Whitstable Cafe and Kitchen, Whitstable

The Sunday morning in Whitstable, we rent bikes and decide to go for a long ride along the water. We stop by one of the grocery stores, but everything is bought already (its one of those kinds of weekends!) and so we head ot the Cafe and Kitchen to see if they’ll make take-away sandwiches for us.

The Cafe itself is very cute, with a big room in the back, and little seats in the front room. They serve everything from quiches, sandwiches and salads, to heavier main dishes.

We each went for the sandwiches, as they were the easiest to carry out. I got a roast chicken, tomato and avocado sandwich on sourdough bread. The creamy avocado made it just good enough.

IMG_2695

This is how Andre feels about his sandwich… he got the Coronation chicken sandwich, which was basically curried chicken on sourdough… no raisins, nothing else… pretty unexciting.

IMG_2696

So, back in Whitstable, perhaps we would try out the quiches or main dishes the Cafe has to offer, but we certainly would not come back for a sandwich, as we found them quite basic, not very tasty, and quite pricey for what they were!

Advertisements

Chickpea – Lebanese Street Food, New Cross, London

A spontaneous weekend away, we decided to head to the beach! Driving through London to get to the M2, we were starving by the time we got to New Cross and realised we had at least another hour before we got to Whitstable… so we stopped at a Lebanese place for some sandwiches.

I ordered us two shish taouk pitas… grilled chicken wraps with onions and spices, and waited for them to be done. And waited. And waited. Overall, they took about 15 minutes, which I found long, given how quickly every other customer was coming in and out of the shop, but when they were done, it was worth the wait.

A large wrap filled with crispy red onions, a delicious, creamier than most, curried and spicy sauce surrounding the chicken… and the chicken itself? Delicious. Moist, large pieces of chicken that had been perfectly grilled. Usually in Lebanese restaurants (to make a huge generalisation), the grilled chicken is overcooked and dry. This was so delightful. This made for the perfect meal for our hungry stomachs, as we continued on towards the beach.

Shuang Shuang, Soho

A while ago, I saw that a new hot pot place was opening in Chinatown, and took note, but it was only recently that I actually made my way there. Shuang Shuang’s claim to fame is that not only is it a hot pot restaurant, but it also has a conveyor belt… so you can choose your hot pot ingredients! Genius.

Everyone gets their own individual hot pot station, with the pot, a dipper, dish, spoon and a sieve spoon to catch your cooked food.

Shuang Shuang has a Market Lunch Special for £10.5, where you get to choose three green or white dishes, one black dish (intended to be noodles, but they also have a few other black dishes floating around), a side dip, and broth.

I went for the original broth, the Black Bird broth which is a chicken broth that’s especially fragrant, with jujubes floating in it… and the House Sauce, wihch has a blend of sesame butter, red beancurd paste, and a dab of chili oil… the chili oil wasn’t very apparent, and the sauce tasted much more creamy, and less spicy than I wanted… so I added a good extra dash of sesame oil to it!

So, here’s what I tried out. Lots of greens (cabbage, boy choy), some tofu, and some slices of beef… all which came under the green and black dishes (there are other coloured dishes which are more… in the end, you pay per dish, so you can have as little or as much as you want).

I was impressed with the beef slices, doused in the creamy, spicy dip… and the tofu was delicious once it had soaked in the hot pot broth for a while… also dipped in the sauce!

Now, I’ve been back again, so I’ve been here twice at this point, and both times, took the Market Special and ended up getting two extra dishes of food to feel full.

This is a perfect place for lunch, where you can come with someone else but choose exactly what you want to eat – and, healthier than other Chinese dishes with sauces or noodles, you’re cooking you lunch in a hot broth and adding a bit of sauce at the end if you want… an easy, interactive and heatlhy lunch!

Eat by Chloe, Covent Garden

A few months ago, by Chloe opened up in the UK… for those of you that don’t know it, by Chloe is a vegan “fast food” joint that has popped up all over the US. When I saw that they were opening a store in Covent Garden, I was pretty excited…

So were a lot of other people… I waited in line for more than five minutes… checking out the surroundings and the Grab + Go section (that has salads, juices, and other beverages.

The seating area is also quite cool, and well-decorated… doesn’t it make you want to sit and spend some time here?

And the cash registers… four total, with a place to pick up your meal on the left. Like at Shake Shack, you get a beeper that lets you know when your meal is ready to pick up…

So what I liked was that every employee I saw in the store was a woman… both up at the counter, but also in the kitchen. I’m not sure if this was intentional or just by chance?

Here I am with my takeaway bag… made with eco-friendly ingredients.

Then, back at my desk, I got to check the food out… I went for the Guac Burger (a sweet potato, quinoa and black bean burger served with a corn salsa, guacamole, tortilla strips, onions, and topped with a chipotle sauce, served on a whole grain bun).

And it was pretty delicious. The patty itself was very tasty, with a good amount of flavour and spice, not tasting like meat, but like the best veggie burger patty I’ve ever had (and I’ve actually had quite a few!)

The corn gave it crunch, the guacamole gave it creaminess, and the lettuce and tomato gave it the normalcy of a typical burger… all encased in a really nice, firm but soft bun… impressive!

The sweet potato air-baked fries were also very good… I ate the entire box!

So, my overall thoughts? This is a new, exciting place to visit in the neighbourhood, especially as I’d like to try their vegan macaroni and cheese with shitake bacon, along with some of their tasty-sounding salads.

At the same time, I was stuffed after eating the burger and fries, in a way that I’m not typically, even after having eaten a bigger meal. Maybe it was the extra-fluffy bread? It wasn’t the protein, as there wasn’t too much of it in the patty (or elsewhere…) so who knows!

One of the things I always wonder about with vegan food is how healthy it really is. Everyone goes on and on about the lack of meat, and I agree that it’s healthier to mainly be eating plants… but when you think of the cashew cream and all the other very fatty foods you end up substituting for things like milk or meat, you can end up eating many more calories… and even if they are healthier, it can make a difference over time.

I had checked out the calories for this food, out of interest, on the website, and no information is listed… other than a note saying that the focus is that “By eating carbs from veggies, healthy fats, and plant-based proteins you will stay full longer, maintain your blood sugar levels, and experience increased energy” – I agree with that, but it still doesn’t give us much information. They suggest that you go talk to one of the employees in-store about it. And that’s what I’ll do next time!

Zuaya, Kensington

A few weeks ago, I noticed that a restaurant near us had closed down (and old Italian place) and that in its place, they were building a place called Zuaya. I was guessing it was going to be Lebanese food, but when it opened, we realised it’s Latin American food!

Turns out the chef is Basque, but has spent years working in Argentina, Peru and Colombia… and this restaurant has influences from all of his stops!

We ordered some food, but then the chef came out and told us his favourites… so we ordered way too much… luckily, the soft opening is offering 50% off until July 18th, so it didn’t hurt our wallets too much!

One of the chef’s favourites was the ceviche a la brasa, which was pretty tasty… and Andre’s favourite. Sea bream with red onions, some large Peruvian corn, a sweet potato ice cream, and Rocoto pepepr Tiger Milk (coconut milk pepper ceviche “juice”).

The crunch of the corn (crunchy outside but soft inside, firm sea bream and tangy coconut milk, the sweet potato ice cream (which didn’t melt over the fifteen minutes we talked to the chef… hmm… )… it was all cut by the sharp red onion on top… perfect!

Then, the corn bread brulee… made with large corn and sweet corn, topped with burrata. The corn bread was slightly undercooked in the best way, that it still tasted a bit doughy, and with nice pieces of sweetcorn in the dough, and the burrata on top was slightly charred (making the brulee). Frankly, the corn cake was good enough on its own that it didn’t even need the burrata… but it certainly didn’t hurt!

And what a pretty presentation!

And the octopus, grilled to perfection, sitting on a bed of potato fume and topped with a chimichurri and mint, and an aji Amarillo chilli sauce, this was a really nice dish! It was no Mykonos octopus, but otherwise, as good as I’ve had in London!

The creamy, mushy potato worked well with the spicy Amarillo sauce and chimichurri (which was much more herby and less oily than most), and the garlic chips on top gave a nice crunch and differing texture.

The turbot was a real winner… the waiter told us about all fo the different things topping the turbot (coriander, mint, Thai basil, ginger and lime keffir), and we couldn’t taste the nuances of any of them, except for the big pieces of basil… but it didn’t matter, because this (large) piece of turbot was perfectly cooked, super moist and nicely seasoned, which made us gobble it down. I would go as far as to say that the best turbot I’ve had was at the River Cafe, and that this is a close contender…

The tuna tartare with avocado was quite good, marinated in a sesame oil and Asian sauce (but, lightly, not overly sauced), the bits of guacamole and the crunchy leaves on top (I’m not sure what these were, but they had a slightly smoky taste, maybe they were some sort of seaweed?) made for a good combination.

We had a few margaritas…

My favourite dish of the meal was the purple tacos… they were lamb neck cooked for 18 hours, mixe dwith ras el hanout, coriander, and smoked cinnamon… and a little pineapple. The meat was SO tender and you could really taste the flavour… Andre was not as wow’ed as I was, but it’s been a while since I’ve had meat where the flavour came out so much!

And finally, the Amazonian prawns, that were grilled and put over a passion fruit coulis… the prawns were fine, though they tasted more soggy than crisp, and the little bits of cunch (grilled shallot, perhaps?) on top was also a bit soggy because of the coulis. The combination of flavours was nice, but the dish just wasn’t spot on.

So, we’ll be back. Apart from being a stone’s throw from our flat, the food was good, and varied. Nex time, I’ll pass on the prawns and order extras of the purple tacos and turbot… and try some of the other dishes on the menu!

Byzantium Beach, Tinos, Greece

Second day of the mini-moon, we stayed near our hotel in Agios Sostis and decided to take it easy… for lunch, we walked all the way to the other side of the bay (maybe a 20 minute walk) to Byzantium Beach Club. They had a number of beach beds, a few tables, and a large menu… so we decided to give it a try!

We started looking at the menu, and they didn’t have half of the line items… but we managed to find a pretty good selection to order anyway.

We started with… yes, another Greek salad. Fresh tomatoes, sharp red onion, briny olives, cooling olives… a winning dish.Then, the aubergine, covered in tomato sauce and Parmesan… basically, an eggplant Parmesan – with basic tomato sauce and tons of grated cheese, it was fine, but nothing special.

Then, the grilled sardines… a generous serving, they were plentiful and nicely char-grilled. Again, these were fine but nothing to write home about, the grilling gave them a nice, crackly flavour outside, but they weren’t seasoned with anything more than parsley, and it wasn’t enough. 

Afterwards, I grabbed an espresso to wash it all down, and they brought us a homemade dessert that the waiter said was his grandmother’s recipe. It was basically orange rind in honey, but it was candied and tender while still being slightly tangy… with a nice bit of honey on top- spot on, and delicious. I spent the next few minutes trying to figure out how I could make this at home!

So would we come back? Yes, but hoping that more of the choices on the menu were available during high season, as it was really slim pickings. And everything we ate was fine, but nothing was out of this world… except for the free dessert!

That said, we may come back just for the beach chairs and atmosphere on the quiet bay…

Tarsanas, Tinos, Greece

That night, we tried out a restaurant in town that had many good reviews, and we weren’t disappointed. Tarsanas is located slightly off from the main port of Tinos but still on the water. As it was very windy, they hadn’t kept any tables outside, so we were all indoors, and the atmosphere was lovely. A mix of locals, young and old, along with tourists, some chilled music and great decorations (check out this painter!) made for a great environment.

Andre tried the local beer, which he really liked… And once again, we ordered a feast. We started off with some grilled, local cheese (not haloumi) that was served with a delicious tomato jam (the jam was more revolutionary to us than the cheese, but both were good).

Then, a good classic, a Greek salad, which as you can see was served to us in a HUGE bowl… again, after these two dishes, we would have probably had enough to eat. But no, we ordered on…

The grilled, local sausage. This was also a generous portion, as we were expecting maybe a 1/6 of this. It was nicely grilled, had the same texture as a saucisse de Toulouse but a taste closer to a Corsican figatel. A mix of Andre and I, go figure 🙂 We managed to eat this whole plate.

And then, some fresh fish (again, we thought that we were under-ordering by just getting starters…) The fish was very fresh and perfectly cooked… but the real winner?

The accompanying rice, mixed with dill, charred spring onions, and probably a lot of butter. It was delicious and addictive. Even after everything else that we ate for dinner, we managed to wolf down this rice… and I can’t wait to make it again at home! What a great meal…