Caravan Kings Cross, London

i am ever thankful for the weekly long weekends i have the pleasure of indulging in; its amazing what a difference an extra day (or two #terrifictimetabling heehee :P) off school can make! indeed, monday blues this week were even more non-existent than normal because the weather was amazing and we celebrated a very dear friend’s birthday with good food (both at brunch and dinner mmm…) and even better company ❤

after successfully surprising aforementioned birthday girl bright and early at 9am in the morning by sneaking into her room and hiding behind her bed before jumping out screaming “surprise” as the best birthday song ever started playing, we set off for caravan at kings cross for birthday brunch.

perhaps it was the beautiful weather that day which made all the difference, but i loved the look and feel of granary square where caravan is located. housing the central st martins school, the former goods yard is made up of tall imposing buildings surrounding a large bustling square with a carpet of little dancing fountains. there’s also a little canal running by the side of the square with lots of activity going on. the inside of the building was equally impressive – a large trendy space with high ceilings, plenty of seating area and a palpable buzz from a healthy and extremely trendy crowd.
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one of the best things about caravan is that they open early (8am on weekdays) and close late (midnight on fridays and saturdays); it really is a great place for all-day dining. they have a different menu for different mealtimes throughout the day, and they are the kind of menus which make you want to order everything on them because everything sounds yummy 😛 check out the menus here.

we started off our meal with a pick from their list of daily bakes – a spiced apple crumble slice which was a very delicious start to our brunch:
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spiced apple crumble slice – £3 (if i’m not wrong), £3.50 at the most
we were actually expecting more of a cakeslice-type slice of tart but this was good all the same. it was moist and dense and the crumble on top was yummy, lending the slice a nice addition of texture, crunch and just the right amount of sweetness coming from the fresh, juicy and subtly-spiced apples. needless to say, it was gone in no time, long before our other orders arrived…

as for the mains, i opted for the jalapeno cornbread. i had wanted to try their aubergine puree dish but they had run out! 😦 nevertheless, the cornbread was satisfying:
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jalapeno cornbread, fried eggs, black beans, guindilla pepper – £8.50
it isn’t quite clear in the picture but the dish consisted of 2 pieces of cornbread and 2 fried eggs. i love cornbread and this was no exception. the jalapenos added an exciting twist and upped the spicy game of the bread, while bits of corn embedded in the bread balanced it out with sweetness. the bread was dense and moist as it should be, but i found it a tad oily – perhaps from the fried eggs rather than the bread itself? (not quite sure about the oil source) i also loved the beans that added further texture and bite, and the fried eggs that had wonderfully crispy edges and perfectly runny yolks. they were the perfect accompaniment to the bread!

the other popular choice at the table was the baked eggs:
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baked eggs, tomato pepper ragout, greek yoghurt, toast, with chorizo sausage – £9.50
i only had a few bites of this so can’t say much about it, but it was enough for me to appreciate the ultra tastiness of the tomato ragout – it was hearty, tangy (but not acidic) and extremely flavourful. the yoghurt and runny yolks topping the ragout perfected the mix of flavours. the chorizo was also one of the yummier ones i’ve had included in a brunch dish – iit was moist and tender, a far cry from the tough and dry chorizo one is sometimes unfortunate enough to encounter in life.

last but certainly not least, we got a serving of coconut bread to share:
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coconut bread, lemon curd cream cheese, poached rhubarb – £7.50
given the serving size, i thought this dish was on the pricey side. no regrets getting it though, because it was a refreshing accompaniment to our savoury mains. my favourite part of this dish was definitely the lemon curd – smooth, thick, creamy and a perfect balance between sweet and sour. i loved it and found myself using every but of rhubarb and coconut bread left to soak it all up! the coconut bread on its own left less of an impression; there was only a very faint hint of coconut and if not for the odd bit of coconut that i chanced upon in the process of enjoying this dish, i would have completely forgotten that it was meant to be coconut bread. maybe if i had had it without the lemon curd, the coconut flavour would have shone through more. texture-wise the bread was dense and moist like banana bread which i really enjoyed. the rhubarb added a good juicy crunch to round the dish up.

all in all, we were really satisfied with the food and ambience of the place but the one thing which we all found lacking was the service. it wasn’t particularly personal or warm; in fact, it was rather abrupt and cold at times. perhaps it has to do with the restaurant’s location and it catering to lots of hip and cool arty farty types? that said, it doesn’t detract too much from the fact that good food is served in a nice ambience, so it is definitely worth checking out if you have some spare time before or after catching a train. i didn’t try any, but i heard the coffee is good too! and did i mention that they take reservations?

Caravan Kings Cross
Granary Building, 1 Granary Square
London N1C 4AA20141027_101909 20141027_101041

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Herman ze German, London

charlotte street is home to a few new eateries, and the newest branch of german sausage shop herman ze german is one which i was very pleased to welcome into the hood. having heard about their top quality sausage offerings, i was intending to pay the soho branch a visit sometime soon, but was saved the trip to soho by the appearance of a new branch of theirs just a stone’s throw away from home in my fave fitzrovia; hurrah!

herman ze german occupies a nice little shop space next to yog along charlotte street. it is simply decorated but very warm and inviting – wooden floors, chairs, and little knick knacks and pictures adorning the walls with punny catchphrases and unabashed use of the word “ze” that make you giggle. there are a few tables on the ground floor and more in the basement which make for plenty of seats to go around.20141022_121601
this picture was taken just slightly past twelve before the lunch crowd came in, but soon after that a steady stream of customers were coming and going, many doing takeaway while others sat down for a quick and casual bite.

they pride themselves on their wursts – “our wurst is ze best” is plastered on many surfaces throughout the shop -, and after sampling them i can see why. their gluten-free and lactose-free homemade sausages are all imported from a family butcher all the way in the black forest in germany, and to accompany these treats, they have a range of german beers and non-alcoholic beverages. here’s the menu:
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i opted for just a bratwurst in a roll, while my friend went for the same but as part of the wurst deal – for £4.10 more, you get fries and a drink.
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bratwurst in a roll with ketchup, mustard and crispy onions – £4.45
the bratwurst roll looks (and actually is) very simple, almost like something i could put together myself as long as i have the right ingredients, so i was very pleased when i discovered that it tastes more special than it looks! my favourite part of the roll was definitely the bratwurst – a finely minced pork and veal sausage. it was grilled to perfection and gave a loud satisfying crunch sound each time i bit into it; the outsides were crisp while the inside was succulent, juicy and very tasty. the crispy onions were the next best part – they added a super satisfying crunch and tastiness to the roll; i’m definitely going to ask for plenty of this when i return. golden brown goodies sitting atop the super sausage drizzled with ketchup and mustard and enveloped by a warm, soft and fluffy white baguette, this made for a really satisfying hot dog meal.

as for the fries which you see in the background of the picture above, they were pretty good! freshly fried, warm, crisp on the outside, tasty, and yummy when had with a healthy dose of ketchup, mayo and mustard. the best part about them is that they’re healthier than regular fries because they are air-fried which means very little oil is involved and this was evident in the lack of grease on our fingers even after greedily attacking them pommes frites with our bare hands.

we were so pleased with our wursts that after polishing off both our rolls, we decided to order an additional currywurst to share. for the currywurst, you can choose from 4 levels of spiciness for the sauce, and any wurst to go with it.
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currywurst (bockwurst) with sauerkraut – £3.95
since we’d both had bratwursts in our rolls earlier, we opted for the bockwurst here. the bockwurst was a smooth and slightly salty smoked pork sausage. compared to the bratwurst, the bockwurst sausage itself definitely had a stronger flavour to it. it also seemed to differ in texture – the bratwurst seemed a little crunchier and chunkier (but it could also have been because this was doused in curry sauce?). we had the third highest level of spiciness for our curry sauce, and it was yummy and packed a sufficient punch. it was more sour-ish than spicy though, so i might go for the spiciest one in future. the curry sauce was thick and tangy, a perfect complement to the sauerkraut on the side as well as the remaining fries we had, which we used to mop up every last drop of the sauce. again, a generous serving of crispy onions was icing on the cake.

herman ze german runs like a fast-food joint, so service is not only friendly but also really quick and efficient. it is perfect for a quick lunch, but also suitable for something more leisurely given the ample seating space and large and comfortable tables. the food is good and prices don’t burn too large a hole in your pocket, though i felt that £8.55 for the wurst meal was quite steep and there are several other good meal options around for that price. nevertheless, i’ll definitely be back when a wurst craving hits!

ze wurst is yet to come. prepare for ze wurst. zis wurst is ze best.
(sorry i just had to :P)

Herman ze German
43 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RS20141022_121444

Koshari Street, London

would never have discovered this place if not for the groupon trawling that took place while boredom struck a while back. yes, i am an #aunty and proud of it heh 😉
(for the non-singaporeans: “aunty” when used on a young lady -cough- like myself -cough- usually means she is behaving more like a middle-aged to old female, hence the activity of online bargain hunting being labelled “aunty” behaviour) saw what seemed like a really good deal – £9 for a large koshari and drink for 2, did a quick online search to check out what exactly this “egyptian street food” entailed, and with my curiosity piqued and impressed by the rave reviews, promptly made the groupon purchase. am still very pleased that i made that decision because i was far from disappointed!

occupying a small but comfortable shop space along st martin’s lane at the fringe of covent garden, koshari street serves just one main dish, a type of egyptian street food known as koshari. you’re probably staring at your computer screen with raised eyebrows wondering what on earth koshari is; i can totally relate because i was once in that position. but i am proud to say that i now not only know what koshari is but have also had the great pleasure of trying some, and it is absolutely delicious!

koshari is a vegetarian dish consisting of lentils, rice, vermicelli, topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas, and caramelised onions. does that not sound like a wonderfully wholesome and warming combination of ingredients? well, even if you think it doesn’t, i assure you now that it most definitely is 😀

koshari street prides itself on everything being freshly-made with the best ingredients and bringing naturally healthy egyptian meals to londontown. upon entering the shop, you are greeted by a long stainless steel counter with the koshari condiments all very neatly and systematically laid out. service was extremely friendly and the server took the time to explain to us what exactly goes into a koshari, even letting us try the different tomato sauces with varying spice levels (mild/hot/mad – despite my penchant for spicy food because its a taste of home, i got the hot because i thought a cupful of mad sauce might really be quite mad) before we decided on the ones we wanted for our kosharis.20141007_132809
the koshari was then assembled before us and served piping hot in a huge cup (perfect for takeaways).

the groupon deal was for a large koshari and a drink, so that’s what we got:20141007_133229
large koshari – £6.50 / fresh juice – £2 (regular non-groupon prices)
not sure if you can see how big this cup really was because of the lack of proper scale, but it was really a very generous serving. (almost the size of an ice cream tub if i’m not wrong?) they also do small and medium sizes and as we were devouring our large cups, we noticed that almost nobody (there was a steady stream of customers coming in throughout our meal) except the odd large and famished-looking man ordered the large.

you’re probably wondering what lies beneath the glorious bed of glistening golden-brown shallots, so here are more pictures that reveal the amazing goodness contained in a cup:20141007_133419
and now with everything mixed in:20141007_133933
my midnight hunger pangs are getting stronger by the second as i type this post (will need to promptly get into bed after this so morning will come quick and i can demolish some breakfast :P)… just looking at the pictures, i can remember the great satisfaction i got from this extremely flavourful concoction that really packed a punch. what struck and impressed my friend and i most about the koshari was how fresh and well-done every single component of the dish was – everything was cooked to perfection and served piping hot. the lentils, macaroni and rice retained a delicious bite, while the crispy vermicelli bits, chickpeas and shallots on top added layers of crunch. the tomato sauce was extremely fresh, tasty and flavourful. it tied everything together wonderfully and as we were making our way through our mega cups, we were already imagining how happy we’d be on the cold winters day when we’d return to warm our souls with this yummy comfort food 🙂 the ingredients were added so generously and in such perfect proportions that every mouthful was a burst of flavours and textures in our mouths! i did mention earlier that the cup was huge but what i failed to mention was that i finished it anyway; i enjoyed it that much 😛 left the shop feeling extremely full, but a healthy full, having loaded up on a cup full of wholesome goodness.

besides koshari, koshari street also offers some simple salads, a soup option that changes daily and a handful of puddings for dessert. order a mix of things to make for a really satisfying meal or alternatively, they do combo meals where you can get a koshari, side and drink for a reasonable price. given the quality of the ingredients and how filling and wholesome the dish is, i would highly recommend this little cafe if you’re looking for a quick bite around the covent garden area. the space the shop occupies is small so its ideal for takeaways, but they do have some counter-type seating within the shop so there’s always the option of dining in as well.

if you’ve never had egyptian food, now’s the time to change that! you have even more reason to because the groupon deal doesn’t seem to have ended yet: check it out here!

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Koshari Street
56 St Martin’s Lane
London WC2N 4EA

Khan’s Restaurant, London

was suddenly hit by a massive craving for some good indian food and had intended to give the legendary tayyabs a try, but we were put off by the idea of a potentially (and highly possibly) snaking queue on a chilly autumn friday night. so based on my cousin’s recommendation, to khan’s we headed instead! am happy to say that we had no regrets at all, because i was super pleased with the yummy meal. in fact, so pleased was i that i think a trip to tayyabs may no longer be necessary…

one often associates bayswater with a slew of chinese restaurants – mandarin kitchen, goldmine and the like, so when i told friends that i was heading to bayswater for indian food, i was unsurprisingly met with some raised eyebrows accompanied by “indian? not roast duck?”. i think this will be happening quite a bit more in the coming year (final year omg #timeflies!!!) though, so hopefully the surprise will soon turn to curiosity and excitement to try it too 😛

i was imagining a family-run-type establishment – small, cosy and not occupying more than 2 shop spaces, but i was wrong. very wrong. khan’s has been around for 34 years now, and their success and popularity shows in the large space they occupy and high seating capacity the restaurant has.
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yes, the decor is slightly (understatement?) tacky, but the place is spacious, clean, big and comfortable. beyond this first section where you can experience the pleasure of dining under palm trees while indoors, the back section offers you an alternative of moroccan lights as company. at times i felt like i was in one of those arabian nights restaurants in a theme park, but i wasn’t in the least bit bothered by it because the dining area is actually rather pleasant.

they have a good range of dishes to choose from on their menu, still traditionally prepared by the founder’s family, and purported to have maintained the same quality and standard over the decades.
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for the 2 of us to share, we ordered a serving of butter chicken (what i had been craving and needed to have), fish tikka curry, sag paneer and a garlic naan each. food was served rather promptly and by that time we were starving and all ready to tuck in.20141003_192830L to R: butter chicken (£7.75), sag paneer ($4.30), fish tikka curry (£8.95)
all the curries were very good. my massive butter chicken craving was more than satisfied, the sag paneer was nic’s favourite of the night, and the fish tikka curry was flavourful and being the lightest out of the 3, balanced out the richness of the other 2 dishes.

starting with the butter chicken – chicken prepared in butter, cream, cashew nuts, coconut, masala sauce and dressed with almonds-, this was a butter chicken lover’s (ie me) dream come true. the gravy was ultra creamy and flavourful, thick and rich but not too heavy and with a subtle but palpable taste of a nuts – it really hit the mark for me and is definitely one of the better (if not the best) butter chickens i’ve had in london. i couldn’t stop dousing my naan in this sinful goodness! our conclusion: definitely worth the calories 😛 our only qualm about this dish was the chicken itself – it was a tad dry and we hoped that the meat itself would be more seasoned. it lacked the tastiness that the gravy had, possibly because the chicken wasn’t cooked in the gravy long enough (no idea, just hazarding a guess).

as for the sag paneer, (spinach cooked with homemade cheese), it was nic’s absolute favourite of the night. i really really enjoyed it too, though if i had to pick one fave of the night, i remain loyal to my beloved butter chicken. the spinach was very tasty and creamed to the perfect point that it was smooth but not overly so and still had a nice texture to it. it was also of the perfect consistency and thickness and though i can’t pinpoint what it was about it that made it different from sag paneer that i’ve had at other indian restaurants, it was very yummy and certainly worth an order if you’re at khan’s.

last but not least, we had the fish tikka curry – slices of oven baked fish cooked in a medium spicy sauce. this dish was marked with a little heart next to it on the menu which represents “healthy eating: low fat”, so i suppose this was our (admittedly rather feeble) effort to make the meal a slightly less sinful one… we also enjoyed this dish! it was lighter than the other 2, where the sauce was less creamy (but that didn’t make it any less tasty) and a lot more tomato-ey. my favourite part of this dish was the fish pieces in the curry. they were fresh and naturally sweet, which was a pleasant surprise because one normally associates fish in such things as tasting frozen and not very fresh.

20141003_193126garlic naan – £2.65
not forgetting my staple at any indian meal, naan!!! (do you sense my excitement; just writing about it makes me excited hahaha) had a garlic naan here and was extremely satisfied. the naan was just the way i liked it – (1) BIG, (2) crispy edges, and (3) fluffy. it had the surface area of an entire plate, and was wonderfully soft and pillowy while having the odd slightly-charred crispy patch and crispy edges all around. used every bit of it to soak up all the flavourful and creamy curries, and all the plates on the table were wiped clean by the end of the meal. (we were also ready to enter into food comas by that point.)

all in all, it was a hugely satisfying meal at khan’s and i was extremely happy. i can never leave bayswater without having some gelato at oddono’s in whiteleys, so to top off an already good night, we headed for my fave gelateria (in close competition with gelupo for top spot in my books) for our usual hazelnut-pisatchio-gelato-in-a-cone-please fix. my idea of a great friday night, and something i’m definitely going to need to do again soon… 😀

Khan’s Restaurant
13-15 Westbourne Grove
London W2 4UA

PS. saw a sign outside the restaurant advertising their lunch buffet at a really reasonable price of £9.95 – that’s certainly something worth checking out too!

BOBO Social, London

yet another new kid on the london burger block, and this time just a stone’s throw away from where i stay. i’m certainly not complaining! 😛 bobo social is a newly-opened burger joint in fitzrovia located in a cosy shop at the very end of charlotte street which prides itself on offering great burgers in a charming and civilised (i say civilised because your experience at bobo social will probably be far from the usual unglamorous juice-and-sauce-dripping-all-over-your-hands-and-running-down-your-wrists experience that many other burger joints offer) environment.

there has been quite a bit of hype surrounding it since it opened, so it was a natural choice for one of my first meals back. indeed, we knew it was popular but didn’t realise quite how popular it was until we heard they were often full and reservations needed to be made in advance. so we promptly called on thursday night to make a reservation for lunch on friday, but turns out we had moved too slowly because they were already full :O some #seriousbusiness going on here! nevertheless, intent on not letting anything get in the way of us and our burgers, we decided to go with the lunch deal advertised on their website, and took away our burgers to the park to enjoy them as we basked in the (last of) summer sunshine.

i arrived a little before 1pm to place the takeaway order, and was greeted by warm and smiling staff who were efficient and offered me a seat while i waited for the food to be prepared. the place was nearly full on the ground floor (they were expecting to be full by 1pm), and if i’m not wrong they have more seating in the basement.
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decor is simple but tasteful, and i noted how patrons who were dining in were served their burgers on an eclectic mix of intentionally-mismatched dining ware – the burgers sat neatly right in the centre of the pretty vintage plates, and tucking into the burgers with fork and knife was a very civilised and dainty affair.

didn’t take a picture of the menu i was handed, but its available here at their website. you’ll notice that unlike other burger joints, on top of sides, they have a range of small plates, cocktails, wines and a decent selection of desserts (a friend tried the white chocolate cheesecake for dessert and gave it her stamp of approval). i believe this is how they are hoping to differentiate themselves from the rest – offering a full dining experience instead of the idea of “fast food” typically associated with burgers.

for the takeaway deal which is available daily from 12-2pm and is what we went for, you get a original BOBO burger and a side for a reasonable £10. i only waited about 10 minutes before i was presented with 2 big paper bags of food glorious food.
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arrived at the park and excitedly dug into the paper bags to unveil and lay out them goods (this isn’t all; we had 5 burgers and 5 sides in total).
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behold, the BOBO burger basking in last friday’s glorious sunshine:20141003_132511
BOBO burger – 6oz rare-breed beef, lettuce, tomatoes, charcoal-roasted red onions, BOBO sauce (£8.50 or £10 with a side for takeaway)

size-wise, the burger wasn’t very big and i could handle it quite comfortably with one hand. good for the weight and health-conscious who see this as a guilty indulgence, the burgers aren’t very large or greasy at all so they leave you feeling satisfied but not too full. the lettuce, tomatoes and onions were fresh and complemented the beef patty well. on to the beef patty – according to their menu, their burgers are handmade daily using rare-breed beef, and single species wood is used in their charcoal ovens to enhance the flavour of the meat. i must say that the beef patty was indeed well-seasoned, flavourful and very tasty. the meat was coarsely-ground giving it a really nice hearty texture, and the patties were also all cooked to medium-rare perfection, just look at that wonderful pink! :20141003_132846we all felt that they could have been juicier though; they were a tad dry, resulting in no messy juice-dribbling-moments at all. i would also have preferred more sauce; it seemed like i hardly had any of it so unfortunately i can’t really say what BOBO sauce tastes like! as for the next most important part of a burger, the burger bun, BOBO uses buttermilk brioche buns which i enjoyed very much – buttery, soft and fluffy, worthy of proudly emblazoning a big “B” across the top as they do. all in all, it was a pretty satisfying burger but it didn’t quite blow my mind or excite me in the way that i had hoped. the BOBO burger is definitely closer to the style of honest burgers, clean and simple, without the sauciness of patty & bun’s offerings. its worth noting that the rest of their offerings on the menu sound very promising though, and might be vastly different from the original BOBO.

just realised (very belatedly) that i forgot to take a close-up shot of the sides, so unfortunately you’ll have to make do with squinting a little to see them in the picture of everything laid out above, and then envisaging them in their full glory in your minds. for the sides, we went for 2 servings of sweet potato fries, 1 serving of skin-on beef dripping chips, 1 serving of apple slaw with toasted pumpkin seeds, and 1 serving of mixed leaf salad with pomegranate and croutons.

the favourites were definitely the sweet potato fries and the apple slaw. the apple slaw was refreshing and a nice and healthy (relatively) accompaniment to the burgers. the apple was sweet and wasn’t sliced too thinly such that they retained crunch and juiciness, while the dressing was light despite it being mayo-ish. our other healthy side was the mixed leaf salad with pomegranate. it wasn’t anything to shout about, a light accompaniment that could probably be served at any other restaurant.

as for the sweet potato fries, i loved how they were chunky and rather thickly-cut, almost like wedges except that they were still rectangular and generally fry-shaped, not wedge-shaped. i can imagine that they would have been even better if taken fresh at the restaurant; they were unfortunately a little soggy by the time we tucked into them, but still satisfying and remotely crispy on the outside nevertheless! they were supposed to be sprinkled with truffle salt but unfortunately there was nary a hint of that… as for the beef dripping BOBO chips, given their fancy-sounding name and the fact that they were named after the restaurant, i had very high hopes! they ended up meeting my expectations, but not quite surpassing them in any way. they were good fries, but not particularly outstanding and in fact i think they could have done with a little less salt.

all in all, we were all a little let down and agreed that the burgers at BOBO didn’t quite live up to our high expectations. admittedly, our expectations were pretty high because we had heard so much about the burgers, and the fact that we took them away instead of dining in probably reduced the taste-good factor, even if just by a little. we also found the prices rather steep compared to the other big burger names in town (patty & bun still remaining my top choice and honest coming in a not-very-close second; i swear patty & bun really has my heart 😀 ), and hence all agreed that we wouldn’t quite jump at the chance to head back to bobo. that said, the other burgers on the BOBO menu (which come at a heftier price tag) sound really interesting and i like the idea of the experimental burger sessions they have on monday nights, so there is definitely reason to give it another chance!

BOBO Social
95 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4PZ
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PS. we didn’t know then, but that friday turned out to be what seems to be the last day of summer… its suddenly gotten cold and it seems like dreary london is here to stay for winter 😦
Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset
picnic-perfect ❤

Kanada-Ya, London

first london post of the new (academic) year! the first week of school has come and gone, and i’m pleased because i had an extremely foodful week. the fact that i’m now in final year has definitely fuelled this food frenzy to try out as many new places and try as many things on their menus as possible 😛 guilt is starting to settle in though, because it was definitely far from being as fruitful on other fronts (which may or may not include readings)… need to get back into school mode pronto! #newweeksresolution

i had heard lots of good things about and seen good pics of one of london’s newest ramen shops while home in singapore for the summer, so jumped at the chance to check it out last tuesday night when my friends and i were craving some oodles of noodles. the choice of dinner venue was between koya (tried and tested, guaranteed satisfaction) and kanada-ya (new and exciting), and i’m glad we went with the latter because we were not disappointed! arrived just slightly past 6.30pm on a weekday evening and we were greeted with this queue before us:
20140930_183916undeterred, we hopped into line. it helped that almost everyone both in the queue and in the shop was asian and the majority were japanese actually – a sure sign of the shop’s credibility 😉 some menus were handed down the line to keep patrons occupied while they waited, but the menu isn’t very extensive at all so like us, you’ll probably make your choice before the queue even moves an inch.

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it took us about 45 minutes to be seated at a table for four so it was great that the food came pretty quickly once we filled in and submitted our order sheets. we each got an original ramen with an egg added, and also ordered a serving of original onigiri for the table to share.

the onigiri came swiftly:
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plain onigiri – £2.50 for 2 pieces
unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed by the onigiri. it was literally just plain japanese rice moulded into the classic onigiri shape and placed atop a sheet of seaweed. i suppose when the menu described it as plain, they really meant that it would be completely plain… we suspected that they’d be a letdown once we saw them brought to our table, but still clung on to some hope that there’d be some sort of seasoning in the rice. alas, we were wrong and even sprinkling some sesame on top couldn’t save them. we certainly weren’t expecting any toppings, but all agreed that we had imagined at least some japanese spices or flakes of some sort sprinkled over the top. many of their japanese patrons seemed to be ordering the onigiri though, so maybe this is actually the traditional and legit stuff, just not what we’re used to. the ones with plum or salmon are probably more appetising; maybe (just maybe) i’ll give them a try when i return.

thank goodness the ramen arrived before us hot on the heels of the onigiri, so we didn’t have much time to feel despondent about our poor rice ball choice. it could have been that our expectations were slightly lowered because of the onigiri (but i doubt so), but we all thought the ramen was very very good, so satisfied was one of my friends that she declared it the best ramen in london at the moment, and i concur.
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original ramen with hanjuku egg – £10 + £1.80
the super tasty soup is an 18 hour pork bone broth; the thickness and milky porkiness of it is testament to its very lengthy cooking time, and will leave you wanting to slurp up every last drop of it. what i liked most about the broth was that it was very satisfying, but not heavy. as for the chashu pork belly, it was perfectly seasoned and cooked and so tender that it was very nearly worthy of being described as melt-in-your-mouth goodness. very very nearly. as for the noodles, like ippudo, you can choose how well you want them to be cooked. i always prefer my noodles firm so i opted for the hard, and was not disappointed – they retained a great bite even after sitting in the soup for a while, far from turning into fat mushy strands. and now coming to my favourite part of the bowl… the egg (nothing new there)! i would definitely recommend adding an egg (or two) to your ramen. at £1.80 it does seem pricey but i thought it was worth it. after all, its not every day that you come across such a perfectly cooked and seasoned onsen egg. just look at the bright orange yolk and its wonderful consistency – still wet but not running all over the place and into the soup! besides the yolk, the white was also very well seasoned and i finished my 2 halves wishing i had another two to finish. or four. or more. 😛 will seriously consider ordering 2 eggs when i return! our bellies were happy and as we were making our way through the big bowls, we were already imagining how perfect it would be to have this soupy goodness to warm our chilled souls in the dead of winter when its freezing outside.

on top of the great food, service is friendly, fast and quite efficient. the shop itself is cosy and does not have a large seating capacity at all, so be prepared to queue when you visit. we all agreed that it was better than bone daddies and shoryu which made the wait to get a table worth it; hopefully you’ll feel the same way too!

next ramen conquest: ippudo london, which is opening right opposite kanada-ya (ooooh competition). london be upping its ramen game and i’m not complaining 😉

Kanada-Ya
64 St Giles High Street
London WC2H 8LE20140930_190349

Spices Cafe, Singapore

since i only had 4 full weekdays in sunny singapore after my last internship ended and before i was off to new york, food consumed for each meal was a very deliberate and purposeful choice. the mother insisted on taking me to this lunch buffet before being packed off to the uk (where good nonya food is far from aplenty) and though initially hesitant about departing from my firm favourites (ie bak chor mee/roti prata/chirashi round 2/3/4), i’m really glad spices cafe made the final cut because i left extremely satisfied and all ready to return to the land of roast chicken and grilled salmon.

located in the oft-overlooked concorde hotel that is at the less happening part of orchard road just before the istana, spices cafe serves up a yummy peranakan buffet lunch in a nice setting that far exceeded my expectations. they offer almost any nonya dish you can imagine, and i would say that almost everything i tried was above average which is no mean feat given the huge array of food available.
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managed to snap some pics of the glorious food sitting all nice and pretty before the hungry patrons attacked:
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rojak & gado-gado station
okay faithful followers of this blog (thank you guys!!!) will know that i am a fan of rojak (my all-time favourite being silver stream rojak) but few people know that i am also a fan of gado-gado so a rojak AND gado-gado station was like… a dream come true hahaha. started off with this but went back many many many more times. the rojak is completely DIY – you make the sauce yourself based on the recipe displayed there which makes for quite a fun experience, and its always nice to personalise your rojak with just the ingredients you want. for me, its always lots of peanuts and pineapple 😀 the recipe was not bad i have to say; the final product tasted pretty good every time i mixed a plate!

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kway chap & laksa

20140917_120553popiah / kueh pie tee / satay
the popiah & kueh pie tee are made on-the-spot by the chef manning the station, and they have both chicken and pork satay that come accompanied by ketupat, cucumber, the all-important peanut sauce, and some pineapple sauce too! yum…

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cooked main dishes
they had a huge array of cooked dishes including the quintessential nonya dishes like chap chye, buah keluak (was really disappointed by this though!!! rather sad because i adore buah keluak so much that my maid sometimes cooks and freezes it for me to take back to ldn with me 😛 ), prawns with petai etc. they even have a daily crab dish – it was black pepper on the day we went, and i was pleasantly surprised by how the black pepper seasoning was spot-on and the crab meat was firm, naturally sweet and juicy. bibs are provided so that serious crab eaters can leave without evidence of their crustacean feast; a nice touch!

20140917_120513dessert spread
i would have dubbed this the best part of the buffet, except everything else was really rather yummy too so the amazing dessert spread will just have to be deemed another great part of the buffet 🙂

on to some close-ups of the food i had the great pleasure of savouring:
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one of the many rounds i went for – here i sampled the (going in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom) petai with prawn, chap chye, pork, squid, egg fu yong and oyster omelette. all of them were good, but the stand-out for me was definitely the squid. it was wonderfully tasty and the squid was cooked to perfection (neither rubbery nor mushy), something not easy to achieve when mass-cooking for hungry buffet-goers. i also liked the chap chye, a classic nonya dish done well.

also had several rolls of freshly-made popiah throughout the meal:20140917_122220
i’ve definitely had better popiah elsewhere, but this was not a bad rendition at all. the popiah skin was thin, filling was tasty, and chilli added just the right kick to it. i would have liked the addition of more crispy garlic bits to add some texture though. i loved how the rolls were smaller than the regular popiah rolls you get at other places – big enough to satisfy popiah cravings but small enough so that there’s still space in one’s stomach for other food. also note the kueh pie tee in the background – yummy! but i feel they would have been made even more optimal with the addition of some prawns or peanuts on top.

besides the “soupy” laksa and kway chap dishes they had, there was also a big pot of pig organ soup. i’m not a fan but my mother had a bowl and seemed to quite enjoy it:20140917_123441
speaking of the laksa and kway chap, i don’t have a picture of the laksa but i very fondly recall it to be a very good bowl of laksa – deliciously lemak but not too rich, creamy or heavy. i daresay it was better than bowls of laksa i’ve had from katong laksa and the like. didn’t try the kway chap, but it looked pretty good with a whole range of condiments (tau pok, egg, tau kwa, innards etc) to pick to go with the kway chap.

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another of the many rounds of food – you can see i took more squid. in fact, i took it every single time i paid a visit to the buffet spread 😛 yes, i liked it that much! on this plate there’s better scale to see the aforementioned fun-sized popiah, each roll was cut into just also had some glutinous rice and fried carrot cake this round, along with satay. the fried carrot cake was very average, i remember thinking it could be tastier (but then again, its hard to please with anything other than ghim moh carrot cake heh). as for the satay, i was impressed! both the chicken and pork satays were tasty, tender and moist. super yummy when generously drizzled with both peanut and pineapple sauce. YUM.

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another staple of the day – gado-gado!!! had several servings of this and took plenty of tempeh every single time. i love tempeh!!! (do you sense my excitement) the peanut sauce to go with the gado-gado was great, and i loved how the tau kwa and carrots were cut into big chunks and not measly pieces. could really do with some of that delicious tempeh now…

and finally, on to the glorious dessert:
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the dessert spread did not disappoint. besides the huge assortment of kuehs, there was an array of fresh fruit, a chendol machine, bubur cha cha, putu mayam, and potong ice cream in assorted flavours. this is one buffet you definitely want (and need) to save space for dessert at…
absolutely loved how there were 2 huge bowls of thick, creamy and super yummy durian and banana sauce at the side of the kuehs, to be generously slathered on all kuehs as desired. the durian penyet also deserves a special shout-out: creamy, smooth and thick – a durian lover’s dream come true! the bubur cha cha was good but i would have liked it with some jackfruit (in fact i think i stole some from the fresh fruits section and added it 😛 ), and all the kuehs were good. the more common ones (kueh lapis, 9 layer kueh etc) were done well, while there were some more novel ones added to the mix as well. i didn’t have much of the putu mayam, but my aunty is a fan and she had 2 servings of it (even after all that food) so it must have been good!!!

at a really affordable price of $32++ ($23++ for above 55s), there is really nothing much to complain about at this buffet. not only is the food delicious, the service is also great – the restaurant is staffed with several lovely ladies in traditional peranakan kebayas who make you feel as if you’ve stepped into their homes for some comfort food. also love that this is in a quieter part of orchard road, tucked away along a stretch few walk along because most would hop on the train from somerset to dhoby ghaut; its like one of orchard road’s hidden gems (but now you know about it 😉 ) definitely no regrets spending one of my treasured last meals in sg of the summer on this place, and i won’t be surprised if it actually gets added to my list of must-gos when home for the holidays. its truly the perfect one-stop spot to satisfy peranakan food cravings; i can’t wait to head back for more… till christmas!

Spices Cafe
Concorde Hotel
Singapore 238840

PS. ever thankful for the best family that is always always always willing to go all-out to satisfy my random food cravings with me, even if it means having double the number of meals we normally have 🙂 ❤