Review: Flat Iron Steak, Soho

Flatiron steak
Flatiron steak

A couple of year’s back I was on a Japanese language  study programme in Tokyo. Towards the end of our three month course, we were given a pretty piece of paper and asked to use our basic skills to write a piece entitled “My favourite….” (私の好きな。。。 / Watashi no sukina…)

I took this as an opportunity to write about all of my favourite things. I began my essay like so:

“My favourite food is beef.” (私の好きな食べものは牛肉です。/ Watashi no sukina tabemono ha gyuniku desu).

“No, no, Phoebe!” The teacher interrupted me. “We’re only writing about one favourite thing.”

I looked at my paper. This now had to be an entire essay about beef. Gyuniku. I was Gyuniku Girl. There was nothing to be done but to write the best eulogy to beef I could muster in simple Japanese.B

Being Gyuniku Girl greatly influences my eating choices.  So when I discovered that Flat Iron Steak served up a rather tender-looking offering for £10, there was no doubt that I was going there.

Flat Iron
Flat Iron

Flat Iron Steak is crammed into Soho. Inside you have to squeeze onto a table next to other customers and sit uncomfortably trying not to elbow the other. But if steak’s the name of the game, we’re willing to play right?

Pepper popcorn
Pepper popcorn

On arrival, we were served a pot of peppered popcorn, which was far too peppery but somehow strangely addictive in a masochistic way that only the very hungry resort to.

Then we ordered – surprise surprise – the flatiron steak for a tenner, which came with a salad. (I did a bit of geeky research – a flatiron steak is meat taken from the shoulder of the cow, cut in two to remove a touch connective tissues that runs through it. Read more about it here.)

"Salad" and chips
“Salad” and chips

The first thing I noticed was…. that is not a salad, that’s some leaves in a glass. The dressing was pretty tasty though.

The second thing I noticed was….a 200g steak isn’t actually that big.  Thirdly, it wasn’t as pink as the pictures I’d seen.


I tucked in and found it fairly tender. However, it was poorly seasoned – sprinkled only with a bit of salt. And as much as I’d like to say the flavour of the beef was such that it didn’t need seasoning, that wouldn’t be true. So it was an average if pleasing steak – perfectly inoffensive, but it didn’t stand out in any way. I enjoyed it because it was beef.

Flat Iron do a range of sauces you can add to your steak for £1. But suddenly that concept of steak for a tenner has gone out the window.

Of course, we also needed some sides. My friend took Sophie’s Salad (£2.50) – a pear and blue cheese salad, which he enjoyed although the blue cheese was very mild.

Sophie's Salad
Sophie’s Salad

We shared some dripping cooked chips (£2.50) which were perfectly crispy.

We also had a lot of fun with mini-meat cleavers, which brought out the inner-psychopath in me. One thing was true though – we certainly didn’t need them for cutting our steaks.

My inner-psychopath was unleashed
My inner-psychopath was unleashed

Flat Iron Steak 3/5 – I wasn’t wowed, but it’s tender, cheap steak. And if you’re not such a steak-obsessive as I am, you’ll probably love it.

Food 3/5
Value 3/5
Service 3/5
Atmosphere 3/5
(Yes, some rather non-committal scoring here…I’m undecided as to whether I’d go back.)

Flat Iron Steak

Where: 17 Beak St, Soho, W1F 9RW
Mon – Sun: 12:00 – 23:00

Review: Caravan, King’s Cross


Breakfast or brunch is my all time favourite meal. After having spent the past 3 years travelling a fair bit, I know I can eat anything for breakfast. In fact, I ate a 6-course breakfast every day when I was in Kuala Lumpur last summer. “Course” might not be the right choice of word as it was a buffet – the most delicious hotel buffet I’ve ever had! I’d start with Chinese, move onto Malay and Indian, hit the fruit and yoghurt, then the pastries, breads and cakes, before finishing off with skewered grapes at the chocolate fountain. (I risk dribbling on my keyboard just remembering this!)

So I was on a brunch quest in London and the name ‘Caravan’  kept popping up. And with this menu, how could I resist?

OK, so it’s obviously trendy, which is why I’d heard its name so many times and which is why it was seriously busy. However, it’s huge  so we didn’t have to wait too long. Set 5 minutes walk from King’s Cross next to Central St Martins art college, inside is full of long  tables, a semi-visible kitchen to one-side and an array of tasty-looking cakes sitting on one side.

Inside Caravan
Inside Caravan
Cakes ahoy!
Cakes ahoy!

First up, there was absolutely no question about what I would be drinking. Did I see a salt caramel hot chocolate on the menu? Why yes, I think I did!

Salt caramel hot choc
Salt caramel hot choc

At £3.50, it was most definitely over-priced for its size, but it was delicious and not too sweet. It probably could have been a bit heavier on the chocolate but I was satisfied (even if my wallet cried out in protest).

I was with my reliable dining partner Mimi, who ordered the Asian-inspired ‘Hangtown Fry’ – a bacon and oyster omelette.  I sampled a small bit and can attest to the fact that the omelette was pleasingly soft (no-one like rubbery eggs!) and very flavoursome.

Hangtown Fry - Bacon and Oyster Omelette
Hangtown Fry – bacon and oyster omelette

My brunch choice was a tough decision, but I settled on the baked eggs, tomato pepper ragout, Greek yoghurt, and toast (£7.50) with chorizo sausage (+ £2). The ragout was rich and slightly tangy, without too much acidity from the tomatoes. The chorizo was fantastic and the whole dish was topped with fresh parsley  which brought it alive. Two small criticisms  1) I would have a preferred a bit more yoghurt; 2) the eggs were overwhelmed by the chorizo and ragout, and so I could hardly taste them at all! Not that it matters because all the flavours worked, but I would have happily swapped the eggs for some more chorizo. I admit the dish should probably change its name from “baked eggs” if that were the case!

Baked eggs with chorizo, ragout, yoghurt and parsley
Baked eggs with chorizo, ragout, yoghurt and parsley

Unfortunately, we’d spied an affogato (£4.50) on the menu for pudding and somehow we ordered it. Oh it was a heavenly coffee and vanilla mix.

Vanilla ice-cream topped with expresso
Vanilla ice-cream topped with expresso

Caravan’s menu is very exciting, and I’m itching to go back and try the salt beef bubble. And the poached eggs with aubergine puree. Or the corn and morcilla fritters. Or…. You get the idea.

Caravan 4/5 – Want a delicious and unusual brunch in a bustling atmosphere? Yes? Thought so. 

Food 4/5 – Delicious, great quality. Portions could be a little larger.
Value 3/5 – I’m *sort of* getting used to London prices now. But £3.50 for a tiny hot choc? Salted caramel or no, that’s just too much.
Service 5/5 – Prompt and friendly.
Atmosphere 5/5 – It’s a giant busy room but it doesn’t get chaotic. It’s got exactly the right kind of buzz to accompany a tasty brunch.

Where: The Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4AA




Review: Zaza Gelato Westfield

It was the last one and a little broken. But it was sooo good!
It was the last one and a little broken. But it was sooo good!

Just a quick post for today. I’d bought a Groupon voucher for Zaza Gelato as it offered cake, ice-cream and a hot drink for a bargain of £4.

Unfortunately, the “bargain” was somewhat marred by the fact that it was probably one of the worst ice-creams I’ve ever tried. I think I had stracciatella. I can’t quite remember because the gelato had actually no flavour. It was nothing more than cold sweetness. Mushy, sickly slush.

We were recommended the chocolate chai. Which was wonderful – if you like drinking hot watery milk. Eugh.

However, I can’t even begin to describe how intensely chocolatey and gooey this cake was. So if you’re in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, pick up one of these for a chocolate kick to get you through your shopping 😉

Zaza Gelato

Where: Canada Place, Portobello Road, Westfield London

More stores opening soon according to their website.

Review: Street Feast London Opening Night – April 12th

They're almost ready...
They’re almost ready…

Imagine 14 street food traders. Crammed into one yard. Serving up everything from hot dogs to jerk chicken, from scallops to green tea choc ices, from buttermilk fried chicken to tofu and mushroom gyoza. Every Friday night? Does this sound like a foodie heaven? Well, yes. Yes, it does.

When I arrived at Street Feast London at 8.30pm last Friday night, I felt pretty far removed from heaven. It was pouring with rain. The covered areas were so packed with people that rows of umbrellas were lining the fringes. Through the grim darkness and crowds, it was hard to make out what the traders were actually offering. Slowly but surely, we realised, with increasing horror, that many traders had sold out! Spit & Roast was packing up, people were walking away empty handed from Buen Provecho and the Ribman was nowhere to be seen!

PANIC. I’d invited three sets of people who didn’t really know each other. They were all hungry, standing in the rain. Many of them required vegetarian options in the absence of halal meat. I felt severe guilt at leading everyone into what looked like would be a dismal and damp disappointment.

PANIC. Divide forces! Quick! Some of my friends hit Well Kneaded for some ‘firebreads’, which are essentially like a pizza without the tomato sauce. I joined the long queue for Bleecker St Burger. The people in front of us looked round and commented, “The queue doesn’t move forward but it grows longer. So our relative position improves.”

Always look on the bright side of life.

My phone rang. More friends would be joining me soon. I’ll get you burgers, I told them, or you might not get anything at all.

Eventually, I made it to the front of the queue and made my order to be told it would cost £45. I had £35 and I went off friend-hunting to scrounge a tenner. Then I did the maths and realised I’d been overcharged £13.10. Which he was highly embarrassed about. I was just relieved that I didn’t need to pay any more!

We were also very forgiving once we tucked into our Cheeseburgers (£5). I had heard good things about Bleecker St Burger but I didn’t realise it’d be this good. The bun was light but held together well. And the patty was one of the more succulent offerings I’ve tried. YUM.


Forgiveness turned to all-out worship once we tried the sweet potato fries (£3). Oh my goodness. We turned to each other with a look of bliss on our faces. These might be the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever eaten. They looked a little soggy but were surprisingly firm. And they were simply exploding with sweet potato flavour.

Sweet Potato Fries imported directly from Sweet Potato Heaven
Sweet Potato Fries imported directly from Sweet Potato Heaven

Sadly, our Beetroot and Goats Cheese Firebread with Watercress and Pea Shoots (£5.50) from Well Kneaded was no good, because they’d run out of goats cheese and had used ordinary cheese instead. Which turned into a minor flavour car crash – edible but not particularly pleasant. With goats cheese, however, I imagine it’d be fantastic.

My friends also tucked into some gyoza from Rainbo (8 = £6). Their Chicken and Coriander is really unusual, and they do a surprisingly meaty Tofu and Shiitake Mushroom version for veggies.


To finish up, we ambushed Sorbitum and sampled an array of dazzling flavours (2 scoops = £3.50). I was fond of the Chocolate and Hazelnut flavour – it was like praline in ice-cream form – and I also enjoyed some salted caramel. Really intriguing however was the Toffee Apple and Brown Butter and ginger fanatics should not miss the Fresh Ginger and Pink Rhubarb Ripple.

Sorbitum ice-cream truck
Sorbitum ice-cream truck
Hazelnut-chocolate and salted caramel ice-cream
Hazelnut-chocolate and salted caramel ice-cream

So our mood was drastically improved by full stomachs. And the rain having the decency to pause whilst we were eating.

Street Feast has promised on Twitter that traders will bring twice the amount of food next Friday. Phew! Cos I’ve got a lot of eating to do. And if you like food, I advise you make plans to head there too.

Street Feast

Where: Merchant Yard, 317-319 Kingsland Road, London, E8 4DL
When: Fridays, 5pm – midnight

Review: ScooterCaffe at Waterloo

The scooter
The scooter

My adventure to ScooterCaffe was not as I intended. I wanted a hot chocolate; I ended up feeling like a hobo.

I normally don’t feature places that I absolutely loathe, but ScooterCaffe is worth laughing at. Read on…

My friend Mia had discovered a list of people’s recommendations for hot chocolates in London, on which ScooterCaffe was repeatedly recommended by Joe Bloggs and his brothers.

Alarm bells started ringing, however, during my online investigation prior to our visit. Customers were raving about the cats.

As a kid, I wanted to be a cat. I introduced myself as “Phoebe Amoroso Cat”. I drew many pictures of cats (including a picture of my father as a cat with glasses and a disproportionately large human penis attached – much to his approval).

My mum bought me a kitten when I was three. That’s when I got asthma and a whole load of allergies. Oh the ironies of my cat love!  Cats and I do not mix. If you own a cat, I won’t be visiting your home. Within 20 minutes, I will fall ill. If I stay overnight in your house, I’m likely to be ill for the next 5 days. It’s that bad.

This meant ScooterCaffe was probably going to be a take-out visit.



We headed to Waterloo to find a rather dark, grimy looking café, with a scooter in the window and, sure enough, a cat. Eclectic objects decorated the room and a various alcohol bottles lined the wall behind the counter. This was a café that was obviously trying for an edgier feel.

In fact, the more I inspected it, the more I realised it should probably be found in Hoxton or Dalston or any other trendy East London location. Through the dirt, I noticed some rather well-to-do, fashion-conscious clientèle. Obviously, this is how they get in touch with the earthier side of life whilst still being comfortably removed from it.

We went downstairs to the basement to find a room so stale and full of dust that even the allergy-free Mia felt suffocated. The air was so thick that it could have been sliced up and served. It did, however, explain why everyone was sitting upstairs.

We approached the counter and ordered two hot chocolates and two egg custard tarts that had been infused with raspberries.

“Excuse me, is there anywhere the cat doesn’t sit?” I asked. “How about those high wooden stools?”

“Huh,” said the woman, clearly confused. “He sits everywhere.”

“Could we get take-out then?”

She gave us the two tarts, then walked out from behind the bar towards the door.

“We’re out of milk. I’m going to buy some more.”

This was not a good sign. A café that serves coffee and hot chocolate and doesn’t keep adequate milk supplies. “How long will that take?”

“Not long. I’m just telling you so you know.” No apology. Nothing. And with that, she was gone.

After ten minutes of me nervously eyeing the cat, she returned and made us some hot chocolates and we scarpered. The service was as neglectful as the place looked.

Hot chocolate - supposedly
Hot chocolate – supposedly

Through foggy breath, we puffed our way to some cold seats in Waterloo. The hot chocolate – quick! Let it warm my hands and its chocolatey sweetness fill my mouth!

Ugh. Something lukewarm and slimy slid down my throat. It was like custard with a mild chocolate flavour. Mia and I looked at each other in disbelief. People actually recommended this? It was thick and sickly and generally revolting.

We also discovered that raspberries should never be put in egg custard tarts.

ScooterCaffe 1/5 – For shamelessly awful hot chocolate in aspiring squat-like conditions, pop by! 😉

Where: I’m not telling you – look it up if you’re feeling masochistic!

Raspberry egg custard tart
Raspberry egg custard tart

Review: Breakfast at Dishoom (Covent Garden)

Dishoom bacon naan

Firstly, I need to apologise for the poor quality of the photos in this post. I promise that Dishoom’s bacon naan roll looks a lot more appetising than depicted here. In general, I’m not a very capable person before I’ve eaten in the morning. I barely managed to cycle to the restaurant without fainting. I’m going to blame it on that. Definitely.

Dishoom calls itself an old Bombay café and I’d heard good things about its breakfast. As my friend was in London town for an interview afternoon, it was the perfect opportunity to meet for a cheap, tasty and slightly unusual brekky to set her up a challenging day.

Having had dinner at Dishoom before, I knew exactly what I’d be drinking – Chocolate Chai (£2.70). To those who are now thinking, “I like chocolate, and I like chai, but together?!“, please trust me on this one. I thought the same but I love it lots – they very skillfully navigate and carve out a perfect middle route between the flavours.

Chocolate chai
Chocolate chai (from my dinner visit)

To eat, all three of us ordered the  Bacan Naan Roll (£3.70) which comes with chilli tomato jam, cream cheese and coriander. I met this with some scepticism –  I firmly believe bacon is one of those things that doesn’t need any extra flavours because I want to enjoy all of its salty goodness without interruption. However, Dishoom have really pulled this one off. The chilli jam isn’t too sweet, the coriander provides a tantalising contrast and…well, it’s just awesome.

Bacon naan roll with chilli jam (£3.70)
Bacon naan roll with chilli tomato jam (£3.70)

There was one small problem – my friends and I were less than impressed with its size. Please Dishoom – I think you could fit another rasher of bacon into that naan roll. At £3.70, one could just order two, but I’m going to resent paying £7.40 for bacon and bread, even in London.

Overall though, Dishoom makes for an unsual – and delicious – breakfast.

Dishoom Covent Garden

Where: 12 Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9FB
When: Monday – Thursday 8am – 11pm; Friday 8am – 12am Saturday 10am – 12am Sunday 10am – 10pm

Also in Shoreditch:

Review: Roti Joupa


Roti Joupa isn’t a restaurant and it isn’treally a café either. It’s a Trinidadian take-out shop with about 7 counter seats for the really keen people who’ve trekked all the way to Clapham to eat there. (OK so Clapham is not that far away but it’s not next door to campus!)

My friends and I were those keen people.

“They’re supposed to serve great Trinidadian food,” my friend told me. She is half-Trinidadian and cooks a lot of Trinidadian food for her Trinidadian husband. She’d done her research and Roti Joupa was the place for Trini food in London.

I’m a quarter Trinidadian. I would like to pretend that I am wonderfully ethnic and grew up on goat curry and that I long to connect more strongly with my Trini roots. But that would be a load of rubbish. I am quite possibly the epitome of middle-class Britishness. So this was the first Trinidadian food (or even Caribbean food) that I would be sampling.

Roti Joupa


Roti Joupa is painted cheerfully enough to make me wish I could just pop over to the Caribbean at any time. Although it has the familiar tiled floors and counter set-up like most take-aways, it has some bright blue walls and a beach scene to get you in the mood.

Fried flat bread with curried chickpeas AKA heaven for £1.50
Fried flat bread with curried chickpeas AKA heaven for £1.50

We ordered doubles (£1.50) which is a classic Trinidadian street food, consisting of flat fried bread and filled with curried chickpeas. This was ridiculously tasty and quite filling too. And soooo cheap. If £1.50 always bought me such deliciousness, I would be very, very happy. And fat.


Goat roti
Goat  curry roti

For the main, I kept things ‘traditional’ and got a curried goat roti (£5.50).

Roti is a thin-flat bread, like a wrap but with a firmer texture. This roti was HUGE and possibly one of the heaviest lunches I’d had in a while. The curry contained a lot of goat (which tastes a lot like mutton) but also quite a few potatoes so eating one of these gives you a double-carb-whammy! The curry itself was tasty, but I wasn’t keen on its pepperiness – not because I don’t like spice, but because I’m not a huge fan of peppery spice (I find the flavour a little one-dimensional). However, you can order it without this (which is what I’ll do in future) and for those who don’t want goat, there are plenty of other options, including pumpkin.

The acid test was, of course, what my half-Trinidadian friend thought.

“Pretty good,” she grinned, wolfing down her roti. “Outside of Trinidad, this is as good as it gets.”

All of her goat curry roti vanished incredibly quickly. I think that says it all.

Tamarind balls AKA evil things
Tamarind balls AKA evil things

For dessert, my other companion and I ordered some tamarind balls (£0.50) which are possibly the most horrifying thing I’ve tried in a while. We scrunched up our faces as sour sweetneess and sweet sourness scraped our tongues.

My half-Trinidadian friend laughed. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

Tamarind balls should be tried for the experience. But whatever you do, don’t leav Roti Joupa without trying doubles.

Roti Joupa – Giant roti for under £6? Need I say more?

Where: 12 Clapham High St, London, Greater London SW4 7UT
When: 12pm – 11pm (but double check by calling them: 020 7627 8637)