Where I’ve Eaten
Bubala Soho, London
This is the second opening of this superb Middle Eastern restaurant (the first is in Shoreditch). Its new Poland street location is larger with simple terracotta and pale green interiors, an open kitchen, small tables and bar seating; spaces perfect for sharing small plates from the a la carte or set menu. We were warmly greeted and seated without a reservation and a knowledgeable waiter explained the more esoteric ingredients: amba (a sour spicy rub used on grilled leeks and Chinese cabbage); grapefruit ezme (the fruit incorporated into a salad) with tahini and pomegranate molasses; and black garlic pipelchuma (a red chilli paste) served with corn ribs. The menu is meat free but they don’t shout about it and with these superb flavours it doesn’t feel the lack. Laffa grilled flatbreads are light and tearable, perfect for dipping into smooth labneh with confit garlic and za’atar, or silky baba ganoush flooded with a lake of curry leaf oil. Their falafel are the lightest and crispiest I’ve eaten and green with herbs, the potato latkes brittle and crunchy with a confit-soft centre. Individual dishes are inexpensive so you can get the full impact without breaking the bank.
Exmoor Forest Inn, Devon
The recently refurbished Exmoor Forest Inn at Simonsbath sits in an idyllic valley surrounded by wild and beautiful moorland. Welcoming and cosy, the comfortable bar and dining room invites guests to relax on soft armchairs next to wood burning stoves. This is grown up pub food at its best, with sourcing and seasonality at the core. A generous serving of house sourdough with roasted yeast butter kept our appetites at bay while we perused the menu offering meats from the Exmoor Forest farm, fish from day boats, venison and other game from the surrounding moorland, British cheeses and locally foraged plants and berries. We started with a creamy hummus of yellow split peas from British growers Hodmedod’s served with crisp local grown crudites and meltingly tender slow cooked beef nuggets with homemade pickles. There are classics, done well, like Middle white sausage and mash and expertly cooked local game: tender slices of Venison haunch were paired with salt baked beetroot, a paean to local ingredients. Pudding was a suitably robust English black fig and Somerset cider cake with clotted cream and a superb sticky hogweed pudding with milk ice cream, both of which confirmed chef Ben Ogden’s commitment to finding the best ingredients and his capabilities at preparing them.
This article originally appeared in the October edition of House & Garden magazine. Image courtesy of Taran Wilkhu