Crispy Calamari with Asian Salad

For a number of years, I’ve been staying at the Drayton Court Hotel in Ealing. It’s a budget-friendly alternative to pricier central London options. Plus, the Elizabeth Line makes getting downtown a breeze. West Ealing Station, just a short walk away, whisks you to central London in under 20 minutes by train.

I was eating in the restaurant and for my starter I went with the crispy calamari with asian salad and miso mayonnaise. I have found that how a restaurant cooks calamari is a good indicator of how they approach their menu and their cooking.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, so what I got was quite a surprise.

I wasn’t really expecting the asian salad to be so dominant on the plate. I was expecting a little more calamari than what was on the dish. I am not sure how well the batter worked, it was certainly crispy, but I do feel that it overpowered the squid.

I think the best way to describe this plate of food was “interesting”. I don’t think I would order it again if it was back on the menu. However it was a very different interpretation of crispy calamari and I would applaud Drayton Court for putting this kind of starter on their menu.

Burger and Chips

For years, the Drayton Court Hotel has been one of my favourite hotels in London. It offers a fantastic alternative to pricier central locations. Thanks to the Elizabeth Line, getting to the heart of the city is a breeze.

I had been busy in London all day and though I had eaten a nice lunch, by the evening I was a little peckish. Looking over the menu, I did think I quite fancy a burger, so I went with the cheeseburger and chips. I always think that if you buy a burger in a hotel or in a pub, that it needs to be special, something better than you would buy from a high street burger chain, especially when you consider that you are paying a lot more money for the burger as well.

The burger was dressed with Monterey Jack Cheddar, pickle, burger sauce, lettuce and tomato; all served in a brioche bun, along with a portion of chips.

burger and chips

This was a tasty burger and I enjoyed the chips as well. The burger was intense and meaty. The accompaniments worked well. I also liked the chips.

Great flat white

I kind of guess I am getting to be a bit of a flat white aficionado as it is my coffee of choice when I am drinking coffee out and about. At home I usually have an espresso or a lungo. 

My first experience of the flat white was out in New Zealand in 2009, and I really liked it, a more intense coffee experience than the cappuccino I was use to, and much nicer than an americano.

I had some time to kill at @Worle, a local gym in Weston-super-Mare. So I ordered a flat white. What I did like, was they let me take a seat and they would bring it over to me. I really like it when coffee places do that, much more civilised than waiting around for your name to be called. I once lost a coffee like that, so much so, that I rarely use my name, James, when asked for my name in a coffee place. Too many people called James who drink coffee, who would believe that.

My coffee arrived and it looked great. It was also an excellent coffee. Sometimes I worry about coffee places in places which aren’t coffee places, such as gyms. However this place knew how to make coffee and the coffee itself was expertly roasted as well, good strong flavours. I was impressed and enjoyed the coffee.

Caesar Salad

I was staying at the Drayton Court Hotel in Ealing, it is  of the regular places I stay when in London It is significantly cheaper than central London, and with the Elizabeth Line, hitting central London is really fast.

When staying away I don’t usually have salad in the evenings, as partly I want something more substantial and filling, and partly as I probably would have had a s salad for lunch as I generally don’t do sandwiches. However this time I was quite hungry (as I had missed out on lunch) so I went with a pizza and the Caesar salad alongside.

The pizza was excellent, fresh base, freshly cooked in a proper pizza oven. The Caesar salad was described as coming with cos lettuce, pickled anchovies, confit egg yolk, sourdough croutons and Parmesan.

Caesar salad

Well there were some overlarge sourdough croutons, there were anchovies, Parmesan and lettuce. However the described confit egg yolk had been replaced with a halved boiled egg. Didn’t mind that replacement that much.

The salad was delicious and I really enjoyed it, so much so, that I have recreated the dish a few times since at home.

Steak Salad and a Flat White

When working in our London office, there is quite a choice of places around Fetter Lane for lunch. One of my regular haunts is Coco di Mama, one of a chain of pasta and coffee places across the capital. Their mainstay for lunch is the pasta pot, however they also have a nice selection of salads. On a recent visit to London I went out at lunchtime for some food, it was raining, so I only got as far as Coco di Mama. I picked up a steak salad and a flat white. I hadn’t seen this salad offering before, so was intrigued to try it out.

It was a tasty salad, the steak was nice and tender, and there was a good ratio of protein to salad. I also liked the dressing. Good choice I think.

Oh, I also enjoyed my flat white.

Nice Flat White

I was heading to a meeting in Central London and misjudged the time it would take, so I had forty minutes before I needed to be in the room. So I decided I would go for a coffee. I had anticipated visiting a Caffe Nero or similar, but did quite like the look of The Route on the Strand. I went in, and ordered a flat white and took a seat.

It’s not a huge place, there are four seats inside and four on the street. If it was busy you would probably have to make do with a takeaway cup.

This was a lovely looking coffee, made with care. It also tasted great as well.

Time to visit the Pelican State

When visiting London earlier this year I had gone for a walk around Bloomsbury before heading back to my hotel for steak and chips. On that walk I had noticed the brand of Pelican State and added it to places I thought I might like to try.

So on a more recent visit to London I decided I would head to the Pelican State and try out their food. I went with the Crispy Seafood Lunch Deal. This was prawns, green-lipped mussels, squid rings, red potatoes, large portion of fish and a sauce of my choice. I went with the aioli. 

It was served very quickly.

plate of crispy seafood

It was quite a substantial plate of food. I found the crispy coating more crunchy than crispy. It was a nice selection of seafood. I liked the prawns and squid, the mussels could have been better, as the crunchy coating made the mussels difficult to shell and eat. There was a large portion of fish. I think I should have had a side of coleslaw with it.

Overall I did enjoy the dish. They also do a Prawn Boil lunch deal, but I did think that it might be a bit messy to eat.

Time for Sushi

There are a number of places for sushi in Weston-super-Mare and after doing some research decided we would visit Sakura Finest on the Boulevard. They had a good gluten free offer. They don’t really have an online presence, so I actually went there to check the gluten free options and to book a table. They limit the number of covers they do, so to ensure that everyone has a better experience; over filling the place with people.

On the day itself, we arrived a little early and were given a warm welcome, we took our seats and poured over the menu. There was a lot of choice. I found it difficult to make a decision but got there in the end.

I had some tempura soft shell crab maki.

This was a beautifully presented dish. The crab had a crispy tempura batter and tasted of crab. They were delicious.

I also had a portion of Tori Kuwayaki, crispy chicken in a teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds. 

We had this made gluten free. I did think the salad garnish was a little bit on the large side. The chicken was tender and tasty.

I had some maguro (tuna) nigiri.

The nigiri was presented lovely, and looked fantastic. The tuna was lovely and fresh.

Feeling a little peckish, we ordered some more sushi, and this time I had some hokigai (surf clam) nigiri.

It was very interesting, and I was intrigued about the dish. It again was beautifully presented. The clam was a little chewy, but it was tasty.

Overall we had a delicious meal. 

Illy no more

Back in 2023 I had made a couple of visits to the Illy Cafe at the top of Park Street. On a recent visit to Bristol I did like the idea of a coffee and so headed to the Illy Cafe and was disappointed to find it had closed down. So, went to Caffe Nero instead.

A really excellent Illy coffee

I was visiting Cambridge and walking down Burleigh Street. I was on my way back to the railway station. However it started to rain. I did think about walking back to Fitzroy Street and visit the Caffe Nero there (as I had my £1 offer code). However I thought I might get too wet. On Burleigh Street was Giovanni’s caffe’ and pizzeria. 

modern cafe building with an awning and seating outside

They had an Illy coffee sign outside, which is always a good sign so went in.

I was give a nice warm welcome by the chef attending the pizza oven, and beckoned to take a seat. Outside it was quite a modern building, inside it had more of an Italian taverna feel. The place was dominated by the huge pizza oven. I looked over the menu, if I was hungry I might have chosen a pizza, but I only really wanted a coffee.

I went up to the bar and ordered an espresso macchiato. They also had a lovely selection of cakes, and I did think about it, but in the end went with just the coffee. Went back to my table and waited for the coffee to arrive.

Really nice to get a “proper” coffee complete with a glass of water (and hidden around the back a biscuit).

tray with coffee, water and sugar

It was an excellent coffee. I was very tempted to stay in Cambridge and go there for dinner. Another table had ordered pizza and it looked great.

No sooner had I finished my coffee, then the rain had stopped (or eased off) and I could head off to the station.