So on this day two years ago….

On this day two years ago I was in London for various meetings. Over lunch I went for a walk around Covent Garden and enjoyed looking at the Christmas decorations. Since 2015 when  I started working at my current organisation I would go to London quite frequently and in December it is really nice to see the different ways in which they decorate Covent Garden and other places around London.

Covent Garden

Of course since the Covid-19 lockdown I’ve not been to work or meetings in London since March.

However back to 2018, so I headed towards Kimchee on the Strand to get some lunch. Since my previous visit a few months earlier they have changed dramatically how they sell and serve food. Before you would pick things up from the hot and cold units and then either (as I usually did) take it back to the office or there were tables you could eat at. However now there was a big kitchen area, you would place your order, get a buzzer thingy and wait until the food was cooked to order. I quite like getting freshly cooked food, so was happy to wait.

I ordered the Deopbap Chicken Bulgogi and the Pa Jeon. I then had to wait for my order. Deopbap Chicken Bulgogi was Korean BBQ Chicken in a rice bowl.

The grilled chicken marinated in a blend of ginger, dark soy and garlic, was coated in a sauce and served on a bed of rice and salad. It was quite tasty, but not really barbecued chicken. It was just okay and nothing special and at nearly nine pounds I thought it was overpriced and wasn’t value for money.

I really liked the sound of the Seafood Pa Jeon, a Korean savoury pancake. Pajeon is a variety of jeon with scallion as its prominent ingredient, as pa means scallion. It is a Korean dish made from a batter of eggs, wheat flour, rice flour, scallions, and often other ingredients depending on the variety.

However the end result was a greasy stodgy undercooked pancake with no real flavour. I couldn’t actually finish it. I certainly won’t be going again.

On a later visit to London in 2019 I found that the branch of Kimchee had closed down. I wasn’t too surprised as the essence of what they had which worked was lost, as well as the downturn in the quality of the food as well as more expensive dishes. It also took longer to get served and I am sure that had an impact on those wanting to pick something up quickly and head back to their workplace.

It’s the most delightful time of the year…

The first post on this blog was the 26th June 2007, however that didn’t mean that’s when I started drinking coffee and eating food.  However it does mean that I didn’t really record some great meals and food.

On this day fourteen years ago, back in 2006, I went to London for a meeting and had one of the most delightful tasty meals that I can remember.

The meeting was at The Jolly’s Hotel close to St James’ Park. The hotel was all dressed for Christmas so was full of decorations and Christmas Trees.

It was a good meeting as I recall, but then it was time for a break. We had lunch in the hotel and we went down to the dining room. In front of me was this amazing display of Italian antipasto, salami, olives, anchovies and a range of salads. I thought what a wonderful delicious looking buffet. However I was little concerned about the amount of salt in the food so I asked one of the waiting staff if there were some more non-salty choices as I didn’t want to have too much salty food. He then pointed me over to the other side of the dining room where there was a carvery counter. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It was probably the best carvery I have ever had. They had a huge choice of meats, I went with some beef and new for me some veal. Adding all the trimmings, I sat down, it was absolutely delicious. The roast meats were tender and full of flavour. The trimmings were exciting and tasty.

After that it was back to the meeting and alas work.

It was one of those meals that I wish I could have again. I always meant to return to eat there again, however I never had a meeting in the hotel again, and never had a chance to go there to eat. Now fourteen years later I seriously doubt that even if I did go there it would be a similar wonderful experience.

Wahaca revisited

Now as we enter a second lockdown 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.

Back in December 2019 I was heading South of the river in London for an event where I was delivering a presentation. With time for lunch I headed off to Wahaca on the Southbank. This was the branch where I had first eaten food from Wahaca back in August 2016. Then I had really enjoyed the fresh delicious food and thought at the time that I would really like to go again. Since then I have been quite a few times, however I hadn’t been to the Southbank restaurant for a fair few years.

The restaurant on the South Bank, is built from eight recycled shipping containers arranged across two overhanging levels. These brightly coloured containers make for an interesting eating environment. The team were friendly and welcoming.

I went with three dishes from the street food menu.

The Ancho Chicken Tacos was two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa.

These were very nice, I enjoyed the spiciness of the accompaniments and the fresh tender chicken..

On previous visits I have gone with the steak tacos, though this time I went with the slow cooked beef brisket tacos.

The beef was beautifully tender and I liked the accompanying pickles on top.

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

I’ve had these before and these were really nice. The florets were larger than other times I’ve had this dish, but this didn’t make a difference, it was a delicious plate of food.

Overall I really enjoyed my meal and thought all the dishes were delicious.

Time for Thai Mussels and Beer

Now as we enter a second lockdown 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.

I had the meal reviewed here in June in 2019 at Belgo in London. I had spent a week off on holiday in Sussex and the week after I was back to work with three days in London. It was at the same time a certain American President was also visiting London during these same three days! I had written up the delicious pasta meal that I had during the same trip.

During my three days I was staying in a hotel that I actually wasn’t expecting to stay in, so I hadn’t had the time to do much research about places to eat nearby and I really didn’t want to end up at the hotel restaurant, as they can be terrible food and over-priced. After checking into the hotel I had a look around the area to see where I could get some food. I had been tempted by the Union Tavern gastropub, but it was rather busy. Around the corner was a branch of Belgo. I had always liked the concept of Belgo, but there wasn’t one in Bristol so I had never managed to get to a branch. I had thought about visiting the one in Kingsway when I was looking for lunch when I was working in our London office, but it was a little too far away (and too expensive) for lunch. So the opportunity of visiting the Islington branch was appealing.

I quite liked the interior, modern and somewhat abstract. Part of me thought that a more nostalgic Belgian environment might have worked. I was given a warm welcome from the waiting staff and was shown to my table.

There was quite a wide choice on the menu, but my main reason for going to Belgo was the mussels.

To drink, I went with a Beer Flight. This is three small 1/3 pints of different beers. A lovely idea if you have no idea on which beer to choose. I really enjoyed the different beers, each quite unique, all refreshing.

For my starter I went with the Calamari, crispy squid with aioli.

This was not as good as I was hoping, but even so it was okay.

For my main course I went with Green Thai Mussels. These were mussels cooked in a Thai Green sauce with coconut cream, fresh ginger, lemongrass, Kaffir lime, chilli and coriander. I did think about going with the traditional or mariniére bowls, but thought that was the way I would always order, so lets go with something different.

I really enjoyed the mussels, the Thai sauce was nice, spicy but not overpowering.

The service was excellent and I did not feel rushed or ignored.

Since I visited we’ve had the covid-19 pandemic. In July 2020 on the back of the pandemic and the parent chain, Causal Dining Group went into administration and it was announced that Belgo would permanently close three of its four sites. It looks like I will need to find a different place to have some mussels.

Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

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

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

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.

Chargrilled Butternut Squash

Last year on a visit to Wahaca in Oxford Circus, I really enjoyed the chargrilled crown prince squash.

I said back then

The squash was grown for Wahaca by Riverford Organic and served with kale & cashew nut mole. 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.

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

With the recent wonderful weather I decided to try and recreate this dish using my own barbecue and some butternut squash.

I brushed the butternut squash with some olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, added some dried herbs and chargrilled it on the barbecue. I started skin side down over the heat and covered with a lid. I wanted to roast it slightly before turning it over and grilling the sides of the squash.

The end result looked like this.

Though I liked the look of the squash, there wasn’t enough flavour for me, I remember the crown prince squash being much tastier.

I think I will try again, but will try and get it to taste better. I am wondering if I should pre-cook in the oven before finishing off on the grill?

Coffee and Pistachio Croissant

On one of my last visits to London I stopped for a coffee on the way to the office, to check e-mail and catch up on other stuff.

I had been meaning for a while to try out the Sourced Market on Wigmore Street in Westminster. Before I didn’t have the time, or there was too much of a queue and I hate queuing…

This time, I had the time, and there was no queue, even though it was crowded. I was going to just have a flat white, but liked the look of the Pistachio Croissant, so I got one of those as well.

Sourced Market has a basement, it was quieter so I was down there (and could still get a 4G signal).

The coffee was excellent, and maybe a little too sweet for me, I did still enjoy the croissant.

Certainly if I ever get back to London and it’s open, I will go again.

Time for some breakfast

So there I was at an event in London and needing to book a hotel for the night. Going through the booking system we use at work, there was a cheap hotel almost next door to the venue, well that made a lot of sense, so I booked it.

Well it was a very tired hotel, it was dated and in the end quite noisy as well. I did though have breakfast included.

The breakfast was limited in choice, but it wasn’t half bad.

breakfast

Well the coffee was plain awful, I wish I had tea, those knowing me, will realise that’s saying something. It should be said I rarely find outstanding coffee when I have breakfast in a hotel, but this was on another level entirely.

The breakfast itself was all hot (and you can’t always say that about the breakfast buffet at some hotels), the eggs were cooked perfectly to my liking, I liked the tomato and the sausages. I wasn’t too enamoured with the bacon, but it was okay. As for beans, I don’t really like beans, so won’t comment on that.

I enjoyed the toast and there was a good choice of jams.

Overall the hotel was somewhere I wouldn’t want to stay again. The breakfast though, wasn’t too bad for a hotel breakfast.