Thursday, 11 October 2012

East Street - Rathbone Place

A recent dinner with friends meant finding a restaurant in central London where we'd actually be able to get a table without queuing for hours, so we decided to head to East Street on Rathbone Place. The restaurant is set up along the same lines as Wagamama; one large room with long tables to share with your fellow diners, decorated to give it the feel of an Asian marketplace. The menu is packed with dishes from around Asia; Korean kimchi, Japanese Yaki Udon, Vietnamese Pho and Indonesian Nasi Goreng amongst others.

Whilst we read through the extensive menu we ordered some small plates to share. My favourite dish was the pork gyoza; delicious little parcels of herby minced pork, wrapped in soft dumpling dough and fried until crisp. They were served with a dark soy dip, which was perfect with the sweetness of the pork. The light and crispy sweet corn fritters were also excellent, the subtle peanut and cucumber dip that accompanied them didn't overpower the delicate flavour of the corn. Sesame prawn skewers with lime were nice, but not particularly exciting.

Sweet corn Fritters
Sesame Prawn Skewers
Minced Pork Gyoza
After A LOT of deliberation I chose Changmai Noodles; egg noodles topped with a Thai curry sauce, chicken and crispy shallots with plenty of lime squeezed on top. A simple but tasty dish, it would have been nice to have a little more heat, but they provide chilli sauce so you can add a spicy hit to your food if you fancy it. Singapore Noodles and Som Tam salad were also a hit.

Singapore Noodles
Changmai Noodles
Overall I really enjoyed my evening at East Street. The service was speedy and friendly, cocktails were standard but reasonably cheap and the food was surprisingly good. Whilst you're unlikely to get an incredibly authentic food experience, it's reasonably priced (around £7-9 for a main course, they also offer a 20% student discount) and conveniently located for a quick bite after work with friends.

East Street Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Hampshire Hog - Hammersmith

Earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to be invited to the newly opened Hampshire Hog for their bloggers evening. The Hog is the new gastro-pub from the brains behind The Engineer in Primrose Hill. Renowned for it's fantastic food, I jumped at the chance to try out their new pub with a brand new menu from Head Chef Chris Lyon. I rarely venture to West London, but the trip to Hammersmith was well worth it.

To start I had vodka & citrus cured salmon served with potato blinis and a caper berry, radish & fennel salad. The little blinis were light and fluffy and the salmon was perfectly cured, it could have done with a little creme fraiche but other than that it was a lovely, light starter. If I hadn't chosen venison for my main, I would have gone for the slow-cooked spiced lamb on toast with pomegranate seeds and spiced nuts, which looked incredible.

Smoked Salmon on potato blinis
Slow cooked lamb
For my main I opted for pepper-crusted venison with carrot puree, potato & sage gallette, grilled leeks & redcurrants which was every bit as delicious as it sounds. The venison was cooked perfectly, rare in the middle with caramelised edges. The sweetness of the carrot puree and the sharpness from the redcurrants worked brilliantly with the richness of the meat, a really great dish. 

Venison on carrot puree
And finally I tucked into a chocolate fondant with a melting middle (no picture due to my leaving my phone and camera at home, good work), served with vanilla ice cream and a slab of honeycomb, you can't go wrong with that can you? 

The pub itself has been beautifully decked out, helped out by the lovely high ceilings and huge windows. All in all, it was a fantastic evening, certainly worth the long trip from Hackney. In the interest of fairness I must mention that my meal was complementary.

Hampshire Hog on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Roti Chai - Oxford Street

A few weeks back, my lovely friend Anna invited me to Roti Chai for dinner with our sisters'. Roti Chai is an Indian restaurant split into two separate restaurants, a dining room serving rather expensive curries and a sort of canteen serving street food. We opted for the street food as we wanted somewhere relaxed and student budget friendly.

Papri Chaat
We drank sharp but sweet lychee martinis from tea pots, which reminded me of many lost evenings in World Bar in Queenstown. They also serve all the usual Indian beers and a good selection of wine.

Pea & Potato Samosas
To start we shared papri chaat; crispy wheat puffs smothered with yogurt and topped with pomegranate seeds, mint and a spicy sauce. These were really delicious, the rich yogurt with little bursts of sweet pomegranate and the crunchy wheat was a great combination. We also shared some spicy pea and potato samosas, served with a coriander sauce and chickpeas, also very yummy.

Hakka Chilli Paneer
My favourite dish was the hakka chilli paneer, stir fried with spring onions, chilli and coriander, with a light but firey sauce. The flavours and textures were much more exciting than the usual saag paneer served up in Indian restaurants. The cheese was fried until crisp but still soft and salty on the inside, with crunchy peppers and spring onion and spicy chilli heat it was an excellent dish.

Macher Jhol
We shared a lamb curry which was served with chapatis for dipping, the sauce was rich and the meat tender. We also ordered a fish curry, with a light but well spiced sauce, plenty of coriander on top and crispy fried fish. Whilst the curries were good, it's the street food that makes it worth a trip to Roti Chai.

Mixed Roti
We all really enjoyed our meal at Roti Chai. I'm a big fan of street food as the small portions allow you to try lots of little bits rather than just one big main course. Indian food available in the UK has too long been dominated by Anglicised curries heavy with oil and cream, so it's great to see more authentic and exciting dishes getting a look in. The service was friendly and quick and the canteen itself is bright and clean. It's certainly a welcome addition to the area, which is in dire need of cheap, quick and interesting food joints.

Railway Lamb Curry
Roti Chai on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Herman ze German - Charing Cross

The weekend before last we went to Cardiff to watch the Six Nations. Chris is a Welshman and therefore obsessed with rugby, it's like a national religion over there. Anyway, our trip to leekagogo land meant jumping on the train at 7pm on Friday night, leaving us half an hour to grab some food beforehand. My normal go to place for a speedy and cheap dinner is Chilango, the awesome burrito place. But as we'd been a few weeks beforehand we decided to go for currywurst at Herman ze German.

Currywurst is a popular German dish, consisting of smoked pork sausage topped with a curry and tomato sauce. Sounds gross huh? Surprisingly, it's actually really good. There are four different sausages to choose from; pork & veal, smokey pork, chilli beef or oven baked pork. Choose your wurst and they'll pop it in the Hermanator to be sliced before topping it with curry sauce and crispy onions with chips or a roll on the side. The chips are baked not fried, they may be healthier but let's be honest, they don't taste quite as good but the crispy onions were ace. Be warned that even the mild curry sauce is pretty spicy. As you can see from the picture, it may not be the prettiest thing you're ever going to eat but I promise that it does taste nice.

I actually cheated and ordered a smoked pork sausage in a roll, topped with ketchup, plenty of mustard (the best bit if you ask me), sauerkraut and crispy onions, all washed down with a Fritz lemonade. All very tasty although I would prefer the pork to be a little smokier. Alongside the sausages, they also serve meatballs with onion gravy served with chips or traditional egg noodles, and a range of sandwiches and pastries, although I can't imagine going there for a pain au chocolat.

Herman ze German is fun, tasty and speedy; perfect food for when you're in a hurry or to stave off a hangover. And the sign is very cute.

Herman ze German on Urbanspoon

Bill's Cafe - Cambridge

A few weeks ago we went to meet my parents for a mosey around the shops and some lunch in Cambridge. We went to the recently opened Bill's cafe, a small chain of restaurants originating in Brighton. They also have a branch in Covent Garden and a newly opened site in Islington, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Chorizo in a brioche bun
For lunch, Chris and I shared a fish finger sandwich and a chorizo burger, both served with a pot of skin on chips. The chorizo sausages were chargrilled before being piled into a soft brioche bun, with a good dollop of red pepper hummus, topped with rocket and roasted red peppers which was every bit as good as it sounds. The homemade fish fingers were sandwiched between lightly toasted white bread with chunky tartar sauce and ketchup, nothing fancy or extravagant but tasty none the less. The chips were crispy, and the skin added to the rustic feel of the place.

Pink lemonade with strawberries
The food is reasonably basic, they serve classics like fish & chips, burgers and cottage pie. They also have some seriously good looking desserts on the menu; the pavlova topped with lashings of whipped cream and strawberries looks delish. What we ate was good, simple and reasonably priced food at its best. A fish finger sandwich doesn't need to be over complicated or meddled with and it seems as though the guys at Bill's recognise this.

Fish finger sandwich
The restaurant itself is decked out with chunky wooden tables and the walls are lined with Bill's own brand chutneys, jams, dressings and sweet treats which are available to buy. The staff are friendly and the service was quick even though we arrived in the middle of a busy lunch service. If they can convert my dad into a fish finger sandwich fan then they must be doing something right.

Chorizo bun

Bill's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Viet Grill - Shoreditch

A few weeks ago we headed down to Shoreditch to celebrate Jools' 31st birthday at Viet Grill. I've been to a few of the BYOB Vietnamese restaurants dotted around Hoxton and never been that impressed with the gelatinous food and plastic tables. Eating at Viet Grill was, as my friend Helen would say, a revelation. It may be a bit pricier than the other Vietnamese restaurants nearby, but the food and interiors are considerably better.

The birthday boy
We started with Cha La Lot; vine leaves stuffed with minced pork, topped with roasted peanuts with a chilli dip on the side. We also shared some chilli, salt & pepper squid, with stir fried white and spring onions. Both starters were really tasty, but the squid in particular was fantastic. The batter which the squid was fried in was light, crispy and deliciously spicy, perfect when combined with the sweet, salt and pepper fried onions.

Cha La Lot
Chilli, Salt & Pepper Squid
For my main course I ordered ox cheek braised in cinnamon and cardamon. It was my first taste of ox cheek, when you think about eating an animals face it is a little grim but when you taste the tender meat you forget all about its origins. The sauce was rich with cinnamon and worked beautifully with the meat. Chris' Dong Du Curry was spicy and delicious, with large chunks of lamb on the bone.

Ox Cheek au Vin
Dong Du Lamb Curry
The service was speedy considering we were such a big table (there were around 20 of us) and the atmosphere was fun and lively. It may not be BYOB, but that does mean you've got the option of having a cocktail or fancy fruit juice alongside your food. It's probably not the ideal place for a cosy date, but it's perfect for dinner with a big bunch of friends.

Viet Grill The Vietnamese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Homa - Stoke Newington (Revisited)

Alistair's Brasserie was one of my favourite restaurants in N16; it was the place we went to celebrate anniversaries, new jobs, or just because we wanted a good meal. Ever since Alistair's closed last year, I've been on the look out for a new local restaurant to fill the void and I think Homa might just fit the bill. After the delicious breakfast we ate there last year, we finally made it down there for what turned out to be a great meal.

Rye and white bread
Dinner started with a basket of homemade bread, generous slices of nutty rye and fluffy white bread served with olive oil. Followed swiftly by a squid and chorizo salad with potatoes and green beans in a light herb dressing. It was lovely to look at but even better to eat. Chris ordered buffalo mozzarella with caponata (a Sicilian aubergine dish) and a toasted garlic croute. The rich and creamy mozzarella worked perfectly with the sharpness of the caponata, a simple but delicious starter.

Slow cooked squid with chorizo, green beans & potatoes
Buffalo mozzarella with caponata
For our main course we both ordered the lamb cutlet which was served with a lamb potato cake and onion puree. The cutlet was juicy and pink in the middle and the potato cake was deliciously crispy on the outside, filled with creamy potato and meaty chunks of lamb. I loved the sweetness of the onion puree coupled with the lamb, it was one of the best main courses I've eaten in the last year.

Lamb shoulder potato cake with lamb cutlet & onion puree
For dessert I opted for a chocolate fondant, the light but intensely chocolaty sponge surrounded a fantastically gooey centre with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream on the side. Yum. Chris's treacle tart tasted more of ginger than treacle, but was tasty nonetheless. Chris loved the yogurt sorbet it was served with, but I think something creamier would have worked better.

Chocolate fondant with caramel ice cream
Treacle tart with yogurt sorbet
Overall, I was really impressed with the food. They use good quality ingredients which are skillfully prepared and beautifully presented. I think in the early days Homa had some issues with service, but from what I've seen during my two visits over the last few months these seem to have been rectified. The staff are friendly and attentive and despite being busy the food was well timed. We paid a very reasonable £45 each for three courses and a bottle of wine to share, I'm already looking forward to my next visit!

Homa on Urbanspoon