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.

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.

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.

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.

Time for some ravioli

Ealing Dickens Yard

Staying in London I drove over to Ealing Broadway to do some food shopping. However once there looking at the places to eat. I did think about Cote again. Though I looked at various menus, I wasn’t in the mood for Korean or Japanese. I ruled out the Bread Street Kitchen as it was too expensive. I did think about Bill’s which had a fixed price menu which was reasonable. However the last time I was in Ealing I remembered seeing Dicken’s Yard and this time I went and explored and found a pasta place called Pasta Remoli.

I rarely eat pasta out, as I have had some poor experiences, but this place looked good. I did walk around the block once more, but I was tempted by the pasta. The whole street looked very continental and it reminded me of similar streets in Italy, Spain and Greece.

They had plenty of tables inside, but no air conditioning. However as I hadn’t booked, I was allowed to choose where I wanted to sit inside, I sat down and looked over the menu.

It’s actually quite a simple menu, choose your pasta, choose your sauce and then choose your cheese.

You can either have a regular portion or a large portion.

I chose the large portion of Truffle & Mushroom Ravioli (for a £1.80 supplement). For my sauce I went with the simple butter and sage, described as the perfect accompaniment for any of our Ravioli dishes. I was reminded of the delicious pasta dish I had had recently at Bella Italia back in June. For cheese I went with Parmigiano Reggiano.

It looked great when it arrived.

Truffle and Mushroom Ravioli

It tasted great too. The pasta was al dente as it should be. The filling was rather good and the sage butter just added to the dish and didn’t overpower the truffle and mushroom filling. It was just about the right size portion for me. Delicious.

There were some other dishes on the menu beyond the three choices that looked good. There was a special of spaghetti with fresh clams (wasn’t quite sure how fresh the clams would be). I also liked the idea of Simone Remoli’s Signature Dish,  Fresh Lobster Spaghetti. Though at £19.80 was slightly beyond my budget. There are also some nice looking starters, sides and deserts.

I got the bill. Notice in London that they always add a service charge, this is also happening in Bristol as well. I always prefer to tip rather than a obligatory charge and will tip well if I had good service.

It looked like they had some good gluten free choices, but the following did start to ring some alarm bells.

*Gluten free: there might be contamination during the cooking process

If you are avoiding gluten, maybe not so much an issue, but if you are coeliac then this place would be a non-starter. I suspect the problem is that they cook the GF pasta in the same water as normal pasta. This is a pity as otherwise this would be a perfect place to visit if one of your party was coeliac.

Grilled Lamb Salad (okay it was a kebab)

Feeling hungry and not really sure about what I wanted I headed out from the office in London to see what was around and what tickled my fancy for lunch.

I did initially think another salad from Birley Sandwiches as I had really enjoyed the one I had last week. There was quite a queue (which isn’t too surprising), so I thought I would venture up to the Leather Lane Street Food Market and have both a bit of a walk and just to see if there was anything else I might want to eat. There were quite a few familiar stalls which I have frequented on my recent visits to London, and I did think, did I want to return to any of them. There were some I was quite tempted to try as well.

As I walked down the road I noticed the Mediterranean Grill on the side (a permanent physical place, not just a temporary street food stall) and the display of salad and curry looked very tempting.

I initially wasn’t sure, but after another short walk, I turned around and headed back.

I went with the large lamb 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 rice. They lamb was not cooked to order, but taken from the hot plate. The dish came with some chilli sauce, hummus and yoghurt.

It looked great.

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

Yes it was lamb and salad, but it was basically a kebab without the pitta bread. Even so it was fresh and delicious. I then paid my bill and left feeling happy about what I had eaten. I think I will go again.

Ravioli di Capra

I have been reflecting on some meals I had out over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal. 

We went for lunch at Zizzi in Cabot Circys back in August 2019.

Though I have pizza most times I visit Zizzi, on this visit, not being overtly hungry I went with pasta. I had the Ravioli di Capra. Goat’s cheese & spinach-flecked ravioli with a tomato sauce, super green pesto & pine nuts. 

Delicious but not a huge dish, so finished quite quickly. 

Time for some French food

I do quite like French food, probably an echo of eating out on French holidays back in the 1970s and 1980s. Over the years I have had some really nice meals, some excellent meals, and some not so good.

I was in London for a few days working. One evening, for dinner, I decided to head out to Ealing. I parked in the shopping centre and had a look around. I saw the Amazon Fresh shop, the one where you walk in pick things up and walk out and everything is charged to your Amazon account. I didn’t go in.

I had a look around for somewhere to eat. I did consider getting some cheese and bread from M&S. I saw they did a smaller version of the French cheese platter I have had in Weston. However there was no bread left. I did think about Wagamama, but it looked very busy. In the end after some procrastination and a bit more exploring and walking around, I went to Côte Brasserie, a chain of French style restaurants.

They had some tables free and I was given a choice of where I could sit, so I had a nice small table by the window. It was a decent environment, comfortable, inviting.

I had checked out the menu earlier online, so was pretty much convinced about what I was going to have. I went with the fixed price menu.

There was a nice choice of starters, but I decided that I would go for the Tomates ‘Breton’. Brittany heritage tomatoes topped with pistou on toasted pain de campagne.

Brittany heritage tomatoes topped with pistou on toasted pain de campagne.

It looked amazing, I was really impressed with the presentation of the dish.

I wasn’t sure what pistou was so checked up on Wikipedia later.

Pistou, or pistou sauce, is a Provençal cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. It is somewhat similar to the Ligurian sauce pesto, although it lacks pine nuts.

It was a lovely plate of food, the bread was nice, the tomatoes were well seasoned and the pistou added a nice touch.

For my main course I had the steak frites – chargrilled steak with frites and garlic butter. I upgraded to the ribeye.

steak and frites

The dish came with some additional watercress, which was a nice touch.

The steak wasn’t fantastic, it lacked seasoning and wasn’t as tender as I thought it was going to be. Upon reflection I probably shouldn’t have upgraded.

Alongside I had a Meteor beer, which was fresh and smooth.

The service was excellent, warm, friendly and efficient.

This was my first experience of Côte Brasserie and I enjoyed the experience and the food.

We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.