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!

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.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Clapham Junction

The GBK menu is one that filled me with confusion and despair. I have never seen such a long list of delicious sounding burgers. Do not fear though, it was a Saturday afternoon and I had all the time in the world to decide which burger to choose. After a lot of deliberation, writing up pros and cons of my favourite sounding burgers I went for the Camemburger. Want to know more… it had camembert, hash brown, truffle mayo, onion jam and relish all in a brioche bun.  Want to see more…
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Don’t tell me that isn’t one fine looking burger. Well I can tell you it sure tasted like a large helping of heaven. The Camemburger had it all. Juiciness, crispiness, cheesiness and just great old tastiness. Naturally I had to have a side of chips. I went for the sweet potato fries with baconnaise. BACONNAISE. Why haven’t I heard about this before? Why isn’t it next to the mayonnaise in the supermarket because that stuff is out of this world. It’s freshly made in the GBK kitchens which means we may have to wait a little longer until we can stock it in our own fridges so for now get yourself to GBK to try this taste sensation.
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I don’t want to seem over dramatic or anything but I walked out of GBK that day feeling great. Yes, I had just eaten my bodyweight in not-so-healthy food but YES it was brilliant and I don’t regret it one little bit. I can’t guarantee you’ll get this sense of achievement too but I would like to say it’s pretty dam likely.

The Orange, Victoria

I had the weekend from foodie heaven last weekend. My parents came to visit and  there’s only one thing beef farmers’ like more than a good plate a beef and that’s a good plate of beef they haven’t had to cook. We went to The Orange before heading to see Billy Elliot (which, by the way is incredible, you must see it!). The bar was heaving as we entered, whilst this was a good sign we where glad to be ushered upstairs to enjoy a more peaceful meal. It had a great atmosphere – a family feel and the waitresses were relaxed and chatty. We skipped straight to mains…
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Proper grub. Becky had the pork belly (with rosemary white beans, kale, apple & saffron chutney and brandy jus) which she said was delicious and not too fatty. It certainly looks good – you can’t tell me it doesn’t look good (?!). I had the Chorizo, Fivemiletown goat’s cheese, spinach & red onion jam wood fired pizza. There was just the perfect about of goats cheese as it was quite rich and the chorizo was light yet really flavoursome. It arrived… “you’ll never eat all of that” was the general consensus around the table. 15 minutes later, not one slice left. Not impressed? I also finished off a side of the truffled macaroni cheese which was glorious.
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Still not impressed? I had only had brunch 5 hours beforehand. STILL NOT IMPRESSED? Well I give up. Anyway, back to the food (as if it was ever not about the food). I was IMPRESSED by the food offered up by The Orange. Five of us dined and we were all more than happy with our choices. My Dad, the classic steak eater had a funny turn and had the mussels with a side order of chips. The slurping noises from across the table assured me he was happy with his choice and thank god otherwise we wouldn’t have heard the end of it. 
So, book Billy Elliot and go for lunch/supper at The Orange. I can guarantee you will have a fantastic time. What better combo than good food and good entertainment? I can’t think of one.

Ben’s Canteen, Battersea

I love brunch and I love Ben’s Canteen’s brunch. Last time I went I had the Smashed Avocado on Toast with poached eggs and roasted vine tomatoes which was a light and yummy option. However, when I recently went for supper it was an evening of delights and disappointments.

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I went for the Soft Shell Crab Burger served with Asian slaw and peanut mayo. I was looking forward to a deliciously meaty burger but was so disappointed as I couldn’t even taste any crab. On top of this I didn’t even get a hint of the peanut mayo. After raising the point about the very uncrabby crab burger to the waitress I was told it must just be because I got a small one. Great. The Crinkle Cut Chips unfortunately tasted like McCann oven chips – tasty but I expected more after paying £3.50. We also had a portion of the sweet potato wedges, most of which were perfect but a few rather large ones  (too large, for me) had crept into the bowl. However, I did have a great cocktail which was a Special for the evening: The Big Apple.

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Sarah had the Crunchy Chicken Burger – buttermilk spiced chicken with streaky bacon and slaw. It was a toss up between the crab burger and the chicken burger for me and I really wish I had gone for the chicken burger after hearing about how delicious it was from Sarah. She said the burger itself was really substantial and nice and juicy. The bacon was perfectly crispy too – MAJOR FOOD ENVY.

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I would certainly head back to Ben’s Canteen because I know they do great food and I love their brunch. However, I would not order the crab burger again. Also, as we left the restaurant not one member of staff said goodbye or thank you despite us walking past them which felt a little off. The service overall was friendly and quick but just a few avoidable hiccups.

Banana Tree, Clapham Junction

I have been to the Banana Tree twice now and both times I have been delighted with the food served. My most recent visit was during the week, yet the place had a lively atmosphere and there wasn’t an empty table in sight. The menu proves for difficult decisions; my mission is to try each dish – mission accepted! After much to-ing an fro-ing I decided on the crispy chicken with mango & sweet lime sauce with sweetcorn cakes, jasmine rice and the Indo house salad (combo meal).
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What an absolute treat for the tastebuds. The chicken was sticky in a wonderful sauce and the meat itself was juicy and tender. There was a little bit of everything one could possibly desire on the plate with this choice. I managed to size it all in – it wasn’t hard.
Sarah had the kajang satay sticks served with a really delicious peanut buttery sauce and steamed palm leaf rice. She also had some of the sweetcorn cakes served with a yummy dipping sauce. Again, the chicken was so tender and the sweetcorn cakes were balls of gooey goodness.
image 4We left with full tummies and happy heads. It will be difficult to not have the crispy chicken on my next visit but I am willing to branch out for the sake of the mission.