On The Menu: Gin; Leon; Excellia Tequila; Boursin; Tsuru's chilli oil


This week I've been drinking... gin with my dinner

Gin is probably not most people's first choice of drink for a four-course dinner, but after an evening spent with Hendrick's and the chefs, The Young Turks, at the Ten Bells Pub in London's Spitalfields, I can report they go together like gin and, well, tonic.

Together, chef and gin brand put on what was hailed as an "Unusually Literary Banquet", which looked at mother's ruin in literature, and paired unusual dishes with gin cocktails. Wood pigeon salad, say, was served with a hot gin punch and feather blade beef was accompanied with something called Trimalchio's Funeral, a mix of gin, lemon juice, ginger syrup, honey and ale, which was so lively it may have revived old Trimalchio.

This was the last event for a few months, but look out for more themed evenings from the duo in the future. And maybe have a go at some pairings yourself.


Cook it now

The first Leon restaurant opened on London's Carnaby street in 2004. It mission was to serve fast food – but good food, too. So burgers and pizza were out; meatball boxes and sides of hummus and spicy corn resolutely in. There are 13 now, serving 70,000 mouths per week, but not one of those gobs is outside London. A problem of population density, maybe? Either way, now my mum, and everyone else, can get at their latest recipes in, as yet, its best cookbook: Leon Book 4: Family and Friends. From contents page to index, a joy. £25, octopus books.co.uk

Real, smooth

I did not know tequila could be like Excellia Tequila. It didn't quite take me to Jalisco, Mexico – where the blue agave plants are cut, shredded, fermented and aged – but it did take me far away from those times at university where the only tequila came with an aperitif of salt with lemon as dessert. But that's as it should be, because Excellia has been split between Grand Cru Sauternes and Cognac barrels, the contents then married together, the grapes meeting the agave, by the master blender after nine months. The result is unique – something honeyed and floral, with a mouthfeel smoother than treacle. £42.79, thedrinkshop.com

Soft option

There is a lot of Boursin snobbery about these days – of the "it's awfully commercial, darling, not a lot to do with cheese" variety. To me, however, it is the most perfect of comfort foods: soft, spreadable and when on an oaty biscuit with parma ham, entirely compatible with one-hand TV snacking. Plus, you can get it anywhere. I loved the old style and I love the new fig and nut version even more. £2.20, tesco.com

Hot news

Noodles are everywhere at the moment. Emporiums dedicated to their sale seem to pop up all the time, like dawn mushrooms. At home there is only one thing to put on your ramen, or so I reckon, Tsuru's new "eat the bits" chilli oil, which is tingly, hot and quite incredibly messy on your table. £4.95, tsuru-sushi.co.uk

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