Lobster Kitchen, London

lobster kitchen is one of the newest kids on london’s restaurant block, having just opened its doors a few days ago on a glorious tuesday afternoon. as its name suggests, it is a seafood shack serving a multitude of lobster dishes, and is tucked away on the ground floor of the st giles london hotel, just a stone’s throw from tottenham court road station.

what brought me to this cosy little place at 1pm on the dot on opening day along with 299 (or more) others was the promise of free lobster rolls for the first 300 through their doors. the line was snaking and took us about an hour to get through, but hey, one never turns down free food right? and a free lobster roll at that! they were being made-to-order which explained the very slow-moving line, but we were greeted by the sight of a charming little place when we finally set foot within the shop. the shop space is rather small but there is ample seating and an open kitchen at one end where you can observe the chefs working their magic:20141028_140400

wooden buoys line the tables and hang from the ceilings while the walls are clad in wood. teamed with wooden tables and chairs and warm yellow lighting, the place exuded a laidback and quaint cosiness which made me feel like when i stepped back outside with my lobster roll in hand, i’d find myself right at a beach with seagulls circling overhead and the sound of waves crashing against the shore… (a girl can dream).20141028_140303

on to the food, besides the different kinds of lobster rolls one can choose from, they also have a range of lovely-sounding lobster dishes including lobster bisque, lobster salad, lobster tails, lobster mac and cheese etc (see menu here). i opted for the garlicky lobster roll:
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the garlicky one – toasted brioche bun stuffed with lobster, with chopped garlic sauteed in butter and fresh parsley (£15, or £19 with side and soft drink)
we were super excited when we opened our boxes to finally see them delicious-looking lobster rolls glistening under the light! but we didn’t tuck into them immediately – the weather was simply too good to not bask in, so off to russell square we headed to enjoy our rolls under the glorious sun. when i finally took my first bite though, i have to say i was a little disappointed. perhaps my high expectations were due to the long wait and my by-then-rather-immense hunger, but i couldn’t help myself comparing this lobster roll to the one that burger & lobster offers, and concluding that the latter still offers a better one. the brioche bun was not bad but a little on the dry side. as for the garlic, it was tasty and had the potential to be rather delicious, but i wish they had been more generous with it and spread it more evenly throughout the roll. as for the lobster itself, it was pretty decent but nothing to shout about – the meat just didn’t seem as juicy and naturally sweet as what burger and lobster offers. moreover, we all felt that there was certainly room to be more generous with the stuffing in the roll, especially when one pays full price of £15. but since we didn’t pay a single cent, we really didn’t have a right to complain about anything and were thus quite satisfied nevertheless.

i was definitely not bowled over, but because they’re offering 50% off food till 28th november if you join their “claw club”, i have been sufficiently tempted to return to try the other items they have on their menu. not gonna lie, have been thinking about having some lobster mac and cheese since i saw it on the menu 😉 will keep this space updated if i do return, so stay tuned!

The Lobster Kitchen
111 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3NQ

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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

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 😦
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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

(dessert at) Roka, London

today on rockabitebaby, i present to you… *drumroll please*… quite possibly my new favourite dessert in all of london and one of the BEST molten lava cakes i have ever had – none other than roka’s dark chocolate molten matcha lava cake.

please do me a favour and FEAST YOUR EYES –
Imageafter a wonderful japanese dinner at nizuni (directly across the street from roka) last weekend, my pig-in-crime for the night and i decided to try our luck at roka and see if they’d just let us order dessert. we weren’t too optimistic and were initially turned away but we must have looked pretty shattered, because we were later told that we could do that if we sat outside, so brave the cold we did!!! and boy am i glad we did.

we didn’t even need to look at the menu to place our order; we had come for just one thing: what they call the CHOCOLATE TO MACHA PUDDING, YO-NASHI AISU, rather underwhelmingly described on their menu as a dark chocolate and green tea pudding with crunchy jivara and pear ice cream. i really don’t know why its misleadingly called a pudding, because this is some seriously amazing molten lava cake!

we requested to change our pear ice cream to black sesame ice cream (green tea + black sesame = one of my all-time favourite flavour combinations), and were greeted with this humble-looking cake not long after:
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looks can be deceiving/do not judge a book by its cover – i was apprehensive when the cake first arrived at our table and wondered why it was square and not the usual more cylindrical-shaped lava cake. but we quickly learnt that our worries were completely unfounded when we dug in:
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the dark chocolate cake erupted with amazing green matcha goodness that just wouldn’t stop oozing out!20140308_205528if this isn’t a beautiful mess, then i don’t know what is…

the dark chocolate cake was crisp at the edges but moist inside, and even got a little gooey towards the centre, just as a perfect molten lava cake should be. it was light and not overly-sweet – pretty much a match made in heaven with the molten matcha that was of the perfect consistency. the matcha taste was really authentic; there was not a hint of any cheap artificial matcha flavouring at all and topped with the yummy black sesame ice cream which was smooth, creamy and fragrant with black sesame bits, we were truly in dessert heaven.

indeed, this slice of heaven didn’t come cheap (i can’t remember the exact price but it was about £10), but it was worth every penny (and calorie)! it proved to be one of those rare (or not so?) things which made me remind myself not to stuff my face too quickly so the enjoyment could be prolonged, and that caused an escalating sense of loss as what was on the plate slowly diminished. 😦

a must-try if you are at roka and i will without a doubt be back for this, hopefully along with their proper food too!!! for matcha lovers out there, it is essential that you give this amazing cake a try to better your quality of life. as for non-matcha lovers out there, it is equally imperative that you do the same; you might just change your mind about this green goodness.

Roka

37 Charlotte St
London W1T 1RR

PS. feast for two that night at nizuni across the street, before the night got even better than it already was with aforementioned epic dessert:
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might (or might not) have gotten a little carried away with the ordering (but we did finish it all!!!)

needless to say, i was a very very happy bunny that night 🙂

Bibimbap, London

i’m glad we accepted the invitation to dinner at bibimbap along charlotte street (thank you jeremy!), because it is now somewhere we see ourselves returning to when craving a big bowl of piping hot rice on a cold night.

we visited on a thursday night and it was surprisingly (and impressively) busy for a weeknight! despite the healthy crowd, service remained good and efficient which is always a huge plus point. the space bibimbap occupies is big and spacious, but still has a warm and cosy atmosphere with cute and colourful decorations in the form of polaroids stuck on the walls:
20140213_21113520140213_211119besides the main dining area, they have 2 other seating areas spread across 2 floors in the back, which seem ideal for private parties or large groups looking for a quiet corner to themselves.

didn’t manage to snap a pic of the menu, but you can find it on their website here. though quite simple, the menu is wide enough to include an array of korean favourites and of course as the restaurant’s name suggests, many variations of bibimbap! we started with a seafood pancake, and a serving of chilli squid.

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mixed seafood pancake with garlic and sesame soy sauce – £5.45

the pancake was a nice start to the meal that left us in anticipation of good things to come. we liked how the pancake was of just the right thickness – any thinner and it would probably have been too crispy, and any thicker and it would probably have been too dense! it was tasty and not too oily, and the serving size was decent for its price. however, we felt it could have done with a little more seafood in it; a lot of the time we felt like we were just having a plain pancake with some veg and the odd bit of small prawns.

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deep-fried chilli squid seasoned with chilli and sea salt, served with a spicy garlic & chilli dipping sauce – £5.45

the chilli squid was a hot favourite for us. the seasoning was delicious and the squid was deep-fried to perfection, without being too oily. the batter was clearly fried in fresh oil, and was wonderfully crispy without being dry and crumbly. the squid itself was juicy and naturally sweet, and size-wise the serving was more than enough for two. it was so tasty on its own that we didn’t touch the dipping sauce at all! would definitely recommend this as a side.

for our mains, we opted for a mixed mushroom bibimbap topped with a fried egg, and a beef bool-go-gi bibimbap topped with a raw egg.
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beef bulgogi bibimbap with raw egg – £6.95 + £1 

i (rach) thoroughly enjoyed the beef bibimbap which i got! the beef was very well-seasoned and tender, the other ingredients were fresh, and both were very generously provided! also loved the slightly charred bits of rice at the bottom (though i did feel that there could have been more charring) that were the result of serving the bibimbap in a stone bowl, as i feel it always should be!!!

after mixing everything together:20140213_195407topped with a healthy dose of sauce, it made for an extremely delicious and satisfying bowl of bibimbap, definitely one of the better ones i’ve had in london! i loved how the ingredients were added so generously that there was more than enough to be eaten with the rice. nothing is worse than having to eat plain rice because there just aren’t enough condiments to go around.

we also ordered the mushroom bibimbap and it was delicious:20140213_194842
mixed mushroom (shitake, oyster, white & black) bibimbap with fried egg – £7.95 + £1

nic had this, and as with the beef one rach had, the bibimbap was served in a stone bowl which provided the slightly charred taste that gives bibimbap its supposed authenticity. the portion of mushrooms on top was extremely generous and hearty. after all, there can never be too much-room for mush-room in a dish. the mushrooms were extremely fresh and consisted of a good variety. there were shitakes and also what i (nic) reckon were white and cremini mushrooms. this gave not just a nice variation in taste but texture as well. i also loved the doneness of the carrots and other veggies served in the bibimbap. their crunch made the meal feel far more healthful (yes, healthful and not healthy: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/checkup/2009/01/healthy_vs_healthful.html) than it probably was. however one tiny regret that we (rach in particular) had was that the charring was not intense enough. what we should have done was perhaps left the rice to ‘cook’ a little while before greedily tucking in!

to accompany our rice bowls, we also ordered a tofu soup & kimchi soup.20140213_194851tofu soup with mixed seafood – £6.95

this was supposed to be tofu soup, but turned out to be more like a stew. it tasted really good at first, like something that you would crave when the weather outside is wet and cold (as is London most of the year). however, rather disappointingly, after a few sips, the oiliness (yes, that entire top layer is oil) crept in and it became a bit overwhelming. it would make a nice taster dish, however, if you were to take a trip down to the restaurant with a large group. A couple of spoonfuls is enough; an entire bowl for one person is probably a little of an overkill (in the context of a meal but for the heart as well).

the kimchi soup, on the other hand, was perfect! it was a wonderful rendition of a classic korean favourite:20140213_200054
kimchi soup with pork – £6.95

light but tasty, it was not overly sour, which was good as the taste of the kimchi and associated ingredients came out far more prominently. this was my (nic’s) favourite dish that night. and just look at how, again, the serving of ingredients is so generous. it literally filled up the entire surface of the bowl. also, contrary to what other restaurants serve, this bowl of Kimchi soup was divine in that it wasn’t oily at all. i could have 10 bowls of this and still feel fit enough to run a marathon!

all in all, we left bibimbap as extremely satisfied customers! we thought the bibimbaps especially, were some of the best we’ve tried in london (both in terms of taste and serving size) especially given their reasonable price! the restaurant is perfect for a casual night out with good food and friends, and is an affordable option along charlotte street for some yummy asian food. we will certainly be returning for more!

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Bibimbap (Charlotte Street)

10 Charlotte Street
London W1T 2LT

http://www.bibimbapcharlottestreet.co.uk/

Franco Manca, London

food options along tottenham court road have just gotten more exciting with franco manca’s recent opening of a new branch there! excitedly paid it a visit a few days ago, and we were not disappointed at all.

i had heard it was good, but got even more excited when i saw some reviews they had selected to put on their menu – people were really singing praises about it! “if you only eat one pizza this year, make sure it’s franco manca” – tatler. they were also dubbed the “best in britain” by the observer! seeing all that really made me take my first bite of the pizza with high expectations, and i am pleased to say that they were certainly met 😀 also, i was actually pretty full that day having had a really big breakfast, so the fact that i still thought it tasted really good probably means it really did 😉

they only serve pizzas at franco manca (along with some simple sides), and what is special about them is that they are made from sourdough and baked in a special oven made in naples by a specialised artisan (all this info is found on their menu). the oven produces a heat of about 500 degrees celsius (wow), and the cooking process is supposed to lock in the flour’s natural aroma and moisture, giving a soft crust.

we went as a group of 7 which allowed us to order a range of pizzas to try – we ordered 1 of everything on the menu except the most basic tomato, garlic & oregano, which we replaced with the veggie special of the day. it was all very exciting 😉
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here’s the menu:
20131121_131849 20131121_132615and the board of specials:20131121_134820

service was good and efficient despite the lunch crowd, and we soon had a SPREAD before us:
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HAPPINESS, seriously.

in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom left pizza:

1. gloucester old spot ham (home cured), mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, wild mushrooms – £6.85 (bottom left)
this was my favourite of the lot! i loved how there was a little bit of tomato but not so much such that it became a tomato-based pizza; this made it different from what you normally get with most pizzas (either completely tomato-based or no tomato at all), especially those from pizza chains. the ingredients that topped it were also really yummy – the ham was delicious, as was the combination of cheeses. the mushrooms were just icing on the cake, because i really love mushrooms. admittedly the ingredients do look pretty sparse in the picture, but somehow it didn’t seem to be a problem when we were eating the pizza. i do think that everyone loves toppings though, so a little more would be highly optimal. but even without, it was really yummy. tasty and satisfying but still remaining light!
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2. wild broccoli, mozzarella, gloucester old spot hand sliced sausage – £6.75
this pizza has no tomato at all, which is probably why i didn’t like it as much as the rest! it was still very good and tasty, but i do like the what tomatoes bring to pizza. without any tomato at all, i felt that it wasn’t as flavourful – just cheese on (very good) pizza crust with some (good) toppings. we were quite puzzled by the description of the veggie as “wild broccoli” – maybe we are ignorant but we thought it seemed more like something similar to watercress?! (mosdef asian kids hahaha) i liked the chunky texture of the sausage – good quality stuff; definitely not the processed kind. somehow it tasted quite like lamb though? oddly, this pizza reminded me a bit of an indian-inspired naan-type thing…?
without tomatoes, the taste of the delicious pizza crust really shone through!
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3. veg special – tomato, mozzarella, baked mixed peppers, olives, topped with rocket and pecorino cheese – £7.50
i love it when pizza comes topped with rocket and cheese (and parma ham oooh yum) so i quite enjoyed this. loved the tomato base, and the baked peppers that topped it were yummy! not the usual crunchy raw-ish peppers that you get on most pizzas. definitely a good vegetarian option. wonder what veg specials they have to offer on other days; it’ll be interesting to see what other exciting veggie toppings they have in store.
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4. tomato, mozzarella, basil (seasonal) – £5.90
this was simple but good! probably the best thing to order if you want to go back to basics. and because i really like their tomato, i thoroughly enjoyed this because that’s mainly what the pizza was about!
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5. tomato, cured organic chorizo (dry & semi-dry) & mozzarella – £6.95
this was my second favourite pizza! i loved the chorizo which was moist and juicy – the perfect addition to a simple tomato and mozzarella base. so good.
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6. tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies & mozzarella – £6.70
i quite like anchovies and olives so i enjoyed this! but i can imagine that they are things that not everyone likes, so this might not be a hit for all. the anchovies added a nice saltiness and together with the capers and olives, i thought this was a pizza with very strong and satisfying flavours! my third favourite of the day.20131121_133158

ultimately, i think the highlight of the pizzas at franco manca is definitely the crust – it is light, tasty, and crisp on the outside but delightfully fluffy inside. thin and with just the right amount of bite (i hate it when crusts are super thin and you end up feeling like you’re having something close to flatbread), i think you can’t go very far wrong with your order since all the toppings end up on the same amazing base.

your choice of toppings is really a matter of personal preference, and they a good range of options 🙂 i definitely preferred the tomato-based ones though; thought they were tastier and hence more satisfying/hearty. all the toppings used are also top quality – most of them are sourced directly from italy, and i thought the difference is taste was definitely noticeable. all this at an extremely affordable price too!

franco manca occupies a very bright, pleasant and relatively big dining space (turnaround time is quite quick so even if you have to queue, you probably won’t have to wait too long!) that is perfect for a casual lunch along TCR. food is great and service is good too, so i will definitely be returning, especially given the very reasonable prices. its probably going to be quite a hit with all the ucl students in the area; it has certainly already won over my friends and i 😉

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remnants of the lunch crowd

Franco Manca

98 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 4TR

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