I thought I’d do a review of some of the places I ate at in my 3 weeks of working in London. Lets me reminisce about the yummy food I got to taste.
Tom’s Kitchen (Chelsea)
Off the red eye on a Sunday morning, I agreed to brunch with some girlfriends. Being in dire need of sleep, I can’t really say much in general. I had the traditional eggs benedict and it was delicious. Eggs were perfectly soft poached, nice hollandaise and only a slight tang of vinegar in the poached eggs. I can’t attest to anything else as I didn’t try the other dishes (what was I thinking?!?!?). Seems like a rather nice family neighbourhood atmosphere as there were several tables with young kids. I thought it was a bit pricey though, can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be loads of other places serving up a decent eggs benny but at a lower price point.
My gf loves this place. We called Monday at lunch for an early dinner reservation (6pm) and had no problems getting 2 seats at the bar. It was about half full downstairs when we left and we were still the only ones at the bar. We ordered the toro tartar, spicy wasabi toro roll, wagyu and foie gras nigiri, yellowtail collar and the horseradish soy grilled baby octopus. All the fish was amazingly fresh and great quality. The toro tartar was the really wonderful. It was chopped toro on top of avocado, sprinkled with chives and tobiko and served taco style on a chip (not sure potato). Crunchy, creamy, salty all in one bite (or two). The other highlight was the collar, simply grilled and served with a wedge of lime. I seriously considered picking it up with my fingers and sucking on it to get all the teeny tiny bits of fish that I couldn’t maneuver out with my chopsticks. Other items were good as well with the baby octopus being my least favourite. The horseradish soy was a little over powering I thought. It’s not a large space, cozy would be the best word to describe it. Prices run on the high end of things, I liken them to Nobu type prices. Nice splurge but not an everyday thing.
My Old Place
I’ve never had Sichuan food before so really don’t have a basis for comparison really. 6 of us made a reservation for a rainy Thursday. The line was out the door the entire time, it’s really popular. We had the mapo tofu, eggplant/aubergine fried with chilli sauce (yue heung keh zhi), peking pork dumplings, fish slices in chilli oil, spicy fried green beans and the lamb skewers. Overall, the food was really good and was reasonably priced. I think with some water, a couple beers and a bottle of aloe juice, it was 14 pounds a head and we were stuffed. Best dish was the lamb skewers. Ok, technically not Sichuan, they were XinJiang style being cumin dusted. The lamb pieces were juicy and tender and not strongly gamey smelling and tasting. The “Water poached fish” which I believe is the literal translation of the dish was a huge bowl (ok urn-like) floating full of dried chilis and Sichuan peppercorns and fish slices over bean sprouts. Definitely need more than 2 people to eat this dish. Overall, wasn’t super spicy at all, I thought I’d lose my socks but not really, I developed a little “ma la” or numbness from the peppercorns but not a ton. The aloe juice (which tastes like grape juice with jelly bits) definitely helps as does the beer. The dumplings were fried perfectly and came with juicy porky filling and had a decent thin skin so you don’t end up eating a giant dough ball. The least successful were the tofu and the aubergine. The aubergine tasted vaguely like Heinz bean sauce. The tofu was a little firmer than I like my mapo tofu to be plus I like a little more porkiness to it. But I grew up with a Cantonese version of it.
After work on a Friday, we walked over to check out the exhibits. Losing track of time, we ended up popping up to the restaurant at the top for our dinner. Gorgeous views of the Thames and what I thought to be reasonable glasses of wine would make a wonderful place to grab a drink and catch up. Onto the food, we started with the fresh pea soup. It was nice and the colour was gorgeous but I thought it could use a splash of acid to brighten it up and the curly parsley garnish kind of ruined the taste of the pea soup. I had the potted mackerel as my main and the DP had the rump of beef. Well, it is rump of beef and so when he said it tasted like a badly done Sunday roast, I kind of giggled. It was chewy. The potted mackerel was nice but not really my style. It wasn’t overly fishy which is my biggest thing about mackerel but it was sweet-ish in an odd kind of way. Service was spotty with it taking a while for them to take our order for even a glass of water. It picked up though as the dining room cleared out. I can’t say I’d recommend the food there.
The Warrington Pub
Mid-week visit to friends living in the area yielded a really lovely evening out at the Warrington. Nice casual pub atmosphere, we managed to snag an outdoor table and it was a cool early autumn evening. Had the honey and mustard baby sausages and curry and chips to start. Both dishes were really nice although for me, I love a good snap on the skins of the sausage and it just didn’t have it. I had the breaded hake with chips and tartar and it was lovely. The hake was nice and moist with a nice crunchy panko like breading. Not greasy at all but sadly the chips were not nearly as good as the chips with curry. Bad batch perhaps but the chips with curry were crunchier and crisper than those that came with my fish. I believe that others had the salt beef sandwich that they enjoyed but I was way too full to even taste. Travesty!
Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
I came with a co-worker who I had asked if seafood was ok. She said yes but when she saw the menu, she balked. Our waiter was an absolute star by helping her through the menu in order to find something that she might like. Big A+ for the service here. I started with a half dozen mixed oysters. Delicious! I believe it was Maldon, Cumbrae and Colchester but memory is a hazy thing. Just a few shards of shell were the downside. She started with the shell on Atlantic prawns, unbeknownst they come with the heads on as well. I have no problems but she was a little squeamish about peeling them. She had the beef and guiness and oyster pie. It was huge and the oysters are actually oysters on the half shell on the side of the pie. It was tasty but I have to say that it was not nearly as good as a pie we had from the Ginger Pig. I had a fish (which eludes me now) that I think is halibut served atop braised leeks. Cooked well but underseasoned, the highlight of the dish was the braised leeks which I polished off with gusto. Overall, I’d stick to the oysters on offer and bypass the main menu which was weaker.
This was a last minute decision so we just ate in the bar. It’s an odd space, kind of raw space and it was a bit chilly as our table was outside the main area, closer to the door. 3 of us ordered the bone marrow and parsley salad, welsh rarebit (I was curious), brown shrimp and cabbage, bread and butter and cauliflower. We finished with the bread pudding and eccles cake with no cheese, sadly the kitchen was too busy for madelines. I love bone marrow so it was quite a nice treat. Everything else was ok for me. I’ve never had welsh rarebit before and found it a bit salty for me. Nothing else really stood out for me but I’m operating on memory now. Desserts were a no go for any of us with the eccles cake reminding us of a bad fruitcake. And this from a Londoner. Overall, I love bone marrow so admit to rather enjoying my meal but I can’t say that I would hurry back unless I’m craving bone marrow.
Wow, is all I can say. I should’ve been scared with the dark glossy interior and ponyskin everywhere but the bf wanted to treat me. And we were both feeling too lazy to wander too far from the flat. We started with a sample of the ceviches and tiraditos. We tried the squid, Ecuadorian and king scallop. The favourite was the squid but admittedly, it could’ve been because it had guacamole under it (and I love guacamole). The least successful was scallop, found it to be a bit one note with the coconut overwhelming everything. They were good but not great. We also split the empanadas and the waitress let us have two different ones in the one order. Can’t remember what we had but definitely, the empanadas from Borough Market were juicier and tastier than these (and way cheaper too). Both of us ordered the rib eye, mine with chimichurri and he with peppercorn. Side of grilled vegetables with tomato vinaigrette and sweet potato chips with chorizo. Perfectly cooked beef, really enjoyed it. The grilled veg was meh…with the aubergine slices a bit on the tough/undercooked side. Overall, for the quality of the food, I think it was way overpriced, definitely aimed at the corporate expense crowd.
Ginger Pig (Borough Market)
Luckily I was put up in a flat for work so was able to take advantage of having an oven. Went to the Ginger Pig and picked up a chicken and leek pie for dinner. With a mixed salad, it was big enough for 2 and we licked the plate clean. The pastry was nice and tender and thick enough to hold the juices in without getting soggy. The filling was moist, large pieces of chicken, not too saucy. I did find a small bone but this was one delicious pie. Well worth the 5 pounds or so spent on it. My gf loved the beef bourgouignon one.
Tried a couple different places and was impressed by the quality of the food products. The highlight was definitely the falafel with salad wrap at Arabica Food & Spice. It had a nice crunchy exterior and tender inside. Not mushy at all and all wrapped up with salad and a tzatziki like sauce. Absolutely delicious and a great lunch. Portena also had some really nice empanadas. Not quite as good as those I had in Argentina but pretty darn tasty. The beef one was nice with a bit of chopped boiled egg in it. The ham and cheese was a bit disappointing having all the cheese and ham all melted to one side but then again, how else would it end up? German Deli with the grilled bratwursts are a favorite of my gf but I had to say when I went, it was tasty but the gentleman grilling them had overdone them a bit. Too crisp on the exterior making it a bit too chewy. Piled high with sauerkraut and yellow mustard (slightly Dijon-like, definitely not American yellow mustard thank goodness) it was a tasty treat.
The bf had eaten here previously and enjoyed it thoroughly. I can see why. The atmosphere is a bit cheesy with the huge overwhelming aroma of incense at the door but you know, it works. The room was warm feeling and had a pleasant buzz about it. For a chain of restaurants, the food was pretty good at the price point. Had the Som Tam (green papaya salad) that was pleasantly crunchy, salty with dried shrimps and a good kick of heat. He ordered the prawn pomelo which was really good as well. Nice flavours. We split an order of the Phak-boong krob that was deep fried morning glory and various lettuces. Really tasty as it was fried like deep fried spinach leaves, melt in your mouth and not overly greasy. The pandan chicken came wrapped in pandan leaves and was the most disappointing dish. It was lacking in pandan flavour and the chicken was a bit dry and reminded me of a bad teriyaki sauce. He ordered the Pat king talay and it was quite nice as well. It was a really nicely done stir fry with nothing overcooked or overly ripe/fishy. Overall, it was a really enjoyable evening of nice food without breaking the bank (or the expense account).
So that was my trip and have to say am rather looking forward to my next trip back to try out more places. Managed to get to a few places but knowing that it was 3 weeks long, I did rather enjoy just going to Tesco and cooking in.