In Japan, one of the first things you should learn is just because a word sounds like a borrowed English word, or indeed is a borrowed English word, does NOT mean it is in fact that word.
Let’s get straight to the important difference between “hanba-ga-” and “hanba-gu”. The former is indeed a meat patty wedged in a bun; the latter a meat patty minus bread, often served on a sizzling hot plate with some kind of sweet sauce. For the sake of being easy to understand, let’s call them “hamburgers” and “hamburgs”.
It took me over 35 hours to reach Madrid from Tokyo and three flights. The plus side was I got to hunt down noodles and night markets in China en route. But despite these indulgences I was starving by the time I arrived.
To make matters worse, little sister who kindly came to meet me at the airport was brain addled due her “sleep is for the weak” campaign. It took her nearly 25 minutes and several wrong transfer buses and escalators later to meet me at arrivals.
Yes, you read that right. This is Round 2 – I went to Tokyo Ramen Show twice! For all the info on this heavenly event, read Part 1. I’m going to cut straight to the noodle and tell you what was worth eating – and believe me….
If you’re a foodie, you know you’ve made a good friend when your dining companion pulls out a notebook and starts rating dishes and writing comments. As a food blogger, I was half-filled with shame and half-filled with admiration.
I’ve been a little absent of late but I’m back! Pheebz continues to eat. So read on….
Back in May, Dalston became a foodie paradise with a purpose that extended beyond guzzling oneself silly. Charity Action Against Hunger teamed up with Street Feast to provide a gourmet evening hosted by Gizzi Erskine. However, there was a twist: amazing foodie experiences were available to be won by the highest bidder.
Action Against Hunger were taking action indeed: this was Auction Against Hunger.
We arrived early as it was just kicking off. Which was perfect for diving into the food! I was beside myself with excitement because not only was the event full of some of my favourite street food traders, but some really, really good restaurants were trading there. Continue reading “Auction Against Hunger”
The stretch of road from Holborn station towards Chancery Lane is a bit of a no man’s land. You’ll find the standard lunch time take-out shops, a stationers targeting students and… not a whole lot else. Once the sun goes down, sleepiness properly settles in. It seems strange given that the area is a stone’s throw from Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road. Of course, there has to be a divide somewhere… but perhaps it shouldn’t feel so much like a provincial town. Some people, somewhere, obviously agree as the area is currently part of a ‘Go To Midtown‘ campaign – an effort to rebrand and invigorate the area.
Perhaps cottoning on this, or perhaps just trying their luck, Rosewood Hotel opened in October 2013. Naturally, this also entailed an restaurant – the somewhat functionally named Holborn Dining Room.
Holborn Dining Room appears every bit the well-furnished modern brasserie in its style – bare bulbs on metal frames throw shadows over the dark wood counters and tables that are surrounded by plush red leather seating. It’s tastefully done and consistent.
Swish interior and dim light aside, on entering the restaurant, we found the atmosphere to be relaxed – Holborn Dining Room could easily be a place to go for drinks and a catch-up with friends but it would equally work for a date. So far, so good.
The staff were on their best behaviour, probably because we were visiting for the soft launch; they attended to us with wide smiles, and created the illusion of automatic doors. Service was just below the overbearing mark, and they’ve probably all calmed down a bit by now.
My dining companion and I are FIENDISH meat eaters so there was only one thing on the menu that we were going to be ordering: the Roast Rib Eye ‘Club Cut’ with pepper sauce and crispy onions (£26.50). This is a giant chunk of tender roast beef served up like a steak, topped with thin onion rings. The flavour of the meat was beautiful, but it was a tad overcooked: I asked for mine medium-rare and it came medium, whereas my companion’s came medium-rare, despite asking for it rare. Nevertheless, we happily devoured our chunks of meat with some sell-executed chips (£4.25) and some delicious steamed spinach (£5.50).
For dessert, I tucked into an absolutely brilliant Valhrona chocolate pot with sweet cream (£6.50), which was essentially a very rich chocolate crème brûlée with a fantastically crisp top.
My companion was less lucky with her Bakewell tart and raspberry ice-cream (£6.50). In an attempt at a modern twist on the classic, the chef had produced a giant puff pastry version, which inadvertently created the game of ‘hunt the filling’ in the midst of a desert. Thank goodness for the ice-cream.
Holborn Dining Room 3/5 – Whilst the food is of decent quality, it is far from exceptional and, at those prices, it can’t really afford not to be. It made us very grateful for the soft opening offer!
There are some new doughnuts in town…..but they’re not just any doughnuts. Oh no, these are doughnuts from artisan doughnut chef (yes, that’s what the website says!) Paul Hurley, who has been making doughnuts since 1997. These are breaking away from the stereotype of fat American cops munching them police cars. These doughtnuts are not fried; they’re baked. Apparently, this means only 6 grams in a jam doughnut compared to an average of 17g of fat in their American counterparts.
That’s quite impressive – but what do they taste like? The dough is like a soft roll – almost like the texture you’d expect from an ice-bun. As a person who usually finds doughnuts unpleasantly heavy and chewy, this was perfect.
We also sampled their zebra cronut, which was far lighter than I expected – the chocolate cream was the perfect balance to the pastry. I’m still not what sure I make of cronuts but this was definitely one of the favourites I’ve tried.
Can you think of the problem of healthy doughnuts? Well, they’re in Shoreditch and when doughnuts are hip, they come at a price…
It’s impossible to ignore the burger trend across London. To be honest, if you want to ignore it, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog; I’ve done my best to consume as many burgers as possible in one giant burgery bonanza.
One of my favourite places for a burger in London is Honest Burgers. They’ve got a quality product pitched at the right price, and, as a result, their empire is expanding – expect the sixth branch to open near Oxford Circus later this year.
I fell in love when I first when I went to their Soho branch, and then had a passionate affair with their Christmas special, before drooling over their HOT February special. Their regular menu may only contain three different types of beefburger but their monthly specials really keep the romance alive.
Their latest offering has got me punch-drunk in love. For starters, it is possibly the first burger ever to require an ID to order it.
Honest Burgers have taken things to a new level this March and have collaborated with the awesome BrewDog. BrewDog is a Scottish craft beer company that is taking over the world with quality beer and their very own chain of bars, stretching from Shoreditch all the way to São Paulo! (Japan fangirl squeal: And they’re also in Roppongi in the expat area of Tokyo!) Even if you’re not a beer fan, you have to love BrewdDog because they took on Putin’s homophobia and produced the world’s only beer that’s definitely, absolutely and certainly not for gays – the Hello, My Name Is Vladimir!
Hello, my name is Vladimir. I am a beer for uber hetero men who ride horses while topless and carrying knives. I am a beer to mark the 2014 Winter Olympics. But I am not for gays. Love wrestling burly men on the Judo mat or fishing in your Speedos? Then this is the beer for you!
I think they’ve got their sales pitch spot on, don’t you? Now onto the BrewBurger itself….
This is one incredibly boozy beefy treat: it’s a 150g aged beef patty with Comté cheese and bacon candied with BrewDog’s amber ale, 5AM Saint. It’s then topped with beef dripping and beer fried onions using BrewDog’s flagship Punk IPA and a BBQ reduction made from BrewDog’s Paradox cask-aged Imperial Stout. And, just in case that wasn’t beery enough for you, it’s served with Bourbon Baby, a 5.8% barrel-aged baby scotch ale that Brewdog created just for this collaboration. All this for £15.
Oh….this was a beery burgery beauty. For me, the bacon got a little subsumed by the other flavours but those beer-fried onions were fantastic. All of this, of course, comes with Honest Burgers rosemary-salted chips. After a BrewBurger, you will wake up seriously thirsty but smugly satisfied.
Get yourself along to a branch of Honest Burgers before April 2nd. And don’t forget your ID!
It’s British Pie Week! What greater excuse could you have to enjoy some traditional British grub? Pies are an institution – standard fare at any respectable British pub. Chicken, ham and leek, steak and kidney, or beef and Guinness… the list goes on. A celebration of these hearty dishes is well-deserved!
British Pie Week 2014, however, may feel like one big FAT conspiracy. It happens to coincide with Pancake Day. So either you compromise and prioritise one over the other, or you have a seriously heavy food day, and consume pancakes and pies, and possibly contemplate some pineapple just to create an alliterative hat-trick.
This would be a seriously calorific day. So what if pies could be filling without the hefty fat content? What if I told you that pies could contain less than 440 calories?!
This is no lie or fantasy! Pieminister have created three lighter pies. Although in-keeping with their principles of quality British ingredients, these pies have differ dramatically from pies as you know them: they have no tops! By cutting the pastry off the top, the calories are easily shed.
Ugh, you may cry! Anything ‘light’ is always bland! Admittedly, I was also sceptical. But don’t be deterred – Pieminister have put a lot of thought into the recipes. I absolutely loved the ‘Chickalito’ – a a free range British chicken and free range British dry cured ham pie, and the ‘Light as a feta’ had a winning combination by throwing some butternut squash and sun-dried tomato into the mix. There is also a ‘Kooky chook’ pie with chicken, sweet potato, coconut and chilli, although the flavours didn’t quite come together for me.
I was worried that the pies would be dry as the lack of top would fail to keep in the moisture, but they only need to be heated for twenty minutes in the oven before they’re ready to be served. I was very excited when presented with all of these tempting beauties and SWEET CHILLI CREME FRAICHE, which has basically revolutionised my life.
Hailing from Bristol, Pieminister are keen to support local businesses in the West Country. This meant an astoundingly generous goody bag full of all of these wonders.
I also sampled Orchard Pig’s Totally Minted – a lightly sparkling pink grapefruit and mint drink with a hint of lime. It was fantastic: very unusual with beautifully balanced flavours and just the right amount of sweetness. Orchard Pig also do a range of cider so I recommend checking out their website.
Pieminister have four restaurants in London, and branches elsewhere across the UK, with the more international locations of Dublin and Amsterdam completing the list. I was at their Leather Lane branch where you buy their lighter or usual pies for £4.50 each or tuck into a full meal with sides of mash and mushy peas. Alternatively, buy pies online.
Pancake Day. Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Whatever the term… the day of pancake goodness approaches!
Simple though they are, pancakes are a comfort food that can insistently transport you back to your childhood days. They come in many different forms and many different guises. So if you want to branch out this Pancake Day, here are some top tips for shaking things up a bit…
The Functional: My Old Dutch
If you want pancakes, My Old Dutch has pancakes! The Holborn branch is a favourite haunt of LSE students, and it keeps things simple. It serves up a range of sweet and savoury treats at pitch-perfect prices – you can get a pancakey fix from £5.95. Or if you go for the Monday Madness, all pancakes are just a fiver. Bargain!
Try the apple/pear and cinnamon for the perfect amount of sweetness and the ability to smugly claim that you’ve just eaten one of your five-a-day.
Sitting on the Aldwych, The Delaunay is a fixture on the London dining scene for serving up good quality European fare in rather swish settings. However, The Delaunay is definitely not above serving the simple delights that are pancakes. On their brunch menu, there are the classic delights of bacon and maple syrup (£9.75) and blueberries and crème fraiche (£9.95), or the more unusual plum and cinnamon compote (£10.50). I’m not going to lie though – it’s all about the bacon. Who can resist that saltiness cutting through the sweetness, cushioned with some soft dough? Not me, anyway.
The atmosphere is far more laid back than you might expect from a place that has doormen and two people working front-of-house. Settle in and get your pancakes on order. Also, fear not: at the Delaunay, poshness does not equate to portion poverty. The pancakes are some of the heaviest we’ve ever sampled and they’re huge. You may well be defeated.
Savoury – Okonomiyaki by Sho Foo Doh, Pacific Social Club
Stop with the sushi stereotypes! There are pancakes in Japan too, and they’re delicious enough that you should definitely put them on your food radar. Famously un-Japanese in aesthetics is the incredibly messy okonomiyaki. This is a savoury pancake, made from the standard eggs and flour, but with cabbage, topped with a sweet sauce, mayonnaise, fish flakes and seaweed. It can have various fillings – most popular is squid or pork. Yes, it sounds like a catastrophe but trust us, it works.
For some seriously delicious and messy times, head to the Pacific Social Club on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night where Sho Foo Doh cooks up Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (£8) which include NOODLES!! You can then add a range of toppings priced between £0.50 and £3.
If you absolutely refuse to take your pancakes savoury, then you need to get stuck in to dorayaki. These are similar to Scotch American pancakes but come with a gorgeous sweet filling sandwiched in between. In Japan, the filling tends to be azuki bean paste or custard, but a whole range can be bought from the Japan Centre, just round the corner from Picadilly Circus. Like this red bean and cream cheese mix. There’s also a really genius matcha (green tea) and mascarpone mix. Warning: these are addictive.