18 Sep 2014

IPPUDO

New York, USA

Ippudo is a ramen restaurant with two locations in New York, one in Sydney, lots  around Asia and one opening in London. I went to their East Village branch for dinner, hoping that the waiting time for a table wouldn't be too long. My friend and I entered just behind a large group of well dressed Japanese girls, and were told the queue would be an hour. Fortunately they let us leave our phone number, so we could walk around until it was our turn. We managed to move a bit too far away, so when they called after only 45 minutes we had to make a run for it and jump in a taxi. Although we were a bit late, the helpful staff had kept the table for us, and we sat down after ordering delicious cocktails at the bar. Since we were going to a second dinner later on at Buddakan we skipped the starters and only had a bowl of ramen each. We had the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and the Karaka Men, both with pork and kikurage mushrooms. We couldn't miss out on adding a poached egg as an additional topping, which provided an amazing texture and lots of flavour. The pork belly was perfect and the mushrooms were super tasty. All of these flavours boiled together in the broth created a hearty, but not too heavy taste. I couldn't ask for anything more from a ramen broth. We finished our bowls to the point of lifting them and drinking out the very last drops. To end this delicious meal, I had a glass of sake, generously poured to the brim and served in a small wooden box. Dinner at Ippudo was a pleasant and yummy experience, eaten within a cool and stylish atmosphere without any pretentiousness. We are very excited for their opening in London!








Ippudo on Urbanspoon

11 Sep 2014

LUNG KING HEEN

Hong Kong

Lung King Heen, meaning “View of the Dragon” is a seafood and dim sum restaurant located in the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. The View of the Dragon refers to the spectacular harbour views that this restaurant presents; and like with many Hong Kong dining spots, the view is amazing. What sets Lung King Heen apart from these is not only that it boasts the highly coveted three Michelin star rating; it is also the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Suffice to say expectations were exceptionally high, and not only were they met, they were surpassed. Dining at Lung King Heen was a pleasure and just made me feel good. The combination of the attentive smiling staff, the stunning view, the great ambience and delicious food made this an unforgettable experience. I went to Lung King Heen during lunchtime on my final day in Hong Kong. I was saving it for the last meal, which I now regret as I would have liked to go multiple times. Since it was lunchtime most of the ordering concentrated on dim sum, which is what it is renowned for in any case. Highlights included the steamed lobster and scallop dumpling, which was sublime in every measure; the texture was spot-on and the flavours fresh and not overbearing. The mushroom, prawn and black truffle spring rolls were also an interesting option, although quite heavy on the truffle and oil and thus rank to be the least favourite item from what we had ordered. A delicious and very successful dish were the baked morel mushroom puffs with chicken; they were light, full of flavour and just begged us to order more, which we did. As the meal progressed, the food just kept getting better, with the scallop and prawn dumpling which not only looked perfect, but tasted perfect; it was a delight merely to look at it. The best of all however, goes to the Baked Toro Dumplings, which are essentially filled with lobster, black truffle and mushroom. These dumplings go down as being one of the most delicious things I have ever tried, the baked texture is so unique and the explosive flavour of the black truffle complimented both the steamed lobster and mushrooms; this is a must and I will gladly attest to it being one of the finest dishes there is. Superb! To conclude our light and quick lunch we ended on frog legs that were very delicious indeed, and finally lettuce wrapped vegetables in order to end the meal on a lighter note. There is not much more to be said about this excellent restaurant, except that it will go down as being one of the most memorable meals I have had, and not only do I recommend it, I insist that you visit it if and when in Hong Kong.




7 Sep 2014

BURGER MEISTER

Berlin, Germany

After a long night out in East Berlin, and a very late start to the next day, I happened to walk past Burger Meister on my way into the U-Bahn at Schlesisches Tor. I had heard about it as one of the top burgers in the city, so I concluded that it would make for a perfect breakfast. The stall is built into a converted public toilet right under the railway arches, with a few tables outside. There were only about 3 groups in front of us, so I thought it would be a quick stop. After paying and getting the ticket, I had a look at the number screen above, and realised we were in for a long wait. The 'dings' would come every five minutes, and it felt like forever before it was finally my turn to pick up the burger. I guess it's good that they put some time and effort into preparing the food. I unwrapped the beauty and dug in. The two slices of cheese were perfectly cooked, not too runny like in Patty & Bun. The lettuce and tomatoes were crips and fresh. There was a tiny bit of red onion, giving the flavour some punch without taking over the entire assembly. The bun not only looked beautiful, but had the perfect size, texture and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The meat was really juice, not too bloody, and with a bit of a charred surface from the grill. All of it worked really well together, and I could have easily ordered another, if it didn't take so long to get it. By the time we finished, the queue had grown, as it was getting closer to dinner time. More people were impatiently waiting around for their burgers to arrive. My friends and I shared a standing table with a tall, beautiful couple with glitter on their faces, who told us they had just come from a boat party. They asked if it was worth the wait, and we affirmed that it definitely was. The crowd generally was quite mixed, and not very touristic. The service was friendly, and the general atmosphere around the stall was relaxed. With a bottle of glass Coke to go with, this was the perfect afternoon breakfast. I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about this burger, hence it is getting a full score on the Hanger-Meter. If only we had a Burger Meister in London... 






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.