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 jalapeño. 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

4 Jun 2014

EL 7 MARES

Los Angeles, CA

El 7 Mares is a tiny Mexican open-air restaurant in the Silverlake area of LA. I first saw it from across the road when I was having breakfast at FoodLab. I was surprised by how many people were visiting this shabby, gas-station looking eatery. I thought it looked so bad, it had to be good. Later that day I was reading an old TimeOut about cheap eats in LA, and this place was recommended for their fish tacos and ceviche. We headed down at sunset, and there was still a steady flow of people. We parked outside the little, neon-lit building which is placed in the middle of a parking lot, and had a seat in one of the plastic booths. The crowd was a mixture of hipsters and casually dressed Mexicans, creating a very LA vibe. Since we also had two taco food trucks on the list of places to eat that night, we didn't order much. From the illustrated menu above the counter we picked out shrimp tacos and fish tacos. The small portions were served with fresh lime to squeeze over, and a chilli sauce on the side that I didn't need much of due to its spiciness  Both types of tacos were a perfect blend of tangy and salty, and although fried, it did not come off as greasy. Out of the two I preferred the shrimp tacos, but would still order a variety just to mix it up. Their shrimp cocktail is also renowned, so if I ever get to go again, that will be next on my list.   




 
El Siete Mares on Urbanspoon

29 May 2014

BEAST

London, UK

London’s latest arrival on the culinary scene comes courtesy of the team that have brought us the delicious Goodman Steakhouse and the London breakout, and now staple: Burger and Lobster. Suffice it to say expectations were high and our palettes restlessly eager to try what new offerings were to be bestowed upon us in this new mecca of meat and crab. Some important facts to know about Beast, firstly it offers a set menu consisting of beef as a first course and crab as the second, so if you’re a vegetarian this place is not for you. As a matter of fact considering how good it is, if you’re a vegetarian it’s about time to consider eating meat (no offence intended). Secondly, Beast accommodates its diners on communal dining tables in its candle lit dining room; three dining tables sculpted of heavy wood and set with candelabras, creating a medieval and equally mystical vibe to the restaurant, one of a wine cellar almost. One last and important detail to note is that dinner at Beast costs £75 a head excluding drink and dessert.

Now in terms of my experience at Beast; it was nothing short of sensational. Arriving at the restaurant, the ambience on its ground entrance floor is quite the antithesis to what was to come after. The entrance features an oversized beast (bear) sculpture in a triple height glazed and marble floored lobby, giving it a very corporate and sterile ambience. Once my reservation details were gathered by the maître-d, I was shown to the lift to take me down to the restaurant. In the basement, a waitress addressing me by my name (nice personal touch) was waiting and escorted my party and me to our side of the table. Moments after being seated, a smiling waiter briefed us on the concept of the restaurant, took our drink orders and prompted an oncoming waiter to serve us with the antipasti. The antipasti consisted of parmesan cheese (a whole wheel of parmesan was presented) with pickled onions, artichokes and olives. We nibbled on parmesan while sipping our wine until our first course arrived: the meat. The beef served at Beast is Nebraskan beef, served in a New Orleans style steak, which basically means one thing: it’s delicious. The meat was of an exceptionally high quality, which is to be expected from the patrons of Goodman steakhouse. Cooked to medium, it was tender, juicy and melted in my mouth. The steak was served with a side of a smoked tomato salad, green salad and asparagus as well as a delicious creamed truffle sauce to compliment the steak. The tomato salad was divine, and the truffle sauce heavenly although the steak was too good to have a sauce with it; instead I enjoyed it with the grilled asparagus. Upon completing our meat we were given at our request a 10-minute break until the crab arrived. The King Crab from Norway surpassed any crabmeat I have had (excluding a clambake in Cape Cod years ago), extra-large in size and rich in meat and just simply heavenly. Despite how full we already were we could not resist ordering dessert and opted for one of each type: the cheesecake and the lemon mousse. The lemon mousse had an excellent texture and a refreshing zest, and the cheesecake that was a deconstructed concoction of bliss just blew my mind. The whole experience at Beast was a triumph, and as it slowly garners attention it will undoubtedly become an ‘it’ place contending among the London heavy weights.



























Beast Restaurant on Urbanspoon