All posts tagged “Cafe

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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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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).

 

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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.

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SFD RATING 3.5/5

SHO FOO DOH @ PACIFIC SOCIAL CLUB

8 Clarence Road
London
E5 8HB

www.facebook.com/ShoFooDoh
Pacific Social Club on Urbanspoon

 

CC RATING 4/5

CITY CAPHE

17 Ironmonger Lane
Bank
London
EC2V 8EY

www.citycaphe.com

City Càphê on Urbanspoon

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Naamyaa Cafe: Urban Thai Treats in North London

Enter the new chain..

Collaboration usually brings about awesomeness and when I heard of highly acclaimed restaurateur Alan Yau’s recent partnering with internationally lauded Thai chef David Thompson I couldn’t have been more excited. The lovechild is Naamya Cafe – a large-scale, well-funky and tactically conceived *urban Thai restaurant* in Islington. Its menu, featuring a friendly, photographically documented selection of one-plate dishes that middle-class Thai urbanites would eat in Bangkok – think, Cheeseburger and Salad Nicoise – as opposed to what Londoners stereotypically imagine as Thai food – think, Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry, is quite a departure from the imaginative exotic stuff Yau is known for at Busaba Eathai. The price is set at around £9 per dish. The portion is generous. The result is.. well, I think.. not more spectacular than a chain restaurant but will promise, in UK’s immigration term, a somewhat indefinite leave to remain surely.

Thai and western modern

The offerings at Naamya Cafe don’t quite fall into the categories of starters, mains, sides and desserts but are grouped into various kinds of “set” menus, including “small plate”, “burger&sandwich”, “noodle&pasta” and of course “Naamya” (a variation of Thai rice vermicelli eaten with watery curry and assorted vegetables. My Pan-Fried Turnip Cake (£.6.50) was huge and while being billed “small plate” could itself have been a meal. The turnip cake, though floury, contained some distinguishable bites of turnip and was nicely sauteed with egg, beansprouts and Chinese chives. The seasoning cried for richer and more feisty soy-based sweetness. Naamya Gai (£9) – rice vermicelli with a base of finger-root ginger curry and shredded chicken – was probably the most authentic I’ve had in the UK. (That said, Naamya Cafe is also the only place that sells it). The curry blend, from David Thompson’s factory, was aromatic and revitalisingly hot, and the consistency of the curry was right – loose and watery as opposed to thick and creamy. This was traditionally served with a boiled egg and both fresh and pickled vegetables. The uninspiring element, however, was the bland, scent-less, slightly-too-wet rice vermicelli. Also likable was Naamya’s take on the signature Thai street food favourite of Stir Fried Minced Beef with Chilli (£8.90), which arrived complete with steamed rice, a fried egg and a mooli soup. The stir fry was dry, correctly musty (because of fish sauce), and had Thompson’s salt-prone style of seasoning stamped all over it. Personally it could have been spicier; the rice tasted a bit tired and could have been a touch softer; and the fried egg could do with a better crispy skin.

Naamya Cafe isn’t the place to go an adrenaline-fueled Thai fix. But, given my three okay dishes that could feed three people and came just under £30, it was satisfactory..

RATING 3/5

NAAMYA CAFE

407 St John Street
London
EC1V 4AB

Tel. 020 3122 0988

www.naamyaa.com

 

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Katz’s Deli + Economy Candy + Crif Dogs, New York

Katz’s Deli

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

On East Houston Street has been standing Katz’s Deli for God-know-how-many years (since 1888 – I don’t do maths). This is a proper Jewish delicatessen of NYC Lower East Side (which London’s dear Mishkin’s takes an inspiration from). The walls are adorned with memorabilia of the past (with a lot of sleb diners) and straight to the future (I’m sure the place will have 100 more years to go). As I walked in, I was given a ticket, which was to be presented at the counter as I ordered my food. The menu is as vast as the deli itself and has everything Jewish – Chicken soup, Salt Beef, Pastrami, Knishes…

(As I was on a mini food crawl), I settled just for a Reuben ($16.55) and a Salt Beef Sandwich ($15.25). It was a mouthful of spectacle seeing the corned beef being sliced and then two slices were given to me as samples. Steaming hot. Tender in texture and powerful in taste. The same was repeated while I was waiting for the salt beef, which was gelatinous (thanks to the fat) and snapped apart very gently. Once turned into sandwiches, I did not like them as much. For the salt beef, I found the American mustard too sweet and did not contribute a striking contrast to the beefy forte. Personal preference. The Reuben was far more calorie-worthy thanks to the corned beef alone. Dressing-wise, the Russian dressing could have been more piquant and the sauerkraut sharper in acidity. But again this is a personal preference for sourness (as I noticed they seem pro sweetness over there). The rye bread were pretty spot-on spongy. A great meal, nonetheless, and the sandwiches were MONUMENTAL!!!

Economy Candy

A digestive attempt. I walked into Economy Candy – a rusty-looking, wholesale+retail candy shop on Rivington Street, still on the Lower East Side. The range of sweet things (mostly American brands and cartoon-focused goodies) here is incredibly orgasmic, considering how not-so-large the shop is. A sort of place that makes your aged retina beams with gleeful youth. The price of all things at Economy Candy is also a tempting bargain, about 1/3 – 1/2 cheaper than the regular retail price.

(I only bought 3 monkeys – below)..

Crif Dogs

Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

And my mini food crawl ended here – Crif Dogs. A famous hot dog cafe with a “secret”.

Crif Dogs is dungeon-like with an odd resemblance to Camden. There are a great variation of toppings to choose from (16 kinds, I think), while the price fluctuates between $2.50 – $5. Tater Tots ($2.50) were these little cylindrical hash browns. Light, crispy and additive. No greasy aftertaste. The New Yorker was an all-beef sausage ($2.50) served nude in a bun (toppings on request) seemed fried rather than grilled and did not burst much taste (BAHD’s Pimp Steak beats this one hands down). The Chihuahua ($4.50) was a bacon-wrapped frankfurter with avocado and sour cream. Velvety touch. The sausage was snappy and juicy and the bacon very crackling. The Chilli Dog ($3.75) was pleasant and claimed a good mustard heat. I wasn’t keen on the cloyingly sticky texture, though. Apart from this, I also felt underwhelmed by the paper-like bun (it tasted a bit like the ones we feed fish in Thailand). My favourite of the meal was The Corn Dog ($4.75). I liked the sweet gummy batter and the moist hot dog. My only criticism was that my Corn Dog was a few minutes over-fried, resulting in a mildly burnt aroma and bitterness.

Hot dogs, done!

So, the “secret”?!?

The telephone booth inside Crif Dogs leads way to a secret cocktail bar called PDT (“please don’t tell”) which is opened daily from 6pm till late. You need to secure a reservation over the phone at a designated time (I learn it is 10am of the day you visit). If not, aim to arrive very early. I can’t tell if their cocktails are good because, during our visit, the place was so secretive nobody told us it was shut (for refurbishment).

 

RATING: 4, 3 Out Of 5

 

KATZ’S DELI

205 East Houston Street
New York City
10002

Tel. 001 (212) 254-2246

www.katzsdelicatessen.com

ECONOMY CANDY

108 Rivington Street
New York City
10002

Tel. 001 (212) 254-1531

www.economycandy.com

CRIF DOGS

113 St Marks Place 2
New York City
10009

Tel. 001 (212) 614-2728

www.crifdogs.com

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Fornata: Babbo Goes Commercial in Carnaby

Another of the kind..

At first glance Fornata struck me as another Italian addition to London’s now exhausted “cicchetti/ small plate” scene that mighty Russell Norman of Polpo started a couple of years back…

But, if you could get over that, Fornata does boast a good pedigree. Opened by the team behind Babbo – a pricy, not-so-much-talked-about Italian restaurant in Mayfair that serves some bl**dy amazing food – this little cafe-restaurant with wood oven at the heart of the restaurant is rather bright, slightly bland, but relaxed. Quite formulaic it made me felt as if in a chain restaurant. Not so much a place I’d like to have a lingering meal.

Food wise..

Sectioned into dishes from the kitchen and from the oven, the menu was big and full of Italian words without English description. I needed help. One thing that read well was the price. Around £3-5 for small plates and £6-9 for not-as-small plates. I could easily walk in and get fed at just below £20 (sans alcohol).

Beef Ragu Arancini was a delightful combo of texture and a heart-warming slap of saffron. The ragu filling, however, wasn’t particularly flavoursome. Mozzarella in Carrozza arrived deep fried in crumbs. Not a sophisticated taste but there was enough of hot and gummy indulgence to make me smile after a bad day. The most successful, so far, was this Aubergine with Melted Campania Cheese. A little pot of sliced aubergine, tomato sauce, basil and (more) cheese!! Nicely done aubergines (though it could do with a few more slices) retained slight bitterness and well complimented by sweet passata.

The less small dishes were not entirely disappointing. Pollo alla Diavola lacked distinct heat that is associated with the dish. Just juicy-ness from the tomato and herb sauce. That aside, the chicken was pleasantly charred and so tender it fell apart (in a good way) as I sliced. Agnolotti Caprese with Beef Sugo was not good at all. Gooey cheese was not well encased by the pasta and it all fell apart (not in a good way) as I forked. The melting-in-my-mouth sugo could almost be a redeeming grace if it had more richness and depth. Fornata “Burger” was a carnivorous surprise. My “burger” ordered to be cooked medium landed not in a bun but wrapped in a Piadina ball. While the meat was dense and robust, it shouted for more herbs and seasonings to turn it into something memorable.

I almost gave up desserts.. but I felt good I didn’t.

Tiramisu was awesome. Mascarpone tasted like mascarpone; coffee soaked sponge tasted like coffee soaked sponge; chocolate dust tasted like chocolate; the biscuit base tasted like biscuit and was crunchy. Together this was a tiramisu that tasted like a tiramisu. Beautiful. Simple. Not a slop of things that when you ate you could barely discern tastes. I could come back for more.

Last thoughts..

Fornata is a nice budget place and especially ideal for a quick meal. It positions itself between high-street Italian chains serving substandard dishes and mid-range, independent Italian eateries that sometimes lack consistency. Looking at my £44 lunch bill, which could have easily fed two, I shouldn’t be so critical as I actually like having this kind of restaurant in the area X

GO FOR: Quick fix.
RATING: 2.5/5

FORNATA

15 Kingly Street
London
W1B 5PS

Tel. 020 8181 8887

www.fornata.com

Fornata on Urbanspoon

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Confectionery Pushkin, Moscow

Two so-so meals at Cafe Pushkin could already have shattered my expectation of the Pushkin’s and we could have given Confectionery Pushkin (just next door to the restaurant a miss). NOPE. This did not happen. I had Pushkin cakes half a year back in Paris, at a small Cafe Pouchkine – very annoyingly Francocentric spelling I know – at Printemps and everything was bloody damned tasty. Better than Pierre Herme for me, really.

And why?

Because of this guy.. Emmanuel Ryon.. the head patisserie chef at Confectionery Pushkin, the man behind all the eccentric, Mozartian cake creations. He is undoubtedly French. And he also undoubtedly won the World Confectionery Championship in 1999 enabling him to claim the title of world’s best pastry chef. He is also among very few Frenchies to win the most prestigious Best Professional of France. Patriotic winning which I don’t quite get. … ahem .. surely he’s great. Period.

Confectionery Pushkin is, like Cafe Pushkin, located in one of those false historical buildings on Tverskoy Boulevard. Verseille-looking decor. Opened from 11am till midnight. Laduree-like menu of sandwiches, salad and a prominent array of chocolate, macarons and bizarre-looking cakes. There were some Champagnes too.. we opted out.

We settled with two softies. The green one was tagged as “Exotic Celery” and the other was an apricot milkshake. The milkshake was a smooth delight. Gentle note of apricot. The “Celery” was very “exotic” for it hardly contained the stereotypically conceived foulness of celery at all. Instead, ’twas an ingenious mix of apple and cucumber. Refreshing and it slipped down my throat as quickly as my money slipped away from my wallet. I went back for this drink the day after – that’s the extent of how seriously good it was.

Cakes?

A rose-shaped, white chocolate cake with yogurt mousse and pistachio cream. Sweet, almost gummy white chocolate petals. Nice layers of things creating this gulf of appetising yogurty-ness. Very memorable but I think the rather spectacular look misled me to assume the flavour would be as complex as the look. The rum baba was a far more superior treat. Arrived in a filo pastry cup dusted with icing sugar. Cut to reveal a layer of fluffy arearated chantilly cream. Fragrance of spices. A joyful touch of rum. Actually this was one of the lightest and nicest babas I’ve ever tried – the other bib only gave me half spoon – and can be a contender to Ducasse’s traditional awesomeness.

We loved it.

I do think Emmanuel Ryon is talented – not innovatively so but inventively talented – and Confectionery Pushkin is for us the destination in Moscow. I wouldn’t particularly say it’s world’s best, though.

But if you couldn’t be arsed to fly there for cakes, just go to the one in Paris. More expensive but will surely cost less than a return flight to Russia X

Enough said,

My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.

CONFECTIONERY PUSHKIN

Tverskoy Boulevard, 26A/ Тверской бульвар, д. 26А
Moscow
Russia

Tel. +7495 604 4280

www.sweetpushkin.ru