ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seared tongue and snapper


Frying the brunchtime bacon last Saturday, as I frequently do at around brunchtime on a Saturday, I allowed myself the luxury of eating a little piece that had stuck to the (non-stick) pan. Big mistake.

Extra crispy and sizzly, I scraped it off with the spatula and popped it straight into my mouth to enjoy the smoky, salty goodness before I whacked the tomatoes to the pan to cook them in the bacon juices, as one does on Saturday brunchtimes.

At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal. Having glued itself to the pan at a high temperature, it scalded my mouth, and I should have fucking learned my lesson by now I know, but I thought nothing more of it, and it certainly didn’t stop me cooking, eating, and enjoying my Saturday brunch. Or watching the FA Cup final. Or Eurovision later that evening.

But fast-forward a couple of days to when the brunchtime payload reached it's zenith, and my mouth is suffering horrendously. What’s more, I can’t really taste anything but the strongest, most pungent flavours.
 
The antiseptic effect of cask-strength Ardbeg last night may or may not have healed my blistered tongue and palate a little, but my failure to appreciate light, delicate, subtle flavours extended, unfortunately, to today’s business lunch at Curve.

Which is a fish restaurant - possibly not what your remaining tastebuds would choose when most of their brethren have been burned away by a tiny morsel of hot pig!



Let me taste something, please Lord let me taste something



Located on the ground floor of the Marriott Hotel by West India Quay, Curve get their fish fresh from nearby Billingsgate market and I’m sure their seared scallops in Chardonnay sauce are very nice in a subtle, understated sort of way, but with my current handicap there was only one thing for it:

Order the boldest flavours on the menu and hope for the best!


Curve
To start I went for a Crab and Blacksticks Blue salad, which also includes iceberg, crispy bacon bits (to taunt me and my mouth, obviously), croutons and chilli mayo. Whoof. Big old portion too.

If this dish had been prepared on Masterchef, the Australian bloke would probably have criticised it for having too many different things going on, and, yes, it was a bit like an 'everything' pizza and might well have overwhelmed an unjaded palette. But the strong flavours were just what I needed: I can still taste chilli, Blacksticks is pretty good for a new cheese, and there was enough crab meat for it not to get completely lost in the mix.

Not all the starters are as audacious, mind. One of the recruitment consultants taking me to lunch went for the 'classic' smoked salmon with wasabi dressing and felt like he’d drawn the short straw.

For my main course, the dish calling me from the daily specials board was the Red Snapper and (jumbo) Shrimp kebab, with garlic and chilli butter. It was hard to fault, coming up on two skewers with spinach, rice and cherry tomatoes. Another substantial plateful – contrary to reports I’d heard that Curve were mean with their portions.

The garlic and chilli gave a powerful kick without overpowering the fish which itself commanded big flavours, and it was all deliciously fresh. I would have maybe top'n'tailed the 'shrimps' before skewering them, given that they were squished up against chunks of fish and slightly hard to pick apart on the plate, but that's just me being very picky.

Curve’s wine list plays to the strengths of their menu, with the emphasis on dry, fruity whites and the L’Aristocratio Pino Grigio brought plenty of citrusy flavours to the party.

The place was almost empty at lunchtime, when similar level restaurants five minutes away in the middle of the Wharf would be packed, but it’s hard to see why. Curve is modern, stylish and comfortable and the chef is clearly unafraid to experiment a bit.

Being a bit of an obstinate twat, I’ll probably never learn my lesson about eating red-hot bacon straight from the pan, but I have discovered that lunch at a seafood restaurant doesn’t have to be subtle, and that might actually be the more valuable lesson to have learned!

Anyway, we have a team lunch at Byron Burger tomorrow, so I picked a really bad week to break my mouth. Might try the Ardbeg again tonight, and, if that fails, Laphroaig...


On The Wharf...



Curve 
London Marriott West India Quay
22 Hertsmere Road,
E14 4ED
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