All posts filed under “Italian

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London Round Up: The Innovative

JOHN SALT

John Salt on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

In London restaurant scene, chef Ben Spalding has become synonymous with “young” and “talented” and holds an extensive CV that contains many internationally renowned kitchens. In 2011-2012 Ben won himself critical acclaims as head chef of Roganic and from stints at The Loft and Stripped Back, and his new 6-month residency project at Islington’s rechristened bar John Salt became an instant talk of town. Sadly, Ben has left the venue.

A flashback to my 12-course tasting menu (£85) at John Salt was a testament to Ben’s intuitive and playful cooking. “Salad” was a carefully orchestrated melange of 45 kinds of fruit and vegetables in various states – fresh, pickled, dried, etc. – with sour cream fermented naturally at 25 degrees. The taste – pretty much your breakfast muesli with great twists – was not disparate but came alive at every bite. “Scallop” was pan seared, sliced horizontally, filled with caramelised kiwi and culatello “as if a slider”, and completed with cider butter and truffle. Fun and reminiscent of a sweet-and-sour. The truffle, however, was only a spectacle to the eyes and lacked a distinct aroma. Equally a jolly dish was a reinterpretation of “Chicken on a Brick”, which was chicken liver pate with a garnish of crispy chicken skins, lingonberries and sweet corn. The sparkle of a genius was also apparent in Salmon poached in maple syrup and dressed with layers of acidity (kaffir-lime infused creme fraiche and rotten mango juice).

John Salt, in a short period of time, marked a creative progress away from Ben at Roganic. The restraint of British ingredients (which is the philosophy of Roganic) was lifted and therefore the sourcing and inventions of Ben at John Salt became much more global, notably in Scandinavian ingredients and influences. The taste remained bold, wild but still lent itself flavoursome comfort. The downsides were that some dishes could have done with more refinement and kick-ass developments (reflective of a brilliant restaurant-in-the-making) and that the venue itself – a mezzanine floor above a busy bar – was too noisy for me to indulge and contemplate on the food.

 

APSLEYS

Apsley's at the Laneborough Hotel on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Apsleys is a handsome restaurant at The Lanesborough Hotel with 3-Michelin-starred Italian chef Heinz Beck at its helm. The glass-roofed room is magnificent; the plates are gilded with gold; the head chef Heros de Agostini holds a pristine CV; the menu comes, of course, with some really, really high costs (antipasti £18.50-29; primi £17-21; secondi £33-38).

The cooking was, correspondingly, accomplished. Fresh and deliciously lean Salmon Tartare (£24) with Black Olives and Shallot was complimented with bitter peppery salad and creme fraiche. The immaculate square of crispy potato spaghetti provided extra texture and salty sweetness to the dish. Smoked Capon Ravioli (£19.50) was neat and correctly boiled for a wonderful toothsome texture. The garnish of velvety parmesan emulsion and meaty jus was pleasant, but the puree of pumpkins was weak. Veal “Saltimbocca” with Sage and Jerusalme Artichoke (£36) was an inventive take on the Italian tradition. Here the veal – sliced paper-thin, rolled with sage and finished with toasted amaranth – was a marvel. I loved the finishing touches of hefty veal jus and the nutty sweetness from jerusalem artichoke puree.

The least impressive was the service. I (and my +1) opted for “orange juice” instead of wine, but instead of us being provided with two glasses of orange juice (common sense?) we were given a jug (who would drink a whole jug?). We were unaware of this as the glasses were constantly and unobtrusively topped up. In the end, we were billed around £20 for the orange juice. This, despite the competent cooking, made me feel that it was slightly a rip-off.

 

TOM AIKENS

Tom Aikens on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

Tom Aikens is one of the biggest names in the UK’s chef-y scene and known for his innovative, yet uncompromisingly complex approach to French cooking. His formerly inventive French fine-dining restaurant in Chelsea underwent a major refurbishment and looked northward to trendy Scandinavia for inspirations. The results were not only Noma-esque plates, chairs and bare wood decor but also the aesthetics of New Nordic plating. The FOH was also dolled up in a more rustically fashionable attire. (Think Barbour but Chelsea). Currently, the 7-course tasting menu is priced at £85, while the dishes on the carte dishes are individually priced (£13-19.50 for starters; £25-31 for mains; £10-14 for desserts).

I visited the restaurant in spring 2012 and unfortunately did not have the time to write up but I can still recall many dishes from the meal. Celeriac was a masterful construction of the same root vegetable prepared using various techniques – raw, char-grilled, baked, consomme-ed. I loved the effect of the wonderful smoky aroma cutting across the chilled and clarified broth. The vinegary juicy-ness from the pickled raisins was a thoughtful foil to the curd-y truffled creme fraiche and the fragrant note of thyme. Pork and Black Pudding was also a bowl of explosive umami. The perfectly cooked multi-cuts of pork were intense and moreish with black pudding crumbles. The polychrome of garnish – celery branch, celery butter, crispy pig’s skins, almond flakes – elevated the meaty dish with a herbal boost. Pigeon Consomme was a clever *posh-it-up* of your regular pot noodle. The plate arrived with an orderly arrangement of dehydrated, powdered components – grains and vegetables – and a disc of truffle custard. The idea was that these components would blend with the hot consomme and create dimensions for the beautifully pink roasted pigeon. It certainly put a big grin on my face! There were also dishes that did not quite work. Raw Turnip Salad lacked some vital freshness from the leaves and was overpowered by the chestnut puree, while Carrot Granite was just too oddly savoury and carrot-y for a dessert.

 

THE GRILL @ THE DORCHESTER

The Grill at the Dorchester on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3/5

The Grill at the Dorchester is a very interestingly dichotomous restaurant. First, there was the traditional look – tartan seats and wall embellishments of Scottish-attired lads. Second, there was the FOH, very prim, proper and courteously formal. Third, there was the roast beef trolley, a fixed staple of the restaurant along with other classics of grilled sole and roasted grouse with bread sauce. But, the menu that existed beyond those Great British traditions (£10-21 for starters; £21-45 for mains; £12.50 for desserts) was unmistakably modern.

Glazed Calves Sweetbread (£26) was paired with crispy chicken wings, lemon and cumin bread. Personally, I found the dish cloyingly sweet and also crying for some refreshing elements to balance the offal strength. Lobster with Falmouth Bay Prawns, Langoustines and Shellfish Cream (£45) was a feast of paramount ingredients. The spiced sauce was comforting and reminiscent of both a bisque and a bouillabaisse. This was served with a small pot of custard-y seafood royale, which verged on being too rich and too generously spiced. Pistachio Crumb with Passion Fruit Bavarois with Apricot Sorbet and Saffron Ice Cream (£12.50) suffered from over-complication. Many textures of both passion fruit and apricot – bavarois, puree, gel, jelly, ice cream – did not create a unison in taste but glued together with the (finely tasting) chalky pistachio. The saffron ice cream which, by itself, would be quite a stunning treat did not seem to fit in.

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JOHN SALT

131 Upper Street
London
N1 1QP

Tel. 020 7359 7501

www.john-salt.com

APSLEYS

The Lanesborough Hotel
Lanesborough Place
London
SW1X 7TA

Tel 020 7333 7254

www.lanesborough.com

 

TOM AIKENS

43 Elystan Street
London
SW3 3NT

Tel. 020 7584 2003

www.tomaikens.co.uk

 

THE GRILL @ THE DORCHESTER

The Dorchester Hotel
9 Tilney Street
London
W1K 1BJ

Tel. 020 7629 8888

www.thedorchester.com/the-grill

 

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Cassis Bistro: Funky Italian Settles on Brompton Road

Relocation, relocation!!

Cassis Bistro was meant to be firmly French when it was launched. But, with the recent appointment of chef Massimiliano Blasone (long name innit?), formerly of Michelin-starred Aspley’s at The Lanesborough Hotel, the cuisine has moved a little eastward, along the Mediterranean coast, to Italy. While there wasn’t much to write home about the setting itself – an under-lit, metallic-looking room with art pieces by Julian Opie’s – much should be said for those who drink – the bar ran all-day “happy hours” (50% off). The menu offering both a la carte (approx £15 for starters and £23-25 for mains) and tasting (£50 for 5 courses; £65 for 7) sounded banal. The array of dishes from my 7-course tasting menu proved otherwise.

Sea Bass Tartare was a dish of acutely seasoned freshness. The chopped fish was subtly complemented by dimensions of herbs and acidity, from chive-y creme fraiche (I deduct), concentrated carrot jus to bitter confit lemon rinds. The sweet and nutty sesame wafer claimed the dish an inventive touch, reminding me of Thomas Keller’s cornet, and the crispy tapioca gave extra pleasure to the tongue. Foie Gras with Toasted Brioche did not wow as much. I enjoyed the fine quality of the velvety foie but the garnish of peach and chocolate soil did not carry enough strength to make an impact as a whole. More successful was Cod Brandade. De- and re-constructed, the brandade arrived crumbed – think “croquette” but with sandy crispy-ness instead of crust – and boast a fine balance of salted cod, confit and cream. The torn black olives were bombs of taste and I liked the gentle piquant finish from cayenne pepper. That said, it could do with more texture contrast. Pumpkin Tortellini was incredibly DELICIOUS. The pasta casing was precisely boiled for an al-dente effect; the pumpkin cream within burst sweet, earthy richness; the tender pumpkin batons contrasted brilliantly with crunchy toasted almond slices; the parmesan emulsion oozed comfort; the meaty jus finished the dish off with wine-reduced acidity. SO BLOODY GOOD!! Halibut with Greens did maintain such momentum. The prime quality fish creatively paired with pumpkin puree was beautifully cooked; the topping of sandy crumbs left the fish with a pleasant, buttery note. That said, I found the biteful garnish of sliced mange tout, green beans and pea leaves a little too intrusive. Fewer pieces would make the fish stand out more. Partridge with Mustard Sauce did not deliver as much as it could. While I liked the boozy sauce and the well cooked girolles, the partridge (breasts, specifically) was overcooked and a little tough. Miniature Rum Baba was served with frothy, egg-y sabayon. The alcoholic baba was airy and with a distinct note of orange glazing. Just. Wonderful. Chocolate “with whisky ice cream” tasted more nutty than “whisky”. The fantastically crunchy cap led way to smoother layers and a biscuit-y base. It somehow made me think of this as a refined version of Magnum Ice Cream <3 <3 <3

In a few more badly formed sentences..

Cassis Bistro is non-conformist and full of promises. High quality ingredients. Thoughtful and inventive departure from the Italian tradition. Successfully un-fussed. I will eat there again soon, most certainly!

 

 

RATING 4/5

CASSIS BISTRO

232-236 Brompton Road
London
SW3 2BB

Tel. 020 7581 1101

www.cassisbistro.co.uk

Cassis on Urbanspoon

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41° Experience, Barcelona

41° Experience

There is so much brilliance I can recall about this meal, but I have decided not to put all into writing. Lazy blogger, no. Necessity, yes. The “elements of surprise” are crucial, according to FAQ. When it was first launched, 41° Experience (or 41 Grados) by El Bulli-famed Ferran and Albert Adria was meant to be just a cocktail bar for the annexed Tickets. But it has morphed.. into a 16-seat, tasting-menu-only restaurant, most recently alleged as one of the most difficult to get reservations in the world.

Briefly. There is no reservation line. The booking is made via their website and partially requires payment. There are some drinks included in the €200-per-head tasting menu. You can order a separate alcoholic pairing at €45. Blah. Blah. The venue is a decent-sized bar space, dimmed and dark. There were more FOHs than diners. Above me was a nebula of eclectic images – a kind of modern pop art featuring disparate cultural items around the world – being played in slow motion. And soothing trance-like music..

Not so briefly. The fun at 41° Experience kicked off with a stubbornly square, neatly crafted “41°” ice cube which chilled a smoky liquid substance. Along came a jar containing drops of green olive, preserved in oil. Just your typical jar of olive – but the molecularised EL BULLI style. The liquid olive essence was entrapped in a gelatinous skin. Fragile, it rolled for an escape on the tongue and burst into a taste of what would have been like if I stuffed my mouth with 10 olives in one go. I have never made enough effort to be at El Bulli and I am – or was – never convinced by molecular gastronomy. BUT. That was some alchemy that I highly recommend.

Through my first 3-4 courses, I departed from Barcelona – the 41° latitude as the name of the restaurant portends- wandered through Italy, France, Russia, Asia and many more. Ferran and Albert Adria not only know so much about cuisines but also cultures, wherein lies humourous anecdotes and stereotypes. All these are re-interpreted into all the 41 dishes served at 41° Experience. Some were more successful than others. Some got me to physically interact and/or contemplate intellectually; others made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. (Something about France, of course. And Rene Redzepi might be on the menu). That said, as the concept of the menu relies very heavily on the elements of surprise, of not knowing what comes next and which country where you will end up, it is best not to do so much telling (or display any sharp and clear images). The cooking was exquisite but a complement to the concept. SO.. if you are a global character, know a lot about cuisines and cultures, you will be having a very good time at 41° Experience. If you are averse to internationalism, there is a high risk that you might not get the “jokes”, which are the best part of the meal.

Life-changing? No. But this meal reversed my eagerness in life and I felt happy, giggly.. as if I became a child again :-D

 

(Sorry. Can’t help not telling you of my most favourite dish – a re-constructed Peruvian “causa”. A thick slice of super fresh and firm yellowtail/hamachi marinated in lime, chilli and garlic was served nigiri-style on a velvety ball of spiced-infused mashed potatoes. The dish paid homage to the Japanese influences in Peruvian culinary tradition and taste-wise it was a bomb of citric umami).

PS Don’t hate me for doing this >_<

 

 

RATING: 5/5

41° EXPERIENCE

Avinguda Paral-lel, 164
08015, Barcelona
Spain

www.41grados.es


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Il Ristorante @ Bvlgari Hotel: Italian Ducasse del Knightsbridge

Something very, very Ducasse-ian

Knightsbridge has recently seen erected another luxury hotel Bvlgari (nearly opposite the pomp that is One Hyde Park) within which an Italian restaurant is contained. Its name “Il Ristorante” couldn’t have been simpler and more Italian. Its gastronomic offerings, interestingly enough, couldn’t have been more Ducasse-ian. First, the dining room is very ornate but sombre. The demure shade of black contrasting with all the silvery trimmings and the dark mahogany floor makes the space rather cold and steel-y. The service was pleasant and did help lift the mood up a little. Second and the most obvious is the head chef Robbie Peppin, an ex-Ducasse from La Trattoria in Monaco, who has not only brought over the sun-kissed, Mediterranean cooking and ingredients but also Ducasse’s iconic dishes, from baba, to vegetable “cookpot” and gnocchi. Then, there is the price. The Monaco high cost seems to have swollen into Knightsbridge ££££ (and as one would expect from the Bvlgari brand). The price for starters fluctuates between £9-24, for pasta £14-24, for mains £26-38 and for desserts £7-14. It is also noteworthy that a few *light* dishes on the menu are marked as “recommended by Bodyism, our resident personal trainers”. And I refrain from making any judgment….

All was fine with my nibble selection. This was interesting. I was given a brief menu listing small-portioned dishes with boxes to tick. (Think Chinese dim-sum order list). So.. 3 small things for £16, 5 for £23 and 7 for £28. My threesome was mostly good. Bresaola by Salumificio Penneigotti was expertly cured. Meltingly delicious and not too salty. (I would pay for this again). Sea Bass Carpaccio, Andolio Olive Oil and Lemon was delicate but marginally drown in oil. Aubergine Caviar boast some exuberant smoky-ness. (But with that price a few would surely be fuming if it didn’t). Courgette Cream Soup (£9) underwent a facelift from humbleness. The fine velvety soup was made from courgette of Val Di Gorbio (in Menton, France). Its sun-ripen sweetness, however, was tainted by over-salting. This soup was, then, to be poured on top of a burrata-layered dish of ricotta ravioli, shaved courgette and crispy bread. I did not dislike it (nor was my dining companion). The cheesy layers mediated the salt content alright, but I found the texture contrast – soft cheese, silky soup, gummy (but tasty) ravioli – to be underwhelming. The crispy bread did not provide a textural breakthrough. Gnocchi with ‘di Manzara del Vallo’ Gamberoni, Coco Beans and Chanterelle Mushrooms had enough excitement to match £24. The light and pillowy gnocchi in particular lived up to the Ducasse lineage; the big and juicy gamberoni was outrageously fresh (the freshest I ever came across in London restaurants) intensely sweet and oozed sea salt aroma, undercut by the wood-y mushrooms. A successful dish based on first rate ingredients. “Cookpot” (£16) was served in the same and unique porcelain bowl used in any Ducasse restaurant in this world. Inside the pot was a melange of summer vegetables – Swiss chards, green basil, lettuce and coco beans – which was nice but a little too cooked and had mellowness that would stand better for a transition into autumn. Chicken Breast (£28) was garnished with sauteed spring vegetables (not your usual “spring” vegetables as it featured rare-ish star of Bethlehem). The breast was succulent and tender. I liked the citric aroma from the confit lemon used for the chicken stuffing. The richness from the jus used to sautee the vegetables completed the dish nicely. The dessert section also featured something positively Ducasse. Wild Strawberries and Mascarpone Sorbet (£14) rocked. Luscious pearls of fraises des bois had their natural moreish sweetness enhanced by the creamy and acidic, milk-scented sorbet. The syrup made from the strawberry’s natural juice tripled the fruity intensity of the dish. Baba (£10) was served with limoncello instead of rum. Not near the life-changing state of weightlessness as Louis XV or Plaza Athenee would pride themselves to do. It was, still, a high standard baba. The limoncelli twist brought out the sweeter and more girly side of the dish. The meal concluded with a macadamia biscuit to crack and a goody bag for the lady to take away. (Not me. I need to return with a man next time. *sob*).

Like it. Yes.

Love it. No.

Go back? Yes.

 


RATING: 3.5/5

IL RISTORANTE

The Bvlgari Hotel & Residence
171 Knightsbridge
London
SW7 1DW

Tel. 020 7151 1025

www.bulgarihotels.com

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Briciole: Too Cheap Italian For Its Own Good

Going budget..

Briciole (meaning breadcrumbs in Italian) was roughly sectioned into the cafe bar (where you could swing by for proper-looking Italian sandwiches, delicacies and espresso) or the restaurant (where you could book and, well, relax over Italian dishes). And truly there were a few niceties about the place – a neighbourhood bustle, a bright, rustic & airy setting, and a ludicrously cheap price (no item on the menu soared above £12). The menu was staggeringly large – salami, formaggi, salad, soup, pasta, fritti and grill dishes, meat balls & sausages, vegetables, and desserts. But, given all that, I didn’t like my meal at Briciole.

While “cheap” bills aren’t synonymous for bad meals (as many of my meals have proved), I found my dishes at Briciole too budget for my liking. Mozzarella (£6) boast dainty whiteness and firm texture. The milky-ness shone through pleasantly. It was easily the best of the entire meal. Finocchiona/Pork & Fennel Salami (£3) was thinly sliced but there was barely any fennel perfume. Arancini (£3) was correctly deep fried for a crispy skin and promised, visually, some cheesy stringy-ness. Sadly, the faint tomato-y redness infusion did not contain tomato flavour (or stock) to justify the visual yummy-ness, and therefore, the balls had no other taste but rice. Tagliolini with Seafood Sauce (£9) had potential, if the tagliolini itself weren’t cooked to “Greasy Spoon pasta” softness. While the seafood was not overcooked, the tomato sauce faded distinctly in taste. A pinch more salt would bring out the flavour. Veal Ravioli with Sage Butter (£8) was more successful, albeit marginally. The casing had a nice al dente texture; the filling was relatively deep and adequately nice. No trace of sage was spotted. I was also not impressed by Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (£5). Plump as they were, the texture of the balls were not convincingly porky but a domineering mixture of flour and crumbs. That said, the tomato sauce had a taste of tomatoes. Grilled Vegetables (£4) extinguished my little remaining faith in Briciole. Each piece was charred and grilled as if for a dehydration effect. Should one question for a £4 dish? I (stubbornly) insisted in trying the dessert (The Other Bib had given up entirely and nudged me to go for a Chilli Queen instead). And I shouldn’t. Tortino (£3) was a cheesecake of ricotta, cinnamon and chocolate with vanilla sauce. Amazing that it did not positively capture any of those billed flavours. Plain and a disgrace to my tearful minutes spent at the gym.

I am a believer that Italian cuisine is simple and beautiful. It can easily be executed to great effects by means of decent ingredients. Briciole failed this. The £52 something bill between two with a processed orange juice (no wine) might seem a convenience to the wallet. But.. thinking this… £28 can buy a 3-course set lunch at Michelin starred Italian restaurant Semplice (not far from Briciole/been a few times and always high standard) or you can spend a morsel of that amount for superb Deli takeaway from Melograno Alimentari (a lot farther from Briciole though) whose meatballs are way more delicious. Or.. thinking this.. you can work a little harder, buy some decent ingredients and cook your own Italian at home. As for now, this whole thing about Briciole was, in due respect, too cheap for its own good.

And the last photo was my own “extra” effort.. a basic saffron risotto (with pomegranate, rocket leaves and parmesan).

 

RATING: 2.5/5

BRICIOLE

20 Homer Street
London
W1H 4NA

Tel. 020 7723 0040

www.briciole.co.uk
Briciole on Urbanspoon

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Soho Lunch to Walk – Pizza Pilgrims, Bahn Mi 11, Yoobi + Golden Gate Cake Shop

PIZZA PILGRIMS

Pizza Pilgrims on Urbanspoon

Rating: 3.5/5

Three boys with a piping hot hole-in-a-truck available all-day on Berwick Street. They did not happen to be “models” (or pimps) but a fine purveyor of Neapolitan pizza called Pizza Pilgrims. The “Pilgrims” are Thom, Jamie and Louis. English. They has, recently, scoured Italy in search of the perfect pizza and came back not only with a series of cool clips on YouTube but pretty strict ethos of pizza making. Their dough is made fresh (overnight for it to rise); their loose San Marzano puree has a good depth of sweet acidity; their cheese – Mozzarella – tastes decent and produces loveable stringy-ness. Their price range is between £5 and £6. All pizza is prepared by order (hence a little waiting time).

My “Pilgrims” experience was thoroughly likeable. Pizza Bianca (£6) – Napoli salami + cherry tomatoes – benefited much from the cushion-y base and the melting mozzarella. The just cooked and juicy cherry tomatoes added a refreshing depth to the flavoursome construction. That said, I wish the crust were a little thinner, making room for a little more topping. Pizza Margherita (£5) was also pretty spot on for taste and texture – milky, gummy cheese and sun-kissed tomato sweetness. Yet (again) I wish the crust was not as chunky so that the pizza could hold more of those delicious flavours. After two pizzas (I think one and a half is the right amount for lunch), I can also taste that there is so much love, passion, commitment and research going into these pizzas. And while I didn’t fall head over heels with the offerings, I can tell that within the 3-mile radius at least Pizza Pilgrims dash out the best, most authentic and most considered products.

 

BAHN MI 11

Rating: 4.5/5

Bahn Mi is – apologies for being unable to come up with a less dull description – a baguette-based sandwich with Vietnamese fillings, dating back to the Colonial time and meant to be taken as snacks. The offerings by Bahn Mi 11 (stapled at quite a few market locations around London and having caught the eyes of Jamie Oliver in his TV show Union Jack) were pretty big and excellent, while the price varies between £4.50 and £6. Imperial BBQ (£5) was not just great but had already become my (and TOB’s) addiction. I loved the filling of zingy and crunchy root vegetable pickle and pork slivers that had been doused in caramel and lemongrass. The generous bush of coriander leaves left citrus-y burst, and the chilli a little tinkling sensation. You can also adjust the level of heat, too. Fish Q (£6) was also pretty immense. The herb and spice marinated fluffy cat fish had good dimensions and a stronger-than-usual taste (for fish).

Apart from the tasty filling, it is also noteworthy that the baguette by Bahn Mi 11 was very commendable, too. The crust was thinner than your regular French baguette; the inside was more airy; and what’s best was that Bahn Mi 11 scooped out quite a bit of the white bread sponge (inside) making room for more filling. This made the ratio of meat and carbohydrate brilliantly satisfying (for me) and the flavours pleasantly balanced. Portion-wise, one is pretty enough for lunch, though I don’t mind finishing two <3 <3 <3

 

YOOBI

Yoobi on Urbanspoon

Rating: 3.5/5

Yoobi prides itself for being the first temaki (AKA hand roll sushi) bar in London. Luckily, it also takes pride in getting the products and the ambiance quite right. The flashy, glimmering cube-like temaki island formed the centre of this quirky space of brown, cardboard-box-like and angular design. You order your hand rolls at the counter. There were three prices – £3.20, £3.60 and £4 – across 8 filling combinations. The inspiration of these fillings was taken from Tokyo to Rio to New York. That said, it struck me as there was a lack in variety of fillings on offer because three of the combos were tuna, three others salmon and the other two vegetable.

Despite all the criticism and doubts, I enjoyed my rolls at Yoobi. Spicy Tuna (£3.60) was deep-filled and meticulously pieced together. The cubes of tuna came across in my mouth as very fresh; the rice had lightness and acidic subtlety (a pleasant surprise for correctness for takeaway sushi!); the nori oozed gentle seaweed fragrance and did not turn unbearably wet by the rice; the creamy spicy sauce had decent kicks; and the crushed croutons provided joyful crusts. The same enjoyment applied to Cured Salmon (£4) with sesame dressing (I think) and nashi pear. Again there was great quality fish coarsely chopped to carry the sweet, velvety dressing. The pear batons were juicy and cleansing. I also liked Tuna Tartar (£4). This was (again) good quality Spanish tuna carefully marinated (in soy sauce I think?) it turned into a marvellous Cola colour and paired simply with sesame seeds. Avocado & Asparagus (£3.60) with carrot, spinach and white miso sauce did not result in the same spectacle. I found the shredded carrots slightly dry and the taste of everything did not jump out. All in all, Yoobi delivered (and I hope they will be able to keep up the consistency when the place is packed). The rolls I had were fresh and lovely. They also distilled my doubt and fear of having takeaway sushi to an extent. That said, you will need at least three to feel an impact of eating.

 

GOLDEN GATE CAKE SHOP

Golden Gate Dessert House on Urbanspoon

Rating: 3.5/5

Compared to all the above, Golden Gate Cake Shop looks very dodgy. The ludicrously cheap price tag – and the fact that all tourists will stop for a picture with those toxic looking cakes on display – also makes a stop at this place very questionable for proper foodies. When I saw their Ham and Egg Bun, I assumed straightaway the egg would be from carton and the ham a piece of Chinese Spam. I also knew that their massive char siu puff was made from cheap cut of un-organic pork and suffered some artificial (but edible) colour enhancement. But, all this did not stop me from going to the place for years.

Golden Gate Cake Shop brings about some nostalgic memories, with the price tag that reminds you of third-world countries. (Nothing there costs more than £1.50)!! Here I found many very good bites among the not-so-great ones. Chicken Curry Bun (£1.20) boast a cushion-y, mildly sweetened bread with a dry chicken and potato curry filling. There was enough flavour from the filling to get me going until the bun was gone. The same story for Char Siu Puff (£1.20) which contained a lot of sweetened pork. The flake-y pastry was also acceptable done and a lot less greasy than many “proper” restaurants nearby in Chinatown. Custard Bun and Kaya Bun also had a good taste but not an awful lot of filling; Sponge Cake was correctly fluffy but needed a touch more of sugar; Tuna Onion Bun did not kill me. The selection of sweet pastry was delightful, especially the one with glucosic lotus seed paste and musty, salty century egg filling!!

So, if you are looking for great quality stuff of organic provenance, this is definitely NOT the place for you. But, like me, you need a dirty but tasty cure and a calorie-worthy bargain, it is not likely that you will dislike Golden Gate Cake Shop ^_^

(More cheap ‘n good stuff can be found here!!)

PIZZA PILGRIMS + BAHN MI 11

Berwick Street (Porn Alley End/Next to Yauatcha)
London
W1F 8TW

www.banhmi11.com and www.pizzapilgrims.co.uk
YOOBI

38 Lexington Street
London
W1F 0LL

Tel. 0208 123 6601

www.loveyoobi.com

 

GOLDEN GATE CAKE SHOP

13 Macclesfield Street
London
W1D 5BR

Tel. 020 7287 9862