Sunday, 29 May 2011

Rasa Sayang Express

There are not too many good options to have a quick snack down Oxford Street. There are some dodgy Chinese buffet noodle joints, and the normal sandwich shops that sell the same same plastic sarnies. So when Rasa Sayang opened a small outlet to feed those tired weary and hungry shoppers it could only equal success.
Well the shop always seems to be very busy whenever I have passed it, although I am rarely in Oxford Street, as I class that street as hell on earth. The weeks before Xmas for me, it is hell itself. As you can see I am not much of a shopper.
On this day, I was tired of the options in and around Soho, and only wanted a quick snack, but everywhere I wanted to eat at was too damn busy. I was hungry and I didn’t want to queue.
This is where Rasa Sayang Express fit the bill. Everything is pre-cooked, and just ready to be warmed and plated up, so service is pretty quick.
The menu at this smaller version of its China Town daddy is a smaller version of the China Town one. There are 17 items on the menu, all priced at £5.99p. Doesn’t that make life easy, although if you only have a fiver, you’re buggered really.
I opted straight away for the Nasi Lemak, although I was tempted by the Curry Laksa, but the thought of a good Nasi Lemak won through. Maybe next time.
It was served in a few minutes and looked the part. It actually tasted the part as well. The chicken curry was really good, nice spicy gravy, the boiled eggs had that truly authentic greyness around the yolk that you only seem to get in Malaysia. The accompaniments were all there. The only downside was the rice. It was too stodgy, under seasoned and not very good at all. Disappointing.
All in all it was an ok meal, ir serves its purpose very well. It’s cheap, spicy and quick, but no where near as good as its China Town sibling.

Rasa Sayang Express on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 28 May 2011

What We Ate Last Night : Sopa de Guineo

Colombian cuisine is not very good in general. It has its low points, but it also has its high points, which are its soups. Sopa de Guineo is one of my favourite Colombian soups. I have only ever had it in Colombia, mainly because we’ve never seen Guineos in London before. Even with the amount of Colombians that live here in London, they were just never to be had.

Well until last week, when Lina was feeling a tad homesick, and she was in need of something Colombian, apart from her Arepas.
So whilst shopping in Pueblito Paisa in Seven Sisters she finds a few bunches of Guineos. I’m still amazed she only brought 3 and not all of them.
Sopa de Guineo brings back memories of cool Sunday afternoons up in the mountains on Lina’s uncles farm outside of Medellin. The crispness of the air, with the heat of the sun, somehow makes this soup a whole lot better.

You will need

3 Guineo’s
2 small potatoes, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 litre of chicken stock
1 tsp of cumin powder
1 bunch of coriander, chopped
Salt n pepper

  1. Sweat onion and garlic.
  2. Add potato and add the cumin powder. Stir
  3. Peel and cut up the gunieo. Add to the pan. Do this at the alst minute, as they go brown very quickly.
  4. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.
  5. Once the guineo and potatoes are cooked. Remove a few and keep to add back later.
  6. Blitz the soup to how you like it. You can even pass it through a sieve if you like. Add the reserved pieces of guineo and potato.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add most of the coriander and serve. Sprinkle over some more coriander and enjoy a taste of Colombia.

I did over blitz the soup, so it was crema de guineo, which since it was a cool evening it turned out pretty good. Again with most things in life, leave it for a day and it just gets better. 

Friday, 27 May 2011

Foto Friday # 52

As I've been doing this for a year now, I wanted to put a photo of somewhere special that I have great memories, and nowhere fits that more than Hong Kong. Enough said.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Tay Do on the Pho Mile

Another visit to the Pho Mile brought us to Tay Do. For some reason this large restaurant had been missed on our regular walks down the Pho Mile.
As I said it has a large, but bland dining room. The highlight is a street sign from Albert Square hanging on a wall. The hotel like dining room is very beige.
As per normal we ordered the same dishes. We really need to be more adventurous with our ordering sometimes, but I am a creature of habit, and I go to Vietnamese restaurants for 2 things and two things only. Summer Rolls and Pho. Love them to death, and I’m a happy boy when they are good, and a pissed off son of a bitch when they are not.

Thankfully Tay Do delivered and delivered pretty damn well, which was surprising for such a beige dining room. Did I mention the dull dining room?
The service was nice, friendly and patient as it took an age for us to make our minds up on which Pho we wanted, well apart from the Bun Bo Hue, which is a mainstay. Tay Do also does a Special Pho, which could not be missed.
Even though my Bun Bo Hue was pretty damn special, I kinda wished I’d gone for the Bun Cha, but I go into Pho mode every time I walk down that street. Damn those hypnotic sessions. One day I will be free of them.

I did however find a small shop that I’d never seen before that sells ducks tongues. Awesome find, am pretty excited about this, as been meaning to return to Bar Shan for some of those little tasty treats one day soon. Now no need. God help anyone coming round to my place for supper in the future.
The Pho’s both had a good earthy base to them, which is all I want in a good Pho. To be honest, neither really needed a lot of extra seasoning as they were pretty damn good from the off.

The summer rolls were jam packed with lovely prawns and herbs. The prawns were moist and still had some give in them. Phew. The mixture of herbs and salad added a perfect addition. They were wrapped tightly, so after my first bite everything still held together.
I’m gonna return here and have that Bun Cha, but boy I wish they would spruce up that dire dining room. It really is so bland.

Tay Do on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Kentish Canteen - A Very Good Invite Indeed

I’ve never really been to Kentish Town, well the closest I’d been was when we were first looking for somewhere to live in London, and were taken to a small dingy flat with broken furniture somewhere nearby. After we told the estate agent on the way back to her office that we were not interested, she kicked us out of the car at a set of traffic lights. We never returned. Until now.

Last week I received an email inviting me to sample the delights of the Kentish Canteen. Oddly enough, I’d read about it the week before in the Guardian, as it was listed in an article about the “Top 10 Budget Eat’s in North London.” The blurb about the restaurant was that it prided itself on reasonably priced unpretentious, seasonal dishes from breakfast right through to dinner. It sounded a PR to me, but I was kinda hooked.
Reading some of the critic’s comments made me more curious. Or were they the norm we have come to expect from certain newspaper journos who have lost their way.

“Bright, buzzy… the flexible food station it claims to be”
“Sensationally good…Exemplary. Expect great things of this new place”
“Simple things done well include grilled chorizo on lentils, the eggs Benedict, an excellent beef burger (soft floury bap, good meat, no frills, far better than any “gourmet” hamburger chain), big juicy sardines on sourdough toast with roast tomatoes, fat chips, a good mid-priced plate of Spanish charcuterie, and any number of salads”

After reading the email I was pretty excited about going, so I jumped at the chance and set up a time to visit the following Wednesday. Told you I was excited.

I’d read that the décor was bright, buzzy and a little bland. A tad harsh on the bland I would say, it definitely is a lively coloured restaurant. The large windows let in a lot of natural light, that at 7.30pm made me feel it was still lunchtime. I still haven’t got used to the extra hour yet.
Even for a Wednesday evening there was quite a crowd, which gave the place a nice atmosphere. Nothing worse than going to an empty restaurant to eat. Some people are swayed by the look of a dish, I more the vibe of a place really. Probably why I give starchy 3 Michelin Star places a miss. It’s all in the atmosphere for me.

Their menu is nicely laid out and not that big, which is a blessing these days, as any place with a 4 page plus menu means nothing is freshly cooked.
As with the décor, everything was light and summery, with starters ranging from Spring Parmesan Minestrone to Grilled Haloumi and couscous.
Everywhere these days have their own version of the burger and the Kentish Canteen is no exception. They also have heir own is the Fish n chips ala NW5 (their words not mine), which is pan fried haddock, pea puree, skinny fries and tartare sauce. Also on the menu is a pumpkin ravioli with sage, lemon butter, and a crab, lemon and chilli linguine (sadly not available when we visited, as we asked).
I was pretty surprised as there are quite a few good veggie options as well, which you normally don’t get. I often feel sorry for veggies eating out, as there normally is a token-thought-on-the-spur-of-the-moment-dish. But here I’d be a very happy veggie. Although there is no chance of that happening. Too addicted to meat I’m afraid, even if it National Vegetarian Week.

As it was a mid week supper, and me trying to control my excessive eating habits, we opted to share a starter of their own smoked and flaked salmon with chilli and lemon. Which to be honest I was not expecting much, but was actually pretty damn good. It actually tasted of salmon, which is very unusual these days, as I’ve had some really bad stuff recently.

For the mains we ordered a Hake steak, which came with a Spanish green sauce, new potatoes and a salad and the big boy Butchers steak, horseradish cream, watercress and fat chips.

Both were really excellent. The hake was still juicy and flaky, a lot of care had been taken in its preparation. The steak was cooked a nice medium rare, anything more with this cut and it would have tasted like old shoes. But the real star of the show were those fat chips. I’m a chip lover and these are some of the best in London, almost as good as the Hinds Head in Bray, but not quite. But damn close.
To round off the meal we shared a Passion fruit cheesecake. I’m a lover of passion fruit, it’s the tartness of the juice that gets me and it went well with the creaminess of the cheesecake. It was a shame that the cake was still fridge cold when it was served, but after a few minutes of trying to leave it alone so it could warm up a bit it was a treat. Nice biscuit crust.

Even though we were on a freebie I would have been very content to pay for the bill. I roughly worked out the bill to be around £40 or so with 2 glasses of wine as well. It’s a winner, but I want to return and have a lazy weekend brunch there.
Kentish Town seems to have a lot to offer, as there are some good pubs on the high street, and its not too far from where we are now, but I just wish the Kentish Canteen would become the Stoke Newington Canteen, then I’d become a very happy man indeed. 

Kentish Canteen on Urbanspoon

Friday, 20 May 2011

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

E is for English @ The Breakfast Club in Soho

This is the third outlet in this small mini breakfast chain I’ve eaten at. They have just expanded to one more in Spitalfields, which I guess one day soon I will be eating the Full Monty at.
The Soho branch is, as I prefer, small and cosy. Not many tables and mostly in twos and fours. Six is a pain as there is only one table to eat at. Which if you rock up just after another large group, you are stuffed for well over an hour. Like the large group behind us. Hahahaha.

We were 6, and thankfully we only had the average 20 minute wait. The evil vibe we were sending out worked pretty good. Their are places I do not mind queuing for. Randall and Aubin is one, and the Breakfast Club is another, most other places I get peeved if it’s more than 5 minutes, unless of course I have a drink in hand. Then it’s all aok. Think Polpo.

Onto the food. Well if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. Service is with a smile and at a good Sunday Brunch speed. They understand what a hangover does to a person and are patient with you. The menu is the same as the others, the food you eat tastes the same, all damn good. Sometimes I like to know that I will get the same food at which ever one I goto, then again I only ever eat the Full Monty. One of the best brekkies in London.

I like the Soho branch a lot, but for me Angel is still the best. It’s the cosiness of the place that wins me over. Probably why I won’t be returning to the Hoxton branch, as it is too large, to unfamiliar, too empty.

The other good news with the Soho branch (not sure if it is the same as the others) is that they have a BYO in the evening. Always good, and I do like their burgers.

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

Monday, 16 May 2011

What We Ate Last Night : Haggis

Haggis has been on my list of things to try for what seems like an age. Every Burns Night (25th January) I tell myself to remember to buy one and eat it with all the pomp and ceremony you would find in Scotland.
Unfortunately I have a memory like a sieve these days, so it is easily forgotten as a good idea that will never come to pass. But there is always next year. But after some shopping on Oxford Street, we ended up in Selfridges to buy some meat at O'Shea's, and lo and behold what do we see. Haggis. The temptation is too great. So we forgot about the meat we were going to buy and run out with a small haggis to try.
The Haggis's that O'Shea's sell are not their own. They are MacSween Haggis. A company based in Edinburgh. So the real deal no. Looking at the list of ingredients on the back. It really is not a lot. Lamb offal, beef, oatmeal and onions, plus some spices and seasoning. No E numbers. Unreal. The casing is natural as well. Even better.
To cook the haggis you can either pop it in a microwave (?) for 6 minutes, or if you do not have one, as I don't, then you wrap it in foil and cook in a baking tray filled with water at gas mark 4 for about an hour or so. That is it. Pretty simple. It does however have an unusual smell to it, but I think that is just the spices. Well I hope it is.
We were going to go all out and have it with all the traditional trimmings, but as I mentioned my memory is failing me these days. So we forgot to buy the swede or turnips. We did have some potatoes in the house, so at least we had part of the meal.

After cooking it does look a tad bland. All very grey, dull. Thankfully the taste is anything but. So after cutting open the haggis the filling oozes out and we spoon it onto our plates.
Yes, the taste is anything but bland. It reminded me of black pudding but with out the blood. Nice textures due the the oatmeal and the small bits of offal. Yum yum. It does need a tad of seasoning but I love the hit of black pepper these days.
Unfortunately we never read out Burn's poem or had a piper playing Scotland the Brave for us, but it was a pretty good meal. All for around £5 for 2 or 3 servings. We did see some in Borough Market for about £10 (I think) and serving about 6 - 8. These may be nice to try as they were definitely homemade.
The Haggis is for sure not everyones cup of tea, and if we were to have it again with friends, I would have to pick them very wisely.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Broadway Market

It's been a long while since I made any type of video. So this is just a short one to get me back into the swing of things. 
As you can see the quality is not that good, but it was taken with a naff digi camera. I'm hoping to buy a better one quite soon and hopefully the quality and standard will improve. Time will tell. 
Anyhows sit back, enjoy and hopefully this will inspire you to goto Broadway Market. Don't forget to have your speakers turned on as well. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Veggie Heaven @ Govinda's

I have a belief that what goes around comes around. So basically this means I’m screwed. Big time.
I did begin by getting some good karma by eating at Govinda’s. A vegetarian Hari Krishna restaurant just off Soho Square all run by volunteers of the Hari Krishna faith. We all love this God, as he’s the cheeky chappy who kept fumbling with the milkmaids instead of doing his Godly duties. Well that is how I read it anyhows.
This was all however washed down the drain, as I entered there with a bag full of tasty porky treats just purchased from Camisa and Sons Italian Deli in Old Compton Street. Bad karma.
I’m sure the Gods were watching and making note for when I need them the most, and they will just shun me, remembering all the bad shit I’ve done all my life. I can just see them all turning their backs on me in disgust. I now need to get some of that good karma back and fast.
I’ve been meaning to eat at Govinda’s for what seems like an age. I can always remember seeing those orange robes amid chanting down Oxford Street once in a while and thinking it would be cool to be a Hari Krishna. It was just for the orange robes you see. Hey, I was a lot younger back then, when I felt free and could do anything I wanted. Oh how I wish I could reverse time and be like that again.

Anyhows I digress. The evil bag was safely hidden away as we both ordered a mini thali and a mango lassi each. All for £16 for us both, a bit of a bargain in Soho these days.
The beans, vegetables and rice we had were all very well spiced and cooked till a very nice al dente. They were actually a cut above most food you find in Indian restaurants here in London. The lime pickles were particularly sour and yummy. Brought back memories of that trip last year.

There are lots of other veggie treats to be had here, especially in the normal thali, which is as in India, is a never ending supply of food. It’s with this you get to chow on the chilli paneer. Yum yum.
The veggie lasagne did actually look pretty good. I wonder if it had a slight Indian twang about it though. Could be interesting to try.

Thankfully Govinda’s is not like some other religious food places I have been into over the years, where as you eat you are forced to listen to sermon after sermon. God damn Church. These volunteers just seem to be happy to cook up delicious food rather than preach to you. Such a relief.
So if you are in the area and want some simple Indian vegetarian food, then Govinda’s should be the first place you should go to. I heartily recommend it, you never know orange may just be your colour.
Govindas on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 7 May 2011

D is for Dim Sum @ The Phoenix Palace

For some of us this was the first time Dim Sum had been eaten like this. But what a place for them to loose your Dim Sum virginity.

I hadn’t really had eaten that much Dim Sum since we were in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. Too damn long if you ask me. Even with the Dim Sum being oh so fashionable recently with every blogger in London eating it on a regular basis, I didn’t go for any. Well I am so fashionable late to the party. As always.
As D posed a problem for restaurants in London, there are not too many Djibouti joints around that I could find. We were thinking Danish, but as two of us were in Denmark the week before, it seemed pointless to do it again for them. So Dim Sum came to mind, well it does begin with a D, ok ok I know it is a bit thin on the ground, but at least now we know this game has very flexible rules.
The Dim Sum menu is pretty good at the Phoenix Palace. It has been a while since I’ve eaten Dim Sum and chosen it from a menu, the last few times in Hong Kong, it has been picked from a trolley, as it was pushed around by old ladies, which is always good fun. So this was a little different.
We went straight into it and ordered several plates straight up. As Colombians out numbered us, a lot of fried food was ordered. As the old saying goes “you can take Colombians out of Colombia, but you cannot take Colombia out of the Colombians.” Well they are creatures of habit, but then again aren’t we all.

I’m not going to talk about all the 18 or so dishes we ordered, but just some notes on the highlights and lows.

Highs for me were the cold duck tongues. So so so good. Not everyone’s favourite I have to admit, but it rocked my world. I’ve actually found a shop selling them on the Pho mile. So some experimentation is gonna happen soon.

The Bar-B-Q Pork and Chicken buns were real winners. Very light buns with super flavourful fillings, just as I remembered them from Beijing.

The beef tripe in ginger was also another great dish. It’s been a while since I’d eaten any tripe, after been triped out in Colombia. It was lush, again not everyone’s cup of tea but it sent me into tripe heaven.

The briny pork croquette was good, but way too gelatinous, but oh they tasted oh so very good. Just had trouble opening my mouth after every mouthful though.

The lows were the so called rice pasta with mixed soyas. None of us got this dish at all. The texture of the rice sheets was too soft and gooey. The soya sauces were a welcome addition to an otherwise dull and unloved dish. Maybe a meaty filling might have provided a welcome addition to it.

We were all pretty ho hum with the mini ribs in black bean sauce. They were really just bone and gristle and not really much of a sauce. A real let down.

We had a lot of fried dishes, which for me was a few too many, pero latinos son latinos.
We shared a few puddings, which were egg tarts, cream custard tarts and a chilled coconut cream. The egg tarts were good, but were warm. I am not a fan of warm egg tarts, I prefer them at room temperature. The pastry was nice and flaky, and the flavour really good and custardy. The cream custard tart or buns threw me straight back to the streets of Bangkok where I used to live on these sweet delights. If I would have known these were on the menu I would have had these from the start and been oh so bloody happy. I made a mental note that I have to return to Bangkok and fast.

All in all the Phoenix Palace gave us a great afternoon of great food, great conversation and a great time.
At £13 or so a head this was a cracking choice and a lot of the dishes did touch our hearts. OK I am now officially joining the Dim Sum party.

Phoenix Palace on Urbanspoon