Amsterdam – got change for a chimp?

This is t’Apjen (Zeedijk 1, Amsterdam). It’s about the first pub you will stumble across when you enter the city’s red light district from Centraal Station.

t'Apjen, one of the oldest boozers in Amsterdam

This boozer is said to be the oldest wood framed building in the city, dating back to 1551 and the name, which means the ape, relates to Dutch sailors paying for their accommodation at the inn with a monkey.

“Two nights stay with full Dutch, that’s a mandrill and two marmosets sir”

“Got change of a chimp?”

Enough for two Heinekens and an old Jenever

Now the only monkeys inside the pub’s delightfully cluttered interior  are a couple of stuffed ones unless you count the English stag parties.

We spot a monkey

Pint about €5

Shipscook’s Italian Job – We take a Passeggiata through Sorrento

So after dinner we joined the locals in the ritual of taking a stroll around town, otherwise known as the the passeggiata. Naturally the first place to stop was an ice cream parlor.

We all scream for ice cream, especially mulberry and dark chocolate

Sorrento has quite a few to choose from and most of them offer a huge choice of flavours from the usual suspects like strawberry and chocolate to the more exotic such as English trifle or Toblerone.  Davide on the Via P.R. Giuliani was particularly good and it sat next to a pub that offered pints, large pints and extra large pints whatever they are.

The Bar Villa Comunale (Di Massimo Fiorentino) is a great place to watch the sunset from as it is right on the sea front, if you can call a cliff that overlooks the bathing platforms and Sorrento’s tiny beach, the seafront that is.It’s surprisingly affordable too with a round of four drinks coming in at €14.

No not Volare again please - Bar Villa Comunale

It’s also a great place for people watching as crowds gather for the celestial free show.

Sunset

Sorrento is a popular location for big weddings and since the front is very close to both St Francis and Antonino the whale killer’s churches, we’d also get to watch ‘creative’ photographers forcing young brides to pose in the most uncomfortable positions for their art, as the Sun slid beneath the Tyrrhenian Sea. There was also a good view of Vesuvius biding it’s time before its next eruption.

Vesuvius at Sunset

Vesuvius at sunset

Sundown we’d head into the drains for a wander around the shops and bars, occasionally stopping for a sample of Limoncello, just in case we’d forgotten what lemon scented toilet duck tasted like.

The Drains by Night

Back on the Corso Italia there was always lots going on. Amongst the blues guitarist who only knew how to play Sweet home Chicago and the human statues this lady stood out, with her glass harmonica. I’d never seen one of these before and the music was quite beautiful.

Glass Harmonica

So for a nightcap before returning to the hotel we tried a couple of bars on the Corso. We really should have expected The English Bar to be a bit odd, however it had a tempting garden terrace to the rear. Mab ordered an Amaretto which arrived in a tumbler – a full tumbler. OK it’s a very generous measure, but no one wants to drink that much Amaretto surely. Since the bill for the four of us only came to €18 I can only assume that the students running the bar were going to be for it when the owner compared his till roll to his inventory. The Cafe Latino (Corso Italia 4) was a bit more civilised. Set within a huge shady garden it was a very pleasant place for that final game of Uno before bed, even if the service was sometimes a bit slow when they were also catering for a wedding party.

Shipscook’s Italian Job – O Parrucchiano

One of Sorrento’s little treasures is this place.

Me in O Parrucchiano's lemon grove

Well I say little treasures, but the O Parruchiano restaurant is actually rather large, consisting of a kitchen, whacking great conservatory and lemon grove garden that reputedly can sit up to 1000 diners. The place was founded in 1868 by Antonino Ercolano a trainee priest who had been caught misbehaving with one of the local ladies. Fortunately his training in the seminary kitchen meant that he had another trade to fall back on so he set up a trattoria in two rooms just off the Corso Italia.  O Parruchiano, which stands for parish priest in the local Neapolitan dialect, was a great hit and gradually the restaurant expanded back from the Corso Italia to it’s present extent. Thankfully, despite its size the food is not institutionalised, but good Neapolitan home cooking and the waiter service is friendly and not intrusive.

Aside from being probably the best restaurant in Sorrento it’s also famous as the birthplace of Cannelloni.

Invented here - cannelloni

It was in 1907 that the chef  Salvatore Coletta hit upon the idea of rolling a sheet of pasta very thin and wrapping it around a stuffing of ricotta cheese, various minced meats and spices. O Parrucchiano’s cannelloni are truely delicious and we ate rather a lot of them during our stay, but there were plenty of other great pasta dishes like the Neapolitan Lasagna to try. I liked the lasagna because it wasn’t drowned in Bechamel sauce, but topped with aubergine, also good was the seemingly never ending pot of gnocchi.

For a starters there were a number of options including this brilliant antipasto plate

Antipasto

with ricotta stuffed courgette flowers, prawns cooked in lemon and orange leaves, deep fried squid and a ricotta stuffed pastry or the antipasto rusticano, a plate of buffalo mozzarella, Parma ham, braesola and pancetta.  While for desert, if you had any room left the raisins cooked in wine and served in a lemon leaf parcel,

Raisins in lemon leaf

were rather like a Christmas cake without the cakey bits.

Wines kicked in at about €15 for a bottle of Lacryma Christi (Tears of Christ) del Vesuvio, a rather lovely wine that comes in white, red and rose varieties, grown on the fertile volcanic slopes of the local volcano, but for a special treat it is difficult to resist the wine with peaches, which double up as a delicious desert.

Wine with peaches

So what’s the damage, for a three course meal for four with wine, water and coffee expect to pay about €110, but your holiday operator may offer a 10% discount voucher which the restaurant will only honour for cash transactions.

O Parrucchiano, Corso Italia 71 – 80067 Sorrento, tel +39 081 8781321

Indian Tapas, Tequila and Beer – Another Night Out in Soho

As we had adults Saturday night this weekend, we decided to try out the new Indian tapas restaurant Imli, in Soho’s Wardour Street. Arriving in London’s west end a wee bit early we headed off to the Nordic Bar for a quick drink before meeting up with Mr Wolfe in the tequila bar downstairs at Wahaca.

I have often walked past the Nordic Bar in Fitzrovia’s Newman Street (no. 25) and thought “I really must try that place”, but never got around to it before. Situated in a basement, it’s pretty dark inside and the black walls don’t help to brighten the place up. Draft beers are Tuborg and that bloody awful Carlsberg, which isn’t very imaginative since they are both made by the same Danish brewer, but there are beers and ciders from other parts of Scandinavia in bottles as well as a selection of Swedish vodka. Prices are what you’d expect from a London pub so quite a lot cheaper than a real Scandinavian pub!

Next stop was the tequila bar downstairs at Wahaca where we met up with Mr Wolfe and tried the smoky Forever Oax reposado mescal with a Pacifico beer chaser, which went down well with some nachos and guacamole. We had just enough time to savour an old Marguay reposado tequila before legging it across Wardour Street to Imli (167-169) where our table was ready.

There has been a fair bit of noise about this place bringing the concept of tapas to Indian food recently, but Mother India in Edinburgh and Glasgow got there first. Still Imli’s menu is packed full of really tempting stuff. We took the easy option of going for the set menu B at £25.95 (there is a set menu A at £19.95 which is pretty much the same only minus some of the meat dishes). The first stuff to arrive were a grilled spicy chicken salad dressed with honey and ginger, Aloo Matar Tikki Ragda – a potato and pea cake served with a red onion and tamarind chutney and some deep fried spicy squid, all beautifully presented and quite delicious.

The next course to arrive was honey grilled duck on a bed of turmeric mash. although a bit on the small side it was really, really good and I could have eaten much more of it. This was followed by lamb rogon josh, plus a creamy curry of mushroom, baby corn and spinach and a Bombay alloo, accompanied with pulao rice, plain and cheese naans. Again all very nice. Finally a home-made fig and ginger ice cream finished off the meal perfectly. All in the food was very good and as with Mother India the smaller portions ensured that while nobody went hungry there was not any waste.

On the down side the drinks are a bit pricy (large Cobra about £7), there are no little extras like heated towels or even an after dinner mint after the meal and a 12.5% service charge is added to your final bill. I think that’s a bit cheeky given the extortionate price of the booze. On balance though it was a good night out despite the four of us all walking out £45 lighter.

There was only one thing left to do, so cutting down Old Comption Street we just had time for a couple of pints in The Coach and Horses before getting the tube home.

Wahaca’s Mexican Street Kitchen – Canary Wharf

The Mexican summer for Shipscooksstuff continued tonight at Canada Square in Canary Wharf, where the brand spanking new Wahaca Mexican Street Kitchen  is parked up bringing Mexican street food to the well heeled streets of London’s Docklands. The kitchen is in a refurbished 1958 Citroen HY van complete with a charcoal grill and for today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) to celebrate its debut the burritos are being given away free.

Handily Canary Wharf is only a slight diversion on the way home for us on the Docklands Light Railway. As soon as we got out into the open air from the station we could smell the delicious aroma of the grilled and stewed meat so it didn’t take long to find the Citroen and as fortune would have it the queue wasn’t too long.

The Wahacca Street Kitchen in Action

My steak burrito was rolled fresh in front of me with rice, black beans, salad, salsa, guacamole and crema. It was pretty much perfect both in size and content, Mab had the pibel pork and there were also chicken and veggie options available.

Now I suppose the question is which was better the Wahaca or the Poncho No.8 burrito? Well if Wahaca were a fast food takeaway they’d just about have the edge in my opinion, the spice and heat of the chili salsa is just that bit more fiery. On price the Wahaca burritos will be £5.50 so a bit cheaper than Poncho’s. They are both good though.

Anyhow full of burrito we headed home and I took the opportunity to snap the Olympic stadium from the DLR train as we passed the Olympic Park at Stratford.

Olympic Stadium from the DLR

Along with the huge Anish Kapoor sculpture that is going up along side it.

Anish Kapoor Sculpture part done

Poncho No. 8 Soho

Mexican food really is the flavour of this month, what with Tommi Miers’s new show Mexican Food Made Simple, the Wahaca Street Kitchen being parked up at Canary Wharf and now a new branch of Poncho No. 8 in Soho’s Old Comption Street.

Poncho No8 Old Comption Street

Shipscooksstuff was lucky enough to get an invite to Soho Poncho’s opening bash and a very pleasant time was had by all. The restaurant was founded by former banker Frank Yeung and Nick Troen who used to work for Innocent Smoothies and this is their first branch in London’s West End. It’s also the first one to have a booze licence so it was  frozen margaritas all round!

Poncho No8 takes it’s inspiration from the Mexican street food of California. You go up to the counter, choose the fillings that you fancy,

Choose your filling

and the staff expertly roll your customised burrito in front of your very eyes. Fillings include chicken, steak and slow cooked pibil pork. We tried the lot and they all tasted pretty good and authentic.

Burrito rolling at Poncho No8

Despite the street food theme Poncho’s is a very different animal to Wahaca, which has a branch just around the corner in Wardour Street. Wahaca is a dining experience on it’s own whereas Poncho provides great street food on the go (although there is some seating upstairs if you want to have a linger), nothing wrong with either beast. Like Wahaca, Poncho has a good selection of Mexican beers like Corona, Modelo and Pacifico – glug glug.

So what’s the damage? Well a walloping great burrito stuffed with meat, cheese, salad and beans will cost about £6.00 and a beer about £3.50 . But tomorrow (Thursday) the Soho branch will be dishing up free burritos between 12 and 4pm.

Mexican Food Made Simple

Those lovely people at Wahaca, my favourite Mexican restaurant invited me to a preview of Founder Tommi Miers’s new Mexican cookery show this evening. The show called Mexican Food Made Simple starts on Channel 5 tomorrow (that’s Tuesday 5 July) at 7.30 pm. In the show Tommi visits a mescal distiller, cooks a neat chile, mashes up a guacomole and makes a tequila laced sorbet, as well as having an encounter with a pork scratching the size of ….well a pig really.

Great entertainment, some neat ideas for guacamole, fabulous passion fruit margaritas so thanks guys for inviting me to your party.

Just for Oli here is my herb window complete with some overhanging Wahaca chilis.

Shipscook's indoor herb garden

Saturday Night on the South Bank

When I was a kid and indeed a young adult the South Bank of the Thames was a bit of a dump. It’s been a bit poshed up in the last couple of years and is now quite a cool place to hang out of the evening.

On Saturday night we had a booking at Dim T, the Asian fusion restaurant overlooking the London Assembly building and Tower Bridge.

View from upstairs at Dim T

Dim T is sandwiched between a branch of Strada (a pretty good general pizza and pasta chain, but this one has a great view over HMS Belfast and the Tower of London) and that overpriced South American joint Gaucho. I hadn’t eaten in Dim T before, but I had heard some promising reports of it. To start we had edamame beans and prawn crackers followed by four baskets of dim sum. By fortunate serendipity we kicked off with the prawn and scallop, then the spicy prawn, the spicy beef and then the wasabi and chicken which were the best of the lot and not unbearably hot either. I followed up with sweet and sour chicken Hong Kong style and stir fried noodles. Now don’t get me wrong, because I love that toxic orange sweet and sour that you get from lots of Chinese places, but this was beautifully subtle in flavour without the violent colouring. My friends katsu curry and green Thai curry were also very flavoursome too.

Jasmine Flower Tea

Complete with drinks, wine and desert the bill only came to £95, which given the location was pretty good value.

Still the night was young so after having given up on getting served at All Bar One we headed for the Most Bar, which is under Tower Bridge with a a great view across the river. I’m surprised that more people don’t know about this this place. It has a good selection of beers and the very friendly eastern European staff can mix a fearsome cocktail, like this strawberry Caipirinha.

Strawberry Caipinha

Apparently the space the bar occupies used to be the coal store for the engines that raised Tower Bridge, ~I think a bar is a much better use of space.

Roskilde, Denmark – We become Vikings

Me the Viking

Our last day in Denmark stated with a very good eat as much as you can breakfast at The Munchies (Rosennors Alle 32, 1970 Fredericksberg), which was just up the road from our hotel. For DKK89 (about £10) we got free range of hot and cold buffet with fruit, cereals, bacon, eggs, sausages, various salads, cheeses and cold meats, which was miles better than the somewhat grim repast laid out in the Cab Inn.

Suitably fortified we hopped on the Metro to Copenhagen’s central station where we boarded the train to Denmark’s former capital Roskilde. Roskilde is about 30 kilometres from the capital and the journey which took about 25 minutes was covered by our Copenhagen Cards. On arrival we were greeted by the local marching band. Nothing quite like a parade to set you up for the day is there?

Beats Take That anyday

Roskilde was founded by the Danish King Harald I (Bluetooth) in the 980s and in 1020 Knut the Great (yes he who tried to turn back the tide as King of England, he was also king of Norway and part of Sweden too) established a bishopric there. Many of Denmark’s Kings and Queens are buried in the Gothic Cathedral, which was built here in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Final resting places of the Kings and Queens of Denmark

Back in the 11th century five ships were scuttled in the entrance to Roskilde’s harbour to protect the town from rampaging Norwegians. In the early 1960s they were excavated and now they are preserved in the Vikingeskibshallen (Viking Ship Museum admission DKK 100, not included on the Copenhagen Card) . The ships include both war ships and cargo vessels.

Inside the Viking Ship Museum

Outside the Museum has shipbuilder’s workshops, where demonstrations of metalwork, carpentry and rope making take place, plus a harbour full of replica boats, some made by the Museum’s staff.

Replica Viking Long Boat

Best of all you can join the crew for a genuine Viking sailing experience on Roskilde Fjord.

Vikings in training

Our trip cost an extra DKK80 (about £9). Lars our captain saw us to our benches and appointed the Powder Monkey as helmsman, she was delighted. We got to leave the harbour under sail and spent about 40 minutes in the open water before furling the mainsail and putting our backs into rowing.

Me the Viking at sea

Despite nobody aboard ever having rowed a longboat before it was surprising how our disparate crew of Danes, Czechs, English and Tasmanians soon got into the swing of it and rowed safely back into the harbour. The boat moved through the water pretty fast and I think the Powder Monkey earned her promotion to Master’s Mate pretty effectively.

On our way out of the Museum I spotted some House Martens building nests above the door from mud gathered at the river mouth, clever little birds.

House Martens

On our return to Copenhagen we discovered some more ships, lurking in the Tivoli Gardens,

Pirates Ahoy

fortunately we didn’t run into any pirates, but nearby we found this mum with some charming babies.

Ruddy Shelduck and family

Then while we enjoying a quiet drink in the Japanese bar, pandemonium broke loose when two peacocks decided to have a showdown.

Come on if you think you're hard enough

It was the best free show in town until it got dark and the lights came on,

Pagoda, Tivoli, Copenhagen

St Paul’s Pillar Restaurant – Paphos Cyprus

Just opposite the Ayia Kyriaki Church we discovered this place.

St Paul's Pillar Restaurant

This is the St Paul’s Pillar Restaurant and in many ways it was the gastronomic discovery of our trip to Cyprus. It’s run by a delightful woman from the north of England called Gillian and the food cooked by her Cypriot husband is magnificent. We were so impressed by the lunch that we had while out sightseeing, that we went back for an evening meal later in the week.

So what do you get for lunch?

Lunch menu at the St Paul's Pillar

Mab went for the menu shown above and very substantial it was too.

Village specialities

Nick and I went fo the Sheftalia (homemade sausage) souvlaki which was also very substantial as you can see here once several layers of salad are peeled away to reveal the very tasty sausage within.

Sheftalia souvlaki

The pitta was homemade and absolutely amazing. The Powder Monkey had chicken nuggets which she claimed were as good as those from Yates’s Fish and Chip shop in Walton on the Naze, so praise indeed. All in with beer, water and soft drinks lunch came to a very reasonable €35.

The following day we decided to have our evening meal there. I started with grilled Halloumi and Lountza which came with plenty of Gillian’s home-made pitta.

Halloumi and Lountza

Mab had the garlic mushrooms which were really delicious, while Nick had the pitta with taramosalata, tzatziki, tahini and humous and the Powder Monkey tucked into a bowl of chicken soup.

Garlic mushrooms

This was followed with Yemista for me, tomatoes, peppers and aubergine stuffed with rice and pine nuts. The vegetable casings just fell apart in my mouth, fabulous.

yemista

Nick had the Kleftico, the Powder monkey went for  pepper chicken, while Mab had this very generous and quite delicious portion of mousaka.

Mousaka

Complete with garlic bread, water, wine and soft drinks the whole meal came to a bargain €63. Certainly somewhere to remember for the next time we visit the island.