Frankly it was rather disappointing

On visits to the Leather Lane market well before the Covid lockdown I had seen the Argentalia market stall a few times, but had not bought lunch there, though I did quite fancy the concept.

So on a recent visit a couple of months back, I had the opportunity to try out the stall. I went with the Argentalia Barbeque Box, which comes with Asado (ribs), Vacio (flap meat), Chorizo (sausage), Morcilla (black pudding), Pollo (chicken), Pork with chimichurri and variety of salads or fries.

This had the potential to be outstanding box of food, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

The salad was flat and insipid.

The fries were okay, but nothing special.

So what of the main attraction, the barbecued meat?

I think if the meat had actually been barbecued then this would have made the dish so much better than it was. The problem with the meat was that it was quite tough and chewy. It was almost braised, steamed rather than grilled.

I am not even sure I got everything on the list. 

Overall I was looking forward to a great box of barbecued meats, what I got was frankly rather disappointing.

Time to go back to Oxford for some Thai

Sasi’s Thai Food

As time passes I realise that many of the places I have written about in this blog have disappeared or have changed beyond recognition. Covid-19 has exacerbated and accelerated this process. I sometimes don’t want to search up for somewhere just in case they have closed. So one of my favourite places to eat Thai food was Sasi’s Thai in the covered market in Oxford. I now rarely get the chance to eat there, having stopped working in Oxford in 2015. I did manage a return visit there in 2019 and it was just as tasty as I remembered it. I had hoped to visit again, but with covid-19 and lockdown, those plans were scuppered. So on a recent quick visit to Oxford I decided I would grab lunch again at Sais’s Thai. I wasn’t actually sure if it would still be there, as with lockdown has resulted in many places closing (and walking through the covered market, many stalls and shops had closed). However I was pleased to see that it had survived and was open.

They had a really wide choice of dishes and it was difficult to decide what to have. In the end, despite wanting to try new stuff, I went with the familiar and had rice with two selections, choosing the crispy pork and the spicy squid.

I really like the crispy pork dish, so much so that I often try and recreate it at home. The combination of crispy flavoured pork, a variety of vegetables and a nice spicy sauce is delicious. Eating it I was reminded that though I enjoy my version, it still isn’t the same as the original. It was delicious.

I’ve always liked the squid dish from Sasi’s Thai and this time enjoyed it just as much as I did on my regular visits in 2014 and 2015. The squid was tender and the sauce was spicy but full of flavour.

Despite eating both dishes and feeling full, I was so tempted to order some more food, as it was so good.

I really enjoyed that lunch, it was a real blast from the past and it was nice to see they had maintained their quality and range of dishes. It was a little more expensive than I remember, but okay it was over six years ago when I went on a regular basis, so I can live with that.

Nice flat white

I was walking past Exmouth Market one evening and decided I wanted a coffee. Most of the usual coffee places were closed, but Caffé Nero was still open. I went in and ordered a flat white.

Despite the fact it was late and I was the only person in the place, the coffee was excellent. Well made and great coffee.

I had been there before on the way to a meeting at City, University of London a few years ago (pre pandemic) and it was nice coffee back then. I had also visited when staying at a nearby hotel.

Exmouth Market is quite a place for restaurants and cafes and after finishing my coffee I walked down the road, getting tempted by the different establishments. I was a little saddened to see that Paesan had closed down. Well not so much closed down, but turned into a pizza and craft beer place. I had had some excellent pasta there two years ago.

I enjoyed my coffee and carried on with my walk.

More Bao Buns Please

I really do enjoy a good bao bun and my first encounter with the Master Bao eatery at Westfield was back in December 2019 and  a return visit in January 2020. Restrictions have meant that January was my last visit to the Westfield shopping centre. However a recent return visit and needing lunch, meant I could revisit Master Bao once more.

I went with the meal deal of two bao buns and a side. I ordered the Prawn Bao and the Shiitake Mushroom Bao. The side I chose was fried chicken.

The Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions.

Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions

This was something I had not had before at Master Bao and it was rather good. The prawns tasted of prawn and the picked mooli added sharpness and bite to the softness of the bao bun and prawns. Really delicious.

Whilst the Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso

I have had this a few times now, and it was nice, not as much mushroom as I have had on previous visits, but still delicious.

The fried chicken was nice.

fried chicken

Simple and served with some sliced spring onions.

I really enjoyed the food and it was nice to have it again.

Brunch time

I had taken my car in for some work and had an hour or so to kill. The original plan was for me and my son to go and have breakfast at the Brunello Lounge, something we had enjoyed recently for his birthday.

Having dropped the car off and walked to the Lounge, we were a little too early having arrived before it opened. So we went for a walk along the seafront. I was reminded of Revo, a restaurant that had opened in what was the old aquarium. I made the suggestion that maybe we could try there for breakfast for a change? Decision was made and we walked over to Revo and went inside. It was rather empty, but it was an early morning in September, but we were given a warm welcome and we had a wide choice about where we could sit, so we chose a table by the window. 

We looked over the menu, there was quite a choice. My son went with the Revo Breakfast, myself I decided to have steak and eggs. Two fried eggs on a 28 day aged bavette steak, wilted spinach and finished with a homemade chimichurri sauce. Not something I would probably usually have for breakfast, but it did sound quite nice. I was asked if I wanted my steak rare or well done (no opportunity for medium) so, and I like it that way, went with rare.

It took a little time for our breakfasts to arrive, which for me was a good sign, in that they were cooking them fresh to order.

Both dishes looked great.

I really enjoyed my steak and eggs. I think I might have liked some bread to go with it (not toast). However the steak was nicely cooked and had a good flavour. The bavette cut can have quite a strong flavour and it worked well with the eggs and spinach. The chimichurri cut through the dish in a pleasant way, though I have to say I did not eat all the sliced chilli in the dish (this was breakfast).

The breakfast looked really tasty, however the sausages were a little pink and the poached eggs were somewhat overcooked and rubbery. However my son didn’t want to complain, which was his prerogative.

The food was mainly excellent, the service friendly and warm. Not amazing value for money, but still a nice brunch and amazing views over the beach and the sea.

More calamari please

calamari

I was working in Bristol on a Thursday, which meant that for lunch I could visit the Temple Quay Market. The pandemic has meant that there are a lot less stalls there than there was before. Despite the limited choice I was tempted by a few places but in the end I went with the Kingfin stall. My introduction to Kingfin was back in the summer of 2019 on a visit to the Finzel Reach Market. 

Kingfin who sell fish wraps and chips, as well as their fish wraps, which sounded rather tasty, what really caught my eye back thenN was their special, which was Calamari.

So it was no real surprise that this was what I chose this time.

The squid rings were coated in a flour mix and then deep fried. They were served with aioli, some salad and rosemary fries. This was quite a substantial meal not just a snack. I really like this dish and I found it just as tasty as on previous occassions. There was quite a decent portion of squid. It was quite tasty, you could certainly taste the difference with the fact they cooked the squid from fresh, rather than heating up or second cooking pre-cooked squid. The fries on the other hand were pre-cooked and then fried again, but this didn’t matter that much. I would have liked more salad. Overall though I really enjoyed the food.

Back to the Mediterranean

Back in London and it was time for lunch.

Didn’t really know what I wanted, the Leather Lane street food market was full of possible choices. In the end though I made a return visit to the Mediterranean Grill which I had been to a few weeks back.

I went with the large mixed salad box, but it came on a plate as I was eating in. I was asked to take a seat and they prepared the salad. I had the choice of rice or chips, I went with chips this time. The dish came with chicken and lamb and the salad was served with some chilli sauce, hummus and yoghurt.

The chicken and lamb were very tasty and tender.

The chips were rather nice, crisp and hot, if anything too hot.

The salads were nice and fresh and well seasoned. I personally would (again) have liked more yoghurt, but apart from that it was very tasty.

Yes it was basically a mixed kebab without the pitta bread. Even so it was fresh and delicious. I then paid my bill and again like last time left feeling happy about what I had eaten. 

I think next time I will have rice again, I don’t know if they do pitta bread on the side, but I might as well ask.

Packed House

Today I was reminded why despite working in the area for many years it was only recently that I had visited the WatchHouse. It was mid-afternoon and I felt like a coffee break and a flat white. So I headed out of the office to the WatchHouse and as I approached there was quite a lot of noise, alas the place was packed out and full. 

Well never mind I thought to myself, I headed back to the office and on the way went to Coco do Mama and got myself a flat white, which was excellent (also liked the little chocolate square you get with the coffee).

Flat white

Tasty Tacos and Steak

I has driven to Ealing to get something to eat, I really didn’t know what I wanted, so walked around a fair bit. I did think about going to Cote or Bills. When I walked past Pizza Express I thought that looked familiar, then I remembered we had eaten there as a family in August 2018.

However in the end I went back to Pasta Remoli. I did ask if they had a table outside, the response was they needed to talk to the manager. It was very warm inside the restaurant, uncomfortably warm. Having waited a while and with a couple behind me (who had booked a table) I realised there probably wasn’t going to be a table free. So I left. I did think again about Bills, but realised I wasn’t hungry enough for two courses. I think a combination of the heat of the day, eating a few snacks when I got back and curbed my appetite somewhat. So, I headed back to my car and drove back to the apartment, and I had bread, cheese and salami.

The following day, after work I headed out to Ealing to get something to eat. This time I was hungry and had decided I would probably go to Bills. I did want to check out the tapas place I had seen on Google maps. La Rueda looked interesting and I liked the idea of the menu. However I think to have a good meal I would need to spend a fair amount of money, so decided no. Maybe the next time I was in Ealing.

I headed to Bills which had plenty of free tables outside, which I could choose from. I was a little concerned that there might be some rain (there was a 90% chance of rain according to my weather app) however it was still lovely and warm. I sat down and looked at the menus. I had pretty much made my choice earlier, however I did look again. They had a set menu and I did think the  chestnut mushroom, spinach and truFFle risotto, topped with a poached egg, pumpkin seeds and pea shoots sounded very nice. I guess my hesitation was that this wasn’t likely to be cooked to order, but maybe merely be a heated up prepared dish. Though I with the choice of calamari for a starter it was a possibility. 

In the end I went with the main menu. What had struck me from the list of starters were the tuna tacos. So decided to have those and the Dinner Special, an 8oz sirloin steak.

I placed my order and asked for some tap water along with the food.

The tuna tacos arrived very quickly and it was an interesting looking dish. 

It was seared raw tuna, avocado & spicy cherry tomatoes on crunchy blue corn tortillas, with crème fraîche, coriander & toasted sesame seeds.

I don’t know why, but I was expecting tacos, rather than the serving of tune, avocado and tomatoes on crunchy blue corn tortillas. However I did like the presentation. The tuna was excellent, and liked the taste and texture. The avocado and tomato was nice as well. The tortilla were a little too crunchy for me, I think some soft blue corn tortillas might have been a better choice. The crème fraîche added some nice coolness and freshness to the dish, though I do think there was a little too much red chilli for me.

Having finished my starter and the table was cleared, I had to ask again for some tap water, which hadn’t arrived. I waited for my main course. I went for the dinner special, the 8oz sirloin steak served with rosemary salted fries, a green leaf & mixed seed salad and garlic butter.

This arrived promptly. This was an excellent steak, nice fries and the salad was a nice touch. This was so much a better dish than the steak I had at Cote a few weeks back. It had flavour, was well seasoned and cooked expertly.

I really enjoyed the steak and it was a really nice meal. I enjoyed sitting outside and the weather was perfect that reminded me of eating out in Greece and Spain, but this was Ealing in London in September.

As I was finishing up and paying my bill, the table next me were served with their order of calamari, I was quite pleased I hadn’t ordered it, and had gone with the tuna tacos, as it wasn’t what I had imagined. I thought it might be like the squid you get at Wagamama or Yo! Sushi, but they looked like breaded calamari rings. Something I won’t order next time I go to Bills.

The service was efficient, but I think it a little cold as a result. Having said that I did think overall, good service, excellent food and a nice atmosphere. I will go again, but thinking that the weather will change will mean I will be eating inside.

More Salad

salad

It was a really hot September day, approaching 30℃ feeling very much like the continent, reminded my of the holidays I had in Spain and Greece. This wasn’t a day for a huge hot meal, nor for spending a long time walking around.

I didn’t have a huge break for lunch so popped to Birley Sandwiches for another of their salads. I had really enjoyed the salad I had there before.

There was something of a queue, so had to wait a while. I have to say I was tempted by their sandwiches which seemed delicious, huge and quite good value as well. Maybe next time.

I went with a salad without protein but was still delicious. They have a wide choice of protein, but I think it wasn’t really needed and didn’t add very much. I think I would have (if I was really hungry) have had some buttermilk chicken with the salad, or a chargrilled steak. However they don’t sell that kind of extra at Birley’s and I wasn’t that hungry in the heat.

I had pasta, rocket, mozzarella, olives, tomatoes, avocado, mixed grilled vegetables and croutons. It was dressed with a caesar salad dressing. I do like how the salads is made, dressed and mixed in front of you.

It was much bigger than I anticipated when I put it out on a plate, but it was delicious.