All posts filed under “Bar

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Leandro @ One Leicester Street

The start of something (utterly) exciting..

Where do I begin? The word “supper club” has been a distant memory, and being subjected to a communal table in the middle of an unpopulated dining room daunted me. The glimmering kitchen was my hope. So was the name Leandro Carreira, a chef who held senior positions at two of the world’s most inspiring kitchens Mugaritz and Viajante.

Leandro or Leo is at One Leicester Street for 3 months (until mid-June, I guess), doing what seems an understatement, a “supper club”. This is an 8-course menu with beverage pairings (by Talented Mr Fox) at £88. Chefs are keen to exchange thoughts and diners are encouraged to nose around in the kitchen. The cuisine is innovative – an epiphany both of taste and of thought process.

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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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The Lockhart

Blogging again

The Lockhart isn’t a new restaurant but one that nobody talked about. It wasn’t until its recent acquisition of chef Bradford McDonald that The Lockhart got my attention. The fare here is Southern American with backflippingly cool and refined twists.

Before that. Bradford. He is American and Southern. He grew up in a farm and mobilised across the world’s best kitchens (including Per Se and Noma). His former restaurant Governor in Brooklyn, NY was lauded by chefs, critics and food enthusiasts. Sadly, it was swept away by Sandy. A year or so after, I feel privileged to have Brad cooking in London.

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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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Shoryu Soho: When Will We Really Have Super Good Ramen?

Who to trust?

It has been a while now since the ramen trend hit (Central) London and I am still pretty on the fence about the current offerings. Last year Tonkotsu (operation by Tsuru Sushi) was just passable. Now they have acquired a machine and are making their own ramen noodle in house. Might be promising. (I haven’t tried it yet). Bone Daddies was not stellar, during the first few of my visits, but has ever since managed to constantly intrigue the crowd with new, funky (fusion-led) ramen. The products are good but the digression from the traditional isn’t what I exactly crave. Ittenbari was and still is the most traditional. However, it is an inferior product in term of ingredients. Also, I think their broth has a heavily saturated taste of MSG that *improves* the taste of the food as much as the taste of my gum and teeth. (If you eat me now, I might taste good). And this has brought me back to Shoryu Ramen and its new branch in Soho.

Shoryu Ramen has received a much favourable 4-star review by A A Gill. A much lauded, writerly critic who awarded 5 stars to a certain Japanese restaurant by an internationally renowned chef last year in London. The proof in the critic’s expertise of taste in Japanese cuisine lay in the fact that that restaurant was closed 6 months after its opening. And who are we to trust?

Shoryu Ramen is an operation backed by Japan Centre. Its second branch on Denman Street, conveniently located next to Piccadilly Circus and just opposite Chinatown, is much bigger than its original. The vibe is very Japanese. There is an inviting sake and cocktail bar at the entrance, an open-plan ramen kitchen in the dining room, and canteen-style tables and stools.

The menu has inflated a lot (since last time I was at Shoryu’s first branch). Apart from its extensive ramen offerings (14 kinds and between £9.90 and 12.50) and gluten-free noodle options, Shoryu has incorporated a decent-sized yakitori section in its menu (£1.80 – £9 per skewer). Fried dishes dominates the starter section (£1.90 – £10) but there are also sashimi options. The dessert section (£3.50 – £4.80) sounds promisingly transported from Japan Centre.

My whole experience at Shoryu Soho was bad. The ramen dishes, like my experience at Shoryu’s first branch, were just alright. I ate my Tokyo Shoyu (£9.90). The Chashu pork had a likeable flavour and was not too dry. The soy sauce based broth was traditionally boiling hot but it was so one-dimensionally salty that I’d rather not sip on its own. The noodle was delightfully chewy at first bite. For my second bite, it lost that elasticity nearly completely. This showed the noodle wasn’t good enough to be matched with the high temperature of the broth. TOB’s Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu (£10) was appealing to the eyes but did not strike a high note for taste. The broth achieved a finer balance than my Shoyu but lacked depth to convince that pork bones have been slow-cooked for hours. That said, I liked the generous topping of fried garlic (very aromatic) and the Chashu was acceptable.

Other dishes misfired nearly completely. Kawa or Salted Chicken Skin (£1.50) featured a stick of gelatinous chicken skin. Barely charred. Thoroughly not crispy. If chicken skins are in (think Bone Daddies’s “cock scratching” and Kitchen Table’s “Chicken Skin Wafer”), this skewer can certainly put an end to all that. Satsuma Age or Deep Fried Fish Balls (£1.80) was edible, though TOB refused to eat them. Chicken Karaage (£5) had a standard of KFC chicken popcorn. The batter was crispy but thick. Chikuwa (a kind of fish cake) (£4) was stuffed with cheese, crumbed and fried. In Japan, this could be an extremely addictive dish. Here the fish cake was rubbery and lacked taste.

There were also faults in operation. We were served ramen first. This was followed by a long wait until our starters did make an appearance. The cocktail also did not arrive at the same time as the soft drink (as in the soft drink arrived before the ramen and the other drink arrived right after we finished our ramen). As with new openings, these things will hopefully be ironed out. Hopefully..





3 Denman Street
Shoryu Soho 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