Tonkotsu, Soho

With the colder weather setting it, there’s no better time to fill up on ramen. Who am I kidding, I eat ramen all year round but ya know, cold weather and a bowl of hot deliciousness just seems like a match made in heaven. Any excuse. Having been to Bone Daddies more times than I can recall, it was about time I branched out. To Tonkotsu! A similar style restaurant where queues can pile up and there’s a small but tempting menu.
We began our meal being rained on. Yep, being rained on, inside. Weird? Dangerous? Confusing? All of the above. But we were swiftly moved to a new table despite the growing queue of eager ramen eaters. Good luck to those we left behind with water dripping from the ceiling, plopping into their bowls. Upstairs was considerably drier, but service was slow. Very slow indeed. We had to call over the waiter to make any kind of headway with our meal whether it was ordering drinks or asking for the bill. But once ordered the food arrived quickly, so quickly in fact that we hadn’t even got our drinks…
IMG_0594.JPG
And boy did we need those drinks as the ramen was a taste sensation but also a salt overload. So much so that I woke up in the night ready to drink a river. I went for the ‘Tonkotsu’ which was – rich, sea salt-based pork stock and thin noodles topped with slices of melt-in-the-mouth pork belly, half a seasoned soft-boiled egg, menma, bean sprouts and spring onions. So sure, given the description may be I should have expected to be rather thirsty after consuming a whole bowl of sea salt-based pork stock. Regardless I didn’t enjoy the effect the saltiness had after the meal but of course, as with most salt packed food, enjoyed it immensely whilst consuming. The pork was as described, melt in the mouth and the noodles still had a little bite without being under done. All in all, I would head back here again for more of this meaty ramen but would be more careful as to stock up on liquids afterwards. May be I’m just being precious so I would love to hear about your ramen experiences!

Burgers & Cocktails, Marylebone

Burgers & Cocktails is on the busy, food-filled street of James Street. Great for a hot day, the open plan restaurant has a nice breeze and light and airy feel, something that is often lacking from burger joints around the city. It has a solid selection of burgers to choose from (who would have thought?) that goes beyond (but does include) the common found pulled pork burger.
I decided to go for the Korean Burger – beef patty, sriracha & lime ailoi, pickles, kimchi slaw with cucumber, korean bbq sauce & crispy shallots. image2 2
For me, the burger was heavy on the slaw meaning the sriracha I was looking forward to was rather underwhelming. Whilst it was a tasty burger, it was the sriracha which caught my eye and so I was disappointed that it was lacking in any kind of spice. However, everyone else had 10/10 reviews for their burgers which included The Matador and The Rodeo Chicken Burger. We also had some Sloppy Joe Fries (smothered with chipotle beef chilli & melting cheese)…
image1 2
On paper and in the flesh they looked like everything I had hoped for in a chilli-cheese-chip combo. It was Korean Burger take 2 in that the chilli lacked spice – who wants Bolognese with kidney beans on chips? Not me thanks. Also the cheese added little but the stringy consistency you get from melted cheese. Priced at £4.95 I would have hoped for something a little more memorable.
Given the reviews of the other burgers I would like to head back here to try the others on offer before ruling the place out completely. Burgers are everywhere in London and Burger and Cocktails simply can’t compete in an already packed market. Patty & Bun is just across the road, Meat Liqour is a short walk away, both of which I would choose over a further visit here.
Overall, Burgers and Cocktails offers everything I look for in a meal out but unfortunately on this occasion just failed to deliver the goods.

 

Grain Store, King’s Cross

The dream would be to have my own restaurant. Let me be more specific and relevant to the blog post title The dream would be to have my own restaurant exactly like Grain Store. Why? Well let me tell you…
  1. The food is a dream come true – I could have had anything and everything! There’s one thing that makes good food taste even better – knowing you are eating seasonal produce with sustainability at it’s very core. Plus you’ll see a good number of small suppliers on their website.
  2. The drinks are exciting and delicious – you’ll be sure to try something new whether it’s a juice, smoothie or cocktail. And importantly, you know you can trust these lot to throw together a corker, even if you haven’t heard of half of the ingredients.
  3. It’s just a cool kinda place to be – mix matched water jugs, your bill in wooden pear. It’s a pretty big restaurant and it seemed busy yet spacious. Plus you can book – call me Grandma but gotta love a good old fashioned booking at a popular place like Grain Store!
  4. The open kitchen. I found myself watching the chefs as they served up dish after dish – creepy? Sorry about that but can’t promise I won’t do it again on my next visit.
Time to look at pictures! I opted for kimchi & mince pork Chinese pancake, peanut sauce, coriander & spring onion… Yes please and thank you very much, I will have that again.
image1
Dessert – a rare occurrence for me but the light and fresh options offered up meant I couldn’t resist… Another beautiful dish which made the fruit the star of the show. Fresh strawberries, goats’ milk pannacotta with fennel pollen. Fennel pollen? Yeah, I’m not sure either but I can tell you it tastes good.
image2
Grain Store is a place where you can expect style and substance. Where you know you can place your trust in the genius creatives behind the menu when they offer up things like kaffir lime green tapioca with sweet potato for dessert. I would go back again and again – I won’t be having the same thing twice but only because, like a true trooper, I must try everything on the menu.

 

Queenswood, Battersea

Queenswood – a cosey restaurant set in Battersea Square with a small but strong brunch menu. Our visit started with a frosty welcome and service was a little slow with things like tap water and sauces failing to arrive. But overall the staff were friendly and welcoming. I spent a good ten minutes trying to decide between the Mexican Egg and the Smoked Haddock Kedgeree… I went for the Mexican Egg but wished I had gone for the latter after it arrived. The egg was over baked and looked like it had been left under a heat lamp for a few minutes too long. The smoky pepper sauce lacked the smokiness I was hoping for… tasty but rather mediocre. The bread also had the same appearance as the egg – something a bit softer would have been nice for mopping up the sauce.

IMG_7336

Sarah went for the avocado on toast with a side of bacon. I had food envy and food envy does not suit me. I don’t deal well with it. She gave it a solid 10/10. It had a healthy helping of avocado and an egg cooked to perfection. Do I sound bitter?

IMG_7338

We had one gluten free diner who went for the QW English – unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of gluten free alternatives for the sausages and bread so these were removed. I thought it was a little off that they still charged the same price for the dish and didn’t offer to replace for extra bacon or beans.
I will definitely be heading back here to sample the dinner menu which looks right up my street.

Dip and Flip, Wimbledon

Gravy. No roast is complete without gravy. I feel strongly that this could be extended to chips, sliced meat sandwiches and burgers. Obviously. To make all your dipping dreams come true Dip and Flip serve up a side of gravy with every burger and sandwich. As if they weren’t tasty enough already, the gravy adds that little bit of… hmm… that little bit of… DAM tastiness. You get me? Wondering why my sandwich has a candle in it? Yeh! It was my birthday meal venue of choice and I don’t regret it one bit.
I went for the sliced beef sandwich with Dijon mustard, gherkins and white cabbage slaw. Gravy in it and gravy on the side. Chips were smothered in mozzarella and… gravy!
IMG_7282.JPG
On previous visits I’ve had the Dip and Flip burger – cheese burger topped with sliced lamb…

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 19.33.24

This is a no book kinda establishment so get in early or be ready to queue. The Wimbledon branch is the biggest so head here if you’ve got a large party. Otherwise go to Clapham Junction or Tooting. For true comfort food that goes above and beyond your standard burger, Dip and Flip is the place.

Flesh & Buns, Covent Garden

The clue is in the title – buns (the best kind of buns going if you ask me). Flesh & Buns offer delicious Japanese food with the buns being the star of the show – you can choose from a range of top-notch fillings and then pile them up yourself, at your table.
My parents and brother were visiting and so I decided Flesh & Buns was the perfect opportunity to show them what London has to offer. This is how it began:Ccz_lUxWwAAaPXJ.jpg-large
A chopstick lesson from Harry (my brother) for my Dad. The chopsticks didn’t last long. After much deliberation we went for the tasting menu. It was perfect for us as it gave us the opportunity to try lots of new things in manageable sizes. It’s a five course tasting menu which is reasonably priced at £35 or £54 if you want wine pairings.
In order of appearance…
1. Rice crackers with avocado shiso & tomato jalapeño. A glass of prosecco regardless of whether you have chosen the wine pairings option. Sorry, no picture the hunger pangs were too strong.
2. Salmon avocado roll & tuna tataki
image3
3. Fried squid and Korean fried wings
image2
4. Buns with crispy duck leg and crispy piglet belly (pork pictured bellow)
image5
5. S’mores – passionfruit marshmallows, almond chocolate and crackers
image4
Overall, we were four happy dinners at the end of the evening. I would eat every course again (everyday if possible) but a personal favourite was the salmon and sushi. My Dad and brother really enjoyed the Korean fried wings. Whether you’re a Japanese novice or expert, Flesh & Bun’s serve up wholesome, flavoursome food that will leave you tummy happy.

KaoSarn, Battersea

The “South East Asia in London” tour in London continues, and this time at an understated, family run restaurant called KaoSarn serving up the best Thai food. Where meals could be straight from a Thai kitchen, every dish is wholesome, flavoursome and generous.  Rosanna and I went for the Kauy Tiew Gai-Toon… that’s a Bangkok style noodle soup with bean sprouts, minced pork, fish balls and fried king prawns to you and me. And my oh my was it tasty.
image1 2The soup was packed full of flavour with just the right amount of spice – the waitress checked how hot we wanted it and we went for mild which was perfect for our British tongues.

image2 2

Sarah went for the Pad Thai which came with vegetables and tofu. All round top reviews from her too.
KaoSarn is Bring Your Own Booze – so don’t expect to to break the bank with a visit here with main dishes around £10. For real Thai food from the heart, head to KaoSarn (Battersea or Brixton).

DF/Mexico, Shoreditch

If you like…
  1. Mexican food
  2. Enough Mexican food to have the desire/need to undo the top button of your trousers… for under £10
  3. Mexican food that arrives in a flash
…then, would you believe it, I think I’ve found the place for you/my friend has found the place for you but I’m the one writing about you so I’m going to attempt to take the credit.
DF/Mexico is a self service style restaurant (but there are lots of friendly people too) with a great menu and very importantly, a great sauce collection too. If you like the sound of chipotle ketchup or mayo or may be salsa verde in a bottle then all your sauce dreams have come true. For those who aren’t excited by this, you may need to reconsider your priorities. I went for the daily special which was a buttermilk fried chicken torta (Mexican sandwich served New York style in a toasted brioche bun with smashed avocado, slaw and house pickle) served with crinkly chips. Let’s take a quick second to ponder on the thought that is WHY AREN’T CRINKLY CHIPS EVERYWHERE I GO?! Yep, let’s get crinkly chips of the chip map people.

image1

These delightful lot went for the chilli beef torta as well as the slow cooked pork burrito. They were also happy chappies – big up to Rosie the burrito eater for the recommendation.

 

You may be thinking – “why are they all picking up their plates… is that normal?” Well I can tell you they all ate it in one, plate and all. If that isn’t a strong recommendation for a meal that I don’t know what is. Let’s start the crinkly chip revolution!

Laos Cafe by Saiphin, Victoria

I always thought of Victoria as a place with very little in the way of great food. Well, those days are over… enter Laos Cafe! I decided it would be a good idea to meet here with a few friends to reminisce over travels long ago; any excuse to eat. The pop up is sticking around until the end of Feb when it will then close for refurbishment and open again in March, bringing with it a flavour of Rosa’s Thai Cafe – what’s not to like? I’ll tell you more…
The cafe in its current state is basic but cosey – as you walk in you see chefs in full action and get wafts of delicious things to come. We started with a few nibbles…
image3 image1
On the left, spicy pork patties (laab tod) which were (as described) spicy, meaty and they certainly whetted our appetite for things to come. On the right, isaan sausages (saigrok-isaan) which were really juicy and tender and probably my favourite of the two.
The Laos Cafe serves sharing dishes, the idea being you get a mixture of meats, salad and rice/noodles to share with people you like (or people you don’t like, who cares, as long as there’s plenty of food). We went for a papaya salad which had a delicious nutty dressing. We also had spicy minced duck which sure was spicy and very nearly caused tears at the table, char-grilled chicken which was beautifully simple and served with a spicy dipping sauce and finally sticky white and brown rice. My favourites were the chicken as well as the sticky rice. I probably wouldn’t have the duck again, purely because I’m pathetic and couldn’t handle the spice, but it was really tasty when wrapped with the lettuce served with it.
image4
Overall, a top evening packed with great food. The drinks menu is small but varied – a good selection of wines as well as Chang beer and iced teas. The service was friendly and the food arrived quickly. So if you want to remember times gone by or just want a taste of Laotian food, get yourself to the Laos Cafe quick – or put it on the list for when it returns!

Bluebird Café, Chelsea

You rock up to a restaurant to find they’ve finished serving brunch and you think WHY GOD WHY? But then you see their lunch menu and you think life isn’t so bad after all. First thing to note, brunch finishes at 11.30, lunch starts at 12.00. Second thing to note, this isn’t a bad thing, the lunch menu is pretty dam great. Third thing to note, the waiting staff are great and super chilled.
As you might have realised, we arrived just as brunch was finishing. Nevertheless, we were shown to a table and looked after until lunch was ready to roll. I went for the shrimp tempura with kalwanji seeds (what the hell are they?)  nori and spicy mayo, SEE YA LATER brunch you’re  not needed. Just me and the shrimp…
image1
The lack of brunch really got to us so naturally we had to have dessert…
image2
Apple crumble. The love of my life. What can you say about apple crumble other than it was warm, delicious, unhealthy and perfect? Nothing. If you want a chilled meal with options galore then Bluebird Cafe is ideal. I can’t comment on brunch but I’m going to go ahead and say it’s probably pretty fantastic too.