We've been huge fans of the wonderful Max Halley (@lunchluncheon) and his equally fabulous Max's Sandwich Shop ever since it opened back in 2014. So when news broke that he was publishing a book (Max's Sandwich Book: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Perfection Between Two Slices of Bread - buy it now, it's ACE) we thought we'd get him to share some of his favourite things to eat.
Of course the obvious thing would have been to ask for his favourite sandwiches, but that's not how we roll here at Hot Dinners. So instead, we asked him to tell us the London dishes that make him happy. Take it away, Max!
"I eat all these dishes (barring Otto’s duck), on my own. Aren't the things that 'make us happy' often predictable, comforting and restorative? I’d recommend you try them on your own too (barring Otto's duck).
It’s a much maligned pleasure, eating on your own. Not having to talk about it at all, or about anything at all, is often an unbridled joy."
Crispy Pork on Rice with Choy Sum and Oyster Sauce
41-43 Wardour St, London W1D 6PY
*DON’T EVEN LOOK AT THE MENU* Walk in, sit down - yes there's only one of you - and say to the waiter or waitress: “Crispy Pork on Rice with Choy Sum and Oyster Sauce.” There is no time, or patience for, conventional niceties at Wong Kei.
When your pork on rice arrives, ask for “vinegar”. It will come in an old soy sauce bottle. Pour this (chinkiang) vinegar ALL OVER your meat and rice. A quarter of the bottle. Seriously. Back and forth, all over everything. Add soy sauce, with more decorum. Take a HUGE spoonful of the dried chilli in oil that is already on the table and bang it on the side of your plate - the way the oil slowly seeps through the rice, getting slowly hotter and hotter the nearer you are to finishing, is the most wonderful thing.
Do not do anything to the choy sum. Apart from scoffing it between vinegary, spicy mouthfuls of meat and rice.
If at any point you need/want more tea, don’t ask for it. Leave the lid of your teapot open and a new one will soon miraculously replace it.
Sarma Tavuk Beyti
26-27 Grand Parade, N4):
I have lived on, and directly around, this bit of Green Lanes since 2002. It’s my home. “Sarma Tavuk Beyti”. That’s what you want. The Dish. That, which we have all been waiting for…
It’s everything really, all you could want AND it involves cheese. Which is very unusual for me. As I don’t really like cheese. It also involves melted butter, which is more my bag.
Canard à la Presse
182 Grays Inn Rd, London WC1X 8EW
A squished at (by) the table, roasted duck’s blood, that looks like cranberry juice?????? Cooked in front of you?????? If anyone takes you to Otto’s, and has (only available as) pre-ordered this: MARRY THEM IMMEDIATELY. Or suspect their motives.
Photo: Samphire & Salsify
27 Blackstock Road, London N4 2JF,
Does that count as a noodle? Sometimes. Depends how they cut it on the day. Who knows really though? Who even cares? Good luck picking it up with chopsticks. Is this the best (sort of) salad ever? WITHOUT A DOUBT.
Smoked Mackerel Atsu-Atsu
50 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4SQ
...with an “onsen” egg cracked in there and beaten hard into the soup with your chopsticks until it all goes pastel yellow and cloudy. And ask for “extra shiso on top please”.
Koya Bar is my favourite restaurant. I think it’s the best restaurant in London. In 2015 I went 48 Mondays out of 52!!! Apparently, it’s a record!!! Shuko is where it’s at, she’s the perfect cook. Her palate is perfect. Her food is perfect. Her suppliers are perfect. (NamaYasai Farm y’all!!!! Did you know they do a veg box thing you can collect from Koya Bar??????). Take (their version of a) sunomono or some other amazing salad dish, then a rich(er) meat dish, and hot on their heels, my smoked mackerel atsu-atsu/egg thing, ‘and you’ll be rolling in the hay’, as my friend Ben Benton would say.
Bonus - Marsala Martini
7 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 5JE
A Marsala Martini, on your own, at the bar, not at a table, and “with extra almonds please”, at Bar Termini.
Preferably, before you do ANY of these things.