All posts filed under “4

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A bit of Dabbous..

It is a truth universally acknowledged by food critics that Dabbous is a restaurant worthy of month-long reservation attempts. For me, I have found tastier solace at its downstairs bar. You’ll find bar nibble quickies (BBQ beef buns, etc.), some Dabbous signature dishes, awesome desserts and funky cocktails. And, in my opinion, Barnyard – a walk-in only restaurant by Ollie Dabbous – is precisely that.

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Four clues..

There were rumours that a certain Michelin star chef has quietly moved in at an existing restaurant address around Carnaby Street. He shunned the aids of PR. I was also further teased, “you had his food before and you liked it”. That’s about it. My two clues: the “Carnaby” location and that the chef is a “he”.

My brain labour started, no doubt. Social media network didn’t help much. The “no PR” works most effectively to obscure, when a lot of restaurants these days (especially in Central London) rely on PR bombs. Luckily, I was able to single out a couple of possible sites that had recently been refurbished. My foot work followed. I looked through the menus of my narrowed-down restaurant list.

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Gymkhana: The Tasty (Colonial) Memories in Mayfair

Social and colonial stuff

For those with limited cultural and Commonwealth knowledge (like me), Gymkhana may be summed up as a posh colonial-style sport club where members come dine and drink. And walking in, the ambiance and the design – a well-lacquered floor, framed pre- and post-colonial equestrian memorabilia, hunting taxidermy, and so forth – did live up to the brief. Social, nearly informal. There was also an unmistaken vibe of masculine gentility as I was seated at the table by a pristinely uniformed staff (in a Nehru jacket?) who explained away, with great but simplified detail, the culinary crux of Indian cuisine that I am never familiar with. (Yes, by now, I hope you have spotted that the cuisine of South Asian origins is not my forte).

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F.A.T by Freddie Residency @ Sharp’s * DunneFrankowski

A cut above average..

A buzz cut. A neck shave. An espresso. Or, a sandwich!? Sharp’s can fix it for you. This is a relatively hip barber’s formerly located on Charlotte Street. Recently, it was seduced to a new *flagship* site on Windmill Street. The operation is split into two parts, as trend has it in Fitzrovia. The front bit is a premium coffee shop by consultancy coffee brand DunneFrankowski, known to those from the East (of London). The barbers are kept in the vintage grooming ground in the back. According to TOB, who has been a loyal Sharp’s customer since its Charlotte Street site, if you get a cut, you can get a free barista-grade coffee. (I can’t verify this as I have my haircut at an internationally corporate, expensive and soul-less hair salon elsewhere). The sandwich that I speak of is a fabulous two-month addition at Sharp’s * DunneFrankowski.

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Mayfield: The New Impression of Hackney

The emerging gastro-scene of Hackney..

I like the way the up-and-coming crowd of East London make it work by throwing random things together and strut with a cool smirk. A new restaurant in Mayfield in Hackney is a bit like that. The team behind Borough Wines (with chef Matthew Young) took over a site that was once a greengrocer’s shop on Wilton Way, kept the name (and the facade) but transformed the rest in tune with the changing vibe of East London. White veneered tables contrasted with black, repainted wooden chairs. Very pristine. The walls were robed with a wavy surface of wood and glowstick neon lights. It is, still, a neighborhood restaurant. It exudes that particularly friendly charm and bustle but also couples it all with a cool smirk. (I like it very much).

The menu reads an inventive deviation from Paris bistronomique – not as British as the Young Turks and leaning towards being European. There is no fixed price and no tasting menu. You order what you want, and as much as you want. The price for the savoury is between £5 – £14; for the desserts, £4.50 – £6.50. The portion is substantial. The taste, focusing on the natural, is light and with not much jus/dressing. My Peach, Mozzarella and Ham (£8.50) was quirky and predictably tasty. The mozzarella used was of good quality, and so was the olive oil. The torn purple basil added an extra touch of aroma. The peach, if just a little more ripe, would make the dish exquisite. Beef, Lettuce, Mint & Summer Truffle (£14) was a visual delight. The strips of beef, which seemed lightly blanched, were pleasantly chewy and slowly released a decent length of taste. This foiled nicely with the onion-y crunch of shredded and coyly vinegared lettuce. The unusual addition of mint left me with a familiar (Thai) note. The truffle did not taste or smell much. (But, I think it is an environmental problem and we have the bad weather to blame). Next was Octopus in Miso Broth with Broccoli and Slow-Cooked Egg (£12.80), which I highly recommend. The elasticity from the octopus was naturally toothsome and well-judged. The halved and charred broccoli was skillfully prepared. The silky miso broth (with chevril) boast a mild fermented saltiness that combined well with the leaking egg yolk. Pea Veloute (£6.50) – served with tart apricot foam, white sesame seed and samphire – was visually out of place from the rest we ordered and did not hit as high a note. Though the veloute was refreshingly pea-y and smooth, I would have liked it to be more liquid. I also found the seeds and the samphires redundant. Duck, Courgette and Raspberry (£11.50) was pretty and good. The duck breast (pink and tasty) could have held a little more moisture but the crispy skin (and the leak-y fat underneath) was sublime. I also liked the fresh tang of the raspberry, the juicy sweetness and dense texture of the grilled courgette. Brown Butter Ice Cream (£4.50) was stellar. The perfume was luscious and caramel-like. There was also gummy creaminess to the texture, too. The cherries served alongside were moreish. TOB didn’t let me eat his Peach Melba (£6.50).




52 Wilton Way
E8 6GG

Tel. 020 7254 8311

Mayfields on Urbanspoon

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City Caphe + Sho Foo Doh (at Pacific Social Club) = My Fave Asians!!

Two of my most favourite Asians <3 <3 <3

City bound..

City Caphe on Ironmonger Lane seems just another Vietnamese takeaway shop, and I was once fooled by its recyclable crockery and a menu typical to any Vietnamese joint in London. After many visits, however, I began to feel this little paired-down shop IS the best Vietnamese food outlet in London. The proprietor Julie and her family run this small business with heart and soul. This, as you will see when at the shop, has earned them strings of very loyal lunch-crowd followers (in other words – possibly one of the longest and fastest-turning queues in London).

City Caphe is opened only during the week, roughly from 11am until 4pm. (Many items are sold out before 3pm). The menu is simple but not short. There are Pho, Bun Hue, Cuon, Bahn Mi, Spring Rolls and a superbly authentic and highly sugared Vietnamese Iced Coffee. All (apart from the coffee) come with a variety of stocks and toppings. The flavouring is well-judged and thoughtfully modified in ways that the recipes do not depart from authenticity. The portion is substantial and the price never goes above £6.50. Summer Roll (£3.75) – tightly packed with springy prawns, tender simmered pork and fresh herbs – was refreshing and delivered exactly what you’d expect from a proper summer roll. The sweet peanut-based sauce added velvety richness. Bahn Mi is freshly prepared and instantly assembled per orders. My Classic Pork Bahn Mi (£3.95) was tightly packed with multi-textured Vietnamese sausage slices and sweet pickles. City Caphe doesn’t bake baguette on the premise but has it tailored specially for them. Beef Bun Hue (£6.50) was consistently feisty. The good quality beef slices were perfectly poached. The Bun noodle was slurpy-licious. The intense beef stock went down a storm with the garlicky, spicy pungent-ness of chilli oil. An additional herb bag containing basil, chilli and lime wedge was a generous touch showing the kitchen does their best not to strip away authenticity. (The chicken version was very good, too).




Forward to Hackney!!
East London is *in* and I have come across a handful of fun-filled places worth travelling for. (More posts for East London to come). One of these is Sho Foo Doh by Fumio Tanga, which was first set up as an okonomiyaki stall at Chatsworth Road Market on Sundays. Very quickly SFD became the words of mouth and Fumio is now a frequent lodger at nearby Pacific Social Club doing what he does very well – flipping Japanese pancakes!!

Born in Hiroshima (where okonomiyaki is the stable of life), Fumio moved to the UK a decade ago and has become pretty Hackneyed. He fuses, at Pacific Social Club (a cafe that might be described as a run-down space of polychromatic hipness and great vinyls), a nostalgic taste of home with a carefree spirit of East London. The specialities are, of course, booze and Japanese pancakes, but there’s a catch. Japanese pancakes that people outside Japan know are the popularised Osaka-style (a kind of fluffy mixed-meat, cabbage-y patty). For SFD, Fumio alternates this Osaka style with a Hiroshima counterpart. The latter is more layered than mixed, with sautéed noodle forming the base and a thin sheet of pancake to cover it all up.

At Pacific Social Club, Fumio is manning the hot plate in the evening from Thursday to Saturday. The menu changes according to his mood. The price for small plates hover between £3 and £6. The flat rate for an okonomiyaki is £8 but the price goes up depending on how many toppings (50p – £2) you would like to add. Chilled Aubergine (£3) was revitalising. The cooked aubergine chunks were left to marinate and sponge up the clear gingery dashi broth. My Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki was..errr… HUGE!! The pork belly mingled well with the springy squid. The noodle was mildly tossed and cooked in Fumio’s “secret” sauce. The shredded cabbage was layered and perfectly steamed between the noodle and the pleasantly chewy pancake sheet (on top). The generous sprinkling of chopped spring onions not only contributed zing but helped refresh the palate. I also had another one of sweet corn and cheddar cheese concoction which was equally utterly soulful and joyous.

Do note there are a few guest appearances at Pacific Social Club, including Bao London.





8 Clarence Road
E5 8HB
Pacific Social Club on Urbanspoon




17 Ironmonger Lane

City Càphê on Urbanspoon