That time I was in London for tacos

On one of my last visits to London before the lockdown I did pop to Wahaca at Oxford Circus. I have been there quite a few times and have enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.

As we were in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, this was a couple of weeks before the full lockdown, the place was still open. I was a little cautious about going to a restaurant and sitting down with others to eat. With hindsight I probably wouldn’t have gone, but at the time the risk seemed quite low and there was sanitiser available, and I was washing my hands a lot.

Each branch of Wahaca has it’s own charm and style, there are similarities across the different restaurants, but each has an element of individuality.

I was given a warm welcome and there were plenty of seats available. I looked over the menu and decided to go with some old favourites as well as trying out a new dish.

For my first choice, I chose a dish that I have had a fair few times before, which was the crispy cauliflower bites.

crispy buttermilk-battered florets of cauliflower, with roast serrano allioli

These are crispy buttermilk-battered florets of cauliflower, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious and lovely and crispy. I enjoyed the allioli which complemented the crispy florets. They are very moreish and tasty,

My other favourite was steak tacos.

chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado

These are two tacos filled with chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. I much preferred these when the grilled cheese was optional, I don’t think the grilled cheese adds much to the dish. The steak was full of flavour and very tender.

The dish I ordered that I hadn’t had before, was the grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese

These are sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious, again not a fan of the grilled cheese.

I really enjoyed the three dishes which were tasty and delicious. The service was warm, friendly and welcoming, the food arrived quickly and efficiently.

At the time I was planning to come back to London later in March, so didn’t think this was going to be my last lunch in London for a long time. At the time of writing I have no idea when or even if I will be going back to London for work. As we know restaurants are closed and looking unlikely to re-open in the short term. I am though looking forward to the time when I can go back out to eat, but hopefully I will be able to visit Wahaca in the future and have some great food.

Remembering the squid and langoustine

Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market, image by 139904 from Pixabay

Back in January and staying overnight in London, and having had a really nice fish supper at Loch Fyne in Cambridge, I decided that I would take advantage of their January 50% off mains offer and have dinner at their Leadenhall Market site.

Leadenhall Market is an interesting place to visit, reminds me very much of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films. It has lots of painted and polished wood, beautiful windows and is covered with a glass roof. I think I remember reading once that this was the place that inspired J K Rowling when she was writing about Diagon Alley for the Harry Potter books.

I initially had a little trouble finding the branch of Loch Fyne, but after a little search I found it. It was a lot less crowded than the Cambridge branch and there was a lot of space to choose where to sit. I was given a warm welcome and shown to my table. Though the outside of the place has that quaint look of olden tymes that you get with Leadenhall Market the inside was quite fresh and modern.

Having looked at the menu online, I had decided that I would probably go with the turbot. I have seen it cooked on shows like Masterchef Professional and The Great British Menu, but have never bought it cooked it myself, neither have I eaten it at a restaurant either. So I was quite looking forward to it. You can imagine my disappointment when I was told that it was off the menu as they had run out!

In the end I decided I would got for a starter and ordered the sea salt and pepper squid.

Squid

The menu described this being served with sesame seeds and tomato & chilli jam. Of course once you have ordered the menu is removed so I couldn’t check until I got back to the hotel I was staying at to see that there was no jam, I had been served the dish with sliced chilli instead. It isn’t the same and would have ruined the dish if I had eaten that amount of chilli!

This dish was probably described as okay. The coating was crispy, but the squid was a little too chewy. Way too much chilli!

For my main course I chose the grilled scottish langoustines with romesco sauce – sun-dried tomatoes, roast peppers, garlic and almonds.

This was on the Leadenhall menu, but wasn’t on the menu when I was at the Cambridge branch. I’ve always liked langoustine, even though this was a special, I think if the turbot had been on the menu, I would have still chosen the turbot.

I was intrigued how this would be served and this is how it looked, it was a large pile of grilled langoustine.

GRILLED SCOTTISH LANGOUSTINES (N) 29.95 with romesco sauce – sun-dried tomatoes, roast peppers, garlic, almonds

I was quite surprised by the way if was presented. The langoustine had been halved, grilled and then the romesco sauce added on top.

The langoustine was not as tasty as I thought they would be, but I did enjoy the romesco sauce. If anything the langoustine were rather dry and they didn’t have a huge amount of flavour. Though quite a large dish, it wasn’t that filling, well once you eat the langoustine flesh there is still quite a bit of langoustine left. I think I should have ordered some sides, but at the time of ordering I wasn’t that hungry.

The service was excllent, warm and friendly. I enjoyed the meal and think with the 50% off offer it was value for money. I would like to go again, but in the current landscape that may be some time away.

Last supper, well for a while

Before lock down and all the restaurants we usually frequent were closed we went to Wagamama at Cribbs Causeway. We had thought that places might close or be restricted, so took a final opportunity to go out and eat.

It was quite quiet compared to usual, but not to be unexpected. We were given a lovely warm welcome and we made our way to the table.

Looking over the menu and feeling quite hungry I decided that as well as my main course I would order a side of hirata buns. I really like these and have in the past been tempted to order them from Wagamama, but not really had a chance or wasn’t hungry enough, or more likely I chose the chilli squid instead.

The menu describes them as Mixed Mushroom Hirata Buns – two fluffy asian buns stuffed with mixed mushrooms, panko aubergine, coriander and mayonnaise.

ixed Mushroom Hirata Buns - two fluffy asian buns stuffed with mixed mushrooms, panko aubergine, coriander and mayonnaise.

The buns were lovely and fresh, warm and soft. The mushrooms were really tasty as was the panko aubergine. I demolished them fairly quickly and was left wanting more. They were very tasty buns.

Usually when I am at Wagamama I seem to order the ramen, so deciding to be different I want with a curry instead.

I had the Nikko Curry with Sea Bream, which the menu describes as fragrant and citrusy. Coconut, lemongrass and turmeric soup, roasted butternut squash, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, bok choi, beansprouts, chilli, coriander, ginger, fresh lime, and chilli oil. It came with a side of white rice with sesame seeds.

Nikko Curry with Sea Bream, which the menu describes as fragrant and citrusy. Coconut, lemongrass and turmeric soup, roasted butternut squash, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, bok choi, beansprouts, chilli, coriander, ginger, fresh lime, and chilli oil. It came with a side of white rice with sesame seeds.

I felt the fish was slightly overcooked, but I really enjoyed the soup and the vegetables were lovely fresh, and cooked perfectly. The dish overall was really tasty and I was wanting more when I had finished.

I really enjoyed the meal and was a little sad as we left as I realised that we might not enjoy such a meal again for some time.

Time for some seafood

Staying overnight in Cambridge, well over in Madingley, which is just outside the city. I was wondering where I could get something to eat. In Madingley there is a really nice looking gastropub, but was out of my budget, so I looked into the heart of Cambridge. Yes the Midsummer House was a possibility, if I had loads of spare money and no budget, but I didn’t, so no that wasn’t a possibility…

I had downloaded a Zizzi voucher, quick and easy I thought. Checking where it was, I saw on the map the Loch Fyne. I have been curious about the place for a while now, there are branches in Bath and Bristol, but I have never been, mainly as it was usually quite pricey from memory. I thought I would look at the menu and see what I could be missing. Accessing the website I saw that they had a January offer, 50% off mains. Looking over the menu, I saw lots of things I liked the look of, so that was the place.

The restaurant is on Trumpington Street quite close to the impressive Fitzwilliam Museum. It’s an older building and inside there are lots of wooden beams and low ceilings.

I initially thought, well it’s January, cold and a Tuesday, it wouldn’t be very busy, boy was I wrong. The place was packed. I was left waiting for a while, and then asked to sit in the foyer style area, until a table was free. I waited some more. At this point I nearly left.

In the end I went with Loch Fyne Seafood Mixed Grill. The dish as described consists of Scottish salmon, Scottish king scallop, golden shell Hebridean mussels, squid, sea bass fillet, samphire, wilted spinach, lobster butter, and a side of sautéed new potatoes.

I knew the place was busy, so didn’t worry too much about the speed of service, but in the end it was quite quick. The plate looked delicious. There was a huge prawn in the dish, which was nice, as that wasn’t on the dish description.

As I tried the salmon, I realised that the king scallop was missing. Considering how busy it was, I didn’t think I would be able to get the attention of the waiting staff, but I was lucky. He was very apologetic and took the dish and returned shortly with the added scallop, well two scallops.

The dish was well cooked, I enjoyed the salmon and the bass as well as the scallops. The squid was nice, as were the mussels. I couldn’t really taste the lobster butter, but there was a richness there I enjoyed. It comes with a side of sautéed potatoes, which were smooth, buttery and rather tasty.

I was surprised by how busy the place was, but I did quite like the environment. The service wasn’t perfect, but I put that down to the number of people in the place.

Tasty Bao Buns

I quite like Bao Buns. I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing.

Having enjoyed the buns from Master Bao the last time I was there, and needing lunch I decided to visit Master Bao again. As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works. I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish

I had this before, but did enjoy it, the Shiitake Mushroom Bao – teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao - teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second Bao was the Mr Bao – slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander.

Mr Bao - slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander

The pork was very tender, and the peanut added a nice crunchy texture to the Bao. I would have liked a little more coriander, but otherwise it was delicious.

Both Bao buns were soft and fluffy and full of tasty fillings.

I had enjoyed the pork dumplings last time, but this time I went with the fried chicken.

fried chicken

This was not as good as I thought it could be, but the chicken was nice and crispy with a tasty sauce.

Overall I really did enjoy the meal,

 

 

Nice Bao Buns

I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets.

I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing. I have also made them at home as well, well made is a strong word, I bought some ready prepared, steamed them, and added my own filling. That’s almost “made”, but I am keen to try and make some properly one day.

Needing lunch quickly and having parked at the Westfield Centre in West London, there was a wide choice of places to eat but in the end I did quite fancy giving Master Bao a try.

As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works.

I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish. My first choice of bao was the shiitake mushroom bao.

shiitake mushroom bao

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. It was rather nice, I wouldn’t say I was blown away, but I did enjoy it. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second choice of bao, was the chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander.

chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander

I enjoyed the crispy chicken and the accompaniments added a nice spicy extra to the dish. The combination of textures, soft vegetables, crispy chicken and soft bao, was a delight.

As I had chosen the chicken bao, I chose a side dish and went with the pork dumplings.

pork dumplings

These were nice and tasty, steamed and then finished off in the frying pan.

Overall I really did enjoy the dish and would certainly go again.

Time to choose the squash

I wanted those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end it wasn’t to be. It was time for a another visit to Wahaca, this time the branch in Fitzrovia which I have been to before and had a lovely meal.

It was early evening and I hadn’t expected the place to be so busy, but it was basically full. The manager though was wonderfully welcoming and made a real effort to find me a table. This level of customer service was excellent and made me feel welcome. The place was really busy and noisy, but that really added to the atmosphere. As with other branches of Wahaca, this one had its own style and decor. It was quite dark in the restaurant, but I am not sure if that was intentional, or that on the occasions I have visited the place it has been in the evenings!

Since that previous visit the menu had changed, as it does quite often. I had intended to have one of the specials that I missed out on my most recent visit to Wahaca which were the grilled fish tacos. Alas that wasn’t meant to be, as they had changed their specials to the Christmas ones, and I didn’t fancy the turkey dinner taquito! I did think about getting those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end I decided I should choose something new.

I was quite hungry, so I did order some nachos and guacamole. 

nachos and guacamole

There was a decent portion of guacamole and the nachos were crunchy and not too salty.

So what of my street food choices? Well I went with three dishes and my first choice was the duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa.

duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa

They were a delight, crispy outside and smooth tender inside. Great flavours and the smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa was delicious and really complemented the croquetas.

On my last visit to this branch I had really enjoyed the butternut squash.

I really enjoyed this dish, was full of flavour and very tasty. I think it could have been improved if the squash had been peeled, but the flesh of the squash did come away from the skin despite this. I really liked the chargrilled aspect of the dish and you could taste that in the squash. This dish is advertised as vegan, and I suspect people might avoid it, but if it comes back onto the menu, go for it, it was delicious.

So when I saw the roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds, of course I had to choose it.

roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds

It was a very different dish to what I had before. As you can see it was a couple of tacos filled with chunks of roasted butternut squash. The dish before had been very different.

Chargrilled Crown Prince squash grown by Riverford Organic, served with kale & cashew nut mole

It had consisted of large chunks of chargrilled butternut squash.

However though it wasn’t the same dish, I really enjoyed the new tacos version, it was full of flavour and very tasty.

My third choice was hard, I did consider the mushroom tacos, but in the end I went with something I had ordered before which was buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo.

buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo

They were delicious, great textures and flavours.

The table services was excellent, friendly and efficient. Despite how busy the place was, the food arrived in good time. You can tell how popular this place was, as I left there was a huge queue of people waiting for tables. Will I go again, well I will, if I can get in next time.

Time for Tacos and Cauliflower

I have been a few times now to the Wahaca branch at Soho and have enjoyed my meals there, so with time for lunch, I decided to head there again.

It was just after the lunch time rush, so the place was quiet, but I was given a warm welcome and lead to a table. Each Wahaca I have been to, has a different feel and look and the Soho branch has a unique individual environment. There is a somewhat industrial feel to the place, but it’s warm and friendly, not necessarily cold and inhuman.

I looked over the menu and as it has been some time since I last went to Wahaca, there were some new choices on the street food menu. 
I did think about having my usual grilled steak tacos. Last time I was at the Soho branch they did a new (more expensive) version of the dish with ribeye steak. Back then I said:

The new recipe called The Rib Eye, consists of two larger corn tortillas with chargrilled steak and is served with grilled cheese & fresh guacamole. You do get more steak and it is very tender compared to the skirt steak they use to do, but it is also more expensive, about three pounds more than the old steak tacos price (60% more expensive). It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the tacos, I did, but I felt that the original recipe was really good and this wasn’t much of an improvement and certainly not a 60% improvement. I probably wouldn’t order them again.

The new version is similar to the original version, but you have to have the cheese, unlike the original version where it was an option. However this time I decided that I would have something different and would not go with the steak.

I did think about having the buttermilk chicken tacos again, I have enjoyed them before. However as I was thinking about having the crispy cauliflower bites, I decided that I didn’t want too much crispy stuff, so decided to choose something else. For similar reasons I also decided not to go with the duck croquetas, crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa, which I really liked the sound of. When the waiter came to take my order, he showed me the specials, there were two, the grilled fish tacos looked interesting and tempting.

In the end I went with some beef tacos, grilled chicken tortillas and the crispy cauliflower bites.

The first dish to arrive were some slow-cooked beef tacos with mild spices, with black beans, served in three soft corn grilled tortillas.

slow-cooked beef tacos with mild spices, with black beans, served in three soft corn grilled tortillas

These were excellent, the beef was full of favour, not too spicy. I really enjoyed the addition of the pickled cucumber on top of the tacos. It was a great blend of tastes and textures. They are certainly something I would order again.

The next two dishes arrived at the same time. One of the things you either like about Wahaca or you don’t is that dishes arrived when they are cooked rather than all coming together. This is fine if you are sharing dishes or eating alone, but less great when as a group or a family you have ordered individual dishes.

The first of the pair of dishes was two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa.

two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa

These were generously filled and I really enjoyed them. The chicken was sightly over-grilled for my liking, but they were still nice. I liked the avocado and the green tomatillo salsa added some nice spice to the dish.

My final dish was the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli

These sounded really interesting and they looked great and tasted even better. I was really pleased to have ordered these. The little florets of cauliflower were covered in a light buttermilk batter, deep fried and were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. When I have tried to cook this kind of dish at home, I find that my batter is too thick. This kind of dish and inspired me to try again with a lighter thinner buttermilk batter. The roast serrano allioli was interesting and really worked well with the cauliflower. I think this was my favourite dish of the trio I ordered and would like to have them again.

The service was excellent, warm and friendly welcome, attentive, efficient service. Overall these were three excellent dishes and I really enjoyed them.

Nice Pizza

To celebrate a birthday we decided to end up at Zizzi in Cabot Circus. The place was busy, and we had to wait about ten minutes for a table. Well to say the place was busy, was a bit of a poor description. There were plenty of free tables, but I think they were short-staffed, so couldn’t serve all the tables, or cook the food. Regardless of the reason, there were empty tables, and we were shown to our (small) table.

The welcome was warm and friendly and it was easy to order our food. Our dietary requirements were taken care of and we pursued the menu.

I went with the Rustica Primavera, which is their stretched pizza with goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes, super green pesto & rocket.

Rustica Primavera, which is their stretched pizza with goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes, super green pesto & rocket

The pizza was cooked well and there was an abundance of toppings, even so I would have liked a but more artichoke. The pesto was nice, and I quite like fresh rocket on my pizza, I feel I am eating something healthier than it actually is.

I really enjoyed my pizza, there is something consistent about the quality of the food and the service at Zizzi, which means I go there a lot, more than other chains. Having said that, looking over the blog, I realise not only am I going to Zizzi a lot, I am also basically eating the same pizza each time I go.

Time for a tasty pizza (again)

It was a nice pizza

Rusty Pizza

I think it’s time for a change, not just from Zizzi, but also from pizza.

Time for a toastie…

Looking for a reasonably quick lunch, I decided to venture to Cafe Rouge at Cribbs Causeway. Parts of this venue are quite nice, those tables hidden away in the inside, the tables out towards the entrance are less cosy and it feels more like a service station or typical food court than a French bistro.

My phone contract often provides me with special offers, one of which time was with Cafe Rouge where I could have any burger or croque sandwich for just £5.

I did think initially to have a burger, but decided to have a croque toasted sandwich.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat’s cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat's cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I did think the béchamel sauce was overdone. I was expecting a bit more crunch to the bread, but overall there were some nice flavours.

The fries were a little overdone for my liking and a little bit too much salt.

Service was friendly and welcoming. Maybe a little too attentive, for example, I had literally just taken my first bite when I was asked how was my meal!

Overall it was a nice quick lunch, quite tasty, not perfect, but good value for money.