Restaurante a Peixaria, Sao Jacinto, Portugal

Next, we were heading down towards Lisbon, stopping 45 minutes north in Ericeira. But one of Andre’s friends had told us about Sao Jacinto, a small town just south of Porto, that was worth checking out, so we detoured there for lunch and a walk on the beach before heading further south.

Sao Jacinto is based on a peninsula that is similar to Cap Ferret on the Basin d’Arcachon. Sao Jacinto is on the end of the peninsula, and like Cap Ferret, has a bay side and ocean side to the town.

Again, not knowing anything about it, we went on Google maps to find a place to eat, and really hit a home run! When we arrived at Restaurante a Peixaria, it was heaving and had a long queue waiting outside. When we finally got the waitress’s attention to put our name down, we asked if we could sit at the bar, and she sat us right down. Great!

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Outside, while we were waiting, we watched the chef prepare and grill the squid that everyone seemed to be having…

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Look at that, how could you not want to taste it?!

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So we ordered some squid and some of the fresh prawns on the specials board… These were just off the boat fresh, still slightly crunchy and tough to take the shells off (I ate a lot of shell out of laziness… but it’s good for calcium, right?!), these little guys were delicious.

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Then came the calamari with some sides, and a nice salad wash it all down… we did a pretty good job with all of the food, and were licking our fingers at the end… it was all so good, and we didn’t feel like we were going to explode afterwards!

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A little bar-side selfie… and then off to the beach for a walk in the sand, before we headed back to the car and down to Ericeira.

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Tuyo, Hackney

A Saturday at Broadway Market, but we actually felt like sitting down, so headed to Tuyo, a Spanish restaurant just off of the canal with…. key, outdoor seating. We grab a table outside and look at the brunch menu… and it all sounds delicious.

Because we’re healthy folks, we get a side of avocado, which is simple, drizzled with salt and olive oil.

We both went for the huevos rotos – scrambled eggs on top of baba ganoush, with tomatoes, chorizo (see those two, massive pieces of chorizo?) sumac, and hot sauce. Oh, and some salad on the side.

So… I found that the baba ganoush didn’t have much flavour, and the rest was a bit messy, with the hot sauce smothered all over the chorizo and eggs slopped on top… with sourdough bread that was tough to cut through with a knife. Basically, it looked better than it tasted, which is a shame, because how good does that look?!

I’d like to say that I’ll come back for dinner one night, as again, the menu looks really good, but it isn’t going to be a priority in this neighbourhood!

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!

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!