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

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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 😉

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 🙂

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 – what 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 😉
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!!! 🙂
– 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 €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 €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 €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 Jamón. 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 €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 €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 €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 Gràcia, Barcelona’s Champs-Élysées. 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 €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’Aragó, 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