Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cocktails and Canapés Class at La Cucina Caldesi

As a birthday gift, my friends signed me up for a cooking class at La Cucina Caldesi. Given my haphazard manner of cooking and the fact that I can not cut or chop to save my life, I was quite thrilled to find out that wasn't your typical cooking class. It was a 'Cocktails and Canapés' class that ended up being a second mini birthday celebration with my friends. I had so much fun and learned a lot - I now know how to make 2 cocktails and 4 canapés! Quite an accomplishment in my world :)

La Cucina Caldesi is an Italian cooking school in Marylebone. It is located right behind the Caffe Caldesi restaurant.

Chef Stefano Borrella

Our cooking instructor Stefano Borella was brilliant – very skilled and informative with a dry sense of humour, he first gave us a brief overview of the canapés we were going to make, the ingredients used and then split us up into groups. Soon the kitchen was busy with people cutting, chopping, stirring, and mixing. My task was to toast pine nuts. Don't ask me how but I lucked out and managed not to do any cutting or chopping which I was quite happy about. I also had a great vantage point to view all the activity in the kitchen.

We learned how to make an Endive Gorgonzola canapé which was so simple yet came together beautifully. Endive leaves topped with gooey Gorgonzola cheese, drizzled with olive oil, honey and toasted pine nuts. A little pepper at the end and all the flavours came together beautifully. The slightly bitter taste of the endive is offset by the honey and the whole dish took like 10 minutes to assemble.

Next was the classic Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese on a cracker. Sounds pretty simple but this was nothing short of amazing. The cream cheese was mixed with cream, finely chopped dill, chives and onions, lemon zest and lemon juice. The crowning glory was a sprinkle of glistening orange salmon roe. This was my favourite canapé of the night.

Then we made bruschetta topped with mushrooms. Stefano used a variety of mushrooms like chanterelles, porcini and button and then cooked them with finely chopped chillies and a few cloves of garlic and the secret ingredients - sprigs of rosemary and thyme that gave this gorgeous infusion to the mushrooms. He then piled it on a piece of toasted bruschetta and drizzled over some truffle flavoured olive oil. 

We then had deep fried bread and jamon - which I don't think I will attempt at home. Deep-frying is for those with brave hearts.

Finally, desert was little decadent cups of rich chocolate mousse, which I can’t remember how to make as by this point I was in canapé-induced haze of happiness. Not to worry – they gave us all the recipes on paper which was a nice touch as it meant we didn’t have to worry about taking notes during the class.

Cocktail tutorial begins

Once we finished the food preparation, our cocktail instructor swooped in to show us 2 cocktails - a champagne cocktail with blackberry puree and Chambord liqueur called ‘Black Betty’ and an Espresso Martini. The cocktail lesson was as fantastic as it really helped me get comfortable and gain confidence in making a cocktail. He taught us a few tricks of the trade and showed us how not only to stir and shake but also to present a cocktail beautifully.

Espresso Martini

The Black Betty Champagne Cocktail

All in all, it was a lovely experience and I would highly recommend going for a class. La Cucina does a whole range of cooking classes - all focused around Italian cooking. Classes ranges from around 50£ to 120£. So if you want to learn more about Italian cooking or just have a fun night with friends, you must try out a cooking class at La Cucina Caldesi. And I definitely can say this would be a lovely gift to give someone :)

La Cucina Caldesi
4 Cross Keys Close
London W1U 2DG
Tel: 0207 487 0750/6/8

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Things to do in San Sebastian on a four day trip

San Sebastian is lovely small city on the coast of Northern Spain. It’s part of the Basque country and is also known in Basque as Donostia. It’s a holiday hot spot due to its picturesque beaches and hosts a number of music and film festivals during the summer. We decided to go to San Sebastian during the Bank Holiday weekend (for all you non-Londoners, that’s the last week of August).

San Sebastian has no airport but it’s quite easy to get to from Bilbao. Easy jet has direct flight from London to Bilbao and then there a direct bus right outside the airport that goes straight to San Sebastian and costs about 10 Euros. The bus drops you off in the centre and it’s quite easy to walk to wherever your hotel is. I ended up getting reservations at Hotel Londres which was right next to the beach - quite convenient but not so cheap. In retrospect, given how small and walkable the city is, I would have certainly gone for a cheaper hotel in a less prime location.

San Sebastian is a gem of a place and here are some of the things you must do when visiting.

1) Lie on the beach, any beach - just pick one that suits your fancy. San Sebastian has 3 beautiful beaches all right in the centre of the city:

La Concha - which is the most popular one and gets quite crowded due to its prime location.
Ondaretta - which is less packed and the best for swimming. It lies west of La Concha.
La Zurrioloa - is across the river and is more for surfing.

I had grand plans of visiting all 3 but La Concha was temptingly right outside our hotel and so we never really went too far. We would just plonk ourselves on the beach till the sun went down.

2) Climb to the top of Mount Urgull for panoramic view of the city.

It was quite an easy walk up - takes about 30 - 45 minutes and there quite a few different routes you can take. I'll admit I moaned a fair bit for no good reason, thinking it would be an arduous hike and felt quite silly after reaching the top.

At the top is the Castillo de la Mota (La Mota Castle). You can walk all the way to the top of the fort right up to the foot of the statue of Christ.

3) If you’re in the mood to splurge, dine at a Michelin Star restaurant that showcases the best of Basque Cuisine.

There are number of amazing (expensive!) restaurants in San Sebastian like Arzak. A meal could  come up to more than 150 euros. I changed my mind and decided I couldn't justify splurging that much now but maybe, some day.
So if you're in the same frame of mind, don't despair, there are plenty of other amazing, cheaper options which brings me to my next point.

4) PINTXOS !!!!!    (pronounced pin-chos)

Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas. Small portions of food - brilliant executed to become the perfect mouthful food when you take a bite.  Typically, you go from one pintxo bar to the next, having one or two pintxos at each place. That’s right, you go PINTXOS HOPPING!

And that’s what we did every night - the highlight of my trip. I was practically giddy with excitement the whole time. It’s such an appealing way to explore an entire area trying out the best of what they have to offer.

Parte Viaje (The Old Quarter) is maze full of lanes with any number of bars to visit. I found it’s best to start with those on Calle 31 de Agosto. That’s the street with the highest concentration and in my opinion the best pintxo bars. Some of my favourites were: A Fuego Negro, Bar La Cepa, Bar Ganbara and Bar Zeruko

Also, to save some cash, we used to buy our breakfast from the supermarket. I was quite happy to go to the supermarket, when I the discovered range of amazing quality jamon (Spanish ham) I could buy. You must pick up some jamon from there to bring back with you.

5) Walk along boardwalk on the beach right to the end to see Eduardo Chillida’s famous sculpture The Wind Combs. They are iron sculptures fused onto the rocks facing out into the ocean.

6) Take a boat across to Santa Clara Island. There is a boat every half an hour during the summer to go across to the island in the middle of the bay.

Santa Clara island
7) Go to the top of Mount Igeldo. You can take a train to the top and there is a retro amusement park called Parque de Atracciones. Entry is 2 Euros.

8) Rent a bicycle to explore the city. There are special cycle lanes and docking stations where you can pay to rent a cycle.

9) Visit the Tourist Centre in front of the old Town Hall and see what cultural events are happening all over the city.

Guggenheim Museum

10) Catch a bus to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim Museum.

You must see the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. It is just a 1 hour bus ride and can not be missed. So instead of taking the bus directly to the airport, we stopped at the bus terminal in Bilbao, stored our luggage there and then walked to the Guggenheim which was 10 minutes away. Admission to the museum is 11 Euros.

Designed by Frank Gehry, the building is simply a work of art.  Personally I feel the building is far more engaging to see than the displays and collections inside. As piece of architectural art, it doesn’t stand in isolation from its surroundings but its stark contours strangely merge and influence the buildings and structures around it. 

We then walked along the river towards the city centre where I stuffed myself with pintxos and churros before getting the tram to head back to the airport.

There is so much more of Spain that I want to see yet I know that if I had a chance to go back to San Sebastian I would. It was a very special trip for me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Caffe Caldesi: Classic Tuscan food in a casual Italian Cafe

Caldesi Linguine

This is one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in London – perfectly cooked al dente linguine with simple, wholesome flavours of tomato and garlic, a touch of cream and dusting of Parmesan, which come together perfectly to become a highly satisfying plate of food.

From the outside, you would never guess that Caffe Caldesi is the origin of such an amazing meal. Overshadowed by its more famous neighbour Entrecôte, Caffe Caldesi stays out of the limelight and certainly its atmosphere is quite the opposite of the bustling French steakhouse next door. Completely unpretentious, the ground floor has a cafe setting that’s open pretty much the whole day and the upstairs has more formal dining space which needs reservations. What a lot of people don’t know is that there is cooking school ‘La Cucina Caldesi' attached at the back where you can attend classes to learn Tuscan cooking - which I've been quite keen to try out.

My friend A. who discovered the restaurant and introduced me to it, has tried out many dishes on the menu and Caldesi is one her regular haunts. I, however, almost always end ordering the Caldesi linguine. I usually end up paying 15£ to 20£ for a meal.

The staff and service is lovely. I took my mother there for dinner a while ago. She is vegetarian and has a severe allergy to eggs. They went out of their way to ensure she could have a good meal and took all her dietary restrictions into account and served her pasta dish that was off the menu.  

So if you’re looking for good Italian food in Marylebone at pretty decent prices in an unpretentious setting with warm, friendly staff and no queues or reservations needed - I suggest you try Caffe Caldesi. Even my Italian friend who very particular about his food, enjoyed his meal and says it quite authentic. So it doesn’t get much better than that J

Caffe Caldesi
118 Marylebone Lane London W1U 2QF
Tel: 020 7487 0753
Tube: Baker StBond Street

Caffe Caldesi on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 28, 2011

Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecôte

I’ve been countless times to Le Relais de Venise in Marylebone. I think I’ll always have a fondness for it since it was the first restaurant I visited after moving to London. My amazing cousin M. from New York, a man of many talents, took me there when he came down to visit.

The restaurant is also known by the steak it serves: Entrecôte. Given that’s the only thing it serves, it’s natural you will meet people who either absolutely love it or people who don’t get what the fuss is about. I’ve noticed if you’re not a fan of mustard, you’re probably not going to be too thrilled with food or if you’re vegetarian. Actually, don’t go if you’re vegetarian. 

There is something refreshing about not have the option to choose your main course from the menu. You sit down and you know what you’re going to get. All you have to say is one word: Rare or medium. I would not recommend saying ‘well done’. You will get a disdainful glance from your waitress, sometimes even an outright glare of disapproval.

A glass of the house wine and you’re ready to start on the salad served with walnuts and a mustard dressing. And then your Entrecôte steak comes – thinly sliced and drowned in their secret sauce with a heap of thinly cut, crispy pommes frites. The greatness of the meal doesn’t really lie in the steak. Sure it’s good but I think you could get better quality steaks elsewhere. What makes you feel like queuing for ages for your meal is the sauce. Which is why some people are not fans of Relaise de Venise – if they don’t like the sauce, that’s pretty much the last time they visit. Fans of butter will be pleased. It’s definitely made with lots of butter, maybe some mustard and I can't figure the herbs in it....thyme?

Once you finish the steak and the mountain of fries served, you feel content and satisfied but you think to yourself, “That was good, but I could have done with a little more”.......and guess what, just that minute, a second serving of steak and fries appear. This is my favourite bit and I never tell people I bring here just so that I can see that look of surprise on their face.

 Le Vacherin 

The desserts are lovely and perfect for sharing because you do feel a bit stuffed by the end of the meal. My favourite is a tie between the Profiteroles and Le Vacherin (a decadant tower of meringue, chocolate, whipped cream and icecream). The bill usually comes to around 25£ - 30£

A word of warning though – the queues are ridiculous since they are very popular and don’t take reservations. You could end up waiting for 20 to 30 mins on a Saturday night for dinner. It is much better to go for lunch or on a week night. Strangely, the rush always dies down at around 10pm – so you could try your luck then.

Le Relais de Venise
120 Marylebone Lane London W1U 2QG
Tel: 020 7486 0787
Tube: Baker Street/Bond Street

Le Relais de Venise on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tapas Brindisa

So my friend and I decided to meet up for an early dinner on Sunday. We landed up in Tapas Brindisa after discovering Polpo was closed on Sundays.

Tapas Brindisa is part of the Brindisa group, supplier of Spanish produce in the UK. You might have seen them in Borough Market or tried their chorizo and peppers sandwich which covets envious looks from other shoppers when you wander around the market blissfully chomping away.

For some reason, Tapas Brindisa is bit under the radar compared to Jose and Barrafina, the other ‘casual’ tapas bars in London. I’m happy to say it’s not because of their food which is on par with its competitors.

We started with a glass of red wine – Vega De Yuso which I really liked. It left this pleasant aftertaste and some Mahor cheese – mild and slightly nutty and the red jam complement it well.

And then of course was my standard order at a tapas bar – ham croquetas and pan con tomato. A. and I very seriously reviewed these in comparison to Barrafina and Jose. Jose won with its light croquetas and very tomato-ey yet still crispy bread. Barrafina and Brindisa tied at second place. That’s not to say I wasn’t tempted into ordering another round.  Second place is still a very, very good place to be. So you definitely won’t go wrong ordering these. I especially like the bread which is a Catalan flatbread. Dripping with olive oil and lightly smeared tomatoes – simple yet perfect.

Ham Croquetas

Pan con tomato

We then ordered the Pulpo a la gallega – Octopus with potatoes which was lovely. I think I prefer Barafinas version with capers and no potatoes – which is more delicate and cooked very well. And then because I was still feeling hungry, we had a place of iberica ham – which was my least favourite of all the dishes. This is quite strange given they are known as a supplier of jamon.

Pulpo a la gallega

All in all, it was a nice, satisfying meal. The ambiance lacks the buzz of Barrafina and the live action of seeing your food being cooked in front of you. I preferred my dining experience at Barrafina which is a few streets away in Soho. Every dish at Barrafina is cooked so well to bring out the flavour of even the simplest ingredient. Then again, some days you’re not looking to eat at a buzzing, lively tapas bar which you have to wait almost an hour for to get a seat. So on those days, do try out Tapas Brindisa – you won’t be disappointed J

Oh and it’s one those very convienent places that’s open all day all the time. And the bill was about 25£ each.

Tapas Brindisa Soho
46 Broadwick Street W1F 7AF
Tel 020 7534 1690
Tube: Oxford Circus/ Picadilly Circus

Tapas Brindisa on Urbanspoon

The Providores Tapa Room

Turkish Eggs

My favourite place to have brunch in London is at The Providores Tapa Room. I absolutely adore their brunch menu.

Fishcakes with poached  eggs

I’ve tried their version of Eggs Benedict – poached eggs with spinach, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce.
On days when I want something warm and comforting, I have the Turkish eggs – a soothing bowl of poached eggs, yoghurt and chilli oil.

And when I’m feeling especially hungry, I get the typical English Fry-Up breakfast– fried eggs, smoked bacon, perfectly roasted tomatoes and mushrooms and a side of their black pudding which is incredibly tasty.

Black Pudding

You get your usual offering of coffee and healthy smoothies and some lovely desserts if you’re in the mood. I have very pleasant memories of a salted chocolate caramel pie.

There is a queue usually on weekends. But the line moves quickly and the longest I’ve had to wait is 15 minutes. My share of the bill usually comes up to 15£ or less.

Eggs Benedict

I have been once for dinner and sadly, I don’t such glowing reviews on their dinner menu. The food is a fusion of different cuisines and the descriptions on the menu sound enticing but the actual food was not really that great. I ordered a number of dishes and was quite disappointed at the end. Their wine menu that showcases New Zealand wines is extensive and very expensive. So I ended up paying 45£ for a meal that definitely was not worth it. Granted I went just once, but I still think brunch at Providores is a much better option.

The Providores and Tapa Room
109 Marylebone High Street London W1U 4RX
Tel: 020 7935 6175
Tube: Baker Street/Bond Street

Providores on Urbanspoon


So one day I had a craving for sushi so I dragged A. out in search of a good sushi place in Marylebone. It was a Friday night and the only other place I could think of in the area was Dinings, one of my favourite restaurants, which was unfortunately out of our price range for now.

I had heard about Tomoe and I determinedly focused on finding it despite A.’s protests that he was hungry and would settle for fish and chips. Puh-leez….that didn’t stop me.

And I did find it – with a little help from Google maps and A’s grudging acceptance to follow me on this quest. Its right down a windy path called Marylebone lane. Past E’ntricote, past The Coachmaker and just before you lose hope and hit the madness of Oxford Street.

It’s quite unassuming and you could be forgiven for walking right past it. I’ll be honest, the interiors are not great at all. But it’s authentic and the food is good and you can get Black Miso Cod for 15£ instead of the typical 30£ so I’m not complaining.

It’s very re-assuring to walk into a sushi place and have it filled with Japanese people. We were sent down to the basement which was really sparse in terms of décor. I’m being nice when I use the term ‘sparse’. Be prepared. Despite all this, I was thrilled at finding it and given the good reviews, keen to try the food.

Everything we ordered was good. We had the mixed tempura, prawn dumplings, spider roll (fried soft shell crab with avocado), black cod with miso and pork kimchee. It’s always a good sign when the rice of the sushi roll is slighty warm.The bill was 48£ for both of us. If we hadn’t ordered the cod, it would have been much less.

I think I just found my new takeaway sushi place. J 

62 Marylebone Lane London W1U 2PB
Tel: 020 7486 2004
Tube: Bond Street/Baker Street

Tomoe on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 14, 2011

Café Luc

The downside of most good restaurants in London is that everyone knows they’re good. They become so popular that to get a table you either have to plan two weeks in advance to get a reservation or there is a ‘no reservation’ policy so you have to be prepared to wait in a queue for at atleast an hour.

These are two extremes but lately, I’ve gotten used to meticulously planning the best way to get a table, that I get flummoxed when I can walk in and automatically be seated with minimum fuss. Of course, that leads me to doubt the quality of the food. If it’s not popular, than how could it possibly be good? Hmmm.

I CAN NOT believe I’ve been conditioned to think this way. I’ve also been brainwashed into thinking that a ‘2 hour only seating’ policy is normal, nevermind the fact that I’m spending quite a bit on an expensive meal. Somewhere, along the way I jumped on this crazed merry-go-around of rules dictated by restaurants and forgotten how lovely it is to go to place that can seat you with minimum fuss and then lets you enjoy your meal without rushing you to order the next course.

I almost got a taste of this at Café Luc in Marylebone when we walked in on a Friday night and got seated in less than 2 minutes without a reservation.  I say almost because they did keep interrupting to remind us that the kitchen closed at 10:30 and they close at 11:30pm. Nonetheless, the meal was quite nice though on the expensive side. We each paid 35 pounds which I thought for 2 mains and a cocktail is a bit much.

The menu was traditional French though no Duck Confit which I had a craving for. We had the Veal Paillarde which was grilled veal with rocket salad and Beef Bourguignon – beef cooked in red wine with little bits of bacon, onion and mushrooms and a side of potatoes and ended it with a selection of petits fours. The veal and beef were cooked very well – the beef felt like it was melting in my mouth.

I’m not sure if I would go again – I just didn’t find their menu interesting enough but if you’re keen to try French food with no fuss, then I guess it’s not a bad choice.

Café Luc
50 Marylebone High Street W1U 5HN
Tel: 02072589878
Tube: Baker Street

Sunday, October 2, 2011


José was brilliant. Totally lived up to the hype J

The ham croquettes were divine and my friend and I ordered them twice because we couldn’t get enough of them. They were perfect. The perfect combination of creamy and crispy with divine little bits of Iberica ham.

We also had the razor clams that came little pieces of chorizo and subtle mint sauce. Some almonds and olives to nibble on and pan con tomato to start with. The tomato bread was awesome. And I have to say I much prefer the croquettes and pan con tomato at Jose than those at Barrafina (sacrilege, I know)

I tried a glass of Manzanilla sherry. This was my first brush with drinking sherry and I quite liked it.  The staff were pleasant and helpful and I’m definitely going to go back. With 2 more glasses of wine – we paid around 25£ each.

So YES – you must try out Jose if you’re on Bermondsey Street and you love Spanish food.

Ideal for 2 people or even if you’re just going by yourself. Definitely not for more than groups of 3 (very small space). It's the perfect place to catch up with a friend, spending ages talking and eating - which is exactly what I did J

Minneapolis Restaurant Review

My trip to Minneapolis was relaxing and I think the highlight was the food!...oh and of course, the time spent with my family! My brother is a kindered spirit and shares my foodie soul. And yes, we have a tendency to over-order. Our eyes are much bigger than our stomachs and when we are together, we pretty much order the whole menu and there’s nothing that anyone else can do to stop us. So we chartered out a plan to try out a lot of new restaurants and squeeze in some old favourites as well.

Bar La Grassa

An Italian restaurant with amazing food and lovely service. My mother is extremely allergic to eggs and they went out of their way to make sure she had a good experience. We started with 2 orders of the bruschetta. I’m not sure if I would order those again – they were nice but quite filling and you definitely need space for your main course. We then ordered 2 small portions of pasta for each person – which looking back now, I realize was way too much. I think 3 half portion for 2 people would be a better bet. We were intrigued by the silk hankerchief pasta – which was silky smooth ribbons of pasta in a pesto sauce. All the pasta we had was lovely.The only dish I was not happy about was the raw tuna – that was just plain weird.

*Update* - My brother informs me that the head chef for the Bar La Grassa was named one of the best chefs in the country. Well-deserved :)
Isaac Becker, chef/co-owner of 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa, named Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation.

Bar La Grassa on Urbanspoon


Go there for lunch. They have amazing lunch deal where you can get a half sandwich (which is pretty big) and a side order. My favourites are the chicken sandwich, the pulled pork sandwich and the creamed spinach. DELISH!
Oh try the pickles with the sandwich and the guac with chips. This is what I love about America – you’ll find this gem of a place that serves amazing food at really cheap prices.

Brasa Rotisserie on Urbanspoon


I felt like I had a very strange meal and I did not appreciate the wait. We waited 2 HOURS! I expected the meal to be like manna from heaven but it was ok. I got the whole ‘we-are-just-a-group-of-guys-who-started-their-own-restaurant-with-our-own-cool-rules-and-are-having-fun’ vibe and I appreciate what they are doing - they seem a talent bunch of chefs but I did not like the way they dealt with my mum’s egg allergy.

We specifically called them before and asked them if my mum would be able to eat anything at the restaurant given that she has a severe egg allergy. The guy on the phone said ‘sure, don’t worry we will take care of you’. We go there and they acted like they did even know what an egg allergy was. Sure they were nice but to be honest, they seemed like they had just smoked up and I didn’t appreciate how casual they were about the allergy. They could have just been honest and said we’re not sure but they just gave out conflicting information about which dishes she could have. Very unprofessional.

That aside, the food was good and quite interesting.  The menu is up on a board and we were initially excited to try out practically everything. There are no descriptions so it does feel kind of exciting to see what you're going to end up getting on your plate. The sweetbreads and tater tots were my favourite but that’s probably because they were fried and had to taste good. The deserts were strange – someone in the kitchen was obviously trigger happy with the liquid nitrogen – everything was just frozen this or frozen that. The novelty soon wore off.

However, the restaurant does have good reviews and the diners did seem to be enjoying themselves and they are very popular judging by the queue and waittime. There are no reservations so I would recommend going on a weekday to beat the queue or trying for either 6pm or after 9:30pm.

For me, it just wasn’t worth it and I don’t feel like returning after this experience.

Sea Salt 

We spent the most lovely day at Minnehaha Falls and then went over to Sea Salt Eatery which serves a whole bunch of seafood. We tried the fried fish, the fried catfish, the fried calamari and surprise, surprise, the fried prawns. Everything tasted really good and the servings were huge! But my favourite was the fried fish tacos. Light and lemony, the fish was perfectly balanced with the salsa. I dream of fish tacos now.

If you visit the falls, you must eat at Sea Salt.

Sea Salt Eatery on Urbanspoon


So after work one day, A. and I decided to walk down Baker street in search of dinner. We couldn’t make up our mind and had vague notions of having Thai food when we saw this Turkish restaurant called Ishtar on Crawford Street. It looked nice but I found their ‘modern Turkish foood’ menu quite exhaustive. But we decided to give it a go and I’m glad we did.

I was fascinated by the pickled fruit and veg in the jars – so pretty! A. ordered a mixed grill dish – basically a plate of every meat possible (lamb, chicken, minced lamb and lamb chops) with rice and I had the hummus with lamb bits on top and Borek (filo pastry with feta and spinach). They also gave us a little free starter of hummus and bread which is always a nice touch. I really liked how they presented the food.

The food was good and when the bill came, we each ended up paying 15£ which was a good deal. Was it a brilliant meal that I would recommend you have to have? – No but if you're in the area and fancy a nice Turkish meal, then yes for sure.

10-12 Crawford St W1U 6AZ
Tel: 020 7224 2446
Tube: Baker Street

Ishtar on Urbanspoon

St. John Hotel

This weekend, A surprised me with a dinner at St. John Hotel  in Chinatown. I had heard of St. John but somehow it had never been on my radar to visit despite the great reviews – I suppose I wasn’t too excited by the concept of eating traditional British cuisine.

How wrong I was! – I absolutely loved the experience. The restaurant is located in the most unlikely of locations – right bang in the middle ofChinatown next to the W hotel. It is a compact dining space with a clean, unfussy feel and an open kitchen at one end. And the menu was quite varied and is certainly geared towards offal offerings.

The service was lovely – the waiters were attentive and knew their stuff. Our waiter was so good at describing the food that I just kept nodding my head and saying ‘yes’ – which is how we ended up ordering 3 appetizers and 2 main courses and 1 dessert.

We started with the devilled pork skin – pigs skin removed of all the fat, puffed up and spiced with paprika served with nice little dill sauce. I had the Aviator cocktail which was gin and maraschino and lime and quite nice.

The appetizers were amazing! We had the Bacon & Snails and the Squid, Potato & Artichokes. The herbs and seasonings were perfect and these were my favourite dishes of the night. We mopped up every last bit with bread.

Feeling adventurous, we ordered Grouse and Lamb’s Tongue. Unfortunately, my adventurous spirit did not last long and I couldn’t stomach the food after the first few bites. I like to try new things however, game is not one of my preferred choices and the texture of the lambs tongue felt very strange.

That’s not to say the food wasn’t good. My dinner partner A loved it and polished off the grouse. Seriously, the bird was gone – every last bit of it – same with the lambs tongue.

The dessert was Figs & Meringue. Overall the meal was faultless and definitely warmed me up to British cuisine. Though I don't know if snails are traditionally English!
We each paid around 45£ and I really want to go back and try other things on the menu.

So YES – you have to go if you are
1)       An adventurous foodie
2)       A lover of game and tongue and other strange animal body parts – i.e a true carnivore
3)       In the mood for elegant, minimalistic British food.

St John Hotel
1 Leicester St WC2H 7BL
Tel: 0203 301 8069
Tube: Leicester Square

St. John Hotel on Urbanspoon