25 Jan 2015


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

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19 Jan 2015


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


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