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.

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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!
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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…
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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.
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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…
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The lack of brunch really got to us so naturally we had to have dessert…
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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.

The Ivy, Covent Garden

 The first hurdle was getting in but after several laps of the building we found door that was very much so a door. How did we not see it sooner? We were greeted warmly and shown to our table. Set in a beautifully furnished room and sat right next to an incredible bar our hopes were high for the food to come. You might know The Ivy as being rather expensive and you wouldn’t be wrong but there is a very reasonably priced set menu (two courses for £21.75). I was umming and arring but when I caught a glimpse of the food buzzing around me, my mind was made up. For starters:
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Fried duck egg, black pudding bon bons, girolles & toast. It was the perfect starter – hearty enough to not feel like you’ve been served a plate of fresh air but not so feeling you feel threatened by the idea of a main. The egg was cooked as an egg should be and beautifully runny and rich. For mains:
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Cornish cod fillet, creamed spinach, cauliflower, trompettes & bacon. Trompettes? What a great word. Well it’s a kind of mushroom and a tasty one at that. In fact they were possibly one of my favourite parts – big up to the trompettes. The cod had a lovely crispy skin and flaked away like a dream come true.
So don’t rule The Ivy out if you’re not up for splashing the cash. The set menu provides a good selection and is kind on the wallet. Granted it’s still a tad bit more expensive than your standard 2 course menu but you pay for great, attentive service as well as some mighty fine loos.

Comptoir Libanais, Soho

The most dangerous places are those that serve great food AND sell the recipe books telling you how to bloody well make it. Am I in a dream or a nightmare? All I know is my soul is happy about it but my waistline is yelling NOOOOO. Well no fear, back off waistline, I don’t care about you. The vast menu of words I have never heard before left me fearing for my soul but our great waitress answered all our questions; she showed us pictures from the recipe book and bought us little bits and bobs to try to help us make up our mind. We got some Baba Ghanuj to share which was really tasty and got our tastebuds ready for the delights to come.
IMG_5427In the end I went for the Fattet Lamb Kibbeh (minced lamb wheat parcels with pine nuts, warm tahini yoghurt, garnished with crispy pita & fried onions) and my oh my I’ve landed in yoghurt heaven.
IMG_5432The waitress told us we wouldn’t need any sides and she was right. The fattet was so rich with the hot yoghurt that we were bursting at the seams. The crispy onions and pomegranate were delicious on top of the lamb and yoghurt and balanced it out nicely. Head to Comptoir Libanais for tasty, heart-warming food with great service! What more could you want…?

Gazette, Battersea

A few weeks back my aunt visited London. This meant one thing, food everywhere. She came armed with curly wurly brownies from Borough Market as well as cheese. Brownies for us lot, cheese for some other lucky buggers – don’t touch the cheese, I didn’t touch the cheese, I knew better than to touch cheese than didn’t belong to me (I really wanted the cheese though OK?!). Anyway, this post isn’t about cheese.

We headed to Gazette which is right by Wandsworth Bridge. Whilst it’s a cosey French restaurant, it actually seats quite a few but the service felt personal and quick. We went on a Wednesday so it was ladies night (a free cocktail or pudding – since we had the brownies at home, we went for the cocktails). I had a mojito…
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It was a super tasty mojito with an added swirl of strawberry puree at the top. It was a pleasant surprise and it went down far too easily. For starter I had Cocotte Meurette – fried eggs and toast with pancetta and mushroom in a red wine sauce. It was absolutely delicious but perhaps a little large. No one needs three fried eggs, especially in a starter. “too big?! Don’t eat it all then”… IMPOSSIBLE. I can’t control myself when it comes to food, especially food that tastes this good.

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The eggs were perfectly cooked and the flavour of the mushroom and pancetta were delicate.  Next up I had Le Burger Gazette – now we don’t need to speak French to work that one out. It came with cheese, a warm tomato relish and salad. Of course there were chips – crispy but chunky (one of the few places you don’t have to buy chips at an additional cost).

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It was a very tasty burger but I was left feeling a little jealous of my fellow diners steaks. With the competition of burgers in London the Gazette burger could not compete. It lacked the real juiciness packed full of flavour I have tested in rival burgers, this is not to say it was dry!

Overall it was a delightful meal, the starter was outstanding, the main less so. The drinks were quick to arrive and a little different (in a good way).

Dishoom, Covent Garden

The rule that if a place looks busy then it must be good is a rule I like to live by. When I saw the the long queue forming outside of Dishoom I thought, well, this is a place I need to visit. We shipped in some friends straight after work to get us a table and joined them a tad later. The smells coming from the open kitchen on the ground floor assured me we were in for a treat. Treats all round! For main I had the Chicken Ruby – ‘a good and proper curry redolent with spice and flavour. Tender chicken in a rich silky ‘makhani’ sauce’ according to Dishoom. With it I had garlic naan and basmati rice. It sure was a treat and made for a fantastic Monday night.

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The curry was packed full of flavour, the sauce nice and thick. It had a slight kick but it didn’t overpower the dish. The chicken was so tender it just fell apart in my mouth. And let me tell you, dunking that garlic naan in the curry was a dream come true. I was full to the brim but decided whilst I was here, a dessert was in order. I had pineapple and black pepper crumble… tangy fresh pineapple infused with black pepper and Keralan vanilla, bedded beneath a layer of crumble topping. Served warm, with custard on the side. I do love a good crumble and this one was up there in my crumble rankings. The pineapple wasn’t too sharp, a delicious crumble filling I have to say!
image 4By this point I really was ready to burst. The food overall was heart-warming and true in true comfort food style tasty yet plentiful. I really want to head back soon to try the Dishoom brunch menu which looks fantastic. So get in line and try Dishoom. It’s a comfortable and warming place to eat with really friendly staff.