All reader reviews by Lamchowder
I didn't have much expectations for Veranda especially when it was in such a quiet area of Brixton but I just love it when you less expect something and it blows you away. Entering into a large venue of warm red, beautiful paintings and smiling staff it was a good start and even more so when we notice a whole family of around 15+ people of their cuisine's people celebrating their grandma's birthday there. It gives a good sign that something is attracting these people to choose Veranda as their birthday venue.
Staff had a humorous side which is always uplifting and were ever so attentive and efficient in answering to our request and checking up on us to see if we're okay without being too disruptive. Even when we asked for tap water when he handed out the drinks menu his response was 'perfect!' and with a smile. We felt very welcomed. The only downside was their the food service was very slow but they did keep us informed that there was a problem with their ordering machine sending messages to the kitchen.
But what really was the highlight of the evening was the food itself. Even though we rushed a bit it did not stop the kitchen chef to cook our order properly with attention to detail. Now I cannot recommend the grilled prawn starter enough. Being a seafood fan never have I had a prawn as big and plump as the palm of my hand but grilled perfectly with the shell on or full flavour . It was firm and bouncy and seasoned perfectly to give a very sweet taste to it and the spicy sauce just added that extra kick of flavour needed to set it off.
Even the ackee and saltfish money bags were presented beautifully, perfectly deep fried pastry so it was not greasy at all and it was that creamy, savoury filling that gave it that great contrast of texture from the crunchy pastry on the outside.
For mains we had the 3 fish curry which had notes of different flavour, very mild sauce but delicious. Once again it was seasoned perfectly and it had that same variety of prawn again from the starter. It went very well with the rice and peas we ordered.
The fillet steak was properly the least favourite as they didn't understand what medium rare meant and cooked it to it was more than well done making it very tough to eat. However we got through it due to flavour which was delicious but just shame about the texture of meat.
But unbelievably the most simple side dish of Macaroni cheese pie was my favourite of the evening. I have never had one in a Carribean style but now I want the recipe. Pasta layered with a delicious mild cheese holding it together with a deliciously grilled top giving that smokiness to it. It was al dente and it was that texture of firmness yet slightly chewy that got it ever so addictive. The peppers gave it that extra edge of flavour and as it was a dry dish it was not sickly as most macaroni cheeses out there. I could have just eaten that itself. Definitely recommend.
So food was slow but if it meant that I got the deliciously prepared food I did then I say it was very worth it. Quality does shine here and it can be seen by the ingredients used and the flavours each dish brings out. Everything was beautifully presented and the staff were a joy to have serving us. It is a bit pricey for the cuisine but for a treat for someone and taking up the set menu for £20 pp it isn't bad at all. I would just go back for the cheese pie alone.
A great meal overall.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
Over 200 people were interviewed and only 8 successful candidates made it through the interview process to be part of this newly opened Ramen specialised restaurant yet still they are searching for more staff to complete their team. So it is obvious that customer service is very important to them and they want the best of best serving their ramen to their customers. And it showed from the energy buzzing in this small but well layout restaurant, all smiley and welcoming, answering any questions we had about their different varieties of ramen and sides.
If you wasnít here for their ramen then you would be in the wrong place as it was all what their menu was about, that and a few side dishes such as their soft shell crab and extra toppings to add to the flavour and excitement to your ramen such as their unusual Ďfat pipetteí with is pork fat to enhance the flavour of the broth.
The restaurant itself was a completely different atmosphere to the previous newly opened ramen restaurants, more contemporary with the bright natural lighting against white walls. The space was well used up with light wooden tables and stools, wagamama sharing style to make use of the small cosy setting. Whilst we were there we saw different social groups of all ages, from family with children, friends to individuals which shows it has a great atmosphere to cater for everyone.
With all these in place it would be no use if the food itself didnít match the cover to the book. But it did. The ramen soon arrived in perfect eating temperatures, not too hot so it was burning our mouths but warm enough for the broth to be fragrant and flavoursome. Whether it is ramen, pho or chinese noodle soups, Iím tired of these one note flavoured broths, watery, full of msg, bland or overly salty and it so was so exciting to see broths made properly here, rich, flavoursome, thick and fragrant. The only thing I would change about the ramen would be the noodles as personally I prefer noodles much firmer and bouncier whereas the noodles here were much softer in texture.
First to try was the T22 ramen using chicken bone and soy to create the broth with toppings of chicken and the all so fun Ďcock scratchingsí. If you are sharing a variety of ramens here I would recommend to have a chicken broth first because it is more Ďneutralí tasting compared to the thicker, richer pork bone broth. After waiting in the cold the first mouthful was so warming with the intense salty savoury rich chicken broth. But unfortunately after the second mouthful I found I wasnít too keen on the saltiness and found it too much but saying that, as salted as it may be, you can tell that the broth had been made with an efficient amount of chicken bones, simmering for hours to create this flavoursome, aromatic flavour. Now as exciting as cock scratchings may sound it really just plays a role in flavouring the broth here with a spoonful of it scattered on the side of your ramen. When you mix the ramen together you probably forget it is even there because it softens and ends up hiding behind the more dominate textures such as the fresh diced onions?, mizuna, beansprouts and bamboo. What was more satisfying though was the tender chicken and the perfectly soy marinated boiled eggs, sliced in half revealing itís still slightly runny yolk inside.
Next to try was the famous Tonkotsu as described by the menu to be made with a Ď20 hour pork bone brothí. Once again it came with the same delicious eggs, bamboos, beansprouts but this time it came with tender sweet slices of pork and the additional garnish of spring onions. Now this was a winner for me, maybe because I prefer the sweeter meatier broth and had more depth and flavour to it compared to the chicken broth rather than just savoury. It came milky white as it should from the fatty bone marrow and was perfectly seasoned. It was a lot less saltier compared to soy enriched chicken broth which made it morish and easier to slurp down. It was even better after I added a kick of spice from the chilli oil and some roasted grated sesame seeds for some nutty flavour, all from the selection of condiments on every table which also included whole cloves of garlic and a presser to crush it. With all these ramens you can personalise it the way you want it, either from the free condiments or as mentioned earlier, from the selections of extra toppings on the menu such as the cock scratchings from the T22, a little mix and match. Plus, I love the little attentive details like the help-yourself-to-more-napkins just made available on your table along with the breakable chopsticks. Little things like that makes a long way to helping you enjoy the experience more without asking for help after the slurping got you into a mess.
Now in competition of being my favourite was the fabulous Tantamen. I think it would have been my favourite if I hadnít pierced my lip the other day which made the whole experience a lot more painful than it should. But then again it was good pain, the numbing sort that gets warm and buzzing inside. Like the tonkotsu it was miso and soy free so was a sweeter broth but saying that it was more spicy than anything else and like the others it was rich, intense and bursting of flavour. The addition of the mince pork added the meatiness to it and I enjoyed it being very lean as were all the meats that day.
Now I felt silly ending the experience with a burning lip and sharing with two other guests we agreed to share another ramen just to cool things down and just because we could. Now a top tip somewhere taught me was that dairy products help relieve spiciness and so without much thought we ordered the Sweet Miso 3 known for its usual toppings of corn, wakame and butter. Now if I had to describe this one in one word I would say weird. At first it took me back a little with the rich buttery taste I wasnít used to in soup noodles, then the slightly bitter taste which I wasnít sure if it was suppose to be there and then the sweetness of the corn, It was definitely an acquired taste as my other two guest gave up on it immediately. But as I was the one burning I kept it going and soon found myself tolerating the taste and was able to accept it. The addition of the corn did help a bit as I found myself enjoying the little burst and crunches and of course those lovely runny eggs again. I probably give it a miss next time but probably ask the staff what it was all about.
Now I donít know much about ramen to be that critical but I did enjoy the whole experience as a whole and would definitely go back for the Tonkotsu Ramen and the Tantamen when my stupid lip heals. The ramen broths here are the best Iíve tasted in London without leaving quenching of thirst due to the overload of msg but made with quality ingredients and enough of it to create such a rich flavoursome broth. 20 hour pork broth, I donít think any other ramen joint in London can beat that at the moment nor with the toppings it provides. Well Robert, the manager, Plum who I believe is the front of house manager and another female staff definitely left a mark in my heart with their ever so welcoming friendly service and informal chats along the way. They even promised me soft shell crab on the house next time I return. For my first visit on a soft opening day with 50% off that is what I call generosity and amazing customer service and loyalty.
Monday, November 05, 2012
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
I am trying to remember the last time where I went to a restaurant where every dish was just perfect, each one just as good as the next on flavour, seasoning, texture and presentation. There was seriously nothing I could fault or would change in any of the dishes I tried today at Zoilo other than the portion sizes as they were just all so morish. And today was just the soft opening so I cannot imagine what the full outcome will be when all is prepared and experiments and trials are over.
I am not just talking about food here either, The moment I stepped past the black curtains to reveal it's small rustic, dark, candle lit room, small intimate tables and dark wooden bar stools facing the bar but not because it was Halloween but because it works for this fine dining tapas style restaurant, I was more than welcomed into their restaurant greeted by the warmest of smiles.. The manager was even kind enough to give me a little but insightful guide around the restaurant leading me downstairs to the open kitchen with more seating available allowing diners to have the whole view of the amazing chefs at work. Although this restaurant is clearly not suitable for large bookings or families but an enclosed room is available for private hire for those who are lucky enough to find a day when it is free seeing how great this place is already. I especially love the bricks walls left bare giving it is relaxed rustic feel contrasted by the warm dark wooden interior design.
As we began to settle down the staff introduced the menu to us. They were more than willing to answer any questions we had which I'm sure everyone will as the dishes' names were of their countries, But they were patient, understanding and gave us great suggestions when asked. Some even had a nice humour to them which contributed the relaxed and friendly mood of the place.
Being quite understated compared to the other new openings out there we were completely blew away by the quality of the dishes when they came. First to start was the cold starter, the artichokes, pickled mushrooms, "chipa" & parmesan. It was a great appetising dish to start the dinner with the pickles girolles (not just the ordinary mushrooms) balanced by the softer and tender sweet artichokes that just blended together in your mouth and the little scatters of sweet taste of parmesan that pushes through the whole dish. The balance of ingredients were just right. As it was a cold starter it was a lighter flavoured dish compared to the rest which made it a good beginning to enjoy.
Soon followed the fat juicy sweetbreads that were truly mouth melting, accompanied by some sort of salsa sauce on top that were of lemons, diced tomatoes and onions to lift it's flavour. Although small, they were bursting of flavour, juicy and soft bouncy texture that went well with the crunch from the diced vegetables.
Although only the second day of its soft opening already I've heard raving reviews on its pig's head and quince and I can honestly say it does live up to its hype. When it first arrived I was actually quite disappointed as it did not come as expected though by its shape of what resembled like fish cake, a crumbling batter shaped into 1cm thick circles. But once I took a bite out of it, it's texture came as a complete surprise when the piece just fell into my mouth. It was the most juiciest, lightest piece of pork I have ever tasted. I could barely taste the batter or feel the texture of it as i imagined it to be coarse. But the whole thing was just mouth melting, no strands of pork in sight but as if it was just a smooth blend of the pig's head. Together with the sweet chilli sauce that just boosted it's sweetness in flavour, it became one of my favourite of the evening.
Don't get me wrong the other dishes were just as good. The recommendation of the spinach, raisins & pine nuts empanadas achieved all that is expected for a savoury pastry.It was a perfectly made pastry, light, slightly crispy on top and moist into a soft comforting filling of well flavoured & seasoned spinach. The raisins gave it it's sweetness and together with the pine nut, it was nice combination of textures which in the end made it superior to the beef empanadas which arrived later, just because it lack that sweetness, bounce and the contrasting textures but still very good, made with quality lean minced beef.
Last of the starters was the also very popular provoleta, almonds and honey. Now I have never been a big fan of cheese and not one to eat cheese on it's own without a salad or carb to hide it in but this is before I knew cheese could taste like this. You know that elastic cheese you get on a good pizza? Now imagine that x2. in texture and flavour.It was a very strong intense flavour, sweetened beautifully with the honey and the taste of almonds. In small bites they became addictive to chew as the flavours released itself, like chewing gum but more firmer, denser and bouncier. Another great dish and in fact, it was mum's favourite of the evening with its unique texture.
A little break in between to allow digestion before the next courses start to arrive with argentina rib eye steak. Now having a lot of steak recently in other restaurant and all being very average I was debating if I should order it. But in the end we did but really for it to be our 'safe' dish as it was the only one we recognised on the menu instantly. But wow am I glad we did as I'm sure this dish alone can be in competition with the other popular steakhouses out there. Last time I had a steak as good as this was at HIX but this was even more flavoursome than that without the need of any additional creamy sauces on top. On the outside you could really taste the chargrill and the smokiness but once passed that it was into the most tender cut due to the marbling revealing the perfect medium rare ribeye steak as requested. It was pack full of flavour, succulent and sweet, like a proper quality steak should taste like. On the side was a slightly run down mash to loosen up the texture a little which made a great side to it.
Talking of sides we also ordered the potato gratin. I love a good gratin on a cold day and this surpassed all my expectations of a good gratin having the perfect consistency, softness and flavour..What most fail to do is creating that crispy layer of thin cheese on top which Zoilo did spot on giving that first bite into intense smoky crispy cheese flavour which I just adore. It was baked just right, not too runny or dry but all holding together in a thick cheesy herby sauce.
Our health conscious kicked in when we saw the beetroot, goat's curd & garrapinada, well that was before what we knew garrapinada actually was. What a surprise to find it looking like dense breaded balls but actually balls of the creamiest of liquid warm cheese of some sort. The flavours were light so not too overpowering and definitely went well with the sweet juicy sliced beetroot. Another great vegetarian dish of the evening.
As a last minute choice we added a bowl of chips 'provenzal' and I remember wondering how good can a bowl of chips get. Now usually when I order chips I just have to have ketchup on the side, its just a necessity as if chips must always be eaten with ketchup. But for once in my life I ate chips without ketchup and I didn't want to either or any other sauces in fact. These chunky chips were amazing and if there was a vote for best chips this year I will no question give my vote to these guys. Usually I would describe good chips being fluffy and crispy on the outside and real potato flavour but these chips even go the extra mile of being seasoned richly with garlic and fresh parsley which I later found out was what 'provenzal' meant. They were highly morish and unneeded of any more seasoning or flavour.
We were planning to skip dessert just because of time but the staff kindly offered us two alfajoes de maizena on the house. What a lovely finish to the already perfect evening and well, another surprise texture. Never had one before I didn't expect them to resembled the delicacy of a macaroon but even more lighter and creamier, ones that just practically crumbles away in your mouth. They were more softer in texture too made from cornflour. I'm sure anyone could fit these delicacies in them without the sickly feeling of a dessert after a heavy meal. Just truly heavenly.
Arriving with no expectations we were left astounded at the quality and uniqueness of this place. Each dish was so different they all brought up a new conversation and I even felt the need to go downstairs to praise the kitchen staff. But it was not just the food that left a mark in us but also the warmness of the atmosphere and staff. They were great fun to have serve us without being too intrusive, with a nice humorous side, with great teamwork and most importantly they enjoyed what they were doing.
I have never been so moved to write a review like this in ages but a restaurant like this must be shared. There wasn't a dish I didn't like or would change. Like I said earlier, it is still its early stages yet already outstanding as if quality is built in their foundation. Definitely recommended for those who like to experiment with different tastes and more exotic dishes. For those looking for something more familiar their steak and chips are just as mind blowing.
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 7
Finding a good risotto in London is harder than I thought with many getting the consistency wrong or not cooking it long enough and so the rice is still hard. But for Brasserie Joel it was not a problem as they served me one of the best risotto dishes Iíve had for a very long time.
Iím not usually one who finds myself dining in hotel restaurant but not doing much research beforehand that was where I found Brasserie Joel to be, in Park Plaza Westminster. After getting lost around the roundabout to realise that the hotel was actually located in the middle, I finally made it to their restaurant greeted by their warm friendly front of house staff at the entrance. We were called in immediately guided by the waiters through their narrow dark walkway leading into a windowless room ,compose of sleek black walls and seatings with a mix of warm red and purple lights. It wasnít very spacious but big enough for you to settle down into your table and get lost in the dimmed lighting over your meal. Some could find it slightly cold and quiet and maybe slightly claustrophobic with the dark enclosement but it didnít bother us and we enjoyed the atmosphere.
As soon as we were settled with the menu we were given some appetisers of minced olives served with little pieces of cut up bread and also a basket of their unlimited freshly baked bread with their delicious Normandy butter. Each table was also laid out with a can of their A L'OLIVIER cold pressed Lubťron olive oil for you to enjoy freely with the bread. It was a great appetiser to start and all very tasty. Bread was warm , crusty and fluffy inside. The butter was of the highest quality, creamy and smooth and the olives and its oil were very fragrant and flavoursome. When I say unlimited it really was unlimited as the staff were more than willing to refill them without you asking first hence you hadnít had to feel embarrassed about asking.
Prices are quite high compared to the average menu but I suppose that is expected for a hotel restaurant .As usual, most of the menu didnít come with a side and had to be ordered separately. It is why I tend to avoid hotel restaurants as quality and quantity doesnít seem to make up for the price. Well quality is not a problem at Brasserie Joel and luckily we were there with an offer dining off their limited a la carte entitling us to one main course each for £1 per person and with their unlimited bread we were sure not to worry to be leaving hungry.
First to arrive as our starter to share and came after a short wait was our beautiful Porcini risotto with parmesan, plum tomatoes and pea shoots served in a retro style heavy red saucepant. The waitress told us many people had complained about the pot, finding it a distraction to eat but I couldnít disagree more as it manage to keep the risotto warm all the way through our meal and added some fun in eating it. But it did not just win in presentation but also in taste. Cooked to perfect timing the risotto rice was soft all the way through like a risotto should be, sticky to the perfect consistency and very flavoursome from the mushrooms and herbs used. The parmesan was light so did not make the dish too heavy and all was seasoned perfectly with burst of sweetness from the tomatoes. It was delicious, can easily be one of the best risotto I have had helped by the fresh ingredients used like the mushrooms which were still fresh and bouncy when biting into it. We throughly enjoyed it to the end.
Next to arrive were our mains in which I ordered the traditional fish pie which came with buttered peas on the side. It didnít stand out as much as the others but was very adequate in taste with the smooth creamy mash potatoes, seafood flavour and seasoned well. However I did wish they could throw in a few more shrimps in there as I believe there were only three, just for that nice change in texture of bite and bounciness that I enjoyed when I found one.
Finally our roast chicken came which was excluded off the Twitter deal but as it was of their dish of the day which is another offer they do, it only cost only £9.95 on a Wednesday and served with mini roast potatoes. They do a different dish of the day per day of the week. Now the roast chicken came generously, a good half a chicken topped with rocket salad and looked very herby. This was another win. The chicken was beautifully roasted in flavour of lemon and herbs.Skin was roasted to golden yellow, thin and crisp with no signs of fat, into a very juicy succulent white meat, all the way to the bone. There was no sauce but it hadn't needed any as it was perfectly flavoured to enjoy on its own. The potatoes were fluffy and also well flavoured with the same herbs and citrus flavour making it all very appetising.
From the beginning to end service was very attentive and friendly with the refilling of bread, staff coming over to make sure our meal was okay. We received adequate service even though we were dining with an offer and even welcomed back again. However due to the layout of the restaurant there was not much space for the waiters and waitresses to stand and with us being placed in the corner it did feel at times we were constantly watched over and stared at which made things quite uncomfortable. Other than that they were fine.
On the whole we very very much enjoyed our meal at Brasserie Joel. The place and atmosphere is missing some vibe but the deliverance of food definitely makes up for it. All ingredients were given attention to detail, fresh and well prepared to give off the best of flavour rather than the use of salt. Probably not an everyday casual dining unless youíre living in the hotel but would be considered for that special occasion just for another risotto, roast and more of that freshly baked bread.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Food 10 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
I actually feel bad for starting this review on Lowcountry and to be so critical on them when I had one of the most warming and charming meals in there during their soft launch, dining on their limited menu. It is a restaurant that is bursting full of energy, staff genuinely jumping off their feet to welcome you in and doing more than their job to make your experience as lovely as it could possibly be. It all came from the heart and you can tell. I mean they definitely delivered some dishes that I would go all the way there from Angel just to eat it again but some were quite average and could do with some improvement. But hey, there was nothing that was extremely poor and theyíve only just opened so Iím sure over time from test and trail, things will get better. Of course eating from the limited menu meant I am still unknown to other potential dishes out there that could also shine i.e. the potential lobster and seafood platters.
Situated just off the edge of Fulham Road you canít miss it especially being such a large venue painted red. As well as a restaurant it is also a very traditional looking bar, very spacious with a large garden at the back fenced behind a beautiful canopy of trees. They made the effort to give me a nice tour around the place and told me the great plans they had for the garden for barbecues, private events and bookings. Suddenly I felt I was out of London.
There is nothing I can fault with the service in Lowcountry. As soon as I entered I felt the energy buzzing, the warmth and excitement as if me being a friend had entered their house. I watched their integrated teamwork, the communication and friendliness amongst them all. I felt part of that.
From such a traditional wooden decorated bar I didnít expect them to guide me into such a trendy modern American looking restaurant with an open kitchen right in the middle. I have never seen anything like it and was very impressed how every customer was entitled to see the full view of the kitchen. Fresh multi-coloured vegetables surrounded the front of the kitchen and was made viewable to everyone and I was told that soon fresh seafood of oysters and prawns shipped daily would be layered out too.
The theme was red, red stools, red lights and even to the napkins. It was vivid and it worked very well for a Southern American dining. I liked it.
Although limited there was still quite a varied choice on the menu and curious to try Southern food we decided to order three mains and have one as a starter to share. Unknown to us, it was that first dish that blew us away and the dish name? Simply ĎShrimp and gritsí. A dish that looked nothing more than a shrimp tomato stew turned out to be the most refreshing, comforting dish Iíve had in a while. The shrimp were so fresh it was like they were still jumping in our mouths and it was not after we eaten it were we told that they were caught that very morning and then cooked to us in the evening. And they found the best recipe to bring out their freshness, paired with a simple simple sauce made with pure quality tomatoes that was lightly spiced with chilli and flavoured with tarragon and onions. It was heartwarming and made slightly indulgent with the scattered bits of melted cheese and creaminess from the grits. A bit of fried grits scattered on top gave the dish a little crunch and all portioned generously with an abundance of shrimps.
Next came the rump steak in voodoo and hollandaise recommended medium rare on the menu which is what we went for. It would not have been my choice of cut if there there were other cuts available that day because as expected it was quite tough. But I could definitely tell that it was a high quality rump because although tough it wasnít chewy from muscle fibers and quite succulent. It was another generous portion, seared well too, giving a good smokey coating exterior into the perfect medium rare inside. However it lacked flavour and needed to be marinated longer for the flavours to go through. The flavours from the voodoo and hollandaise sauce was not strong enough either making the dish quite bland. However I was happy with unique pairing of a whole unsliced leaf of some sort of greens although Iím sure it would not be to everyoneís taste as it did require quite a bite. As it was a quality rump steak we did polish it up appreciating the natural subtle flavours and textures of the steak although for £18.75 it was too average especially without any chips.
We also ordered the pinot noir burger which was slightly more successful. It also came medium rare but was more tender and succulent. It came thick and chunky with a good layer of melted smoky cheddar that added that depth of flavour with the red onions that topped it. However the red wine was not apparent enough in the burger and could have done with more flavours. The burger as a whole also needed something to break it up and lacked some sort of sauce and juice to it e.g. a tomato, some more leafy greens then those that came on the side and maybe some gherkins. But this is only a suggestion. The bun however was very successful in holding the filling together and a well toasted sesame one creating a nice smoky flavoured crisp topping into a more fluffy inside that came apart nicely with the burger. It may not have been the ideal burger but still enjoyable.
On the side we also ordered some chips which were probably the least successful dish of the day. Although fluffy and good quality potatoes they were uncooked, lacking that crisp coating and also unseasoned making them quite bland. Without ketchup and pepper it would have been hard to finish them especially when it was very generously portioned too. The waitress was brilliant in filling our third helping of ketchup although it made us feel like a nuisance in calling her over time after time. Hopefully in the future they could provide little bottles of condiments or invest in bigger dipping plates especially when things get busy.
Luckily desserts were more to our satisfaction. We ended up ordering the Knickerbocker and the Kentucky bourbon pecan pie. Both were loved in different ways. The pecan pie came warm and sticky with wholesome soften pecans sweetened perfectly. It was an enjoyable texture with an indulgent nutty flavour. It had a nice firm crust that carried it all too with a contrast of bitterness from the bourbon cherries. A little bit of cream or icecream on the side would have made it perfect.
That was when the knickerbocker came in perfectly which we kind of ate it along with the pie. We were told the icecream were made from the gelato shop across the road that makes it freshly for them. The flavours that we had were caramel and strawberry and they were just incredible, silky smooth, creamy, made with real strawberries. Even the caramel felt light, and gently sweetened so it wasnít overpowering the fresh blueberries and juicy strawberries that topped it. But this was just the start as we were told that they are planning to invest in more flavours such as pumpkin ice-cream which will be interesting.
Out of ten I would give Lowcountry a good 7.5 just for food just to clarify that they do know what they are cooking and using the right ingredients and Iím sure with little changes along the way they could easily go from that to a good 9. I would give a 10 for the Shrimp and grits alone.
Towards the end of the meal the front of house manager noticed how curious we were with the folding of the napkins and kindly offered to teach us. We were then given a tour whilst having a nice conversation about their plans and farewelled out like a friend leaving their house. My heart sank when I had to leave and this is how every restaurant should be although I understand it would be hard to maintain that when things get busy,
Everything else about it like the decor and service I could easily give a 10. We were really looked after during our meal and as we ate we watched other customers received the same love and attention too. Even the chef interacted with her customers and the manager stepped out to greet people making sure things were okay. But it wasnít just a face as they shared the same respect with each other, laughing as they worked and making conversation. Our waitress even made her way to introduce me to her colleagues praising them how great they are to work with.
So Lowcountry is not perfect but no restaurant is. The only thing I would really urge to be better would be the chips. When the actual menu comes out with different cuts of steak such as the rib-eye and the fillet, leg of pork, roast chicken and more fresh seafood dishes, Iím sure there will be other dishes to enjoy as much as i enjoyed the shrimp and grits which I would recommend just to go there for!
Friday, May 11, 2012
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 7
Who would have thought a bit of meat on sticks can taste so good but at Sticks and Sushi they sure can as goes for everything else we had there. So on a Bank Holiday Monday I found myself passing my day with a four hour round trip journey to Wimbledon to spend a £55 voucher I won from their Twitter site on anything on their menu. On arrival we found ourselves facing a lovely spacious, high ceiling open space filled with a very modern take on Japanese decor with its more contemporary coloured lanterns, long dark draped curtains on one side and an exposed brick wall on the other. The use of a mixture of mahogany colours, slightly dimmed lighting and free use of sofa bench chairs to slouch in made it very relaxing and I found the leather surfaced tables very impressive and new too. Hygiene was presented clearly with well uniformed staff and an open kitchen at the back allowing you to see the food being made by the well stocked staff which also meant food was delivered efficiently and promptly. It was a very beautiful layout restaurant, very well organised and designed.
For a bank holiday Monday the restaurant did look quite busy which is a great sign for such a newly opened restaurant. We were immediately greeted by a friendly member of staff who confirmed our booking and guided us to our table. All their staff were trained well, very bubbly and helpful in assisting with needs. They all seem to take pride in their jobs which is always a good sign. Drinks were offered promptly too.
We started to browse the a la carte menu that already awaited us on our tables. As helpful as the menu items were all photographed and laid out beautifully exactly as it would arriving to our tables I found it very confusing with no structure or organisation. I much preferred the one of the website where things were listed under sections, i.e starters, sticks, rice paper rolls and maki. Also food items were mixed with other food items on the menu to form a platter which made it harder to see which description belonged to which item but luckily we already made our choice from the online menu at home and were all set and ready to make our order. However for those who rather not go through the chaos ordering from the a la carte can directly order from the set dishes menu which have a variety of mixed platters already arranged to suit all preferences, whether it is a mix selection of rolls, a variety of grilled skewers or a mixture of both and more and this is available every day from opening to closing.
We much enjoyed the wait admiring the decor but it took no longer than 15 minutes before all our food items arrived to us creating somewhat like a banquet which we much preferred with small sharing plates given to us and a smaller plate for pouring our soy sauce into for dipping. It definitely lifted our excitement. The only thing I have to criticise was the presentation of some of the food, how certain rolls were crammed together on round pale-off-green plates making things look slightly dull. It probably would not have been that noticeable if the plates were white but I always believed such delicate pieces of food art seems to work better on white rectangular plates as the rolls comes in that shape anyway. But this criticism is very minor and just me being fussy as the food itself tasted great.
As the food arrived together we rushed in to try the sticks when they were still hot. They were basically different meats marinated and then grilled on skewers. There was an extensive choice but we ended up ordering the beef with wafu dressing, lamb with herb butter, miso marinated pork and also a portion of chicken meatballs. Unlike the rolls, these came beautifully laid out on a white rectangular ceramic plate with a wedge of lemon on the side. Tasting them were even better and a real surprise for something that looked so simple. You can really tell that Sticks and Sushi invest in quality meat. Even though the meat were divided into small chunks to fit onto a skewer they were all tender, fresh and succulent, all well marinated and grilled with its flavours shouting from every corner. The beef in wafu dressing had a more sweeter dressing, topped with a sweet pickle and spring onions. The meat had a nice tender bite, somewhat like a sponge soaked in its juices created a real tender meaty enjoyment of both savoury and sweet. However even more to my preference was the lamb chop with the herb butter being more savoury and fragrant from the herbs. Grilled medium rare and cut in a good thickness made it incredibly juicy with a nice clean quality bite to it without any interruptions of chewiness. Next was the pork sliced quite thinly giving it a slight crisp and energy from the grilling. The layer of fat in between must have basted the leaner meat creating another delicious tender piece of skewer as a whole. The marinade was more simple and savoury but allowed the taste of the pork to shine through. However the biggest surprise were the chicken meatballs which had such a firm bouncy, springy texture bite to it I could hardly tell it was chicken breast at all. The grilling gave it nice smoky interior into a more lightly seasoned but well flavoured inside from the herbs and pepper. This allowed room for the coating of the teriyaki sauce or something similar that added that boost the flavour further. Even though we were just feeding of meat, it did not feel heavy at all probably because all the grease and fat had been grilled out leaving a clean aftertaste and just a appetite for more.
It was probably about right to start on the sushi dishes and the carbs. The best thing about Sticks and Sushi is that they shine in being authentic and simple with their sushi, using the freshness of ingredients to create flavours rather than the use of mayo and other pre-made sauces. All the rolls, maki and sashimi came as they were with your choice to dip them in soy sauce and wasabi. Simple but good.
So the rainbow roll was not presented as orderly as the sticks, crammed in with the California roll but eating it was another story, You can tell these were prepared by a professional sushi chef with the tuna and salmon sliced perfectly against the grains to produce the smoothest of sushi texture. All the seafood had signs of freshness including the shrimp through the taste. the colour and the firm and bouncy texture. Rice was perfectly sticky, plump and moulded well hence they passed the chopsticks test and held firm together The simple ingredients of the fresh fish slices paired with the avocado as a topping produced a nice smooth creamy effect into something more cooler and sweeter from the thinly sliced surami (crab sticks) ending with a nice little crunch from the sugar snap. As nothing was masking the natural flavours of the ingredients, all we were tasting was the pure freshness of each ingredients combining together and without anything added the dish did not feel heavy at all.
It was much the same for the other rolls, the tuna hosomaki roll and the California roll. All simple but crafted well, clean in taste and fresh. The California roll tends to be a popular choice but here quality shines through the freshly toasted sesame seeds that coated it for that smokey flavour and the filling of crabsticks that was bouncy to the bite with the usual cucumber for the crunch. The tuna hosomaki roll deserved to be appreciated by the firmness of how the roll was made, firmly packed but as we chose the unflavoured one it was quite forgettable amongst the rest.
However another highlight of the rolls was the Ebi tempura futomaki (Shrimp tempura larger rolls). Another firm wrap of seaweed and rice filled with a nice tempura of fresh shrimp. The rice was still nice and cool, batter was crunchy and greaseless like a good tempura should be and light in taste to allow the fresh flavours of the shrimps to shine through. As it was a cooked dish there was a bigger depth of flavour in the roll. Very enjoyable.
What was described as small chaos was really a chirashi dish of salmon sashimi, avocado, trout roes and sugar snaps under a bed of sushi rice. If a little bit of a chaos means simplicity, running on smooth and clean, with a lovely creamy buttery feel, added bursts of joy and crunch all held together so well by some fluffiness I donít mind having a bit of chaos everyday. Itís feels healthy too. This dish could have easily be my favourite as there was a generous amount of everything allowing me to taste each texture and flavour carefully. It was just a delight to eat with the abundance of textures coming together.
Just to emphasise on the quality of the fish and the skills of the chef we had to order a dish of salmon sashimi on its own. Of course it did not fail us but once again tasted clean cut, flavourful, moist and plump. It also came generously in thickness and presented beautifully under a bed of shredded daikon.
Finally on the side we also ordered the seaweed salad to break things with that extra crunch. It was seasoned and flavoured perfectly paired with a firmer crunchier black fungus and toasted sesame seeds. Faultless and a good side portion of it too.
At the end of the meal we caught the customer next to us saying to the waitress Ďthat was just deliciousí and I had to just add in Ď I ditto thatí. Sticks and sushi do not mess around with their food. They use the best of the best of every ingredient, the skill of the chefs to produce something simple but delicious. The presentation of each dish is simple, paired with fresh undyed ginger and wasabi on the side on the rolls and maybe a wedge of lemon too. Although those green plates can definitely be removed as well as altering the a la carte menu to more like the web-based version. Prices are reasonable for a Japanese restaurant with a wide price range to suit all wallets out there and even a childrenís menu for families out there. And of course just as important, service is exceptional, efficient, warming and all to a professional manner.
I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone even a beginner to the Japanese food world. Both their sticks and sushi are a must try with the sticks being more adventurous in taste and sushi for authenticity. With such a lovely relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the meal in Iím sure you wonít be left disappointed.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
Iím very surprised that I havenít read many reviews on Marquis Cornwallis but those I have read seems to highly praise it and I couldnít agree more. It is located conveniently near Russell Square, spacious and bright, furnished very nicely with wooden tables and warm colours but most important they dish up delicious generous portions of one the best pub food Iíve had. Depending on what youíre looking for it kind of have everything to love about a bar unless you prefer something more smaller and local. Service is not faultable and you will come to understand why as you read on.
Being quite cheeky, both of the visits I made were using a voucher I got through signing on to their newsletter club with the first voucher offering me and a guest to a completely free main meal each with no exclusions. That is another thing I love about them, they interact with their customers, asks for feedback to improve and stays connected with you without spamming you. On my last visit however I used a buy 1 get 1 free voucher which may not be as generous as the first but returning from such a successful first visit I had to go again and of course it is still a bargain.
Even though I was paying nothing or half of what everyone else was in the bar I still received top notch service with a warm smile, attentiveness and efficiency all the way to the end with staff checking up on us to make sure we were okay. But I was most pleasantly surprised with the service I received on my last visit. With my last voucher I asked if it could be possible to be charged for the lowest priced item rather than the highest and they replied back jokily ĎHonestly, we donít careí. Yes, they really do put their customers first. And Iím writing this based on two separate visits with different staff member serving me too.
As there is not much written about them on the web I really doubted how good their food was on my first visit when theyíre giving food out completely food. I was actually expecting the worse thinking it was a tourist trap but I couldnít be more wrong. Making the reservations over the phone, each time I would enter to find a table set out for us with the latest menu that changes seasonally and my name written on a name tag. It was a good start and a very nice welcoming.
Our first visit was a Sunday and I decided it had to be a roast chicken for me whilst my mum went for the rib-eye steak. It was that roast chicken that changed my opinion on all other roast chickens out there after less satisfying ones Iíve had before being very dry and tasteless. This one was very succulent, beautifully flavoured and presented beautifully in two, the breast and the thigh. And of course it came with all the trimmings. Meat was so tender in its own juices coated in perfectly seasoned gravy which had the perfect consistency too. I wished I had asked what was in that gravy as it was delicious. Side vegetables tasted fresh too and of course with the gravy tasted even better. Potatoes roasted to that crisp coating into a quality tasting fluffy inside. The yorkshire pudding were amazing too, incredibly light,airy and firm and done perfectly so it had a slight crispy coating as well. I seriously have nothing to fault. I started to ask why it was free.
Mumís rib eye steak came more rare than we asked for but it was a good thing! Never had we tasted a steak so juicy. It had a meaty sweetness to it that I have never tasted in a steak, not even a Michelin one weíve had. The herb butter on top just added to the succulent taste making it more rich and tasty. Fries were very well fried, crispy on the outside, fluffy in the inside and not a taste of grease. All presented beautifully with fresh watercress and a grilled tomato for colour.
When I thought they couldnít up their game with our meals came some condiments in jars but not the usual kind of ketchup, mayo and HP but instead, mint jelly, apple and sage jelly, beer mustard, English mustard and horseradish. How thoughtful! How pretentious! We had fun trying all of them out.
After such an amazing experience on our first visit we returned again months later to have another go on their roast chicken hoping for the same consistency. The thought was exciting enough. We found the bar a lot busier than our first visit maybe because it was a Saturday but that is always a good sign.
So they generously offered the roast chicken for free leaving us to pay for the beef burger only which was nearly £3.00 less than the chicken. They already won our hearts before the food was even served.
Burgers are one of the typical bar foods, looks simple but so many people get it wrong and mess it up. But here they didnít. Once in sight as the waitress approached us with it I saw the brioche bun and immediate knew they knew what they were doing. I have always believed brioche bun are the best buns to ever hold a burger as they are fluffy, light and easy to bite into with the burger. The only thing I regret not doing was asking for the patty to be medium rare rather than well-done. But to be honest, I didnít up caring as it turned out to be one of the best burger Iíve had. For a well-done patty it was still incredibly juicy and maybe because it was grilled long enough it was very flavoursome. So the bun was successful and so was the patty being chunky and succulent. But the fillings had also been given much care and attention to as well like the fresh juicy chunky cut of tomato along with crisp lettuce. The melted cheese was also apparent adding a real creaminess to it and the layer of crisp bacon adding that extra depth of flavour to it. Served on the side were also the same greaseless crispy fries but also coleslaw adding that extra crunch and creaminess flavour to my burger. It was extremely satisfying.
As it was a Saturday the roast chicken came with fries instead and a lovely succulent portobello mushroom. It did not disappoint and was just as good as the first, succulent with more of that moreish gravy.
I cannot recommend Marquis Cornwallis enough for the atmosphere, location and of course the food. The menu is very extensive too with a brunch menu on offer on the weekends so Iím sure there is something to suit everyone. If you feeling very eager you could even sign up to their newsletter to get amazing deals like the one I grabbed. Iím sure Iíll be back very soon myself.
Friday, May 04, 2012
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
For some reason I had quite high hopes for Al Volo. Not like it is very well known, actually quite the opposite with it being located in one of the quiet corners of Brick Lane. But describing itself as an authentic Italian, fresh pasta made daily on their website and with quite good reviews on its pizzas it caught my attention and so I sought it out on a Saturday for dinner.
To be honest, Al Volo was just one of the places I had planned to eat in on my gourmet trip round the Brick Lane area and so to save time I popped in first to ask if I could pre-order my dishes and come back so it would be ready for me. At first glance I loved the decor with its outdoor covered heated terrace but once inside I found it looking a bit cramped, nothing like an Italian restaurant but more a quick eat & go with its bright orange decor. But Iím not one to care much about the decor if the food is good. Anyways, once I entered the waiter who approached me was very charming and friendly. I politely asked for my request and he confirmed that there was no need to pre-order my food as the dishes can be dished up in no more than 10 minutes so I should just come back to order.
It all sounded it was made to suit my need but given time to think about it as I wandered around Brick Lane I got very doubtful how a good pizza or pasta could be prepared so quickly. Well all was revealed when I returned. The same charming waiter who remembered me greeted me in and gave me the option to pick a table and handed us the menu. The other staff who prepared our table were less friendly, refusing to make eye-contact or any conversation even when I tried. The menu was quite extensive with meat dishes on offer and what was described as ĎItalian dim sumí on their menu too. But we decided to explore their classics and so it was a half pizza and calzone, with speck and fontina cheese with the mini calzone filled with tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms and gorgonzola and a tagliatelle with prawns, courgettes, garlic, lobster bisque and fresh parsley.
It turns out they were not lying. In no less than 10 minutes the pizza arrived to us and quite a large one too. Although generous in size they were not being generous with topping at all, the pizza came with three slices of speck sparsely placed on, a sprinkle of herbs and a little calzone sticking out yet it was the most expensive one on the menu costing £10.50 . The side salad that came with it was forgettable, however did have a nice touch of sweetness from the balsamic reduction and prepared freshly. The pizza itself however tasted even less impressive and more cheese than anything else. Even though the crust was very light and crispy around the edges the base did not manage to contain that crispness, soaking too much of the tomato sauce making the whole pizza quite floppy. The mini calzone folded into the pizza was even more to my disliking and did not agree with my tastebuds at all. Iím not too familiar with gorgonzola cheese but it was very strong, with a great aftertaste of staleness and the mushrooms it contained inside were tasteless too. It was a disappointing pizza, very undercooked and tasted of nothing other than cheese.
The tagliatelle was also very disappointed. The pasta was slightly undercooked, a bit too firm and lacking bounce. Although it was a seafood dish none of the flavours were apparent in the dish, very bland. It was all too rushed for the flavours to be cooked in. I couldnít even taste the garlic or the parsley. A very poor dish and portioned small too.
Al Volo was a forgettable experience, poorer than the average Italian and nothing authentic about it at all. I have heard that there has been a new management recently which may explain the previous good reviews but definitely not a place I would recommend for a good Italian.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Food 4 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 3
So one Saturday I found myself sitting at HIX looking down the busy shopping life at Selfridges enjoying a one star Michelin quality food. It was a bit surreal as it was another competition prize with a voucher of £150 to spend any food and drink at HIX. So not everything was perfect but so many things were that this review will be just be me boasting about what a delightful meal I had. Sorry.
At 1:00pm a short queue was already forming with really nice welcoming faces from the waiting staff taking people in. Luckily for us we had a reserved table for us just across the balcony staring down the luggage section of Selfridges. The venue itself was small but cosy, very casual, nothing too classy but very comfortable. Service was up to scratch, quick, efficient and friendly. I was very impressed with the organisation of the waiting team, the communication and messages being delivered across to make sure things were done promptly.
Drinks were offered soon after seating in which we chose the Redcurrant Grapefruit Campari and Px Bellini and a non alcoholic Elderflower bubbly. The bellini was impressive,served in champagne saucer it was light and fruity with a nice bitter ending from the grapefruit. The elderflower bubbly was also light but nicely flavoured and refreshing.
With a long extensive menu specialising in the classic British dishes we nearly had trouble making choices. But with the help from previous reviewers things caught my eye and with a raise of a hand,a waiter immediately approached us smiling to take our orders down.
Rock oysters were a must and once our order was taken the excitement was already building as they prepared our table with a stand for the oysters, tabasco sauces and the cutlery needed.
The waitress shared our excitement when they arrived and we were right to order them. They were presented to us with the lid still on top but sliced open already so they could easily be taken off to scoop some of the red vinegar given and a good squeeze of lemon. For £2.75 they werenít cheap but they were good. I canít actually put into words why I thought they tasted fresh but they did and incredibly fresh. They were chilled well with the perfect consistency, all very plump, soft and flavoursome. I could have had a lot more but we decided to stick with two each.
Arriving around the same time was the Avocado toast with Portland crab and chilli, one the highest recommended dish at HIX by food bloggers. Itís one of those dish that looks simple but tastes extraordinary. The bread was very well toasted, crispy yet light and fluffy inside. But obviously it was the generous topped creamy avocado and fresh picked crab that brought my taste buds alive, lightly spiced for that extra linger of flavour. Of course for £12.50 it did not come cheap but for the generous topping of crab I can pass it off for a indulgent high end snack.
With it came my next starter, the Burford Brown eggs Benedict. It did not look as impressive as the crab toast, ham was pale in pink and lacking some colour to it. But it taught me a lesson, do not judge a dish by its cover. Once I pierced into the perfectly poached egg, a deep sunset orange yolk ran down the muffin. It was rich and intense, very yolky and delicious and went so well with the light, fluffy muffin once it soaked through. The ham turned out to be very tender, thin yet succulent and perfectly seasoned adding that meaty flavour to the dish. Everything bounded nicely with the creamy hollandaise sauce, lightly flavoured to not overpower that delicious yolk that I cleaned up with the remaining muffin.
Last of the starters was the whipped squash with goat's curd and grilled flatbread. I gambled with this dish as Iím not a big fan of goatís curd and this dish didnít change my mind either. But on the other hand I adored this dish purely for the whipped squash which was incredibly smooth, creamy and in its own natural sweetness. It was seasoned well, garlicky just as I like it and made even more velvety smooth with the rapeseed oil and a bit of bite with the roasted walnuts. It was good enough to indulge on its own but still it went deliciously with the lovely warm grilled flatbread. It was just that bitter taste of the goatís curd that I didnít particularly enjoy.
I must mention I didnít need to add any pepper to any of the dishes as all the flavours went so well with each other, all perfectly seasoned, flavoured well and same goes with the mains that followed.
For my love for pasta I went for linguine with langoustine tails & chilli. Sadly this dish let me down as it lost the texture I love about linguine, the slight firmness and bounciness of it. Instead this dish was cooked so the linguine and the langoustines would all just melt in your mouth together which also meant the langoustines also lost its fresh taste and springiness too, great for some but not for me. The flavours were all there though, very rich and creamy especially when it had been cooking long for all the textures and flavours to combine together. You could taste the flavours of the seafood, the garlic and all the different seasoning to make this dish shine with a nice kick of spice to finish it off. Itís a shame that Iím just one who loves a bit of bite to their pasta or otherwise would have been a great dish for me too. However for £21.50 it would have been a disappointment although portioned generously.
Just because we could afford to we also chose the £23.50 marbled Moyallon rib eye steak cooked to medium rare. Now this was my first experience eating a marbled steak. If I had closed my eyes I would not have guessed I was eating a steak at all. The whole steak sliced apart effortlessly with the knife, cooked to medium rare perfectly, the bright red meat revealed itself with its juices running down the knife as I cut into it. With a scoop of the bearnaise sauce and herb oil poured on, the flavour was immense. The rib-eye was so richly marbled with fat that it was so unbelievably juicy and tender and it was that marbling that basted the meat whilst cooking to create such a succulent flavour. It was incredible! However I was shocked how such a good piece of steak was paired with chips of the Burger King kind. Yes they were crispy but lacked the taste of a high quality potato and any fluffiness to it.
On the side we also ordered the risotto primavera. The risotto was soft all the way through which was a sign of a good risotto. As creamy as it was the dish was not as sticky as I would liked it to be, needed to be a bit more thicker in consistency or otherwise would have been a successful dish, very comforting with a nice bite to it from the greens and flavours from the garlic.
Service timing was perfect. Not long after we demolish the mains the dessert menu arrived nicely as they polished our plates away. Yes we were full but just couldnít resist what was on offer.
Surprised to see a Thai influenced dessert we had to order the creamed black rice with mango & coconut and we were so glad we did. The creamed black rice had all that was missing in the texture of the risotto, the thick creamy consistency and the stickiness. Topping it off were freshly sliced mango and dried coconut that added a nice tropical sweetness to it that broke the thickness nicely and ending it with a good crunch. It had such a good bite and texture to it I was savouring every spoonful of it.
Last but not least came the Norfolk Treacle Tart with clotted cream. It was one out of many Iíve had that actually succeeded in not being too sweet. It also had the perfect thick and smooth consistency that contrasted very well to the crunchy digestive base that held it we;;. All was balanced well and brought together with the very creamy clotted cream.
There is a lot to love about HIX, maybe not the price but if I could afford it I could see myself dining here at least once a week. Staff were trained well to be naturally warming and friendly and the ambience was very relaxing and casual for a Michelin restaurant, perfect for a nice break in between shopping. Of course there are room for improvements but so many things shone in that meal that they could easily be put aside. A delightful meal overall and a high appraisal from me.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Food 9 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 5
One word to describe my experience with Firezza is Ďdisappointing.í Reading many reviews on them beforehand on food blogs and all the hype on the net describing them as Ďgourmetí takeaway pizzas, freshly wood fired with the choice of them arriving in half a meter unlike any other pizza delivery could not have lead to such dissatisfied lunch time meal with my office team. We even made our way to try their pizzas as we have many pizza joints nearby.
So on a Friday lunchtime we decided to order two of their Ĺ meters pizzas which meant a choice of four toppings in which we chose a Carne, 4 Stagioni, Capricciosa and Firezza. We were also offered a free portion of their focaccine with mozzarella garlic and parsley.
We would not blame them for arriving cold as it was raining that day but yes they did arrive just below luke warm. They do need to invest in a better insulating system for the pizzas. So it wasnít a good start but worse of all was the extremely poor service. The delivery guy was rude when he rang to notify us that he had arrived. He was chasing us to pick it up to the spot he parked at, refusing to go to the address given with a poor attitude which was truly unacceptable especially when we had already paid everything online.
As there was no service charge involved we brushed it off and went straight in for the pizzas. At first they look impressive, generously topped and not drowned in grease. But that was as good as things got as on closer inspection there was no attention to detail. Even though we ordered four different toppings, none of them stood out from the other, all underseasoned, lacked flavour and tasted the same.They didnít try to make each pizza unique and the toppings look like they were thrown on quickly and then shoved into the oven.
Things got clearer on how the pizzas actually when we tasted it. But first to try was the free focaccine bread which was the most disappointing starter Iíve had in a pizza joint. It was so tough and chewy I had a problem tearing it apart for sharing. Biting into it was like biting into a thick layer of cardboard. It was like it had been grilled, dried out and then re-microwaved. There was no fluffiness to it and mainly crust as the cheese garlic and herbs just look like they were thrown on in the middle. After sharing some of us just ended getting a big chunk of hard tasteless dough. A whole thing was pretty tasteless too as none of the herbs manage to seep through the bread.
The pizzas were near about the same. A thick layer of hard tasteless, chewy crust surrounding the whole pizza. Usually I am one to compliment a thin pizza but being thin was more a disadvantage here it as the whole base was as hard and tough as well and this time it was like biting into cardboard. Each bite required so much effort it made it near impossible to get through the pizza without drinking water to soak it down. It also meant that the toppings had difficulty hanging onto the pizza when trying to bite through the dough which meant I was taking more of the topping off than I should with each bite leaving behind a large untopped cardboard like pizza base.
The whole pizza was unseasoned and strangely bland even though it was generously topped. It was also a poor quality of cheese, too mild for a pizza and was hard and unstretchy. The tomato sauce on the base was bland too and also not enough put on. All the toppings like the ham, mushrooms and olives were tasteless. I couldnít understand as they appeared fresh , vegetables firm and fleshy in texture but had none of the flavours they held. None of the flavours were apparent in the pizza either and something like pepperoni usually holds a strong flavour, salty and savoury but not here. The ham had gone cold and were slightly dry too, no meatiness to it. But the worse thing were the artichokes. Yes they were tender and moist but extremely sour. It was all a fool to eye to see a pizza so generously topped when everything was poor in quality.
I can honestly say that a chain like Papa John would have been more satisfying and if I dare to say it, Pizza Hut too. At least each pizza stands out from the other and I can differentiate between two types of pizza. It could also be eaten without tiring out my teeth and the feeling of biting into microwaved dough. With a crust so thick most of the pizza went to waste which wouldnít have occurred if we ordered the hot-dog crust from pizza hut. For £10.40 for ľ meter it wasnít even cheap and all was self-service too. for that prize I could have gone to a high-end authentic pizza restaurant and enjoyed a real Italian pizza.
Firezza was probably the biggest let down Iíve had from following a recommendation from food critics on the web. Everything seems rushed. Described as Ďgourmet pizzasí I seriously feel betrayed and lied to. I would definitely avoid this branch in the future.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Food 3 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 2
So Clerkenwell House is not somewhere you would particularly choose to go for a dinner being a bar with limited tables. It is more a place you would choose to eat for a stomach filler before a few drinks in their trendy bar in the evening or for convenience if youíre working nearby. Conveniently for me, it is located right next to my office and with a good discount from a kgbdeals I found myself there on a Wednesday evening and a Friday lunchtime.
Sadly on both occasions the place was empty and had nothing going for it. To be honest I liked the decor, very trendy with neon lights, contemporary decor of purple and black and modern seats and couches and a pool table charged at £1 per game. It is not for everyoneís taste as my manager wasnít a big fan of the decor and found it a bit too cheesy. Also with it being located off the main street of Leather Lane market it made it less known to the public and not in a great location.
Once inside we were politely greeted by the staff who all seemed to be trained well to be welcoming, all very friendly and casual. We were also impressed with the attention to detail given to our reservation by reserving a table with my name tag placed on the table, all ready for us with the lunch menu I particularly requested over the phone for dinner. The drink menu was very extensive too, plenty of choice with a lot of cocktails on offer. However the weirdest thing I found was the difference in pricing for the lunch menu compared to the dinner menu where in most restaurants their dinner menu are more usually higher priced than the lunch menu. However in their case, some of their items were priced lower on their evening menu and a lot less extensive which was the reason why I requested for the lunch menu. I suppose it shows their kitchens are far less busy in the evening after business hours.
So on my first visit for lunch I ordered their beef burger. The patty itself was cooked to my liking, medium rare, juicy enough although I would have preferred it to be chunkier so I wasn't just tasting the dry firm layer around the burger. There was also a generous amount of bacon but a bit overdone being quite tough. The bun however did manage to hold everything in place, sesamy although was slightly dried out and dense compared to a more preferable brioche bun. Saying that, it is a lot better than a lot of buns out there. Chips were quite limp, could have been fried longer for more crispness but were made from good quality potatoes. The burger also felt quite dry as a whole and definitely lacking a sauce and more filling, not just plain lettuce. So it wasnít the best burger as you can tell.
However the meal was saved by the delicious desserts they offer, especially the chocolate souffle which had a very moist and soft crusted exterior breaking into a beautiful smooth and chocolatey liquid centre. It was very indulgent and was nicely contrasted with the smooth vanilla ice cream on the side. I would definitely recommend it. The New York cheesecake was not as successful but still quite enjoyable. It was definitely cheesy but lacked a stronger flavour of vanilla and needed to be more smooth in texture. It did however had a nice raspberry puree adding a nice sweetness to it and fresh strawberry that werenít in season but added to the presentation.
In the following week we returned for dinner ordering from the lunch menu and the dinner menu. Although service was quite quick and friendly welcoming us in, getting our drinks, food this time took ridiculously long to arrive even though we were the first to order. First to arrive after half an hour of waiting was the starter to share, a hot mix platter for one. The dish didnít look like it needed long to produce and to be honest most of it was pretty forgettable so it wasnít worth the wait. The best out of the lot was probably the lamb meatballs, very succulent, juicy and tender. It could have been marinated with more flavour and herbs but for the price of £6.90 and a generous selection Iím not going to complain too much. The rest were just average, beef skewers were moist but tasteless, tempura prawn were light but wasnít crisp or fresh, couldnít even taste the prawns. The mint pancakes had no mint flavour however I did enjoy the soft, smooth mashed courgette filling inside. Spiced chorizo was seasoned well but wasnít spicy at all and were dried out and the vegetarian spring rolls were more than likely to be from frozen. It was however a generous portion, nothing overly salted and presented well with dips and grilled bread.
So it was only the initial wait that took long as not long after came the mains with the fish and chips arriving first. It was a simple dish but I think this dish succeeded best overall out of all the dishes which kind of shows how skillful on food they actually are. The batter was a perfect ratio to the cod fillet inside, greaseless and crisp like a good fried fish should be. Cod was moist, flakey and tender inside and the chunky chips this time were actually good compared to the lunch visit, much more generous in portion, crispy on the outside and fluffy in the inside. They were actually chips with potato flavour in them.
Next to arrive was my seafood linguine which on the menu said it was cooked with fresh crabmeat and langoustines. I can surely say that none of the seafood was fresh at all. The crabmeat was hardly apparent and the langoustines that decorated the dish nicely and to increase the price of the dish were mushy and the pre-frozen . There was no seafood taste whatsoever and the dish was quite underseasoned. However the linguine itself was really good quality funnily enough, firm and bouncy and cooked perfectly tender.
Last to arrive was the fillet of lamb which was cut into slices layered on a pile of leek and potato mash. The lamb given to us had a lot of muscle fibers in it making certain slices very chewy and tough. Only half of the slices were actually edible and the edible ones were actually very good, medium rare as requested, tender and succulent. It could have been cooked with more flavour but luckily the lamb was naturally tasty anyway. The vegetable ratatouille was more like a mix salad which was nice. It added a nice crunch and sweetness to the dish, wouldnít call it a ratatouille though. However I was least impressed by the mash which tasted like it had been mixed in with fatty mayonnaise and made with powdered mash.
So overall dinner was quite disappointing which was a shame as service was really friendly and the venue was very nice too. Itís probably more a place for drinks though as it has a menu with a long extensive choice of good non-alcoholic cocktail selection too. if I ever was to go I will probably just go for another chocolate souffle.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Food 5 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 3
We decided to give Union Bar being newly opened with an offer on their Sunday Roast. It is located conveniently near Warren Street Station at Regentís Place, a busy commercial eatery area for the business diners and unsurprisingly quiet on the Sunday we went. The whole area was pretty deserted other than the busy traffic connecting people to and from Oxford Street so we were pretty surprised that they opened on Sunday. What made it harder for the public to be aware of its existence was that it was not on a main road but enclosed inside of Regents Place which is a paved area.
But once found it stood out amongst all the offices it surrounded with the big ĎUnioní glass on wooden panels behind tall glass windows. I was even more impressed with the inside decor. A big open space, decorated sleek black with a uncovered ceiling allowing the pipes to be part of the design with fairy lights wrapped around it creating an outer space look, very cool. It definitely set the right mood to unwind on the comfy padded leather seatings at the back. Shame it was empty but it was nice to get the whole venue to ourselves.
When we entered we thought no one was there to serve us until this one guy just casually popped up from his seat and guided us to our table. He turned out to be the only guy to serve that evening which was strange in such a large venue as it looked like he was prancing around. When not needed he would recline back into his table with his friends and continue to behave like another customer. I suppose it is a bar and not a restaurant to expect any more service than required and he seemed friendly enough.
At six oíclock we were warned that the steak had ran out and only one more chicken was available. So not a good start but we were easy going and just went for something else on the menu that was available. Food took long but luckily we had a good company so just used the time to chat over the house wine which was surprisingly good. When we thought things were going to get better when the beautifully presented generous serving of food arrived, we were wrong.
So I decided to order the last half roast chicken with all the trimmings which included a pot of gravy, roast potatoes, a big yorkshire pudding and broccoli florets. Funny enough everything succeeded except the chicken and the gravy. The potatoes were perfect actually, better than one of the better roasts Iíve had. Seasoned and flavoured well with herbs and roasted to crisp. The inside were one of the most fluffiest kind Iíve had. Yorkshire light and airy, roasted well just maybe lacking some flavour but was fine. Broccoli cooked well, still had its crunchiness and sweetness. Shame that all this was wasted to accompany such a dry tasteless chicken. The meat was dense and had a horrible dry texture in the mouth which made it hard to finish. The gravy was tasteless too, no flavour and so sadly did nothing to the dish.
Well weirdly it was the same with all the dishes, great sides ruined by the main thing itself and its sauce. So the same goes for the rump of steak accompanied by the same lovely fluffy chips and fresh rocket as the side. The rump itself however was really tough with chewy muscle fibers right in the middle separating the steak into two small pieces. It was tasteless too even with sauce which had no depth of flavour in it.
The belly of pork with crackling was just as unsuccessful. Drowned in sauce it did not make up for the dry gritty pork itself. The pork was wrapped round in stuffing but you really couldnít taste the stuffing taken over by the dense thick layer of dry pork. It was again flavourless without the sauce and the crackling wasnít even crisp but soggy due to the sauce. That was no fat in it to tenderise the meat or make it succulent. It was actually the poorest pork belly I have ever eaten. The mash and spinach that accompanied was fine though. Mash mixed in with mustard added a real depth to the fluffiness and spinach seasoned perfectly, moist, fresh and sweet.
The last hope was in the red snapper but the results were just as disappointing. It was actually the driest out the lot. I must say, presentation and abundance of sides surrounded it won it extra points though. A beautiful red snapper on top of soft grilled sweet peppers, onions in a fresh carrot and tomato sauce with soft polenta layered on top of it all. It was like a mini jenga presented to me. But it was only a fool to the eye as taste wise, it was pretty much tasteless. The polenta didnít do it for me although was cooked fine and firm. I just didnít feel it went well with the texture of the dry and tough fish. Even though impressed with the freshness of the sauce, it definitely needed seasoning and more flavour. The grilled vegetables were fine though, very high quality and sweet.
The whole meal confused me as it seems they invest in very high quality vegetables and sides but low quality meat, presented everything beautifully but all was a fool to the eye as most of it was tasteless.
Although it was a bar I did expect it to be easier to get someoneís attention. e.g.for condiments and the bill but instead I felt I was interrupting the waiterís conversation with his friends on the other table. In the end I did most of the service myself except the bill of course, They were all smiley though, quite friendly and relaxed so there was nothing wrong with their attitude.
Although the Union Bar was less successful on our visit Iím sure it succeeds better for a casual place for drinks and socialising. Just donít expect a high quality lunch or dinner although Iím sure a few side dishes of their chips would be fine.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Food 3 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 3
Mooliís seem to one of the most mentioned places on the web by food bloggers especially if youíre looking for a cheap eat. With all the hype I finally decided to venture out to give my own opinion on the Indian style roti wrap like a burrito but clearly not a burrito as stated on their site. So was it worth all the hype? Well it's definitely a place one must go once but I cannot see myself returning immediately soon as it lacked a more adventurous menu for a more varied dieter which has its advantages. But was it good quality food and better than the usual burrito? Hell yeah and probably better than most salads and curries out there too.
What I found most interesting about Mooli is that is catered for everyoneís taste. Whether you like things spicy or not, no carb dieter, vegetarian, meat lover, sweet or savoury there is something for you for sure. Everything seems healthy cooked too, without the cream, ghee, loaded carbs i.e. rice and all in a wholesome roti wrap than a floured tortilla. Also as most the service is self-service it is clearly a cheap eat without the extra service charge etc. I also love how unlimited tap water is available on the self-help counter along with cups, cutlery, sugar and napkins so you donít embarrassed to keep asking.
Brightly coloured, bright with an open window for you to take a stool and advertise yourself eating a Mooli is pretty cool for you to unwind, enjoy the view of others walking by and not be embarrassed to eat by yourself either. It can be snack, a food to go or a proper lunch or dinner depending if youíre going for their mini Mooli or their full size.
Probably the only thing I didnít like about their layout are the small bike stools which I kept slipping off on. Maybe a padded stool would have been more ideal.
So wraps are its speciality but they do it in a salad form too with a sauce on the side and without the roti wrap. We decided to try a bit of everything as itís not everyday Iím out in Soho and everyone seems to have different favourites and I wanted to find mine.
As we heard the paneer was quite mild as decided to have it as a salad form and another salad with chickpeas. With that we ordered the famous goat mooli, pork mooli and the daily special, minced lamb, dill and spinach mooli.
So we started with the paneer. Although it was not spicy the flavours were intense, a subtle cheese flavour and yet slightly smoky bringing the salad to life. I loved it especially the little cheesy chew it added to the texture which I couldnít get enough off. It was one of the best salad I have ever had and I would probably only have it in a salad form due to the mildness of it. The paneer were crumbled which I could only imagine the texture of it and flavour of it to get lost in a roti wrap. Great for a summerís day though and because it was crumbled, it felt light.
The chickpea salad box was more filling, although enjoyable it was less preferred to the paneer. It held a more sweeter taste from the tamarind sauce rather than savoury and of course less chew in it. Instead the chickpeas were very fluffy amongst the crunchy radicchio and carrots and added a bit more moisture and flavour to the salad. Of course it would be perfect for those who wants a more filling salad and like sweeter and tangy flavours.
Next was the hype of it all, the goat Mooli. Oh it was good, rich goat filling with fresh tomatoes, fluffy potatoes, red onions and more. It had a real savoury depth to it with all the spices kicking in and the chillis but I was most impressed with all the different textures in one wrap. The hype were definitely those potatoes, cooked just so it held its chunks but were really fluffy and flavours of spice all the way through it and it was what brought the tender well spiced lamb and the warm doughy roti wrap together.
Mince lamb less successful of them all and actually very disappointing. It lacked spice and depth of flavour like the rest of the Mooliís. As it was also filled with crunchy salad, with the softer filling of the mince lamb and spinach being opposite extremes of the spectrum in texture,it just got lost to the crunch of salad. Maybe they should have added some that fluffy potato from the goat to bring it together you can taste more of the flavours than just the salad. Iím pretty glad it was just a temporary special although it was not worth that extra 0.75p compared to the £5 ones.
Last but not least was the pork mooli. A generous filling of tender strands of a slightly sweet and well spiced pulled pork that has been cooked for hours to have given the intense flavours of spice and flavour. Contrasted with the cooling from and surprise burst of sweetness from the pomegranate and more of that crunchy juicy radicchio and other fresh vegetable it very quickly became my favourite out the lot. Once again, packed full of flavour and texture and more so than the goat with the salad added.
With all that intensity and spices I was pretty glad we ordered a freshly squeezed lemonade with a few mint leaves to cool us down. But for £2.00 for a 200ml plastic cup I found it a bit dear. But it was refreshing and very likable although next time I must try their famous lassis.
Mooli is definitely likeable for its wholesomeness, value, quality, location and convenience. The advantage of holding a small menu is that they can focus on what they are good which do very well at however the negative of that is that people may get bored of it easily. Although I donít see myself returning anytime soon I will definitely be back next time Iím after some heat and spice and to try their more indulgent beef Mooli. A quick self-service to the bins provided and we left happily.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 9
Obika is definitely the first cheese bar I have ever been to and probably the most authentic Italian restaurant I have ever been to. With several chains around the world including Italy and importing fresh mozzarella in and making all their pasta and pizza dishes fresh, I was honoured to be offered a free meal in the Canary Wharf branch.
As I follow their Twitter account I know they are passionate with their cooking, creating specials on their menu nearly daily to give their customers something new to try every time.
We arrived on a Bank Holiday and it was practically empty which looked like a shame. Beautifully located indoors of the Canary Shopping Centre on Bank Street, it was enclosed spaciously with a very clean, bright modern decor and an open bar and kitchen. In the front was its Deli laid out with fresh deli food products for takeaway.
We were welcomed in attentively and given a thorough description of the menu by an Italian waiter which was helpful and thoughtful. On offer that day was the brunch menu which consisted of a starter to share between two, a main and then a dessert and a coffee which seemed like a great idea to try a bit of everything, especially their speciality, fresh balls of mozzarella.
For the first time I was given a choice of mozzarella with a choice of side to follow it, the original variety of mozzarella, a smoked variety and a burrata, a more creamy variety. It was all very new but we were recommended the first two to start and as sides we chose the smoked salmon and because my fondness for aubergine I also chose the sicilian aubergine casserole. So I am probably not experienced enough to compare the fresh mozzarella to any other mozzarella restaurant out here and so really reviewing purely on first taste.
To be honest to like fresh mozzarella I believe you will need an acquired taste for the lightly milky taste, served cold, creamy, rubbery and firm depending on what variety you order. Fortunately for us, we enjoyed it but wouldnít say Iím a massive fan. It definitely tasted healthy and clean for a cheese. The classic mozzarella was so fresh it was still came dripping with milk and still quite runny in the inside. It made me wonder how creamy the burrata could be as the classica was creamy enough. Arrived with it was the smoked salmon with spinach leaves and a wedge of lemon all served fresh and presented faultlessly. As much as I appreciated the wedge of lemon and the olive oil and vinegar on our table I wished they did try to add life to the dish with a bit of pepper maybe. We realised that none of the tables had a pepper grinder or any of the sort and we werenít offered it so didnít dare to ask as we didnít want to appear strange. However we still enjoyed it with the salmon being very fresh and firm and spinach very crunchy and sweet.
The Bufala Affumicata was a more easy going variety being less drippy and creamy, more firm with a firmer wrapping around where it has been smoked giving it the light brown colour. It gave it slightly stronger taste even though it was still quite muted. However I found the highlight was definitely in the aubergine casserole. It was cooked to the perfect consistency for my liking, soft chunks but still slightly firm. It was very fresh, naturally sweet, seasoned and lightly flavoured to allow the natural flavours to come out and not tangy or sour at all. It went well nicely with the fresh spinach and mozzarella adding moisture and fresh flavours.
As much as I love pasta we were very tempted by the variety of pizzas and the raving reviews on them so we both went for pizzas for our mains. Plus we heard the portion size was far more generous than the pastas. The reviews couldnít be more right and I must say they were the highlight for us for the entire meal at Obika. Firstly the base was extremely crunchy, crispy and thin, flavoured and seasoned well. Although thin the crust was actually hollow, just two thin layer of dough making it even more crisper but also allowing the toppings to take over in taste and texture. Nice!
Both the pizzas were generous in portion and practically greaseless. I personally went for the Verdure Grigliate, a vegetarian version of grilled aubergines, zucchini, radicchio, chopped parsley and smoked mozzarella which was amazing. It sure did not feel like I was eating pizza with the freshness of it, the abundance of fresh vegetables and the sparsely scattered smoked cheese making it feel healthy. But it did not compromise the taste as they used a variety of herbs to create flavour, big chunks of well grilled vegetables still with their juices, onions and high quality tomatoes that were extremely sweet and plump. I did not dare to leave any of the crust behind and just finished it off by creating my own dip using the high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar both originating from Italy. It was just as satisfying.
I did the same for the N'Duja e burrata pizza which is described as spicy Salami, Stracciatella di Burrata, Organic Tomato, Fresh Basil on their menu. It had a completely different texture compared to the previous vegetarian pizza, like a different dish of itís own. Rather being a dry pizza like the Verdure Grigliate it was moist with fresh tomato and mixed in it was salami pate giving that extra depth of meaty flavour and a kick of spice. However this did not affect the crispness of the base at all creating a nice contrast of soft and crunchy. It was an unusual meat dish as you couldnít actually see the meat which confused us at first thinking they forgot to place the salami on. It turned to be a very simple looking pizza but extremely tasty with the stretchy mozzarella and the freshness and pureness the tomatoes.
Although we were pretty full after the mains with the generous portions it did not stop me moving on the mini desserts with my cappuccino on offer. Cappuccino was perfect, frothy and smooth just the way I like it. For my mini dessert I chose the chocolate and almond. Moist and lightly sweetened it was nice to have after a heavy meal with a good bite to it with the almonds and the crunchy flakey crust. The tiramisu was a lighter version, very airy, smooth and fluffy and made delicately enough to satisfy. They were slightly above the average but nothing to shout and sadly quite forgettable.
Obika is definitely higher quality than the average Italian but nothing that makes it unique or different enough to make me make the effort to head off to Canary Wharf just to eat there. For example, service got a bit cold towards the end and lacking charm. But I probably would go there if Iím in the area for the quality of food, especially their pizzas. Maybe next time I would add a pasta as a starter to share as I heard they are another highlight and a must try however a sign of warning, their pasta are very small portioned.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 6
I canít believe there is only one review on Jen Cafe when itís only one of a few reasons I would ever go into Chinatown for chinese food. Firstly it is definitely a cafe, not fancy at all and service is very rushed and definitely do not expect manners as for most chinatown restaurants. It is like a chinese greasy spoons without the warm smile not even for a regular.But it is one of the places in London where I can forgive the restaurant for bad service as it is part of the experience if youíre planning to eat in Chinatown in the first place.
The cafe itself is very small, cheap metal tables and seats, plastic cutlery and plates, bright green walls and an Ďout of serviceí sign always stuck on their toilet which makes it all very unwelcoming. But I like it and especially when they make the most fresh and delicious Beijing dumplings in London. And you should only come here for their dumplings and their popular variations of Bubble tea. Only use the other items on the menu as a stomach filler for the more hungry ones as the quality would not match the dumplings at all.
You can tell itís fresh from the lady sitting facing the window making the dumplings in front of you as you walk by and there is a choice of either pork or vegetarian and then boiled or pan fried. I always go for the pork just because it is more fragrant and then a portion of it being pan-fried for £6.00 and a portion of boiled for £5.00. They are like no other Beijing dumplings anywhere else in London. First of all they are made from glutinous rice flour rather than all-purpose or plain flour. This provides a more lighter and softer pastry, more sticky which makes the dumplings more moist, making it a delight to eat. The filling is perfectly seasoned and flavoured well with chives and other ingredients. Flavours are definitely not lacking here.
Whether it is pan fried or boiled both varieties comes to you piping hot. Even though I always order both varieties I always preferred the boiled ones as itís a fresher, cleaner taste, more squidgy and holds more of the pork stock inside. However I know many prefer the pan-fried just for that smokey flavour and crispy base. Once itís left on your table itís to your customisation with the condiments on your table and the platelets given. The usual mix tends to be a spoonful of vinegar and half of that in soy sauce and then chilli oil to your preferred spice level. Of course you can keep adding each to get the flavour you want.
As a stomach filler I would recommend the noodle soup dishes to the rice dishes as I find their meat over rice a bit too greasy with fatty and poor in quality meat. I always go for their special which is shredded pork and pickled cabbage with rice noodles and make sure you ask for rice noodles or they will give you instant noodles instead. So the noodles arenít the best quality, a bit plasticky but for the price of £5.50 Iím not complaining because it is the pork and pickled cabbage that flavours the broth making it very appetising and warming to the soul with the meaty, savoury and sour taste. You can always spice it up with the chilli oil on your table too.
Depending on what time you go it is always quite packed and yes service is very rushed and they will throw the bill at you straight after you finish your last bite so a bit of warning there. But with that in mind and a bit of openness you will find yourself having a very nice delicious, quick yet filling meal there. Definitely not a place for romance but for good quality, authentic Beijing dumplings. I havenít tried their bubble tea but I heard they are one of the best in Chinatown too.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Food 9 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 9
I seriously cannot fault the dimsum at Princess Garden of Mayfair. It has slowly become one of my favourite restaurants just for the quality of food, the location, the value and the decor. Service is definitely a lot more friendly than any restaurant in Chinatown but this restaurant is way out of its league to be compared in any restaurant in Chinatown. As far as value goes it is definitely affordable, still below £3.00 for most steamed simple dishes which is still cheap for any small tapa dish compared to the Spanish cuisine or any other cuisine.
I would recommend everyone to book ahead if you are deciding to venture in on the weekends from 12-2pm as on the last occasion we were there we saw people being turned away as they were completely booked. Luckily we booked a table for 1pm but still had to wait half an hour before a table was ready. A spacious well lighted and well decorated seating area is available in the waiting area with a bar for those who want to order drinks before settling in. With ornaments, statues and other things to browse at, a drink in hand, comfy leather sofas it did make waiting time a lot more easier go by. Although I wished the front of house staff could be more friendly and smile when greeting and turning people away.
Luckily service changed once we settled in. Everyone was very attentive, smiley and super efficient and quick. The restaurant itself takes on a modern decor with its white walls and tableclothes, large glass windows to allow natural sunlight in making it look very clean and nice to settle down into. Tea was immediately offered as well as the menu and Iím talking about good quality tea leaves here that actually has the rich taste of tea. Cutlery in its complete form without no chips and the waiting staff in uniform so easily recognised.
The dimsum started to arrive in no less than 10 minutes after ordering but I can guarantee you that quality is not affected here as they properly do it in batches and as so many people are ordering it still remains fresh and perfectly steamed or fried. Even when questioning food items the staff were more than willing to get a reply for us even if they did not know the answer themselves. Waiters kindly offered to take a photo of us all when I took my camera out and made conversation with us.
First to arrive were the siu mai, har gau and scallop dumpling and they came looking greaseless and plump. The siu mai even went the extra mile with crabmeat on top for that extra creamy seafood taste. All three of them were faultless. Generous filling of fresh prawns and the scallop perfectly steamed to still be bouncy and springy,. They were all full of flavour and not overloaded with colouring or msg as they werenít brightly coloured and I didnít find myself quenching for water. The rice wrapper around the har gau and scallop dumpling were just right in thickness, perfectly sticky without being gooey and held the prawn filling and scallop finely with ripping apart. They were more than good.
Next came the fried taro croquettes which were recommended by other bloggers for being extremely crispy and a favourite of theirs. I couldnít agree more, they were not just crispy but also greaseless and the taro filling itself was extremely tasty still with its flavour and although soften well they still came in slight chunks for that extra texture. Nice.
However they were not my favourite dim sum of mine as mine had to be the mini baked char siu bao. I donít believe you can find them anywhere else in London except in Princess Garden of Mayfair. They're fab! That perfect coating of sweetened glaze, light & airy so when you bite, it collapses into a sweet & savoury quality lean char siu without that artificially sweetened taste or colouring but real generous stuffing of pork. The bun has that extra chew to it to blend in with the perfect ratio of meat to it creating something quite satisfying to eat & maybe another one.
Then also did the same kind of bun with a custard filling too and just as satisfying but on a different level. The filling was really yokey, smooth and not the custard you may be used to as it had a different sweetness to it and Iím guessing it was coconut cream or milk. The bun itself was called pineapple custard bun known for the top crunchy crust made from sugar, butter, egg and flour to add that extra texture and sweetness to the bun resembling the shape of a pineapple hence how it got its name. Crunchy, flaky, soft sweet bun, smooth, sweet filling...I couldnít have asked for it differently.
Patience, quality and attentive to detail shines in this restaurant and you can tell from itís Turnip cake. Unlike most chinese restaurant who deep fry the cake to speed things up these were pan fried to bring out the flavours making it that extra fragrant and smokey at the bottom. It also meant they were greaseless, soft and fluffy.
Even my favourite dim sum of all times, the beancurd roll were the best I had. Usually Iím biting into a sponge of grease but once again these felt clean and into a filling of fresh crunchy vegetables of carrots, bamboo shoots and more and all flavoured well in its stock. The beancurd had all the usual texture of being quite smooth, slightly elastic but steamed perfectly so it was still very moist and not tough at all.
Mumís favourite dimsum had always been the stewed black bean chicken feet and Princess Garden gave it that extra depth of flavour it needed with the taste of five spice. It was stewed to the right timing so it was just falling off its bones without being too mushy. Perfectly spiced too in a well seasoned and flavoured sauce made it very moreish.
Near towards the end came the two most talked about dishes in Princess Gardens which were the cuttlefish cheung fun and crabmeat e-fu noodles. Dad was even surprised they went through all that effort to fry the cuttlefish and then wrap it up in rice paper roll in such a busy restaurant and do it so well. The cuttlefish had all the wok energy needed, flavoursome, bouncy and fresh wrapped around a thin yet perfectly steamed smooth rice pastry wrapper. I doubt you will find this dish anywhere else in London.
If I had to order any main dish in Princess Gardens it has to be the crabmeat E-fu noodles a. I can eat this everyday if given to me. In any other restaurant I've had e-fu noodles they tend to be mushy but these were fresh, incredibly bouncy, covered in a light but very flavoursome seafood broth from real crab meat that was so tender they would just fall apart in your mouth. The whole thing just slip into your mouth effortlessly with the perfect companions of mushrooms that added that extra flavour & depth. So good!
Finally came our dessert dish which were the thousand layer cake. I had to savour every layer as there were not a thousand but like 5. These were so light and fluffy held together by some thin layer of sticky sweet goodness that slowly diminishes into my mouth, melting away. You can also be creative with the way you want to eat these. Once again I have not seen these anywhere in any other dim sum restaurant.
Iím sorry I wrote an essay but Princess Garden of Mayfair is too good for me to miss out any of their highlights. To round things up I will definitely recommend their baked buns in both varieties, cuttlefish cheung fun and crabmeat e-fu noodles just because I will doubt youíll find them anywhere else in London. Of course you canít go wrong with ordering any of their dimsum as they are all just scrumptious.
Saturday, April 07, 2012
Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
It really upsets me when a restaurant gets just about everything right, the decor, the service, the location, even the quality and variety of ingredients in the dish which could give it all the potential flavour and taste that dish needs to be perfect and deliciously good but then ruin it with poor cooking skills, rushed making the dish tasteless.
Kind of feel that was what East Street restaurant did to us. A trendy well decorated restaurant with the typical large lighted shop signs sticking out like a real eatery in somewhere like China. But of course it was much more cleaner, spacious, comfy and friendlier. The dimmed lighting made it very relaxing but I was most intrigued with the toilets that had background noise of something resembling of a Thai train station. It worked. What didnít match up to my liking was the outside of the restaurant itself, bright yellow and too much like a fast food restaurant for kids but once inside I felt fine.
East Street has quite a good value lunch deal on, £7.95 for two courses and that was exactly what we did along with two other mains to share. During our wait they kindly offered us two complimentary redbush teas although only half filled it was nice and refreshing.
So for the starters with the meal deal we chose the pork gyoza. They were definitely a lot better than other ones we had. Pastry soft and tender and pan-fried perfectly to create that smoky crispy bottom. Finally a filling with more than just pork but bamboo shoots for that crunch and texture needed. It was also very well seasoned and flavoured a nice light soy dip to accompany it.
However sadly that was as good as the food got. For the mains we ordered the Pho Xao Bo which was beef with ho fun noodles. From the looks of the dish it looked amazing with the sesame seeds, diced up choi sum, chunks of generous beef, cucumber for that extra crunch, bean sprouts and little oil. But the disappointment came straight after I took the first bite. The noodles were still hard showing the noodles were definitely not fresh. But the biggest problem was the wok energy- there was none. It seemed like the chef just fried the noodles before the wok was properly heated to release any flavour and straight in goes the vegetables, meat and sauce, a few stirs and onto the plate to serve. It was a waste of what could have been a great dish. I mean all the textures were there from the different vegetables.
It was the same with the Kway-Teow. Full of prawns, darken ho-fun noodles probably with dark soy sauce but once again hard and dry. Choi-sum once again with bean sprouts, coriander, spring onions all served on a banana leaf but once again lacked the flavour of them all. It didnít make any sense as we were the first customers in the restaurant and it was still pretty empty so they werenít time pressured.
The Chap Chae was slightly better I suppose but that was because the noodles were more fresh, soft and naturally soak up a lot of moisture so had more flavour in it. Of course it could have been improved incredibly with a bit of Ďwok heií but still quite satisfying with the combined fried tofu and crunchy vegetables accompanying it creating a lovely texture.
All the dishes were seasoned perfectly and pretty much greaseless. I just wished the chef was a little more patient and allowed the wok to heat up before throwing all the noodles and vegetables in to allow the flavours to be released which otherwise would have turned the dishes around.
Lovely ending chilling at the back appreciating the amazing decor and depending on where you sit you can probably see the open kitchen. Not rushed at all and when asked for the bill they even gave you a mini rock sweet saying ĎI love Eastí on it. Maybe not quite but itís the thought that counts.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
Tsunami another fusion take on Japanese food that was thoroughly enjoyable and definitely delivers on their quality of sushi. With prices marked at the higher end e.g. four crabmeat Shumai for £6.00 it is definitely not a restaurant for everyday consumption and we were even more shocked when we realised they hiked up the prices without updating it online.
The restaurant itself is located the more quiet end of Charlotte Street which are full of other Japanese restaurants on the other end but for Wednesday evening it was doing very well, restaurant nearly full. With dimmed lighting, black tables, comfortable leather white seatings and darkened purple walls it was quite trendy and relaxing at the same time, something you would expect of a Japanese restaurant in London.
Service needed to be more warming, they were attentive but like robots. Due to the ridiculous pricing of main dishes and most without sides we decided to just order small dishes and starters to share. Quick to arrive first were the crabmeat Shumai. For the price we were so glad they delivered perfectly on taste. Being a Japanese restaurant I didnít expect much for a chinese dish but these were exquisite. The crab meat itself was minced till perfectly soft, slightly springy and full of itís own juicy making it very flavoursome of seafood indeed. It tasted fresh and steamed just on time so the wonton pastry was still delicately light and soft. The light soy dip was seasoned with the right amount of soy so it was not too salty and overpowering the taste of the Shumai.
Soon came the Udon in Hot Broth for £3.70. This was the only dish that disappointed us that evening. The broth was too salty and the udon itself was overcooked and not as bouncy and firm as we would have liked it. There was no flavour in the broth itself, just saltiness.
Soon to arrive were the Salmon Temaki Hand-rolls for £3.65 each. The sushi rice was perfect as for all the other sushi rice dishes we had that evening, perfectly sticky and held together well. It was a bit plain with no other filling inside except wasabi but luckily the salmon tasted fresh, firm so it was fine. Simple but good.
Just as good were the Unagi nigri and Eel and cucumber roll. With the nigri the eel was grilled to velvetly soft, nice sticky sweetness which broke away smoothly with each bite of the sushi rice underneath yet held together finely with the chopsticks. It was near about same with the maki except the seaweed added that extra savoury flavour and cucumber gave it that bit of texture and crunch. Both very satisfying.
Last to arrive were the shrimp tempura maki rolls and crabmeat maki rolls. I preferred the shrimp tempura just so slightly just because the prawns gave it that crisp yet squidgy and bouncy texture. The crab meat was very a smooth and creamy texture and had the difference of the fish roe around the sushi rice creating little bursts of joy. Both had a little mayo on it just to smooth out the texture adding a slight creaminess to it. They went down a joy but for £5.60 for the shrimp and £6.00 for the crabmeat and both small dishes they were not cheap.
Luckily we got a 50% discount so the bill was around the £20 mark by just sticking to their small dishes which is quite reasonable. Tsunami definitely surprised us with their quality. We loved and savoured all their sushi dishes and their Shumai with their exception of their Udon noodles. Their fushon take on Japanese food definitely worked for us. Would recommend but only with a 50% discount unless your wallet is bulkier than mine as the quality does match the price but maybe not so with quantity.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 5
Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between liking a restaurant with your head or with your heart especially when the meal for two I had at Chakra was a prize I won on their Twitter and Facebook page and so it was very easy to base our experience with the charm of it all until we got back to evaluate it carefully. We won their tasting experience which were an run of small plates to share highlighting the different types of dishes and cooking techniques in the Indian cusine.
After reading other reviews I am made to believe that Chakra is wanting to get better, listening to their customers suggestions through their feedback on review sites to improve. I can honestly say their service is no longer lacking. Service was near enough faultless other than the front of house lady who looked quite bored. But the lady who served us was lovely, charming and welcoming. She knew her dishes well, interacted with us when we asked her her recommendations and favourites and delivered everything with a smile. Our water was also constantly being refilled and the manager was going round each table making sure each customer was satisfied and if they were enjoying their food without being overly disruptive.
The atmosphere was lacking a bit with us being the only ones dining when we arrived but with the dimmed lighting, music in the background, comfortable leather seating and attentive service we felt more than fine.
It was fine dining with all the meals were served in tasting portions on delicate plates, arranged beautifully with side salad when needed. We were nearly eating with our eyes. To start we were given a chocolate size butternut nut galouti that was perfectly mashed and soften creating a smooth, sweet texture, intense with different spices which also provided that extra kick of chilli. It was delicious and faultless. Broken pieces of poppadom as light as wafers were also served with chopped up pieces of cucumber, tomatoes and onions and a side dip of cucumber raita that was incredibly cooling, creamy and morish. A great light nibble whilst waiting in between meals.
Next came the venison Kakori and the Amritsari Kali Mirch both in a kebab form accompanied with side salad. It was lacking a sauce for a bit of moisture but in small portions it was fine. The venison had a very surprising texture for a game meat. It had a very thick velvety soft texture, a bit like black pudding but lighter in taste. It probably did lack some spice For a grilled chicken breast it was incredibly tender. When the manager approached us he told us how they beat the meat till it tenders to create a succulent effect. It may not have been succulent enough (needed to be amplified with maybe a bit of sauce on the side salad or or the kebab itself) but definitely tender and slow cooked for long hours in the clay oven as the different blends of spices managed to seep straight through the chicken making it extremely flavoursome to the tongue with a slight smokey taste too. Iím sure Chakra do best in all their grilled and oven dishes as their marinate is to the highest quality and all cooked perfectly with patience.
Not long came the main feast containing small bowls of different curries of meat and vegetarian dishes. With it also came rice, naan bread cut into quarters and Pindi Chana which is Indian spiced chickpeas. I can honestly say that Chakraís curry is very average with maybe the Palak paneer standing out the most being a very creamy pureed spinach dish, lightly flavoured to let the more moreish paneer take its role with its flavours.Another of my favourite was also the Pindi Chana, flavoured with so many spices that as soon as you devour it, the spices invades your tongue creating an intense sensation of richness and a slight spiciness of a thickened smooth and soft texture.
The rest of the currys such as the black daal and jalandhar chicken were very average. Both creamy, with the chicken being more so, also sweeter than the daal both lightly seasoned, but needed more flavour and quite forgettable Iím afraid. The chunks of chicken itself were also a bit overdone. The lamb curry had more depth to it with its spices but it was the actual chunks of lamb that let it down being quite dry and stringy.
The naan bread was average not as light, flavoured and fluffy as some Iíve had in past restaurants and I did expect better for a fine dine. Rice was fine too.
Luckily the best was still to come with the desserts- a lemon sorbet and Shahi Tukra with Rabri. The sorbet was refreshingly light, perfect in sourness and sweetness and very smooth. It prepared us for the next dessert making it more appetising. The Shahi Tukra which is actually sweetened fried bread did not taste like it was fried at all. It was incredible, very indulgent with the creamy lightly sweeten Rabri, made with condensed milk. The bread itself was as light as a wafer but crisper, sweet like caramel and with the sauce it was the perfect combination to a happy ending, We also ended the meal with a very good rich smooth double espresso.
If I was to ever go to Chakra again I would definitely stick with their tandoori and clay oven dishes and maybe their Palak Paneer from their curry. Dessert is definitely a must too. However quality still has not match the high prices and they may need to experiment with their currys to give it an extra depth with more spices to it to make it more unique & memorable. Also more attention to detail is needed with their side dishes to make everything perfect. Other than that it was a very nice meal, definitely has got what it takes to be an Indian fine dining in Notting Hill. Lovely service, lovely decor, lovely staff.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 7
Although entering an empty restaurant, Thai River was arranged nicely so you do not feel the emptiness. Decorated with reds, comfy chairs, wooden tables and dimmed lighting it was did hold a relaxing atmosphere. As we entered the waiting staff were already standing at the front ready to serve us. They actually became too attentive and became a distraction watching our every move but still very friendly and efficient.
For the first time we decided to venture out beyond the typical curries and order something with a different. For starters I gave their Kanom Jeep described as pork, crab and prawn dumplings a try to compare with it the chinese Siu Mai. However we tasted none of the seafood described and just the pork which lowered the texture of the filling. The pork definitely needed more flavour & texture but everything was seasoned fine. The wonton pastry was good though, perfectly steamed. The plum sauce was also a very good dip with a slight sweetness & not too salty to go with the dumpling. Just a shame about the quality of the filling.
Next came the Tod Mon Pla described as deep-fried ground fish which was a bit coarse and gritty for my liking but very flavoursome indeed. The flavours & quality was what was lacking in the dumpling and you can taste the lime leaves and all the different herbs and seasoning in there. Also a nice light soy dipping to go with it.
Soon came the mains and the deep fried black Tilapia to start. It was fried perfectly till crisp yet still moist enough inside, seasoned well. What disappointed me most is that they can cook but then ruin the dish with generic supermarket bottle sweet chilli sauce which wasn't for our taste buds. Otherwise it would have been a very well cooked dish.
The confit of duck was flavoured nicely but lacked moisture and therefore was not as tender as it could have been which was a shame. It ended up quite chewy in strands. Listing it on the chef's recommendation at £10.95 made it even more disappointing.
For sides we got a fine portion of sticky rice. Although I found it weird having it served in a bag but looking around I found they're not the only Thai restaurant that serves it that way. Still I found the portion very small, nearly 1/3 off compared to the portion of the egg-fried rice. The egg-fried rice was also not the Thai fragrant rice I was expecting but the long grain type.
Other than the sticky rice the portions were very generous and all presented beautifully and vividly with a side of lettuce and other veg. It gave quite a tropical feel. Service was very attentive or shall I say too attentive. It was as if they were waiting to take your plates away which was what happened with our mains before I actually finished.
The chef definitely can cook here with food seasoned and cooked well. However it is definitely not authentic Thai food as they use a lot of pre-made sauces which made this meal quite forgettable.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 6
This is third visit to Greenleaf and I have tried more than half of their menu and thought it was about time to review it again but this time on their a la carte menu rather than their set dishes.
We bought 20 people in that evening and everyone was taken into care throughly. Once again we were supplied with their free prawn crackers, the same high quality ones, well spiced, flavoured and very moreish, They were even refilled when new guests entered as some turned up late.
I have learnt that Greenleaf imports the finest of ingredients from the top range Thai Fragrant rice to the high quality tea leaves that are very fragrant and rich. It definitely invests more than the typical chinese restaurant and all can be tasted in their dishes with the tenderness and freshness of the ingredients. Their portions may be smaller than the average restaurant in Chinatown but I rather go for quality rather than quantity. I am going to emphasise again that all the dishes we ordered were cooked healthily, using time to cook it throughly rather than rushing it with hot boiling oil. Dishes came out greaseless and minimal or no msg as no one was quenching for water. All perfectly seasoned and flavoured with all the required herbs such as garlic and ginger.
The only problem we encountered this time were the misleading descriptions of the menu items. Mango beef for example sounded different and adventurous to try but turned out to be sweet and sour shredded beef with no mango taste at all which is nothing of what we expected. However having said that it was very well fried and crispy, just sweet enough and was not artificial in colouring or flavoured like some I've had.
Greenleaf also specialises well in their clay pot dishes. Stewed pork belly that melts in your mouth in an amazing gravy although it was a shame that the taro were quite dense and needed to be fluffier. Buddhist Vegetable hot pot had a plentiful mix of mushrooms & crunchy dried fungus, once again flavoured beautifully with the glass noodles soaking up all the gravy too. It was only ruined by the tofu that were quite chewy. The highlight of them all definitely goes to the Mix Tofu Pot with am abundance of fresh seafood, bouncy and springy and silken tofu that were the softest and smoothest I've had, faultless. It had the texture of the perfect egg flan and tasted a bit like one too. Aubergine pot is not far off with the longer, skinnier, rarer type of aubergine being used and it was in a thick sauce cooked into the aubergine making it extremely flavoursome with a meaty taste from the pork and a good nice kick of spice.
If you're after pork ribs I suggest the salt and pepper ribs that were perfectly seasoned and flavoured with onions, chilli and pepper and not just salt. Although fried they were greaseless and still succulent inside. The flavours also went into the meat with a nice springy and tender texture. The brown vinegar ribs were not too my liking as I prefer things with a chew. It had a completely different texture, a more melt in your mouth effect and just fell off its bone when picking it up which may be to someone's taste.
Things have improved a lot since our last visit too. Ho fun noodles have become the fresh wider version, satay beef tender and succulent and not dry like the last visit. Scallops and lily bulbs were cooked perfectly this time, tender, thick and silky soft cooked with fresh light lily bulbs in a light sauce so you can really taste the seafood and same goes for the oysters which were plump and incredibly juicy.
Lobsters were a bit smaller than we expected but the best chinese style lobster I've tasted in London. The lobster in a cheese sauce was actually a milder cheese, just enough to add a creamy texture and taste but not overpowering the lobster like I thought it would. The spring onion version was just as good adding that extra depth in flavour and all very greaseless and seasoned perfectly. You can taste the energy of the wok in every dish. With extra noodles underneath you can add a couple of pounds.
Steamed seabass was also steamed to perfection, just enough so the ginger and spring onions seeped through every bit of the meat but not too long to take the moisture and tenderness of the fish and all on top of a light soy sauce.
I think I was most impressed with the simplest dishes which were the stir-fry vegetables of Chinese Spinach and Kai Lan particularly in fermented beancurd which gave it a good kick of spice but also that extra depth of flavour. It was generously portioned too and were all of the highest quality, young and crunchy.
To be honest, as critical as I have been, Greenleaf has not disappointed me fully with one dish on my last visit. Some may require an acquired taste like the cumin lamb which was very tender but too spicy for my liking. However each and every dish was cooked with the full wok energy ,seasoned perfectly and all very flavoursome with the needed herbs and spices to bring out the flavours and not relying on generic sauces, salt and msg.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Food 10 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
KIN is definitely recommended for a healthier choice for wanting some oriental food. All the dishes we ordered that evening were greaseless including their Chicken Green Curry and homemade wor tip. Portions were quite small but it meant you can venture out with some sides or salad to start. Some dishes worked, some didn't.
To begin it is a very trendy well lit place, somewhere to eat out casually with the bright coloured decor and so it hold a less romantic environment, especially when using recycled tissue napkins and disposable chopsticks too. But still I liked the decor a lot. It was just a shame that the place was completely empty for a Monday evening when we headed in.
The waitress who served us was very welcoming and friendly even though the manager ignored us completely. She was very efficient in recommending dishes to us and describing them which was handy and nice. As we knew beforehand that the portions were going to be small we ordered quite a lot to start which was fine knowing we had the 50% off.
The papaya salad arrived first with small plates to share. It was a very light dish, very refreshing and crunchy with the perfectly sliced vegetables with an added depth of crunch from the peanuts and a good kick from the fresh chillis. However it was extremely odd to have raw green beans in it which did not work well and not authentic either. Hopefully from customer reviews they will remove it from the dish eventually.
I honestly say that the wor-tip were homemade as the pastry tasted fresh, perfectly pan fried to crisp to start and into a more springy and bouncy pastry unlike the frozen ones you get. However the filling was very disappointing as it was just a lump of pork. It definitely needed another texture in the filling whether it be carrots, dried fungus, spring onions or water chestnuts to also add flavour. Still it was one of the better ones I had.
We also ended up sharing their main dishes, the grilled Pork Bun which came generously of fresh sliced up raw vegetables, grilled pork, a small duck spring roll and nuoc mam. It was such a shame this dish didn't work out as the pork was one of the best I've tasted. It was grilled perfectly, still moist and very well marinated and flavoursome with a slight sweetness to it. However the quality of the noodles were poor, stiff and lacked smoothness. It may have not been cooked long enough too. The nuoc mam was seasoned perfectly to drink on its own but when mixed in with the Bun itself it was just a little too bland and needed more fish sauce for that extra depth and flavour. The spring roll was also disappointing, just piece of flavourless duck in there which also needed another ingredient in there to add texture and flavour.
However luckily the last two mains put our end on a wonderful note. The Green Chicken Curry was one of the most creamiest ones I've had in the perfect consistency to stick to each piece of the fluffy rice provided. It was rich with fresh vegetables such as bamboo shoots that still had its crunch and all very well flavoured and seasoned. There no sight of oil on the top layer and tasted heavenly with the rice. Chicken could have been more tender but saved with the creaminess of the sauce.
The Malaysian fried rice was definitely another winner with the fried egg that still had it's yolk running inside. It had all that wok energy needed to give it depth and flavour of all the ingredients in there and seasoned perfectly. It was flavoured very well, savoury and with that runny yolk it was amazing. But on its own it would have been a very small portion so I would advise a starter before it.
KIN definitely has its highlights, especially with the cooked mains. A little more attention and detail to the quality of noodles and fillings I can imagine it to be one of the best casual chinese dining places I know. Service is all there, friendly and knowledgable and restaurant well kept too. Wish it had a better atmosphere though, maybe a little music playing in the background?
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
I had to come back here to review it's Sunday Roast as they just up their game. For £15 you get the choice of either half a chicken or Roast pork belly both with all the trimmings. We decided it was about time we tried the scotch eggs and went for the more unusual one of black pudding and quail scotch egg for £2 each.
It came cold which made me regret asking for the possibly of it being heated. It was a completely different texture to the usual coarse and meaty scotch eggs I'm used to. This one started out crumbling into something velvety & rich from the black pudding and then into something more smooth and a more richer tasting quail egg too. All the flavours needed were there but I can imagine if heated they would have lifted off more and would have produced a crispy coating and a more creamy egg yolk. Still dipping it into the mustard sauce provided gave it a good kick and another depth of taste.
We made sure we arrived before 6pm which is when the kitchen closes. We ended up ordering both the roasts to share amongst ourselves. The roast chicken was definitely one of the better ones I had. Chicken was tender enough to enjoy however it was made even more incredibly moist with the wonderful tasting gravy with the perfect consistency to hold on to every corner of the chicken. The flavours were were all there and roasted perfectly so the skin slightly crisped.
However the pork belly was definitely the highlight of it all. Perfectly roasted so the skin crunchy and crisp into a thin layer of fat that managed to roast itself into the rest of the meat creating a succulent and tender piece of pork. The moisture of it all just accelerated with the delicious gravy that also wrapped itself round the pork. It was incredibly good and probably the best roast I've had, all very flavoursome.
The trimmings were also put into great attention to detail. Although the yorkshire were small they were tasted really good and buttery and after soaking up the gravy they were delicious too. The roast potatoes were perfectly crisp to start although they did lack fluffiness inside and were quite dense inside. However the vegetables shone through it too. Both the cabbage and carrots tasted of high quality vegetables and cooked just soft enough to not lose it's sweetness. This time they were seasoned and flavoured perfectly unlike the review below and covered in its sauce, they just slipped through the mouth with a delight and made incredibly moist. It all went well together and portioned well.
Once again service was friendly and relaxed. I overheard customers being fussy with their orders i.e. asking for no skin, no gravy, no veg and were all dealt with a smile. The same customer was also asking to add for more pepper to his bloody mary was kindly given the whole pepper container and again with a smile and a friendly reply.
The owners are really chilled out people who once you get to know will just greet you with your name. They even sacrificed their Leeds football match that day to serve us and made no exception of care to his service, A wonderful Sunday and a 100% recommendation on their pork belly roast.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Food 9 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
It has been a while since I've left a restaurant feeling cheated and abused by the quality of food, service just because I arrived with a KGB voucher that they put up. Firsty, it clearly states on the voucher that each customer is entitled to any starter, main meal and a glass of wine. This can even be confirmed and rechecked by quoting the 'the Alps' and 'kgb' on Google. Being quite a passive person they manage to argue their way through to say that we were only entitled to salad starters and only the chicken version i.e. not the smoked salmon, none of the western dishes advertised clearly as examples on the KGB website on what we were allowed to choose and instead only their cultural Ethopian dishes. Wine? Well apparently they did not get any in stock in time to offer it to us and so we were only allowed soft drinks. When we asked if we could be compensated they refused and said it clearly states on the voucher what we were allowed which doesn't make any sense as none of what said on the voucher was given to us in the first place.
So fine we managed to swallow our pride and follow their suggestions as I suppsoe it meant we get another taste of Ethopian food. So it wasn't all bad to start, the Halloumi salad was incredibly good with the pomegranates added a burst of sweetness to the salad mix. The Halloumi was also very well grilled, lovely and salty in taste and firm. With the mains the Doro wat (chicken thigh) was very well flavoured with a good kick of spice and a good thick consistency of sauce. The injera was also the better ones I had, not too sour and soaked up the sauce quite well.
However things went downhill when they decided to down grade the quality of food being served to us. The chicken caeser salad was nothing but poorly cuts of lettuce with squirted mayo and croutons. On the menu it said there would be anchovies but there weren't any. It wasn't bad or anything but just tasted boring. The biggest shock was when it came down to the Godin tibs (lamb ribs) which were literallly chunks of fat on bones. I was disgusted that they could serve such poor quality meat to us. Luckily there were small chunks of leaner lamb underneath the dish it but lacked flavour, dry and were quite forgettable, Where all the customers were given extra injera in a basket we were deprived of it until we asked if could have some more he replied back 'it cost more but I give you it free this time' which obviously was a lie as we should have been given it in the first place.
Atmosphere was quite poor. The light were definitely too bright to get any feel of the dark Ethopian decor. It surely wasn't relaxing, Service was quite slow but it would have been fine if the food was good quality.
I honestly think that if a restaurant advertise themselves with an offer then be prepared to serve it and with the offer they intended and not change it on the spot and then discriminate them with low-grade food. Food isn't bad here as it all tasted fine but just the quality of ingredients. However it is the heart of the restaurant, the service and care of the customers that is lacking the most. It seems that they are just after the money.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Food 3 | Service 1 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 2
With a 2for1 offer running at the moment as part of their launch we decided to make used of the offer before it ends in April. We enter an amazing newly decorated modern bar. It was unobtrusively trendy and bright with a large seating area at the back with tables that were able to expand and comfortable wooden seatings.
But once you enter you are immediately greeted with their deli counter with their pies, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and more which all claim to be home-made and part of the British fare.
Service was welcoming and friendly. When things took long to arrive the waiters made sure we were informed which made things fine.
At the bar we made our orders of their burger, the last of the rabbit pie, beef and potato pie, chips and sides of cabbage and carrots.
Burger was beautifully presented on a wooden board with chips in a cool metal rustic cup. As good as it looked dripping away they forgot to ask how we wanted our burgers cooked as it came well-done. The meat came generously thick and did taste very good but was let down with it being quite dry and gritty due to it being a bit overcooked for my liking. The other fillings were also quite unimpressive with no onions, cheese, just a bit of lettuce, tomato and mayo. The sesame bun didn't work out for me either, a bit over toasted making it too crispy and tough to get your teeth through. Off course that meant the meat ended up falling out the other end.
Chips however were quite good with their skins on. They were incredibly crunchy just lacking that fluffiness inside but still very moreish.
The biggest let down were the sides. As amazed as I was to be served quality carrots in different colours that felt like they were locally sourced and cabbage crunchy and fresh, they were both over seasoned making it a bit too salty to eat on its own. However I am sure this can easily be fixed for it to perfect.
Luckily best was to come which were the pies. No wonder why they only had one left of the rabbit pie as it was incredible and one the best pie I have had in ages. Crispy to start, crumbing into beautiful tender gamey pieces of rabbit contrasted by softer texture of mushrooms and other vegetables. It held the perfect moisture, not too much or too little and perfectly seasoned too. The beef and potato was just as good, more meatier in taste due to the beef and very juicy indeed with lovely soft, tender quality potatoes to accompany it.
The Blacksmith and Toffeemaker definitely shines in it's Deli food, all British Fare, unusual to what you usually find but delicious. A nice modern place to unwind with friends. I'm sure with a fix up on their seasoning their side dishes can be improved. Still it is a nice additional to the Clerkenwell area with reasonable priced food. Still need to try their speciality scotch eggs and Pork pies.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Food 7 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
Hawksmoor will be an experience to remember. I was luckily enough to have got a place at the launch of the bar at Hawksmoor Spitalfields. On a Saturday afternoon we were immediately greeted by friendly staff who kindly pointed out the bar was downstairs.
It was a dark place with it's wooden tables, the place lit up with candles, with booths so you can get some privacy and curdle up with friends and all very relaxed. Service all came with a smile and very casual indeed, no pressure, all friendly and checking up on you every now and then and having conversations with you like a friend without being pushy. I love how they all worked well together too, giving each other pats on the back for support and encouragement. You felt like you belong there with them.
We were given a small round high table which was not to our preference but they end up being quite comfy although still would have preferred a lower table. Maybe next time.
Now being half price we ordered a lot. We started with a lobster roll to share which came in no time after ordering. Now this was good. Brioche bun was warm, soft, fluffy and stuffed with fresh springy and tender lobster. Smothered with that mayo as a side dip made it just indulgent with that creaminess effect. It was quite small to share and pricey for £20 without sides.
Next was the burger. It was a shame that no one asked us how we wanted our burger cooked as I would have preferred it more rare for it to be more succulent. Although a bit dry for my liking it was still one of the better burgers out there, smokey in taste and another perfect soft sweet brioche bun to hold it all so well. With a stick of gherkin on the side to accompany it lifted the burger with a good crunch and made it more appetising.
Now the short-rib french dip was a win. Pork being cooked for hours meant it just melted away in your mouth and effortlessly came apart with each of the sweet bun. There was no grittiness or taste of strands but just tender, rich, flavoursome pork. It was all so creamy & cheesy with the cheese and dipped in the gravy provided it added a whole new savoury flavour.
All this meat we also added some smashed cucumber which is similar to an asian dish of pickled cucumbers but without the spice. It was so refreshing to have after all that cream & cheese, as if a cleanser so you're ready for more dirty food. All peeled and insides scooped so it all went down well.
Triple cooked chips were the only option which was a shame as I wanted to try their beef-dripping chips. But these did not disappoint at all. They were very crunchy on the outside and moreish and with it came home-made ketchup. You can taste the freshness in the ketchup but call me boring, I prefer Heinz nevertheless.
As the place was so dark and laid back you felt no shame in using your hands to eat, lifting the whole burger in one hand and munching on chips with the other which made the experience even better.
Desserts soon followed with one being brilliant and the other quite a failure. It was the lemon meringue that really ruined the show. I do have a sweet tooth but still found it too sweet as if loaded with sugar. With the creaminess of it all it was quite sickening. Luckily my peanut shortbread with salted caramel icecream saved the day. This was completely opposite with it getting more indulgent as I digged in. Starts off with a crunchy shortbread base and slowly you dig yourself into a warm, thick inside of melted peanut butter contrasted with a creamy smooth cold icecream to balance out the stickiness and sweetness. I wish it never ended.
Overall I enjoyed Hawksmoor. There is definitely room for improvement but what they have already is amazing anyway. A place where you can just waste your day away with a few drinks with really good food for more reasonable prices than the restaurant. You will be spoiled here, beware!
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Food 9 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
Bibimbap is another typical restaurant in Soho that serves quickly, efficiently, robotically, no charm, no cheese with the exception that the food is actually pretty good for Soho. Hidden quite down Greek Street it seemed to be the only popular restaurant amongst food bloggers that had no queue.
Once entered we were immediately seated downstairs and yep there was no hint of a smile but it didn't bother me. It was a well coloured place which didn't suit the dim lighting but well cleaned and kept.
We ended ordering a lot with the kimchee & seafood pancakes arriving first. They came on a plate rather than on a stone plate like some places. Therefore it was not as crispy as I would have like it. The Kimchee pancake held more a crunchy texture from the kimchee itself and had a slight kick to it from the spice. I felt it was acquired taste of spice as it was tickled more of mums taste than mine. I personally preferred the seafood version as the batter contrasted well with the bouncy and springy prawns. It probably needed more flavour and didn't taste as fresh as some I've had. But still good for the price and seasoned well.
Now the rice cakes were amazing for those who like a good chew. It was hard to tell what texture you would be expecting from the looks of it but they turned out addictive after one. They were firm and slightly sticky. Rubbery may be the wrong word to use but it was in that consistency and smothered with that spicy sauce and crunch from the spring onions they were all so good.
Soon came the dolsot and spicy pork bibimbap in hot stone bowls. Like any bibimbap we loved the fact we could personalise it to our liking through stirring it with the amount of soy bean sauce and chilli sauce we needed. I may have got too excited to have stirred it immediately so the rice didn't have the chance to crisp around the edges but I'm not complaining as I enjoyed every bite.
I preferred the dolsot, a vegetarian version as it had a good crunch and texture. It was lightly flavoured with all the room needed for a big squeeze of chilli and that awesomely savoury soy bean paste that just lifted it off with flavour. It was as satisfying as fried rice but without the amount of grease, more nutritious and more moisture, sticky and indulgent after mixing it with that runny egg yolk too.
The spicy pork was no where as satisfying as the dolsot as the pork kind of dried it out being quite gritty and dry itself. Although it was flavoured very well but i suppose it depends on what taste you're after, a meaty one or crunchy one.
For cheap eats in Soho I definitely recommend as it is heart warming, filling and quick. Tap water refilled constantly without asking. Quality also matches the price- not the best korean food out there but not far away either. They even started to do salads bibimbaps preparing for a summers day. We left smiling even if the workers didn't.
Monday, March 05, 2012
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 9
I've always said that authenticity doesn't matter to me unless it taste good. So Tortilla may not be authentic in taste, steak maybe lacking in smokiness and pinto beans not as flavoursome as some burritos I have had but to honest I'm not going to complain as I throughly liked it. I've never been a fan of strong flavours anyway especially when it mask all other flavours in the dish.
That particular visit mum opt for the large pork burrito with lemon rice, pinto beans added guacamole and medium salsa and I had exactly the same but with steak. Maybe it was near to closing time, the waiters were awesome enough were to throw in some onions and pepper for us as well and when we asked for lettuce in it went without no question. It was fast food but efficiently done in front of you and I must say this branch is a lot friendlier than some.
Seatings was upstairs in a nice wooden decor, clean, hot sauces available to add heat to your burrito and tap water available when you ask without no service charge added.
Where I preferred the steak, mum preferred the pork. All starts with a nice soft tortilla wrap which once bit into releases all the sauces of the beans and the juices of the meat with a fiery kick of the spice. I loved the different textures mixing in together of the rice, the tender fluffy beans, the crunch of the fresh vegetables rounded off with the creamy buttery taste of the guacamole. With the steak I loved that extra chew and meatiness as it came in chunks whist mum preferred the pork as it had a similar texture to the rest, being more tender it easily pulled apart with the rest of the ingredients.
What I particularly liked about Tortillas burritos is that everything taste fresh and all very well seasoned. It may not be flavoured as good as it can be but the light flavours of the beans, even the cheese was not too strong, allowed other ingredients steal the show as well and take part in flavouring the burrito.
Will recommend the leadenhall branch to just because it is in quite a funky location, somewhere you don't expect to find in the city of London.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
Ginnan is one of those places that is just really inconsistent with service and the pace. But my last experience with them went very well even though the three of us came in with a voucher for the buffet giving us more than 50% of the original price.
The poor restaurant was empty with only 3 tables filled even though it was a big restaurant. I blame the darkened windows on the outside which no one can really see through to see what's going on the inside. But inside it is really nicely decorated, dark wood, dimmed lights creating a mysterious feel to it. Seats are tall so you have your own secluded booth for more privacy.
The waiter who served us was quick, efficient and smiley. The buffet works by choosing your first platter out of 3, then you will give a plate of their special rolls, then hot food and then you have the choice to repeat certain types of sushi on a set menu.
We chose to order the Sushi Mora (5 types of nigiri sushi) and they did not take long to arrive. What I love about Ginnan is that all the fish taste fresh, bouncy and the rice is perfect in stickiness and cooked perfectly. These nigiri were really good. Warning though, some do contain wasabi without you being told beforehand. They were served beautifully too in fancy tableware. Very enjoyable.
Next came the special rolls. Some worked and some didn't. What Ginnan does not offer is authenticity which to me is fine if it taste good. For example I loved the banana and peanut butter sushi. It was like a silky texture wrapped in rice to balance out that powering creamy crunch added to it from the peanut butter rounded of with another buttery taste of avocado. I liked it! Of course it is not for everyone. However what I did not like was the different sauces on top of the sushi, especially the sweet chilli sauce. The sourness and flavour of the sauce was so overpowering that you couldn't taste the different ingredients in the sushi itself and sushi is suppose to be light. Some of the makis also had too much mayo on top which made things quite sickening after a while and of course the maki lost its taste to the mayo instead. It was a shame as the rolls itself were made perfectly and tasted fresh too.
Hot food was the biggest disappointment out of all. Every dish was overloaded with sugar making it too sweet for our liking. This is where authenticity matters to me. It's like Sweet and Sour chicken made poorly in a chinese restaurant when all you taste is syrup. They were seasoned well though, a bit too oily but the seafood were fresh e.g. the mussels came in its shell which I liked. Gyoza were well fried but tasted like they came from frozen, crispy but mushy inside. Tempura were cold and prawn inside were tasteless. Chicken katsu was dry and gritty. The best of it all was probably the Yaki soba which was great in texture, springy and light.
And finally we reached the repeated stage! We managed to order 3 more platters and still have time left. I must say pace of service has improved significantly as the last time we were here we felt ripped off as they tried to delay everything so we don't get to order as much. Each of the repeats did not lose its consistency and the rice was still beautifully cooked, with fresh fish inside. However it was just the sauces and certain fillings that needed meet our taste e.g. the cooked tuna and bulgogi that was dry and gritty and overpowered by bottle sauces.
Overall Ginnan is one of the best places for sushi buffet by far but please note I say buffet as I'm sure there are more individual Japanese restaurants that do better quality sushi as a a la carte. Their rice is consistently good, sashimi fresh and everything holds together. However they do poorest in their cooked dishes and cooked sushi, either too dry or too sweet. Tea is bland and cheap. They also charge 50p for Tap Water which is even stated on their menu which I'm sure is not legal to and all that with an added 12.5% service charge.
Do try though for a good value sushi in London hoping that the waiting staff are on the ball that day.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
I actually quite liked Leon de Bruxelles. In a very convenient location quite near Cambridge Circus it is a great choice for a good value lunch or dinner especially when it has now joined the Tastecard scheme which entitles you to get 50% food bill.
I went during their soft opening and had a lovely night, Their service was amazing, very attentive, quick and efficient. They even offered to help us take photos with us asking.
Complimentary baguettes and butter were given which tasted fine but just needed to be warmed. We ended up ordering the Leon mussels, Provencale mussels and risotto of the day. I understand when some said that the Leon Mussels was quite runny and milky but the mussels itself tasted fine, very fresh, soft and seasoned perfectly. It got better towards the end when I could reach to the bottom of the pot to spoon up the sauce.
The Provencale mussels were really appetising. They were tomatoey, sweet and good sour. I felt I could eat more of these especially with the natural flavours of tomatoes, basil, garlic, wine and also olives. The sauce providing a great dip for the fries and bread too.
Talking about fries they could have been better in quality as they lacked potato flavour or any flavour in fact. They were saved by the sauce of the mussels however.
Now I was just unlucky with the risotto because as delicious as the flavour of this was, it was still slightly under cooked and even worse it had grains of sand in it which was horrible to eat as it grinded down our teeth. In the end I had to gulp it down with little chewing as it gave mum a toothache.It had the potential to be perfect though as all the flavours and seasoning were there. It was also good in consistency. Probably willing to give this dish another shot on my next visit hoping it won't happen again.
Overall I enjoyed the experience. I loved the bright modern decor and the marble tables with the smiley waiting staff. Food was more than acceptable but could be improved further of course but for the price I came out very happy. Definitely gets my approval for a new addition to the soho area!
Friday, February 17, 2012
Food 7 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
It looks like I am not the only one disappointed with Hache here. It's story seems to be like this: Best burger 5 years ago but it was their ciabatta bun that let it down. With new burger chains popping up such as Byron it was soon forgotton. But recently it did a comeback by introducing the brioche bun. So I thought what a great chance and reason to try Hache and what they claim to be the best burger in London as I'm in Camden anyway.
Was it successful? Well the bun definitely was! It was really light and fluffy and went along finely with each bite of the burger. Not the main point but the frites were very well cooked though, very crispy and fluffy inside. However the burger itself was very disappointing. I ordered the Louisiana Burger (Crunchy peanut butter, mature cheese on medium rare beef steak burger with a broiche bun) as it seemed like an interesting combination. So my first impression was YUM, bun like I said good and the meat very tender and cooked as asked. But it was when I starting to chew when things went downhill. The burger was too coarse for me and really lacked moisture. It was also not as thick as a usual high class burger joints. Along with the peanut butter that was really thick and sticky it made everything hard to swallow and even more drier and I was left dying for water. Don't get me wrong the peanut butter tasted great, smooth and thick, not as crunchy as described but probably better that way. You never expect peanut butter with a burger but it is a bit like satay I suppose but without the spice. As the cheese was probably medium matured the peanut butter literally took over the burger and for peanut butter lovers this could have been a good choice (you could hardly taste the cheese). But I was seriously disappointed with the lack of moisture and isn't a burger all about the actual burger? With a sip of water after each bite I did manage to eat the burger but didn't enjoy it at all.
Mum's Mexican burger luckily was saved by the the sauces which added creaminess and moisture to the burger but would have been better if it was in the meat itself. However the highlight was in the cajun spices that really gave a kick to the burger giving all the difference compared to my beef steak. Still I found the burger itself a little too coarse and dry.
Service was poor, hardly visible but that was because it was a fully packed place that evening and they were too busy serving the other room. Not very organised. They are also due for a refurbishment as mum injured her finger when trying to pull her chair in but instead the seat came off and caught her finger.
Best burger in London? Definitely not. But it has everything to be in the future maybe. I mean it has a great extensive menu with the most eccentric burgers you can think of, a great introduction to the most fluffy and light broiche buns I've had which shows it is listening to customers complaints about its previous ciabatta buns. Everything was well seasoned and well cooked frites, reasonable pricing. Just need to work on the actual burger and maybe a little refurbishment and better organisation of service then they might score a higher mark on my best burger list.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Food 7 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
Reading the reviews on this website on Rowley's just made me realise why I felt I have tasted these fries before. They do use the same fries as Mcdonalds' but I did not realise then because I would have never associated a high-class restaurant with Mcdonalds at all.
Rowleys was very disappointing. The food wasn't bad but for the price you would expect a better quality steak, fries and service. We went in on a Wednesday evening and already it was quite busy. However it does not justify the extremely slow service. As friendly and smiley as the waiting staff were I had to repeat everything twice to them before I actually got their service. I had to ask for the menu twice, twice to order, twice for water, twice for ketchup, twice for a refill of my unlimited chips, twice to get more ketchup,twice to get the dessert menu and twice to order my desserts. They even forgot to come back with more ketchup. It was very disorganised and more staff is definitely needed. I felt sorry for one of the waitress who always came back smiling but was all over the place.
Now the steak came quite quickly and we ordered two 10oz Encrecote steak w/ larder trim for £26 each. They came with unlimited fries too. For the price I expected really good steak but it was very average. As tender as it was it tasted boring. It did not have that sweet meaty taste and the herb butter did not do anything to it even . I can honestly say I can get better steak at a pub for half the price like the one I had the weekend ahead at Marquis Cornwallis.
Fries were crunchy but tasted exactly like the ones you get from Mcdonalds, ones from frozen and no potato flavour at all.Ketchup was giving to you in spoonfuls on your plate when you asked like primary school and took ages to even get them as they were so busy.
After several attempts to get the dessert menu we got ourselves the Sticky Toffee Pudding and the Tiramisu. They were very generous in portion and looked quite stunning and probably did a lot than the mains. The sticky Toffee Pudding however was really sweet especially with the added raisin which just intensified everything and I have tasted a lot of Sticky Toffee Pudding to compare. Luckily it was saved by ice-cream which was pretty good and creamy which took of some of the sweetness away. Tiramisu was very good in texture, very light and creamy. However it had a bit too much alcohol for my liking as it made it more bitter than I expected.
At the end we were charged another 12.5% for service charge and £1.95 table cover per person which we paid but only because I had making a fuss over money. The food and the slow service definitely didn't match the amount charged and for small pieces of slightly better bread than an average bakery it definitely did not require another £1.95 per person. Unless you're feeling pretentious and more up for the history of the restaurant then I would recommend steak elsewhere.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Food 6 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 1
Based on value and location I would understand why people would venture their way to Joy King Lau for dim sum. On a Sunday afternoon I was dragged there by my boss as I tend to go outside chinatown for dimsum (the better quality dim sum restaurants are always outside chinatown). Prices were more than reasonable for their dim sum and tea however for the quality of the main dishes, some were a bit steep.
You would definitely not come here for service or most places in chinatown. I had a waitress put her hand in my face to stop me from questioning her. Saying that service was quick and efficient and what I'm used to in chinatown.
Best dish I would say are the char siu bao. They were the lightest and fluffiest ones I had and a good ratio of meat and bun, Har gao was also successful with the pastry perfectly steamed, springy in texture and held the prawn well that were plump and juicy. Egg tarts were also really good. One of few restaurants that serves egg tarts in its original size. They were very silky, filled with a good amount of soft custard inside in it's well baked puff pastry tart providing that crispiness before you indulge in.
Avoid the custard buns that had custard clumped inside and were very bland. The bun was too dense and lacked fluffiness. Maybe because it was a busy Sunday I felt a lot of things were poorly timed, either rushed or overdone. Beancurd rolls were steamed too long making the whole texture dry and chewy. One of my favourite dim sum, the Fried meat croquettes were so disappointing as the ratio of pastry and filling was poor. Skin was too thick and wasn't fried long enough for that extra crisp which made it very oily too eat. Same for the yam croquettes, which were suppose to be crispy but weren't. The skin was chewy in texture and the yam inside was all mushy.
As for the mains, the seafood XO ho fun definitely had all the potential of a good XO ho fun with the amount of fresh seafood and vegetable in it. It was perfectly seasoned and flavoured but yet really lacked wok-hei and incredibly greasy. You can tell that little time was used to cook this dish and was rushed by the chef. However the chicken crispy noodle was one of the better ones in chinatown where it met my tastebuds in terms of seasoning and flavouring. Crisped to perfection and tender chicken with very fresh pak choi. A win on that one.
We finished with desserts in which we chose the more successful mango pudding creamy, silky and soft with a layer of sweet condensed milk, very indulgent. And also the almond tofu pudding which tasted great with the almond but the tofu was definitely not fresh. I was really looking forward to a soft silky texture of tofu but instead it was hard like frozen beforehand.
Joy King Lau is probably better on a weekday as I have read better reviews where things are less rushed. Most things are very authentic, seasoned and flavoured well however disappoints itself with being either overcooked or undercooked. Maybe I should try a weekday next time.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Food 7 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
People say everyone experiences 10 minutes of fame but I experienced a whole good hour or more yesterday at Oyster Shed. Being a winner of their competition for their catch of day I know I can be quite bias but will try and be honest as possible.
Firstly it was in an amazing location, beside the Thames with an amazing view of the Shard. Inside was wooden but held a very modern quirky feel to it with the stripy coloured atmosphere. Although it was a big venue the little comfy seatings made you cosy and comfortable to get into with the candles in the middle especially when I was greeted by such wonderful staff who led the way with a choice of seats to offer. Service was perfect. My meal was free yet I was respected like a celebrity. They all knew their dishes well when questioned.
If you do go you're basically dealing with staff who would give their winner guest everything they wanted on the menu on them. My prize was a bottle of house wine and catch of the day but they ended changing it basically everything I wanted which we ended up getting a fishermans' board for a starter to share, their grilled salmon with smoked bacon and bean stew, Steak and Oyster Shed pie. They even threw in four oysters for me and my mum, any soft drinks and a side of their 'mum chips'. We were really spoiled and everything was dealt with a smile. I ended up feeling quite guilty.
Service was quick too. My fishmonger's board & oysters soon arrived beautifully presented. Oysters tasted amazing with the red vinegar given. They were fresh, juicy and plump. I will completely recommend. On the board the fried cod and fish fingers were quite disappointing. Too much batter and fish quite dry. The fish cakes may have been overdone but was beautiful in flavour. However the pickled cabbage with seabass was amazing! Silky textures like sashimi but actually cooked, perfectly pickled making it very appetising and slightly bouncy meat. It was very tasty. The salmon was also very fresh and had a great texture of bounciness too. They were both a pleasure to enjoy. With it were also a pot of small prawns and bread accompanied with tartare sauce which were also fine.
Next up were the salmon and pie. I'm afraid the salmon was overdone making it quite dry again but it was seasoned perfectly and loved the smoky bacon on to add that extra crunch & texture to the dish. It also added in that kick of flavour. The beans were in a really good basic tomato sauce which was just what was needed to add moisture to the dish and rounded everything up quite well. Just needed flavour I suppose, My pie however was too salty and very bland. Probably the least best of them all. It was also overdone so that puff pastry top lost it light and fluffiness and meat was gritty and very dry. However the pie was massive, probably two pies there so they were generous. The filing was also filled to the top with perfect ratio of sauce and meat. But not everything was bad with the pie. Inside was an oyster (although they said two) which they placed just before the pie finished baking. That was like finding diamond in a coal mine as it was deliciously moist, soaked up the beef stock making it very flavoursome. The side dish of buttered cabbage now if I dare say it, moreish. Steamed perfectly it held onto its moisture and buttered to give it that light buttery creaminess to it. It was vegetables made into a dessert! I probably won't order the dish again but still very edible.
During our meal we were offered side plates for sharing and continuously excellent service. Our waiter was amazing but then again all of them were. Chips were perfectly fried, perfectly crisped and held onto its fluffiness inside served in a plant pot. Sauces were served in mini jars which just got itself another presentation star.
Now just when we were finished and thought that was where our prize got us they even threw in desserts. This was no longer just a competition prize but royalty treatment. Apple pie with custard and treacle tart with clotted cream were our choice. I'm afraid the apple pie was also another disappointment with the crust being floppy and apple quite bland. Worth £6.50 it wasn't cheap either. However we still finished it was it didn't taste bad, just tasteless. My treacle tart however was lovely. Served with clotted cream made it just perfect as it added that creaminess to it without ruining the soft warm smooth texture to it like ice-cream would have done and without taking its original flavour away like custard. Generously portioned too.
Yes food was a hit and miss but for a place to relax after a hard days work with a few oysters drink a board to share with chips, definitely a yes. Even the loos are awesome where there is a lift that takes you down. Great view, great service, great atmosphere. My fame started here and ends here.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Food 6 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10
Caprice is one of those places where you really don't expect it to serve such quality food. It really is a hidden gem, located near Euston. We entered with a group buying site voucher so really did not expect much. Looking on the outside it was fairly empty and not much to make it stand out. Although saying that, whilst waiting for the rest of my family a man turned around before walking in and said to me 'They do really good food here'. It gave me a little more faith.
But once we were in everything just started to go uphill. Service was warm and welcoming with smiles on their faces. We were felt very relaxed, not rushed and the decor was warm with comfortable seatings.
We started with a plate of hummus and pitta bread and Feta Cheese Borek. Both of these were delicious. The pitta were warm with a good springy texture and I never knew what quality hummus tasted like until I tried theirs. It was seasoned & flavoured perfectly. Very smooth and creamy with a touch of olive oil to round it off nicely. I ended up eating the rest with a spoon. The feta Cheese Borek came like spring rolls which added to its presentation. These were incredible in texture, started of with a slight crisp and into something incredibly creamy, flavoursome yet light.
Mains soon followed with my risotto. I can honestly say risotto cannot get better than this. The rice was perfectly cooked, amazing creamy texture with the perfect amount of sauce to hold the rice together. The amount of herbs that was in dish to make it so delicious was unbelievable and a seriously generous portion too (double Zizzi and all the chains out there). Can't recommend it enough!
We also had on our table veal escalope with spaghetti with was perfectly fried in breadcrumbs. The chef definitely make use of his herbs to create flavour as it tasted amazing, well crisped on top into a very juicy piece of marinated meat. Even the spaghetti had its flavour going and was not just the boring old stuff you get elsewhere.
My brother ordered the pork loin steak which surprised me the most. Firstly I have had very poor experienced with grilled pork where it has been very dry and gritty. But this had none of these problems. Instead it was very juicy, moist and marinated perfectly with gentle herbs exaggerating all the juicy flavours of what pork should taste like. It was incredibly tender too. As a side he ordered chorizo potato which were quality. Potatoes held its fluffiness and managed to take in the sauce for the chorizo to give it that kick of spice and flavour. Really good.
I cannot fault this place at all. It is such a shame it is not on the main road but then again I'm sure whom who finds it just gets really attentive, quick and efficient service plus quality food cooked perfectly and not rushed but with love from the chef.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
Greenleaf was a very pleasant surprise for a chinese fine dining restaurant. Having been to a few who tried to attempt to up-grade the typical chinese food to fine dining have failed in authentic taste and just upgraded the usual presentation of it all. But Greenleaf was pretty successful in both taste & service with a very modern bright decor.
We entered a pretty empty restaurant on weekday evening as it was located on a quiet street and only recently been opened. We were greeted quite welcomely with some complimentary prawn crackers. But these were the higher quality ones, thin, crunchy and well spiced with pepper. Very moreish!
On that night we ordered Chaozhou fried rice- Egg fried rice with salted turnip shreds, kai lan, and shrimps. This was seriously good, well seasoned & flavoured, very little oil, full of shrimps and you can really taste the wok energy. I have tasted some fried rice which have been really salty and oily.
Mum ordered the beef ho fun. This was a hit and miss. Beef was very dry and the ho fun were not the fresh type but the ones that you buy dry. Saying that the noodles did was very well fried again, well seasoned, flavoured & quite springy which I liked. I left the beef behind in the end,
We also ordered steamed scallops with garlic which were slightly overdone so wasn't as tender as they could have been .However they came in pairs in one shell and was presented beautifully. Seasoning and flavours were also spot on so it saved the dish completely and made it very enjoyable to eat.
The stir-fry shredded potato was probably the biggest disappointment of them all as it lacked flavour and wasn't as crunchy as I had hope. The dumpling in soup was very average, nothing to shout about. Dumpling was a bit too thick and didn't taste very fresh. But seasoning was very adequate.
Overall I would definitely recommend Greenleaf for authenticity even though they could work on their cooking time. But everything was very well seasoned and healthy cooked not being drowned in oil which is very rare nowadays in a chinese restaurant. Service was attentive, maybe could be more smiley but adequate. There were also complimentary desserts of mung beans pudding which was a very nice surprise at the end, perfectly sweetened. However they might have stopped giving these out as it does have an acquired taste for it. Also if you fancy it there is a karaoke room for hire downstairs for a minimum spend on food. Good stuff!
Friday, February 10, 2012
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7