Now, I’ve tried the hot chocolate at both the Curzon Soho (Shaftesbury Avenue) branch and the Time Out-recommended St Mary’s Axe branch, but the hot chocolate didn’t seem particularly special. Maybe there is some other version that I haven’t been lucky enough to sample. What I tried was pleasing but distinctly average if you’re a hot chocolate fanatic.
The real reason why everyone should visit Konditor & Cook is for their brownie bar. You can choose from many different flavours, including the classic Chocolate Chip Brownies, Boston Brownies (cranberries), Fudgepacker Brownies (the frankly dangerous combination of vanilla fudge and salted caramel) and Curly Wurly Brownies (cream cheese and vanilla pods).
What’s more – you can take away THREE of these brownies for a reasonable £5! That’s 3 days of happiness. (HAHA who am I kidding – three hours more like!)
As for my favourites, this is a tricky one as I think the flavours vary between branches. I thought it was the Fudgepacker as the salted caramel gooeyness was nearly overwhelming when I bought one (or two or three) from the St Mary’s Axe branch. The cream cheese-vanilla was too mild.
However, in a recent visit to the Shaftesbury Avenue branch the Fudgepacker was mildly sticky whereas the creamy gooeyness of the Curly Wurly left me gasping with brownie pleasure.
My advice is…. try ’em all!
I should mention that Konditor & Cook have a lunch menu of salads, soup and one hot meat and veggie dish of the day. They also have a lot of other rather amazing looking cakes. I will investigate these one day…once I get past my brownie affair.
NB: In case you’re an idiot like me, 30 St Mary’s Axe is actually the Gherkin. So don’t stare at it in puzzlement and march up and down the street. Just walk round the Gherkin and you’ll find Konditor & Cook. And a giant ape might kidnap you. However, if that does happen, try and make sure you’ve got a brownie on you first. That way you can die happy.
I was fortunate enough to attend the launch party of the fab new tapas bar The Port House on the Strand back in February. It’s a little shocking that I haven’t got round to blogging this already, but if you haven’t been, I recommend you give it a try.
Don’t let its unassuming entrance put you off: the inside is lined with bricks and atmospherically lit with candles like an underground cellar for storing alcohol. Take a seat to one side and line-up the tapas on your table. And the port. Don’t forget the port.
The tapas were very enjoyable – nearly everything I tried was a pleasure to eat. Vegetable tart topped with a poached quail’s egg. Amazing Iberian ham with a deep, nuanced flavour that makes me salivate at the memory of it. Succulent chicken skewers. And some kind of thicker, sweeter version of gazpacho topped with whipped cream (yes really). I actually have no idea what it is – a bit of Internet searching suggests it might have been salmorejo but I’m not entirely convinced. Can anyone help me out here?
Not everything was perfect – the aubergine tempura was bland and oily and too many of the tapas were served up on giant chunks of bread that made the dishes unnecessarily heavy and tarnished the subtleties of the other flavours. I ended up picking the toppings off!
However, overall I was impressed and would definitely head back for a second round of nibbling.
It’s pretty dimly lit inside but I hope that the dark photos below can at least suggest the tasty things that await you there…
When I need a recipe, I call my mum who runs her memory through her extensive cookery book collection and self-invented recipes to provide something that might come to my rescue. As it happened, my father had recently bought her The Hairy Bikers’ The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight. My father is one of those remarkably unromantic people, who either completely fails to buy gifts or buys something that he secretly wants himself. Hairy Bikers’ diet food certainly appealed to him as he’s been a bit weight conscious since having a heart attack.
Fortunately though, the book also appealed to my mother, despite her initial reservations. She has raved about every recipe she has made – and trust me, it takes a lot to please my parents. So it must be good.
My mum recommended that I try a lamb tagine recipe. I was a little concerned because I sometimes find the sweetness of tagines overwhelming , and this recipe contained sweet potatoes, apricots, cinnamon and honey! However, the sweetness was very mild and the overall flavour was rich and delicious. This is one to try. And it’s from a book to buy! (I just tried a traditional chicken stew recipe from it this week and it was amazing!)
Lamb Tagine (from The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
750g lean lamb leg meat (or steaks)
2 tsp grnd cumin
2 tsp grnd coriander
1/2 tsp grnd cinnamon
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 med onions, halved and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
400g can of chopped tomatoes
500ml cold water
3 tbsp runny honey
400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 lamb stock cube
1 med sweet potato (about 250g)
75g no-soak apricots, halved
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh flat-leaf parsley and finely grated lemon zest, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/ Fan 160 degrees / Gas 4. Trim the lamb of any hard fat and cut into rough 3 cm chunks. Season all over with salt and pepper. Mix the cumin, coriander, cinnamon and chilli powder in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or saucepan. Add the lamb, onions and garlic and stir-fry over a high heat for 1 minute until lightly coloured. Sprinkle with the spices and cook for 1-2 minutes more, tossing constantly. Take the pan off the hear as soon as the spices begin to give off a strong aroma.
Tip the tomatoes into the casserole dish and add the water, honey and chickpeas. Crumble the stock cube over the top and stir well. Bring to a simmer on the hob, stirring a couple of times, then cover the dish with a lid and put it in the preheated oven. Cook for 1 hour.
Just before the lamb is due to come out of the oven, peel the sweet potato and cut it into rough 2.5 cm chunks. Carefully remove the casserole from the oven and stir in the sweet potato and apricots. Put the lid back on and return the casserole to the oven. Cook for another 45-60 minutes or until the lamb is very tender.
Serve the tagine sprinkled with some roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley tossed with a little very finely grated lemon zest if you like. The zest adds a little extra spark of flavour.
457 calories per portion … guess it depends on your portion size though 😉
I don’t have an oven so I cooked the tagine by slowly simmering it on the hob and it was absolutely fine.
I found the spice too mild so I would up all the quantities, particularly the chilli powder.
I’m very dubious of eating in places around Leicester Square or in China Town, but when I was saw Rasa Sayang on Time Out’s list of cheap eats in Central London, I wanted to give it a try. I spent four days in Kuala Lumpur last summer and that was enough for me to know that Malaysian cuisine and I will be in a life-long relationship.
I must confess that I went to Rasa Sayang three months ago (my review backlog is worse than previously feared) so this review is not the most detailed. What I can tell you is that they a do a great Char Kway Teow (£6.90) – flat rice noodles fried up with soy, egg, fish cake (don’t ask – it’s weird processed stuff), beansprouts and with what I assumed to be pork fat – as it was deliciously meaty.
I also tucked into Nasi Goreng Istimewa (£7.50) – Malaysian-style fried rice topped with a fried egg, served with chicken satay sticks.
Now, this is important: neither of the two dishes listed above were the oily, greasy swamps that they promised to be. Both were much lighter than I expected. And they were so tasty. They gave my dining partner and I the perfect Malaysian fix in the late afternoon.
We got some Roti Canai (£3.90) – similar to pastry – to accompany our dishes. And we finished off with Kueh Dadar (£3.20) – pandan-flavour pancakes filled with palm sugar and coconut – which I adore, because they’re not too sweet. Perfect ending to the meal.
Yes, we were crammed into caféteria-style seats and yes, we were tucking into the finest quality food in the world. But the food is so wonderfully comforting. Our bill came £23.70 for two with service, we were stuffed, and very happy.
Rasa Sayang 4/5 – Malaysian comfort food at great prices.
Food 3.5/5 Value 5/5 Atmosphere 3/5 Service 3/5
Website: http://www.rasasayangfood.com/ Where: 5 Macclesfield Street London, W1D 6AY (just off Shafterbury Avenue) When: Mon – Thurs 12pm – 11pm; Fri – Sat 12pm – 12am; Sunday 11.30am – 9.30pm
There are few things that one can rely on in life, but the ubiquity of Chinese restaurants and takeaways in the UK is one of them. The Brits have long had a love affair with Chinese cuisine and the choices for dining in London are diverse. For those who will happily dive into florescent sweet-and-sour chicken from any corner shop, then this overwhelming choice is not a problem but a paradise. Yet for the more discerning diner, the variety can seem impossible to navigate.
Please do not panic. To avoid these greasy pitfalls, begin your gastronomic journey at Royal China.
We visited Baker Street, the largest restaurant in the Royal China group that owns six restaurants across London. The inside is nothing spectacular – the usual circular tables are crammed into a large room with the usual ostentatious décor, adding splashes of red and gold. There’s not much to distinguish it from any run-of-the-mill Chinese. That is until you see the menu.
A devoted foodie will be pleased to note two things. Firstly, there’s a good choice but not too much choice: sauces vary depending on the meat or fish and there is no indiscriminate splattering of black bean sauce across any source of protein, which strongly suggests some thought has gone into the menu. Secondly, the dishes are priced above those formerly-mentioned restaurants of dubious integrity (though, very fortunately, they are not beyond the means of students).
For starters, we sampled the Baked Pork Chop with Mandarin Sauce (£7.80), which was easily large enough to be eaten as a main. The sauce was thick and sweet as expected, but never became cloying. Inevitably, the dish disappeared rapidly and with great satisfaction.
For mains, my co-diner ordered the Steamed Chicken (half) with Mushroom and Chinese Sausage (£12.80). This was a misleading description that conjured a vision of half a bird with tender meat ready to be pulled off the bones. Instead chunks of chicken arrived on a large leaf. Disappointment aside, the sauce itself was light and tangy – a refreshing contrast to our starter – but it didn’t compliment the Chinese sausage. Nevertheless, the flavours grew over time and it was enjoyable.
We also ordered a side of Sautéed Pak Choi with Garlic (£8.80). Pak choi can be incredibly delicious if cooked so as to balance their bitterness with the right amount of saltiness or sweetness. Sadly these were underwhelming and forgettable, and rather overpriced. Our meal was also let down by the Egg Fried Rice (£3.20), which was unremarkable, but provided an adequate base for our dishes.
It was my main course that truly was the pièce de résistance: Braised Beef with Chillies from the Chef’s Specials menu, served bubbling in a pot above a flame. At around £16, this dish was not cheap but it was worth every last meaty mouthful. The beef was fatty but tender and succulent, and expertly braised in a salty, moreish sauce. The spices were perfect – the chillies provided a slow-burning warmth and the aniseed mildly provoked the tongue but didn’t overwhelm the other flavours. The dish reminded me of some of the food I sampled in Taiwan, and whilst I can’t claim to be an expert on authenticity, I though this dish was pretty close to the target.
Unable to stop there, we tucked into Black Sesame Paste in Peanut Crumbs (£5.00). This consisted of three slightly chewy, glutinous rice cakes, filled with a smooth warm sesame sauce. For those unfamiliar with Asian-style desserts, this undoubtedly sounds a little strange but it is really worth trying for its mild sweetness and subtle flavours.
Our enjoyment of our dining experience was only diminished by the unreliable service. Some waiters and waitresses were very attentive and helpful in describing the particulars of dishes, yet others seemed to deliberately ignore us or only spoke limited English. Due to this, my main was missing in action for 45 minutes despite my frequent requests.
Whilst the service could be improved and some dishes fell short of expectations, the overall food quality could not be denied. Royal China isn’t China, but it deserves recognition for some royally good meat dishes and some sauces that will make you want to lick your plate clean in a very un-royal manner indeed.
I also went on another visit and I tried:
Pan Fried Stuffed Eggplant with Minced Shrimp and Black Bean Sauce (£10.20)
Sautéed Beef with Ginger and Spring Onion (£8.80)
Both of these were phenomenal and highly recommended. Particularly the aubergine. A bit different and totally worth trying!
I’m a little slow off the mark, but I finally got round to visiting the amazing street food vendors, Yum Bun, in their new home – a take-out shop off Old Street roundabout.
Yum Bun are regulars at street food markets like Kerb, so you might already be familiar with their unbelievably delicious ‘pillow-soft’ steamed buns filled with Chinese and Japanese-inspired flavours. The team are taking break from the market scene in order to vastly improve lunch prospects in the Old Street area by setting up a take-out shop. As well as selling buns individually (£3.50 each or 2 for £6), they also offer a £7.50 bento box containing two buns, two veggie gyoza dumplings and salad, served with a cup of miso soup.
I got the classic belly pork with hoi sin sauce, cucumber and spring onions – and its tender sweetness was pure bliss.
Yum Bun have branched out and now offer mushroom, chicken, beef and salmon. I tried the braised ox cheek with coriander and peanuts, which was also tasty, but didn’t quite reach the ecstasy levels of the pork classic.
The veggie gyoza were great and the salad was fresh and crisp. One small point – the miso soup definitely needed to be stronger.
I cannot wait to stop by again. The new flavours are a challenge – gotta try ‘em all! Anyone sampled the others? Would love to hear your opinions.
Anyway, get yourself to Yum Bun ASAP. Apparently you can take your bento box next door into the long-term pop-up Rotary Bar and Diner (which I reviewed here)…. or you can end up eating it in a graveyard like I did.
Website: http://www.yumbun.co.uk/ (I think it’s a super-cute website – seriously have a look) Where: 31 Featherstone Street, EC1Y 2BJ When: Lunch Monday to Friday 11.30am – 2.30pm; Thursday to Saturday, 5pm – 10pm
Dear readers, apologies for the break! Exams have prevented me from blogging. However, you’ll pleased to know that *nothing* prevents me from eating! So I have a good two months’ backlog of delciousness.
For my return to the blogosphere, I bring you a 5/5 review (yes really) from the brilliant Shoryu ramen.
To celebrate their opening, they were offering a 3-day 50% discount. So I went twice. Then they extended their offer to the end of April so I squeezed in a third trip ( – such a chore being a food blogger, I know). So I have sampled THREE dishes for you all.
First of all, Shoryu looks like a Japanese restaurant. It has drapes over the door, the low tables, baskets for your belongings and that elegant modernism that makes Japanese-design generally revered. Having spent a lot of time in Japan, I was instantly in love. Plus there are actually Japanese people working there. Shouting in Japanese. Oh I was so happy.
Secondly, I must make a terrible confession. I have spent over 14 months of my life in Japan. And I’ve hardly ever eaten ramen. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Noodles in soup? How exciting could that be? Turns out I was just unlucky in my choices. Because now I’ve had Shoryu Ramen, I want to eat ramen until slops out of my ears. Almost.
Shoryu serve ramen in tonkotsu broth – broth made from boiling up pork bones. The menu runs several variations on the theme. I tried their signature Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu (£9.50) – a tonkotsu and miso broth with added spinach and garlic. Your menu will tell you: “All tonkotsu ramen comes in a rich tonkotsu pork broth with bbq pork, nitamago egg, kikurage mushrooms, beansprouts, spring onion, sesame, ginger & nori unless stated.” So expect all the works. Tender slices of pork, delicious mushrooms, the slightly sweet hard-boiled egg. Oh yes.
For me, this ramen hit the spot. The broth was rich and warming without being too heavy or oily. The sesame and garlic were fantastic. It was essentially a evolutionary flavour party and had me draining my bowl dry.
It’s traditional to eat ramen by slurping the noodles in a way that would be considered horrendously impolite in the UK. I’ve never managed the trick as I end up sucking the noodles too quickly so they whip upwards and splatter broth across my forehead. But by all means, give it a try.
On my second visit I risked the Dracula Tonkotsu (£11.50), described as “deep roasted tones from caramelised black garlic mayu, balsamic vinegar and garlic chips”. Mayu is apparently a type of garlic oil, and yes, this was garlicky! If you love garlic, then this is definitely for you. Please realise that you will be antisocial for two days afterwards (I exaggerate not). I found the garlic chips a bit bitter and just a tad too much, but the flavour of the broth was again spot on.
Third time round, I tackled Karaka Tantan Tonkotsu (
£9.90) – “
tonkotsu with a twist, rich and spicy fried minced pork in white miso & garlic with added lemon, garlic and chiu chow chilli oil”. This is actually spicy – not mouth-scorchingly so, but it has a real pleasant kick. The chilli flavour is the slightly sour spice like in Korean kimchi but a lot milder, and, although my tongue initially protested, within a few mouthfuls it gave in and begged for more. Seriously addictive. For anyone who likes spice, I highly recommend this dish. It comes without the barbecue pork but spicy minced pork on top – very tasty but I thought the portion could have been a little more generous.
My friend Sparrow was dining with me, and in a very un-Sparrow-like manner, he was super hungry and ordered Shishito (
fried padron peppers with hakata yuzu and british sea salt – and we shared some Gyoza Dumplings (5 pieces / £5). The peppers were a little underwhelming – too plain for my liking – but the gyoza were fabulous. Shoryu also do some Hirata Buns (the steamed white soft dough with tasty fillings like belly pork sandwiched in the middle) but sadly they didn’t have them the day I was there. If anyone has tried them, do let me know your opinion!
Shoryu Ramen 5/5 – Just so good. Don’t waste a single drop of that broth.
Food 5/5 – I can’t believe my scepticism in Japan has seen me reduced to this ramen-loving blabbering idiot. Shoryu have converted me. Value 3/5 – So in Japan, ramen are cheap. Seriously cheap. £5 a bowl cheap. But the thing is that Shoryu ramen are so good…so if you pretend that you don’t know about the true cost of ramen, and only know the London cost of ramen, then it’s fine 😉 Plus they have the 10%-off offer at the moment! Atmosphere 4/5 – You’re crammed in but there’s happy slurping all round. Service 5/5 – Prompt and efficient. I love the older Japanese guy who calls out Japanese greetings. Makes me miss Japan.
Website:http://www.shoryuramen.com/ Where: 3 Denman Street London W1D 7HA (30 seconds from Piccadilly Circus) When: Mon – Fri 11:45-15:00 / 17:00-00:00; Sat 11:45-00:00; Sun & Bank Holidays 11:45-21:30