Originally published under my alias Queen Spatula on Tryum.com. Check out the site for more great foodie recommendations.
If, given the Christmas splurge, you’re hardly feeling flush for cash this January, it can be highly inconvenient to find yourself in central London and in desperate need of lunch. Such a situation can also ruin any new year resolutions you’ve made on healthy eating.
Let’s consider the following dilemma. You only have £6.90 to spend on lunch. You could get a burrito and screw the health repercussions. Or you could get a take-out salad and a juice. You may feel saintly but your stomach will likely be despondent within a half an hour, and the chances are that some pre-packed lettuce really didn’t excite your taste-buds.
Or how about option three: you could go to Dozo, get a delicious Japanese set lunch and feel absolutely amazing. This comes with the added bonus of getting to smugly gloat at any passer-bys with supermarket sandwiches.
Wedged next to Soho’s famous G-A-Y club, Dozo has a modest store front but a surprisingly authentic interior. It’s beautifully decorated – a large koi (carp) adorns the walls and low-set tables with a dropped floor replicate dining arrangements common in Japan. It’s a little dim inside but it’s an oasis of calm in one of London’s busiest districts.
Of course, you can’t see its exquisite décor from the outside. What is really going to draw you in is the following sign:
A lunch set for £6.90? Really?
Some scepticism is perfectly understandable. That is until you’re presented with a beef teriyaki bento with perfectly cooked rice, two sets of pickles, a side salad and some miso soup. The teriyaki sauce is fantastic – full of great umami flavour and steering on the right side of sweet – and the salad is fresh with a great tangy dressing. What’s more, if you have penchant for drinking the sauce – and who would blame you when it tastes this good – the waiting staff will take pity on you and provide you with a spoon 😉
There’s a whole lot more than teriyaki dishes in the 12 – 3pm offer: crunch on some prawn and vegetable tempura, tuck into tonkatsu (deep-fried breaded pork cutlet), slurp through some ramen or dine on some sushi. Again – any of these for £6.90.
So my sound advice to you is… go and strand yourself in central London immediately and wait for lunchtime. Dozo will leave you with a happy and healthy body and wallet.
When writing a review, or indeed anything at all, Wikipedia is an invaluable source of information. However, I’m a little perplexed by the Wikipedia page for TV chef Bobby Chinn, who is the man behind trendy Soho opening, House of Ho. The page [last accessed: January 11th, 2014] is sparse on information and opens with the golden line: “Bobby Chinn, born 3 April 1964 in Auckland, New Zealand, is a restaurateur and a curt and at times a disrespectful television host in Hanoi, Vietnam of mixed Chinese American and Egyptian heritage.”
Unflattering description or no, the arrival of Chinn’s House of Ho has been causing quite a buzz on the food scene in London. Chinn already has successful restaurants in Hanoi and Saigon, and expectations were high. All I can say is that, if the description of him is accurate, I pray he doesn’t read this review: despite being really, really excited, I left House of Ho extremely underwhelmed.
Located on Old Compton Street, House of Ho is sleek, modern and beautifully decorated. Simple, sharply cut wooden tables loom through the dimly lit restaurant. The layout is particularly interesting with the space divided into corridors and alcoves for those wanting to dine in a more intimate setting.
Service was warm and friendly. One of the waitresses either did not have enough English or enough knowledge to describe items on the menu, but such hiccups are to be expected in the soft opening.
We settled ourselves down and contemplated the menu, which is divided into ‘Light and raw’, ‘Hot and grilled’, ‘Ho’s dishes’ (the house specialities), ‘Sides’ and ‘Desserts’.
It is only when we started tucking into the dishes that disappointment began to sink in. We first tucked into Seafood Ceviche with Mangosteen Coconut Dressing and Truffle Oil (£9). Undeniably, it looked completely stunning. It included a mix of sea bass, squid and shrimp and should have been light and refreshing. However, none of the flavours settled together; it ended up overly tangy and haunting our mouths for an unpleasantly long period afterwards. I far preferred the rendition I recently had at Chotto Matte.
The general theme of the evening, however, was blandness. We worked our way through Pho Cuon Wild Mushroom (£4) (rice noodle rolls), which were completely unmemorable, followed by possibly the most unexciting pork ribs I have ever tried (£6.50). They were tamarind barbecue. Apparently.
Depressingly, my dining partner who is about as keen on food as cats are on swimming, turned to me and said, “If I’m picking up that the food here is unexciting, then there is definitely something wrong.”
Fortunately, there were a few dishes that broke away from this. Like the ‘Shaking Beef’ (£14) which is simply wok-fried beef with soy, but had just enough umami flavour to hook us. However, it was so small that I was afraid that a violent sneeze might vanish it.
The Grilled Chicken Wings with Chilli and Oyster Sauce (£6) were sticky, gooey and really quite tasty, but the stand-out dish was the Morning Glory (£4) – water spinach. Yes, we couldn’t quite believe that our favourite dish was a vegetable side.
The Moulton Marou Chocolate Cake (£6.50) was also really delicious – both rich and intense – although the lemon and coffee sauce on the side jarred horribly.
It’s a shame the service slowed down towards the end of our meal. It took a while to get dessert and ages to get the bill. When it did arrive, we were so very relieved that we went during the soft opening with 50% off. I think I would have been shaking more than the beef if I’d paid full prices.
House of Ho 2/5 – Underwhelming, bland and overpriced. So very disappointing.
Food 2.5/5 – Hit-and-miss flavour-wise.
Value 2/5 – It may be Soho but I am perplexed as to why House of Ho is being marketed as affordable dining. Maybe the average customer has a very small appetite?
Atmosphere 2.5/5 – Loved the décor but the music was intrusive and completely incongruous.
Service 3/5 – Friendly, but a little slow (potentially soft opening issues).
A contemporary dim sum teahouse. That’s how Yauatcha describes itself on its website and how could that fail to sound like a really fun idea? Lots of small dishes to graze upon, laid back chatter in between comforting sips of tea. It’s perfect for catching up with friends or a casual date. Add a Michelin star to its credentials, however, and my former student self begins to get nervous. Visions of minuscule morsels and a monstrous bill begin to rise in front of my eyes.
That’s why I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw an eight-dish tasting menu for two for the very specific amount of £28.88. It may only be available Mondays to Thursday between 2 and 6pm, but £14.44 a head just didn’t seem credible.
A Michelin-star restaurant that is actually affordable?! Yauatcha is a creation from Alan Yau, who previously developed the Wagamama and Busaba Eathai restaurant chains, so perhaps affordability shouldn’t be that unexpected. Except from that fact that he also created the high class Hakkasan, also with Michelin star and where prices are a casual £58 for a Sunday dim sum menu.
The catch had to be in the portions. The dim sum had to be so small that they might be accidentally inhaled whilst sneezing. One sharp intake of breath and the food would vanish forever, never once grazing the tongue.
These, however, proved to be wild fantasies. I left Yauatcha comfortably full and desperate to throw my money at them again: the food, in case you haven’t guessed, was beyond excellent.
Quite frankly, I have no idea why Yauatcha has escaped my radar, and if it’s not been on your map either, sound the alarms, get out your GPS and cancel your weekend plans – dining here should be an imperative for any foodie.
Behind a front of dark blue glass lies a sleek, modern interior with dark wood-topped tables, padded chairs and cakes. That’s right – beautiful, colourful and extravagant cakes lining a bar near the front window. The temptation is so blatant that it should be illegal.
We settled in, placed our orders and awaited the goods, fortunately with the desserts out of our line of sight. They were, however, soon forgotten as a myriad of delights decorated our table.
The first dish to come was sticky rice with chicken and shrimp wrapped in a lotus leaf. Simple though this was, it was one of the highlights of the meal. It was beautifully flavoured that I would have happily been served it as an entire meal and eaten a giant bowlful without getting bored. It was so delicious that I found myself trying to save some until last.
We were then presented with a variety of dumplings which banished unfortunate past memories of stodginess and really highlighted the subtlety that is so often lost in Chinese cuisine.
Each dish was a delight and devoured with pleasure, and perhaps a little sorrow: they tasted so good that they inspired extreme greed and cravings for more.
Particularly worth noting was the venison puff that carefully balanced sweetness against the rich flavour of the meat. The prawn and beancurd cheung fun (steamed rice roll), whilst not the most aesthetic piece to Western eyes – indeed it is sometimes called ‘pig intestine’ due to its appearance – was firm but light, and again disappeared all too quickly.
Even though we were embarking on an extraordinary tasting journey, we were aware of the high quality service we received: our waitress had exactly the right approach – that perfect balance between professionalism, genuine interest and pride in what was being served. And, of course, why wouldn’t the waiting staff be proud? They’re serving excellent food. Yauatcha is in a class of its own.
Yauatcha 5/5 – Stop press. I think this is my first 5/5 review ever. I cannot praise Yauatcha enough.
Food 5/5 – Go try it for yourself. Words fail me. Value 4/5 – Perhaps a little expensive for dim sum but you can’t fault the quality. Atmosphere 4/5 – A laid back vibe, which is good because we were squeezed quite close to the other tables. Service 5/5 – Completely on the ball.
I guess it’s a symptom of the age we live in that I’m suspicious of anything that doesn’t have a Wikipedia page on it. ‘Nikkei cuisine’ simply doesn’t exist. Some rudimentary Internet searches, although not the most fruitful, do give it come patchy context.
Originating from Peru, Nikkei cuisine is a hybrid of Japanese and Peruvian ingredients using Japanese preparation techniques and usually prepared by Japanese descendants. Apparently, this has been going on for the past 120 years and Lima is bustling with Nikkei restaurants, which is perhaps not surprising given Peru has the second highest Japanese population in South America.
Japanese food is forever trendy in the UK, but for the first time ever, a Peruvian restaurant won a Michelin star this September – Lima in central London. Some kind of Peruvian-Japanese hybrid, therefore, seems perfectly timed to cause an explosion in gastronomic gossip.
Chotto Matte is certainly trying to make a statement. It is huge – three-floors of dimly-lit swankiness on Soho’s Frith Street. Its aesthetics range from the polished minimalism of a high-end hotel to the currently hip industrialism with some graffiti-inspired art. The result, sadly, is a little clinical and cold, and doesn’t inspire appetite; when it’s empty, it feels like kind of place where lonely people clutch their drinks in the hope that alcohol might magic company, but warmth and liveliness do seep through once the room fills up.
Our welcome also sent out some mixed messages. My dining partner and I were greeted by the front-of-house who wished us a pleasant meal whilst reminding us that we had our table for two hours only. How subtle. How relaxing.
We were then squeezed onto a tiny table and approached by a waiter who could only be described as a bounding puppy. He greeted us with such a wide, friendly grin and unadulterated enthusiasm that we couldn’t help but smile. That was, until he failed to leave us alone.
We’d barely sat for a minute before he approached us an encouraged us to order. Thirty seconds later he returned. We opened our menus and he was back again. We touched the drink menus and he pounced again. If he hadn’t had looked so eager to please, we might have suspected that we were being forced to order.
We ordered a cocktails – which were both light and refreshing – whilst attempting to peruse the menu. Feeling slightly anxious and pressured, we ordered a ‘while you wait’ – a taco selection for £6.95. Then we hastily settled on Nikkei Tasting Menu I (£35, now listed as £40) and Nikkei Tasting Menu II (£45). Little did we know, we would have no time to relax before the dishes rained down on us with such dizzying speed.
Our waiter approached us and handed us two taco selections. One is included in the tasting menu, he explained, and the other was the extra starter we’d ordered. Laughing, he put them down, until I quite bluntly said that one would suffice!
The taco selection was, fortunately, very tasty, and we worked our way through snow crab yuzu and miso vegetables. The only minor problem was the tune spicy miso – served raw- was quite fishy, which suggested it wasn’t the freshest and so we tactfully left it.
Next up, we got quite excited when a waitress approached the table with a blow torch and cooked the aburi salmón before our eyes. It was delicious as well as gimmicky.
Overall, the dishes varied from really interesting or just plain bizarre. The most successful dishes involved seafood. The seafood ceviche – prawn, scallop, seabass, sweet potato, Peruvian corn, coriander, chive oil, citrus sauce – was amazingly zingy and fresh, and the Bacalao negro aji miso (black cod, yellow chilli miso) was wonderfully subtle. The triumph had to be Corbina shiso salsa (seabass, shiso, chilli, onion, ponzu), which made me re-think my hatred of that potent, citrus sauce and indeed nearly had me licking the plate.
The meat, however, didn’t quite make it as credible ‘fusion’ cuisine. The lamb chop was tasty if minuscule and the gyoza (dumplings) were hardly complemented by aji amarillo (yellow chilli pepper). The greatest sin was was the lomo saltado maki rolls. Lomo saltado is a classic Peruvian dish of stir-fried beef with onions, tomatoes and potatoes, and it should never – I repeat, NEVER – be wrapped in seaweed.
Nevertheless, this dish did provide salvation on our evening. Our over-enthusiastic waiter was becoming so overbearing that we could barely enjoy our dishes. We had a confusingly large number of waiters throughout the evening, who would explain every platter they brought us. Our main waiter, however, seemed oblivious to the practice and painstakingly went over each dish in rather poor English. He regularly popped up and asked us how our dish was before we’d had a chance to sample it!
It got to the point where my co-diner and I were so on edge and stressed out that we were hardly conversing. Our waiter approached again and we both winced.
“How were the maki rolls?” he beamed.
My polite customer veneer cracked and I told him that, unfortunately, the lomo saltado ones just didn’t work at all. He nodded keenly until my words began to sink in, and slowly, very slowly, the smile began to slide from his face. He made a half-grimace and hastily retreated without another word.
I looked at my co-diner. “I think I just kicked a puppy.”
After this incident, we were able to enjoy a much more peaceful meal and were given a free choice of dessert. I quickly polished off a salted caramel chocolate fondant with great relish.
We finished the meal in high spirits. The tasting menus were undeniably fun and the flavours definitely intrigue and amuse even if they don’t always seamlessly blend. However, the service and cramped tables detracted from the experience. At upwards of £50 a head for a meal and a drink, Chotto Matte needs to sharpen up. With these issues sorted, we’d happily give Nikkei cuisine a second chance.
Chotto Matte 3/5 – So trendy, quite tasty, but just a tad mixed up.
Food 3.5/5 – Some of it was really good. And some of it just was just… strange. Value 2.5/5 – Priiiiiicey, but decent quality. Service 2.5/5 – So polite and well-intentioned, but such a car crash! Atmosphere 2.5/5 – Stressful, if popular.
Welcome to the age of pop-ups and what a fun age it is. No longer tied to locations, rents, fixed times and dates, anyone with an idea for an event and a good amount of enthusiasm can start entertaining. This means themed events, ranging from Jamaican supper clubs to breakfasts on rooftops. Yet we are also in an age of experimentation, pushing the boundaries of what could be considered food, of what flavours go together. Out of this innovative gastronomic climate, Cocoa Kitchen was born – a pop-up that focuses on using chocolate in all dishes, both savoury and sweet.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, founders Annette Boraks and Jeremy Wickremer met through their shared passion for food. In the winter of 2010, Jeremy was organising a food festival and advertised on Gumtree for event organisers. “I responded on the spot,” explains Annette, “as it was the ideal combination: events, something I am experienced in and enjoy, and food – my true passion! We met and became friends on the spot.”
This led to a friendship firmly founded in food, but it wasn’t until early 2013 that they decided to organise pop-ups themselves. Their inspiration stemmed from an event on how to organise pop-up restaurants where four entrepreneurs from the dining industry shared their experiences.
“I remember my favourite speaker was Ceviche’s owner, Martin Morales, a Peruvian who came to London and put almost everything he had at stake to open his first restaurant, “ Annette recounts. “His funny and touching life story was what made me believe that anyone can do it. You just need to do it! After the event, Jeremy and I were exploding with excitement and energy. We didn’t even have to say it – it was already obvious we had to do something with that energy.”
Jeremy had already founded Ubuntu Chocolate, and given the general absence of any savoury chocolate dishes, the duo quickly spied a niche. They then invited Rado Andrian to join the team, bringing wine and cocktail expertise to the project. Just four months later, in July 2013, Cocoa Kitchen launched their first event, a three-course dinner. This included Michel Bras’ dark chocolate and blue cheese aperitif and the tantalisingly intriguing combination of white chocolate mashed potato with dark chocolate and sesame tiger prawns.
The chocolate tapas dining event, however, was a more casual affair to match the style of dining. We went along to Kingly Court, Soho, to find an open kitchen with stalls scattered around worktop tables. Several appetising plates were crammed next to bottles of various beverages and glasses. It was clear that this evening was not purely about the food: it would be an opportunity to talk with other foodies and acknowledge that you were all eyeing up the large saucepan of chocolate melting on the stove.
After some drinks, chit-chat and a lot of self-restraint, we were presented with a bowl of different types of chocolate and Jeremy talked us through the tasting. Needless to say this just whetted our appetites, and we soon were diving into the other tapas dishes.
Some of our favourites included:
Cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with white chocolate pesto The pesto was simply stunning. The chocolate not only sweetened the flavour but added a smoothness that meant it could have been eaten by the spoonful without anything else.
Butternut squash, red onion and feta, drizzled with chocolate Butternut squash and feta is simply one of the best flavour combinations that exists – sweetness and tanginess rolled into one, but the chocolate brought these flavours out even more clearly on the tongue.
Roasted peppers stuffed with ricotta, white chocolate, garlic and other secret ingredients
This could never fail as who could resist garlicky, cheesiness with a mild sweetness inside perfectly cooked peppers?
Perhaps not surprisingly given that their event was attended by some serious chocolate lovers, but the star of the evening was the sweetest: dates stuffed with goats’ cheese, drizzled in chocolate. There is no way that words can do justice to the flavour experience but they almost dispelled the warm, sociable atmosphere as we snatched them off the plates in a desperate frenzy.
The chocolate raspberry and chocolate orange cocktails were equally praiseworthy. They provided the most intense chocolate flavour of the evening – warm, rich and too thick to gulp quickly, tempting though that was. We mingled whilst sipping these, and happily chatted among the embarrassingly numerous piles of discarded cocktail sticks, a testament to just how much everyone enjoyed the food.
People stayed late and the question on their lips on leaving was what would be coming up next. Fortunately, there will be no-one suffering from chocolate withdrawal symptoms: Cocoa Kitchen have big ambitions for the future. As Annette explains, “We would like to regularly host events that gather inspiring and wonderful people, to create a cocoa community, where we share experiences and cool stuff. Practically speaking, we would like to challenge the limited the cooking presents us with, explore new ways of cooking, new ways of using chocolate in our everyday lives.
And who wouldn’t raise a chocolate cocktail to that?
For more information and for future events, head to:
Inamo is not a place to go if you need to catch up with an old friend. I made that mistake. I hadn’t seen said friend in three years. I looked at him, ready to engage in an update of everything that had happened in our recent pasts. But then my gaze drifted down towards the table and I was a moth to a flame: all I could do was to stare in fascination at the interactive menu.
Each table has a projector above it, which beams down the menu and all kind of gimmicks that are guaranteed to entertain for hours. We set mood lighting. Purple, then blue. We turned our table into a cake display. We turned it into beautiful mountain scenery. We even discovered games!
The screens are addictive, and really, really fun. They may kill your conversation, but you may still communicate through squeals of excitement at the pretty images appearing before you.
A rumbling stomach, however, is a good reminder of why you’re there in the first place: to eat. The food is Asian-fusion with Thai, Japansese, Korean, Malaysian and Chinese dishes, and although beautifully presented, the prices would make anyone who has been to Asia cry. Fortunately, the two-courses for £15 (before 19:15) menu represents good value, even if the choices are limited.
We started with some Spicy Aubergine (£5.25) which are fried with pinyin (“cloud ear” similar to a black mushroom). Fairly simple but aubergines can seem like the king of delicacies if cooked well. These were very pleasing indeed.
We also sampled the Chicken Satay (£6.50), which were moist and served with a surprisingly light peanut satay sauce.
For mains, I took Berkshire Pork Neck (£14.75) described as ‘Slow braised tender pork neck served with confit of apple, spicy chocolate sauce, red wine reduction & crushed wasabi peas.’ There were a lot of interesting flavours going on here but it might have been a little too ambitious – they didn’t quite all fit together and the apple didn’t appear to be more than simply chopped apple. Overall, it was enjoyable but in need of a slight re-think, especially as the chocolate flavour was not detectable.
My co-diner tucked into the Thai Red Curry (£13.75), a standard creamy coconut curry with butternut squash, mangetout and mushrooms. The sauce was rich and nuanced – pleasing but not revolutionary.
Inamo is fun and chic. If you have a higher budget, its menu sounds tantalising – who could refuse Soft Shell Crab Maki Rolls and Hot Stone Rib-Eye? Or if you want to feel like a god and project landscapes across the table, then it’s also worth a visit.
Inamo Soho 3/5 – Fun and stylish Asian-fusion food but be prepared to pay for the novelty of interactive menus.
Food 3/5 – Imaginative but in need of refining. Value 2/5 – Good quality, but definitely pricey. Atmosphere 3/5 – Maybe lunch isn’t a big thing, but there wasn’t anyone there! But when you have mood lighting, who needs people?! Service 3/5 – A little slow at the beginning – they hadn’t switched our screens on, and therefore we had no way of ‘calling’ the waiters!
Street food – it’s all the rage. Which is an invitation for all kinds of foreign dishes to hit London as, let’s face it, Britain doesn’t have a street food culture. One might invoke our national obsession with the weather as an explanation for this. One might also invoke the weather as the reason to why a lot of this foreign “street food” is being sold in cafés rather than on the streets.
Yalla Yalla (1 Green’s Court, Soho) is a tiny little café that serves up Beirut “street” food where squeezing around the wooden tables is an achievement in itself. One wall is lined with cushion-filled bench and small stools provide seating for the people opposite. Be prepared to be cosy.
They serve a whole range of tasty Lebanese dishes, including casseroles, grills and meat skewers, along with mezze and wraps. We sampled the following:
Halloum Meshoue – grilled halloumi cheese with tomatoes, black olives, fresh mint and olive oil. The mint provided a refreshing contrast to the saltiness of the halloumi. And it’s hard to go wrong with halloumi. Mmm.
Makale Samak – deep fried calamari, white bait and tiger prawns with spring onions, crispy aubergine and chilli minted greek yoghurt. The batter was fairly light, crisp and well-seasoned. Overall, it was pleasant but not outstanding.
AND NOW….the WRAPS! (Can you tell that I enjoyed them?)
I took the Lamb Shawarma (£4.50) – slices of marinated lamb, sumac onion, pickled turnips, tomato and tahini sauce. It was so succulent and flavourful. And at a bargain £4.50, I thought life couldn’t get any better.
Then I attacked my sister’s Chicken Shawarma (£4.50) and realised that… yes, life could get better. The wrap was full of a fantastic garlic sauce that basically meant I had to eat half her wrap. I’ve been wistfully thinking about this chicken shawarma ever since. Highly recommended.
Yalla Yalla 4/5 – Cute and cosy café with reasonably-priced and very tasty food. It’s a winner.
Damson & Co represent a bit of a medley. Self-described on Twitter as a ‘British Deli & Coffee Shop’, their prized offerings consist of ‘London Roast Coffee & Cornish Tea, English Wine, British Charcuterie & Cheese. Ceviche and Billingsgate Oysters.’
Now, if that’s not chic and trendy, then I don’t know what is.
My friends and I popped along for their soft opening offer to see what delicious things we might sample. (How could we resist 50% off food and a free drink?)
Damson & Co do a variety of freshly pressed fruit juices (£4.00), which they can mix to your tastes in a rather cute bottle. I took an Apple & Pear combo, which was delightfully refreshing.
As it was lunchtime, there was a limited day time menu of soups, eggs, sandwiches or salads.
I chose the Poached Eggs with Dukeshill Shropshire Black Ham (£9.00) on an English muffin. This came with a hollandaise-style sauce, which was light, tasty and not too rich. The ham was fantastic – it had such a deep flavour. However, they overcooked one egg, which was a little disappointing. I insist on perfectly cooked eggs and, at these kinds of prices, I think everyone should.
Damson & Co also had a really tantalising array of sandwiches set out on the counter top. I took away a beef and pickles sandwich (£7.00), which sadly wasn’t as good as it looked – a little dry and way too vinegary.
Sandwich aside, the juice and eggs were enjoyable. But £12 for an extremely light lunch?! Guess this is what being trendy in London costs. There definitely wasn’t enough wow-factor for me, so I’ll have to settle for less chic establishments.
BRGR.CO is the London off-shoot of the Beirut-based restaurant. Judging by the amount of new burger places opening in London, the burger food trend has plenty of mileage in it yet and the wider world is not oblivious to this (US-chain Shake Shack opens in Covent Garden on July 5th). BRGR.CO themselves are expanding further into London, with a branch planned to open in Chelsea.
My trip to BRGR.CO came about due to fortunate circumstances otherwise known as Twitter competitions. I’m a Twitter novice but keeping an eye on the food tweet scene can be very beneficial. In this case, I won a late-night meal at BRGR.CO, Soho, which made me very happy indeed.
The deal is a bargain in itself: a 6oz burger, fries and a beer for £10 between 10pm and 1am.
Not being a beer drinker, I took a trusty friend who happily consumed it on my behalf, whilst I tucked into an Oreo Milkshake (£4.50), which was thick and creamy, but couldn’t quite get me over the Haché milkshake (although I suspect my current peanut fetish is biasing my opinion here).
Now for the burger itself. The patty is of the thinner variety and was, in short, really quite good. I was surprised by the pure beefyness of the flavour and it was also more succulent that many burgers I’ve sampled lately. The bun was a good consistency and the salad was served on the side, which allows any fusspots to sort out what they want to add.
The only disappointment were the fries, which were just like crispy air. Such a shame. But the burger kept me happy. And my dining partner said it was the best burger he’d eaten in a long time!
For those who don’t want burgers, there are also hot dogs on the menu, and for the veggies, two rather delicious sounding options that sound as if more thought has gone into them than the usual veggie options:
The Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich (£4.95) – Slices of grilled aubergine, courgette and mushroom, topped with fresh iceberg lettuce, rocket leaves, tomato and radish with melted Gruyère cheese.
The Falafel BRGR (£4.95) – Fava bean and spices with homemade herb tahini sauce, tomato, parsley and radish.
Interestingly, they also offer an ‘Afternoon Tea’ menu for £17, which includes mini-burgers, mini-cakes, milkshakes, and, of course, tea!
I’ve got my eye on their 8oz steak burger so I have a feeling BRGR.CO Soho and I will meet again. But hopefully not this scary giraffe-cow head on the wall.
BRGR.CO Soho 3.5/5
Food 3/5 – Burger is great but let down by fries. Value 4/5 – Late night deal is a bargain, otherwise prices are to be expected in central London. Service – 3/5 – Prompt. Atmosphere 2.5/5 – A little cramped and loud for my liking. It’s not a place where you can relax.
In contrast to my meal at The Diner, I’ll keep this review short and sweet.
The Diner is trying its hardest to live up to its namesake by being as American diner-style as it possibly can. This includes the booth seating and food served in baskets.
Now I’ve never actually been to an American diner, but I was, however, under the impression that American service involves overbearing niceness and smiles, even if it’s accompanied with a healthy dash of fakeness.
Our waitress for the evening wasn’t familiar with smiles. She wasn’t familiar with bringing items on time. And to be honest, I’m not sure she was familiar with her job. She lacked any ability to engage in a personable manner and stared at us with an expression of “Do you know how much you’re inconveniencing me by placing an order?!”
Combine this mildly hostile zombie with a large group of us sat at two cramped tables that could barely accommodate us and some poor acoustics, and the evening was not looking promising.
The food was the ray of hope. Food can make everything all right.
Not at The Diner. It isn’t terrible. It is just so distinctly average that I wouldn’t pay for it again.
I took the Arch Burger (£8.00), which involves a 6oz hamburger topped with St Louis pulled pork, Monterey Jack, coleslaw and dill pickle. Its appearance is rather aesthetically pleasing. However, it left no lasting impression at all. The burger was a little dry – disappointingly not pink in the middle – and the pulled pork contributed nothing to the overall flavour.
The fat fries (£2.90) and sweet potato fries (£3.30) were perfectly fine, and I also sampled Diner Fries (Cajun Spiced Fat Fries, £3.10), which were a little addictive in their salty spiciness.
Inspired by the divine milkshake offering from Haché, I ordered a chocolate and pistachio milkshake (£4.70) which was insipid and sickly.
To top this all off, we received a bill with an incredibly patronising “Thank you :-)” written on it. This seems to be the latest trend in some restaurants. A little personal message written on the bill. And if the service charge isn’t included, this fact is circled should we fail to notice it.
As someone who always pays service, this really, really annoys me.
In the case of The Diner, I was left speechless. How was our waitress able to draw a smile yet fail to produce an actual smile on her face?!
We debated whether to actually pay the service charge, and on reflection, we really shouldn’t have done. As was revealed in these discussions, she’d even forgotten to bring one of our co-diners’ hotdog and they’d had to chase it up.
What can save an evening is the company. It was my friend’s leaving party and she had plans. Now that she had fuelled herself on comfort food, it was gaming time. So we all piled off to the arcade in the Trocadero and shot some zombies. Much more satisfying indeed.
The Diner, Soho 1/5 – Terrible service and mediocre to below average food. Not much comfort from comfort food.
Website: http://www.goodlifediner.com/ Where: Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensall Rise, Gloucester Road, Islington, Covent Garden When: Seven days a week. Exact times vary depending on the branch.