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 ūüėÄ 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 ūüėČ

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 ūüėČ
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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 Р£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 Р£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 Рtomato, mozzarella, baked mixed peppers, olives, topped with rocket and pecorino cheese Р£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) Р£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 Р£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 Р£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 ūüôā 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 ūüėČ

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remnants of the lunch crowd

Franco Manca

98 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 4TR

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L’eto Caffe, London

i have never once walked past this cafe along wardour street without stopping to admire the cakes on display in the shop window. i never ventured in however, until the queue at breakfast club (see review here) proved to be way too long on a sunday morning, and this seemed to be a decent substitute that was round the corner. it was busy when we visited but not overly so, enough to have a nice lively atmosphere but yet not too crowded and noisy. we were pleasantly surprised by the pretty good range of breakfast/brunch items that were all reasonably-priced.

there was a steady stream of customers the entire time we were there, and when we left slightly before noon, there was a crowd at the door waiting to be seated so its definitely quite a popular choice in soho for good food! here’s the menu:20131020_104228

having seen the amazing cakes in the window, we seriously contemplated just having a massive breakfast of sweet cake treats, but since we had woken up that morning with our minds set on breakfast club pancakes, we decided that we would not be happy if we didn’t get our pancake fix, and ended up ordering the pumpkin and honey pancakes, 3 poached eggs served with tomatoes and avocado, as well as l’etos famous honey cake:20131020_110208

the servings were actually pretty small (or maybe they just seemed small in comparison to what we would have gotten if we had braved the breakfast club queue) but given the price we were paying, we were satisfied. service was brisk and extremely attentive, so we were happy customers!

20131020_105801pumpkin and honey pancakes with fresh berries and honey buttery sauce Р£7.90

the pancakes were good! we both loved how they were really rather pumpkin-y, both in terms of texture and taste. they were light but i thought they could have been a little fluffier (they seemed to be more of the dense type of pancakes, possibly because of the pumpkin?) and maybe prettier too if they were more regularly-shaped (but this of course, is rather irrelevant because taste is what is most important, right?) ūüėõ i would also have preferred a more generous serving of berries, but was satisfied otherwise with the yummy honey drizzled all over as well as the nutty bits sprinkled on top that really added bite to the otherwise rather “soft” dish. i would say our pancake craving was successfully satisfied after this, so thats’s a good sign!

20131020_1102483 poached eggs served on warm artisan bread toast with tomato and avocado Р£7.90

on hindsight, this is actually a really simple dish that can be put together at home for a fraction of the price, but i can never resist perfectly poached eggs and some avocados of perfect ripeness! the star of this dish was definitely the toast – the artisan sourdough bread they used was really yummy that it made me consider buying home an entire loaf. the eggs were poached to perfection (just look at that golden yolk just dying to burst and ooze out onto the bread!!! sorry i know my yolk fanatic tendencies are emerging once again…) and though simple, it was a satisfying dish of a trusty combination of ingredients that can never really go far wrong.

20131020_105550honey cake (about ¬£4 for the slice if i’m not wrong!)

this cake is something i will return to l’eto for. we were spoilt for choice when it came to picking something sweet to end off our meal and were very tempted by other fancier looking tarts and amazingly prettily decorated cakes (check out pics at the end of the post), but this was the one cake that was highly recommended by the staff as their specialty and one of their most popular. i can definitely see why! despite the alternating layers of cream and cake, it was amazingly light and had a lovely honey flavour without being overly sweet as one would imagine. in fact, it was rather subtle (there was actually a stronger taste of caramelised biscuits than honey, i thought? not sure why though!), the cream was wonderfully fresh and i thought the cake had an interesting texture which i cannot quite describe. its definitely something that is rather unique and won’t find often at other cafes, so i’d recommend ordering this if you pay l’eto a visit!

besides cakes and things on the menu, they also have a counter for you to pick from a good range of salads and quiches if that’s what you prefer:
20131020_104058i certainly wouldn’t mind returning to give these a try!

l’eto is a good place in soho to have a light and affordable meal, and it seems that those cakes do taste as good as they look. so the next time you stop in your tracks to admire the amazing display of cakes in the shop window, why not allow yourself to succumb to temptation and have a cup of tea and some cake? i highly doubt you’ll regret it ūüôā

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L’eto Caffe

155 Wardour St
London W1F 8WG

Lady M, Singapore

lady m and its amazing sweet treats have finally come to singapore!!! once we read in the papers that they were opening today, the sister and i marked it down in our calendars and headed to marina square as planned this afternoon!

the sister fell in love with their cakes when she tried them in new york last year, and very kindly carried a whole cake across the pond from new york to london so the cousins and i could get a taste of their super yummy handmade signature mille crepe. we were really impressed that the cake survived the flight just fine and still tasted as good as ever!

which explains the immense excitement that we can now get our hands on such goodness in our home sweet home:
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lady m at marina square 

besides their signature mille crepe cakes, lady m also serves a range of other cakes, tarts and pastries that are laid out at the counter for you to take your pick! they adopt a minimalist look/approach to the cake display which is very much like that of the outlets in new york, according to the sister.
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they also have a range of drinks on the menu, all of which my family thought were really reasonably priced, making this a great place to relax with a slice of cake and a coffee. they even have champagne if you’re in an exceptionally celebratory mood ūüėČ20130908_141150

we ordered a slice of their signature mille crepe as well as a slice of their green tea mille crepe at the counter, and they were served to our table rather promptly. considering it was their first day in operation, their service was pretty good and efficient!

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mille crepe – $7

this is lady m’s signature cake which consists of 20 layers of crepe stacked on top of each other, with layers of cream in between. the crepes are handmade and the layers are very thin, which i feel is what sets lady m’s version of the crepe cake apart from others who have tried to make the same thing. the cream is light and layered in just the right amount such that they do not overwhelm the taste and texture of the crepe layers. the top layer is caramelised which gives it a melt-in-your-mouth effect – super yummm. the sister and i agreed that the cream tasted a little different from the new york version though! it seemed to have a cheesecake-type taste while the one we had from the big apple had a more ‘neutral’ taste if you get what i mean – over in the US, it was more like just very light fresh pastry cream.

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green tea mille crepe – $7

the green tea version of the mille crepe cake Рi actually enjoyed this more than the original mille crepe! loved the generous serving of green tea powder that topped the slice and the infusion of green tea into every bit of the cake  Рthe taste of matcha was strong yet not overpowering, and the cake was light yet very satisfying. highly recommended to all green tea lovers out there!

one problem with the cakes today was that they became very soft and melty within a few minutes of being served to our table. check that out:20130908_141844
it being their first day in operation, i suppose unforeseen problems like these are bound to arise. we gave some feedback to the (very friendly and approachable) owner about this, and he told us that they would work on getting the cakes to remain firm for a longer time by leaving them refrigerated overnight and keeping the temperature in the cake display lower.

its good to know that they are working on this and hopefully this helps to “acclimatise” the cakes because the sister and i are definitely going to be back for more! the cakes still tasted great and this more than made up for the fact that they lost their shape very quickly. we also like the fact that the cakes and drinks aren’t priced exhorbitantly at all, and the service was good.

thumbs up for a first day and here’s hoping that they stick around for a long time to come!

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Lady M

Marina Square Shopping Mall, 6 Raffles Boulevard #02-103
Singapore 039594

Binging in Brighton

had a wonderful time on a day trip out to brighton last weekend! what seemed like a potentially disappointing trip when we left early in the morning (i actually wore WELLIES to brighton; was defeated by the rain D:) turned out to be a great day away from the hustle and bustle of london!!! not just because of the great sights and great company, but also the great FOOD (glorious food).

tripadvisor was helpful as usual with plenty of highly-ranked suggestions, and we settled for this quaint cafe run by a mother & daughter pair just down the road from the train station for lunch. ella’s yummy delights seemed really popular with the locals – there was a steady stream of customers during the entire two hours we spent in the shop, and we even struck up conversation with some of the regulars and the lady behind the counter; everyone was so friendly and there was a such a homely and cosy atmosphere in the little shop! we started with 2 soups – tomato soup and leek soup, and 2 toasties – bacon, brie and cranberry & ham, cheese and onion. All were super yummy.20130316115914633

its hard to take a picture of a toastie that makes it look exceptional, but trust me, my bacon + brie + cranberry one was SUPER DELICIOUS. They were generous with the fillings and the brie was perfectly melted all over the bacon, which was perfectly cooked. A generous dose of cranberry and granary bread to go with it all made it one of the best toasties I’ve ever had!!! Yummmmm – so simple yet so good!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA20130316_120130janus had a ham + cheese + onion toastie, and he found it equally good, saying there was something about “Brighton bread” LOL – don’t ask me what he meant; he got his toastie with what seemed to be normal white sandwich bread.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe soups were good as well – big bowls of hearty, warm, homemade goodness. Lou ordered a tomato soup (see picture above) while Janus went with the leek soup. I thought the leek soup was rather special – it was thick and almost stew-like in consistency, chock full of pieces of leek (cooked till it didn’t have that distinct onion-ish/some might even say pungent flavour) and meat. Homemade and a generous portion as well!!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA¬†they both felt that the soups became slightly heavy after awhile though, and a little too salty too! I think “gelat” would be the right word for it – for the uninformed, its malay slang that means something is over cloying.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAi ordered my standard chai latte to go with our meal and i loved how it was thick, frothy and creamy, though a tad too sweet for my liking. I felt it could have done with a bit more spice!

ATTACKED THE DESSERTS NEXT!!!
check out lou & janus excitedly peering into the cake display. we took ages to decide what we wanted and it didn’t help that a regular customer told us EVERYTHING was good and she’d tried them all before haha! she also mentioned that she’d once been to ella’s thrice in a day – that’s how much she liked the place.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAafter some serious deliberation, we finally settled for a cappuccino cake, a moo-moo cake and a spotty!
excited faces (aka a nicer way of saying “the face of pigs”):903622_10151364506138652_249460852_o

the slices were huge and more than enough for the 3 of us to satisfy our craving for something sweet:
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THE SPOTTY: chocolate & vanilla crumble with strawberries
our favourite of the day! it was dense and moist and the layer of crumble on the top was exactly how a crumble should be! it had just the right amount of bite and a really nice texture that made it melt in our mouths along with the icing sugar on top – YUMZ! the vanilla, chocolate & berries combined seamlessly and every bite was delicious (Y)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThick with many layers of coffee goodness and some kind of cream cheese-ish frosting. It was something like a tiramisu but less moist, firmer, and with more cream cheese and sponge! The cream cheese layer was really yummy and we thoroughly enjoyed it but found it a little heavy after a while. As you can see from the pic, it was a giant slice that seemed to be leaning backwards from its sheer weight hahahaha!!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think this was our least favourite of the 3 – not that it was bad, but that it was nothing exceptional (i guess sponge cake can never really be particularly unique?)! The sponge was good – moist and of just the right density.

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our overall take on the cakes was that they weren’t mindblowingly amazing, but they were delicious homemade treats; the kind of cake that was wholesome and hearty and perfect for comfort food ūüôā

and most importantly, everything was really reasonably priced! The total bill for our 3 huge slices of cakes, 2 coffees, 2 toasties & 2 soups came up to  just around £20 Рwhat we thought was a great deal for the portion size, service and quality of food served.

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Ella’s Yummy Delights

51 Queen’s Rd¬†¬†Brighton and Hove, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 3XB, United Kingdom
+44 7540 892697
after ella’s, we explored north laine,
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and saw so many other quaint cafes that we wanted to try but unfortunately had no stomach room for! what we couldn’t resist though, was making a froyo stop at Lick.
the bright and attractive colours of the store drew us inside (along with the declaration in their window that they were the “first frozen yoghurt shop in Brighton”) and we were not disappointed!
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we got a cup of their special flavour of the day to share – elderflower. IT WAS AMAZING. none of us had tried elderflower frozen yoghurt before and it was really refreshing, light, and natural-tasting, and the elderflower flavour was subtle yet unmistakeable! it was more towards the creamy end of the frozen yoghurt spectrum, and the granola toppings were yummy as well. can’t say it was better than my all-time favourite pinkberry, though it doesn’t come in too far behind ūüėČ
will definitely make a trip back here next time i’m in brighton!!!
Lick

19 Gardner Street
Brighton, Sussex BN1 1UP, United Kingdom
01273 945102

finally, we ate at a casual seafood restaurant called Melrose for dinner. it was highly recommended on trip advisor and was just a short walk from the pier so we decided to give it a try! the restaurant was not very crowded when we first arrived, but soon filled up as it got later, with a noticeably local clientele (always a good sign?). the restaurant was run by a couple and they were friendly and ever-willing to give us recommendations.
we settled on a pot of mussels, a fish (haddock) and chips, and a grilled fish platter to share.

grilled fish platter:
it came with salmon, cod, halibut, calamari and scampi. they were all lightly seasoned which was great because it allowed us to taste and appreciate the freshness of the seafood without it being overpowered by any heavy or strong-tasting sauce. the fish was very fresh and the calamari & scampi were well-fried (I particularly enjoyed the scampi – but then again, my standards are probably exceedingly low given the kind of scampi they serve in hall hahaha). i wouldn’t RAVE about the dish though.
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fried fillet of haddock with chips:

thought this was rather yummy. the haddock was really fresh and coated in just the right amount of batter so that it really complemented the fish. we could tell that the oil used was fresh, and the fish had none of the “fishy” smell you sometimes get from buying cheap fish & chips from random street stalls.20130316_184338

we also had mussels in white wine and garlic sauce (which you unfortunately cannot see very well in this picture because the sauce was at the bottom) and it was delicious!!! my favourite dish of dinner i think! the mussels were plump and juicy and the sauce was seriously yummy; i was drinking it off a spoon when we ran out of bread (oh, the bread was good – it had some kind of cheese on top of it I think?)!!!
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all in all, i wouldn’t RAVE about melrose but i do think it is a good option for reasonably priced fresh seafood, and i would say the local clientele says something about the standard of the food in the restaurant. not a bad choice for a seafood meal! they also have a dessert cart with homemade puddings & cakes on it for you to choose should you be interested, which i thought was a nice, homely touch.

Melrose Restaurant

132 King’s Rd¬†¬†City Centre, Brighton BN1 2HH, United Kingdom
+44 1273 326520

shall end off this post leaving you with this picture:
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heeheehee.
am already looking forward to the next time I visit brighton – so many more food places to explore and try out!!! ūüôā
– rach

Med-EAT-erranean Delight

Ok, so I was in the sunny Mediterranean city of Barcelona over the past week. Since this is a food blog, I shan’t to bore you with details of how the providential confluence of 7 completely accidental events culminated in me fortuitously getting tickets to the epic, once-in-a-lifetime football match between FC Barcelona and AC Milan. Before going on, however, it’d be prudent to make a disclaimer: this post would probably end up like my hair – not a mess (as Rach would say) but lengthy.

100 Montaditos

I was recommended this place by the backpacker’s hostel where I was putting up. Apparently it is a restaurant chain¬†well-known for its affordability. Let’s see, I thought to myself.¬†Hang on. Actually I couldn’t see it. Initially, at least. Its location at the corner of some poorly-lit intersection, especially with no proper signboard, was inconspicuous to say the least. Thankfully my eyesight was as sharp as my wit, otherwise we wouldn’t be having a post on¬†montaditos¬†– traditional Spanish toppings on a piece of bread/baguette.ImageThe list of different dishes on menu was both expansive and inexpensive. Most of the montaditos were priced at ‚ā¨1 per piece. I ordered 3 sandwiches: (1) Serranito shoulder of Iberian cured ham, loin of pork with garlic and green pepper; (2) Potato omelettes and Iberian spicy sausage on ciabatta and (3) Duck mousse. The first thing I realised was that the sandwiches were rather petite; I reckon the time taken to pronounce some of the sandwich names is longer than the time you’d take to eat it.Image My favourite was the cured ham with loin of pork sandwich. The ham was salty enough whilst the pork loin was tender and added to the mix a different kind of savoury taste that stood out despite the relative saltiness of the ham. The bread was really well baked, crunchy outside but not too hard and very fragrant. Image The other 2 sandwiches were decent but nothing special. The potato omelette was a novelty to me and¬†I¬†liked how it tasted – basically it was an omelette with the powdery texture of potatoes. Somehow, though, the fact that there was spicy sausage was lost on me – the sausage was neither shaped like one nor was it spicy.¬†Image The texture of the duck mousse sandwich was very smooth, almost akin to eating¬†foie gras. However, with the kind of¬†aftertaste¬†that plagues most mediocre duck dishes, it proved a bit of a dampener to my initial excitement.¬†ImageThe food was decent, with some sandwiches clearly superior to others. For its value, however, at ‚ā¨1 a dish, I consider it a steal. Add in the fact that a huge serving of crisps and mug of beer are also priced at ‚ā¨1 each, it’s a nice place to hang out till late or for supper. Also, I’d recommend it to peeps keen on tasting of a variety of toppings. Additionally, I would point out that the restaurant was impressively packed, even at 1045pm, as I entered; interestingly, majority of the patrons appeared to be locals.Image Compare it to an eatery across the street and the crowd appears even more remarkable.Image Yet considering how affordably priced the menu is, I couldn’t help but wonder if the fact that the restaurant was packed with locals spoke more about the authenticity of the food or the state of the Spanish economy.

100 Montaditos
Plaça Urquinaona,1
8010 Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria

The next morning i went to the famous Boqueria Market. Joining me was a new friend I made on the trip – Englishman, Paul. The market was really crowded and it had an aura of freshness that we somehow don’t get anywhere here in London. The market had everything you’d fathom in a market. It had a fresh food section which was further divided into wet and dry areas, as well as a cooked food area. The selection of food there was amazing. The seafood smelt especially fresh, having probably been that very day’s catch. It sorta reminded me of home when I used to accompany my mum to the wet market every Saturday morning, maybe back when I was in kindergarten.Image Other things that caught my eye were¬†the huge full legs of ham, or what the Spanish call¬†Jam√≥n.¬†They were huge and came in different colours.Image After that we made our way to the cooked food section where there was tapas, pizza, sandwiches and what not. The agony of choice is not one that I deal with easily so out of everything on show, I settled for a simple piece of burchetta. The burchetta here was really delicious. There are many restaurants in the UK that serve burchettas as a starter for meals and, of all that I have tried so far, I would go as far to say that the one at Boqueria was not just a class above but several semesters. The tomatoes were juicy and grilled to perfection, while the topping of cheese was liberal in quantity and melted in my mouth. In fact the pieces of cheese were so thick that I initially thought they were pieces of calamari. Perhaps after just one night in Barcelona my eyesight had degenerated. The bread, complemented by an optimal dosage of fragrant olive oil,¬†was wonderful as well – characteristic of the bread I’d been having in Barcelona thus far.Image One last thing about the market: despite the colossal amount of fresh produce on display in the open, flies were few and far between – impressive. I would recommend La Boqueria to anyone visiting Barcelona. That locals also go there for their grocery shopping and meals probably bear greatest testament to the quality of the food available.IMG_0656ImageMercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
Rambla, 91,
08002 Barcelona, Spain

Senyor Parellada

Next up Paul and I decided to go in search for authentic paella – since that was the dish that people had recommended coming to Barcelona for most frequently. A few enquiries around and we were led to Senyor Parellada, a restaurant on the ground floor of what looked like a boutique hotel. One glance into the restaurant and we were apprehensive about stepping in. It looked so chic and had an aura of EXPENSIVE about it. However, we decided that if we were to try the highly recommended paella, we should have it at a highly recommended restaurant.Image Our gut feeling was right. The paella costs ‚ā¨14.95, before tax and service – not cheap at all. Hence we decided that – just to taste it – we’d order one serving to share. The waitress taking our order appeared unable to comprehend our order of just ONE paella for both of us. We felt like black sheep in the restaurant, especially as hordes of well-dressed professionals and business-people sauntered in, ordering multiple main courses and more. We were clearly the third estate in a customer base of aristocrats inside the restaurant. Service included a pack of black olives and bread. But the main attraction had to be the paella. The rice had a brownish tone, unlike the yellow kinds you find at your regular farmer’s market in England. Also it was much wetter than the regular ones you’d find around and did not look exactly elegantly prepared. Its taste, however, was divine.IMG_0724 The seafood was as fresh as you’d expect and the selection of meat vast, including loin meat and sausages. The meat was cooked to perfection and every bite was juicy. The¬†French¬†beans in the mix contributed to the dynamic combination of ingredients as well. Also, the rice grains were so fat and flavourful – absolutely Chuck Norris-ing the rice we had at Jin Kichi last week.IMG_0722 The base stock was also very fragrant, to the extent that we resorted to dipping our bread into the residual sauce/stock; that was nice, at least until the waitress came and cleared our paella pan. With the amount of paella sauce left, it felt like at least ‚ā¨2 cleared off our table. In general, the ambience was pleasant, and despite having our only dish over-zealously cleared, we did not feel rushed or under pressure to order more. Looking again at the menu, I came to realise why the paella served here was different to our prior conceptions of it – this restaurant professes to serve traditional Catalan food and what we were served was paella in Catalan-style. No wonder it looked and tasted different from the kinds we see everywhere else. If you want to experience a uniquely Catalan palette I would recommend this place to you. However I also imagine that there are other restaurants out there that also serve great-tasting – though not necessarily Catalonian – paellas with equally generous servings of meat and seafood, all for less than the price we paid at Seynor Parellada.IMG_0727Image Seynor Parellada
Carrer de L’ Argenteria, 37,
08003 Barcelona, Spain

La Rita

The last culinary stop of this post is called La Rita. My friend from Singapore, Jon, who’s living it up in Barcelona for the month, recommended this place for its ‚ā¨9.95, 3 course set lunch. On top of 3 courses, the set also came with 0.25l of red/white wine or a bottle of still water. It appeared like great value, and I was hoping the food was as appetising as the deal sounded. Hence Jon, Alejandro – an Argentinian and another new pal made on this trip – and I trudged down to this restaurant, just off Passeig de Gr√†cia, Barcelona’s Champs-√Člys√©es. We were fortunate we had Ale there with us as the menu was worded in only Catalan and Spanish. For starters we all ordered the lasagne.image (4) It was delightful. The layer of pasta was thin and light whilst the amount of cheese was judicious. What made the lasagne so special was that it didn’t just contain mince beef but boiled spinach as well. The meat was minced so finely that it was as thought the chef had done the chewing for you. I guess if you prefer chewing the meat yourself and experiencing the tactile joy of the meat being gnashed between your teeth then you will not appreciate the finesse of the mince. However, the meat was seasoned really well and went excellently with the spinach. Lastly, there was also – to my surprise – lots of cream on the lasagne. It was light and helped the different flavours of the ingredients complement each other very nicely. Indeed, more light cream and less cheese than usual made this lasagne extremely palatable and not overly salty.image (5) For our mains, Ale and I ordered the pork chop whilst Jon ordered the fish with tomato and potato. I tried a bit of Jon’s fish and found it really fresh and liked the way the fish was grilled very lightly. The flesh was firm yet juicy at the same time: a result¬†that¬†– I am told – is particularly difficult to achieve with fish.image (6) The pork chop was really well seasoned. The first bites of the edges were tender and succulent; I thought to myself – this could very well be eaten plain, without any seasoning. However, as I got to the middle portion of the pork it became less moist and that made me add some salt to the meat in an attempt to ‘expand’ and ‘bring out’ its flavour. The veggies served with the meat were well cooked – the brinjal particularly. It had a nice soft bite to it and the subtly grilled outer layer augmented the natural taste of the brinjal; at no point could I taste the powdery aftertaste you get with poorly cooked brinjal.image (7) For desert we all had the walnut cake with chocolate sauce. The walnut cake was above average. What I liked about it was the decently sized nuts in it which you could actually crunch on – typically giving the feeling that you’re getting your money’s worth. The highlight of the dessert, however, was the chocolate sauce. It was delightfully rich in taste yet extremely bouyant in texture. It was like the walnut cake equivalent of a sunny day with clear blue skies complimented by nice cool, light gusts of wind.image (10) I guess this sweet-tooth nirvana – with regards to the chocolate sauce – explains why I polished off every drop I could.image (11) The restaurant has a nice ambience to it and service was attentive, especially considering that most tables were occupied during lunch hour. This particular day’s menu was fulfilling. However, it could have been a case of us having been lucky¬†on the day as the menu changes every day of the week. Despite a few issues with the pork chop, and considering that it was only ‚ā¨9.95 nett for the selection available, I doubt one can realistically complain; to do so would be NICpicking. Indeed I would say that this meal was possibly the best during my time in the Catalan capital.image (13)image (3)image (12)La Rita

Carrer d’Arag√≥, 279
08009 Barcelona, Spain

The food on this trip was delightful. Perhaps my only regret was that I didn’t manage to try as many seafood-specific¬†dishes as I would have liked. On the flight back I was thinking of a word to sum up my trip. I thought to myself: if aw-FUL is bad and aw-SOME is good, to continue the pattern, this trip to¬†Barcelona definitely had to be aw-EMPTY.

Nonetheless,¬†now that I’m back in London, and hopelessly resigned to hall food on a daily basis, there¬†certainly¬†is an emptiness inside me – and it resides not just in my stomach. Barcelona is a delightful city with delicious food and I will¬†definitely return¬†one day to quell this emptiness. In the meantime, however, I guess I’ll go back to the incessant¬†verbal diarrhoea people know me for; after all, empty vessels make the most noise.

-Nic

Bea’s of Bloomsbury, London

finally got to try the much talked about Bea’s of Bloomsbury today! a friend was visiting from dublin, and we had a great catch-up over some cake and tea at this little shop just off the busy holborn stretch. it was a lovely afternoon spent in a warm and cosy cafe, seeking shelter from the freezing cold outside. when is spring coming???Imageyou won’t miss it as you make your way down theobalds road; the shop window is filled with sweet treats and according to a friend who had been before, it was even more decked out the last time she visited!

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they have a full afternoon tea that goes for ¬£19 per head, but we opted to order individual items as we weren’t quite up to a full-blown feast (and the exercise that we would be obliged to do/guilt-tripped into doing after!!!).¬†Image

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after some serious deliberation and inspection (life-changing decision right here) of the whole range of cupcakes, muffins, brownies, and cakes on display, we settled for a guinness chocolate slice (recommended by the waiter) and a slice of lemon meringue cheesecake.

Imagemy first thoughts on the guinness slice were that it was a bit dry, the kind of dryness that results from being left out in the open for too long. but luckily it turned out that it was only that way around the edges; after having more of it, i realised it was rich & dense but not heavy, and had the perfect amount of chocolate in it! i’m not normally a fan of chocolate cake since i dislike the feeling of “chocolate phlegm” (sorry for the gross description – i really can’t think of any other way to put it!!!) at the back of my throat but that did not happen at all with this slice – it was GOOD STUFF. as for the guinness, i couldn’t really taste much of it but perhaps that’s what makes the slice so appealing – a subtle hint of guinness combined with the perfect amount of chocolate-y goodness. YUM. oh and the icing went perfectly with the cake as well; i thought it wasn’t too sweet and topped the slice in just the right amount.

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LEMON MERINGUE CHEESECAKE: i enjoyed this cake so much that i felt the need to type its name in caps!!! the three of us at tea all agreed that it was divine!!! the meringue on top wasn’t too sweet or sour, and it was the perfect texture. the cheesecake middle was amazing – it was moist and rich but yet light such that you wouldn’t get sick of eating it, and the proportion of meringue top to cheesecake to digestive base was just right! LITTLE (okay not really little; the slice was pretty big!!!) SLICE OF HEAVEN RIGHT HERE. my two friends can attest to the fact that our conversation kept getting interrupted with my random interjections of “omg, this is SO. GOOD.” after every mouthful… oops!

Imagei also ordered a chai latte, and it was delicious; probably one of the best chai lattes i’ve tried! (i’m not a big coffee drinker so this is the drink i normally go for) perfect for a cold winter’s day. it had a generous dose of cinnamon and the perfect amount of spice to it, and i thought it was a rather generous serving despite me ordering a “small”. it was frothy and yummy and super drinkable; i will definitely be going back for more!

total bill: £10.80

ambience: cosy, casual, friendly, relaxed

service: good! patient and friendly service staff behind the counter.

who i would recommend this to: anyone with a sweet tooth looking for a nice cafe to have a little feast on sweet treats. the place is rather small though, and i can imagine it getting crowded on weekends so probably best to avoid going in large groups over the weekend.

will i return? YES! the cakes were delicious and there are sooo many more i didn’t get to try. i believe the menu and their offerings change pretty regularly as well, so that keeps things nice and exciting. might also head back to try their savouries that they serve at lunch time!

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Bea’s of Bloomsbury¬†¬†(Bloomsbury branch)
44 Theobalds Road
London WC1X 8NW
0207 242 8330
– rach ūüôā

Louis Patisserie, Hampstead

we heard that no trip to hampstead was complete without a visit to louis patisserie, a hungarian patisserie that has been around for close to 50 years.

we took a walk around hampstead to let our food from Jin Kichi settle:

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the air seemed fresher and people more carefree –¬†the tranquility and feeling of being miles away from the hustle & bustle of central london was therapeutic, to say the least. however, what was more therapeutic was the sweet treat that greeted us at this cosy tea room.

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possibly the part that got us most excited about louis patisserie was the full range of cakes available being brought to us on a silver platter – literally. we were spoilt for choice and after 15 minutes of intense interrogation, we settled on 3 cakes of which unfortunately, we do not know the names of because there is NO MENU at this shop.

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we were highly recommended the chestnut cake by the waitress. we were served a sizable rectangular slice on a dainty plate and it was easily the best out of the 3 cakes we ordered. do not fear the seemingly (jo: SERIOUSLY, ITS OBSCENE.) overly thick layer of cream; it was  so light and fresh that nic felt like he could fly after just one bite! the chestnut cream on top merged with the sponge and cream seamlessly, and it was an explosion of light-tasting goodness with every mouthful. if its one cake we will be back at louis patisserie for, this would be it.

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next, we had a strawberry tart with a chocolate base. it was noticeably smaller than the other cakes, but priced similarly. we expected a firm and thicker crusty base, but lo and behold, it was filled with cream, cream and more cream, with a crumbly, biscuit-y layer. the thin chocolate crust was not such a bad thing after all – it did not overpower the sweetness of the strawberries, and allowed the distinct fruitiness to come through. however we would have preferred more texture as the thick cream filling made the tart too one-dimensional. the tart as a whole lacked depth of flavour and variety of tastes and textures. overall, it was very pretty to look at, but not as good as it looked/we had anticipated.

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our third cake was chocolate buttercream on sponge. again, the cream was the star of the show. the sponge was nice and tasty (reminded us of kueh bolu) but was dry at some points when eaten without the cream. the amount of chocolate coating the sponge was just nice: enough to be eaten with every mouthful, not stealing the cream’s limelight.

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coffee was nothing to shout about.

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overall, the cakes were nice and creamy. usually too much cream on cakes tends to put people off but here, due to the lightness of the cream, more was definitely not an issue. in fact, we’d say that the cream here is the cream de la cream.

our guess for the price: £25

total bill: £17.40 (£3.70 per cake for eat-in, £3 for takeaway)

ambience: artisan, boutique cafe, vintage, chic.

service: unimpressive. seemed to be rushing us and unwilling to entertain our queries (otherwise our interrogation might have gone on for another hour), not very customer-oriented. probably because it was a busy saturday afternoon.

who we would recommend this to: people looking for a unique, old-school tea experience at a comparatively reasonable price. friends looking for a catch up over cake & tea. small groups as the place is pretty cramp and tables are very close to each other.

will we return? 3 YES-ES!!! even though the cakes were nothing mind blowing, we will definitely return considering the ambience and the other cakes that we did not get to try today – on a weekday when it is probably less busy.

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Louis Patisserie

32 Heath St, London, Greater London NW3 6TE

020 7435 9908