Some good, some not as good as it could be

The last time I went to Wahaca at their Soho branch was in January this year and I enjoyed the dishes I had.

Though I was less impressed with the steak tacos I had, especially as I had really good steak tacos the week before at Charlotte Street.

Though I had completely forgotten about that when I visited the Soho branch for some lunch last month.

The Soho branch I suspect must get busy at lunchtime with tourists, but as I was eating just after the lunchtime rush, the place was quite empty and quiet. I find that each of the Wahaca branches has their own particular style which makes each of them a unique interesting place to eat.

I ordered three dishes, one of which was tacos with chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese & fresh guacamole

Tacos with chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese & fresh guacamole from

There use to be some really nice grilled steak tacos, I had these quite a few times. There were three soft corn tortillas which came with flash-grilled skirt steak with chipotle & tomatillo salsas with optional grilled cheese (I always avoided the cheese).

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.

My second small plate order was 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

This was again two larger flour tortillas with buttermilk friend chicken. I did think the chicken was slightly over-cooked, but it was crispy and the mayo and onions added flavour and texture.

My final small plate order was new on the menu, crab tostada dressed in chipotle mayo, served with pink pickled onions.

Crab Tostada dressed in chipotle mayo, served with pink pickled onions

You got two crispy tortilla with crab. I really enjoyed these, you could certainly taste the crab and it was a fresh tasty dish.

The only thing that let the meal down was the service, it took some time for my order to be taken and I had ordered some tap water with my meal and that was forgotten about, so I had to ask again. The fact that I had been seated around the corner meant that there wasn’t always an opportunity to get the attention of a member of the waiting staff to either place my order or ask for the water.

Overall the food was great and very tasty.

Spicy Crab Soup with Indian Spiced Crab Cakes

I went to work in Bristol today. It was our co-location day. I had no formal meetings, this was just a chance for people to be in the office together and chat when and if required.

I was looking for something for lunch and of course today was the Temple Quay Market in Bristol. So walking down from my office to Temple Quay I did reflect on what I was fancying for lunch. There is always a wide choice of offerings there, big dishes, smaller choices and all very tasty.

Looking around the different stalls there was quite a bit of choice, however it was a bit of a no-brainer when I perused the menu at the South Street Kitchen. Alongside their regular crispy squid and chorizo they also had on their menu Spicy Crab Soup with Indian Spiced Crab Cakes

I’ve always liked crab, so this sounded delicious. There was a bit of a long queue for the stall and I hoped that they wouldn’t sell out before I reached the head of the queue.

I placed my order and it arrived, cooked fresh to order. There was a paper cup of crab soup and balanced on top were three smallish crab cakes on a wooden skewer.

Spicy Crab Soup with Indian Spiced Crab Cakes

It was a bit challenging to carry this back to the office, I was hoping that it wouldn’t get too cold too quickly and also that I didn’t spill the soup or lose the crab cakes off the side.

The soup was delicious, great taste of crab and not overly spicy. The crab cakes were crisp on the outside and moist and tasty on the inside, with all that crab flavour coming through.

Delicious.

Airside Small Plates

I am not a great fan of airport food, usually over priced, badly cooked and service can leave e a lot to be desired. I don’t know about you, but I try and avoid eating there if I can.

Having said all that I knew that for a variety of reasons that I would be eating at Glasgow Airport, so as you can imagine I had quite low expectations.

After waiting ages at one place and not getting served, I left and went to the Caledonia.

Not really wanting a sandwich and actually not really hungry decided to go with a couple of small plates and a side salad.

My first choice was the crab mayonnaise with flatbread soldiers. This was described as crab & chive mayonnaise with a stack of atbread soldiers & a lemon wedge.

crab & chive mayonnaise with a stack of atbread soldiers & a lemon wedge

The crab mayonnaise was nice, but only just about tasted of crab. The flat bread was toasted, but for some reason was covered in dry oregano.

My second choice was garlic prawns with flatbread. The menu describes this as king prawns roasted in garlic & herb sauce, olive oil & fresh lemon, served with flatbread.

king prawns roasted in garlic & herb sauce, olive oil & fresh lemon, served with flatbread

The prawns which I thought would be roasted came swimming in garlic butter, literally swimming, there was more melted butter than prawns. It came with flatbread too, and it was also covered in dry oregano.

The salad was small, consisting of salad leaves and tomatoes with a lemon and basil dressing.

salad leaves and tomatoes with a lemon and basil dressing

Overall it was something of a disappointment, and for the cost of each dish in excess of five pounds, I thought it was overpriced.

Another visit….

the view from Waterloo Bridge

Back in London for a meeting and needing a bit for lunch, I did consider where I should go for lunch, and if I should go somewhere new, but did like the idea of Wahaca again. It wasn’t that long since I had been, but I had really enjoyed that meal. So off I went, over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank to partake in some Mexican street food. So once more I went to the Street Food section of the menu to make some choices.

I hadn’t had quesadillas before so chose one from the menu. These are large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella, chorizo and potato. This is British chorizo, made to a special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

Quesadillas Large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella and classic Mexican ingredients.  British chorizo, made to our own special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

The large tortilla is folded and then cut into two. I did initially think that I had been given the wrong dish, as I didn’t think there was much potato or chorizo in the dish. There was more in the second though. I did enjoy the quesadilla it was nice and spicy.

My other dish was the smoky tomato fideus. These were east coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese and topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat.

Smoky tomato fideus East coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese, topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat. #wahaca

This was a much larger dish than I thought it was going to be. When Wahaca recommend 2-3 dishes, I usually go with three, but if this is one of them, then I think you can get away with just two, even if you are hungry.

This is very much thin noodles in a tasty spicy tomato sauce. I liked the avocado and cheese. There was a nice topping of crab, which to my surprise was chilled and hadn’t had a chance to warm up. I did like this dish and it was full of flavour, and something I wouldn’t expect in an Mexican eatery.

For my third dish, I did order a dish I had before, and went once more with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa. They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole.

Tacos flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa with crisp grilled cheese

These were very generous filled with steak, more than I have had when I had these tacos before. These were delicious, I really enjoyed the chargrilled steak and the different textures and flavours.

The service was excellent, friendly, efficient and lots of smiles.

Crab Cake Salad

Taking lunch at Frankie and Benny’s and wanting something rather light, I went with the Crab Salad.

Crab Cake

The menu describes it as “Our large oven baked crab cake served on a bed of mixed leaves with tomato, roasted red pepper and onion, tossed in our sweet chilli dressing with half a chargrilled lemon on the side.”

I was really interested to see how this was going look and taste, I did initially expect a heavy crab cake, with more potato than crab. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that the crab cake was made in the main with crab. There was a good flavour and texture, I liked the subtle crispness on the outside, the soft textured inside.

I did enjoy the salad, though I think if I was going to have this again I would ask for no dressing. The sweet chilli dressing was a little too sticky and sweet for me. I think I would have preferred olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I was slightly disappointed with the salad when writing this review as the menu description talks about roasted red peppers, and there were no red peppers. I hadn’t noticed when I was eating it, so didn’t complain at the time. I didn’t see the point of the chargrilled lemon, why chargrill it, it didn’t add anything and it didn’t really need it.

I liked the crab cake, and enjoyed the dish, I would order it again.

Prezzo Perfecto, well nearly

I’ve not been to Prezzo before, there isn’t one close by that I had seen, though I have since found one in Bristol, they occupy the old leadworks where the Firehouse Rotisserie was. However on a recent visit to York, we decided to have lunch there.

It did feel a little “posh” when we went in, and as a family I wasn’t sure we had made the right choice. The ambience, the decor and look of the place was very much a sophisticated place than a family run Italian restaurant. I shouldn’t have worried as the waiting staff immediately made us feel at ease, guided us to a table with a great view outside and provided colouring pencils and stuff to do for the children. Though my first impression was of a place not suitable for a family, they certainly provided a service that welcomed families.

Looking over the menu, the smallest in our family chose pizza, whilst the second youngest chose spaghetti bolognese.

My wife went with the Bianca Pizza for £9.95, I chose the Lobster and Crab Tortelli at £11.95. My eldest son was a little hesitant, at ten years old he often finds the children’s menu a little too young. I don’t think he’s forgiven us when we ordered a children’s meal for him recently and it came on a teddy bear plate! Having said that though, he still enjoy’s a kids lunchbox. In the end after lookng over the menu, he went with the Fusilli with Italian Sausage at £9.25. This is described as being made with red onion, garlic, fresh rocket and fresh chilli in a spicy tomato sauce.

The waiting staff were certainly taken aback when we placed our order and did say that the Fusilli pasta dish was quite spicy. However my son was happy with that and he does enjoy spicy food.

As we waited for our food and looked out the window we realised that this wasn’t an ideal location for a restaurant on the corner of a reasonably busy junction.

Prezzo in York

However what with fire engines and lots of buses passing by, the children loved it, and spent most of the waiting time looking out of the window. They didn’t have to wait long though, as the food arrived promptly and looked great.

I had ordered the Lobster and Crab Tortelli which came with baby spinach and red chilli in a creamy saffron sauce. I have decided that this year to make a noticeable effort to try out new things when eating out. This was certainly something very different, as I can’t recall ever ordering a filled pasta like this before.

Lobster and Crab Tortelli

This wasn’t an excessively large portion, but certainly wasn’t tiny either. For me it was about right. The pasta was cooked to perfection, not too soft with still some bite. I did feel that the filling lacked a little in flavour, however the sauce, which I felt might have been overpowering, was not in the least and complemented the pasta well. I did enjoy the addition of the baby spinach and thought the dish was delicious and very nice to eat. It was a great sized portion for lunch, but if you had a bigger appetite you might have wanted to add a salad, or had a starter.

My wife had gone for the Bianca Pizza which had on it goat’s cheese, grilled courgettes, baby sunblushed tomatoes, mozzarella, tomato. She had taken the light option (which increased the price) that takes half the dough of the Classic pizza and the pizza is then served with a mixed salad with a low calorie Italian dressing. It looked really nice and she said it was just right.

So what of the spicy Fusilli with Italian Sausage that my son had gone for? Well it was certainly hot and spicy, but it was scrummy and he finished the entire dish. I was expecting to see slices of sausage in the dish, but it was cooked with “lumps” of sausage, almost like a bolognese consistency. It looked great and I was allowed a quick taste. It certainly was spicy, but not too spicy to be unpleasant as can sometimes happen.

The children’s meals looked great, the pizza was enjoyed as was the spaghetti bolognese. The spaghetti bolognese was a proper bolognese and again I had a quick taste and it was really really nice. It was probably something I would order if I went to Prezzo again.

So why the “well nearly” in the blog post title?



Well alas the service let us down. It started off so well to begin with. They were welcoming and friendly and our food did arrive quite promptly. However after that it all went a little downhill. I am not sure why, but I think the main reason was that there wasn’t enough staff on. It was a Tuesday lunchtime and I think they anticipated that as it wasn’t a school holiday (schools in York broke up a week later than many parts of the country) they wouldn’t have too many customers. However though when we arrived there was only a few tables occupied, by the time we had finished eating our main courses the place was full and they were turning people away. As a result the two waiting staff appeared to be rushed off their feet. For us that meant it took a while to sort out the desert (just ice cream) and get the bill. The staff though did keep smiling.

So apart from the service issues towards the end of the meal, the food was delicious, it looked great and appeared to be made fresh to order. Really nicely done and now I have found where the Bristol branch is, we might go again.

Seafood Platter

For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.

We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.

The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.

scallops, prawns and squid rings

The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.

Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.

Taste the Difference Whole Giant King Tiger Prawns

We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.

Dressed Crab


Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.

Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company

Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.

We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.

Time for Yo Sushi

I haven’t been to Yo Sushi for a while now, even though I enjoyed the meal I had there the last time I was there in 2009. I didn’t think it was that long ago!

Out on a evening shopping trip out with my wife, we decided that we wanted to get a quick bite to eat and as both like sushi, decided that we would go to Yo Sushi.

The first dish we grabbed from the conveyor belt was Assorted Fish Maki, two each of salmon, tuna and prawn and chive maki. These were very nice. I then picked up a plate of Avocado Maki, alas these were quite bland, but did have a nice texture.

We then ordered some hot dishes, which means as we could see into the kitchen we knew were freshly cooked. As might be guessed by regular readers of the blog, I went with squid, well I like squid. The Spicy Pepper Squid, is described as hot coils of spicy pepper squid topped with red chilli. I personally thought it was overcooked and a little chewy, but really enjoyed the dish, the chilli was a nice touch and added some heat to the squid.

The Chicken Teriyaki, grilled chicken in a sweet, sticky soy based sauce was very good, delicious and the sauce was just right. We could have probably eaten three of this dish, but in the end had just one. The grilled chicken was tender and there is something I have alway enjoyed about grilled chicken. This was well complemented by the sticky teriyaki sauce and dressed with sesame seeds.

As I was intrigued and had never had it before, I ordered the Soft Shell Crab Tempura, which was described as soft, tasty and tender soft shell blue crab fried in a crispy and light batter with tempura sauce. I do like crab but had not had soft shell crab before. This dish was mainly about texture, there wasn’t a strong crab flavour, but was quite nice.

Overall it was a really nice meal, though we preferred the hot dishes. We thought it was quite reasonable for the price we were charged.

Crab

I like crab, especially fresh crab.

Crabs

Recently I had a very nice fresh crab salad at the Shoreline Bistro on Paignton beach.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to find fresh crab at your local supermarket. I have noticed that Marks & Spencers have started selling whole cooked crab, don’t know how fresh it would be.

The crabs in the picture above were taken at a fantastic fish market in Gloucester.