White Mulberries, London

“we really shouldn’t be going out but that’s why we’re heading out early and coming home right after seeing the poppies to do work.” prime example of #wishfulthinking because after paying the tower of london and its beautiful sea of ceramic red flowers a visit bright and early at 9am earlier this week, the call of brunch was too strong to resist and we found ourselves checking out this wonderful little hidden gem tucked away at st katharine docks, just a stone’s throw away from the tower. we had to eat anyway… (#excuses)

even though we all had essays to go home and work on, nobody regretted this sidetrack (or sidetrek? bahaha) to brunch because the coffee was great, the food was good, the atmosphere lovely and the company even better. i have to say that my expectations were exceeded, and we all thought it was quite deserving of its well-earned accolade of being london’s best coffee shop in 2014.

white mulberries occupies a cosy shop space facing a charming waterway that’s like an oasis of calm in the heart of bustling london. they serve a range of food throughout the day (but are closed for dinner) and everything is all laid out at the counter, sitting pretty and begging to be eaten. some of what they have: banana bread, muffins, croissants etc for breakfast, sandwiches and burgers for lunch, and cakes, tarts and cronuts (!!!) throughout the day mmm…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we were hungry and excited so may or may not have ended up ordering a tad too much for three people – OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
brunch for 3 – filled croissant (£4.50), burger sandwich (£~5), yoghurt granola with fruits and seeds (£4.50), cronut with lemon zest (£3), banana bread (£2.80), mocha (£2.80), latte (£2.50), chai latte (£~3) (note: additional charge of 50p for eat-in)
it was certainly quite a spread for a trio who hadn’t even intended on having brunch out before going home, but i suppose we knew it was unlikely we’d be back soon since it is a bit further out from where we normally hang around, so all out we sure went!

starting with the drinks, i had the chai latte and i absolutely loved it! definitely one of the best chai lattes i’ve had in london (the only other one i remember as fondly being from bea’s of bloomsbury if i’m not wrong) – robust yet lightly fragrant, perfectly spiced and not too sweet, this big cuppa warmed me up from inside on this bright and chilly morning. the others were very pleased with their coffees too!

as for the food, i cannot emphasise how much i enjoyed my big bowl of granola:
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i normally avoid ordering granola in cafes because its something that can be rather easily replicated at home as long as you have the right combination of ingredients and everything is added in the right quantities. i spied this at other tables when we arrived though, and just could not resist ordering it! absolutely no regrets – it was super delicious: refreshing, light, tasty, and made with the perfect mix of the different components in perfect quantities. i particularly enjoyed the addition of plum and white mulberries, and loved the yoghurt so much that i was tempted to ask them what brand they were using (but i didn’t). quite a sizable portion too, so i was really pleased with my choice!

as for the other food we ordered, the savoury croissant was equally delicious. stuffed generously with some greens, cheddar, tomatoes and ham, this croissant was full of strong flavours and was highly satisfying. would recommend trying this if you’re looking for a savoury and hot breakfast option (they toast the sandwiches).

we also tried a burger sandwich with german sausage, rocket, cheese of some sort etc (sorry for the etc – i just cannot remember what exactly was encased between the wonderfully soft bread!!!) and it was yet another great combination which offered very strong and satisfying flavours. particularly enjoyed the sausages because they had bite and were clearly not the highly processed mass-manufactured type.

finally on to the sweets, we ordered banana bread and a cronut to share! didn’t manage to finish these two but took them home in a little box to share the love with the other housemates heehee. we all felt the banana bread was a little dry, especially towards the edges. i also thought it would have been nicer if accompanied by some sort of cream/sauce/drizzle/custard/yogurt/fruits/whatever it is people have with banana bread, just to give it that added kick. as for the cronut, we took it home and heated it up in the oven later that day and it was pretty good, though nothing i’d really rave about.

at the end of our little brunch date, i declared white mulberries officially one of my favourite cafes in london. such a pity that its far from our usual stomping ground though, or i’m sure i’d be there a lot more often, whether it be for a warm chai latte on a cold day or for a quick hearty sandwich lunch. if you’re in the vicinity, i highly recommend giving this cafe a try and hopefully you’ll be as pleased with your discovery as we were. see you there! 🙂
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White Mulberries
D3 Ivory House
St Katharine Docks
London E1W 1AT

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PS. sorry for being mia for a bit – was off in marseille for reading week (had an amazing time) and now that school has resumed, reading which was meant to be done during reading week has been keeping me busy/the biannual essay season is here 😦 promise to update whenever i get the chance to!

PPS. the poppies were a stunning sight:
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#remembrance

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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

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

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 😦
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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

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 🙂 ❤