as it’s certainly not a mainstream purchase. I’d recommend Selfridges foodhall – the mecca of all things foodie, your local Italian deli (if you have one) or alternatively a specialist online shop such as Melbury and Appleton, based in North London if you want to visit them yourself.

(Sepia spaghetti, 500g, Melbury&Appleton, £3.99)

Brilliant bisque

Last night, I finally fulfilled one of my foodie fantasies and visited The Orrery on Marylebone High Street. Situated within a converted stable, The Orrery makes for a cosy, yet intimate setting with starched tablecloths and large, O-shaped picture windows overlooking the churchyard. It also has a roof terrace which will be a complete gem in the summer. (I’m coming back for Pimms with the girls!)

This restaurant is part of the D&D London group so you are guaranteed a certain standard of cuisine and having read excellent reviews of The Orrery, I was keen to try this for myself. The menu centres around modern french cooking using fine ingredients – something head chef Igor Tymchyshyn takes great pride in, particularly his truffles which have a menu of their own!

The highlight for me was the handmade seafood tortellini in a lobster bisque. For those of you not in the know, a bisque is a rich and creamy soup, traditionally made with pureed seafood or vegetables. This particular bisque was foamy, yet full of flavour and the tortellini was light, filled with with delicate segments of crab meat and prawns.

I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say after 3 courses, 3 amuse-bouches and a delicious bottle of Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand we were all suitably content. I will certainly be returning in the summer and taking advantage of some roof-top sun worshipping!

(Book a table at The Orrery or pick up a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc at The Wine Reserve for £10.99.)