Sasi’s Thai

When in Oxford, I usually visit the Covered Market and have a delicious plate of Thai food from Sasi’s Thai. 

My first experience of Sasi’s Thai was back in 2013 when I started working in Oxford and would go out for lunch. It was one of the many food outlets in the market and always served excellent delicious food. Even after I changed jobs, and stopped working in Oxford, if I was back in Oxford (or even passing through) I would stop for lunch and seek out Sasi’s Thai for some spicy food.

This was the case back in March 2023, when after a meeting elsewhere in Oxfordshire, I was on my way to another location, so stopped off in Oxford for lunch. I made my way to Sasi’s Thai and though it was busy, I joined the queue. I had the two choices with rice, and had the Crispy Pork with Basil  and the Chicken and Cashew Nuts. 

The crispy pork was nice and tasty.

The chicken and cashew nuts was also tasty. I did feel the chicken could have done with some more cashew nuts.

These are two dishes I would regularly have at Sasi’s Thai. Both dishes were delicious, quite spicy. The food was just as good as I remembered. 

Half and Half

One memory I have of my time at the University of York in the 1980s was going out to eat at Pizza Hut one time and sharing a pizza with a friend and having a half and half. One half had one topping, the other half had a different topping. This was something I had never done before. I am not saying I’ve done it much since then either. Why the memory, well I recently had a half and half pizza at Zizzi in Bristol. This one though I ate all to myself.

I don’t generally go out for lunch in Bristol when I am working there. Usually I will take a packed lunch, sometimes I have a substantial lunch, as I know I am in busy in the evening and will only be getting a sandwich or a snack.

Went to Zizzi for lunch as I had a gift voucher to use. I did fancy a pizza so I went with the half and half. I chose the Rustica Half & Half Sticky Pig.

This was a slow-cooked pulled pork and mozzarella pizza with Roquito hot honey. One half, a rich red base topped with spicy ‘nduja, finished with crispy prosciutto and riserva cheese. The other, a white base, with smoky scamorza cheese, crumbled meatballs, crackling & Roquito pearls.

The halves weren’t exactly equal, so I am glad I wasn’t sharing. The rich red base was bigger than the white base. I would have preferred to have it the other way around, or at least equal halves.

The red side was very tasty, quite spicy with the ‘nduja. I keep meaning to buy some ‘nduja and cook with it. Not sure what I would cook with it, but when I have it in food I have out, I quite like it.

The white side was equally tasty. I enjoyed the smoky scamorza cheese and crumbled meatballs. I did wonder if the crackling would be too hard, but it wasn’t, it was nice and crispy rather than crunchy. I am not a great fan of the Roquito pearls, but they added colour and some spice to the pizza.

I enjoyed my pizza. It was a nice place to have lunch, not too busy, but not so empty as to be desolate. Service was friendly and efficient.

Tiny little starter

I have enjoyed the meals I have had at the Fullers’ hotels I have stayed at, Drayton Court, and the Fox and Goose. I was recently back in London and I chose to stay at The Queen’s Head in Kingston, which is another Fullers’ hotel. Smaller, and more like a pub with rooms, I found it a lovely place to stay. The staff were warm, friendly and welcoming. I liked the bar area, which felt nostalgic, but still smart and tidy. I liked the wooden furniture and fittings.

The room I had was nice, it certainly had character. It had very tall ceilings and all the furniture you would expect in a hotel room and then some. I liked how it had an Nespresso machine and a fridge. Drayton Court had a Nespresso machine, but no fridge, whilst the Fox and Goose had a fridge, but didn’t have a coffee machine. I was pleased with my choice.

I went downstairs to the bar to eat, there was a similar menu available to the other Fullers’ hotels. I looked over the menu and for my starter I had the pig cheek, potato puree, shallots, chervil, with a white wine sauce. There were quite a few starters on the menu that I liked the idea of, but decided to go with this dish, as I’ve not had anything like it before. It arrived quite promptly.

This was definitely a starter sized portion. There was a deliciously tender pork cheek delicately placed on top of the  potato puree. There was a great tasting sauce, and it was garnished with the shallots and chopped chervil. I really enjoyed the starter, it was a great start to my meal.

Time for some Thai in Leeds

I was looking through some photographs of food, and realised that in April when I was up in Leeds I had a few meals which I hadn’t blogged about. Sometimes I write up the dining experiences I have on the same day, in the same week, or quite soon after that. Now and then I have food and then never get around to writing a blog post about it. In April I was at a conference and was staying in the heart of Leeds. The hotel I was staying at, did have a restaurant, and it looked really nice, but it was way too expensive and out of my budget. I knew I would need to eat at a place away from the restaurant.

On my first night I had a chance to explore the area, wasn’t quite sure what I wanted but happened to chance upon Rosa’s Thai in the Trinity Leeds Shopping Centre. 

I had eaten at a branch of Rosa’s Thai in Liverpool’s Albert Dock the month before and that had been really nice, however I also had a disappointing experience in Ealing earlier in the month. However I think that disappointing experience was more down to me ordering a dish, thinking it was one thing, when in reality it was something very different. So despite that experience, and running out of time, I decided I would have a meal at Rosa’s Thai, as I do like Thai food. 

The Leeds restaurant doesn’t have the same warm welcoming feel as the branches in Ealing and Liverpool. In Liverpool, being part of a historical building gave that restaurant a certain charm. Ealing was part of the high street. Rosa’s Thai in Leeds was in a shopping centre and lacked the ambiance and atmosphere. However I was there for the food, and it was okay, different, but not totally clinical.

They do change the menu now and then, but it is pretty similar over time.

For my starter I had the fresh summer rolls, these were soft sheets of rice paper stuffed with mixed veg, tangy-sweet tamarind sauce & fragrant herbs, served with traditional spicy fragrant chilli sauce & crushed peanuts.

They looked really nice when they arrived.

I had not had these before, so was a little surprised they were cold. I am not sure why I was surprised, but there you are. I thought they were just okay. Not sure I would order them again.

For my main I had the pork belly Pad metmamuang, a classic stir-fry with Rosa’s soy sauce, cashew nuts, spring onion & mushrooms.

This was a much better dish, and I really enjoyed it. Very tasty and alongside I had some Jasmine rice. Though I enjoyed it, I think the crispy pork dish I have had at Sais’s Thai in Oxford is better.

It was a nice meal, and so much better than the meal I had eaten in Ealing.

Back to Oxford for some Thai

Ten years away from Oxford, a trip back meant revisiting ghosts of lunches past. Some haunts had faded, but Sasi’s Thai in the Covered Market, my old lunchtime sanctuary, still beckoned. Forget greasy fry-ups; Sasi’s was a riot of Thai aromas, its glass counter a technicolour tapestry of curries and stir-fries. Ordering was a ritual: point, pay, collect your plate, then thread through the labyrinth of tightly packed tables, sometimes sharing space and smiles with strangers. The vibe, I fancied, echoed the bustling street food havens of Thailand.

The food itself? I wouldn’t claim expertise, never having braved Bangkok’s back alleys. But popularity spoke volumes. My taste buds still vividly recall the fiery dance of chicken and cashew nuts basking in a spicy sauce, crispy pork belly crackling with sweet glaze, and the elusive squid, a fleeting guest on the menu. Each bite was a punch of spice and flavour, a passport to a faraway land, all within the bustling heart of Oxford.

In December I was back in Oxford, and I remembered the great meal I had eaten at Sasi’s Thai in the Oxford Covered Market back in April. So, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when needing lunch in Oxford I headed to the market and joined the queue. Yes, the place was busy, but there was space to eat.

I ordered the two dishes with rice, and had the chicken and cashew nuts, and the spicy crispy pork.

Thai food on rice

These were tasty dishes, the pork was nice and crispy, the chicken was great. Alas there was a shortage of cashew nuts in the dish, sometimes think I should bring my own cashew nuts with me. The sauce was spicy but still intense with flavour. I really enjoyed both dishes. On the way out I noticed that they had added their squid dish to the counter, now I was seriously tempted to go back and have a second lunch!

Mixed Grill at the Gardens

Entrance to a hotel

We were on holiday at the Cerro Mar Gardens in Albufeira in Portugal we made a couple of visits to the hotel restaurant. On my first visit I had an excellent swordfish dish.

On our second visit, I was tempted by the cataplana, but it was for two, and everyone else was choosing different dishes. I even considered just having the cataplana to myself.

Cataplana is a traditional Algarvian dish cooked in a special copper pot of the same name. The ingredients typically include onion, red and green peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, tarragon, parsley, white wine, and a variety of meat or seafood, such as cubed pork, chouriço sausage, chicken, fish, prawns, clams, or other shellfish.

In the end I went with the mixed grill. This was steak, lamb, chicken, sausage, and two kinds of pork. It was served with fries and a tiny salad.

I thought the swordfish was excellent, this dish, not so much. I was rather disappointed. Maybe it was too simple, but the cuts of meat were rather thin and were overcooked and slightly dry. I would like to have had more salad. The fries were okay. That really though sums up the whole dish, it was okay, nothing special.

I wish now I had ordered the cataplana.

Time for TânVân

There are lots of places from which to choose from when eating out in Ealing. Some would say too much choice. There are a number of Vietnamese restaurants in the area and they all look inviting and interesting. Looking around all the different places I did like the look of the menu at TânVân.

restaurant frontage on a street with a sign on the pavement

After walking around a couple of times I went back to TânVân.

We are a family-run Vietnamese eatery and Cocktail Bar based in the heart of Ealing Broadway. We serve the Vietnamese classics such as phỏ ̉ noodle soups, bún noodle salads and bánh mì as well as having lots of vegan options! 

We are more than just a place to eat. We are a place to share, not just food, but love, memories, laughter. A place for your first date, a place to celebrate, a place to catch up with an old friend, a place for after-work drinks with your co-workers. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, we can assure that this is the place for you.

They have an intriguing menu, but the choice of starters or side dishes felt quite limited. However there were five dishes to choose from, maybe I am just being a little picky with that. Tempted by the chicken wings, in the end I wanted to try something new, so, I went with the beef wrapped in betel leaf topped with roasted peanuts.

plate of beef wrapped in betel leaf on noodles

This was not the most delicately presented dish of food, it did look a little thrown together. There was a plate of (cold) noodles, the beef wrapped in betel leaf, and it was topped with chopped peanuts. It was served with a chilli dipping sauce. This to me was quite a substantial starter, it probably didn’t need the noodles. The beef was tasty and I enjoyed eating all the food on the plate.

There are lots of choices on the menu for mains. As well as rice bowls, there is wide choice of Phở noodle soup, Bún bowls of noodle salad, and if you prefer you can have a bánh mi sandwich. For my main course I went with the Saigon pork belly stew.

This is on the specials on the menu, and is described as melt-in-your-mouth tender pork belly braised in a light and delicately sweet and sticky sauce. It came with a hard boiled egg, a side of rice and pickled vegetables.

pork belly stew with a hard boiled egg

The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the sauce was not too sweet. It worked well with the rice and pickled vegetables.

a bowl of picked vegetables

a bowl of rice

I enjoyed this dish, it was delicious and tasty, and I was a little disappointed I had finished it, as I wanted more.

Alongside my meal I had a bottle of Bia Saigon beer, which was crisp and refreshing.

a bottle of beer on a table

The service was excellent, I was given a warm and friendly welcome.

This is certainly a place I would visit again.

Doing the Polka Kitchen

On previous visits to Ealing I had noted the Sowa restaurant, but had never gone there. The proprietors of that place have now moved to some swanky new premises in Dickens Yard and renamed themselves to the Polka Kitchen.

Now I have no idea how authentic the food is, having never been to Poland, I was still intrigued. They do appear to be popular on the Facebook with lots of comments in Polish.

They have a really intriguing and interesting menu, so much so, I was having difficult in making a choice. They have a somewhat limited choice of starters, but there are a range of soups on the menu as well. I do like a starter and prefer having a starter over pudding usually.

In the end for my starter I went with the steak tartare. It was served with egg yolk, pickled cucumbers, onion, and mustard seeds. This was such a pretty plate of food.

plate of food

Alongside I was given some sliced Polish bread and butter.

The steak was tender, I liked the addition of the pickles, and egg yolk. The pickled mushroom was a nice surprising addition. I relished every mouthful.

Having had a steak tartare from Cote recently, it was interesting to compare the two dishes. The plate from Polka was so much better, both in terms of presentation, flavours and texture. Almost no competition in that comparison.

For my main course I was torn between a range of choices, but in the end went with the pork tenderloin stuffed with chicken and saffron, wrapped in Serrano ham, and  served with lentils, spinach, and mushrooms.

plate of food

Another lovely presented dish. I did at one point wonder what the red sauce on the side was, and then realised it was the pattern on the plate. The plates were very pretty, but wonder if they distracted you from the food. Ah well not a huge issue for me.

The pork was nice, but I wasn’t that impressed with the chicken and saffron stuffing. I never noticed or tasted the saffron, and the chicken was rather bland. The rest of the dish though was really tasty. The lentils were delicious, and I liked the mushrooms with the spinach.

 I did think about pudding, but was quite full after two wonderful plates of food. They do have an excellent range of cakes and pastries though, so it was quite tempting.

The service was excellent, welcoming and friendly. The food was served efficiently, but I never felt rushed.

Time for some more Tapas

Last July I went to La Rueda, a tapas bar in Ealing in London. We had an excellent meal of different tapas dishes. In my review I said:

Overall the food was beautiful cooked and it was delicious. I do hope to visit La Rueda again.

It has been a while, but last month I made a return visit to La Rueda and had some excellent tapas again.

La Rueda Tapas Bar is a one-of-a-kind culinary establishment with a menu inspired by the idea of simple and honest cooking. Starting in 2000, we developed a unique dining experience for all of our guests using fresh and sustainable ingredients—taking you on a culinary journey like no other. From classic recipes to new-age kitchen adventures, each dish reflects our passion for high-quality food presented in a simple yet pleasing manner. 

I was given a friendly warm welcome. I looked over the menu. I decided to go for three dishes, a salad, a fish dish, and a meat dish. I went with choices that I wouldn’t normally choose.

For my salad choice I went with the Tomate Y Cebolla – Tomatoes & Onions salad.

Tomate Y Cebolla

The tomatoes were nice and fresh, and the sharpness of the red onions was a nice contrast. The salad was seasoned well.

For the meat dish I went with the Carrilleras de cerdo ibérico – Ibérico pork cheeks braised in Sherry.

Carrilleras de cerdo ibérico

I had seen this on the menu before and liked the sound of it. There was two portions of pork cheek, the cooking sauce, and some deep friend potato strings. The pork was tender and full of flavour. The crispiness of the potato add some textural variety. I think I would have liked some bread with this dish.

For my fish dish I was tempted to have the octopus that I had last year. I also liked the idea of the grilled sardines. However, in the end I chose the Boquerones fritos – fried fresh anchovies.

Boquerones fritos

This dish was similar to whitebait, but the anchovies were bigger. They were nice and crisp, and I liked the aioli, slaw, and lemon. 

I really enjoyed all three dishes.

South Coast Pork Chop

Fox and Goose

I was in London and staying at the Fox and Goose close to Hangar Lane. The restaurant is in the older part of the hotel, as the hotel part is now a new build at the back.

The menu changes every so often, and they always seem to have a range of choices, that means it can be difficult to choose what to have. Having looked over the menu I went with the South Coast pork chop, served with smoked mushroom, grilled tomato, onion rings and triple cooked chips.

The pork chop was cooked well, it was seasoned, and grilled to my liking. It was tender and moist. I couldn’t taste any smoke on the mushroom, but that and the tomato were nice. The chips were crispy on the outside and fluffy in the inside. The batter on the onion rings was nice crispy, but I felt they were a little on the greasy side. The pork was served with a small saucepan of gravy (or was it a sauce). Not sure it added much to the dish.

I enjoyed the food.