Favourite Forks: From Inspiring Eats in Galle to Real Italian at Stevie Parle’s Rotorino

16 April, 2014


Cheeky Week in Galle, Sri Lanka

I just can’t seem to keep away from my beloved Sri Lanka. There is something I find magnetic about the place and the people and I really love their relationship to food. Sri Lankans have a gift for turning ordinary ingredients into something quite extra ordinary, and they have an enormous respect for vegetables. “Rice and curry”, the national dish, features a curry of meat, most often chicken or fish but occasionally lamb, and four or five sensational vegetable curries.

On our first night in Galle we were served a delicious fried aubergine pickled with the subtle tanginess of coconut vinegar blended with sugar, a cashew-nut curry tempered with curry leaves and coconut milk, beetroot curry, which was earthy-sweet, spicy and moreish, and plenty of roti for mopping up the sauces. Sri-Lankan roti is different from Indian roti – thicker and harder, and ours had fresh coconut added to the mix. We finished with Vattalappam – the iconic Sri Lankan dessert – a delicious steamed custard pudding made from jaggery coconut milk and cardamom.

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Roast guinea fowl with panzanella at Wallacespace

Spring/Summer and the Guild of Food Writers at Wallacespace

Lots of exciting things happening at hub of culinary delights, Wallacespace. I was lucky enough to be invited to a Sherry tasting at the Guild of Food Writers annual general meeting, where standout canapés included ham croquettas and crab on toast with a punchy garlic aioli.

I was back at Wallacespace the following night for a tasting for the new spring/summer private-hire menus. Highlights included:

Canapés:

Seared tuna with tapenade
Slow-roasted tomato, whipped ricotta, basil oil and Parmesan biscotti

Bowl foods:

Roast guinea fowl with panzanella
Sea-bass fillet with spring-vegetable Vignole
Truffled goats’ cheese, heritage beetroot and Parmesan frico

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Slow-roasted tomato, whipped ricotta, basil oil and Parmesan biscotti canapé at Wallacespace

Stevie Parle’s New East-London Restaurant, Rotorino

Stevie Parle, of Dock-Kitchen success, has just opened his rustic southern-Italian kitchen Rotorino in the heart of east London this week.

On the thinking behind the restaurant, Stevie has said, ‘I was just imagining this simple Italian restaurant that you can eat in every day. Going back to my River Café roots in a way. It feels like what the area needs.’

I marvelled at the food on my visit: super light and ethereal pea gnudi, and a proper pork chop, marinated in myrtle and lemon, makes a very pleasant change from ubiquitous pork belly.

And it is great to see cannoli having a firm place on their dessert menu – an indicator of the emerging sweet trend picking up speed!

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Truffled goats’ cheese, heritage beetroot and Parmesan frico – new spring/summer menus at Wallacespace

Classic Cantonese at Mr Kong in Chinatown

Despite the ample competition, it is hard to get a good meal in Chinatown – but Mr Kong, a Chinatown stalwart, has never let me down. The décor is scruffy and tired and unrelated to the food, which is consistently good old-school Cantonese that makes a refreshing change from its more modern and image-conscious counterparts.

To start, steamed scallops dressed with soy and ginger are a must. To follow, the grilled pork dumplings are plump, crisp and juicy, and the Peking duck is crispy, plentiful and comes with enough pancakes, a triumph in itself, and a perfect spiky plum sauce.

Emperor chicken, a good-quality flavoursome bird steamed with spring onions and served with a seriously salty purée dip is a favourite – paired with stir-fried peas shoots with garlic and steamed rice, it makes an excellent lunch.