High Tea at the Athenaeum Hotel, London

Christmas season and I have a client in town that wants to meet over high tea… how fun! So, starving myself at lunch, I head over to check out the different options… the Atheneum Hotel’s tea room is not especially charming (it’s a regular restaurant, and a very hotel-looking one), but it has four different types of tea menus.

As neither of us are feeling excited about the sweets on the menu, we choose the Gentleman’s Tea, which comes with cheddar scones and savouries (sausage roll, Scotch egg and a rarebit on toast) instead of cakes. You also get a shot of whiskey on the side…

And it was delicious. We started off with thin toasts (on the top) with an anchovy paste. Then, the cheddar scones, which had bacon bits on them…

On the bottom row, there was a ham and grain mustard sandwich, another (that I didn’t touch as it looks like cheese and chutney), a smoked salmon ball on a crisp (pretty good, though it almost needed a little salt!) and an egg salad bun that was too creamy looking for me to try.

But the best was the warm food nearby… the sausage roll (lots of sausage and not too much pastry dough… flaky with very tasty sausage), the Scotch egg (okay, as it had already been sitting out for a bit, it wasn’t very warm… and sadly, the sausage was not as good as in its neighbouring sausage roll!) and the rarebit on a crumpet… SO good. Melted cheese on the delicate crumpet, this somehow came out tasting very delicate and perfectly cheesy.

Then, Dang and his colleague had their whiskies… not being a fan, I refrained! They offered us additional sandwiches to top us up, but as I couldn’t even finish the first round, it felt a bit much… but what a fun change to a traditional high tea… if I could have this every time, I would pass on the sweets and go for the savoury!

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Sarona Market and Taizu, Tel Aviv

The next day of meetings, I got an amazing view of Tel Aviv from up high… apparently you stop appreciating this once you’ve seen it every day!

For my second meeting, I had a lunch next to Sarona Market (at a place called Claro, which was delicious). As I had a bit of time, I popped into Sarona Market, a food stall and market, and walked around… it reminded me of the Time Out Market in Lisbon, and had about as many choices!

That evening, I was craving Asian food (as I typically do during a work trip) and went to try Taizu, which had received very good reviews, both for its trendiness and interesting food combinations. The menu is an Israeli interpretation on South East Asian seafood… I was up for trying it! And I’m so glad I did…

The first few bits were tasters, the first one, the size of two fingers… a salmon, tuna and yellowtail tartare in a baked rice paper cone, with a soy cream, sesame seeds and fish row on top. Tiny, but good.

Then, the betel shrimp, that was a large prawn served in a betel leaf along with raw onion, peanut, coriander, and a spicy sauce. This was good, but served in a large spoon and quite difficult to eat.

Then, the shanghai dumplings, their iteration of soup dumplings, also served on a spoon to catch the broth once you bit into them.

So, these were amazing, but had practically no broth in them…. They had veal cheeks inside, which tasted like short rib that had been braised for hours… it was amazing.With a beef broth, pistachio masala and pommegranate, wow. Topped with a piece of ginger and chili, it was almost perfect, though I wish they had served them with a little vinegar.

And finally, as a main, the crab curry with rice noodles and a Chinese donut. I didn’t really know what to expect with this dish, but it was SUCH a good choice.

So, it put the dish together, you serve some of the curry into the lettuce cups, which already include the noodles and peanuts, along with some basil… YUM. Apart from the curry dripping out the lettuce and all over my fingers…

Then, the Chinese donut was essentially just a piece of bread, but meant to sop up the rest of the curry once you ran out of lettuce cups. Genius. The dish was interactive and fun, but also just very good!

And finally, I tried a dessert… their mango dessert is the one they are best-known for, and while mango isn’t my thing, I decided to try it anyway… and was so glad that I did, as it was incredible…

The mango ball itself was pretty cool, with a semi-hard shell outside filled with a mango custard inside.

It is laid on a puree of sweet potato, whose savoury/sweet taste gives a bit of a different texture and combination, contrasting the sweet mango. Along with this, you have several bits to roll your purees and custards in: cubes of passion fruit marmelade fruit paste, crunchy rice flakes, and rounds of white chocolate, and a saffron crumble. This was SUCH a great combination, with so many different flavours and textures… it reminded me of the complexity of my dessert at Zafferano’s in Sardegna this summer, which had a similar number of different bits and pieces on the plate.

Overall, a quite impressive restaurant, with a good mix of Asian flavours and western ones, for some pretty exciting combinations… I will definitely be back the next time I’m in Tel Aviv and try a few more of their dishes (as well as a few repeats).

Dalida, Tel Aviv, Israel

In Tel Aviv for two days of meetings, I finished early the first day and walked down to Jaffa and the beach, watching the surfers end their days in the water! As winter is coming, the days are finishing earlier and therefore, by the time I got to the beach around 4:30pm, the sky was already changing colours…

Not really sure where to eat in Tel Aviv, but knowing that there are a ton of good restaurants, I checked out eater.com to see if they had any suggestions… and found a post noting 38 restaurants, and an updated one with 15 new hot restaurants… score.

I narrowed the list down to a few restaurants then made a last minute decision based on the neighbourhood I was in at dinner time.

Dalida is a new-ish restaurant just below Rothschild Boulevard in a small maze of streets that have cute little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and people spilling out having cocktails.

Dalida is more high end than this, but manages to still be relaxed, with a bench outside where some people came and just had a drink as well…

As soon as I sat down, I was given some beans to snack on while I ordered. They were seasoned with caraway seeds and some herbs… nice but not amazing.

Then, I attacked the menu… there are medium dishes (appetizer size), large (main size) and small bites (side dish size). After looking at the whole menu, I decided that the appetizers looked the best, so was told to order three of those.

I started with the courgette salad, with thin slices of courgette, tomato, artichoke, red onion and olive, topped with a red pepper paste and labneh. There was also stalks of some other vegetable… I’m not sure what it is (it almost tastes like a celery stalk, with the same thread-y consistency, but is cooked).

The thin courgette was nice, but the dish wasn’t a wow-dish overall.

Then, chicken wing and yogurt ravioli with chicken stock, dried yogurt, and watercress, sprinkled with pistachio. These little guys were delicious. They chicken stock was tasted in the ravioli themselves, and in the sauce… and the pistachio sprinkling was unexpected and added a really nice extra layer. I gobbled these up.

And then, the most decadent dish ever, bone marrow with toasted brioche and a truffle cream (and chestnuts). The bread was called a brioche steak, as it was shaped and kind of looked like a piece of steak…

Basically, you scoop out the bone marrow, add it to the brioche and then add some of the truffle cream… funnily enough, the flavours worked perfectly together, you would think that a combination of bone marrow and cream would be too much, but the earthy truffle flavour counterbalanced the fattiness of the  bone marrow and actually cut into what would have otherwise been too fatty. I didn’t find the chestnut necessary, but it was a nice touch.

Then, I was convinced to order dessert, their iteration of a typical Arab semolina dessert (oum ali). I had had something similar in Turkey, and thought it was okay, but this dish was much better, as the semolina was smooth (instead of grainy) and the sauce was perfectly sweet but light. Yum.

What a meal… and with a great waitress (who offered to do a shot together halfway through the meal) and a nice American couple at the next table, it was a very entertaining one as well as delicious!

Sushi Shop, Montreal Airport, Montreal

My next stop after Toronto was Montreal, which I made it to at 3pm, a good six hours ahead of my 9pm flight. Great. And I couldn’t check in for another few hours, so what did I do? Eat again!

This time, I grabbed a sushi roll, called the Smoky. It was: smoked salmon, avocado, tempura, orange masago, spicy light mayo, spicy sauce, and sesame. And quite good. This kept me going for a while, and I figured I was done until the flight…

Momofuku, Toronto, Canada

A quick day trip to Toronto from New York… I had a meeting on the 70th floor of the tallest building in Toronto… check out the views!

As the weather was slightly chilly, I felt like having soup for lunch… and came across a branch of Momofuku, David Chang’s famous Korean/Japanese restaurant chain, along the way… and popped on in.

And I have to say, business is GOOD. It was a Friday afternoon and the three-story restaurant was absolutely packed! I got a seat at the bar, so got to watch the guys working in the kitchen…

and all of the delicious ingredients they were adding to the rice bowls and noodle soups!

I went for their (most popular, which made me feel pretty boring) pork tonkatsu ramen, served with big, juicy slices of pork belly and some brisket as well… slices of fish ball, a poached egg (on the right), some seaweed, and a spicy sauce…

I was worried that, as the bowl was not mostly full, I would still be hungry afterwards…  but resisted ordering something on the side.. and you know what? I’m glad I waited, because this was more than enough to eat! Springy noodles, flavoured broth and big, thick pieces of pork… Yum!

British Airways – New Club World food

I’d read that British Airways was cutting costs on most things (you now get a food bar instead of a second meal at the end of a long-haul flight, and have to pay for food in economy on short-haul flights) but was upgrading their service in Club World, so I was excited to check this out…

There is now a larger tray, with a bread/butter/olive oil side dish…

And now, instead of choosing your appetiser from the menu, they bring a trolley around and you can check what it actually looks like before partaking…

I went for the mozzarella with tomato carpaccio, which was drizzled with olive oil and balsamic dressing in front of me. I have to say, the piece of mozzarella was huge, but delicious.

Then, I went for the artichoke ravioli, which was served with roast artichokes, roast cherry tomatoes, and a sage and butter sauce. It was nothing to write home about, but decent…

So? The atmosphere was slightly nicer, with the meal taking a bit longer to serve, but feeling much more civilised (and closer to the First Class meal than before). I’ll be back for more!

Machi-ya, St James

Another local restaurant that opened up a few months ago, this one touting itself as a Japanese comfort food restaurant. I’d take it!

The place is small and cosy, so you instantly feel at home. I went on my own, as I just wanted to get out of the office and no one was around to join…

I started off with the chicken balls or tsukune, the minced chicken skewers served with a soy/egg yolk mix to dip them in, and a shimichi pepper spice on the side, should I want them to be spicy. They were squidy feeling in my mouth and tasted okay, but to be honest, I think that the best thing about them was the extras, ie, the egg yolk, soy, and spice.

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But with this, I ordered one of the specials, the sea bass which was served with a  miso jalapeno sauce, and this was MUCH better. First of all, it was a very generous serving of fish for £9, and the fish was cooked perfectly. The miso jalapeno sauce gave it a nice extra kick, as did some of the grilled lime juice that I squeezed on it, but even on its own, the fish would have been quite nice.

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Shared with a market salad (and a sesame dressing), this was a perfect lunch, cosy and good. The specials board had a number of different other specials, including other types of grilled fish and roast pumpkin – you can bet that I’ll be back for those!

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