Sunday, 25 January 2015

Great cookery classes at L'atelier des Chefs

Love cooking and eating? Then you'll love the cooking classes at L'atelier des Chefs. There are a variety of classes, and they cater for individuals, groups, corporate events. So whether you're there to hone your own skills, or there to do 'team building', there's a class for you.

I recently went to two classes - pasta making ('fresh pasta') and steak cookery ('cook the perfect steak') - and both were great fun! Good times were had and the food tasted great.

The Chef was a great teacher. It's not easy to look after a class of (around 10) strangers, but he struck the balance well - friendly, helpful, patient and informative.

The Chef giving us a demo of the pasta machine.

The pasta class involved making the pasta dough from scratch, rolling it out, turning it into tortellini and ravioli, making the filling and the sauce.  The class took about two hours but the time went by real quick. We then finished the night by eating our own food - tasty! This was the result...

My second class involved cooking the perfect steak...and making a cheesecake. As with the pasta class, everything was cooked from scratch, including the potatoes, garlic butter, caramel and piping the cheese. While it was not the most technically demanding course, it was still great fun and the results were excellent - both dishes tasted excellent. Best steak in London that night? Maybe!

Hopefully it won't be long before I get to go to another class. They have a 'knife skills' class and I've recently acquired a rather sharp Japanese knife from Kataba, and I'd like to be able to get the most out of it. Watch this space...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Eat Tokyo - Holborn, London

Eat Tokyo was recommended to me as a place for decent yet affordable Japanese food and sushi.  I've since been to Eat Tokyo a couple of times and I have to say that that description is accurate in my opinion.  Both times have been busy, so other diners must agree!

My group and I ordered a mixture of sushi, sashimi and cooked Japanese food to get a good taste of what's on offer. 

The mixed sashimi platter was fresh and nicely presented, though the actual raw fish head may put off some diners (not me!).

I ordered a bento box with tempura prawns and vegetables as my main dish. The tempura was crispy, salad fresh, and the rice filling.  This was accompanied with sushi with fried prawn in the middle - so tasty!

It's no surprise that Eat Tokyo has won sushi awards before (most recently at the Eat Japan Sushi Awards 2013).  I'll definitely be visiting again at some point in 2015!

Eat Tokyo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Gate Islington - vegetarian restaurant in London

Inside The Gate.  Source: The Gate

The Gate Islington is a restaurant in Angel, London, which serves exclusively vegetarian food.  

While I'm not a vegetarian, I was quite interested in trying out what The Gate had to offer.  After all, I had never been to a vegetarian restaurant before, so it was new territory for me.

I had a +Groupon deal at The Gate: £17.50 for a two-course meal and a drink.  I had the choice of the full menu - no messing around with limited set menus.  

I started with the beetroot 'ravioli'.  Rather than filled pasta, this was beetroot filled with goat cheese.  It was definitely different and I thought it tasted pretty good; the salty cheese contrasting well with the sweet beetroot and apple.

Beetroot ravioli - starter: Roasted and shaved beetroot filled with goat cheese, caramelised apple and walnuts, served with heritage beetroots, watercress and basil & celery granita.

Courgette flower - starter: Filled with sweet potato, pine nuts, basil coated in crisp batter, served with puy lentil salsa.

I chose the chipotle corn cake for my main.  Aubergine is always a winner for me, so I was attracted to this dish.  There's a lot going on here, with lots of different ingredients fusing together both in terms of flavour and presentation.  The end result was good and there was certainly an empty dish at the end.  The corn cake added a bit of stodge too, which made the meal a bit more filling.

Chipotle corn cake - main: Corn & polenta cake , pan-fried & seasoned with chipotle chilli and coriander , served with aubergine, oven-dried tomatoes, sweet potato & served with a red pepper & black bean salsa lime and coriander dressing and crispy fennel.

I went with the girlfriend and a couple of friends, one of which is a vegetarian - so I was in good company for this veggie adventure.  We were impressed with the modern, yet cosy atmosphere, as well as the generally good portion sizes.  We felt the menu and quality was good overall too.

At the end of the day, The Gate won't be for everyone.  And dare I say, I would even have liked a bit of meat with my meal.  But if you're looking for something a bit different and you're open to the idea of trying a vegetarian restaurant, this could be a good place to visit.  

Nearest Tube: Angel

The Gate on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Seoul Bakery - perfect for a quick Korean meal in Central London

Seoul Bakery is perfect if you're looking for a tasty yet good value Korean meal in Central London.

It's certainly not the best Korean restaurant in London - far from it.  Situated in Saint Giles High Street, it's not even the best Korean restaurant along that road, which happens to have four or five Korean restaurants along it.  But that's not a problem because Seoul Bakery does not pretend to be the best.  It's small and it's cramped, but it's forgiven because it's fast and it gets the job done.

I ordered the 'rapokki' - essentially tapokki plus ramen noodles, served with a boiled egg and fish cake.  This cost £5.50, so no surprise that the ramen were of the instant kind.  But considering I was here for a quick and cheap lunch, it was fine.

I topped myself up with some tuna gimbap, filled with vegetables and pickle.  Gimbap can be described as Korean sushi, though the fillings tend to be quite different to their Japanese equivalents.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend ordered the janchi guksu, a wheat noodle soup in a clear and light broth.  The soup could have done with a slight dash of soy sauce, but that's no problem - better than finding it too salty, for sure.

Like I say, don't expect anything fancy at this place, and don't even bother if you're going as a large group.  But if you're out alone or as a couple and you're in need of Korean food at fast food prices, this is one to consider.

Closest Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Seoul Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

On The Bab - Korean street food in Shoreditch, London

The girlfriend and I were strolling along Old Street in Shoreditch, London, looking for a Vietnamese restaurant when all of a sudden we discovered On The Bab - a Korean 'street food' restaurant.

I've been to plenty of Korean restaurants in my time, but this one - as a result of its 'street' theme - looked a bit different, so we decided to give it a go.

The menu is reasonably straightforward, with dishes divided into 'small dishes', 'on the bab' (rice, noodles or buns) and 'traditional'.  There is a fourth group too: 'special/comfort', which is what I opted for...  

With the so-called special dish - baek ban - I got soup (not pictured), rice, salad, kimchi and a choice of bulgogi beef, spicy pork, spicy chicken or vegetable fritters.  I went with the spicy pork, which tasted really good.  What I liked was that it was: soft, not too chewy, thinly sliced and spicy enough without it being overbearingly so.

As a personal preference, I would have preferred a bit more kimchi and the rice to have been a bit stickier, but I can live with that, as the pork was pretty good and there was plenty of it.

The restaurant is quite small and does not take reservations.  So it is very much more suited to couples and perhaps groups of up to four, who are after a quick meal and who don't mind dining in an informal setting.

Mr Men toilet sign...

On The Bab on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 September 2014

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food (Fitzrovia, London)

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food (Fitzrovia) is a bustling Lebanese restaurant tucked away in a relatively quiet side street by Oxford Street.  

Menu choice is good, with 17 different mezze dishes to choose from, plus nine other mains and 11 various wraps/pittas.  Among my group, there were a couple of vegetarians too, so it's definitely suitable for the veggies out there.  Sadly their website does not seem to be working at the moment, so I am unable to link you through to their menu.

Refreshing freshly squeezed fruit juices.

I shared my meal with the girlfriend and we opted for a mainly mezze-based meal, so that we could experience as many of the different dishes as possible. The mezze dishes were reasonably priced, with most costing between £4 and £5, which I thought was good considering the restaurant was not too skimpy on the portion sizes - just right in my opinion.

The best of the mezze we ordered was arguably the hommos shawarma.  The lamb was excellent - it was very well flavoured, soft and moist.

Hommos shawarma: chickpea purée topped with marinated thin slices of lamb fillet.

The sawda djej was a strong dish and one that the girlfriend in particular really enjoyed.  Personally I found the sauce a bit too sweet, but I can see why others feel that such a flavour could work well in contrast to the livers.

Sawda djej: sautéed chicken livers with garlic and pomegranate molases.

I was a fan of the kibbé lahme - soft, crispy, meaty, not greasy and not dry. Could definitely order this again.

Kibbé lahme: deep fried lamb and cracked wheat parcels filled with onions comfit, minced meat and roasted pine nuts.

The arayes dish was a good pick too.  Filled with spiced lamb and sprinkled with pomegranate, this was a welcome change from ordinary pitta bread.  On its own it could be perceived as a bit boring, but it works well with the other mezze.

The makalé samak was big in terms of overall volume.  The aubergine was good but the tiger prawns and calamari were quite small and hard to find - overall I would say this dish was average.

Makalé samak: deep fried tiger prawns, calamari and white bait with spring onions, crispy aubergine and chilli minted Greek yoghurt. 

Our final dish was a mains - the (vegetarian) moussakaa.  If, like me, you love baked aubergine, then this dish may be for you.  It felt like quite a light dish, in contrast to some other similar dishes I've had in other Mediterranean restaurants. My guess is that this is down to the differences in this dish, depending on which country it comes from. 

Moussakaa: baked aubergine in a tomato sauce, onions, garlic, cumin and chickpeas, served with basmati rice.

On average our meal among the group came to around £21 - not bad considering how full we were and how much food was on the table.  

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Big Feast at Big Easy (Covent Garden, London)

Big Easy is a 'bar.b.q & crabshack' restaurant in Covent Garden, London, serving great food within a lively atmosphere.

As the description of the restaurant suggests, Big Easy's menu focuses on barbecued meat and seafood. The majority of our eight-strong party opted for the 'Lobster Fest'; for £20, you get either a lobster roll or grilled whole lobster, which is served with fries and house salad, plus a drink (cocktail or craft lager or ale).

Lobster roll

Grilled whole lobster 
Both the lobster roll and grilled lobster tasted great. Along with a decent portion of chips, this was a satisfying meal.  

At £20, the Lobster Fest is the same price as the meals at Burger and Lobster (see previous blog entry).  However, I felt that Big Easy is better because:
  • The lobster is at least as good.
  • You get a drink with your meal for the same price.
  • The side salad is better quality.

I went as part of a group of eight and I thought the restaurant was great for a gathering of friends. We were celebrating a birthday and they were very accommodating; although the kitchen was no doubt busy, they looked after our birthday cake for us until our main meal was finished.

Thumbs up from me!

Big Easy on Urbanspoon