8 Apr 2015

CARAVAN

London, UK

While the stalls on Exmouth Market are only open for lunchtime weekdays, it is lined with charming little restaurants that take care of the food crowd on weekends. One of the most popular is Caravan, serving world foods and boasting a basement coffee roastery.  Brunch is served between 10 and 4 o'clock, and compared to a lot of other London brunch spots, the wait is not too bad. It is always packed, but hanging around in the bar for 15 minutes should be enough to get a table. I have been to Caravan for brunch on three occasions, and every time I've ordered the same thing; baked eggs with chorizo. Served in tomato sauce with a runny yolk, these little dishes are amazing. They could be a bit more generous with the greek yogurt, but otherwise it is a perfect meal. As a side I recommend the avocado on sourdough bread, which is quite pricey at £5, but good enough to warrant it. Their baked goods change daily, and I was lucky enough to catch the banana bread once. It's one of the better banana breads I've tried, soft yet slightly burnt, and just sweet enough. It was so good that I got some extra to take home with me. The service at Caravan, on the other hand, is awful. The head waiter was so rude that my friend felt she couldn't leave without informing him of what she though. Not being as brave, I prefer to make my criticisms here on the blog. The lack of friendliness from the staff is what dragged down the Hanger-Meter rating for this restaurant. If you are ok with poor service, like I am, you should still go and enjoy some delicious baked eggs. 

Baked Eggs Exmouth Market


Tea Milk Exmouth Market

Baked Eggs and Avocado Sourdough



Caravan Exmouth Market on Urbanspoon

20 Mar 2015

BOROUGH MARKET

London, UK

Borough Market is arguably the most famous food market in London, with people from all over town flocking there on Saturdays, to an area of the city they otherwise might not visit much. It is not a live fashion show like Broadway Market, as the crowd is more touristic or family oriented. It's usually crowded and a bit stressful, so I wouldn't go for the atmosphere, only for the food. For the early birds, there is a wholesale market from 2am to 8am on Saturdays, which I hear is cheap and good, but I've yet to get up that early to check it out. Instead, I've arrived around lunch hour, when the market is packed and the queue for the cash machine stretches far. I would not only advice to get cash in advance, but to get quite a lot of it. It's not a cheap market, and the costs start to add up if you want to have a drink, a few lunches, ice cream, and some snacks to take home. As with all markets, the best strategy is to share so you can try as many things as possible. There is also an array of free tasters to grab on the way, like paella and turkish delights. 

Beef Burger from Borough MarketOne of my favourite meals at Borough isn't technically a market stall, but a temporary BBQ grill set up outside of Applebee's fishmongers. They serve grilled garlic prawn wraps from noon onwards, perfect for a late Saturday breakfast. The prawns are served with only a bit of lettuce, garlic and dressing, and taste absolutely amazing in the wrap. This is a must, and great warm up for two to share before heading into the main market area.  Amongst the most popular stands is Northfield Farm, which always has a long line. When I saw the sign for their Wangus Burger, a mixture of wagyu beef and angus beef. With this, I decided I had to join the queue and try it. I got served after around 10 minutes, and once I dug in I was disappointed with the very first bite. The meat was chewy and kind of springy in consistency, and it seemed like no thought had been put into the garnishes; a bit of rocket and onion just doesn't cut it. When I checked their website now, it seems that the item has been taken off the menu, so perhaps I wasn't the only one who didn't like it. However, the salt beef sandwich from the same place is spectacular, an example of English bread and meat at their best. Clearly, Northfield has good quality ingredients, they just have to put effort into serving it in the right way. Once I've tried a few mains, I usually walk around and look for produce to take home. There's a great selection of juices, chocolates, vegetables and bread to set you up for the rest of the weekend.



Cheese Wheel Borough Market






6 Mar 2015

TONINO LAMBORGHINI VODKA

London, UK

Branded as ‘the’ premium vodka, and belonging to its eponymous parent Lamborghini, the vodka captures the essence of the Lamborghini brand. From the sleek and sharp design of the bottle reminiscent of the crisp contours of the cars, to the smooth crisp taste of the vodka, Tonino Lamborghini comfortably contends in standing as being one of the best vodkas on the market. The Food Grid was invited to sample the vodka at an exclusive tasting held at the Polo Lounge in the Westbury Hotel, where we were treated to a brief bio of the drink, and the plans of its distributor Fantasma drinks to supply it to London’s premier venues such as Funky Buddha and Annabel’s. Soon after being seated we sampled the vodka in three ways. Straight served with ice, in an espresso martini and dirty martini. All were expertly prepared and provided the much needed kick after a long work day. The vodka is light, crisp and smooth and to our relief didn’t have any horrible after taste; in fact it settles very well.  The lack of an after taste, after some research, stands to illustrate the fine quality of a spirit, and Tonino Lamborghini is just that, triple distilled and extracted from the best quality grains which results in the smooth and fine texture the vodka. Initially sceptical to all the hype of the PR company, all reservations were dispelled upon trying it. Entering the market (a new market) under the name of an established brand giant could either be a blessing or a curse in an attempt to live in the shadow of its parent, but Tonino Lamborghini Vodka lives up to the challenge by offering one of the finest vodkas we have tried. Tonino Lamborghini Vodka is now available to try at the Mayfair Club No.41, and we look forward to seeing it around London soon. 
 
 
Dirty Martini and Espresso Martini at Westbury



Lamborghini Vodka on the rocks

Energy Drinks and Lamborghini Vodka
Dirty Martini with Olives London

20 Feb 2015

BOB BOB RICARD

London, UK

I discovered Bob Bob Ricard when I was presented with the challenge to pick a restaurant that my whole family, and most importantly my grandfather, would like on their visit to London. In addition to serving good traditional food, the criteria also consisted of finding a place with comfortable chairs and good acoustics. I'd done some asking around, and the obvious choices such as Berner's Tavern and the Wolseley were fully booked. After finishing an average dinner at Grillshack in Soho we walked past Bob Bob Ricard, which my friend suggested I go for. I had a quick google, and the lavish design convinced me that this would be an interesting place to try. 
The interior is absolutely beautiful, and transports you to a 'Gatsbian' era of glamour and luxury. Every table is a booth, clad in blue leather, with heaps of bling everywhere, reminiscent of the Orient Express. On our way in we were greeted by 6 people, which is a bit excessive, but it works in this setting. The pink graphic design of the menu and the tableware were very well carried out. Some of the luxury is a bit gimmicky such as the much Instagrammed 'press for champagne' button, but it adds to the experience.

beetroot salad bob bob ricardWe started off with some high quality cocktails, then got going with our starters. I can rarely resist soup on any menu, and opted for the Artichoke Soup. This was creamy and warming, and really did taste of artichoke. For mains I had the Beef Onglet served medium rare, small pieces of juicy and flawlessly tender meat. I also got to try a bite of the three-bird burger, an original and crispy meal, although not one that I would choose again when there are so many different things to try. Generally, I liked the fact that all of the dishes were quite simple and you could see what ingredients went into them, yet the flavours were distinct and delicious. It would be interesting to see how the food transitions to the summer time, as I did find it to be a very hearty menu and a cosy winter atmosphere. We were rather full by the end of our mains, so we only went for a little ice cream and Irish Coffee to finish the meal. While my aunt was having a cigarette outside, she spoke with a doorman and he explained the story behind the name Bob Bob Ricard. The restaurant was founded by Leonid "Bob" Shutov and Richard Howarth. Leonid put up two thirds of the money for the restaurant, hence the repetition of his name. Bob Bob Ricard has found a formula that works, with an interior design, food and drinks selection and staff that complete a perfect package of a special dining experience in the centre of London. I daresay you are almost guaranteed good food and a good time if you go to this restaurant. 



burger with three types of poultry

Bob Bob Ricard on Urbanspoon

12 Feb 2015

THE WORLD'S END MARKET

London, UK

Joining the welcome trend of locally sourced food and environmentally conscious eating, The World's End Market serves seasonal, healthy food on the Kings Road in Chelsea. With a whole section in their menu dedicated to burgers, this place seemed perfect for The Food Grid, so we went over for dinner to try it out. Located in an iconic free-standing building that used to be a pub, the interior feels warm and authentic, with green leather furniture and beautiful brass lamps. I headed straight to the bar to check out their signature cocktails, and opted for an Isle Garden, a gin based drink with basil leaves and cucumber. This was refreshing and yummy, and I can imagine it would be perfect at brunch for curing a hangover. We then sat down and looked over the menu, and I ordered Carpaccio of Scallop to start and whole grilled Plaice for mains. 

When the first dish arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how delicately it was presented. Within the casual setting I was somehow not expecting a rather fine dining-looking starter. I am a big fan of scallop, and this one was perfect and fresh, with an unusual combination of Harissa salsa. I only wished there was more of it! My friend ordered the Artichoke with Buffalo Mozzarella. I had a couple of bites of it, and this was one of those rare occurrences where I couldn't decide which dish I liked best, they were both so tasty. The main dishes arrived, and with the first forkful of fish I could taste the particular flavour created by the kitchen's method of grilling their meat and fish in a Josper oven. My friend ordered the Truffle Burger cooked rare, garnished with mushrooms and halloumi. Served in a brioche bun, the meat was charred but raw and juicy inside. Whilst the truffle flavour was great, it masked the taste of the meat. In general it's best to order a classic burger if you want to judge the meat, however I can understand that it can be difficult to resist anything with truffle. Every main dish on the menu is served with salad and french fries, and these were just my type of fries; skinny and extra crispy, so that each of them tasted like those little ones that you usually get excited to find at the bottom of the bowl when you think it is empty. Halfway through the evening I realised that some friends of mine were on a nearby table. They live locally and since the recent opening of World's End Market had already become regulars. They said this place was the best thing to happen to this area for ages. I have to agree that it has an instant charm that makes you want to return. Following desserts towards the end of the night, the music had picked up and I found myself Shazamming one of the songs. I'm sure this restaurant would be a great place for having a quality meal with a group of friends before a night out. 


Brass Lamps and Bar World's End Market


Cocktails World's End Market

Interior Design World's EndTruffle Burger French Fries Salad





Burrata and Artichoke

Cheese and Desserts at World's End Market
www.theworldsendmarket.com


World's End Market on Urbanspoon

We were invited to review The World's End Market, and the opinions expressed are our own.

2 Feb 2015

CAFE GREY DELUXE

Hong Kong

Located in the ultra chic and stylish Upper House Hotel, Café Grey is a Hong Kong landmark for fine dining and some of the city's best panoramic views overlooking Victoria Harbour. With world-renowned formerly New York based Gray Kunz as the patron and head chef, expectations were very high and the hard-to-get reservations were made 2 weeks prior to my arrival in Hong Kong. The interior of the restaurant does nothing but raise the expectations even higher; the beautifully decorated dining room is in line with the modernist and simple theme of the hotel, adorned in dark timber tones that are elegantly lit up with bespoke light fittings that gild the dining room. Tables are arranged in an open yet cozy space, where our table was perfectly located in the centre and seats were in a comfortable and plush sofa/booth style. Everything from the sterling silver candle holder, to the high thread count napkins and fine bone china made us even more excited about our meal ahead, which lasted a solid three hours. 

Four meals from Upper House Hong Kong




























The menu, presented in a leather bound book, made our mouths water and stomachs rumble. To start, we opted for the crab cakes that come served with a lime and mango salsa, the steak tartare with gaufrettes on a bed of beef carpaccio, and the yellow Hamachi carpaccio tartare. All were delicious and beautifully presented, with special mention to be made to the Hamachi which was just sublime; we had to order another one. For mains  I  requested to try the burger, which is not on their dinner menu, but allegedly the best burger in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia (unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before I  devoured it). Despite people giving me strange looks for having ordered a burger for dinner in such a place, it was definitely worth it. It was perfectly cooked and the beef was a fine mix of Australian beef and wagyu. My friends opted for more socially acceptable items of the dinner menu. The sea bass in a creamy white wine sauce with chives, topped with caviar was a rich and delicious choice, as well as the sea bass stew which came served in a lobster broth with mixed vegetables. To conclude our epic meal we ordered the deconstructed banoffee pie and the panna cotta, which were both prepared to perfection and perfectly capped our perfect dinner. The high quality of the food, the beautiful presentation, the exceptionally attentive staff and incredible vistas across Hong Kong, make Café Grey one of my favourite restaurants and worth every penny spent.

cafe grey deluxe hong kong sea bassCafe Grey Deluxe Hong Kong Desserts Interior View





























25 Jan 2015

SMACK DELI

London, UK

Forget cupcakes and burgers, the biggest craze on the London eating scene is lobster, more specifically lobster rolls, which are the now the new ‘thing’. The most recent arrival is Smack Deli that is conveniently, yet not so nicely, located off Oxford Street across from Selfridges; not the best area to be in on a weekend. Designed as a fast food place with high stools for seating and a concise menu, Smack Deli delivers a reliable and cheap lobster roll ideal for a quick bite or to eat on the go. There is however nothing ‘fast food’ about the quality, which is high and made us crave more. Having stopped at the Deli for an early weekday lunch with a friend, we each ordered a California Roll with two orders of Courgette Fries, two Smack Colas, and we opted to share a Mexican Roll. The California Roll is as pretty as it is delicious, and comes served with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber and mayonnaise. It is a light and refreshing roll, which made us dream of warmer summer days. The Mexican Roll comes served with chipotle mayonnaise, jalapeno, corn and cabbage, and provided a spicy uplift and kick that was also very yummy. The Courgette Fries, although a bit too thick for my liking, were fried to a good degree and did not drip of oil; they were adequately crispy. The Smack Cola on the other hand did nothing for me and I would have preferred a regular coke; it was too flat and almost seemed as a healthier alternative to Coca Cola, which while welcome is not what one is after when looking to have a coke. With a very reasonable total price tag of 30 pounds, it was the perfect lunch spot and one I will definitely be returning to in the very near future.

Smack Deli Interior Design














lobster rolls smack deli














deep fried side dish
















Smack Deli on Urbanspoon

19 Jan 2015

KOUZU

London, UK

Kouzu is a new Japanese restaurant in Belgravia, headed by chefs with backgrounds from Zuma and The Arts Club. It is located inside a listed period mansion with a beautiful chandelier suspended in the double height entry space. It's a very inviting entrance, even though there is no actual sign outside. The design and general ambiance is somewhere between a daytime and evening space, and the acoustics are good, meaning you can actually have a conversation unlike in many other London restaurants. We headed over for a weekday dinner, and got a table by the sushi bar upstairs. This is a good spot for watching the chefs prepare their pieces, including some blow torch sushi action. We started off with cocktails, from a list complied of classic favourites, all with a Japanese twist. The Pink Grapefruit Margarita with Yuzu-Shu was delicious and refreshing, and had the ideal balance of sweet and bitter. The Smoky Negroni was also good, although a little heavy on the smoke. To start we ordered the Yellowtail sashimi with truffle dressing as well as the Beef Fillet Tataki. Both of these were amazing, in texture and in their fresh flavours. I would say the beautifully presented Yellowtail is a must when visiting Kouzu. For mains, we shared one portion of the Roasted Black Cod and the Lamb Chops with Spicy Miso Paste. The lamb meat had great flavour, and the miso paste was a sweet and interesting accompaniment to it. We had heard good things about the black cod before going, so we naturally chose it as one of our mains. It was cooked to juicy perfection, served  alongside a citrus and fennel salad, and we quickly devoured this plate to the best of our chop stick abilities. Another highlight of the meal was one of the simplest dishes we had, the Scallop Nigiri. The texture of the scallop was impeccable; no chewing necessary whatsoever. This little treat was so good that we had to order another portion even though we were starting to get pretty full at this point. We then moved onto some of their New Style Rolls. The Spicy Tuna roll was a refreshing classic, and the Negi Hamachi roll was super tasty and original with a crispy covering on the outside of the rice. For dessert we had a small, but incredibly rich, chocolate mousse filled with yuzu syrup pierced by candied orange. By the time we had finished our numerous delicious dishes, the restaurant was filled up with people, and we left happy and full after our first of hopefully many visits to come at Kouzu.










Kouzu on Urbanspoon

   We were invited to review Kouzu, and the opinions expressed are our own.

7 Jan 2015

IPPUDO

London, UK

Ippudo is a big, Japanese chain that recently opened their first restaurant in London. We have previously reviewed the East Village branch in New York on the Food Grid, which we liked a lot. Our expectations were thus high, and we were excited to finally go try out their place in Central Saint Giles, the colourful building by Renzo Piano Building Workshop near Tottenham Court Road. Just before heading over for a Saturday lunch, I did a quick google of reviews, and found that most people were negative towards the service there. We entered the restaurant, and were told that there was a 45 minute wait. This annoying fact isn't even that unusual in London, as more and more restaurants have no booking system. We sat down at the bar to wait. There were some nice touches to the interior, such as the timber pattern over the bar making out the shape of Mount Fuji, whereas other aspects were less successful. The huge chandeliers that are noticeable through the double height glass facade from the street look a little bit cheapo, as do some of the detailing on the glass staircase up to the second level of the restaurant. The restaurants in the St Giles development are quite corporate, and this Ippudo was definitely a lot less atmospheric than the one in NYC.

Following some back and forth, we got a table after 10 minutes, so the wait was not bad in the end. We had already studied the menu, and proceeded to order a lot of it right away. The first dish to arrive was the Tako Wasabi, raw baby octopus in wasabi sauce. I had been suspicious of ordering this, and it turns out I was right. It had a slimy texture with a crunch in the middle of the bites, and none of us liked it. I ate a few more bites of it because the wasabi sauce was so tasty, but the texture was just really strange. This is not just us being picky, as both of my friends had previously eaten raw octopus so fresh that it was still moving when going down their throats. Even looking at the photo now while uploading this blogpost is making me feel a bit queasy. The rest of the starters turned out to be a lot better. The fried chicken Hirata Buns were really tasty, with just the right amount of spice. The chicken and vegetable Gyozas were well prepared; grilled on one side and soft on the other, however the flavour of the filling could not compete with that of Tonkotsu. We also had the Ippudo Salad with crispy noodles on top. The dressing had an interesting flavour, but the actual vegetables were so normal (cucmber, lettuce, peppers) that it tasted a bit boring.  It was freezing outside, so I asked for a glass of hot sake, but I was told that during lunch they only serve two types of sake, neither of which could be served hot. Instead I went for a Sencha Tea, which was delicious next to such a heavy meal, but it was sadly taken away from the table before I had a chance to finish it.  Despite having lots of starters, we were very hungry when the main dishes arrived. I went for the Shiro Vegetarian with a seasoned boiled egg, and I also tried some of my friend's Shiromaru Hakata Classic with pork. Both dishes were perfectly tasty, and the noodles had a good bite to them, but I felt like the bowls were lacking something. Neither the flavour of the broth or the toppings were punchy enough. Considering the eggs were an additional topping, the dish could have been even more standard if we hadn't chosen to add to it. I overall enjoyed eating it, and finished my portion, but it was not a spectacular bowl of ramen. I have to agree with other online reviews in that the service was quite annoying. They were attentive in that they kept coming up to us and asking if things were ok and taking our plates, but they were not particularly helpful. Ippudo is a decent place, but as London now has plenty of ramen restaurants I expect more than just 'good' if I am to visit a place twice. Next time I would try Kanada Ya across the street instead. 
Ippudo London on Urbanspoon