Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bubbledogs: Hot dogs & Champagne in Fitzrovia

With an hour of time to kill one evening, I decided to wander down Goodge street. I found myself in front of Bubbledogs, with miraculously no queue in front of it. Well it was 6 pm on a Wednesday but I’ve always refused to go near Bubbledogs since I can’t rationalize the standard 60 minute wait just for hot dogs with a glass of bubbles - all of which can be consumed within 15 minutes.

When I went to the door, I was told there was still 10 to 15 minute wait. I asked if there any way they could squeeze me in given I was there by myself and the manager was nice enough to find me a spot at the bar. Sitting at the bar is the best seat in the house in my opinion and perfect if you’re flying solo. It’s an excellent viewing point to see the rest of the room and watch the bartenders make fancy cocktails.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Orrery: Serene and Elegant French Restaurant in Marylebone

When my friend mentioned having lunch at Orrery, a Michelin-star restaurant on Marylebone High Street; I originally misheard the name and thought he said we were at going to eat at ‘Ovary’. Seeing my bemused look, my friend then spelled out the name but I was none the wiser to what Orrery meant.

Chicken Liver Parfait

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tommi's Burger Joint: Marylebone's Chilled-out No-fuss Burger Joint

Right after Meat Liquor and Patty & Bun opened up in Marylebone; another burger joint started making waves on the High Street: Tommi’s Burger Joint. I still swear allegiance to the juicy Dead Hippie Burger at Meat Liquor and I adore the chicken wings at Patty & Bun but there’s something about the Burger Joint that keeps drawing me back for more.

No queues. At all.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Opso: Greek flavours with a modern twist

Opso is my new favourite restaurant. It’s located on Paddington Street, just off of Marylebone High Streets and sits in the space that used to be Ping Pong. I’m quite happy about the change in occupants. Gone are the dark, tired looking interiors of Ping Pong, now replaced by the airy light wood interiors of Opso.

And now, anytime I want to go out for a meal, I keep veering back to Opso. So much so, that I’ve tried pretty much most of their menu which is full of inventive creations using classic Greek flavours to the best results.

Here are some of the dishes I've tried:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Best restaurants in Minneapolis: My top picks for 2014

After every trip to Minneapolis, I start liking this city a bit more and more. Of course it helps that I only visit in the summer. (I made a mistake of going in the winter of 2007 and there was snow up to my waist!)

The Stone Arch Bridge

I love how all the building are built to celebrate their industrial legacy, loved the sleek Guthrie building dedicated solely to theatre, the Walker Art Centre and the gigantic public library. But my favourite is the Stone Arch Bridge encompassing the vast Mississippi river, full of healthy Minnesotans cycling and running on the paths. In retrospect, I should have been one of those active people exercising away given the amount we ate out – but hey I was on vacation and my brother had a whole slew of restaurant recommendations. What can I say he is my brother after all.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marbella and Vejer de Frontera :: My One Week Andalucia Road Trip

After Granada, we drove to Marbella. Our route took us through the Sierra Nevada mountain. Beautiful views though at times I was bit queasy with all the sharp turns! We soon hit the coast and I was expecting Marbella to be full of over-the-top full of stag parties and crazy kids but we stayed in the Casco Antigua - the charming Old Town, which is close to the beach. Despite the fact that it was wet and rainy, I couldn't help but love the picturesque little streets of the Old Town. 

Costa de la Luz

We checked into the romantic  La Villa Marbella hotel for one night (60 euros a night). Their rooms are more like small apartments and are simply amazing. Each room had a theme: ours was ‘Bombay' and after two days of continuous driving, relaxing in our beautifully decorated room was such a treat. The staff are friendly and helpful and parking is close by. Oh and when you check in, they give you list of breakfast options – tick everything! Breakfast is so good.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Granada and Cordoba :: My One Week Andalucia Road trip

Generalife Gardens of Alhambra in Granada

After Seville, we hit the road early in the morning and headed north to Cordoba, about an hour and half drive. Cordoba is home to the famous Mesquita, the 'Great Mosque' which is stunning. It was originally a mosque which got converted into a church. Inside the simple spacious interiors is a forest of 856 red and white stone pillars that form striped red and white arches that are unusually striking. I could imagine it being one of the most tranquil places to worship with its beautiful and intricate prayer wall. There is massive altar in the centre that was built by a Spanish King to convert it into a church and who, infamously later regretted building it saying it spoiled the beauty of the original building and "destroyed something that was unique to this world".

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Two Days in Seville:: My One Week Andalucia Road trip

Doing a road trip around Andalusia has been a dream of mine for a long time and it finally happened this April! We decided to take a week driving around Andalusia in a loop – starting at Seville, visiting Cordoba, Granada and Marbella and finally chilling at Vejer.

The first day after landing in Seville airport, we took a cab (about 20 euros) to our hotel IMG Rey Alfonso X in Barrio Santa Cruz, dropped off our bags and then just wandered around Seville soaking in the atmosphere, eating tapas after tapas and of course, relaxing with a siesta! 

Walking around Seville is a pleasure – it’s a city with such charm and gorgeous Moorish architecture. Since we were there during the Holy Week, we also got to see some Santa Semana processions led by various brotherhoods which were fascinating. 

On the second day we visited the Cathedral which was stunningly impressive. I believe its one of the biggest Cathedrals in the world. Originally, there was a huge 12th century Mosque which knocked down and a decision was made to build "a church so large, future generations willl think we were mad". My favourite part of it was the Giralda – a former minaret of the original mosque that remains and was converted to a bell tower. You can climb all the way to the top and its fairly easy one since there are no steps but just a sloping pathway winding all the way to the top (so that a rider on a horse could get to the top!). 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mandarin Kitchen: Excellent Chinese restaurant in Bayswater with the best Lobster Noodles

I’ve never really eaten much seafood at Chinese restaurants – I always tend to go for the more meaty options. But when we were told that Mandarin Kitchen in Bayswater serves the best Lobster Noodles in London – I was totally up for checking it out. The source of this information was our trusty driving instructor Albert Low; who by the way is an excellent instructor. Leave a comment if you’d like his contact details for driving lessons in Central London or Richmond. He’s one of the best :) 

We went to Mandarin Kitchen on a Thursday evening and it was packed. Unfortunately we didn’t make a reservation and had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table, but seeing all the delicious plates of food being carted out of kitchen and being in no rush, we settled in to wait. And then soon enough, we had a table – one of the best, right near the window which was prime viewing position. 

We started with some lovely Oolong Chinese tea (Ti Kuan Yum) and ordered one of their signature dishes – Steamed King Scallops in a garlic soya sauce that came with tiny crystal noodles. It was delicious and I’ve never seen scallops so big. A great starter to whet our appetite and then shortly later, the piece de resistance appeared – a gigantic Lobster with Ginger and Spring Onions on top of a bed of soft glistening noodles. The waiters break it up for you and serve it quite efficiently so all you have to do is dig out the soft delicious lobster flesh. And having soaked up all that lobster juice, the noodles were incredibly tasty. Such a simple elegant dish – and Manderin Kitchen deserves all the accolades for it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mondsey: A Malaysian Supper Club in Bermondsey

I stumbled upon Mondsey at the Bermondsey Street festival and had a taste of what this talented duo of Karen and JP could offer at their food stall and resolved to find them again. I was in luck; they also held regular supper clubs in Bermondsey showcasing Malaysian cuisine. So I roped in my Spanish friend to come with me to one of their Saturday night supper clubs. He'd never been to a supper club before and was gamely up for a new experience. (He also asked if there would be single girls there - I may have said yes).

We rushed in a few minutes late and were welcomed with an utterly refreshing cocktail called Monk’s Ice Tea made with Plantation Barbados Rum and Air Mata Kucing (a juice made from Malaysian fruits). I couldn't get enough of it – and sneakily had two more refills.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hawksmoor Spitalfields: My Guide to choosing a Hawksmoor Steak

I had the best steak of my life at Hawksmoor. It needed no frills, no sides, and no sauces; it was just beautifully grilled and amazingly succulent meat. One piece of advice – go with a group of friends.

You see this isn’t a place for a romantic date for two, this is the type of place you go with a gluttonous group of friends so that you can justice to all the meat and sides.

You need to do this because the best cuts come in gigantic sizes like 800 to 900 grams. I mean on a good day, I could do maybe 300 gm but sharing a 900 gm steak between two people is so out of my league. I went with a friend and we finally settled for the Rib eye and Fillet which totalled 750 gm and ordered 2 sides – a light healthy salad and some yummy unhealthy triple cooked chips. But I wished I could have tried more – I wanted the creamed spinach and the mac n cheese and all that good stuff.

That’s when I realized you have to come in a group. It’s way more cost effective because then you can share the gigantic 900 gm steak between four people and get to try all the delicious sides on offer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

L'Escargot: Elegant French Brasserie in the heart of Soho

Right in the middle of all the chaos of Soho, stands L’Escargot - a French restaurant that's been around from the 1920’s. The moment you walk into the old townhouse, you feel transported straight to Paris with their bistro style menu full of all the French classics.

I had the Coquilles St. Jacques – three tender wobbly scallops baked with bacon, garlic and majoram and some sides of haricot beans and dauphinoise potatoes. And oh my god, beans have never tasted so good - garlicky and crunchy, I couldn't get enough of them. And those dauphinoise potatoes – divine. Well, truth be told, any food cooked with loads of butter and garlic is going to taste great.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sixty One: Fine Dining on offer at in Marble Arch

One evening, I found myself walking up and down Upper Berkely street near Marble Arch searching for the elusive new restaurant Sixty-One. London streets are known for their random numbering but despite checking Google maps – I found myself in front of an abandoned entrance where No.61 should have been. After calling them, it turns out the restaurant is across the street, way down the road – bizarre.

Anyway, the elusive Sixty-One is a rather new restaurant – only months old and despite having a pricey looking a la carte menu, they offer 2 courses for £19 and 3 courses for £34 as well. Incredible because for the quality and service provided, it was a great value. We got a lovely bread basket with the most delicious airy butter. The starters were a delight – simple yet gorgeous salad of marinated beetroot, blue cheese and walnuts for me which looked so pretty on the plate and for my dining a companion – ‘Pig on toast’ a porky pate on toast which was again very nice presented.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Antidote: Winebar and Restaurant near Carnaby Street

Trying to get reservations on a Saturday night is near impossible in London if you haven’t booked at least a week in a advance. Luckily, I found two new restaurants that looked interesting but couldn’t decide between: Little Social and Antidote. Both had good reviews, the only major difference being the set up of the menu at Antidote was bit different. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Flesh & Buns : Over-hyped Japanese food in Covent Garden

When some of my friends suggested catching up over dinner – I instantly threw out the suggestion of Flesh & Buns which I’ve wanted to try out for ages. It sounded fun and I love Japanese food – what’s not to like?

Well, at first, Flesh & Buns seemed to have all the right stuff - a menu full of crowd pleasing dishes and quirky cool elements like bathrooms plastered with manga comics (with some overtly sexualized male fantasy images that I wasn't really a fan of). Yet, to be honest, it just wasn’t that memorable. It’s sort of like they took all the popular dishes out there – trendy street food like meat and steamed buns, signature dishes from restaurants like Roka and then tried to recreate them in the most efficient factory-style output way.

To start with we had ‘Chips and Dips’ of rice crackers, avocado shiso, tomato jalapeno which was essentially guacamole and salsa. These were moreish and hard not to like (and have been made popular by the onset of Peruvian restaurants like Ceviche and Coya).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Four sunny days in Palma, Mallorca

This was initially supposed to be a post on things to do in Mallorca but to be totally honest, all we did was laze by the pool during the day and then wander around Palma in the evenings. So a lot of sleeping and eating mainly! Sometimes those are exactly the type of vacations you need. We came back to London utterly refreshed and ready to face the gloomy grey weather after spending four perfectly sunny, relaxing days in Palma.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

28-50 Wine Bar and Restaurant in Marylebone near Oxford Street

When I’ve been asked to recommend a wine bar in the past, the only place that used to come to mind was Vinoteca, a rather successful and popular wine bar that’s now popped up in various locations. However, I’m a bit indifferent to the food served there and tastings by the glass add up to quite a bit on your bill. So I’m happy now to say that I found something better – a low-key casual yet smart wine bar called 28-50 on Marylebone Lane that serves a wine by the glass with a price range that keeps your wallet happy. It’s easy to sample a large range of wines if you go for the 75ml glasses which range from £2.50 upwards.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Flavour Expats: Battle of the supperclubs on Edible Experiences

I’ve been quite excited to go to one of the Flavour Expat Supperclub events this March and April. Essentially a collaboration between 2 different supperclub every week – I loved the idea of it and got tickets for Italy vs Hakka China. Italy was represented by Rob of Backdoor Kitchen and Hakka China by Wen, founder of Edible Experiences – a website that showcases all the pop up events, supperclubs, cooking classes and food tours held in London. Each chef will cook 3 courses - in total, it’s £35 for a 6 course menu and it’s BYOB. The fact that it was in an area in Hackney I’ve never been before and potentially quite a trek to get to from work and then back home again didn’t faze me. Luckily I had two friends join me so I knew it was a going to be a good night all in all.

Samsui Chicken at Flavour Expats

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dinner at Scratch Supperclub in Marylebone

Lemon Olive Chicken Tagine

I love going to supperclubs. It’s a great way to discover a new chef, eat some delicious food and meet new people outside your social circle. Last month, I attended a 'Scratch Supperclub' dinner in Marylebone hosted by Michelle, a lovely Australian ex-chef who’s been doing these events for a while. The dinner was 8 course menu with Moroccan influences (inspired by her recent trip to Morocco).

We barged in a few minute late – so any awkwardness I felt about entering the rather intimate setting of stranger’s home quickly dissipated. We were just in time for the first starter, a Chermoula and Lamb crostini which was utterly delicious. As I tasted the first bite of slow-cooked lamb, in an instant all my fears vanished. Who knew how this night would go but it was certainly starting off on a good note.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pieds Nus: the Excellent yet Expensive Pop-up Restaurant

Pieds Nus was pretty much perfect.

Delicate little plates of food showing creativity and skill that introduced you to flavour combinations that you wouldn’t have thought worked so well like the scallop ceviche served with fennel and cucumber.

Scallop ceviche with fennel and cucumber

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Lockhart: serving Southern style comfort food in London

If I could, I would move to Seymour Place. There are so many great restaurants popping up in and around that area. And the best part is, they are not massively popular or trendy unlike most places you go to in Soho – so for the same quality of food or even better, there’s much less hassle making a reservation. These restaurants are central being right next to Marble Arch yet so unknown to the masses that they get to retain their local, neighbourhood feel and ..NO QUEUES! None of that “no reservation” stuff and even if you do turn up without one, they always try to accommodate you. I remember once we went to Donostia – the Basque tapas restaurant  on the spur of the moment  and were told it would be around 15 minutes and we could wait at the pub next door. 10 minutes later, one of the owners of Donostia pops by into the pub and tells us our table is ready! How refreshing is that?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pizza Pilgrims: Soho Pizzeria serving up Naples-style pizza

When I visited Naples, I had the best pizza ever. It was nothing like I had before – oozing fresh mozzarella and bubbling tomato sauce on top of a super thin crust with a few shards of basil strewn around. So utterly simple, delightful messy and totally delicious.

I’m happy to declare that pizza served up in Pizza Pilgrims came pretty close to that experience. We tried the Fennel Sausage and wild Broccoli pizza which was a big hit – tons of tasty sausage, broccoli and mozzarella and interestingly, no tomato sauce added.
Less successful was the Aubergine Parmigiana pizza where the cubes of aubergine tasted a bit under-cooked. I wished they had thinly sliced the aubergine like the pizza I had in Naples instead of dicing it up – it would have cooked better on the pizza. But other than that  I can’t complain. Super cheap – each pizza is about £9 to £11, tasty and filling and with drinks, we paid £15 per person. We also went at the magical time of 3:30 pm – hence we were able to waltz right in without having to queue for an hour (which was the time given to me last time I attempted going there)