THE BLOG

This Week I Ate... Indonesian in Amsterdam, Plane Food, Polpo and KPH

06/06/2014 17:13 BST | Updated 06/08/2014 10:59 BST

Terminal 5 is like Westfield, just with aeroplanes attached. One day perhaps we'll be able to go to Westfield and then be teleported to a shopping mall somewhere else in the world. We can compare malls, realise that they're virtually the same and then just spend the rest of our lives in Westfield. If it's not the fashion, then maybe the food will swing it. That's about as cultural as these malls can get; a two-dimensional view of another country as presented by its food offering.

I mean who needs the dust and dirt and grime and people that actually dwell in and among and around the streets.

One thing T5 has that Westfield hasn't is Plane Food, Gordon Ramsay's outfit, where I stopped for lunch en route for Amsterdam.

I had an oversized bowl of chilli squid. The little rings of squid were chewy and tasteless. The squid was coated in thin breadcrumbs or something and a hottish pepper, which I liked. But just liking the pepper isn't good enough.

Fortunately I really enjoyed the fishcakes which came as a main course and along with the bottle of Gavi rescued the situation. Of course you don't dawdle, the food comes swiftly, the waiters are efficient and the loos disgusting.

On the plane and 45 minutes later we were in Amsterdam. Such a pretty city - where we stayed in the centre, I can't vouch for the rest - and on this my first visit I was enchanted. Canals, cobbles, cycles attached to every railing, cyclists wafting by without helmets and with very high handle bars.

We stayed at the very pretty Canal House, with funky little rooms, a breakfast room with lots of black furnishings and black cushions and a wonderful thin and high-ceilinged hall, whose walls are clad with paintings, most being little print of famous Dutch masterpieces.

After a speedy jog and some intellectually vigorous checking of landmarks - it's easy to get lost as one turn with little bridge and canal, small street, cobbled road and elegant house, looks much like another - it was dinner at a nearby Indonesian restaurant. Long Pura is one of many such places and I hope there are better.

The crisps and peanut dip is good. The beer (Dutch, of course) is fine, the rice ok, but the succession of meat platters, each carrying different shades of grey to brown protein underwhelming. Was it lamb, pork, beef, chicken? Which was which, we couldn't figure.

So do stay at the Canal House but fight them when they suggest Long Pura. The hotel is just down from the Homomonument, if that's of interest. It's a sort of flattened pyramidal jetty and is, as the name suggests, a, er, monument to homos. I noticed that the monument, erected (sorry, built) to commemorate those who have suffered bravely in the cause of gay rights, is bang next to an outdoor, male public convenience.

Back on home turf that night and I visited the new Polpo in Notting Hill. This was day three so I will be kind and revisit it when things have settled. Save to say the kitchen was well and truly, as they say in the trade, 'in the shit'.

The menus and décor are as you might expect (brick, tile, dark metal plating on the ceiling) and Russell Norman, who has created this wonderful brand, has shown that he can make a Polpo where there are no interesting features to can scrape back and find behind existing plaster boards.

Polpo Notting Hill is in that ugly block of post-war concrete erected, I assume, in the ashes of bombed W11. There's no sexy brick or pipes waiting to be exposed, so Russell, who once worked in the theatre, has shown that he is as good a set designer as he is restaurateur. He's found tiles from old underground stations and, as ever, mixed that with young amateur staff who he can train up.

I look forward to a speedier supper and staff saying what the dishes are next time along with better seasoned pizzetta Bianca and tenderer, grilled flank steak.

But Notting Hill applauds the arrival of Polpo, far more exciting that the All Bar One that was here and a great addition to the area. I still miss Cleopatra, the Greek restaurant that was where M&S is now housed. The building - demolished and then re-built first as the zany medically-inspired, but in too dire need of a check-up to last, Pharmacy - was dark and rusting. There was an English language school upstairs and down in Cleopatra you could sip retsina and smash plates. It was also the only restaurant I have ever known where you could ring up, ask for and get 'a table for 50 in ten minutes please.'

There was another re-styled place I went to this week, down the hill and by Ladbroke Grove tube. Vince Power, a music festival and venue owner has taken a scary old pub, once the hang out of murderers, and made it something of a music venue, restaurant and bar.

The man himself was behind the bar when I visited for lunch. We were the only people there for lunch and our arrival didn't exactly bring a smile to Mr Power's face.

Put it this way, there are warm welcomes and there are get out of my pub before I kill you welcomes. Try it yourself and see what you get. I could smell fat from the kitchen wafting over the table, but my paillard of chicken (there must be some kind of scary restaurateur/chicken paillard trend going on here as Des McDonald serves it at On The Roof with Q at Selfridges as reported here recently) was very good and embracing a new carb-free (ish) food fad I replaced chips with lentils (low carb ok?) which were lovely. As was the very herby, nicely dressed salad that came with it.