Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A (home made) Korean night in London

So rather than go to a Korean restaurant, my friends and I decided to have a bit of fun and do our own 'Korean night' at home.

Before I go on, I want to explain that I am NOT a Korean food expert, so please allow for some allowance if things don't look 100 per cent authentic!  However, we did try our best and got all the ingredients from Korea Food Mart, a big Korean supermarket in New Malden, London - the town that's home to 30,000 Koreans.

We decided to make a Korean hot pot soup and a bibimbap.

How does this look?  I think it looks not bad!  We didn't heat the stone bowl for long enough though, but we'll know for next time.  As a result, we couldn't put an egg in it :-(.

For the soup, I got some beef slices, Korean beef stock, soy bean sprouts (much better than mung bean sprouts), Chinese leaf kimchi, enoki mushrooms, Korean glass noodles and tofu. I was a little lost on how to make the soup base, but it tasted good.  Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Yummy beef slices.

We washed everything down with some makgeolli rice wine, soju and Hite Korean beer.

What do you think?  Let me know if you have any suggestions for the future!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Pilpel: fantastic falafel and houmous bar in London

I don't usually post entries about my fast food lunch, but this time I've made an exception.  A colleague, JC (not the one from N'Sync), recently took me to a falafel and houmous bar called Pilpel, located in the St Paul's area in London.

I was promised two things:
  1. A tasty lunch.
  2. Large portion.

Living up to this promise, I got both.  I ordered the houmous and aubergine - deep filled with falafel, salad and chilli inside a soft wholemeal pita. Sometimes, falafel can be a bit dry, but Pilpel's falafel was tasty, crispy and not dry in the middle.

It wasn't practical to take this apart to show the inside, but there was lots of salad, falafel, aubergine and houmous...

Sadly, there is no banana to show scale, but it was pretty chunky and I was definitely full by the end!

If you're in the area and you like this kind of food, check out the menu and head in - you won't be disappointed.  There are three other units at Spitalfields, Spitalfields Market and Fleet Street.

Closest Tube: St Paul's
Address: Unit 5, Queens Head Passage, Paternoster Square, London, EC4M 7DZ

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Picture special: the wonderful food of Vietnam

Vietnamese food is fresh, fun, varied, generally healthy and full of flavours.

Last year, I was lucky enough to visit Vietnam for the first time - home to one of the greatest cuisines, in my opinion. I was mainly in Ho Chi Minh City, but also visited Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An. It's a great holiday destination with plenty to see and lots of things to eat, so I really do recommend it as a place to visit. Just be careful of the humidity - it's really something!

Whether you like noodles, rice, meat, vegetables, exotic fruits, and even baguettes, you'll generally find something you'll enjoy eating in Vietnam.

I'll keep the words brief, just feast your eyes on the food :-). I hope you enjoy the pictures, and please keep scrolling to see a rather strange scorpion at the end...

Banh hoi.



Rice with steamed egg loaf.

Aubergine with fish sauce.

Banh xeo.

Spring rolls.

Left: flat rice noodles with meat. Right: a type of pork summer roll.

Part of a nine-course meal!

Another part of the nine-course meal!

Still part of the aforementioned nine-course meal. Glutinous rice.


Pho noodle soup for breakfast.

Selection of pork, spring rolls, salad, king prawns.

Grilled pork.

Chinese dim sum.

Steamed buns.

Roast pigeon.

Steamed fish.

Noodle soup with kidney and king prawns.

Noodle soup with king prawns and pork.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Chancery: modern European food in the City

The Chancery is a modern European restaurant tucked away in Cursitor Street - a small side street near Chancery Lane, London.

As with many other areas of the City on a weekend (which is when I visited), Cursitor Street and the surrounding streets can become quiet. This is maybe why there's a 'Saturday night' toptable deal offering 50 per cent off The Chancery's 'limited a la carte' three-course set menu, normally priced at £39.50 and which I took full advantage of.

Menu - pick an item from each course.

I started off with the helianthus artichoke velouté - or soup in layman's terms. I wasn't even 100 per cent sure what I had ordered but I had no regrets; it was a great start and the soup was flavoursome and with a nice consistency. The parmesan also gave a nice crispy contrast to the soup. This was the type of dish I would happily have again.

Helianthus artichoke velouté, parmesan crisp and truffle oil.

The next course was perhaps the dish of the evening. Pork fillet is my favourite part of a pig - usually moist, tender and full of flavour - and at The Chancery it did not disappoint. The BBQ cheek was also good and fell apart easily, as expected. I'm usually not a fan of creamed vegetables but this seemed to work well with the contrasting flavour of the meat on this occasion - and crucially was not too creamy.

There was also popcorn on this dish. I'm not convinced it added (or took away) anything from the dish from a taste point of view, but I guess it makes it look a bit different!

Roast pork fillet, BBQ cheek, heritage carrots, and creamed savoy.

Onto dessert, I usually avoid poached pear (a personal preference). But the lure of cinnamon ice cream and a crumble sucked me in. I hadn't expected crumble on top of a pear and this made it quite interesting from both a taste and visual point of view.

However, I would have preferred a bit more ice cream (which tasted very nice and full of cinnamon), plus it had also melted a bit more than I would have liked.

Baked pear, cinnamon ice cream, hazelnut crumble.

I need to also give a special mention to the peanut butter chocolate tart. Being a peanut butter fan, I very nearly ordered this; it's not everyday you find this on the menu. My fellow diner said it was very rich!

Peanut butter chocolate tart, peanut brittle and crème fraiche ice cream.

What do you think? If you like what you see, check out their toptable page for the latest offers.

Closest Tube: Chancery Lane

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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Pizza Express' Diavolo Romana Pizza: thin, crispy, tasty, but not very spicy

This is how Pizza Express describes its Romana Pizzas: "Enjoy the flavour of each ingredient on your pizza with our thin and crispy Romana. The Romana, inspired by pizza in Italy, lets the topping be the hero".

Sounds good, doesn't it? So when I headed to a Pizza Express in London for lunch, I ordered the Diavolo Romana Pizza.
Spicy action? Hot spiced beef, pepperoni, red onions, Tabasco, hot green, jalapeno or roquito peppers.
Looking at the list of toppings, I was expecting a fiery experience. This was not the case (my taste buds barely registered any spice) but that doesn't mean it was a bad pizza. I was actually pretty satisfied with both the taste and portion size. The base, as promised, was also very thin and crispy. 

It probably could have done with a few more toppings though. I had completely forgotten my pizza had any onions, for example. And it was perhaps a little too dry, so extra tomato sauce would have been nice.

Get your 25 per cent discount...but check the restaurant beforehand

I love a good deal. Sometimes it feels like eating out at Pizza Express is like buying a sofa at DFS; you rarely pay full price, such are the discounts available.

First I get the e-mail...

Offer in my inbox, received on 10 February 2014. "Restaurant restrictions apply" :-(
Then I check the website...
Offer advertised on the Pizza Express website, retrieved on 11 February 2014.
Unfortunately the branch I visited wasn't participating in this offer on this occasion. But many others are, so check their latest offers page for more details.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Come to Fora for excellent Mediterranean & Turkish food in London

When I visited Turkey a few years ago, I remember the food being enjoyable and the people being hospitable. So when I found a toptable deal for highly-rated Fora - a Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant near Liverpool Street and Aldgate in the City of London - I booked a table.

As part of the deal, you get all the cold and hot mezes on the set menu, plus a choice of one main course. A free glass of sparkling wine is thrown in, too - all for £17.50.

The feta borek was new to me; basically it's a bit like a samosa but with cheese in the middle - very tasty. My friend said, "this is the best samosa I've ever had" - even though it's not a samosa. The falafel was crispy on the outside, yet moist in the middle.

Hot mezes: spinach & feta borek and falafel.

Cold mezes: tabbouleh, kisir, hummus and manca.

The girlfriend and I had the centik special (grilled cubes of lamb, chicken and kofte on top of thinly sliced potato fries, and topped with yoghurt). Ignoring the fact that the yoghurt looks a bit like a poached egg, this was a delicious dish. The sauce was wonderfully seasoned and all the meats were wonderfully cooked. Despite the small dish size, there was plenty of meat here and I definitely felt full after.

Centik special.
The mixed grill looked awesome and, judging by how quickly my friend ate it, it clearly tasted good too!

Mixed grill.

The restaurant also had a nice atmosphere. This was helped by the live guitarist, Faruk Ceviz, who plays evenings Tuesday-Saturday. He played a mixture of new and old songs throughout the evening, including Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, which I did not expect! It sounded very good and made the evening more enjoyable as a result.

In fact, our table got chatting to Faruk - a friendly chap - and it turns out he is also a composer (some of his work can be found on his YouTube channel).

Faruk Ceviz.
Efes definitely reminds me of my holiday in Istanbul and Antalya, Turkey! I think I had this every day with most meals.

Overall, I have to say that Fora is an excellent restaurant with good food, atmosphere and music - all backed up by friendly service staff. Would definitely come again.

Closest Tube: Liverpool Street and Aldgate
Address: 34-36 Houndsditch, London, EC3A 7DB

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