Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Clove Club - The end product

The Clove Club

I've been thinking of how to open this post about The Clove Club. About how it all started 3 years ago with three very talented chefs, and how I've intently followed their progress through a variety of popups that they have done. It would be an understatement to say that I've been a fan of their work. I feel a little sad that there is just Isaac McHale left of the original three Young Turks, but thankfully the food is as great as ever. Partnering up with co-collaborators of their stint at the Ten Bells, the Clove Club was born.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Those American Burgers - Five Guys and Shake Shack

Right, I know everyone is bored of talk about burgers. Hell, I know that I am. But the truth is, I was just a little bit excited when I heard Five Guys and Shake Shack were both London bound. Two American heavy weights, ready to duke it out on the streets of Covent Garden, one I had heard little of, the other, responsible for one of my food eureka moments. It was going to be pretty interesting how these emotions translated into foodie fact.

My very own Five Guys hat. Scant reward for rude staff and a ridiculous queuing system.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bird of Smithfield abridged and in pictures

Bird of Smithfield

Move over "Dude Food", Modern British seems to be taking over the London restaurant landscape. With a glut of chefs seemingly moving on from the old school British institutions such as the Ivy and St John, we see them trying to reinvent themselves and embrace what they love most. This can only be a good thing. At Bird, an ex Soho House alumni, expect the best of British produce updated in it's elegant upstairs dining room.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Salon - A truly British affair


One of my favourite places in London is the Granville arcade, better known as Brixton Market, leading into the hotbed of great little food restaurants, Brixton Village. I have spent many hours wandering these hallways trying bites of food at the many food stalls lining the arcade, generally getting lost in the feeding frenzy as others swarm around you with similar ideas. This group of restaurateurs continues to grow, and one of the newer additions is Salon, a small dining room located above Cannon & Cannon (a British deli) cooking up food with a very fresh and mostly British focus.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Food and Tech - Playing with the Nokia at the Social Eating House

Social Eating House

When it comes to keeping me happy, I'm pretty easy. Throw me some gadgets, feed me some food and I'm as happy as a pig in muck. When the PR for Windows Phone came knocking asking if I wanted to play with their new phone and eat at the not-yet-open Social Eating House, I jumped at the chance. I've been on iPhone since the beginning but have been seriously been considering a move away to the newer, more innovative platforms. As for Social Eating House, it's basically yet another brasserie with a British twist, but it is the newest opening from Jason Atherton so always worth checking out.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ramen, the London Trio - Tonkotsu, Bone Daddies and Shoryu

Before we start, I'm going to lay it out there, I am NOT a ramen expert just a man who has eaten and loved a lot of noodles in his life and can consider myself a noodle fan. Over the last 6 months, London has seen a sudden influx of ramen bars with a focus on the noodle soup, as opposed to relegating this to just another item on the menu. If you aren't acquainted, it is a combination of noodles, rich broth and an array of toppings normally and can be the most wonderful of dishes when executed perfectly. Here is my rundown of three of the Londons finest:

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar


I guess you can say that Bonedaddies isn't your average ramen bar. Pumping out rock and roll (at a very acceptable decible level), it's all high tables, stools and shared dining space. The menu itself consists of eight variations, with two core broth varieties, pork and chicken. I've gone through most of the menu here and I normally opt for the Soy Ramen with some add ons (the chashu pork is delicious, but two meat ramen is always better than one meat).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Mall Tavern: A quirky classic

The Mall Tavern

The London restaurant scene is growing up at an alarming rate, but even with these new openings every week, I find it hard to be drawn in by many of them. You have the burgeoning junk food scene, for example. Let's not try to tart it up as anything else, it's simply delicious filthy food like burgers, hot dogs and fried chicken but not really something I can cope with eating every day. You have the new wave of brasseries, which have strangely ballooned over the last few months (do we really need more than a few brasserie places?). Sadly, I find these astonishingly dull in principle. You have the new wave, trying to put their own stamp on their food, but normally only either offering expensive tasting menus or bar food.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The American Invasion continues: The Electric Diner, Portobello

The Electric Diner

It seems there is no stopping the American invasion. It's been a juggernaut since last year where parts of the London restaurant scene are starting to resemble New York, from Wolfgang Puck (Cut) and Serge Becker (La Bodega Negra) who opened last year to Keith McNally (Balthazar) and Brendan Sodikoff of the Electric Diner who have been more recent additions. Whisper it, we still have David Meyer and his Shake Shack looming over Covent Garden in the very near future.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Old School Chinatown - HK Diner


Chinatown holds a lot of fond memories for me. When I first moved to London, I remember the Sunday trips my family and I used to make. Dim Sum at New World and the weekly shop for ingredients at either New Loon Moon or Loon Fung supermarkets (both institutions in their own right), with a special treat of haw flakes or boxes of weird biscuits containing mini robots if we behaved ourselves. For an 8 year old child, weekends built up to these days.

As an adult, I wrote my dissertation on Chinatown, documenting the shift from being a cultural center for the London Chinese to a tourist center for the London tourists. I even worked on Wardour st to fund  my university days, popping into Wong Kei for cheeky roast meats on rice. You could say I'm quite connected. Over the years, Chinatown has changed a lot, with premises seemingly changing names  as often and inevitable as the seasons. One of the few constants has been HK Diner, an institution on Wardour Street, packed equally with local young Chinese students and the older generation alike.

Serving strictly Cantonese food, I hurtled in with a few of my friends and was lucky enough to stroll straight to a table. Navigating the menu in any Cantonese restaurant can often be a minefield, faced with a myriad of choices all sounding a little like the last. Playing it safe, I palmed off ordering duties to my friend who is a little more versed in Cantonese food than I am and awaited the impending feast.

There must be some sort of unwritten three point code of conduct within the restaurants of Chinatown:
  1. Surly staff
  2. All the food will turn up when it's ready
  3. It's not going to break the bank
'Tick" point one. Although the staff weren't rude unlike some of it's neighbours, they took our order without so much as an upward glance. Rushing about the tables, there is an air of efficiency with a whiff of sterility. This is not a place where you are expected to hang around. All being said, the food arrived quickly and certainly lived up to it's reputation.


First up was some jellyfish. Most people who have never eaten jellyfish may balk at the idea of chowing down on jellyfish but it's really more of a texture than a flavour. Think a soft rubber band often doused in sesame oil. Still probably not sounding that appealing, but I am rather fond of it, it's well worth a try and the version at HK Diner had a hint of sweet chilli to it which wasn't displeasing.

Beef Ho Fun

Hot on the heels of the jellyfish came the beef ho fun. Flat noodles, slices of beef and bean sprouts cooked in a really hot wok. Simplicity itself, but it's the heat of the industrial wok which seems to reach ridiculous temperatures and impart that deep smoky flavour which really makes the dish.


I'm not really all that fond of tofu. It's bland and the texture is so soft that I rarely see the addition of tofu adding anything to most dishes. On the other hand, stuff it with mince pork and then frying it just about makes it palatable. Dousing it in a garlic and oyster heavy sauce and it becomes a joy.


I find it hard to resist ordering some roast meats the second I venture into the borders of Chinatown, so an obligatory portion of roast duck was up next. Roast Duck, roast pork and rice was my go to comfort food when I started writing this blog and it's been a while since I rated a new contender. This one was pretty decent and served without bones if requested, something I am fond of.

Pea Shoots

Pea shoots are probably the most expensive of the veggies available, but there's something about that tender stem vegetable stir fried in a little garlic which I just can't resist. I do get horrified at the cost of vegetables in Chinese restaurants (this one weighed in at about £7 a portion) but it's well worth an order for it's delicate flavour and texture.

Pork Belly and Preserved cabbage

Pork belly and preserved cabbage is one of those more traditional Cantonese dishes and is packed with flavour. This generous portion is packed with sauce you just want to smother all over your rice, the preserved cabbage adding a pleasing sourness which helps cut through the rich pork fat of the belly. Moreish.


Last but not least, a wobbly comforting steamed egg. Combining standard eggs, century eggs (which are dark in colour and add a slightly chalkier texture) and salted egg yolks, this is simply steamed and served with a bit of soy. The subtle contrast in textures of the egg, combined with the bursts of flavour from the salted egg yolks combine to form an incredibly satisfying and comforting dish.

HK Diner is one of the few restaurants which seems to have stood the test of time. It isn't going to win any awards for it's food, but it's decent and enjoyable and for around £20 a head, you can eat enough food to fill you beyond capacity (tick list point 3).

*This post was sponsored by Cox and Kings as part of their Chinatown review challenge. Check them out, they put together some pretty great holidays to China amongst other places*

HK Diner - 22 Wardour Street, London W1D 6QQ

HK Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 25, 2013

"What I Ate Weekly" 3/4 - Illness, Chinese New Year and a truly Quality Chop House

Chinese New Year

Being sick doesn't half know how to put a dampener on things. Snivelling, coughing, sneezing, complaining that my throat hurts ALL the time. But these are not the worst thing about being ill, not even close. It's the lack of appetite, an idea so alien to me that it took a virus to remind me how utterly depressing not wanting to eat is.

Four Roses Bar

So that is why there is no week 3, it was pretty much a write off with one highlight, a dinner at the Old Quality Chop House. After a few drinks at the new Four Roses popup bar under the Zetter Townhouse (up there with my favourite bars in London), I headed with the venerable Gin Monkey for some food to mop up the bourbon.

Quality Chop House

I wasn't really sure what to expect, its previous incarnation was a restaurant selling meatballs which I previously hadn't heard particular great things about. This version seems to have strong British and Italian influences. Sharing a plate of charcuterie to start set the whole meal off on a good footing. Delicious cured meats, but hardly genius cooking. Morcilla and apple sauce may not have been the prettiest thing to look at but was also extremely moreish, with the apple compote not too sweet and breaking up the richness of that blood sausage perfectly.

Quality Chop House

Where the Quality Chop house really came into it's element was the meat. The longhorn fillet may not have been cheap, but was cooked to medium rare perfection. Served with watercress, nuggets of bone marrow and a pickled walnut, each mouthful was a joy. Even the nuggets of bone marrow that I have never been that fond of injected that little depth of beefy flavour. The Quality Chop house is a great place, and even though we only ate in the bar area, I look forward to going back to try out their ever changing set menu in the dining room.

The Quality Chop House - 94 Farringdon Rd, London, Greater London EC1R 3EA

The Quality Chop House on Urbanspoon

So, the on-set of sickness hit and I managed to miss two eagerly anticipated meals. One was a leaving party at the institution that is Tayyabs (if you ever need some fantastic curries and grilled meats, this is the place) and the launch of Melba (a new platform to find and eat at some of Londons supperclubs). Thankfully come Sunday, I had managed to get take a break from generally feeling crap to spend Chinese New Year with my family.

Mandarin Kitchen

Every year, we end up at the same restaurant, Mandarin Kitchen in Bayswater. Our family have been coming here regularly over the last 20 years and I think you would struggle to find a better version of lobster noodles or aromatic duck in London. Some of the other things it does well here are their deep fried baby squid (packed with chilli and garlic, and one of my favourite things in London), their dry fried chicken, chilli and onion dish, and maybe best of all, their off the menu truffle, mushroom and tofu special, which is indeed very special. Rounding off all the food, the traditional Yee Sang, a raw salmon and jellyfish salad with all sorts of other bits and pieces, flung into the air by all at the table and cheered with gusto to see in the year of the Black Water Snake.

Mandarin Kitchen - 4-16 Queensway, Paddington, London W2 3RX

Mandarin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Danny Trejo - Lucky Chip

One of the best burgers you're going to find in London can be found at Lucky Chip, a successful convert from mobile burger shack to bricks and mortar. From Netil Market to a semi-perm residency at the Sebright Arms in Hackney, you can gorge on fries in many guises (truffle oil, cheese, chilli, all of the above, not forgetting the wasabi and ginger mayo version) and burgers named after movie stars. The special on the night, a Danny Trejo, was a punchy mix of jalapeno, bacon and sour cream amongst other things, and will set you back just under a tenner. I would go as far to say as Lucky Chip are currently best in class and unmissable if you love burgers.

Carrying on the Chinese New Year celebrations, a feast at Goldmine with friends. Located in the heart of Londons 2nd Chinatown (the Bayswater/Queensway area is awash with great Chinese restaurants), we feasted on all sorts of great Cantonese fare. Steamed egg three ways was a new dish on me, and a perfect banqueting dish. Best of all is their roast duck, a "signature" dish of so many Cantonese restaurants. Here, the meat is moist, tender and roasted to perfection. Rumour has it that students heading back to the East come here to take some duck home then, vac packed on site. If that isn't endorsement enough, I'm not sure what is.

Goldmine - 102 Queensway, Paddington, London W2 3RR

Gold Mine on Urbanspoon

So there it is, a fortnight punctuated by illness but book ended by good eats. Hope you enjoyed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Vigo, where it's all about the fish...(Day 1)


At the end of last year, I got an email asking me if I wanted to go to Spain and learn a bit more about Galicia. Initial reaction, was this a joke? Secondary reaction, where the hell was Vigo? I'm a Geography graduate, so that last point was pretty embarrassing  but once I realised this wasn't some sort of elaborate wind up, I keenly said yes. This was after all, my first invite abroad. And I was pretty damn excited by it.



Vigo (as Google Maps swiftly revealed) is located just north of Portugal, deep in the heart of Galicia, and as it turns out, one of of the biggest fishing ports in the whole of Europe. I was slightly worried about the itinerary, containing an assortment of seafood related activities including fish markets and an outing on a fishing boat. It was Winter and I am hesitant about seafood at the best of times. But what's the point of writing this blog if it wasn't about learning?

Staying in the heart of "new" Vigo, we were put up in the Gran Hotel Nagari, five star accommodation. The hotel is home to a rooftop spa boasting a grand view if Vigo. Or so it claimed. Sadly, I wasn't allowed up there so I can't really comment on how bad or good it was. My room, on the other hand was lovely, as were the staff and the location is pretty close to the old town and Maruja Limon, the solitary Michelin starred restaurant in Vigo, and incidentally, the destination for the first night in Vigo.

Maruja Limon

Maruja Limon

To start, a little about the wine of the region. Throughout the meal, we were served one white and one red, but played a few tasting games including being blindfolded and tasting at different temperatures to pick up the subtle nuances of each. The white, an Albarino which is a grape common to the region, was the star of the show and as the focus of this meal was around the seafood of the area, matched well with many of the dishes we ate throughout the evening.

Maruja Limon

The first bite of marinated tuna-esque fish set the tone, a light and fresh mouthful, swiftly followed by a delicate veal carpaccio with parmesan. Each subtle mouthful, heightened by little accents like the mustard in the carpaccio and the diced tomato with the tuna. 

Maruja Limon

I'm not going to lie, I don't remember what was in every dish I ate. I have pictures, but with the limited Spanish I know, most of my memories are just that, just supported by a liberal use of Google translate. An unknown fish started the banquet in earnest, dusted with a liberal shaving of macadamia nuts. Next, a mullet dish with lightly pickled vegetables. Simple, elegant but just what the fish needed to shine. I've never really understood the fuss around fish before, as often found it bland and dull, but these dishes let the fish speak for each itself, and when it's as fresh as this, it's hard not to enjoy.

Maruja Limon

The best dish of the night came next, a truffle and savoury egg custard with nuggets of bacon and mushrooms. We were urged to dig deep into our little bowls, and with each spoonful, a different balance of flavours revealed itself. A wonderful dish that left us licking our bowls.

Maruja Limon

Back to another fish, this time with an artichoke and seaweed sauce. I don't remember ever having enjoyed such a fish based meal, but I guess that I have never eaten fresher, which clearly makes the difference. After the fish, was our final savoury course, an odd combination of sweetbreads and grapes in a cheese sauce. Put simply, I have never enjoyed sweetbreads. I put them up their in the league of the devil alongside anchovies. The texture, the fattiness and the aftertaste are all too challenging for me and this dish sadly did nothing to change my mind.

Maruja Limon

Maruja Limon

The desserts were extraordinary. A sorbet of green apple had such surprising clarity of flavour, and paired with celery, pineapple and tangerine in a juice with a slight savoury tang left me yearning more. A final dessert of "False truffle" arrived looking like a rather large summer truffle. Inside, a chocolate truffle, completing the witty play on on words. A joke doesn't really work if it doesn't eat well, but there was nothing funny about this. This was a serious dessert.

Maruja Limon

On reflection, the whole meal at Maruja Limon was extraordinary. I learnt a little about the wine of Galicia and it's subtle nuances, I learnt a little about the different types of fish and its individual flavours, I even got to try a sip of the first Galician gin, but most of all, I learnt that there is nothing quite like a fresh fish supper. 

So day 1 was a great introduction to Vigo. A wonderful meal and a wonderful hotel. According to my agenda, day 2 was going to teach me all about the fishing trade that manifests itself everywhere in Vigo. I couldn't wait.

Maruja Limon - Restaurante Maruja Limón, Victoria, 4 (Plaza Compostela), 36201 Vigo

Hotel Gran Nagari - Plaza Compostela, 21, 36201 Vigo

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"What I ate" Weekly - Issue TWO

Vestal Vodka

The best way to kick off the week is vodka, right? Well, that's exactly what I did when I attended an LCS event with Vestal Vodka. Coming out of Poland (with an Anglo-Kiwi twist), this vodka is different in many ways, although the focus is on it's single filtration, the "terroir" and age of its potatoes, and it's concept of small batch vintage. It has a pretty interesting (and initially not entirely pleasing) smell, but once you drink it, I picked up the strange nuances of apple and bubblegum, challenging but not displeasing. Over the night, I sampled the entire current Vestal range and emerged from the Vestal Vaults very much converted, only something an evening with the London Cocktail society can do.

Learn a bit more about Vestal Vodka HERE

Tonkotsu - Soy Ramen

I'm not gonig to deny it, I have a bit of an obsession with ramen at the moment. I've always loved noodle soup, and the latest influx of ramen restaurants has just fuelled this obsession. Bonedaddies is my current favourite, but after an initially disappointing outfit (to be fair, it was very early days), I thought I would give Tonkotsu another go for lunch. I'm glad I did as it was infinitely better. The tonkotsu broth was ridiculously rich (probably a little too porky for me), although my soy ramen had just the right balance. The chashu pork was plentiful and retained bite, packed with flavour. I can't help thinking that the whole bowl and experience was a little underwhelming though, lacking the fun and variety of Bonedaddies, but please don't misunderstand, this is in no way a bad ramen. It's just that my heart (and bowl) lies with another.

Tonkotsu - 63 Dean Street, London W1D 4QG

Tonkotsu on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Gran Luchito Popup @ Bambuni

I've never visited Bambuni in Nunhead before, crazy really as it is so close to where I live, but it was the venue for one in a series of Gran Luchito supperclubs. Being early for once, I wandered around the shop and was astounded with the cornucopia of delights on the shelves and in the fridge. As soon as the other guests arrived, we started to tuck into a range of Gran Luchito inspired dished by Tiffany of Kitchen Conversations. My personal favourite was the pork tamale, steamed corn husks containing tender pork. I loved the smoky Gran Luchito, and have an inclination that I may be spooning it on everything. Grabbing a few goodies off the shelves, I left vowing to return for some ham, cheese and a cup of coffee (which uses beans from local SE London supplier Volcano).

More pictures of the night can be found HERE, and please visit the Gran Luchito website to find out more about their roving Supperclubs HERE.

The end of the week took me deep into Dalston, probably one of the strangest neighbourhoods in the whole of London. On the way to Shanghai (restaurant, not city), I walked past men and women in suits, hipsters painting a wall advertising a tea shop with a vintage vibe and a scary old mans pub with groups of old drunk men by the door shouting indecipherable obscenities at each other. Shanghai itself is just as mental, a tatty looking pie and mash shop fronting, leading to a large, far more modern looking dining space out the back. The food was decent enough, with cracking aromatic duck and mediocre dumplings, but we all had a decent time chugging Tsingtao, playing coin eye spy and generally making lots of noise.

So two out of two. Not looking too shabby so far.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"What I ate" Weekly - Issue 1

So this weekly round up is going to be a "thing" for me. Let's call it a trade off to try and at least keep up and get some constant content on here.

Paul's Pies

First out of the traps, the guys at Paul's Pies. Randomly, I used to work with one of the guys behind this, and he got back in touch letting me know about his new venture. "Do you want to try some pies?" he said. "Hell yes" I said. A few days later, a delivery arrived packed with four handmade and rather excellent pies. Dinner for the week sorted. Each pie is hand made and packed with whatever the box says (I think the venison and mushroom was my favourite). Knock up some mash and gravy and you'll have a rather excellent dinner. Thanks guys!

You can get your hands on a pie through their website HERE.


One of the highlights of the week was an unsurprisingly excellent meal at Silk Road in Camberwell. A local favourite selling Tsingtao for a couple of quid and a host of reasonably priced dishes from the Xinjiang region of China. We devoured the menu in under an hour and left as satisfied as food and beer can leave you. Order the lamb skewers, aubergine, homestyle cabbage and their dumplings. Roll home. 

Here is my old post on Silk Road

Nanban Popup
Tuesday saw me visit The Thatched, a lovely pub located in the heart of Ravenscourt Park, for a test run of Tim Andersons (he of Masterchef fame) menu of his upcoming restaurant Nanban. Based around the food from the South Island of Japan (Kyushu), we tried a number of strange dishes, from lotus root to ramen to kinako buttercream (or roasted soybean to the unaquainted). Best of the lot was a cheesy vegetable curry crowned by a slow cooked egg, crazy in conception but it just drags you in for that one more spoonful. Look out for the official Nanban opening in the next few months.

Nanbans FB page is HERE.


For a couple of months, my friends and I have been plotting to get away for a few days, them predominantly from their wives, me, away from the hustle and bustle of London. How we settled on Deal in Kent, I have no idea, but it's close, has a rather drab pier, and more pubs than you can shake a stick at. It was a pretty slack weekend of pubs, pizzas and pound coins (couldn't resist sticking some money into the fruit machines), with little gastronomy in sight. Thankfully, we came to our senses before our drive home and ended up at the Black Douglas Cafe on the Deal seafront, an excellent cafe recommended by Marina O'Laughlin. In our state, only the Black Douglas big breakfast would do, and the end results were exactly what was needs. I loved the look of the proper menu too and it  was packed on the Sunday we were leaving, which I guess says more about it than I can write in this paragraph.


More info on the Black Douglas cafe can be found HERE.

So there you go, roundup 1 done. Lets see if I can keep this up for another 49 weeks....