Monday, November 29, 2010

Yuforia Soup Kitchen

Covent Garden Piazza
Southeast corner

Living Social was doing a deal on Yuforia Soup Kitchen's soups - you could get 5 meals for £12, which works out to a very reasonable £2.40 for soup and bread. With the wintry weather we've been enduring in London, soup is often exactly what I'm looking for at lunch time, so I bought a voucher to give Yuforia Soup Kitchen a try. The soup is actually made by a company called GLORIOUS! (which makes me want to snark on them a little, because I detest names for companies that are such ridiculous overstatements), but thankfully their soups are actually quite good. So far I've had the tomato & chorizo (which also had thickening lentils in it, perfect for keeping you full through the afternoon) and the Malaysian chicken pictured above in a bread bowl. I adore bread bowls for soup - you get something to dip in the soup, and then you get to eat the soup, and then you get to eat more soup-soaked bread - it's like the dish that keeps on giving. The only thing that could make this perfect is if they had some clam chowder on the menu, so I could transport myself back to San Francisco in my tummy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Cricketers

Cricket Hill Lane
GU46 6BA

The Cricketers was helpfully located a short distance away from the M3 on our drive back to London, so it was chosen for a Sunday lunch gathering before the last leg of our return. Considering the dire state of the three pubs that we popped into and rejected before finding The Cricketers, it didn't really need to be all that nice for us to pick it, but thankfully it was actually quite lovely inside, with friendly staff and sturdy tables that fit seven hungry guests well. I had very ordinary scampi and chips, and was quite jealous of W's Sunday roast wrap (a huge flat Yorkshire pudding wrapped around roast beef, peas and mash, with a boat of gravy on the side). The real star of the meal was the dessert board though - see above for the ridiculous selection that arrived. The cheesecake was some of the best I've had in England (I know! I was surprised too!) Hilariously, when Googling to get the address of the pub for this post, I also discovered it was the site of an robbery, complete with machetes, in September - thankfully nothing that exciting happened while we were there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lyme Bay Kitchen and Bar

44/45 Coombe Street
Lyme Regis

Since the rest of the Lyme Regis gang had been to Lyme Bay Kitchen and Bar in May and loved it, we came back for B's birthday dinner. It was a roaring success again (and apologies to the rest of the diners if our rowdy group of seven was literally roaring in glee in our corner). K, W and I decided to split starters so that we could try a few more things. The whitebait pictured above was my favorite by far - I think I have enjoyed whitebait every time I have ordered it, so perhaps I need to keep an eye out for it more often. We also had a slow roasted red pepper starter (filled with goat’s cheese, black olives, sundried tomatoes and pine nuts topped with parmesan) that was nice but I was much more focused on stuffing whitebait in my mouth. For my main, I went with W's recommendation and had the Tagliatelle Louis (tiger prawns, bacon, spring onions, tomato, white wine, garlic, chilli topped with langoustine and lemon). Perfectly al dente pasta, coated in seafoody garlicky chilli juices was scarfed down - the large portion size meant that I was so full afterwards that I couldn't manage any dessert. I believe we were drinking copious bottles of house red, which was quaffable, and all I know is that we plunged into the rather cold night full of cheer - exactly how B's birthday celebrations should be.

Monday, November 22, 2010


48 Dean Street

Rosa's started with a branch in Spitalfields and has now expanded to Soho. J, M, A and I were meeting up for dinner before seeing Josie Long at the Soho Theatre, and our original plans were to go for Vietnamese across the street, but Rosa's looked so warm and inviting that we spontaneously seized the moment and went there instead. We shared some Thai calamari and poo nim thai herb (deep fried soft shell crab) to start - both were well fried, crisp but not grea
sy, and got us ready for our mains. I chose a bizarre dish just because it sounded rather intriguing - Spaghetti Khee Maow Ta Lae (stir-fried spaghetti with seafood, chilli, garlic and basil). It was lovely - spicy flavors balanced nicely against savoury seafood-infused spaghetti - and it makes me think I can use spaghetti at home for more than Italian food. A enjoyed his pad thai, and J and M seemed to like what they ordered as well, so all in all, a success. If I was looking for Thai in Soho, I'd go here again.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


11 Langley Street

As soon as I found out Hawksmoor was opening their second branch in Covent Garden, I knew I had to visit. This was my favorite steakhouse, back when I worked in the City, and now it's a quick walk from my new job! The announcement of 50% off food during their soft opening clinched the deal - I used all my powers on Facebook and Twitter to guarantee that A and I had a reservation for a steak-fest. 

We went on a Tuesday night and entered a restaurant that looks like a temple to meat - dark woods and leathers and soft, dim lighting gave it a very masculine atmosphere that suited the fact that everyone was there to eat giant slabs of cow. I had one minor gripe about the meal, and that is the table at which we were sat - they've put all these dinky tables for two people against one wall, so one person gets to sit on the leather banquette seat facing the room, and the other person gets a view of their dining partner and a brick wall. They're really packed in tight, so it felt uncomfortably close to the couple next to us, and when the dishes all arrived, there wasn't really enough room for everything. 
Aside from being a bit cramped, though, the dinner was fantastic. Six briny fresh oysters to start, followed by a 950g porterhouse, triple cooked chips, steamed spinach and grilled portobello mushrooms. I think perhaps the steak was too large to eat quickly enough before it cooled off, but that is my own greedy fault for ordering that much steak for two people. Not to worry, we finished it anyway, with a nice Rioja to wash it down. After staggering away from our table, we stopped in the bar for what was supposed to be a single after dinner drink, which turned into two  and a chat with Shaky Pete, Hawksmoor's bartender extraordinaire. 
Next time, I shall ask for a large table to accommodate all the food I plan on ordering, and then it will be perfect.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


35 Maiden Ln
WC2E 7

Rules was the location of one of our big blowout dinners for 2010. A and I have both made some career changes, and it was time to celebrate! After terrific drinks upstairs in the bar, we headed downstairs to feast. Rules is famed for their selection of game, and they actually have their own estate on which they hunt the grouse that is served in the restaurant. Since I have always wanted to try grouse, where better to have my first taste, right? The magnificent bird in the picture is what appeared - two strips of crispy bacon draped on top, with a great cabbage and bacon side on the left, and game chips on the right. A small boat of bread sauce was available as well, which went perfectly with the gamey and rare bird. Thank goodness I was eating with A - it meant I could ignore all good table manners and start destroying the bird down to the bones. My napkin was covered in bloody grouse juices by the end of the meal and I'm pretty sure I had a look of complete bliss on my face - this is one of my top meals in London, ever. A was seriously enjoying his ribeye steak as well - I have a feeling it won't be hard to convince him to come back the next time we want to celebrate something big.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


20 Bow Street


With most of the office away, those of us left behind went for a lunch at Zizzi to console ourselves. There was a deal - buy one meal, get the second one for 
£1 extra. This worked out to a very reasonable £7.50 a head after service was included. But, you say, how was the food? Well, I guess it was as expected - I had the calzone displayed above - it was ridiculously large, and while it was supposed to be spicy, instead of evenly distributed heat, there were small bombs of fiery jalapeno slices in there that you would occasionally get. I certainly felt unable to eat for another 8 hours after the meal, so it did its job - I think next time I would opt for a more reasonable pasta dish though as this was just a bit too much to handle for lunch. Fine for a chain that offers vouchers for its food, but certainly not anything special.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Norway Inn


The Norway Inn was on our way back to London so it made the ideal spot for Sunday lunch before heading home. We had booked (thank goodness) so were quickly seated, and while A and his dad had already decided to go with the Sunday carvery option, A's mom and I ordered off the extensive menu. I definitely suffered from food envy when my dish came out - the slightly dried-out looking steak with a sad little fried egg is what showed up, though the colcannon on the side was pretty good. A's massive Sunday roast definitely was the right choice, even if the picture is a little horrifying - I kept sneaking bites of the cauliflower gratin and the roast potatoes were fantastically crispy. A was also given a choice between the rare and medium beef, and picked the rare which was lovely and pink and tender. If we ever head back, I know what I'm going to get next time!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Street Kitchen

Street food is all the rage, as I've noted before, and even fine dining chefs are getting in on the action. Lucky for me, Street Kitchen was located in Covent Garden for a little while, meaning I could try them out on my lunch break. The excellent chefs (Jun Tanaka and Mark Jankel) behind this operation want to bring well-sourced, gourmet food to the streets and I think they have succeeded. I tried the hot smoked salmon with beetroot, crushed potato and horseradish, which came in an environmentally friendly cardboard box with wooden utensils, rather than the usual styrofoam and plastic. It was a modest portion for £6.50, but every bite was so delicious that I didn't mind and it was still enough for lunch - I'd much rather spend money on good food than buy large portions of terrible food. The care that the chefs were taking with constructing each lunch box was lovely to see and I hope this encourages more people to take to the streets for their food.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tuna Crostini

So I admit that I probably chose the easiest recipe in Jason Atherton's Gourmet Food for a Fiver to try first. But come on, I'm no chef, and sometimes when I get home from work I just want to eat something quick and tasty. We should all be thankful that there even is an easy recipe in this book, seeing as how he's a Michelin-starred chef. The brilliant thing about this recipe though is that it is better than what I would normally make on a lazy night, without being any more difficult. I've mixed tuna, beans and parsley together before, but little extra touches like marinated artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes add bursts of additional flavor that make this really interesting to eat. I was also lucky in that I had some fresh seeded wholemeal bread at home, which made an excellent base for the crostini. While I ate my quick dinner, I read through the other recipes in the book, tabbing the ones that caught my eye, and now I've got loads more ideas to try...

Tuna Crostini
From Gourmet Food for a Fiver by Jason Atherton
Serves 4 as a starter or very light meal


100g tinned tuna in olive oil
6 marinated artichoke hearts, halved (I used a jar of marinated, quartered artichoke hearts)
150g tinned canneloni beans (I used a tin of borlotti beans that I already had)
2 tsp chopped parsley (I used a bit more, I love parsley)
2 tsp chopped shallots (I omitted due to miscalculations on how many shallots I had)
6 sun-blushed tomatoes, halved (I used jarred, sun-dried tomatoes)
4 slices of country bread (I used my seeded wholemeal bread)
4 tbsp Aioli (I omitted)
handful of rocket leaves
sea salt
olive oil, to drizzle (I didn't think it needed more as tuna, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes were all packed in olive oil)


Flake tuna into a bowl. Add artichoke hearts, beans, tomatoes, parsley and shallots and toss together.

Toast the bread.

Spread each slice of toast with aioli and place on serving plate. Pile tuna mixture on top and scatter over rocket leaves. Sprinkle with sea salt and add a generous drizzle of olive oil.

*Thanks to Quadrille for sending me a copy to review.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tangy Chickpea Curry & Bengali Yogurt Fish

Ok, let's be honest - I've always been a little intimidated by recipes for Indian food, probably due to the many spices that are required. However, I like to tackle my fears, and ever since a blissful week eating my friend V's mom's homecooked Indian food several years ago, I've wanted to try and make some at home myself. There's a different quality to homecooked food that you just can't get in restaurants, no matter how good they are. Thankfully, Anjum Anand, author of I Love Curry, has come to the rescue with a book full of curry recipes that are done with a lighter touch on the oil. While it was hard to pick which recipes to try first, I went with a couple that wouldn't require me to purchase too many new things to start off with. Both came out wonderfully - the spicing was distinctly different and flavors were delicate yet full - not like the takeaway curries I've had before. I can't wait to try out more, and while I'm writing out the recipe for the Tangy Chickpea Curry here, if you're interested in trying out more Indian dishes at home, get this book.

Tangy Chickpea Curry
From I Love Curry by Anjum Anand
Serves 4-5


12g fresh ginger, peeled
4 fat garlic cloves
2 largish tomatoes, quartered (I used 3 smallish ones)
5-6 tbsp vegetable oil (I used slightly less than 5)
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod (I didn't have this so just used an extra green cardamom pod)
2 large shards of cinnamon
2 tsp cumin seeds (I used ground as I didn't have whole seeds)
2-3 green chillies, whole but pierced (I used 2 birds eye chillies since that's what I had)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli powder (I used closer to 1/4 tsp due to the birds eye chillies)
salt, to taste
2 x 400g cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 -2/3 tsp tamarind paste, or dried pomegranate powder (sadly I had to omit this as I didn't have it)
handful of finely chopped fresh coriander


Blend together the ginger, garlic and tomatoes with a little water until smooth with a stick blender. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon and half the cumin seeds and cook until they release their aroma and start to crackle. Add the green chillies and onion and cook until the onion is well browned. Add the tomato paste with the turmeric, ground coriander, chilli powder and salt and cook over a moderate to high heat until the oil comes out at the sides (around 15 minutes), stirring often.

Meanwhile, use the remaining cumin seeds to make roasted cumin powder. Put them in a small dry pan for about 40 seconds, stirring constantly, until they have darkened quite a bit. Grind to a fine powder. Add this to the pot.

Add the chickpeas and 500ml water. Bring to a boil then simmer over a medium heat for seven or eight minutes. Stir in the garam masala and tamarind paste. Mash a few of the chickpeas on the side of the pan to thicken the sauce a little. Taste for seasoning and tartness, adjusting if necessary, then sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve.

*Thanks to Quadrille for sending me a copy to review.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


53 St. Giles High Street

J and I had a craving for Korean food and I stumbled upon Assa when looking for places around Tottenham Court Road. We arranged to meet there on the early side for lunch, and that was smart - it's a small restaurant that fills up very quickly! When we left, there were quite a few people waiting outside for their chance at a table. The lunch specials are pretty great value - around £5.50 for a meal that comes with a couple of banchan (we were given bean sprouts and a really tangy seaweed dish). The only flaw in the meal is that I think the kitchen forgot about my dish - J had her lunch for about 15 minutes before I finally asked where my food was. The waiter was apologetic and my dish appeared 5 minutes later, but it was a bit odd getting my food when J had almost finished hers! Still, once I had my spicy tofu stew in front of me, I didn't really care so much about the wait - it was savory and warming and full of flavor - I shall be back, and I will keep a closer eye on getting my food next time.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Oliver's Fish and Chips

95 Haverstock Hill

Oliver's Fish and Chips
is a cute little chippy in Belsize Park - apparently it was founded by the same people who started Millie's Cookies. The inside is well-lit and cheerful, and W and I were seated quickly. About 15 minutes later, the restaurant was heaving and there was a line out the door for takeout, so it looks like people in the neighborhood are pretty excited about it. We both opted for matzo-encrusted hake with side of chips, and were pleased with how fresh the fish tasted. The matzo option was a nice change from batter as well. The side of mushy peas were flecked with mint, prices were reasonable and service was pretty efficient - all in all, a nice place to eat locally if you are lucky enough to live in this area.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Herman ze German

19 Villiers Street

P had the marvellous idea of getting currywurst one night - thankfully for currywurst lovers, Herman ze German has opened up close to Charing Cross/Embankment. It's a small space with hardly any room for eating - you can stand next to a thin counter on the wall or try and snag the bench outside - but currywurst isn't really sit down dining food anyway. The key to loving this is loving currywurst sauce - it drenches the sausage (your choice of several different types, I went with bratwurst) and a lot of the fries as well - so you better like the tangy, sort of ketchupy-spiked-with-curry-powder taste of it, or this would be a terrible meal for you. Thankfully, I am a big fan and P and I happily gobbled up our portions before venturing off for more drinks.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Mien Tay

122 Kingsland Road
E2 8DP

After attending my first (and probably last) Pilates session with C, we decided to reward ourselves with some light and fresh Vietnamese food. Mien Tay had been recommended by some other friends so we found ourselves inside, looking over a menu that had surprises like goat on it. My curiosity piqued, I had to try the chargrilled goat for lunch, along with some stir fried morning glory on the side for my greens quota. C went with the more traditional pho, which she enjoyed. The goat was surprisingly tender and had a lovely smoky aroma to it - the pickled carrots on the side were fantastic for cutting through the meaty taste as well. And morning glory will always be one of my all time favorite Asian vegetables - I should really make it more often at home. Add Mien Tay to the list of fabulous Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat kindly sent me a box of their Christmas Dark Chocolate selection to try, so I brought them along on a weekend with friends to work our way through all of them. I'm probably a bit biased since I love dark chocolates, but seven of us greedily ate the entire thing in two days. There were a lot of sounds of enjoyment, particularly in relation to the rum and single malt flavored chocolates. Apparently they're very lovely with a drop of Talisker, so my whisky-loving friends tell me. My favorite was the one with a gooey salted caramel center. I thought the chilli chocolates could have been a bit more fiery, but they might be good for someone who was just being introduced to the brilliant combo of spice and chocolate. I used to pick up Hotel Chocolat products as Christmas presents for people at work - they're packaged nicely and always seemed to go over well, so it was fun to finally try some myself.