The Frenchie, London

been so swamped with life and its many happenings (may or may not have involved 51% play 49% work :P)  in general that i haven’t managed to find much time to write about all the exciting foodie adventures i’ve been on (huge backlog that i will endeavour to clear over christmas break!!!). but i had the pleasure of savouring something that excited me so much on tuesday night that i decided i had to write about it. pronto.

i hereby present to you *drumroll please*… the glorious FRENCHIE in all its glory.
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duck confit in a brioche bun with crispy duck skin scratchings, red onion chutney, mustard, rocket, blue cheese & truffle honey – £6

made the trek to southbank christmas market on a cold rainy night just to have this and i believe it was worth every single step there (along with many other happy patrons who stood in the queue with glistening eyes and later proceeded to stand around the stall mmm-ing and aah-ing as we stuffed our faces in delight). thank goodness it lived up to its hype or i would have been sorely disappointed… i think it has officially made it onto my list of the top 5 ways to spend £6 in london 😉 #heavenisaplaceonearth…

the burgers are made to order and you get to watch hungrily as a mound of duck confit sizzles on a hot plate along with your choice of cheese (blue cheese or goat cheese with truffle honey, raclette or cheddar). the wonderfully fluffy and soft brioche is heated up on the hot plate alongside the duck, and later slathered generously with delicious red onion chutney and mustard before sandwiching the amazingness that is a mini mountain of duck/cheese/scratchings/truffle honey.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the duck was soft, tender, flavourful, well-cooked, and made even better by the occasional crispy edge. topped with melty blue cheese, truffle honey and mayo which provided a real kick, there was an explosion of flavours and textures (from the rocket and scratchings) with each mouthful. oh yessssss the scratchings are surely worth mentioning by themselves… melt-in-your-mouth fatty goodness get in ma belly #YAS. they also added a super nice crunch and were the perfect contrast to the pillowy brioche and soft tender duck. taste-wise, the savouriness of the mustard and cheese were the perfect complement to the sweet honey and red onion chutney. i could go on and on raving about this burger (which i place high up in the esteemed ranks with patty & bun as the closest contender for the title of my all-time favourite burger in london!!!) but i shall stop now and simply urge you to please go try it for yourself!!! (besides being at the southbank for the christmas market, they are also sometimes at brick lane, broadway market and camden lock.)

we also had a serving of duck fat chips with truffle mayo to share. artery-clogging and oh-so-sinful, but very good stuff. i would have preferred them to be a tad crispier on the edges (they were pretty much unabashedly oil-drenched), but they were otherwise very tasty (wouldn’t have expected anything less) and the truffle mayo was fragrant and light, the perfect accompaniment to them chips.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAduck fat chips with truffle mayo – £2.50

i was so satisfied that i was all ready to head home after that 1 burger (which i refused to share with anyone; thankful for friends who understand my need to have my own serving of certain delectably divine foods… heh), but because the southbank christmas market this year is officially a food heaven, we could not resist getting a few (or more) other things to share. other things on the agenda included:
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pulled pork mac n’ cheese toastie (!!!) from grill my cheeseOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
quintessential christmas market food – dutch pancakes with maple syrup (because nutella is too mainstream :P) and strawbz
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super yummy smoked polish sausage from the polish deli

NB: copious amounts of hot chocolate and mulled wine/cider not pictured…

the southbank christmas market has seriously upped its game this year and is definitely worth a visit! i loved every bit of it – compared to the glitzy and commercialised winter wonderland, the southbank market is distinctly different – all cosy and warm like you’re in your neighbour’s backyard enjoying some good good warm food in the cold and under magical fairylights ❤OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Herman ze German, London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herman ze German
43 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RS20141022_121444

Marylebone Hotel Afternoon Tea, London

no london experience is ever complete without some traditional afternoon tea, and the fact that i study and live here doesn’t stop me from doing “tourist-y” things like this once in a while 😉

having gotten a good afternoon tea deal at kingsway hall hotel via afternoontea.co.uk last year, it was that trusty website that i headed back to when a friend and i decided we were going to treat ourselves to an indulgent afternoon before the madness that school can become sets in.

this time, we got an amazing deal at the marylebone hotel – traditional afternoon tea at just £12.50 per person!!! considering how plush the hotel was, the impeccable service, and the quality of the food we were served, i would say this is the perfect deal if you’re looking for an affordable tea-time treat.

we arrived to a beautifully laid out table, and i loved the fact that we were seated on a huge cushy sofa in a lounge rather than stiff chairs around a table in a coffee house:
20131011_184803afternoon tea is served both in the lounge and the drawing room, and despite the very nice set-up, the staff are informal and unfussy, making you feel comfortable and right at home!

tea began with the waitress bringing us a selection of teas on a tray, explaining each one and letting us sniff them all before making our decision on what to get. they serve a selection of wonderfully fragrant “jing” tea there (which i found random packets of in my kitchen at home over summer and proceeded to make earl grey chiffon cake with – it tasted amazing and even better than when made with twinings tea!), and you’re allowed to have as much and as many kinds as you want throughout the afternoon. the selection of teas isn’t oustandingly extensive (i think we had 6 choices if i remember correctly), but is definitely enough to satisfy your tea desires, from black teas to fruit teas!

here’s the menu for afternoon tea:
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the sandwiches and scones were served first, and everything was plated really prettily (as it should be at afternoon tea!):
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these were the sandwiches we had:
20131011_160542though simple, they were a case of classic afternoon tea sandwiches being done really nicely. the proportion of ingredients to bread was just right, and fillings for the sandwiches were fresh and tasty while the bread was nice and soft. fortunately, they didn’t really fill me up as much as i had expected – they remained light despite all that butter, cream cheese and mayo in them – , because more good things were to come! 😉

next, on to the quintessential part of afternoon tea – freshly-baked scones with clotted cream and jam!20131011_160551i love scones. and when they are really good ones which are freshly toasted and warm, that’s just icing on the cake (what an apt expression to use :P)! the clotted cream was good stuff – thick, smooth and not too sweet, while the homemade jam was very nice too, with whole bits of strawberries! we had a raisin scone and a plain scone each, both of which were delicious – they had risen very nicely and the slight crunch on the outside (which i love) gave way to a perfect airy, soft and moist inside. such a plain-looking thing in comparison to the other fancy tea-time offerings, but so yummy.

and finally for the sweet end to the tea, we got to choose cakes and pastries from a wide range on display which was rather exciting:
20131011_165702they had macaroons, tarts, cakes and biscuits – more than enough to keep that sweet tooth in you happy and satisfied!

our selections were later served to our table:2013-10-11-18-14-25_decowe were actually pretty full by the time we moved on to dessert, but still soldiered on anyway because they all looked too good to resist!

my favourites were the carrot cake and the dark chocolate + caramel tart!20131011_171146
the carrot cake was really dense, moist and had a good amount of nuts, raisins and carrot strips in it. the icing on top was also very light, nice and not overly sweet at all – it went super well with the cinnamon-y cake. yummm.

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(sorry for all these pictures of half-eaten food; we were clearly too excited to tuck in)

my other favourite was the dark chocolate & caramel tart (seen at the front of this picture) – the dark chocolate was so amazingly rich and lovely and the caramel and hint of sea salt prevented it from becoming overly chocolate-y. the tart base was nice and crisp and wasn’t too thick!

the macaroons however, were quite a let-down – they were quite dry and didn’t quite crumble in the way i like them to; we didn’t touch any of the other 3 after having the first one :/ they weren’t exceedingly terrible, but we’ve certainly had better and wanted to save our stomach space for the other treats! (pierre herme macaroons forever!!!)

we also tried a slice of the traditional victoria sponge cake!
20131011_171630the sponge was nice, airy and fluffy while the cream was super fresh and light! we did find the jam a tad too sweet, but all was good otherwise. i wouldn’t exactly rave or shout about this cake, but it was definitely another simple classic done well!

all in all, we had a great experience at the marylebone hotel at a truly unbeatable price. good conversation with a great friend was made even better with such nice surroundings and yummy food, and at no point in time did we feel obliged to leave (in fact they kept asking us if we wanted fresh pots of tea) at all – we sat there from 330pm to close to 7pm without realising how much time had passed! will definitely be booking this offer again if its still available the next time i’m looking to pamper myself by indulging in some traditional british luxury 😉

The Marylebone Hotel

47 Welbeck St
London W1G 8DN

Shake Shack, London

shake shack has finally made it across the pond! the once elusive only-in-US burger joint has made its highly anticipated appearance in the middle of london’s happening covent garden. it opened sometime over summer and having heard so much about their burgers for so long, it was one of the first few places i checked out upon my return to school (hello year 2!!!).

we had our burger fix on a rainy thursday afternoon and were pleased to find that there was no snaking queue in sight at all! we attributed our luck with the lack of fellow burger-hunters (some of my friends who have been have had to queue) to the wet weather plus the fact that we were there close to 2pm when the lunch crowd had thinned out. there were only about 5 people ahead of us in the queue, and given the number of people taking orders and working in the kitchen, it moved very swiftly:
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the system they have going at shake shack is that you queue to place your order, then proceed to the seating area where you queue again to be seated. you will only be allowed to take a seat if you have the buzzer they give you after ordering, so you can’t go with a bunch of friends and have someone reserve a table while the rest go and order. i think this makes for a pretty efficient system that helps them make the most of the tables they have. it didn’t take long for our buzzer to vibrate and our food to be ready for collection, yay!20131003_135322 shack burger: cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and shacksauce – £5

more of the famed shack burger in all its half-eaten glory:20131003_135522i was actually a little disappointed by the burger! but maybe it was because i went with extremely high expectations given how much i had heard about it from people who had tried the burgers in US. it wasn’t bad at all; it was certainly above average, but just not a case of love at first bite for me hahaha. as a very typically american-style burger, it was compact and relatively small (big eaters should opt for the double option).

the burger bun was soft, warm and tasty, while the lettuce and tomato were fresh (as you can see from the pic; i hate it when veggie that has started browning is put in a burger!). as for the burger patty, it was juicy (but i wish it was even more juicy – the juice-dripping-down-my-hands kind of juicy) and everything together tasted very yummy although i would also have preferred the cheese to be a little more melty! given its price though, i really shouldn’t be complaining AT ALL – we all thought it was good stuff for the £5 we paid 🙂

one of my friends who is a vegetarian opted for the ‘shroom burger:
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‘shroom burger: crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and shack sauce – £5.25

it looked REALLY good (just look at that cheese oozing out!!!) and my friend could not stop raving about the mushroom and cheese combi, so this is definitely what i am going to get the next time i visit shake shack! YUM.

i must also mention the fries – we ordered 3 portions of fries to share among the 5 of us, 2 plain and 1 with cheese!
20131003_135238we were originally rather skeptical about the fries because we saw when peering into the open kitchen while queuing that they were frozen and not freshly made! we later discovered that our worries were unfounded though, because they were goooood fries. we could tell that they were fried with fresh oil and they weren’t overly greasy at all; it almost made me feel guilt-free while eating them. remotely healthy-tasting but still very yummy fries… strange huh!

we also ordered dessert to share because we thought what they call “concretes” sounded too good to resist:
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union shack concrete: double – £6.50

this was like a dense frozen custard ice cream blended with a bunch of mix-ins. we got the union shack, which was made up of chocolate custard, st john bakery chocolate hazelnut brownies, fudge sauce, paul. a. young chocolate chunks and sea salt. i actually think it sounded better than it tasted, because it sounds amazingly amazing, doesn’t it? and it just tasted… not bad, pretty good! hahaha. i thought there was nothing fantastic about the ice cream itself – it was smooth and creamy, but nothing exceptionally extraordinary. the mix-ins were yummy though! especially the hazelnut brownie, despite the fact that it was very sweet. i’d probably have been more satisfied with gelupo gelato or something, though.

it was definitely a much-needed visit to a much-raved about place, and despite the fact that it fell below my expectations, i wouldn’t mind going back if i’m in the area and looking for a cheap (by london standards) and satisfying meal.

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Shake Shack

24, Market Building, The Piazza Covent Garden
London WC2E 8RD

Bloomsbury finds, London

had the chance to explore more food options in the bloomsbury area when the family visited and stayed in cartwright gardens just before i came home for summer! what a pity i never got down to trying these outlets earlier; i would probably have visited them quite a bit. good thing i’m not moving very far (at all) next year and so i’m going to have plenty of chances to frequent these places and make up for lost time hahaha!

1st place on the newly-discovered list: Chilli Cool!
should really have tried this place earlier. i think its the perfect place for students to get a legitimate asian food fix – reasonably-priced authentic sze chuan food in generous portions that are perfect for sharing! my friends and i had heard of and toyed with the idea of checking this place out and the hotpot buffet they have there at some point during the year, but just never got round to going… i think the lure of the juicy roast duck (and hazelnut + pistachio gelato at oddono’s after) at goldmine normally triumphed.

but because my dad is the ultimate china man (he needs his chinese food everywhere he goes – steamed white rice, piping hot soup etc), chilli cool (2 minute walk from our hotel) was the obvious choice for dinner on the first night we were back in london after cruising for 2 weeks with a lack of proper chinese food. (according to my mum, my dad’s cheeks had were getting more and more sunken by the day lol)

chilli cool occupies 2 spacious units along leigh street and is simply decorated but quite homely. we visited on a friday night and it was nearly full, patronised by a good mix of both asians (more often than not, a sign of the real deal when it comes to asian food heehee) and caucasians. besides the a la carte menu, they also have a hotpot buffet option – perfect for a cold winters day! we weren’t up for stuffing ourselves (post-cruise detox time!!!) so we ordered a few dishes from the a la carte menu to have with rice.

(sorry the pictures i have aren’t great at all; the lighting wasn’t very optimal and everyone was starving and wanted to tuck right in!)

here’s the chicken fried with chilli and cumin which was recommended by the waitress:
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not sure if you can see from the picture, but the servings are pretty big compared to what you’d get at a typical chinatown restaurant, and really good for sharing in a group. this chicken was probably my favourite dish of the night. it was fried to perfection and extremely flavourful! crispy on the outside in this yummy batter and juicy and tender on the inside. the chilli and cumin were also added in just the right amount, giving the dish a really satisfying kick! definitely going to order this again when i return… SO yummy that it made me forget every bit of deep-fried unhealthiness that was being consumed wahahaha. unfortunately, the picture really does not do the dish any justice 😦

another typical szechuan dish: fried long beans with chilli20130628_210335
the beans were fresh and not overcooked such that they retained a nice bite. it was again a generous serving, but i wouldn’t recommend it to the faint-hearted (when it comes to spicy food), especially if you aren’t armed with tissue paper for dripping post-chilli noses. it was spicy even for us and we were really impressed by the caucasians at the next table who were happily devouring all of it… immunity achieved from repeat visits, maybe? 😉 the dish was really tasty and was delicious when eaten with rice.

HUGE bowl of fish soup:
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the bowl was seriously gigantic. to give some scale, the diameter of the bowl was nearly the width of the table!!! but our initial worries of not being able to finish it turned out to be unfounded since it was so delicious that there was nearly nothing left by the end of the meal. the soup is typically sze chuan and was served piping hot, full of green and red chillies, preserved vegetable, potato and plenty of fish slices. the fish was extremely fresh (definitely not the frozen kind), and what i really liked about it was that they were very generous with the ingredients, as you can probably see from the picture. this soup is perfect for sharing in a big group (it was way more than enough for the 4 of us) and i can imagine it tasting even more delicious on a blustery winters day… my only qualm about it was the shocking amount of oil that formed a thick layer at the top of the soup when it was first brought to our table, like an oil spill at sea. i was initially quite put off by it but we managed to scoop out most of it before tucking in, and once i did, it was so good that all oily thoughts were banished and everything was fine and dandy.

this was probably the most forgettable dish out of everything we ordered – tofu with black fungus and edamame:20130628_212108

in terms of flavour it was definitely outshone by the other dishes, but i suppose that’s what made it different from the rest, and not necessarily in a bad way! it was good palette cleanser since it was light and the least oily of all. definitely the healthiest too! the serving for this dish was exceptionally small though, and i probably won’t be ordering this the next time i go.

chilli cool was a great experience overall. service was prompt and friendly, and my family enjoyed the food (my dad certainly left a happier man with fuller cheeks :P) though we all agreed it definitely wasn’t the healthiest kind of food around given that most of it is fried and oily. nevertheless, am quite certain that i will be back, brandishing tissue and an empty stomach to try the hotpot buffet, maybe! if not, the a la carte menu has an extensive range of dishes so i have many more to try!

Chilli Cool

15 Leigh Street
WC1H 9EW

2nd place on the list: North Sea Fish Restaurant

another joint along leigh street, which caught my attention on the way to chilli cool because of the impressive number of stickers and accolades they had stuck in the shop window:
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(i was particularly taken in by the tripadvisor certificate of excellence + 2012 winner sticker wahahaha i am a tripadvisor review junkie)

there are 2 shops to the restaurant: one of them is for takeaways while the one is a proper sit-down restaurant that appears to be a nice  little cosy and chill place for a good seafood meal. the mother and i were craving some good fish and chips one night after a long day of shopping and decided it would be perfect to buy some fish and chips back to our hotel to feast on 😉

they have a range of fish available (check out the menu below), but we went with the cod as recommended by the very friendly guy behind the counter in the shop! we also wanted to try the salt and pepper squid but were sorely disappointed when we were told that they didn’t have them that day 😦20130629_212343 20130629_213031

the service is efficient (which should be the case in takeaway outlets) and there were a few pieces of fish being kept warm in an oven-like thing, ready to go whenever a customer came in with an order. we ordered a jumbo-sized portion though, and so had to wait for about 10 minutes for it to be fried. there was a steady stream of customers coming in and leaving happily with their takeaway bags while we waited, adding to the anticipation that was building from the moment the gregarious guy behind the counter told us was the “only fish and chips you’ll eat in london from now on”! i later found out that the fish and chips here has been touted as a contender for the best fish and chips in london!

bag of purported goodness:
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got back to the room and was greeted by this piece of fish gloriously glistening away under the light:20130629_214427
we felt that it was definitely worth paying a little more to get the jumbo-sized portion because it was really a rather big piece of fish! but of course if you’re having it alone then a regular-sized portion would probably suffice. the fish was EXTREMELY fresh – we were told that the restaurant only uses fresh fish and never any frozen fish at all, which i really like about them because usually for fish and chips and other fried fish dishes in general, its often the case that frozen fish is used instead of fresh catch and not much attention is paid to the quality of the fish used.

the batter was light, crispy and not too thick. it was clear that the oil used was fresh, and i know i’m repeating myself here but the fish was really of great quality. a drool-worthy close up of the fish: 20130629_215152
as for the chips, they were alright, but nothing to shout about. i felt that they could have done with a bit more salt & vinegar, but that can be easily requested for when placing your order. i would also have preferred them to be a little crispier on the outside. its possible that they became slightly soggy from the condensation that resulted from being wrapped up in paper while hot, but the walk home was only three minutes and so i think they probably weren’t very crispy to begin with. do note that they charge separately for the fish and the chips.

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think i might go with a different accompaniment to my fish the next time i patronise north sea… am eyeing the beer battered mushrooms and the salt and pepper squid! might also give the sit-down restaurant a try – they serve a range of seafood in a range of cooking styles (grilled, fried etc) along with homemade desserts.

best fish and chips in london? i would say its definitely one of the better renditions of this national dish, but wouldn’t be so quick to say its the best, especially since i felt that the chips could have been done better! i have also had some really good fish and chips at Bonnie Gull (21A Foley St, London W1W 6DS). both are worth a try!

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North Sea Fish Restaurant

7-8 Leigh Street
London WC 1H 9EW

3rd place on the list: King of Falafel

grabbed a quick bite from this little cafe serving moroccan/lebanese-type food, and immediately wished i had discovered it earlier on in the year!!! had the falafel wrap which was SUPER delicious, filled with the yummiest falafel ever and lots of fresh salad and scrumptious homemade sauce. i had it in a normal wrap, though there’s the option of paying a little more and having the wrap in homemade spinach/tomato (if i’m not wrong) moroccan bread. there’s also the option of adding halloumi cheese, which i am sure is delicious! its a big wrap which they cut into 2, and it’s overflowing with goodness heehee. i LOVE falafel, and this is probably one of the best i’ve had. it was perfectly spiced and just the right amount of crumbliness while not being too dry at all – a must try for all falafel fans out there!!!

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i definitely want to go back to try their range of meat skewers and salads and houmous. was eyeing the super hearty and wholesome plates of food that some at the cafe were having while i was getting my wrap to go. just look at that hunger-inducing display that’s filled with all things amazing:
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everything is really reasonably priced too! they have coffees for under £2, and the lebanese falafel wrap was just £3.50 if I’m not wrong…
king of falafel is definitely going to be one of my first stops once i’m back in london after summer!!!

King of Falafel

5 Tavistock Place
London WC1N

The French Riviera & its glorious food

one million apologies for the updates drought!!!

life has been one mad rush since exams ended (and I posted about my celebratory end-of-exams meal) – 2 of my bestest friends were in town, and not only did we explore London together, we also had a short escapade in the French Riviera!!! when we got back, 1) housing woes struck (#2ndyearproblems) 2) I had less than a week to pack my entire first year life into boxes/luggages and move out of hall 3) I went to Panama on an 11 day volunteering trip!

met my family in london after panama, and am now typing this post from a hotel room in beautiful Rome. true story. like I said, life has been a mad mad rush since exams ended, but I suppose its a (largely) happy problem.

its been so long; where so I begin?! guess i’ll start with foodie adventures with some of my favourite people in the world in beautiful South of France 🙂
IMG_20130522_161843unfortunately i don’t think I remember all of the names of the restaurants we ate at; i really should have noted them down somewhere 😦 next time I will!!!

my favourites out of all the food we ate in france:

1. smoked salmon cream cheese pizza: we had this for our first lunch of the trip, which was at beautiful eze village. it turned out way better than any of us expected i think! its been a while but i still remember how it was one amazing, gooey mass(/mess hahaha) of cheese-y goodness. on top of the regular cheese that goes on the tomato base on the pizza, the thin crust was loaded with cream cheese and finally topped with salmon. SO. GOOD. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. seafood risotto: i LOVED the meal we had at this restaurant near our hotel. unfortunately i can’t remember its name but if any of you really want to go if you happen to be travelling to nice, its along the main shopping/restaurant stretch near place massena and it’s the only restaurant there with a tripadvisor sticker in its window!!! (which is why we chose it) (i am truly a believer in tripadvisor stickers when i travel– i think they’re normally the sign of something at least average to above average!!!)

the servings were huge and service was really friendly! we had seafood risotto, spinach & cream cheese ravioli and a beef pasta thing. they were ALL good, but if i had to pick a favourite, i’d probably pick the seafood risotto! it was of the perfect consistency – neither too dry nor too wet, and there was a delicious prawn-y taste in every bite. the rice was also done perfectly for risotto, not too hard or too soft, and the seafood was sweet, juicy & fresh.

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20130522210242160 2013052221224591920130522_210015(photobombing waiters are always welcome hahahaha)

3. azzuro gelato: read that it’s the best gelato in nice on tripadvisor and though we didn’t try many others, i’m still inclined to believe so after trying it!!! its by a nice little square in the old town and they have a HUGE range of flavours but don’t worry – you can get cones with up to 10 scoops if you can’t decide 😉 i had the tiramisu and something with berries (something like raspberry ripple but i can’t remember exactly what it was anymore L) and they were both really good. very creamy and smooth! i found some of the flavours (candy-bar inspired ones) which I tried before deciding on the 2 I chose were too sweet though! j and l got nutella, pistachio, chocolate etc and we were all happy kids. so happy that we returned the next day to get more heehee20130524_13270920130524_132937OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4. pastries from random boulangeries: france was croissant heaven and we had amazing croissants, brioches and other similar pastries for breakfast every day!!! they were so. good. and so cheap too. most of the legitimately local bakeries you find in the old town/along random streets sell them for between 1-2 euros and we didn’t have any bad ones over the few days we were there. who needs fancy & overpriced stuff like paul in singapore/london??? J was particularly pleased with her plain butter croissants – going back to basics is always best (Y)20130523091801725OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsuper yummy chocolate brioche ahhh take me back now please!!!

L giving legit local bakeries her stamp of approval:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchocolate croissant in all its amazing buttery & flaky glory

5. crepes: we had amazing crepes for lunch on the day we were in st paul de vence! we sat in this little cave-like opening off a quaint little alley and enjoyed an apple cinnamon crepe and another savoury buckwheat one with goat cheese, fig stew, ham, and pine cone kernels (??). the apple cinnamon one was good, but I didn’t find it particularly special or unique since you can get that at creperies worldwide. i REALLY liked the savoury one though. i know it looks pretty ordinary in the picture but it was really delicious. loved how the crepe batter was buckwheat and the yummy goats cheese that went well with the ham, while the pine nuts added bite and the figs just made it perfect!!! j and l found the taste of the goat cheese a little too strong for their liking though.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6. Jean Luc Pele, Antibes: stumbled into this shop while roaming the streets of antibes. we were taken in by their fancy, hunger pang-inducing shop display – check it out!!! j tried their macaroons, l had a giant macaroon, and I decided to go for something chocolate-y since chocolate seemed to be their specialty. they were all good! the macaroons were above average (though my ultimate favourite macaroon maker is still pierre herme (more on that later)!!!) and what was really cool was the CHOCOLATE CAVE in their shop. we didn’t even realise it was chocolate on the walls and ceiling (too busy stuffing our faces with sweet treats) until we started scrutinising the writings that were carved into the walls. worth a visit if you’re in antibes!
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CHOCOLATE CAVE!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgorgeous treatsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7. beef carpaccio at café bianco in nice: we read about this restaurant run by a french man and his Japanese wife in easyjet’s travel magazine on the flight to nice, and were so pleased when we discovered that the restaurant was right round the corner from our hotel. it’s a simple and quaint little place where the daily menu is written on a little blackboard that the wife takes to your table for you to check out. we had an amazing cheese toast as appetiser, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
and the beef carpaccio as main:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit was a huge plate for each of us but we finished every bit of it – sliced and lightly seasoned to perfection! L isn’t a fan of beef (especially raw beef!) so she opted for a fish + zucchini spaghetti thing from their a la carte menu. what was interesting about it was that there wasn’t actually any noodle in it at all… after a few bites we realised that the “spaghetti” was actually all shredded zucchini/cucumber/similar veggies. it was reallynicely presented but besides how fresh the fish was, i personally felt that it didn’t taste exceptional! in fact, it kind of tasted like an asian stir fry (japanese influence?) with quite a heavy sauce that I thought didn’t go that well with the lightness of the fresh fish! but we enjoyed the meal thoroughly nonetheless!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
oh yes and the wedges were to die for:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(at this point I must interject and just mention a tiny detail – I never got to finish this post in rome; I am now on a cruise ship on the Aegean sea! we left Istanbul this afternoon and will be in kusadasi tomorrow morning! really exciting times, and LOTS of good food on board. a post for another day!!!)

8. our dinner in cannes. one of my favourite dinners of the trip, besides the fact that the waitress was completely racist and unprofessional, making faces behind our backs (which she thought we did not notice) and exchanging snooty glances with her colleagues. it was totally uncalled for and we were so mad and super close to just walking out but thankfully we didn’t because the food was great! the olives we started with were really sweet and juicy, followed by this mysterious bread + cheese + dip combo which they brought to our table though we didn’t order it and didn’t see any other table having it (we decided that they must have noticed how disgusted we were with their service and the free food was a peace offering HAHA) which was so. good.
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for starters we had an amazing salad (with huge pear slices, walnuts, parma ham, cheese, really fresh salad leaves & tomatoes)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand an interesting fish soup! It was surprisingly not too fishy, and we could actually taste bits of fish in it.. quite interesting and reminded me of the fish soup i’ve had in norway! the mains were not particularly exceptional, though the fries that came with the beef were quite interesting! really thinly sliced potato strips that were perfectly fried. the oil used was definitely fresh and the fries weren’t dripping with oil – legit FRENCH fries (Y).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdessert was unsurprisingly, amazing – profiteroles and a yummy panna cotta in all its wobbly goodness heehee.
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(are you drooling yet???)

9. last but certainly not least, the one thing nobody should ever leave france without having – PIERRE HERME MACARONS. 20130525_140622i know of people who prefer laduree (I beg to differ!!!), but my family has always thought pierre herme does them BEST since having them in paris a few years back and being completely taken in by their interesting flavours like mandarin + olive oil, truffle & coing + rose! i now have to make treks to Selfridges before heading home over school breaks to get my hands on these sweet treats so my sister and mum can get their fix. we inhaled 7 macarons right after lunch (and before stopping for tea in a cookie café) and i had what is probably my favourite macaron flavour ever – green tea & black sesame. 20130525_140201OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IT WAS SO GOOD – the ultimate combination in my eyes (i can never resist having those 2 flavours of ice cream in Japanese restaurants heehee)! they even had white sesame seeds on the top and ahhh it was so so good, though i know the pictures don’t exactly make it look particularly mouth-watering! the other flavours were also yummy, and i think on a whole pierre herme in france is even better than pierre herme in london – seriously good stuff.
just casually snapping pictures of food in place massena (typical asians and proud of it wahahaha):
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okay i think this post has gone on long enough but before i go, i shall leave you with some of my favourite snapshots of our amazing little escapade – good food and great company, what more could you ask for? 🙂

view from the top of eze village – 20130522112833091

antibes beach –
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in nice – 20130524122307367

sunset in cannes – 20130524201346886

till next time 🙂 bisous!!!

ps. back in london after the cruise with the family and will be heading home to singapore really soon! more travel posts to come; watch this space 😉

Flat Iron, London

what better way to celebrate release from the evil clutches of exams than feasting on some good food? my friend suggested trying flat iron right after our criminal law paper and we were all so happy that she did, because it was really really good stuff.

got a little lost walking to beak street from school (our brains were fried from the mad rush that writing – or should i say scribbling – 4 essays in 3 hours is) so by the time we reached flat iron at 2pm, we were all super starving. but our hunger pangs were very quickly satiated by what they put on the table once we arrived:Image

POPCORN!!! we all thought it was such a cute/novel touch! along with the mini choppers for knives hahaha.

anyway, the menu at flat iron is really simple and straightforward. there’s steak for £10, and a range of sides and sauces to choose from to have with your steak.

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we planned to save space for dessert so we didn’t order much – just a steak each, and a side of roast aubergine to share!

the steak. was. SO. GOOD.

(sorry these are bad pics i know 😦 the lighting wasn’t very optimal for good pictures with my phone camera!)Image

the meat was perfectly done – every bite was amazingly juicy, flavourful, moist and tender and even though i had mine done medium, it was not AT ALL dry or tough. so so so good. i’m  nearly salivating just thinking of it. srsly. really really good steak. my friend who normally doesn’t take meat was saying she probably wouldn’t be able to finish her beef but once she took the first bite, all such thoughts were banished and her plate was as squeaky clean as all of ours were at the end 😉

we found the portion just nice though i think some might find it on the small side, especially hungry boys! the greens that came with the steak were really fresh and had a nice, light dressing, and the aubergine was a hit among the 4 of us. it was simple but very delicious! apparently the creamed spinach is something thats very popular there as well, but i only found this out after we had our meal so that’s something i will have to try next time!Image

we also tried fred’s sauce, but it was nothing to shout about. personally i think you can give the sauces a miss because the meat by itself is super delicious and really doesn’t need much to make it even better. in fact, the sauces might even mask the natural sweetness of the meat?

the restaurant isn’t very big and i think the only reason why we didn’t have to queue is because we had a late lunch (2pm). they don’t take reservations and the queues are apparently snaking at dinnertime so if you’re planning on going, either go early or go late!

there’s no service charge too, so its really just £10 for a really good steak.

will definitely be heading back when i’m feeling carnivorous…

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Flat Iron
17 Beak St
London W1F 9RW