Monthly Archives

March 2015


Lazy Susan Room at Smoking Goat, Soho

March 29, 2015

Smoking Goat has been described as a Thai BBQ restaurant and all the reviews have been amazing. But of course they don’t take reservations. So months ago we booked their Lazy Susan room. Which handles a maximum of ten people as a way to skip the queue. It was a set menu at £35 each – a pretty good deal as there is A LOT of food.

It’s a lovely dark room. Right in the bowels (yeah I went there) of the restaurant with a giant table. The service is fantastic. Friendly and attentive but with a light touch. People who know what they’re doing, and how to host.

First up was the coal roasted Aubergine salad. Poached egg and fish sauce.

Next, their famous chicken wings. Crisp, sweet, sticky, and steeped in fish sauce. The whole place smells of them. In a good way. We were warned that we would immediately want more of these, and that we could have more of them. But that we shouldn’t because there was loads of food to come. We listened to the warning. Ate the whole plate. And then immediately ignored the host’s great advice and ordered more anyway. Not pictured was their pomelo and chili salad which we had polished off well before the wings arrived.

Cornish clams in a yellow curry broth.

Smoked whole lamb shoulder basted with fermented shrimp, chilli & palm sugar. The main course. We carved it up at the table and ate it with balls of sticky rice which were served to us in little plastic bags. It was a great piece of meat. A really unique preparation. Smoky BBQ plus sweet and pungent thai flavours.

Green papaya salad

And still they kept on bringing more meat! Slow roast duck legs marinated with galangal, lemongrass & kaffir and basted with ketjap manis & white pepper. At this point I have to confess to being so drunk that I don’t remember much about them. But according to Jen they were the highlight of the meal. I’ll have to go back for the duck and their Crab dish, which also receives rave reviews, but sadly wasn’t on the menu that evening.

For dessert kaffir lime granita & rum coconuts. A good refreshing end to the meal with a slight hint of fish sauce (seriously).

And that was the slight problem with the series of dishes we had served up to us. Each one was delicious. But taken as a whole the intense fish sauce flavour became a bit one note. And that’s coming from someone who really does love that flavour. But it does need to be done carefully. The papaya salad for example had too much. The salt of which killed the other flavours.

But that’s a pretty minor gripe. The overall experience was fantastic. Just the right kind of chaotic food fun.

Smoking Goat
7 Denmark St

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Loong Kee Cafe, Dalston

March 20, 2015

Well, well, well. This is what happens when you don’t book ahead for Chinese New Year. After having the metaphorical door slammed in my face when trying to make a reservation at Yipin or Dotori, we resorted to the always reliable Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. We momentarily considered Spanish tapas but then I didn’t want to risk being struck down by a malevolent Chinese spirit. Settling on a place we’ve never tried before in the spirit of trying new things, we settled on Loong Kee rather than return to our favourite – the always reliable Tay Do. There were six of us and as the food was not memorable and the lighting was terrible, I didn’t bother taking loads of photos.

This is one of my favourite dishes of all time – Bun Thit Nuong with vietnamese spring rolls – vermicelli noodles with lemongrass marinaded chargrilled pork, fresh herbs and fish sauce. SO GOOD. I’ve had it at countless family dinners and it’s my failsafe order (besides pho) when I go for Vietnamese. The Loong Kee version didn’t make a good impression – the pork didn’t have much flavour and it was just very bland. I almost didn’t feel like finishing it – it’s the basic bitch version of the glorious original dish. But obviously I did because to not finish food would be out of character and I didn’t want to arouse suspicion. On the whole, the menu was all over the place – there was Thai food, there was Chinese food, yada yada yada. Usually not a great sign.

The best thing we ordered was the coconut ice cream. Served in a coconut shell. Refreshing, sweet and delicious. I would come back here just to order this!

Also can’t go wrong with fried banana fritters with ice cream. The bananas had a tad too much batter but maybe I’m just splitting hairs at this point. Next year, I won’t forget to book a table and a karaoke room at Yipin for Chinese New Year. OY VEY.

Loong Kee
134G Kingsland Road
London E2 8DY

Loong Kee Cafe on Urbanspoon


Frank’s Canteen, Highbury

March 15, 2015

Brunch is sometimes a victim of its own hype. Unfairly swept up into lists of “stuff white people like” or girly lists of things to do on a Sunday before hitting the mall, brunch is actually the most fuss-free, guilt-free meal of the week. You don’t have to wake up early for it and if you’re hungover with a complexion that looks “haunted”, a stack of pancakes and a fresh cup of coffee is the answer. Then you can drag your carcass home to lie facedown on the couch for the rest of the day. It’s a win-win.

Frank’s Canteen opened up a few months ago on Highbury New Park and has a simple no-nonsense rustic feel with white walls and a handful of pale wooden tables. We ordered the Potato cakes with smoked paprika butter, poached eggs, spring onions, spinach leaves, Norfolk black bacon & lemon crème fraiche dressing. This was good but despite the list of ingredients, it didn’t have a great deal of flavour. It’s nice to go out for brunch and order food that has a bit of an edge to it that makes it stand out. This is why I love going to Ottolenghi. It was just a tad on the boring side for £10. We assumed the potato cakes were a type of hash brown but it was more like some sort of bread.

The Huevos Rancheros were a much better option. Soft corn tortillas, poached eggs, chilli tomato salsa, refried beans, coriander & mature cheddar. I enjoyed it but again, I felt like it was lacking excitement and needed something more. Maybe we’ve gotten too picky and jaded? Other options are Poached Eggs on Sourdough toast served with side options like Braised red onions, tomato & borlotti beans, or Norfolk black bacon, Lincolnshire sausage and Smoked salmon. It’s a really nice and cosy neighbourhood cafe but there isn’t anything that particularly stood out like the Sydney breakfast at Highbury Arts Club or amazing Eggs Benedict at Yolk. But you can’t go wrong if you live in the area and just want to pop in for a fuss-free cup of coffee and plate of poached eggs and bacon.

Frank's Canteen
86 Highbury Park
London N5 2XE

Le Relais de Venise, Marylebone

March 11, 2015

Trying to go for dinner anywhere in the vicinity of Soho on a Friday night can make you start to feel a bit American Psycho. Name dropping restaurants like a crazed Wall Street fat cat, wondering where Patrick Bateman would eat and coming to the sad conclusion that if he were actually here, he would spit on your ragged clothing and leave you on the sidewalk clutching the roll of Oreos you happened to have in your bag. So no, we didn’t even bother trying to have dinner in Soho. Instead we went wandering up to unassuming Marylebone and got into a beaming queue where people were actually smiling. We were seated within 15 minutes. I had to pinch myself, the memory of being turned away from a Carluccio’s one Friday night still fresh in my memory.

And we had a GREAT meal. Le Relais de Venise is a Parisian restaurant (with 3 London locations and one in New York) with a unique French dining experience – there is just one dish. Green salad with walnuts dressed with mustard vinaigrette followed by steak frites, served with a secret sauce. There are no vegetarian options (SOZ) and no you can’t have the potato spiralized and then made into a wig instead. Just eat the fries. But don’t ask for ketchup (oops). And the best part? Just when I was wistfully eating my last “frite” the waitress came back with the rest of my steak (WTF) and another helping of fries served from a large silver platter – just like that scene from 101 Dalmations! I was genuinely taken aback. The French really know how to enjoy themselves. Zut Alors!

Le Relais de Venise, Marylebone
120 Marylebone Lane

Le Relais de Venise on Urbanspoon


Riverford at the Duke of Cambridge pub, Islington

March 1, 2015

I had serious high hopes for this meal. They had asked us to order our lunch in advance as there was a group of 8-10 – this takes the joy out of perving on the menu but I get it. I chose the organic roast chicken and gleefully used the drumstick emoticon without abandon the rest of the week. We showed up and were told that the roast menu was only available on Sunday. Which is fine. But why take our order? And WHO took our order? Is this like some kind of Hogwarts parallel universe and Draco Malfoy is enjoying my organic roast chicken lunch in a dank corridor somewhere, gleefully laughing like a maniac? All I know is there was no chicken served up in here.

Staring at the chalkboard menu, I really struggled to find something that sounded appealing. The pub itself is tucked away down a side street behind Angel station in Islington and has recently teamed up with the famed Riverford farm. It is perfectly delightful – all wooden tables and lots of natural light. And they are fully committed to being 100% organic – even down to the vodka in the Bloody Mary. But still, the menu. Winter Vegetable and Fennel Crumble as a main. Really? I settled on Pan-Fried cod steak with pearl barley and kale risotto. The other options were Venison Chop with Swede Gratin and Cavalo Nero or Spicy Lamb Chickpea Stew to share for £28.

The cod itself was incredibly bland and cut in a strange way – there were a million bones. And no flavour whatsoever. The pearl barley was delicious – but the kale risotto turned out to be just steamed kale leaves? Confused.

The creamy leek side dish was heavenly. I ended up just dumping it on the fish hoping for flavour osmosis.

Now this drink really perked me up. On weekends they have Veg Cocktails – this is the Gold’N Purple: beetroot, amaretto, orange and lemon zest. So sweet and delicious. Perfect for lightweight drinkers! I hate saccharine sweet drinks like that dreadful Haribo cider (Kopperberg and the like) and overly sweet cocktails that aren’t Pina Colada. This lured me into the false illusion that I was drinking a cold-pressed juice.

Dessert made up for the cod – hazelnut chocolate brownie with creme fraiche and apple crumble with cream. I felt confused after the meal. Aspects of it were highly enjoyable but the mains were super pricey and bland. Would go back for the beetroot cocktail and a side of creamy leeks if I was in the hood. I’m sure they would be thrilled to see me.

Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge
30 St Peters Street
Islington, London N1 8JT

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