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Kurobuta Pop-Up Chelsea

11 Feb

The buzz has finally come over to the west side. Well I never! It’s always ‘Hoxton this’ and ‘Shoreditch that’ and whilst I love those places and all they have to offer, it’s nice to have something that doesn’t take me an hour and a half to get to.

Hearing quite a bit about the Kurobuta pop-up that is currently residing on The King’s Road, soon to be a permanent feature in Marble Arch, I decided to book myself in. It was far more casual on the inside than I had anticipated; temporary looking wooden tables and flyers pinned to the walls, it had a beach-side shack vibe to it. After a chat with the nice, but slightly over familiar waitress, about the menu, which involved her pulling up a chair and sitting next to us to tell us about it, we decided to pick a few plates to share.

First up BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns with Spicy Peanut Soy. You get two buns and it’s at a pricey £13. I was really intrigued about this as I’ve sampled the delights at Momofuku in New York and more recently at Flesh & Buns in London. This style of bun has never been my favourite consistency, but when the meat is cooked to perfection and marinated really well, it makes it into a comfort food of sorts. This didn’t hit the spot for me. I found the meat to be a little too fatty than normal and it was flavourless. I’ve noticed from photos that our dish doesn’t look nearly as marinated as other people’s, it looks very pale, maybe ours missed the dip in the marinade pool? I really liked the chilli and pickled cucumber as that added a burst of spice and texture to the dish. The peanut soy dip was too concentrated and severe, it needed to be a little bit diluted for it to be appreciated.

pork bunsNext was Salmon Gravadlax and Avocado Tartare with Dill Mayo, Rice Crunchies and Fresh Yuzu Zest. This was a small dish, but worth every penny of the £11 it’s priced at. The creamy sauce drenched the finely chopped and full of flavour salmon and it was accompanied by diced avocado, sesame and a nice sharp tang of yuzu. The rice crunchies added a good solid base to the dish and there’s a strong taste of dill, but fortunately for me, I love dill. It was presented beautifully and tasted fantastic. I would order this over and over again. By far the best dish I tried.

salmon tartareAs more of an appetiser, but everything comes out when it’s ready, we chose the Sweet Potato and Soba-Ko Fries with Sauces. The fries were seasoned impeccably, they were chewy and crispy and had a strong, ripe flavour to them. The dish was accompanied by two dips; a green one that I wasn’t a huge fan of and an orange one that was delicious, it was thick and creamy and had an addition of lemon juice that gave it a burst of something extra. This was a simple, grazing dish, I just wish it had come out at the start.

sweet potato friesHaving a hankering for some sushi we opted for Spicy Tuna Maki Rolled in Tempura Crunchies. This one is cut into 6 pieces and is a relatively modest £8.50. The tuna itself was delectable. It was clearly of the best quality and tasted as such. The rice was soft and a touch warm, which I love, I feel it denotes a freshness and high calibre. However, the tempura crunchies ruined it for me. They didn’t have a crunchy consistency in the slightest, more the texture of cake crumbs and the taste was almost sweet, it didn’t contribute anything to the dish, in fact, if anything it just took away from it. This was a hit and miss dish for me.

tuna makiThe final dish, the second best, at £9.50: Tuna Sashimi Pizza with Trufle Ponzu, Red Onions and Green Chillies. A delightful, crispy tortilla base topped with very thin and beautifully flavoured slices of tuna sashimi. A dash of a light, cream sauce drizzled over it and a tonne of colourful tobiko. It was wonderful. I realise I sound like a spoiled brat when I say this, but the tuna pizza at Morimoto in Meatpacking is out of this world. I mean, like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. The most incredible, mouth-watering, innovative and delicious dish and whilst this one was pretty good, it just wasn’t ‘Morimoto good.’

pizzaAfter a good experience here, a couple of lacklustre dishes, but overall really nice, the waitress went and ruined it. She stepped way over the mark and the over familiarity of before was now just a distant memory; she just kicked us out of bed. Let me proceed in telling you the tale:

  • The bill arrived after being told it was coming, not after having requested it, even though we had been there for just under an hour and my reservation told me I was entitled to the seats for an hour and a half.
  • There is no subtotal and ‘service charge’ is bunged in there too. I’d like to point out the lack of the word ‘optional’ here. The service was at 12.5% and was £5.52. The total bill came to £51.52. I always pay service when I feel it is earned, however given that we had been there less than an hour and I wasn’t particularly taken with this waitress’ approach to serving us, I did hesitate slightly. However, I intended to pay it.
  • I popped £1.50 in change on the tray and then we decided to split the rest over two cards (£25 on each).
  • When she came over with the card machine I said, ‘Can we do £25 on each card and the rest is in change?’ This took her a moment to process. She replied ‘So £25 on each and did you say the rest was in cash, where is the rest?’ I replied that the rest was on the tray. At this stage I just wanted her to get on with it, I didn’t even have to put that £1.50 down, it was part of the service and think she had been given more than enough.
  • She then had the nerve to say ‘And the 2p? Where’s the 2p? Did you not have the 2p as you haven’t paid the full amount?’ Well that was a bit of a shock to the system. and she was pretty rude for asking. I replied that I did not have 2p to hand and it can come out of the service. IT’S TWO FRICKING PENCE. I left this one to Aky as I was so riled up by her audacity so he went to speak to the manager.
  • After a bit of a discussion the manager handed him back the £5.50 tip. Too bloody right. It’s just a shame there was a bit of a sour end to an otherwise good meal.

I felt that it was a delicious meal overall, some dishes I’d love to have again, but because of other ‘misses’ I wasn’t blown away and I think I expected a bit more from Nobu alumni.

Rate 3.7

Kurobuta Pop-Up

251 Kings Road, London, SW3 5EL

And coming soon to: 17-20 Kendal Street, London, W2 2AW

http://www.kurobuta-london.com/

Follow them on Twitter @KurobutaLondon
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City Bakery

22 Jan

Wandering around the Flatiron District on a cold Saturday, I decided to warm myself up in a place I had heard lots about, City Bakery. I came in and I have to say, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Not just teas/coffees etc but a whole ‘serve yourself’ salad and lunch bar. It seemed like a canteen and not the ‘bakery’ feel I so often lust for when one wants a little tranquility on a busy day.

I asked the sales assistant what she recommended, she answered ‘the vegan, dairy free cookie is great’, ignoring her idiotic suggestion I ordered an overload of chocolate. A chocolate chip cookie and a hot chocolate with their famous homemade, giant marshmallow on top.

cookie

mallow

Let’s start with the cookie. It was very thick and almost like biting into a chunky piece of bread, a real mouthful. I know this sounds really weird, but there was a slight smell of fish to it. You know when you sometimes smell butter and it’s a bit ‘fridge smell’ like, well that’s kind of what this was. It was quite rich and not that amazing and so I only managed half, funnily enough the next day it tasted (and smelt) better.

cookie close up

Now for the hot chocolate. Unbeknownst to me, it was that thick, oozy hot chocolate that you often find in Italy or Spain. I can’t handle hot chocolate like this, I don’t see it as a drink, more of a calorie filled dessert. After a couple of sips, really feeling the fat starting to lay down for a nice long nap on my hips, I had a thought, and proceeded to carry this gloop back to my apartment and poured about a third of it into a mug and topped the rest up with milk and heated it up. Lo and behold it was the most delicious hot chocolate I have had in a long while. The marshmallow was pretty good too.

hot choc

hot choc 2

So, I feel it was a little hit and miss, it all looked great but just not quite there for me. I’d also like to mention that this experience cost me just under $10. Extortion!!

Rate: 3.5

City Bakery

3 W 18th St # 1  New York, NY 10011

(212) 366-1414

http://www.thecitybakery.com/
City Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wahaca – Stratford

15 Oct

Having been to Wahaca a handful of times and knowing I was never particularly impressed I then strangely had two encounters of it in the space of a few days. Perhaps I’d always ordered the wrong thing, but my opinion of the place has turned a complete 180.

I went to the pop up Wahaca on the South Bank last week, which was great, real hustle and bustle and a good atmosphere. Then yesterday due to a bit of a mishap with my mystery shop falling through, because the restaurant had had a power cut…we stumbled upon Wahaca at Stratford.
The layout of the restaurant is great, really clever, there’s a bay in the middle and on the far side there are some booths under a makeshift ‘shelter’ of plastic bottles. The effect is cool and it gives the place an eclectic ‘street’ style.
I thought we would order a few things to get a good mix and we shared it all so we could have a taste of everything!

First off some tortilla chips and fresh guacamole. This was great and not too much either, it’s annoying when you get so full at the beginning there’s no room for the main and hats off to anyone who can stop before the chip bowl is empty! The guac was authentic and the hints of lime throughout really made it quite special. Good fresh tortillas too.

The chicken quesadilla was delicious, fresh chipotle chicken mixed with a good amount of cheese on a fresh tortilla that was slightly crispy. We actually had to send the first batch back because it seems they had forgotten to put any chicken in half the quesadilla, or about half a teaspoon’s worth…they were very apologetic and even brought us an extra one on the house.

Next up we ordered a chicken burrito, this was far better than I expected. It seemed the more you ate the spicier it got, however it was a good kind of spicy. There was quite a lot of rice in there, I think it could have done with a little more chicken or black bean, but the rice was fresh, long grain and really made for a good change from the boring rice you get at Chipotle, this was definitely a little more thoughtful and fresher.

For the sides we chose the sweet potato and the corn. The sweet potato had been rubbed with spices and it made for a really great smoky taste. The sweet potato was crunchy on the outside and as smooth as silk on the inside. An innovative side and most definitely slicker than the average. The corn was ok, a little overly watery for some reason, I think diners to the right might have got a little spurted on them…and I wasn’t a fan of the cream/cheese on the corn, it was quite sweet and it didn’t complement it that well.

A good experience overall for sure. Worth a visit and thankfully it doesn’t have the feel of the gargantuan that is Westfield.

Rate: 3.8

Wahaca – Stratford

6 Chestnut Plaza  London E20 1GL

020 3288 1025

http://www.wahaca.co.uk/flash/main.html
Wahaca on Urbanspoon

bubbledogs

10 Oct

It seems to be the fashion within restaurateurs’ ventures that novelties and making the menu simple with only a few options will suffice. Yeah, but only if the food is any good. There’s a reason novelties are what they are. Think Burger & Lobster, Dirty Burger etc, I’m not stating these are below average but I’m highlighting my point, because it’s a good point to make.

Last year was oldie world guinea fowl, ox cheek, pig trotter style food, before that the sushi phenomenon, earlier this year ‘small plates’ which made for awkward ‘no you have the last meatball’ and ‘let’s cut this croquette in half’ and having to compromise on what you really wanted because you had to accommodate all tastes for those present. In fact ‘small plates’ are only good if you are frequenting the place with someone who likes exactly the same food as you…but then you really might be fighting over that last meatball. And now, it seems to be ‘bad food done well’.

I digress. We arrived at bubbledogs on a rainy afternoon just before 5:30pm when it opens. If you’re there later than 5:15 you’ll be at the back of the line. We arrived just before that, so were first in the queue. Ironic that in England it’s fashionable to begin eating at around 5:45…seems a bit ridic if you ask me, earlybird special style, but I think the unfortunate point is, if you don’t get in in the first sitting you probably won’t eat until past 10pm, if at all.

The stupid non-reservations thing aside, we sat at a bar style sharing table on stools, the menu (1 per table) is already there. We didn’t opt for the bubbles this time but there was a lot to choose from. If you haven’t worked it out the novelty is Champagne and hot dogs.

We ordered a ‘4th of July’ and a ‘Sloppy Joe’ with a side of sweet potato fries. The former was really delicious, frankfurter sausage, wrapped in bacon with smoky/spicy bbq sauce and coleslaw on top in a standard hot dog bun. The sauce was good, very tasty, as was the slaw. All in all a yummy hot dog. However…slightly beyond the pale of extortion at £7.50.

The ‘Sloppy Joe’ was a frankfurter sausage topped with a meat ragu and sprinkled with cheese in a hot dog bun. This was not great, the meat ragu tasted a bit cheap and flavourless and it just wasn’t appetising in the slightest.

The fries were brilliant, deelish in fact. Not crispy but nicely cut and salted just right.

The decor is nice, the lamps all look like bubbles and the lighting is dim and cosy (it did make photo taking pretty hard though). Waiters are dressed über smart which I suppose is the point. You expect Cordon Bleu and you are being served Le Hot Dog. Downstairs in and around the bathroom area the wallpaper was very innovative; menus from the biggest and most famous restaurants around adorned the walls including The Fat Duck and The Wolesely. It looked pretty cool.

Overall I think it was ok, but it’s a place that can really only be a one off, because you need to get your timing right and paying £7.50 for what is effectively New York dollar street meat, can’t be a taken seriously, unless you like folding up money and popping it in the bin. It’s a bit of fun, and that’s all really.

Rate: 3

bubbledogs
70 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4QG
020 7637 7770
http://www.bubbledogs.co.uk/home
Bubbledogs on Urbanspoon
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East Street

16 Sep

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What I love about East Street is it’s cool, easy and cheap. It’s a no fuss sort of place that has awesome decor and good food.

The food isn’t out of this world, amazing, but it is good. They use fresh ingredients and really just get the point. You want to go here when you want a good old catch up with friends and you don’t need to worry about cost, service, quality etc as its all there, express style.

On this particular occasion I chose the deal of £7.95 for a main and a side, the Eastern Express Menu, although the side is basically a starter. You can choose from quite a few options and this price is if you order before 7. Sweet deal if you ask me!

I chose the Tod Man Khao Pod (three delicately flavoured corn fritters with a chilli and peanut dip) to start with. This was great! Really fresh, the batter was so deelish and the inside was a good mix of spices and ingredients. The dip was nice but there wasn’t a lot and the chopped peanuts were a bit pointless as you couldn’t get them to go on the fritter.

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Onto the main feature. I chose the Singapore Noodles (Rice vermicelli with prawns, chicken breast, spring onion & carrot, with a mild curry flavour) which was a really good sized portion. It was comfort food, delicious noodles with a lovely curried taste to it. There was plenty of chicken in there too!

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The service was good, they were there when you needed them and it was just easy and simple. The decor is like you’ve walked into an Asian market with lots of signs, products, maps and photos adorning the walls. It’s colourful and really a wonderful place to sit. One thing I love is that the bathrooms have Japanese airport style announcements being aired. The place just has a really cool feel to it. Definitely worth a visit!

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Rate: 3.3

East Street
3-5 Rathbone Place, London
0207 323 0860
http://www.eaststreetrestaurant.com
East Street Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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Banana Tree – Clapham Junction

12 Sep

I’ve been to Banana a couple of times before and because it had been a while I thought I’d see what it was up to now as it’s always a buzzing atmosphere and I do love Thai food! So, off to Banana, right next to the corner of the Battersea Rise and Northcote Road junction. I don’t know of many other Thai places nearby so it seems it’s uniqueness in this respect means it has a constant chain of people waiting for  a table. Well positioned opposite The Goat and next to a Nandos; different strokes for different folks and all.

We waited about 20 minutes for a table and this was 7:30 on a Tuesday evening, it’s obviously a popular place. We were seated at one of the communal tables. It really does have a great buzzy atmosphere and the aroma from the food is really enticing!

We ordered Crispy Pepper Spiced Chicken Rolls (Yam, Prawn and Chicken Stuffing) served with Plum sauce to start with. This looked a little unappetising as you can see, kind of like out of date, cooked from frozen chicken nuggets. The taste was really delicious though, it had a hint of sweetness which must have been the sweet potato. However, the consistency is how you would imagine when looking at it. Not so much the inside, but the shell was a little chewy, from the deep fry and had a ‘left out for a bit’ kind of taste. The Plum sauce…mmmmmmm…deelish. There’s probably a lot of sugar in there, but it’s SO worth it. I did think £5.70 was a little steep as they are only small.

We picked the most traditional of dishes – Chicken Pad Thai and Chicken Green Curry. The curry came with rice, salad, crackers and some sort of fried balls (!) as part of their special.

The Pad Thai looked great, it was a hefty portion and smelled really good. The noodles tasted like they could have been one of two things; al dente or slightly old. They were a little hard, not all soft and slippery like they should be. The taste was ok, it got better as you ploughed through – but a little bland.

The Green Curry – they got this right! It was really spot on. Spicy, but not too much and soft chunks of chicken with bamboo shoots, carrot, peas etc. Definitely the better of the two dishes. The accoutrements fluttering around the side were ok, nice but definitely not as good as the main feature! I was really happy with this dish as the others had been ok, but not amazing.

The service left a lot to be desired. They didn’t really pay any attention and after our starters were cleared and we had been waiting a while, the two guys next to us ordered. About two minutes after they ordered, their food came. We said to them that we thought it might be ours as it looked like our dishes, there was then a lot of confusion. Our waiter came over, said that indeed it was our food and then their waitress came over and said it was their food. If you look at it from either angle it’s pretty slack. If it was their food, then why the crud has their’s come out so quickly and ours hadn’t and if it wasn’t their food, why the crud are they getting the order wrong and then creating a weird fuss afterwards? (FYI, no apology for any of this, but we did end up getting the food and their’s came out shortly afterwards). They were very slow with clearing, taking orders, everything and we got the impression that our fellow diners felt the same way. Needless to say, I took the tip off at the end as it was automatically included and it most definitely was not deserved.

Rate: 3

Banana Tree – Clapham Junction

75-79 Battersea Rise SW11 1HN

020 7228 2828

http://www.bananatree.co.uk/home

Banana Tree on Urbanspoon
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Hawksmoor – Seven Dials

6 Sep

This experience was like the feeling you get when you’ve been anticipating a holiday, a much needed one, for a very, very long time. You could never quite get enough time off work, you didn’t have the money or you didn’t know who to go with and just when you’ve almost given up…you’re packing your bags and on your way to the holiday destination that dreams are made of. This is how I felt about dining at Hawksmoor. High expectations yes, but rightly so, the restaurant has been dubbed ‘the best steak in London’ it has been hailed as the new breed of modern meets old school, a steak house to trump all steak houses and that you will not come out of there unsatisfied, unhappy or hungry. Well, the latter is definitely true.

I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a restaurant to be good more than here, I was incredibly excited to go and happy that I was privileged enough to walk through these doors. A birthday gift from my Mum…a gift card to Hawksmoor. She understood that this really was a big deal and that this was going to be one of the best meals you would have in your lifetime. Well, it was pretty hard for my mind frame to be changed..but it managed to.

The atmosphere is busy and buzzy, more casual and young than I thought, but being surrounded by media and arts companies it wasn’t too surprising. The waiters are nice, a little too conversational and at some points I felt like they were about to pull up a seat and join us, but all in all it was a nice place. Open brick, old steak house meets bright young things with scraggly beards and girls with tousled hair and red lipstick…just where they get the money for this place, I don’t know, I work in media…I know!

We started off with the potted mackerel to share. This was delicious. A little creamy, salty with beautiful dill flaked cucumber on the side. It was a great starter, not  too much and a good beginning to the meal. If I’m going to be really honest, the mackerel could have been a little creamier. You know where does the best potted mackerel…The Clarence in Balham. Fricking deelish!

Onto the big guns. I think I was actually nervous with anticipation at how good this could potentially be. We ordered a Rib-Eye, a Fillet, creamed spinach, triple cooked chips & beef dripping fries. Both steaks were ordered medium-well. Neither of them arrived medium-well. I like my steak medium-well.

The fillet. It was pretty big, and very high, a good chunk of meat that’s for sure. It was a little overdone, no pink at all on the inside. The taste was ok, but definitely not that melt in the mouth, obliterating all your surroundings kind of feeling. It was a tad chewy, it should cut like hard butter and be so soft and tender. If I’m really honest, it tasted like roast beef. I like roast beef, but when I’ve ordered a fillet steak it should taste as such. With all that has been said and written, I should not be able to say ‘I’ve had better steak’. I have had better. Cafe Boheme on Old Compton Street for one, delicious fillet steak and melt in the mouth was written all over it.

The rib-eye. This was pretty black on the outside, a little charcoal-like in places, ok what the hell…a tad burnt. And the inside was quite rare. Not ideal. The taste was richer than with the fillet and I actually think I preferred this, it was a bit softer, less tough and not as chewy. But not cooked exactly how we’d asked for it.

We asked for both with béarnaise sauce and this came in a little jug so you could free pour to your heart’s desire. The sauce was amazing, really delicious. Fresh tasting and you almost could have it it on it’s own. The ketchup they provided was watery and tasted a little rancid, not good for chip-dipping at all!

The sides. Creamed spinach – a fair attempt, it was nice, but not amazing, my Mum’s leaves theirs for dead. It was a little bland, needed more salt and to be a little smoother. The spinach taste was a little lost, it would be interesting to know what cream they used. The triple cooked chips – these were like when you get normal chips, they go cold and then you reheat them way, way later. A bit hard on the outside and the flavour isn’t fresh. I wasn’t a fan. The beef-dripping fries – you know when you get skinny fries and there are those overcooked/crispy ones that aren’t as nice as the long, perfectly cooked, fluffy ones? These were all like them, only more crispy and dry and the animal fat taste was too apparent so much so that it was off putting. When you have a bowl of chips, it’s those little crispy pieces at the end that no one really wants as much. I know you know what I’m talking about.

And there we have it. The Hawksmoor Diary as it were. If only it could have been great.

Rate: 3.6

Hawksmoor Seven Dials

11 Langley Street, London WC2H 9JG

020 7420 9390

http://thehawksmoor.com/locations/seven-dials
Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon
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