Atari-ya, London

at long last, the day has come when i finally decide that this update drought has been going on for far too long, and am jolted into taking action to revive this space… hello, it’s been a while, but i can never stay away for long, and am back in action! thought chinese new year was a pretty apt time to do this – new year new beginnings, eh?ūüôā (gong xi fa cai, everybody!)

its been close to 6 weeks since i’ve started my final term (yes, you read that right – FINAL TERM :Oūüė•ūüė¶ ) and close to the end of my final reading week (yes again – FINAL reading weekūüė• ) here in london, and needless to say, my imminent departure from this city i have come to love has resulted in me venturing out to feast with unbridled fervour. i’ve been on quite a roll (i use this not merely in the figurative sense of the wordūüėõ ) and good things definitely need to be shared, so here i amūüôā

what better way to kick off this renewed updating enthusiasm than with a post about a meal shared with a certain someone who likes to go by the coveted title of “co-founder and non-executive editor” of this blog?ūüėČ may i direct your attention to the photo on the right of the banner that heads this page – indeed, last week, i had the privilege of dining with none other than the elusive mr nic hsien. (may or may not be the reason why i was inspired to get back to this space; it’s always a good time eating with himūüôā )

i was recently hit with a serious¬†sashimi craving – no thanks to my parents’ enthusiastic sharing of pictures of their omakase meals back home… – so our lunch venue of choice was atari-ya, the oft raved about sushi bar along james street aka (alleged)¬†supplier of fresh fish supplies to fancy restaurants around london, nobu and the like. no idea what took us both so long to give this hole-in-the-wall sushi bar a try, but boy am i glad we did just shy of the midpoint of my final term in london rather than on the day just before i board the plane home for and say sayonara to london for good (are you feelin’ them #finalyearfeels that i have been plagued with of late?)…

the james street branch of atari-ya is the perfect post-shopping sushi stop. located literally a stone’s throw away from selfridges and operating largely as a takeaway shop, it occupies a space just large enough for a sushi counter and a handful of 2-seater tables.20150209_135913this picture was taken at lunchtime on a monday afternoon and as you can see, it gets pretty crowded (with plenty of asians no less; #signsoflegitimacy), so its best to get there early. we reached at noon¬†and were happy we did because as we very happily savoured our slivers of fish, we heard people being told that they would have to wait half an hour for their food to be prepared.

i didn’t even need to look at the menu to know what i wanted to order; i had set my sights (and tummy) on the super deluxe chirashi and rainbow roll from the moment we decided to check this place out. it was an oddly long wait for our food considering we were early and there was only 1 other customer in the shop who was already served her food. we gathered that it was a combination of the fact that they were busy preparing orders which were placed by phone and that they were pretty slow-moving with this sushi-making business in general, with the scales of probability leaning heavily towards the latter. all qualms about the aforementioned inefficiency were forgotten once we were served with our food though:
super deluxe chirashi Р£16.50
i hereby present to you the best chirashi bowl i have had on this side of the world, by far. by best i mean that it has the winning combination of extremely fresh fish and a wonderfully generous portion – amazingly value-for-money and guaranteeing satisfaction. ¬£16.50 may sound steep for a hole-in-the-wall takeaway shop like that, but you soon learn that the price is warranted (or more than warranted, i dare say) as¬†each bowl of this super deluxe chirashi comes brimming with¬†tuna, salmon, horse mackerel, sea bass, sea bream, boiled prawn, sweet prawn, crab stick, crab meat, scallop, vinegared mackerel, ikura, tobikko, negitoro (or uni aka sea urchin, depending on what is available that day), tamago, and some other stuff which i couldn’t quite identify but were delicious anyway.

not only is the fish extremely fresh, smooth and naturally sweet, the slices are of just the right thickness such that they retain a satisfying bite and facilitate maximum appreciation of their goodness. of course the star of any chirashi bowl is the fish but the rice here is also worth mentioning. dressed in eel sauce and topped with a sprinkling of an assortment of pickled toppings such as mushrooms, it was a great accompaniment to the fish.

the bowl is huge and if you aren’t as greedy as we are, i think it could even be shared between 2 people if you’re planning on ordering a range of other rolls and such as sides. but then again, although sharing is caring and all good things should be shared, i doubt i’ll be sharing my chirashi bowl with anyone anytime soon… all. mine. yas.ūüėõ

rainbow roll Р£7.00
we also ordered a rainbow roll to share between us. the sushi rice was lovely – soft, moist and held its form very well even when i bit half the sushi rather than devoured the whole thing (good things ought to be slowly savoured). once again, the fish in the rolls was top quality and toppings to rice ratio was golden.

needless to say, we left extremely satisfied and vowed to return again soon. i’ve been wondering whether there is a super super deluxe chirashi bowl and if so, what amazing goodies it will contain but for now, the super deluxe chirashi bowl is more than enough to satisfy the sashimi monster in me… definitely the kind of fishy business i loveūüėČ

Atari-Ya Sushi Bar
20 James Street,
London W1U 1EH

PS. they have other outlets and they are proper sit-down restaurants so if you’re looking for somewhere with better ambience, you might want to head there instead. check them out here.

The Beast, Singapore

i still don’t know how i should feel about me being someone that comes to mind when my male friend decides he wants to head out for some legit “man food” and needs an eating companion… to put it nicely i would say that i guess people around me recognise my extremely¬†healthy and large appetite, to put it less nicely i would simply say i’m known to be a greedy pig who is ready to eat everything and anything all day every day.

the aforementioned legit man food was to be found at the beast, so off for their sunday brunch we rather excitedly headed. what i feel sets the beast apart from the myriad of other eateries and cafes in the haji lane area is its very strong identity as a southern eating spot evidenced in not just its food Рthink fried chicken, biscuits with gravy, bacon, maple syrup Рand drink Рmimosas (they have an all-you-can-drink option at $20/h), cocktails and bourbon, lots of bourbon Р, but also its decor Рlarge wooden counter tops, bar stools and refurbished oil drums.

they open for dinner every day of the week and on sundays, brunch is served till the dinner menu takes over at 5pm. here’s the brunch menu:

with so many tantalising and, more importantly, interesting (you won’t find such a quintessentially southern menu anywhere else in singapore, i believe) options on the menu, we were spoilt for choice but eventually decided on the fried chicken with waffles and pulled pork hash, along with a serving of cornbread.

the cornbread was served first, sitting happily on a wooden slab and accompanied by a side dish of maple syrup. we very excitedly poured the syrup all over (the more the merrier) and sat back to admire it glistening in and surrounded by a pool of golden goodness before tucking in.
freshly-baked cornbread ($6)
i really love cornbread so this was my dream come true. but even if you’re not as much of a cornbread fan as i am, i’m sure you’ll still thoroughly enjoy it because it was delicious; i would suggest¬†you give this a try¬†if you’re ever at the beast! the cornbread was served wonderfully warm, and had the perfect texture – light, moist and fluffy while still retaining just the right amount of density to be slightly crumbly¬†around its edges. drizzled (or should i say drenched) in maple syrup, it was the perfect mix of sweet and savoury. simple, but very yummy.

chicken & waffles – southern fried chicken, waffle, bourbon maple butter sauce ($20)
this was a must-order for us because its probably their most highly publicised brunch offering on social media and was what lured my friend here in the first place.¬†the slab of chicken (you can choose between breast and thigh) was huge; definitely more than enough to have your fried fill¬†with every bite of waffle. it was well-seasoned, the skin oh-so-crispy, and despite it being a really thick slab, the meat within was not overcooked and remained moist. paired with bourbon maple butter sauce, this was quite addictive. the waffle however, paled in comparison to the chicken that sat proudly atop it. it wasn’t bad, but it was certainly not a standout, not a waffle i would eat if it was not accompanied by the chicken. it was crispy at its edges but i felt it was lacking in density (too light and airy) and taste (batter could definitely have been quite a bit more flavourful). i’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt – perhaps it was intended to be this way so that it wouldn’t be too heavy when taken with the fried chicken?

pulled pork hash – 10h pulled pork, home fries, poached egg, bbq sauce ($18)
i am a huge fan of pulled pork so this was my choice and we were quite pleased with it! there’s nothing for scale in the picture so i’m not sure if you can see how generous the serving was, quite beastly indeed (sorry, i just had to, the pun was going to come up eventually anywayūüėõ ). this was a really hearty dish packed with really strong flavours from the barbeque sauce and egg yolk! the ten hours expended on the pork shone through in how tasty, moist and tender the shredded meat was, and the fried potatoes were addictive and perfect for soaking up the sauce and¬†sweet juice from the pork. each component played a part in the interesting mix of textures offered, and i really liked how the bbq sauce wasn’t overpowering. this was rather heavy though so i’d definitely recommend this to be shared, especially given the portion size. i think a slice of toast on the side would have been a perfect accompaniment to the pork and would have helped lift the dish from being the very heavy-going manly meal that it was.

was tempted to end the meal with a bacon maple glazed donut or bourbon pecan pie, but we were wary of the portion sizes and felt like we needed a lighter dessert to wash down all that heavy food (ended up adjourning to artistry for really yummy speculoos cake) so we passed. the beast is yet another exciting option for sunday brunch in the haji lane area; you now know where to head to should the queues at maison ikkoku or symmetry be too long to handle!

The Beast
17 Jalan Klapa
Singapore 199329 

Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters, Singapore

the newest kid on the upper thomson cafe block is pacamara boutique coffee roasters – a joint which recently relocated from somewhere in the vicinity and renamed and revamped itself along with its location change. i never visited them previously but from what i’ve read online, it used to be oz speciality coffee at thomson v two.

pacamara¬†occupies a spacious corner unit at the row of shops right after the now-defunct longhouse food centre (ūüė¶ oh how i miss my prawn mee, duck rice and goreng pisangūüė¶ #jcmemories) along upper thomson road. it has huge glass windows that let in plenty of natural light, giving the cafe a very uplifting vibe (but also as my mother would say, potentially resulting in pigmentation if you plan to sit there the entire afternoon lol) and providing the perfect set-up for the perfect instagram picture (not to mention the adorable little pots of succulents on the tables that serve as good props to fill awkward gaps – hello good photos!). clean lines, a largely white colour palette and simple wooden furniture make for a simple and fuss-free but stylish minimalist space.
as you can see from the picture, tables are communal so this might not be the best spot for a cosy and romantic first date or an intense pour-your-heart-out conversation with the bffl, but it is great for all other purposes, especially those of the chill hangout sort. this picture was taken at 1030am when we first arrived Рthe cafe was rather empty and we were clearly spoilt for choice as to where to sit; by the time noon came around however, it was full and buzzing with a healthy lunch crowd.

they do all-day dining, and offer a decent selection from morning right through till evening:
we were there for brunch and i was rather pleased with the good mix of sweet and savoury offerings they had despite there not being that many things on the menu. eventually decided to order a truffle benedict and french toast to share between the 2 of us. orders are placed and payment is made at the counter, followed by the food being served to you when ready.

truffle benedict – brioche, smoked ham, wilted spinach, free range poached eggs served with truffle hollandaise sauce ($18)
our noses were excited by the tantalising whiff of truffles as the dish was served to our table. i’ve read other reviews where people complained that there was barely any hint of truffle in this dish and although i agree that¬†it wasn’t particularly strong, it was definitely there (perhaps there is some inconsistency in the amount added? or they’ve improved since the reviews i read were written?) and we definitely smelt it!

because no eggs benny review is complete without a picture of the eggs and their yolk post eruption, here is one for you:20141231_105944
needless to say, the eggs were poached perfectly, all oozy and runny and pregnant with liquid gold. the ham was of good quality, smoked well and sliced relatively thickly. as for the spinach, it was lightly-seasoned and cooked to just the right point Рsoft but not overdone such that it became mushy or overly wet. the hollandaise sauce brought everything together wonderfully and the truffle complemented it very well, adding that extra oomph to it that allowed it to remain light despite its creaminess. as for the brioche, it was buttery, fluffy and soft but crusty at its edges from a light toasting. i thought this was a very good rendition of the brunch essential eggs benny.

thankfully our sweet item of choice was as satisfying as our savoury dish.20141231_105249salted caramel banana french toast – brioche french toast, caramelised bananas drizzled with salted caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream ($16)
the french toast looked great and luckily we were not disappointed with how it tasted at all! i look forward to having this again just looking at the picture above and recalling¬†how it tastes – i remember the thick salted caramel sauce that reminded me of hot fudge on a sundae, the generously-added and lovely slices of lightly caramelised bananas and the perfectly soft/eggy/fluffy/warm slices of thick brioche toast. it was surprisingly not too sweet, and the granola bits were a nice touch – they added additional texture and a nice crunch to the dish. as for the whipped cream, i don’t think we touched it at all because the toast by itself was so enjoyable!

needless to say, we left belly happy and very happy; it was a suitably satisfying last brunch of the year 2014 (food-wise and company-wise)ūüôā indeed, not only is pacamara’s food good, the environment is nice, parking is free (if you’re lucky enough to get a space in the parallel parking lots that line the row of shopfronts), coffee is great (apparently, will definitely try next time!), and prices are nett.¬†i’d certainly recommend this as somewhere to add to your cafe-hopping list!


Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters
185 Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 574333

Sacha & Sons, Singapore

happy new year everyone!!! you may or may not have noticed that we now officially have our own domain (ie we’ve dropped the wordpress from our url), hurrah! it was one of nic’s new years resolutions to get over his self-proclaimed tech noobness and sort that out, and he very adeptly did so thank you nic (you are now forgiven for leaving me to do most of the writingūüėõ )!ūüėČ i am ashamed to admit that¬†i haven’t been religiously updating about the new places back home that i’ve managed to check out this holiday, but today i woke up and decided i had better get cracking on that given that there are a mere 2 days left to christmas break, so here i am, appropriately kickstarting the new year with a post on the newly-opened sacha & sons.

while in nyc over summer, i had the honour of having what was probably the best (and also most expensive) bagel in my life thus far – a classic smoked salmon cream cheese bagel from traditional new york deli russ & daughters. i occasionally think of it and wonder when i will get to taste a bagel that comes close again, and am delighted to say that judging by the food i had in this little corner of mandarin gallery that day, i think i might have found just the place!

located right next to its sister restaurant wild honey (the two are owned by the same couple) in a corner of mandarin gallery’s third floor, this delightful delicatessen occupies a bright, tastefully-decorated and¬†spacious unit that is perfect for a casual hangout over some unique nosh.
(i have concluded after looking at this picture that the space looks much better and more inviting in person; this photo unfortunately does not do it any justice)

besides the classic new york smoked salmon bagel (which i did not actually try but definitely¬†plan on¬†returning to do so), sacha & sons serves an exciting range of food that one would expect to find in a traditional jewish deli in the big apple, filling what used to be a gap in the singapore dining scene, and very successfully might i add. here’s what they have to offer:

their pastrami came highly recommended and i really wanted to try their bagels, so ordering was a surprisingly stress-free affair despite the myriad of choices available on the menu. we decided on a grilled reuben with pastrami and scrambled eggs with sturgeon and smoked salmon, placed our orders and paid at the counter, and returned to our table to eagerly await the arrival of the food.

scrambled eggs with sturgeon, smoked salmon and caramelised onions served with a toasted bagel and cream cheese with herbs – $18

i am a huge fan of bagels and this was without a doubt¬†one of the best¬†bagels i’ve had in singapore. hand-rolled, it was served freshly-toasted and warm with a crisp exterior encasing a soft and fluffy (while retaining just the right amount of bite) interior, basically the perfect texture of a quality bagel. i am also a huge fan of seeds and nuts (who isn’t?) so the generous sprinkling of sesame seeds that topped the bagel was truly my cup of tea and added additional texture and crunch to the bread. a¬†generous slathering of some¬†thick and creamy cream cheese and¬†a heap of scrambled eggs to top it all off made for the perfect combination of flavours. the addition of herbs in just the right amount to the cream cheese also lifted its taste and prevented it from getting too heavy.

as for the scrambled eggs, they were well-executed – fluffy, smooth and neither too dry nor too wet. very well-sized slivers of fish were generously added to the mix (every spoonful of eggs contained a decent dose of fish pieces) and gave the eggs texture and¬†a savouriness,¬†while the caramelised onions added sweetness. i feel like the latter was overpowered by the strong flavours of the fish though. and i think¬†i’ll probably opt for the purely salmon and onion and sturgeon-free option the next time i order this – if you aren’t a fan of strong fishy flavours, you might want to do the same because i felt that the sturgeon added quite a distinct fishiness.

indeed, the scrambled eggs were rather scrumptious but what truly stole the show for me was the glorious grilled reuben sandwich:20150108_123348grilled reuben with pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and russian dressing – $18

the only other place in singapore where i’ve had a grilled reuben is nassim hill bakery. it might be a case of personal preference,¬†but my friend and i both agreed that sacha and sons’ rendition is far better. we were¬†so impressed and satisfied by this humble-looking sandwich that there were already discussions of returning for more as we savoured our¬†respective halves.

the pastrami is house-cured and smoked, and is so fragrant and perfectly-flavoured that my mouth waters thinking of sinking my teeth into it again. for the grilled reuben, they have achieved the perfect ratio of meat to cheese to sauerkraut, resulting in satisfaction guaranteed in every bite. i was initially worried that it would be a tad dry, but my worries were unfounded because everything sandwiched in between the two slices of delicious toasted rye bread came together amazingly well and there was an immensely satisfying burst of flavour in each mouthful. the pastrami was tender and so flavourful, oh and did i mention its beautiful pink hue?
what stands out about this sandwich for me is that despite being so tasty and sounding so heavy, it remains light and i believe i’d have no problems finishing an entire one. perhaps it is because the flavour of the pastrami is delicately fragrant, the cheese is added in just the right amount to complement and not overpower the other components, and the sauerkraut brings¬†a lovely and refreshing slight zest and tang to the mix. they are also generous in providing two whole pickles along with the sandwich. i am seriously¬†looking forward to returning for this when i’m next back in singapore.

besides the delicious food, service at sacha & sons is also worth mentioning. staff are friendly, welcoming, attentive and ever ready to help. they also have a range of samples of their different offerings for you to try before placing your order – i managed to try the smoked trout dip, smoked salmon dip and chopped liver. all were good, and special mention goes out to the chopped liver which is a liver lover’s dream come true – thick, creamy and oh-so-liver-y (for lack of a better description). my advice is for anyone who has even a slight dislike of liver to stay away¬†though, because even for someone like me who quite enjoys liver, i found the taste quite overwhelming. on second thoughts though, it could have been due to the fact that they were so generous with the chopped liver sample that the ratio of liver to cracker was about 3:1…

i was very impressed with the entire set-up and will certainly return. hopefully they maintain both the high standards of food and service even as they grow in popularity (which i am sure they will). another plus point is that they take reservations, yay! definitely go check it out!


Sacha & Sons
333A Orchard Road
#03-02 Mandarin Gallery
Singapore 238897

Boopshi’s, London

pictures of boopshi’s succulent schnitzels accompanied by good reviews were popping up too frequently to ignore on various social media platforms throughout last term and so¬†sometime in the middle of it, i¬†decided that a¬†meal there was most definitely in order.

specialising in austrian schnitzel and spritz,¬†boopshi’s is a relatively new addition to the buzzing fitzrovia restaurant scene. with large glass windows letting plenty of natural light in and simple wooden furniture, this corner shop is simple and nothing fancy at all, but certainly a great space for a casual meal. we had an early lunch on a friday afternoon and the place was empty when we first arrived at about 1230, but soon filled up with the lunch crowd.

they serve a range of dishes, but look around and you’ll see that what 99% of the hungry diners have before them is a schnitzel – it is after all what they pride themselves on. besides those sumptuous slabs of breaded meats that they offer, they also have various sides and other plates¬†on the menu:

the schnitzels in buns sounded like a really¬†good deal but we were there for the meat and didn’t want any distractions from bread, so all of us got whole schnitzels, along with 3 sides to share – spatzle n cheese, fries and sauerkraut. i can never resist the promise of a glistening egg yolk, so ordering a duck egg to top my schnitzel was an absolute necessity:
rare breed pork schnitzel with duck egg Р£10.50 + £1.25
five pairs of eyes sparkled¬†as our schnitzels were placed before us – to hungry souls, there are few things better than being presented with¬†huge slabs of delicious breadcrumbed and freshly-fried goodies! what you see in the picture above doesn’t do justice to the generous serving sizes, for some reason my schnitzel was a little smaller than the rest…¬†one of my friends was served a pork schnitzel so big that the plate beneath was nowhere to be seen, i kid you not.

i’m glad the gravy took a while to get to the table because it allowed me to¬†try¬†some of the schnitzel as it was, and to fully appreciate the fine breading and naturally sweet pork. the juicy and tender meat was moist and coated in just the right amount of breadcrumbs such that the dish remained light despite it being so meaty. i also liked the fact that it was not drenched in excessive amounts of oil and i didn’t feel like i was eating anything that was exceptionally greasy (wishful thinking? denial?). the lemon definitely helped; a healthy dose of some lemon juice¬†added a lovely refreshing zest and helped to lift the taste of the schnitzel. taken with the gravy that was very tasty, this was¬†a suitably hearty and satisfying¬†treat.

as for the duck egg, it was an egg lover’s dream come true. cooked to absolute sunny side up perfection, the egg was slightly browned on its underside and had a yolk so large that it was enough to slather all over the schnitzel upon the all-important popping of yolk, and so creamy that it left me craving duck eggs for¬†a few days after (subsequently scored half a dozen from fortnum & mason and was super eggcited).

given how big the slab of pork was however, i can imagine it getting a bit monotonous to eat without any sides or toppings, so good thing we ordered sides for the table:20141114_124134L to R: frites (¬£3.50), large spatzle ‘n’ cheese (¬£6.50), sauerkraut (¬£3.50)
they did not disappoint and were a great accompaniment to the main event. starting with the fries, they were thin-cut shoestring-types¬†which though appeared a little undercooked for fries because of their very yellow hue, were actually cooked very well! crisp on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. as for the spatzle n cheese, it was essentially¬†austria’s take on mac and cheese – firm and chewy pasta (texture reminded me of gnocchi) generously enveloped in creamy but light cheese. i thought it could have been a little more flavourful but all was good otherwise; it was like a warm homecooked hugūüôā last but not least, the sauerkraut was probably my favourite side. it was a great rendition of this traditional dish, wonderfully seasoned and cooked just as sauerkraut should be, soft but still retaining a slight crunch. i could have had a whole serving of this to myself!

as you can see from the pictures, the servings here are big and we were really full after (even though we arrived at lunch feeling ravenous and ready for attack) all that intense savouriness, but all felt like we needed something sweet to end off the meal so we ordered a serving of apple strudel to share:
oma’s apple strudel – ¬£5.50
given the apple strudels i’m accustomed to (think ritz apple strudel – super flaky, crisp pastry and chunky apple slices), this was not quite what i expected.¬†i loved the apple filling which consisted of plump raising and thin, moist and juicy slices of apples which were heavily spiced with cinnamon (one of my friends actually found it too cinnamon-y), but was not a huge fan of the pastry that encased it. although it was light and thin, i would have preferred it to be flakier, airier and crispier; here it almost seemed dense because the many layers were stuck together. the fragrant vanilla ice cream brought everything together rather nicely and was a good complement to the very cinnamon-y¬†apple filling. perhaps it is a matter of personal preference of how one likes their apple strudels to be (catering to commercialised tastebuds vs very traditional as boopshi’s does it),¬†but i was a little disappointed because this¬†came highly recommended as one of their specialties. would probably skip dessert and focus on the mains when i next return! oh and on the topic of desserts, i was also disappointed that the waitress seemed completely unfamiliar with the menu and didn’t know any better than us what a “kaiserschmarrn” was; she had to check with the other restaurant staff.

neverthelesss, boopshi’s is a great spot for a hearty meal that adds to the wonderful mix of dining options along charlotte street. definitely worth a try if you’re up for some schnitzel!20141114_135609

31 Windmill Street
London W1T 2JN

La Cr√™perie de Hampstead, London

ever since they were forced to reduce¬†their opening hours (see end of post for current hours of operation) due to a dispute with the pub it is located right outside of and used to share facilities with, the legendary crepes from la creperie de hampstead have become somewhat elusive. our first attempt to get our hands on them was unsuccessful – we were innocent victims who fell prey to the opening hours stated on google (didn’t find anything online that said otherwise) and trooped to hampstead on a week day, only to find the shutters down and not even a hint of the heavenly smell of fresh crepes in the air. no words can appropriately describe the looks on our crestfallen faces… special shoutout to¬†good weather x hampstead heath x¬†delicious gastropub food that we stumbled upon which saved the day though!¬†thankfully it didn’t require a third time for us to get lucky with these crepes, we were successful at getting our hands on these parcels of goodness on our next attempt!!! #2ndtimelucky #yay

this little street stall has been parked by this pavement for more than 30 years. recent threats of closure caused uproar among loyal fans and despite now being forced to have no fridge or supplies stored on site, they have managed to keep open, albeit with greatly reduced opening hours. thank goodness they’ve managed this feat, because it has kept many a tummy very very happy, including harry styles’. yes. i kid you not – all 1D fans out there please listen up: harry styles has been spotted in the queue for crepes!20141213_132419

we visited for a late lunch (about 2pm) on a saturday afternoon, and i could smell the wonderfully tantalising aroma of fresh crepes as i approached this hampstead institution. there was a surprisingly short line¬†of about 8 people ahead of us, and it¬†varied in length throughout the time we were there, but at no point did it become unmanageable. the menu is so extensive that (if you’re as indecisive/greedy as i am) you’ll probably spend half (or more) of the waiting time just considering what crepe to get anyway:20141213_132151

after much consideration, i opted for the¬†classic crepe complete with an addition of mushrooms; the full works in the world of crepes, basically. (don’t judge – i was finally there and it was a matter of going all out or going home… choosing the former was not a difficult choice at allūüėõ ). i can safely say that i was not at all disappointed despite having high expectations from the great anticipation surrounding the whole affair. it was pretty much love at first bite…
PicMonkey Collage
cr√™pe complete: ham and cheese, with an egg broken over the ham, plus mushrooms – ¬£5.20 + cost of mushrooms (i can’t remember how much they charged but it wasn’t more than 50p)
the crepe itself is cooked to perfection – check out the gorgeous golden brown and slightly charred crispy edges. the crepes are¬†served piping hot and they are thin and crisp but still thick enough to act as the perfect envelope for the generous ingredients that it contains. they are buttery with a¬†subtle salty flavour, a perfect complement to whatever ingredients you choose to be wrapped within. the ham slices were thick, melty stringy cheese was plentiful, mushrooms were juicy and the soft egg (you get a choice of hard or soft eggs) was the icing on the cake (or should i say crepeūüėČ ). every bite i took was packed with flavour and quality ingredients, it was seriously YUM. we settled ourselves on a bench by the high street watching the world go by as serious parties¬†went on in our mouths…

given how generously stuffed that galette was, i was quite stuffed after polishing off the entire¬†thing (it’s a tough life :P). but i desperately wanted to try their sweet offerings,¬†so we joined the queue a second time and by the time we were at the front, i was ready to share dessert! it was once again a difficult decision but we settled on one of their trademarked (i know right… even fancy restaurants don’t have trademarked dishes on their menus, but this little unassuming stall has a few to boast about!!!) caribbean surprise:
1PicMonkey Collage
la surprise des caraibes: banana on butter and sugar with a sprinkling of coconut and dark belgian chocolate, finished with cream and rum Р£5.50
okay the savoury crepe was delicious, but this, THIS¬†is what i crave and am already dreaming of going back for. doesn’t look too great, but tastes out of this world. the combination of banana, coconut, dark chocolate and rum was magic in my mouth!!! i thought the crepe itself for this sweet crepe could have been a tad crispier (note how the savoury crepe is more brown) but the slight savouriness of the batter created a perfect sweet-salty combination with the sweet toppings. the high quality of the dark belgian chocolate shone through thanks to their generous addition of it (tendency to go everywhere if crepe is not eaten strategically), and went wonderfully with the dark chocolate and banana. the taste of rum was strong, and my friend did mention she would probably ask for a slight reduction in it the next time because she found it a little overpowering. i on the other hand, thought perfect proportions¬†were achieved. already dreaming of going back to get some of this stuff back in ma belly after christmas break!!!

it was my last day in london of 2014, and it was perfectly spent finally having the best crepes in london‚̧ i foresee pilgrimages to hampstead becoming a frequent affair next term (last official school term in ldn) – before i even made it 50m away from the stall as we left, i was¬†texting various friends very excitedly telling them that i’d have to take them for crepes next term… best crepes in london? oh #YAS.

why did i not discover this place in first yearūüė•

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La Crêperie de Hampstead
77 Hampstead High Street
London NW3 1RE

opening hours as of december 2014: friday – sunday from 1145am – 11pm, and “hopefully on thursday too” from 230pm – 9pm

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, London

sunday roast is always a good idea, and birthday sunday roast for the last to turn 21 in our house was one of our best ideas yet. the birthday girl actually wanted to have her¬†birthday party at paradise (it was fairytale-themed so it would have been 200% appropriate), but the room size wasn’t suitable for the number of guests¬†so she had to pass… it just made her even happier when we removed her blindfold upon reaching paradise and she realised where she was though!

paradise by way of kensal green is located in a building that looks like any regular neighbourhood pub from the outside and in no way at all betrays the eclectic charm and beauty of the place within. step inside though, and you’ll very soon realise that this is far from your average watering hole:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe were seated here in the bar area because the dining room was fully booked, and found that our initial worries that it would be lacking in the atmosphere that the main dining area had were completely unfounded. with huge flower vases, an interesting mix of furniture and one of the prettiest bar counters i’ve seen, it was perfect for our casual sunday girls lunch.¬†

we opted for a mix of roasts from the menu and after quite a wait (we were less than impressed with the service; more on that later), were presented with huge plates of gloriously hearty fare.
with my fave five – four fab friends and food

i opted for the roast beef:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Roast rib eye of beef with all the trimmings Р£17.50
the servings at paradise are clearly big; look at the size of those plates! two generous slices of thick and juicy roast beef were served with a warm and fluffy yorkshire pudding and a super delicious mix of roasted parsnips, carrots, kale, red cabbage and potatoes. the picture above was taken¬†pre-sauce (because the sauce took forever to come… it took¬†at least¬†a good 10 minutes and a reminder after the food was first served) and i felt the beef was a tad dry at the edges, but nothing at all that the sauce couldn’t solve when it finally arrived. the meat was wonderfully tender, naturally sweet and very tasty. the yorkshire pudding was warm, light and crispy at the edges but soft and pillowy within. as for the roast vegetables, they were a huge hit at the table. i remember the carrots to be amazingly sweet, and the potatoes to be some of the best i’ve had – they were done to perfection with wonderfully crisp exteriors (we still have no idea how they managed to achieve that). so good was the skin that when we were too stuffed to eat anymore heavy carbo, we found ourselves slicing the potatoes open and digging out some of the actual potato, just leaving the thin crispy edges for our very happy consumption…

the other roasts at the table were the herb crust roast chicken (£14.50) and pork belly with bramley apple puree (£15.50). all the servings were extremely generous and just as delicious Рthe chicken was roasted to perfection, juicy and moist meat encased by a light crispy skin, while the pork belly was tender and not too fatty with an ultra crispy skin. needless to say, we were all belly happy after (nearly) wiping our plates clean.

there’s always room for dessert though, and especially after the yummy food we just had, we had high hopes for some mouth-watering sweet treats. we ordered 3 desserts to share, and were once again not disappointed with the food at all:
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top to bottom: baileys & caramel cream cake, sticky toffee pudding, lemon tart
my favourites were the lemon tart and the sticky toffee pudding. the lemon tart was a refreshing end to the meal as it always is, the lemon filling tangy but not too sour and of a great consistency. the tart base was crisp and light, and the almonds were a nice addition of texture. as for the sticky toffee pudding, it was dense but not too heavy, and the toffee flavour though strong was not cloyingly sweet or overpowering in any way. the baileys cake had an interesting texture that was a cross between a light cheesecake and a cream cake, but reminded me more of the latter. it was very light and its base was very enjoyable though i would have preferred it to be crunchier – instead of the typical kind of base usually made of digestive biscuits, the biscuits used here were lighter and had a subtle chocolatey hint to them.

all in all, we were extremely satisfied with our meal at paradise. the food was great and luckily it was, because the service was rather frustrating at times. don’t get me wrong – the staff were all friendly, accommodating and lovely, but it was the pace of service that left much to be desired. we had a lot of trouble getting the attention of the staff, and whenever we asked for something, it often took several reminders before our requests (which were simple ones for things like sauce, the bill, water refills etc) were acceded to. perhaps it was because it was a busy sunday afternoon for them, but given the popularity of their sunday roast, one would imagine they’d be used to and good at dealing with such crowds.

nevertheless, i would still recommend this beautiful place for a wonderful sunday roast experience and hopefully we have better luck with the service next time!

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green
19 Kilburn Lane
London W10 4AE