Review: La Taberna Alhambra, Madrid

cof

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.

Fortunately, she had done some research (by research, I mean, looked up some decent restaurants) and she ushered me promptly into La Taberna Alhambra on the way home. Continue reading

Sirloin Steak Ramen! Senrigan’s 5th Anniversary, Komabatodaimae

Sexy but dangerous

Sexy but dangerous

Every day I cycle to school past a sole ramen store on a restaurant-sparse stretch of road. Every day, I glance up at the yellow sign and think “I must try that one day.”

That store is called Senrigan (千里眼 – ‘clairvoyance’) and on Friday I finally tried it. With serious consequences. Continue reading

Review: Ikinari Steak, Plena Makuhari, Chiba

Hello beautiful

Hello beautiful

Sorry for the break everyone! It’s taken me a little while to get settled with daily classes, tests and homework, and moving to an apartment WITH NO REFRIGERATOR (can you feel my pain?!). I am, however, proud to report that I have not been lax on the eating front and have loads of delicious food to share with you all! 🙂 So without further ado, let me introduce…

ONE OF THE BEST STEAKS EVER

You may well know that I am very fussy about my steak. I often order it despite the fact that I am invariably disappointed. So when I’m raving about a steak, this is your cue to stop slumping and perk up and listen (provided you’re not vegetarian, of course). I should warn you that there are a lot of meaty pictures to follow like this… Continue reading

Review: Holborn Dining Room

Roast Rib Eye

Roast Rib Eye

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.

Hello beef!

Hello beef!

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).

Valhrona chocolate

Valhrona chocolate <– order this

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.

Bakewell tart - modern style?

Bakewell tart – modern style?

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!

Food 3/5
Value 1.5/5
Atmosphere 4/5
Service 4/5

Website: http://www.holborndiningroom.com/
Where: 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
When: Mon – Fri 7am – 11.30pm; Saturday 8am – 11.30pm; Sunday 8am – 10.30pm

Review: One Blenheim Terrace (much steak love)

IT'S SO BIG

IT’S SO BIG

Oh, what’s this? A review of a Michelin-recommended restaurant? How is Pheebz affording this, then? Well…

1) I had a Groupon voucher that gave me £40 of food for just £20.

2) The food is really not that outrageously priced, especially for the quality and portion sizes.

We were sat in a chic, modern and airy restaurant and presented with a tantalising menu. A very friendly and genuine waiter came to take our order.

As this is an upmarket place, little complimentary items arrived. Not only did we get some fresh bread, but we got miniature… plant pots.

Super kawaii! ^_^

Super kawaii! ^_^

Plant pot

Plant pot – everything is edible save the pot 😉

Yes, once we’d done the obligatory squealing at its cuteness (I have spent too much time in Japan where anything small is automatically cute), we investigated this beautiful presentation. The pot was filled with a mayonnaise-like sauce, and covered in “earth” – soya pieces. Little veggies were then artfully arranged. My co-diner found the dip a little tangy and peculiar, especially as the veggies weren’t enough to eat all of it, but I’m a sauce-fiend so I ploughed through it in seconds.

For starters, we tucked into artichoke soup (~£6?). It had a very mild and slightly earthy flavour, but we really appreciated its subtlety. Plus, the portion size was very generous.

Artichoke soup

Artichoke soup

The main course meant I ended up like this:

OMG STEAK FANGIRL MOMENT

OMG STEAK FANGIRL MOMENT

You may already know that I am OBSESSED with beef. Obsessed. My mother craved it when she was pregnant with me and I therefore blame her for my carnivorous addiction. The smell of roast beef in the oven results in me half-stumbling and drooling towards the kitchen and hanging around vacantly until the beef is served on the table.

Therefore, when I saw Bone-In Rib-Eye Steak and Chips (£27) and I remembered my lovely Groupon offer, my excitement was extreme. Behold this glorious piece of meat and admire its 300g of beauty:

I am in love with this whopper

I am in love with this whopper

The steak was succulent, flavoursome, tender – and perfectly cooked. In short, it was everything I could have wanted from a steak. Not even the rather strange Café de Paris butter could detract from its majesty – although a garlic butter accompaniment might have elevated it even further. It was still, however, the finest steak I’ve eaten in a while.

Top this off with expertly crisp chips and perfect vegetables, and this was heaven. Quite often restaurants let themselves down on the vegetables – poor quality, bland and/or overcooked. Not One Blenheim Terrace – the asparagus and spinach (£4.50 each) really were mouthwatering.

Veggie heaven

Veggie heaven

Veggie heaven

Veggie heaven

For dessert, I took deep-fried Oreos with vanilla ice-cream (£6), which, despite sounding gloriously gluttonous, I actually found a little bit unexciting.

Deep-fried Oreos

Deep-fried Oreos

My co-diner took freshly-made Madeleines – simple little sponge cakes – with a rich, chocolatey hot sauce (£4). This was by far the better choice for the quality chocolate hit and for the price.

Madeleines

Madeleines with hot chocolate hotness

Just when we thought the delights were over, we were presented with complimentary chocolate brownies to take home.

Yay for complimentary brownies!

Yay for complimentary brownies!

All packed up for home

All packed up for home

All this was accompanied by really warm service. One minor gripe – we paid with cash, including tip, and a waiter who hadn’t served us ‘forgot’ to bring us out £4 of change. A little bit of a disappointing ending to what was a fantastic meal.

One Blenheim Terrace 4/5 – Great portions and great quality. Beef-lovers – go and eat their steak. And take me, please.

Food 4.5/5 – Delicious.
Value 4/5 – For the quality and portion-size, I won’t complain.
Atmosphere 4/5 – Laid back.
Service 4/5 – A really lovely team, save for the one waiter at the end of the meal.

Website: http://www.oneblenheimterrace.co.uk/
Where: 
1 Blenheim Terrace, London, NW8 0EH
When: Tues – Sat 9am – 11pm, Sun 10am – 4pm

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.

Steak

Steak

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
When: 
Mon – Sun: 12:00 – 23:00
Website: http://flatironsteak.co.uk/

Review: Rotary Bar & Diner (Shoreditch pop-up)

STEAKPop-ups are all the rage at the moment and are definitely expanding their definition. Forget a temporary shop for two-weeks – Rotary Bar & Diner are open for a full 10 months. And when I found out that they would be offering meaty things with 25% off for their soft opening, I couldn’t resist a trip.

Inside Rotary

Inside Rotary

Capitalising on the notion of “pop-up” and the general dilapidated-cum-trendy feel of Shoreditch, Rotary Bar & Diner is contains a variety of styles and patterns, high and low diner-style tables and pots of mismatched cutlery.

Our waitress was incredibly friendly and relaxed, and was evidently learning on the job as she explained the menu to us. 

The menu offers buns and barbecued meat, as well as a range of choices form the grill. We both took ribeyes (£20 for 300g) with the ‘house sauce’ – a green peppercorn sauce. The food arrived incredibly promptly and, although it served on an ugly plate and in a manner that made me think of dodgy school canteens, the giant ribeye steak boldly sitting in the middle dispelled this notion. After all, no canteen serves steak.

Don't judge by appearance: 300g of ribeye steak with green peppercorn sauce

Don’t judge by appearance: 300g of ribeye steak with green peppercorn sauce

My main concern when presented with this was not “How am I going to eat it all?” but “How am I going to eat tonight when I’m going to a potluck party tonight and it’s already past 3pm?!” Steak always comes first, however.

I have very high steak expectations but I was very pleased with the beast before me. First of all – and always a good sign – my steak was cooked medium-rare, just as I asked. It was also fairly tender – probably 7 on a scale from 1 (not tender) to 10 (very tender) –  and it tasted properly steaky and flavourful, like a good quality piece of meat should. The sauce was slightly sweet and really quite delicious. A minor point – I think the steak could have done with some more seasoning because when I had a mouthful without sauce, I wanted to add some salt and pepper.

However, my tastebuds might have been biased – or rather, obliterated – by the dripping cooked chips, which were so over-salted that my companion and I ended up trying to scrape the salt off them!

Dripping cooked chips

Dripping cooked chips AKA salty devils

The chips themselves were tasty and crispy but our mouths were burning by the end of the meal. However, our waitress was wonderfully receptive to my comments, explaining that they were keen for lots of feedback. I hope they’ve fixed this problem by now.

We couldn’t say no to salted milk chocolate ‘pudding cup’ (£5) – a kind of rich and dense chocolate mousse. I had the salted caramel peanuts for a topping, which again overdid the salt! I’m also more of a dark chocolate fan.

Salted caramel milk chocolate pudding with salted caramel peanuts

Salted caramel milk chocolate pudding with salted caramel peanuts

My friend got crushed Oreos which provided a bit of relief from the salt. Yum.

Salted caramel milk chocolate pudding cup with crushes Oreos

Salted caramel milk chocolate pudding cup with crushes Oreos

Rotary Bar & Diner 4/5  – A few creases to iron out, but go for real comfort food – delicious, good quality meat.

Food 4/5 – Stop with the salt! But otherwise, very good.
Service 5/5 – Had a laugh with our waitress. She was very attentive.
Value 4/5 – For the size and quality, I have no complaints.
Atmosphere 3/5 – Um, dining at 3.30pm on a Thursday during  a soft opening wasn’t the best time to determine this. But it felt very chilled out.

Rotary Bar & Diner
70 City Road EC1Y 2BJ