Lan Zhou Noodle Bar, London

i cannot believe i it took me 2.5 years to discover this hidden gem right in the heart of leicester square; if i had known of it earlier, i’m sure i’d have spent many a cold night there slurping up oodles of noodles, elbow to elbow with other hungry patrons of this hole-in-the-wall…

it was a cold and rainy day and having just ticked one off the london bucket list by ice skating at somerset house, my ravenous friends and i decided that a large bowl of piping hot noodles sounded really, really good. so off to lan zhou la mian we trooped!

lan zhou la mian is not a shop i would venture into if it wasn’t recommended to me by friends – their shop window is filled with trays of (if i may say) dubious-looking extremely brightly-coloured ready-to-eat hot food (think mr wu’s chinese restaurant eat-all-you-can-buffet-style food that always makes me upset because i hate that it would make some people who don’t know any better think that that is all chinese food is about – fried spring rolls, lemon chicken and “singapore noodles” (the most offensive thing ever!!!)) and given how it is so well-located just a stone’s throw away from leicester square tube station, it appeared to me to be the type of shop that serves sub-standard chinese fare at cheap prices. we couldn’t have been more wrong though, and hurrah for that!

venture into the little shop and you will find (1) an almost 100% chinese clientele (a sure sign of its legitimacy) and (2) a chef hard at work making noodles before your very eyes! needless to say, i was ultra excited – the last time i had fresh hand-pulled noodles was about 3 months ago in sunny singapore, its taste quickly becoming a fading memory in my mind…
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they have an extensive menu that includes a range of cooked dishes and cold and hot appetisers, but we were there for the noodles, and that alone left us spoilt for choice. besides all the different types of noodles they have, you can get them all soup/dry/fried, and you can choose how thick you want the noodles to be. there are countless permutations and combinations that will be made-to-order just for you:20141205_140946

the aforementioned friends who recommended this place highly recommended the beef noodles, so the stewed beef la mian soup is what every single one of the 4 of us opted for. the noodles took quite a while to arrive (one would expect faster service using all the other casual chinatown eating spots as benchmarks) and the waiting time was exacerbated by the fact that it was 2.30pm and we (or maybe just me) had just done the most exercise we’d done all year by skating for an hour.

words cannot express my utter delight when a huge bowl of piping hot noodles was placed before me some 15-20 minutes later:
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mid-way through the monstrous bowl
we couldn’t have been happier with our huge bowls of noodles (#asiankidsforever). the broth was thick, tasty and flavourful, and the beef brisket was tender, well-seasoned and added in generous amounts. note the addictive chilli oil in the picture that was added in copious amounts for that extra spicy punch, making this bowl of soupy goodness even more satisfying than it already was on its own. as for the noodles, i was sold after taking my first bite. you could tell they were definitely freshly-made (the waiting time was warranted after all) – bouncy, springy and cooked for just the right amount of time to give it the perfect bite. i could not stop enthusing about the texture of the noodles as i made my way slowly but steadily through the huge bowl. soon it was all gone and i ain’t gonna lie, i was a little sad (as i tend to be when i have nothing left on my plate that previously contained a mountain of all things delicious).

at just £6.50, this bowl of goodness was like a warm, comforting hug on a cold winter’s day, and i will certainly jump at any chance to return. mega plus points for the fact that it opens till the wee hours of the morning (5am on saturdays?! truly a #rarespecimen in london), so this is certainly a place to visit when you’re in need of a late-night supper or desperately need to satisfy a sudden intense craving for oodles of noodles before bedtime. love me some la mian!!!

Lan Zhou La Mian (Noodle Bar)
33 Cranbourn Street
London WC2H 7AD

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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

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 ❤

Riverwalk Tandoor, Singapore

had a massive craving for indian food after a friend sent me a snap of her devouring naan and butter chicken over the weekend, so it was indian food my friends and i ventured out in search of when we met for dinner last night. i was rather impressed with the food and so decided that i had to write about it pronto before the smell of freshly-made naan and curries escapes me and fades from my memories 😛

we were recommended riverwalk tandoor by an indian friend (legit recommendation right here 😉 ) and i was mighty pleased to find that they do a super reasonably priced buffet – $15.90++ for lunch and $18.90++ for dinner; free flow naan, here we come!!! conveniently located just across the road from the central (ie clarke quay mrt station) in a corner unit facing the river on the ground floor of the riverwalk, the restaurant was completely empty when i arrived at 630pm, totally different from the scene at jumbo seafood right next door where there was already a line of people eagerly awaiting a seafood fix.
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the restaurant looks quite traditionally indian, and is spacious and comfortable. because of the space and number of tables, i think this would make a great place for a group gathering! the buffet spread is on one side of the restaurant, and once i stepped in they started opening the food covers to reveal yummy food within (i must have looked starving) mmmmmm… i immediately got to work and managed to snap pics of the buffet offerings in their full untouched glory before other guests started tucking in!
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the buffet spread consisted of 8 main dishes (3 meats 1 fish and 4 veg), briyani, white rice, soup, a section with pickles + mint sauce + raita (indian yoghurt) + papadum etc, and dessert – quite a spread for the price you pay, we thought!

here are the meats/fish:
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everything was pretty good but if i had to pick a fave, it would definitely be the tandoori chicken. taken with the mint sauce, it was super tasty and very successfully satisfied my indian food craving – the meat was very tender and moist and the seasoning and tandoori flavour was spot-on.

the other meats available were chicken masala and gosht mirchiwala. the chicken masala was not bad but i thought the sauce could have been a little thicker and creamier. the meat was also not as moist as that of the tandoori chicken; the pieces i had were a little dry. as for the gosht mirchiwala, i still haven’t figured out if it was lamb or mutton we were eating, but it was good anyway! the curry was thick and tasty, great for dipping naan into it.

i also enjoyed the fish tomato curry – the fish pieces were fresh, big and meaty, and the tomato sauce was pretty light. the batter of the fish soaked the sauce up to make for quite a good dish. had a few servings of this as a break from the more heavier meat curries.

here’s the vegetarian section:
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fave out of the vegetables was definitely the vegetable jalfrezi. it was a mixed vegetables (beans, carrots, cauliflower) dish in a very nicely spiced tomato-based sauce. i had quite a few servings of thisw because it was the closest thing to aloo gobi that was available as part of the buffet. another dish so tasty that it really satisfied my indian food craving. the other veg dish that i had several servings of was the kabuli paneer. i love paneer and normally always order palak (creamed spinach) paneer whenever i have indian food. couldn’t identify the veg that went into this but the paneer was super yummy; i had lots and lots of it heehee. light, spongy, fluffy – almost like tofu! the dahl and other vegetable dish were also pretty good.

there was also a pickles section of the buffet:
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the papadam was greattt. they regularly brought out fresh batches – crispy and warm and fried in fresh oil (none of the funky reused oil taste you get with some fried things yay!). the pickles were not bad and i absolutely loved the mint sauce and the raita. so yummy!

now on to what was basically my staple for the night, the naan glorious naan!!!

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i stayed away from the briyani and rice because i was readying myself to load up on the naan heehee. the naan here is freshly-made and served to your table – all warm, super fluffy and drizzled generously with butter. what i had been dreaming of and what i had come for – yes yes yes more more more please! they regularly replenish the naan baskets at your table when you’re finished and that was very welcome heh. another picture as a tribute to my love for this amazing bread-y goodness:
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and eaten with the naan we had round after round (as much as our stomachs would allow) of:20140818_19011020140818_191651

at the end of it all, we were super full but sampled the desserts they had available. they had 2 (i assume) traditional indian desserts – gulab jamun and this other milky thing (sorry i forgot the name and its cut off in my picture of it, as you will see in the pic below):
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the gulab jamun was extremely sweet (as expected), so we nibbled at it and stopped there. as for the milky dessert, i’m still not sure what exactly goes into it. it was like… vermicelli-type noodles in a very milky base. wasn’t quite our cup of tea at all, so we stuck to the fresh fruits which were super sweet and juicy, a perfect and refreshing end to our heavy meal.

i’d definitely come back to riverwalk tandoor the next time i’m craving some hearty indian food, and will be spreading the word about it! given the price of the meal, you really can’t complain about the spread or the quality of the food. its nothing fancy but it was good enough for us. didn’t check out the a la carte menu, but might do so next time if i’m not intending on feasting (rare occurence but i assure you, it does happen :P).

we left with very happy (and heavy) tummies, full of enthusiasm to walk off our dinner with a stroll down the river. the enthusiasm didn’t last long though, and we soon found ourselves lazily plonked down by the riverside outside central enjoying the live music from across the water and watching boats go by… perfect end to my night! 🙂
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Riverwalk Tandoor
20 Upper Circular Rd, The Riverwalk #B1-38
Singapore 058416
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Lolla, Singapore

lolla was the sister’s choice for her birthday dinner this year, so its where we headed for some celebratory feasting on thursday night (her birthday was actually on friday but we were under the giant white tents at marina bay watching the spectacular Cavalia that night, so dinner on thursday it was!). 

located at the hiving-by-night ann siang hill, lolla is a mediterranean-inspired tapas-style restaurant that serves a range of what struck me as fusion-type small plates meant for sharing in a group. it occupies the ground and basement levels of a shophouse – the ground floor houses a long counter where guests can watch the chefs at work while the basement is home to a communal table. would have loved to be in on the action at the counter but we were told when we called to make a reservation that the counter was for walk-in customers only (i wasn’t particularly pleased to hear that, to be honest… shouldn’t those who make reservations get first pick of where they sit?). the place is trendily decorated to exude a casual and fun yet stylish vibe, and the restaurant was already buzzing when we arrived slightly past 7.
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ground floor counter seatingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
communal dining one floor down

indeed, testament to the casual and unpretentious nature of the restaurant is the fact that the menu is so simply printed on a piece of paper that doubles up as your place mat.i hear the menu changes according to what seasonal produce is available, and besides whats listed on the menu they also have a few specials written on the mirrored walls for you to choose from. this is what was available on the menu the night we visited:
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[NB: as you can probably tell from the picture of the menu above, the lighting where we were seated at the communal table was terrible for photo-taking and the pictures hence don’t quite do the food justice… 😦 probably explains why i am still sore about not getting to sit at the counter despite making an advanced booking; the lighting at the counter is highly optimal]

the service staff were friendly and willing to recommend the specialities of the restaurant, so it didn’t take us long to decide on what we wanted to have. 

we started our meal with a full portion of their famous sea urchin pudding:
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sea urchin pudding (full portion) – $40

served chilled, this. was. delicious! and we all agreed that it did live up to the hype surrounding it. a generous chunk of fresh uni sat proudly atop squid ink pudding and the two came together wonderfully to make for highly tasty, rich and satisfying mouthfuls; it was truly the epitome of umami. the squid ink pudding (with tomato, cream and egg yolk thrown into the mix) was smooth and creamy, with a strong taste of seafood. this was the first dish to be served and promptly raised our expectations for the rest of the meal. note that its so savoury that it can get quite heavy and jelat, so ordering a portion (or two, depending on group size) to share is ideal.

next, we were served one of the specials of the day:
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pan roasted padron peppers – $15

this was a special available for the night and we chose it for our dose of greens for the night. the peppers were very well done – very lightly coated in some kind of batter/crispy bits that added texture to the dish. the peppers themselves were cooked to perfection and were extremely juicy and naturally sweet. not quite sure what else went into them but it was quite an interesting and tasty dish. not exceptionally memorable and wouldn’t rave about it or think of having it again though!

we also had some scallops mmm:
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hokkaido scallop carpaccio – $38

my first thought when this arrived at our table was that it appeared similar to the mentaiko scallop carpaccio at the sushi bar! felt a little bad for / realised i was wrong in making that comparison after though, because i daresay this was much better (also much pricier) / the two are actually quite different. i’m not exactly sure what sauce was drizzled on top of the scallops here (this happened a lot that night – not quite knowing what went into the creation of the amazing flavour explosions in our mouths, if only we could see what the chefs behind the counter got up to while preparing the dishes; this is me feeling sore again about not getting to sit at the counter… hahaha #life), but there was definitely some kind of salt sprinkled on top i think? everything came together wonderfully and the scallops were of just the right thickness – not too thin such that the natural sweetness could not be appreciated, but also not too thick – just as carpaccio should be. very delicious!

there is a section of the menu dedicated to eggs, and we were torn between the tortilla with smoked eel (which was recommended by the waiter) and the scrambled eggs. eventually settled on the latter:Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset
scrambled with bottarga di muggine- $22

did not regret choosing this over the tortilla one bit! topped generously with bottarga di muggine which is fish roe from grey mullet, these were some of the best scrambled eggs i have ever had. if only the lighting at the table was better, you’d be able to see the glorious yellow of the egg and the wonderfully creamy texture of the eggs. the texture was really spot-on – it was creamy and slightly runny (but far from being too wet), and the fish roe added a nice saltiness to the eggs. once i took my first bite of this dish, i lamented to the mother that “i wish i knew someone who could make scrambled eggs as good as these”. true story.

our meal continued with some meat:Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset
braised beef tripe – $23

these pieces of beef tripe were cooked to absolute perfection – slightly crispy on the outside but tender, moist and having just the right amount of chewiness that tripe should have within. not quite sure what they were seasoned in but they were extremely tasty! the tripe pieces also came accompanied by some kind of tomato/carrot/celery mix, and the two went wonderfully together – the tastiness of the tripe was very well-balanced by the sweetness of the veggies which were soft and wonderfully sweet. there was also a subtle smoky taste, possibly from being grilled? a great meat dish to order if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to try something different from the usual lamb cutlets or steak.

the other meat we ordered was the pork collar which came recommended by our waiter:
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iberico pork collar – $26

pork is my all-time favourite meat so i was immensely excited to try this! we requested for it to be medium rare and that is exactly what we got – thick slices of meat cooked precisely to medium-rare as evidenced by its pinkness. the thickness of the pork made for a great bite that proceeded into close-to-melt-in-your-mouth goodness. the meat was so tender and naturally sweet that the sauce drizzled on top of it wasn’t really needed. i wouldn’t say we were disappointed by this dish but i think i was expecting more in terms of flavour, especially because of how good everything else we had tasted was up till this point. the pork was amazingly cooked, but taste-wise it was pretty much just like chinese cha siu (very expensive chinese cha siu…).

back to seafood, we also ordered the grilled octopus:
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grilled octopus – $26

this was a hit with us – the octopus was very fresh, and was speckled with charred bits that added to the taste and texture of each piece. drizzled with a sauce that was subtly spicy and accompanied by lime, this was like grilled sotong on steroids. each piece was crunchy and sweet, with none of the mushiness/sliminess/stringiness that non-fresh or poorly-cooked octopus tends to have. needless to say, our tummies were happy. very happy.

the last item we ordered for the night was the tuna tartare:
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tuna belly “chutoro” tartare – $39

they had forgotten about this item we had ordered but thankfully we remembered it was missing and had them serve it promptly! (one of the) best of the night was certainly saved for last. chunks of tuna are seasoned in something (once again) mysterious and magical and all our eyes lit up as we took our first bites of this super yummy dish. the pieces were very well-chilled (which certainly upped the delicious factor; nobody likes warm sashimi) and had just about enough fattiness to have a hint of a melt-in-your-mouth effect. my only qualm was that some pieces had strings of fats which were hard to bite through in them, but the exquisite flavour of them more than made up for it. this is definitely something i will not pass on when i return to lolla!

finally, we ended the meal with dessert:
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steamed dark chocolate pudding – $15

this was the only dessert on the menu (they also have doughnuts, crema catalana and a selection of creamier ice creams) that really called out to us, and we were not one bit disappointed with our choice. we all agreed that this was one of the best chocolate puddings (or even desserts, for that matter) we have ever had!!! it was so so so good. the dark chocolate was extremely rich and delicious, and the pudding actually resembled the inside of a molten lava cake (only the best part of it), only better 😉 the addition of chocolate and coffee chips sprinkled on top added texture and taste to the decadent and ultra creamy and smooth pudding and paired with the vanilla ice cream (which i really have limited recollection of; it was all about the chocolate, really), this is really a chocolate lover’s absolute dream, and we were so tempted to order another serving!

i love birthdays in the family because it means not just getting to enjoy good food, but enjoying good food in great company ❤ we had a great meal at lolla (though we weren’t quite as full as we had liked to be and proceeded to maxwell round the corner after dinner for some supper #familyofpigs) and though i thought it was quite pricey given the serving size, i anticipate that i will be back – the innovative dishes and bold and delicious flavours that really work are a huge draw. hopefully i’ll get a counter seat when i return so that i can take better pictures that do the very yummy food justice. i apologise again for the lousy photos; i did try my best to save them by editing but they’re still far from what i would have liked 😦

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happy birthday sis!!! ❤

Lolla
22 Ann Siang Rd
Singapore 069702

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The Joint, Brixton

am very glad we seized the opportunity to check brixton village out before kodaline’s show at o2 brixton (which was beyond amazing; they are SO incredible live!!!) last friday night; the amazing pulled pork that we had at the joint was perfect fuel for the long night we had ahead of us!

nestled happily among other hidden food gems in the very interesting brixton village market is where you will find the joint. it occupies a tiny shop space which is solely for its kitchen, while its patrons occupy tables which are spread out along the walkways in the shop’s vicinity:
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this picture was taken when we first arrived around 6pm so it hadn’t gotten crowded yet; the tables filled up really quickly after a while! the menu at the joint is simple but very satisfying; they have a great range of sides to accompany a smaller range of mains, and everything is reasonably-priced!
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we initially only ordered just 1 side – the hush puppies, because it sounded exciting and was unique to the joint. but the food was so good that we ended up adding on another side order of hot wings (recommended by the waiter)! the sides come served in bags tied with twine and labelled with a note – A+ for the adorable idea!
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hush puppies – £3.50

we thoroughly enjoyed the hush puppies! the (friendly) waiter described them as savoury donuts fried with sweet corn, and they ended up far exceeding my expectations! they came wonderfully warm and drizzled in a barbeque sauce, perfectly golden-brown and crisp on the outside while fluffy and light inside:
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they were a little denser, firmer and less pillow-y than a regular sweet donut which i thought was the right consistency to go with the savoury taste of it. (for those who know what indian rojak is, they were like the delicious fried dough fritters you get with that!!! almost a taste of home right there 🙂 ) i absolutely loved how they were crunchy on the outside but soft inside, and also how they were not very greasy at all despite being freshly-fried. a very tasty and unique side dish that i will not hesitate to order again when i return!

as mentioned earlier, we were so pleased with the food that we decided to order a serving of hot wings midway through the meal:
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hot wings – £3.50

i thought these wings were very similar to those they have (and that i adore) at patty & bun! the sauce was very asian-inspired, barbeque sauce-based and topped with a healthy sprinkling of spring onions and chillies. we were quite surprised that the wings did actually pack some spice, unlike many places which dub their food “spicy” when it isn’t actually (at least not for our spice-accustomed asian tongues, that is)…
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the wings were delicious – they were thoroughly seasoned and cooked to perfection, and the meat fell off the bone and was extremely tender and moist! given that there were only 2 wings and 2 drumsticks, they were polished off in no time.

now on to the mains, we ordered 1 regular pulled pork bun, and 1 asian pulled pork bun. the buns were very impressively huge:
20140321_18274320140321_182750when i saw them being brought towards us standing extremely tall and proud in all their glory right in the centre of the plates, i was slightly daunted by the prospect of (1) having to attempt to eat it glamorously and (2) having to finish all of it. turns out the former was warranted (no cutlery provided, its all about getting down and dirty!) but the latter wasn’t (it was so good i finished every single bit).

evidence of getting down and dirty (#glamforever):20140321_183230
boy (man?) vs bun
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check out how huge it is in comparison to the size of my mouth…

i ordered the asian 16 hour bbq pulled pork bun, which differed from the regular one in terms of its toppings – the base of bun and salad and coleslaw was the same, but the asian version has pickled ginger, chilli and spring onion instead of apple candied bacon in the original! it was delicious and i thoroughly enjoyed it. after trying a bit of each other’s, we agreed that the asian version packed a greater punch and was the more memorable of the two! the original version was lighter though; the barbeque taste in the asian version came out a lot more strongly which made the former leave a much “cleaner” aftertaste.
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the pulled pork, which was heaped very generously in the bun, was sweet and juicy – the kind of juicy that results in liquid trails racing down your hands. but i didn’t mind one bit because it was certainly worth the mess! the pork was delicious, but my favourite part of the whole thing had to be the bread – sourdough infused with vanilla and fig (which explains its interesting yellow colour!). i honestly could not make out the flavours of vanilla and fig very distinctly at all, but there was something very special about the texture and taste of the bread. it has a wonderfully browned “skin” and a brioche-like consistency – absolutely loved it!!! needless to say, the bun, pork, salad, coleslaw etc all came together wonderfully to make for one very good pulled pork bun, and what made it even better was how reasonably priced it was – £7 for something so big!!! we left extremely satisfied, despite our sticky hands and the smell of sauce that lingered on them (despite multiple washes) for the night.

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done and dusted

i was very pleased with our choice of dinner venue before the concert, and it set the tone right for what promised to be a fab night out 🙂 so if you’re planning on going to brixton village and don’t know what to eat, i assure you that this will not disappoint (it certainly didn’t let me down)! i need to make another trip back soon to check out all the other exciting things they have on offer; its a place that deserves to be visited whether you’re going for a concert in the vicinity or not!

The Joint

87 Brixton Village Market
Coldharbour Lane
London SW9 8PS20140321_190541 20140321_190559

PS. be sure to wear a little more because it can get a little cold and drafty along the alleys of brixton market in winter. once the food comes and you tuck in though, you’ll be warmed up in no time 😉

Honest Burgers, London

and the search for london’s best burgers continues, this time with my visit to honest burgers in soho to give their much-raved about burgers a try. arrived around 630pm on a thursday night to get my burger fix, just in time to snag one of two outdoor tables to have our meal at. we were told that we would have to wait for about half an hour to get a table inside, so our protesting empty stomachs got the better of us and made us opt for the alfresco dining (in winter?!) option. it was nice anyway, because honest burgers is located in a cosy shop along a short residential side street that hardly sees any cars going down it.

the menu at honest burgers is simple; they have on offer a chicken burger, 3 types of beef burgers (each with more toppings than the one before), a vegetarian option, and a special that changes quite often from what i can see on their facebook page:
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thank goodness for the menu’s simplicity, because i would probably have been super indecisive and taken ten times the time i took to decide what to order if it was any more extensive. it was hard enough deciding between the honest and the special, but i eventually settled on the honest since i decided i had to try the house special before moving on to other things that might have too many distractions from the basic burger!

service was rather slow but we (kindly?) attributed it to the crowd, and the fact that we were seated outside so it was more difficult to get their attention. luckily we got our food when we did, because we were starting to feel the effects of sitting outside ie our hands were getting cold and we needed to get them busy stuffing our faces with food!20140206_190052
honest burger: beef, red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber & lettuce – £9.50 (comes with a side of rosemary fries)

we were pleasantly surprised and very pleased that all the burgers (at the prices stated on the menu) come with a side of fries! because i was nursing a bad throat that day, i requested for the beetroot and apple coleslaw instead, a request that they very gladly acceded to. extra points for that! 20140206_190351
picture of topless burger so you can see the red onion relish!

the burger was decently-sized, and they were generous with their portions of sides. i’ll start with the beef patty – it was meaty, chunky, very tasty and cooked to moist and juicy pink perfection. all their meat is supplied from the ginger pig, none of that processed patty meat here; this was some high quality meat and you could definitely taste it! what made it even better was the generous amount of cheddar melted on the top – mmmmmmm… my only qualm was that i felt the beef patty could have been a tad bigger. the smoked bacon was delicious and very tasty, but it wasn’t fried till it was crispy so if you’re a fan of crispy bacon, you’d probably be a little disappointed. veggies at the bottom of the burger were fresh, and i liked the addition of large chunky pickle slices. the red onion relish was also a lovely addition, adding sweetness and moistness to a burger that might otherwise have bordered dangerously on being dry due to the lack of sauce.

i was disappointed by the burger bun, though. it was rather dry and i was hoping for something more glazed and brioche-like. maybe that’s not what they were intending to go for though? at least it was served freshly toasted so it was nice and warm.

think you can tell that the bun was rather dry from this pic:20140206_190640

it was otherwise a very satisfying burger. was generally quite a clean eat (ie no sauce dribbling unglamorously down our forearms) and not heavy because of its focus on simple but high quality ingredients.

moving on to the sides, the rosemary chips were quite possibly some of the best chips i have had. they are a must-have!!! i was having a sore throat, but i simply could not resist having more after having one chip. the rosemary flavour is strong but not overpowering, and my friend and i felt that the chips were of just the right size and thickness. they were crispy on the outside but thick enough to have a nice soft potato-ey bite hidden within that crispiness. finger-lickin’ good! they also weren’t too oily, which always makes the chips-eating experience more guilt-free (deceivingly so!!!). we happily lapped up every single chip that the burger was accompanied by.

as for the beetroot and apple coleslaw, it was a very refreshing change from the burgers and chips; a great option if you’re looking for something healthier! it was light, fresh and tasty. general taste was like normal coleslaw though i thought it was definitely less tart than coleslaw can sometimes be when made with raw cabbage. it also had less of a thick mayonnaise-y kind of consistency and a lovely sweetness that came from the apple and beetroot combination.

additional sides can be ordered at £2.50 per serving.

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honestly (pun completely intended 😉 ), i still prefer the burgers at patty & bun, though i also must say that they’re just different types of burgers. the honest burger is more of a classic burger with very good traditional toppings while the patty & bun burgers have more interesting recipes with exciting sauces and combinations. so it really depends on what kind of burger you’re looking for… honest is probably worth going to for their amazing rosemary chips, but patty & bun has their amazing wings too! i definitely feel that the patty & bun burger bun is better though!

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Honest Burgers

4A Meard St, Soho
London W1F 0EF

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