Yalla Yalla, London

when i told my housemate that i was going to yalla yalla for lunch, she asked me if it was a singaporean restaurant. i said no and was slightly puzzled why she jumped to that conclusion, but it all made sense on my walk to the restaurant – she thought it was “ya lah, ya lah” (for the non-singaporean readers out there, this basically means “yes”, with some singlish (singaporean slang) thrown in in the form of the word “lah”.) … i was thoroughly amused hahaha!

contrary to what she thought though, yalla yalla is actually a lebanese restaurant that serves beirut street food. i love how flavourful middle eastern food is, so i went to yalla yalla with pretty high hopes, and am happy to say that i was not disappointed ūüôā

they have several branches around london, but the winsley street one is where i visited for a late lunch on a thursday. it was nearly full when i arrived around 145pm, but we were nonetheless shown to a nice corner table very promptly. the restaurant is modern, tastefully decorated, open, bright and gives off a casual yet sophisticated vibe. service is friendly and prompt. its a great place for a casual lunch!20131128_134515

the menu has a huge selection and i’m pretty sure everyone will manage to find something they fancy:
20131128_133654prices are reasonable and servings are big, so that’s already a huge draw in my opinion!

some complimentary olives and pickled things to keep us company while dealing with the challenge that picking what to order from an extensive menu always proves to be (happy problem, happy problem i know):20131128_134028we were pretty hungry (or maybe just greedy) so between the 2 of us, we ordered 2 starters plus a main each.

the first starter we ordered was the makalé samak, which we were eyeing once we saw it served to the table next to us. it was basically a plate of deep-fried seafood Рso sinful but so good!
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makalé samak: deep fried tiger prawns, calamari, and white bait with spring onions, crispy aubergine and chilli minted greek yoghurt Р£6

don’t think there’s much scale for you to judge the size of the plate from the photo, but it was BIG. we basically had a mountain of lebanese-style tempura placed before us, and we were certainly not complaining ūüėČ the batter was very light, not too greasy and definitely not too thick. i could tell that they used fresh oil to fry it, and the prawns, calamari and fish were all nice and fresh! served with some spring onions, pomegranate seeds and topped with a generous squeezing of lime, we really enjoyed this dish. although it was a really generous serving, it was completely polished off and we could see the reflection of our (fatter) faces in the clean bottom of the plate by the end of our meal. it also came with a minted yoghurt dressing but it remained relatively untouched, not because it was bad, but because the seafood tasted good enough on its own.

the next starter we chose was named by time out as one of the 100 best dishes in london Рmy friend was not a fan of liver at all but we decided that we had to try it given its accolade! 20131128_140111
sawda djej: sauteed chicken liver with garlic and pomegranate molases Р£4

i LOVED this – in my opinion, its a must-try if you’re at yalla yalla! make sure you do like liver though, because my friend didn’t and so this plate ended up being all mine. definitely wasn’t a problem for me though; i gladly accepted the challenge of finishing it all wahahahah ūüėõ the sauce was amazingly tasty and the liver was cooked to perfection – not overcooked till it was hard, and retaining some crunchiness (nothing beats my mum’s homecooked liver dish still though ;)). something different, and definitely worth trying if you enjoy liver/feel like being adventurous and having some.

for our mains, my friend got the seabass fillet, while i got a mixed platter.20131128_140205
lokoz meshoué: charcoal grilled sea bass fillet with citrus scented rice and spicy tomato and coriander sauce Р£12.50

i didn’t have much of this, but i had enough to conclude that the fish was extremely fresh and well-grilled – crispy skin, while the meat was firm and naturally sweet. you can’t see the 2nd piece of fish very clearly in this picture, but the serving was extremely generous with 2 big pieces of fillet atop a bed of rice and some accompanying sauce, which was tasty and was a nice tangy lift to the fish and rice. i would say 2 people could share this if they don’t want to overdo the mains and want to save room in their stomach to enjoy a greater range of appetizers!

as for me, i was excited to try as much of what yalla yalla had to offer as possible, so i opted for a platter:20131128_141349
street platter: hommos, tabboule, warak enab, kibbe lahme, chicken rakakat and chicken wings Р£7.75

the hommos (chickpea puree, tahini and fresh lemon juice) was delicious and i loved not just slathering it on nearly everything that entered my mouth but also just licking it off my cutlery and having it plain.
the tabboulé (salad-like thing in the front Рchopped parsley, mint, spring onion, tomato, olive oil, lemon juice & cracked wheat salad) was very light and refreshing Рthe myriad of ingredients came together very well to provide a good palette cleanser in between having the different items on the platter!
the grilled chicken wing was good but nothing to shout about; in fact i don’t remember much about it at all…
to the right of the chicken wing is the kibbeé lahmé, a deep fried lamb and cracked wheat parcel filled with onions comfit, minced meat and roasted pine nuts. this was a bit like a lamb falafel and i really enjoyed it! for the worried, the taste of the lamb was not overpowering at all (which is what many fear when having lamb).
the next item to the right is the chicken rakakat Рa deep fried pastry filled with marinated chicken, garlic, shallots and harissa. i really enjoyed this as well! the flavours were strong and the skin of the pastry that enclosed the yummy chicken filling was thin and crunchy. it was like a yummy chicken spring roll! 20131128_141609
the insides of the rakakat and the kibeé
the last item on the platter was the warak enab which is traditionally lebanese – stuffed grape leaves! this was really interesting and unlike anything i’ve ever had before. the grape leaves were extremely moist as if they had been soaked in something for quite a while. the texture was almost like seaweed – wet but not soggy or mushy, almost kind of slimy? which sounds quite gross i know, but i didn’t find it so at all! it was actually very interesting!20131128_142252
the inside of the warak enab
if i’m not wrong, the stuffing was a vegetarian (i don’t remember tasting meat) mix of onions, tomatoes, parsley, mint and other yummy things, and the entire roll was probably soaked in something lemon-y. it was good but definitely something that i see people either loving or hating.

we were also given naan as an accompaniment to our mains. the naan was light, soft and fluffy. yummy, but i didn’t manage to have as much as i would have liked to because of all the other amazing food we had before us!

and finally, on to dessert! we were really stuffed by the time we had finished (yes, we finished it all!!!) our starters and mains, but thank goodness we decided to go ahead and share a dessert because what we had was really out of this world:
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yalla jou jou: vanilla mousse speculoos, velvety dark chocolate coating and dark chocolate sauce with a very vanilla ice cream Р£5.25

if you’re going to have dessert at yalla yalla, this is what you need to get. SERIOUSLY. my friend and i agreed that even though we were really very full, we would have ordered another if we didn’t have to rush off to our jurisprudence lecture… we also agreed that if there’s one thing we’d return to yalla yalla for, it’d be this amazing dessert. it’s not like anything i’ve had i think, and i normally dislike mousse but this wasn’t typically mousse-y at all (i actually think its misleading to call it a mousse!); it was much more firm than a regular mousse, almost like vanilla ice cream covered in this amazing speculoos crumb coating and topped with chocolate sauce. they were also right in describing the ice cream as “very vanilla” – it was extremely fragrant and the bits of vanilla bean spotted in the ice cream were testament to how good it tasted! oh my, i’m craving this just looking at the picture… it was a really really yummy and unique dessert (not something run-of-the-mill that you can get anywhere and everywhere) to end off a great meal.

given the reasonable prices, generous portions and great taste of the food, i will certainly be back. you should check it out too – yalla yalla (“hurry up” in Arabic :P)!¬†20131128_14084420131128_153457

Yalla Yalla

12 Winsley Street
London W1W 8HQ

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Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro Bar, Singapore

tucked away from the hustle and bustle along main orchard road but still conveniently located at the post office building opposite tanglin mall, nassim hill bakery is a great spot to chill and unwind over good food either before or after (or both!) battling the crowds in town.

i visited on a saturday morning and was able to get a table quite easily although there was a constant stream of customers and almost all the tables were occupied at any one time.¬†we didn’t manage to get one of the individual tables though, and ended up at the big communal table in the centre of the cafe. but it wasn’t bad at all – the table is big and¬†chairs are well-spaced such that everyone can sit comfortably in groups without feeling like you’re too close to your tablemates.¬†its a nice, bright and open space that gives off the vibe of a casual neighbourhood joint; the kind of place where people sip coffee and read books while their dogs sit by their feet wagging their tails.¬†OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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they serve a range of breads, cakes, sandwiches, soups, salads etc but it was the brunch food that we were drawn to. after extensive deliberation and lots of indecision (food choices are always life-changing decisions), we settled for an eggs benny (but with salmon not ham), a scrambled eggs with prosciutto and a hot reuben sandwich (manly food for the lone man at the table).

i’d been eyeing the scrambled eggs from the moment i stepped in and a waiter walked past me carrying a huge plate of it. it looked amazing and was calling out to me even though i’m usually more of an eggs benny kind of person (runny yolks ftw), so it was this hearty dish that i ultimately settled on:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhearty scrambled eggs with swiss cheese & prosciutto – $20

the scrambled eggs did not disappoint and were the highlight of the dish. i thought they certainly tasted as good as they looked! they were light, fluffy, soft, buttery, creamy, smooth, and moist but far from being too wet. (feel free to add in any other adjectives you would use to describe really good scrambled eggs; am pretty sure these will fit the bill.) not sure if you can see it clearly in this picture, but i also liked the fact that they weren’t scrambled to the point of them becoming a mass of single-coloured light yellow eggs. instead, they were of varying shades along the spectrum of white to yellow. they also went perfectly with the saltiness of the prosciutto, the swiss cheese and the accompanying bread in the bread basket.

all eggs breakfast sets come with a basket of bread accompanied by butter & jam:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe breads were really good as well! the basket contained a mix – fruit & nut, their signature beer bread, ciabatta etc, all of which were yummy. and the jam that accompanied it was even better – i loved the homemade fig jam so much that i would definitely have bought a jar home if not for the fact that my family hardly eats bread with jam for breakfast. (my dad is a total chinaman when it comes to eating habits – he must have noodle soup/porridge every single morning without fail, while my sister and i have taken to just having a huge bowl of cereal in the morning after getting into that habit while we’re away from home at school) the orange jam was good too, with bits of orange peel in it, but i would have preferred it to be a little more tangy and a little less sweet.IMG-20130817-WA0005happy customer ūüôā

the eggs benny, often dubbed one of the best in singapore, was pretty good too! my friend changed the ham to salmon but for those of you who want to stick to the standard order of ham, i observed from people dining around us that the ham they use is what i like to call proper ham – not at all like the lousy ultra thin slices of pre-packed picnic ham you get at supermarkets. the slices are thick and looked very tasty!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

eggs benedict Р$20 

the hollandaise sauce was one of the better ones i’ve tasted, and the eggs were perfectly poached. i also liked how the muffin used was white ciabatta which was really fluffy and yummy. everything tasted really good together!

the last thing we ordered was the hot reuben sandwich. the serving was huge! perfect for a hungry boy but definitely too much for an average girl. it probably doesn’t look that big in the picture below, but check out the following pics with people as scale and you’ll see how generous a serving it is.¬†OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
hot reuben: sliced corned beef with melted emmental, saurkraut, onions and Russian dressing on signature Grimbergen Ambrée beer bread Р$18

the hot reuben is full of beef slices, cheese, onions, and other amazing things that come together wonderfully and present themselves in the form of a massive uber hearty sandwich. check out the cheese (and also how half the sandwich is the size of 3/4 of my dear friend’s face hahaha omg):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

a close-up of the supersandwich:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit actually reminded me of the salt beef sandwich they have at selfridges back in london, minus the pickle and mustard. i only had a little of it since i had a big pile of scrambled eggs to tackle, but that bite was enough to make me want to order it if i have a sandwich the next time i’m there! they were generous with the sandwich filling – definitely not the kind of sandwich where you have some plain bread left with nothing to eat it with, and the signature beer bread had a delicious hint of maltiness that complemented the ingredients really well. being one of nassim hill’s signature dishes, it certainly did not disappoint! my friend who had it was super satisfied and thought it was really reasonably priced. in his words, “i can’t believe its cheaper than the egg dishes when there’s so much beef!” i’ve always thought its not easy to please a typical boy because they’re generally more interested in quantity rather than quality and are happiest when food is cheap, so that stamp of approval must definitely be a sign of great things ūüėČ

what i also really like about this place is that there’s no additional service charge or gst so what you see on the menu is what you pay. there’s free parking right outside as well, though the number of lots is quite limited. getting a space on a weekday will probably be no problem though.

the verdict: definitely worth checking out!

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Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro Bar

56 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Post Office #01-03
Singapore 247964
20130817_143041special friends