Wai Chan Corner, Chinatown

Another Chinatown restaurant… this is one that I first went to in 2001 with my my friend Sarah and her family in a quick stopover in London after having studied in Spain for a year. I have been back a few times since, and like it, as it’s one of the only dim sum spots in Chinatown that still uses trolleys on weekends.

This time around, however, I didn’t pick so well… I wanted to switch things up a bit, so tried some new dishes…

First of all, I ordered the prawn wrapped in crispy spinach. I wasn’t expecting this much crisp… so I took most of it off (it was TOO fried). But underneath, the spinach was also crispy, in a nice way, and the bits of prawn were well-flavoured and almost bouncy in my mouth.

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Then, the easy one, the steamed dumplings… these were dried shrimp and fresh pork dumplings with peanut… for a while, I have been craving cunchy peanut in a dumpling, so this really hit the spot! To be honest, I could hardly differentiate between the tastes of the shrimp and pork in the dumpling, they were more of a softer texture within the dumpling that was complemented by the crunchy peanut… but with some chili oil and soy sauce dousing it, I was happy.

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Then, the beef dumplings. These were okay, though again, I didn’t feel like they were as strong-tasting as they should have been. I liked the combination of the spring onion and ginger with the broth under the dumplings, with the thinner, almost wonton-like dumpling wrapper, but the meat inside was just… blah. Really not tasting of anything.

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Finally, I chose the fried salt and pepper squid, which I imagined to be large pieces of squid, lightly battered and topped with tons of spring onion, peppers and onion, along with the salt and pepper spices… but this dish also, sadly, lacked. Instead, I got deep-fried strips of calamari with the salt and pepper seasoning, but none of the vegetables. I had a few pieces, but was pretty disappointed and didn’t even finish.

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So, my overall thoughts? Difficult, as this is somewhere I had been a few times over the years (though not in the past few) and always had a good experience. I’m thinking that perhaps my choices were to blame for me not liking the food, but even the two sets of dumplings were just okay at best. So, this isn’t a place I feel that I need to come back and try again!

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Bentley’s, Mayfair

Lunch with a favourite client today, we’ve decided to go outside and have seafood and pretend we’re on holiday… we headed over to Bentley’s, which has some of the best seafood in Mayfair (along with Scott’s), and a terrace to die for.

Ivo went the simple route and ordered the fish and chips… big, lightly battered pieces of fish with a few fries and some mushy peas… it looked delicious, especially with all the lemon and tartar sauce he smothered on.

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We each had a bit of wine as well… and some greens on the side, which were steamed, then finished off in butter… the peas and runner beans were crunchy, and the courgette and squash was well seasoned.

On the side, you can also see my unfinished bread, which went very well with the seaweed butter that they served us…

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I went for the sushi bowl, which seemed a bit odd for a regular British seafood restaurant, but I’m so glad that I did… sashimi-grade salmon, tuna, lobster, scallops, yellow-fin tuna and oysters, all served with some pickled radish, ginnger and cucumber, and some wasabi and soy sauce on the side… with some sticky rice in the middle… this was a real treat.

The fish and shellfish was all very fresh and all very tasty (unlike some, where you can’t actually taste the fish!) and the sides made for a good balance with the raw fish… this was the perfect, light meal.

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Not to mention that the rest of the menu looks delicious, from the dressed crab to all sorts of seafood platters to the fresh fish… I’ll be back soon to take advantage of this terrace again!

Gazele, Mayfair

Gazele is a new restaurant in Mayfair that I’ve been wanting to try since it opened up a few months ago. Armed with an adventurous friend visiting from New York, I headed over to give it a try.

And it’s an interesting place. The decoration is quite swish, with lots of bright pops of colour, fur, gold, and marble. When we got there, it was empty, but by the time we left, a few tables were occupied… maybe 20%.

The menu is divided into small bites, appetizers, main dishes and desserts, all meant to be shared, and all described by several ingredients (and nothing else), so it’s tough to get an idea of exactly what to expect on your plate. And they’re all quite small! So we picked the suggested 4-5 per person, and off we went!

I didn’t get to take pictures of all of the food, so let me go through my favourite dishes…

The three best dishes we had were a vegetarian dish, a seafood dish, and a meat dish… so there’s something for everyone!

My favourite dish was the Parmesan foam topped with leaves and anchovy bones. The Parmesan foam was light but tangy and flavourful, topped with delicate herbs of all kinds, including chervril that gave it an especially light taste… Then, the anchovy… tiny fish skeletons, which looked quite aggressive (though, also delicate, matching with the foam and herb vibe) but gave a light, subtle and briny taste that complemented the Parmesan quite well.

Secondly, I loved the squid… very lightly cooked and served in ribbons, it was mixed in with girolle mushrooms and “jowl,” which was essentially pieces of jamon Iberico… once again, this was a great combination, as the squid acted like a pasta, bound together with the meaty ham and sprinkled with the woodsy mushroom… I had to make an effort to share this with Omar, as I could have easily gobbled it down in a few bites! (see the squid with girolles below on the left – on the right is the turbot, wrapped in herbs, which was good, but just not as outstanding as the few others I mentioned)/

Finally, the presa, the Iberican pork, came out seared on the sides, perfectly medium rare inside and sprinkled with bits of salt… it was sitting on a bed of carrot sauce and carrots… I thought that they did a nice job of cutting the rich flavour of the pork, which might have otherwise been overwhelming, but together they were perfect. This pork reminds me of the one at Barrafina that is just as tender and well-cooked…

The desserts were also good, imaginative and tasty, but it was really these three dishes that stood out for me. I would come back to try them again, this time focusing on the best-tasting dishes!

One +, Chinatown

A new place to try in Chinatown, with all sorts of wonderful-looking Sichuwan dishes like boiled fish in chilis… but you really need a group for those kinds of dishes, as you want to try several ones and each dish is quite large…

So we went for simple. Smacked cucumbers in a Sichuwan chili sauce… healthy but tangy!

And vermicelli noodles with egg, sprouts and scallions. The noodle are springy and the egg, quite tasty in the soy sauce mix… with the sprouts giving just enough crunch to counter the spring in the noodles and the squishy scrambled egg..

While it hit the spot, I don’t think that the noodle dish really demonstrated the best of One +’s cuisine… we’ll have to come back to try some of the more regional dishes!

Laxeiro, Columbia Road

A little staycation in London for the weekend, we checked into a hotel in Shoreditch to switch things up a bit… which ended up being perfect timing with the 32-35 average heat during the day…

For lunch, we headed over to Columbia Road and to a Spanish place that we had been to for my birthday a few years before…

This time, we had the lunch special, which is two tapas and a drink for £14. Andre ordered the grilled sardines and the beetroot salad, with a glass of cava (not included) on the side.

The sardines were big and juicy, with a nice relish on top of them…

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The beetroot salad with peppered with lots of red onion, a light goat’s cheese, and a sherry vinegar that made everything slightly sweet…. it was a nice combination, with the sweet beetroot, the earthy goat’s cheese, and the sharp onions. This was my favourite dish.

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I went for the Pisto Manchego, a mix of aubergines, courgettes, peppers, and tomato, all topped with a fried egg. This was quite good, as the vegetables had all simmered together for a while, and the softly fried egg on the top was delicious when broken and mixed in the with the veg.

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We also got a plain tortilla which was spot on, gooey in the middle and well-cooked outside… I polished this off with a glass of Riojan white (included in the lunch menu). A healthy, quick lunch on the terrace overlooking the pedestrian street, this place never fails to please!

PEARL Hackney Wick

A Friday afternoon and I’d taken off to grab lunch with Andre in East London… I’d booked Cornerstone, a new restaurant with Cornish vibes that looks absolutely delicious…. and when we got there, it was closed! Checking the reservation, I saw that I had booked for the next week… damn.

So, we went across the road to the cafe nearby and decided to have lunch there instead. The options on the menu are simple, with lots of egg dishes, a few salads, and a few burgers.

I went for the haloumi and falafel salad, which was quite substantial, served with roasted aubergine, tomato, and big, leafy greens. The falafel wasn’t overfried, and the haloumi was generous.. it was a big dish! Topped with drizzles of a tahini-based sauce, I enjoyed this salad quite a bit (if not as much as I would have, a lunch at Cornerstone!)

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Andre got an omelette with tomatoes and mushrooms, with some salad on the side… it was HUGE.

While we waited for our food to come out, we started to play chess… then, overwhelmed by the idea of how long the game could take, abandoned it pretty soon after the food came!

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Temper City, London City

I had a meeting in the City on a rainy Friday, and as I waited in the meeting room for my 11am to show up, I looked outside and saw Temper restaurant.. and thought that I might stop there for a quick lunch after my meeting!

I have been wanting to go to the original Temper in Soho since it opened, as the barbecue menu sounds delicious. As I walked in and sat at the bar, I had the whole kitchen in front of me, including lots of meat hanging over a fire… and a guy preparing a large chicken skewer….

The City version has a lunch special, a £15 thali platter of either mushroom, cod, beef, or chicken, accompanied with a paneer masala, a fluffy paratha, pickles, a black quinoa salad (with onion and juicy beetroot), a yogurt and tamarind sauce, a Temper mix (which I could have started off with, but ended up not eating at all… basically a spice and crunchies mix), and soms spiced, fried potato sticks, all accompanying my fried Szechuan chicken (that was sitting on a coarse green curry).

Here you can see the little dishes (from the top, the quinoa salad, pickles, Temper mix, and yogurt/tamarind sauce). The paneer masala was to die for, rich and creamy with a little more spice than you would expect. Once I had the few pieces of paneer in it, I slurped the rest up with the paratha… and when I’d finished the paratha, I finished the rest with my fingers. It was that good. The quinoa salad was also surprisingly nice, especially topped with some yogurt, the sweet beetroot gave a nice contrast to the crunchy black quinoa.

I was a bit mixed about the fried chicken… the inside was super moist and tasty, but the outside… what I thought was the chicken skin (and kept expecting to taste some skin flavour) was actually just a batter… while it was crunchy, it didn’t have much taste, which I found disappointing… but was happy to dunk the whole thing in the yogurt/tamarind sauce to give it flavour instead.

Overall, a great thali meal… I would like to come back again and try a few more of their lunch options, but also get a few people together for dinner to try and share many different dishes… this is definitely a place that I need to go back and try again!