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Roman Road
Latest Post Leytonstone. The not so pretty drag of Leytonstone High Road is an ancient pre-Roman pathway that linked London to the sprawl of Epping Forest, its name coming from a distance marker or ‘stone’ placed by the Roman 10th Legion, the same road that runs all the way through to re-energised and Olympic ‘legacy-ed up’ Stratford.

While growing up in nearby Woodford the feeling was always that Leytonstone was a bit gauche, a bit downmarket, a bit…..scuffed around the edges. It still kind of is. Sir Alfred Hitchcock has been the brightest light associated with the area over the years. Food has never been a reason to wander the streets of Leytonstone, but with stirrings and a couple of decent openings in nearby Leyton, Wanstead and Woodford…I can sense things happening, dammit.

Then I catch wind of a place making fresh pasta. No PR in sight. Say what? Worth a look…

Shimmy down past newly renamed Turkish mangal Eastanbul (word play japes), and the walk down the High Road towards Stratford delivers a bizarre and almost comical sideshow of businesses including Kenssy Fried Chicken (Kenssy?), Euro Chicken and Pizza (eh?), Chinese & Pizza Tow (that’s not a missing ‘n’), Muscle Hut Gym (you can hear the pumping, clanking and grunting), and a plethora of nail and tanning salons, pearlers like Glamour, Beautique and Madame Chic. At 517 High Road is the site where Hitchcock was born (blue plaque plonked between the petrol station and Chicks fried chicken), the house opposite decorated strikingly with a mural of huge birds, referencing his film The Birds. Wedged between Leytonstone Dental Centre and a Lithianian pub (scary looking heavies often guarding the door), opposite Discount Tile Centre is Mora, a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ job. Insalubrious just about sums up this seedy strip. Still scuffed up, see? Call me a Woodford snob, but it ain’t pretty. Which only adds to the charm of a decent restaurant opening.

Read on...

This Week

Two days visiting English sparkling wine vineyards in Sussex and Kent with the WSTA (Wine and Spirit Trade Association), on two searing summer days – the weather was so good it felt like touring Napa Valley or Tuscany. Another reminder that the sparkling wine being made in the UK is world class. Take a bow Hambledon Vineyard, Sussex; Bolney Estate, Sussex; Ridgeview Estate, Sussex; Rathfinny Estate, Sussex; Hush Heath Estate, Kent; Chapel Down, Kent.

Another visit to Gotto Trattoria in Hackney, beside the canal at the revamped Here East development close to Hackney Wick. Beetroot and goat’s cheese ravioli new to the menu. Ruddy good.

Suckling pig’s head pie (a diddy one) at Leo Carreira’s stint at Climpson’s Arch. Scallop, skirts and roe, also trout ‘crudo’ with fresh almonds. Leo will open something very good indeed, when he finds a permanent site. He’s on the hunt…
I've helped Blacklock (Big
Chops, Skinny Chops, Soho
basement) put together a little
list of wines for their new
blackboard. Friendly cash margins means great drinking without
spaffing over the odds. Chops on
a grill alongside some cracking
wines —

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011,
Restless River
Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa

Cult Syrah 2013, BK Wines
Adelaide Hills, Australia

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011,
Ridge Vineyards Sonoma, USA

Pinot Noir 'Laissez Faire' 2014, Cherubino Pemberton, Australia

Nero d'Avola 2013, Fox Gordon
Adelaide Hills, Australia

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Riesling 2012, Sybille Kuntz
Mosel, Germany

'Kortpad Kaptoe' 2014,
Blank Bottle Wellington, South Africa

Chardonnay 'Graviers' 2012, Stephane Tissot Arbois, France

Riesling 2013, Clos Clare
Watervale, Australia

'Toru' (Gewürztraminer/ Riesling/Pinot Gris) 2013,
Te Whare Ra
Marlborough, New Zealand


Turkish manti dumplings, say what? The history of manti is rich and stretches back centuries, and while you can find them in choice spots in London like Hala and Manti (fancy that) in Green Lanes, North London, as well as Alan Yau’s Babaji Pide Salonu, they are still somewhat of an undiscovered dish for many. Versions are seen across Central Asia, Russia, Northern China and post-Soviet countries, the horsemen of the Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries helping spread their popularity. The Turkish version is boiled and topped with garlicky yoghurt, sumac and mint. Yosma’s manti dish, the new mangal and raki bar on Baker Street, is an absolute belter, stuffed with slow braised lamb neck (scrag and middle neck), one of the highlights of an early kitchen run-through. I suggest ordering at least two portions. Each. Manti for the masses.  

"Bloody tasting notes. The infuriating, bombastic, ridiculous tasting note, sitting there all smug and chuffed with itself – “look at me, aren’t I clever”, it seems to chime. Cocky little bugger."

Noble Rot
Issue N10
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As Sideways opens on the stage in London, Zeren Wilson reminisces of his time spent in the vineyards of California.

CODE Quarterly
Issue 7
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“Wild chimps caught boozing on 7% ABV ‘wine’”, shrieked the headline in The Guardian last year. As headlines go, that’s a corker.

Noble Rot
Issue N10
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“It’s likely that the thunderbolt wine revelation usually comes courtesy of a restaurant, via a well chosen list, a savvy sommelier, a beautiful plate of food, and the perfect alchemy of a night out.”

Once you’ve had a taste of the good stuff, "it's hard to go back”. Here he explores the vinous Holy Grail. Corkscrews at the ready.

CODE Quarterly
Issue 6
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Everyone knows the wines of Napa and Sonoma, but some of California’s lesser-known wine regions are producing vintages that are equally appealing...

Christie's Magazine
February 2016
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Wine is good for you

"A meal without wine is unthinkable for some. Being in a restaurant sober and not witnessing the cut and thrust of the dining room; missing that moment when the volume seems to ‘pop’, usually around 9pm, would make me consider why I was there at all...

Hoi Polloi
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Zeren Wilson ponders the often-snubbed ‘house wine’ and assures us that frugal drinking in London is better than it has been before.

“Monsieur, with this House Ferrero Rocher Wine, you are really spoiling Ous...”. Or something like that...

CODE Quarterly
Issue 5
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The Menu Fetishist Returns

“Here’s our menu, let me know if you have any questions...” The phrase that launched a thousand meals. You read, you choose, you ask, they bring: no titillation here, nothing to see, please move along. You’re a menu fetishist? You sick bastard...

Noble Rot
Issue N8
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Wine List Man vs Inverted Snob

Do you really know about wine? Or is all your swaggering braggadocio about to be mercilessly skewered by the secret wine buff in your midst?

Noble Rot
Issue 6
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Written Welcome
to K–Town

There’s something in the air and it’s Korean flavoured. Zeren Wilson finds out why Korean cuisine is the food of the moment

May 2015
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Written Blue

Spring; The menu bristles with the confidence that means no frilly language, just laconic listings of ingredients with the odd nod to a cooking technique here or there:

Completely London
Spring 2015
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Written Thai Lords

Thai cuisine is on
the verge of a re-appraisal in the UK, with new restaurants cooking regional dishes that really highlight the depth and diversity of the food. Zeren Wilson reports

Caterer & Hotelkeeper,
February 2014
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Written Lambrusco

Having fallen from grace, Lambrusco is now making a comeback in its traditional form as a deep, dry,
sparkling wine from Emilia Romagna. Zeren Wilson hails the return of this once–derided drop.

Christie’s Magazine,
October 2014
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Written California

The wines of Napa Valley and Sonoma County are back in the frame, their characteristic exuberance tempered with the restraint that first wowed the world in 1976. Zeren Wilson, reports

Christie’s Magazine,
November 2014
Read the article
Written What to drink with a kebab

– And it's not lager.

Inspired by the recent British Kebab awards Zeren Wilson wonders what the perfect wine pairing is for a kebab and comes up with some surprising conclusions.

Matching Food & Wine
August 2014
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Pretty In

My Provence rosé drinking in the UK is a carefully judged game of cat and mouse: having even a single sip without being in the blazing sun in the garden is, for me, a wasted drop, which sees me dashing in and out when a cloud looms overhead. Rosé drinking is abandoned until the sun makes a reappearance. Quick, sun’s shining again, out we go…

Family owned Champagne brand Pommery are owned by Vranken Pommery, who also have Château la Gordonne in their stable. One of the oldest domaines founded in 1652, their soils of shale, granite, clay and limestone are planted with the classic Provençal varieties of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Syrah. ‘La Chapelle’ is mostly Grenache and Syrah, and has a gorgeously attractive silky texture, a flash of white peach, finishing dry and assured. Classy stuff.

If I told you that while writing this I paused several times to run into the garden to sip this wine, you may think I was joshing. It’s true, all true…
Wine of the week

La Chapelle 2015, Château La Gordonne, Côtes de Provence



'Bombette Pugliese’ read like a meat and cheese fetishist’s porn flick: meat wrapped around cheese, tied up with some pancetta or prosciutto, skewered then grilled over charcoal until cheese bubbles and oozes out in lacy drips, like some kind of infernal and superior version of cheese strings. Bombetta are a speciality from Valle D’Itria, near Bari, with roots in the farming communities of Puglia, the local butcher’s communal oven pumping out these meaty, cheesy bullets after a day’s work. Pork, spicy pancetta, smoked Scamorza cheese, Taleggio, duck speck, ’Nduja…all play their role in various combinations before being whacked on the grill. Pig’s head bruschetta and Panzerottini (deep-fried mini calzone pizzas with ’Nduja and Scamorza) are wicked ’nibbles’ before wading into the grill menu, with ex-Bocca di Lupo chef Charlie Mozley at the helm. Owners Ben Milne and Jo Anastasiou-Milne also founded The Chef’s Deli, who source and supply top restaurants, and next door to Bombetta is the deli for impulse Parmesan and truffled salami purchases. Come out of Snaresbrook station, turn left, sit at the grill – within ten seconds. Genuine spitting distance. E11 gets better and better...

When news gets out that two of the mainstays of the estimable Terroirs group are striking out on their own, ears prick up and a flurry of bookings are made by many of those tracking the current fervid London restaurant landscape: ballsy, gutsy cooking with no faff or fanfare is the rich seam that has run through the Terroirs DNA since they opened in 2009. Oli Barker and Head Chef Pascal Wiedemann bring a welcome robust smack in the chops to genteel and monied Holland Park, a neighbourhood which, apart from the pristine Lidgate’s butcher, has historically had little reason to drag anyone to W11 for anything food related. One lunch is enough to convince:

Pork & Pistachio terrine – (£8) – Memories of the excellent terrines at Terroirs. Jammed with lardo, chicken livers, and other goodness. Textbook terrine. “A master of the country terrine”, according to Chef David Gingell of Primeur.

Devilled Egg, anchovies, mâche salad (£7.50)  – Keep these coming all day on a conveyor belt. Punchy Cantabrian anchovies starring.

Squid, brandade & piment d’Espelette (£10.50) – Curls of silkily tender squid, creamiest salt cod brandade beneath. Yes.

  Quail, white polenta, gremolata (£9.50) – Plump and bronzed, we chase white polenta round the plate, mopping and sucking it from chunks of crisped quail. 

  Pork chop, Jersey Royals, wild garlic, sauce charcutière (£17.50) – Unimpeachable chop, with a deeply flavoured, gorgeously rendered ribbon of fat. Quite indecent, quite wonderful.

Tiny and cosy, it has a ‘skiving off work lunch' written all over it. I’ll be on a table beside the kitchen.