22 Aug 2014

DIRTY BURGER

London, UK


Dirty Burger just opened a new branch in East London, at the base of Shoreditch House. This comes from the Soho House Group, who are also behind the very popular Pizza East and Chicken Shop. Dirty Burger also has locations in Kentish Town, Whitechapel and Vauxhall, none of which are central enough for it to have become something that everyone has tried. You have to make a bit of an effort to try this burger. I first ate Dirty Burger when they parked their food truck outside Boxpark for one day only. I went over to the little window and had a look at the goods, and it looked promising. I ordered the reasonably priced Cheeseburger for £6 and dug in. It was so juicy, so cheesy and running with hot mustard. I was very impressed, and finished it very quickly. I saw a sign saying they were opening a permanent spot just across the road, and this was good news indeed.

On the occasion of the opening, everything on the menu was 50% off. This meant that you could get a burger, milkshake, and fries for £7! As expected there was a long line at around dinner time, so I returned just before closing time at 11 pm. My friends and I ordered onion fries, cheeseburgers, fries and a chocolate milkshake. We started with the onion fries, which were tasty, but a bit too greasy. It was challenging to identify any actual onion with all the batter. The fries were crinkly and crispy, and really, really good! The milkshake was extremely chocolatey and filling, and didn't have the fluffy quality of Lucky Seven, nor the ice cream texture of Byron. I guess it's good that they have developed a quite unique recipe, but it wasn't my kind of thing. When we got to the burgers, one of my friends got unlucky, she ordered first, and got given one of the burgers that were already cooked and wrapped, so the cheese wasn't runny anymore, and it was getting cold. My burger was freshly made, and looked pristine. Despite this, it didn't live up to my memory from the food truck version. This one was slightly drier, and required some extra ketchup and mayonnaise, whereas the previous one was perfectly juicy. This could be because I came at the end of a long day with a never-ending queue. It was nevertheless very enjoyable, and I will certainly visit again, in hope of one day finding the perfect one that I tried the first time. Dirty Burger lives up to its name; you get dirty from the sauce running down your wrist, and despite this juiciness, the bun remains perfectly intact. To help out with the mess, each burger comes with a handy wet-wipe. This place will definitely take away a serious chunk of the client base from Byron just down the road. 






16 Aug 2014

HARRILD AND SONS

London, UK


Harrild and Sons opened recently in the lower end of Farringdon street, a lifeless part of the City of London. Anything opening there is good news, but this place has managed to develop a really cool and suitable City style. The ground floor has wood panelled walls, the bar shelves and light fittings are shaped from copper tubes, and there is a 5cc cocktail bar in the basement. With a lot of natural light as well, the space is cosy and comfortable. The restaurant specialises in lobster and oyster, but also serve steaks, a range of interesting sliders, and a dish that I’d like to try next time: Crab Fries with Cheese and Aioli. On my first visit I went for the Lobster Roll with Dijon Mayo and Fresh Oregano because I can rarely resist a lobster roll on any menu. It wasn’t great, and didn’t have the fresh-tasting meat that you would find in Burger & Lobster or B.O.B.'s Lobster. My friend opted for the grilled lobster instead, which she said was pretty good. Another friend vouches for the Pulled Pork sandwich, and said he would definitely order it again. The skin-on fries were really tasty and greasy, and I recommend them as a side to any dish. Harrild and Sons is the kind of place where everything sounds perfect and promising on the menu, but the flavours don't quite deliver. Like most City places, it is closed on Sundays, demonstrating that it is aimed at the professional clientele of the area only. It has already become a crowded spot, popular with the nearby office workers, but will likely remain just that. Even though it is a likeable place, the overall area has a lot of catching up to do before it becomes a destination for London foodies.










Harrild and Sons on Urbanspoon

8 Aug 2014

BIG APPLE HOT DOGS

London, UK

I had heard Big Apple Hot Dogs described as the best hot dogs in London, so I googled them to see where I could find them. Unfortunately they are only open in Old Street from Tuesdays - Fridays from 12 - 6pm, making it hard to get there during lunch hour for anyone not in the area. I considered cycling there to be able to get there and back in my break, and quickly eat it as well, but luckily I didn't need to. From February this year, Big Apple Hot Dogs started serving their full menu every day at the hipster-filled Owl & Pussycat Pub in Shoreditch. It's difficult to find a table, but only because the other ones are taken by people having drinks. Curiously, every time I've been there I haven't seen anyone else eating. The hot dogs are hand made in London, and the website states that 94-98% of the contents is meat, which I assume is quite a lot more than your average street vendor hot dog. The buns are made fresh by local bakers, and all in all it sounds like a wholesome, guilt-free sausage. I have been a few times now, and tried the Big Dog and Huge Pole, both mixes of pork and beef, and the pure beef Pimp Steak. Despite their different sizes and shapes, they all come in the same size bun, meaning the proportion of bread cannot be right for all of them. You can add a range of toppings for 80 p each, including fried onions, kimchi and my favourite; sauerkraut. The hot dogs are all tasty, but a bit too big, and it's difficult to bite over the large bun without getting ketchup and mustard all over. The fries are soggy, so I only ordered those once. Big Apple Hot Dogs are definitely up there with the best I've tried in London, but they still can't compete with the real deal in New York.









Big Apple Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

22 Jul 2014

THE BREAKFAST CLUB


London, UK

I decided enough time had passed since I had a mediocre brunch experience at the Breakfast Club in Angel, and I was ready to give the chain another chance. I had a craving for pancakes after seeing them all over Instagram and Snapchat when I woke up, and I’d heard the Breakfast Club does pretty good ones. We called and asked if we could pick up take away, but unfortunately they don't have this option during the weekends. I headed over the Hoxton branch with a friend, and we lined up outside. It was sunny and warm outside, and as this East London outpost is much bigger than the one in Angel, the queue moved very quickly. We were in after about 15 minutes, which is not bad at all for a Sunday brunch.  We got a tall table by the large open windows, as close as you get to outdoor terrace eating there. They guy at the door was friendly and funny, but the rest of the waiters got on my nerves. It all started when I asked a waiter if they had nachos (as it’s not listed on the brunch menu). He said ‘Yes, we do!’ and I got all excited to have a side of nachos with my pancakes, but then he said that although they have it, they don’t serve it. His “funny” jokes continued, and the other waitress who served us was simply sarcastic and slow. However, the general atmosphere of the place and clientele was happy and cool. I ordered the pancakes with berries and cream, with a side of bacon. The portion was generous, and the cream and berries perfectly complimented the American style pancakes. Although the bacon was streaky, it was undercooked and had that distinct pork smell that can ruin any meal. My friend is less picky with bacon and was very happy with her bacon and banana pancakes. That is, until she found a hair in it. She got her dish for free, and that’s all they can do I guess. To drink we had an Elvis smoothie and a Virgin Apple Mojito. Both of these beverages were amazing. The smoothie had a light texture, but a deliciously indulgent flavour of vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and banana. The juice had pressed apple, mint and lime, and it’s so refreshing that it’s a good step on the way to curing a hangover. This eating experience had its ups and downs, but I’d go again if the length of the queue was reasonable like on this occasion.








Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

10 Jul 2014

HOI POLLOI

London, UK

Hoi Polloi is a restaurant on the ground floor of the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. It opened in Autumn 2013, by the Bistrotheque group. I went there for Sunday brunch with a friend. They serve weekend brunch from 12-6, which is a reasonable time for when you’ve slept in and don’t want to wake up to a dinner type meal. We called ahead, but they said there was no need to book because there was lots of room. A bad sign perhaps? The room was large, dark and a bit too gloomy for daytime. I do like the floor tiles a lot though, and the timber panelling and furniture do a good job in creating an atmosphere I’m sure I would enjoy at dinnertime. Considerable thought has gone into the details of this place, including the waiters’ specially made jumpers, the menu printed as a newspaper, and their logo on the table ware. We looked through the menu and started ordering a bit too much. I had a Ruby, one of their ‘cleansing’ juices, which is a blend of beetroot, apple cabbage and carrot. I didn’t love it, but that’s not to say the juice isn’t good, it’s just that I’m not a big fan of beetroot, yet for some reason I keep ordering it. To start we shared Chickpea Fritters with Tarragon Yogurt. These were some rather chunky pieces that we didn’t manage to finish. The dip was very good, but the chickpea chips thing didn’t really work. It would have been delicious with potato chips instead. We then moved onto Eggs Benedict, where we had requested that the ham be replaced by streaky bacon, an important detail for a successful brunch. I also had Buttermilk Pancakes with syrup, which were yummy but a bit too hard in their texture. I’m sure there are plenty of better pancakes within a 1 km radius of the Ace Hotel. When my Food Grid partner asked if it was worth travelling to from across town, I couldn’t really say yes. I’m very happy to have an all-day brunch place where there never are queues in my area, but there was never a moment in the meal when we stopped to give each other that look showing how good the food was. It was just convenient, safe and did the job. I’d rather meet up for brunch at Cecconi’s or Tom’s Kitchen, but when I don’t feel like moving too much I’ll gladly walk over to Hoi Polloi.











Hoi Polloi at The Ace Hotel on Urbanspoon

22 Jun 2014

BYRON - THE RONALDO

London, UK

In the spirit of the World Cup, and as an excuse to visit the new Byron that’s opened up in Shoreditch, I tried the limited edition Ronaldo Burger. Named after the 90s Brazilian football phenomenon, this double cheeseburger has crispy bacon, pickles, soft butter onions and fried onions. There are no special sauces on this burger, only ketchup and American mustard. Its price of £13 is a  hint to the sheer size of the burger, as Byron’s standard burgers cost between £7-9.  When the waitress placed it on the table, it toppled over, another hint that it was too large.  What stood out to me at the first bite was the very thin and perfectly cooked bacon, along with the classic pickles. The flavours all worked really well, but there was just too much meat. I’m not a big fan of double-patty hamburgers, as it messes with a trialled and tested meat-to-bread ratio that works so well in a single burger. I think this burger would be a lot more enjoyable with less meat, so that you manage to give more of your attention to the delicious toppings. Additionally, Byron has such tasty sides, that it is a shame to fill up on the burger without being able to enjoy enough their French Fries, Proper Olives and Oreo Cookie Milkshakes. I had to get the olives to go, as I really could not eat another bite of anything. It was nice to try it, but already when people have asked me about it, I haven’t recommended it. The list of garnishes on The Ronaldo had so much potential, it was disappointing that it just did not balance out with the patties. I’d rather stick to my usual choice of the Cheeseburger with American cheese and Byron sauce on the side.    







11 Jun 2014

OHISAMA

London, UK

Yet another Japanese fusion restaurant has opened in London. Aside from the continually expanding burger scene, new Japanese restaurants and pop ups seem to be dominating the headlines. Upon getting word that an ex-Nobu chef of 15 years has opened a new restaurant in Marylebone, the table for dinner was immediately booked and my imagination ran loose fantasising about what dishes would be served, as Ohisama still does not have a website. Recommended by a friend as having some of the best sushi in London, I can say that my friend’s statement was right on target. Currently operated as a BYOB establishment, Ohisama can go by unnoticed and even seem unappealing from its shop front, with its uninspired interiors and harsh fluorescent lighting. Suffice it to say the ambience will not draw a crowd through its generic glass doors and onto its small sushi bar by the entrance; which is more tolerable that the seating area in the basement that is quite depressing with a tomb-like feeling.  As harsh as the interiors are, one does not go to Ohisama for the scene but to indulge in the food, where all the heart, soul and energy have been poured. The food is exceptional with only a few disappointments; such as the spicy tuna roll, which was less than mediocre; quite frankly surprisingly awful, especially when compared to the spicy tuna roll of Kurobuta. The fried oysters are also not recommendable with an overbearing taste of salt and oozing dollops of oil. Such disappointments however now seem only but a minor infraction in an otherwise delicious meal. The lobster salad was fresh and crunchy, as was the yellow tail sashimi with jalapeƱo. Both are identical to those served in Nobu; it doesn’t take a genius to recognize such signature dishes. The wagyu beef tataki with ponzu sauce is also a winner as it’s seared to perfection with a sauce that makes you want to drink it on its own. The highlights of the meal were the delectable razor clams which I still dream of, the incomparably fresh fatty tuna with a sauce that puts any sauce to shame, which was also featured on the house special roll: the Dr. Watson roll; a heavenly maki of essentially yellowtail. The icing on an otherwise pretty perfect meal was the eel maki with foie gras, which as a roll I feel is a testament to the finesse and creativity of some of the food offered at Ohisama. Despite its unattractive exterior, Ohisama ends up winning you over with its fresh and delicious food. London will soon be hearing more and more of this small outpost in Marylebone, as it wins over one Londoner at a time.










































































































































































Ohisama on Urbanspoon