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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Honest Burger, Brixton

A Sunday in Brixton, we stopped by a covered market and looked at all the different brunch places to eat… and finally settled on an Honest Burger, which was famed to be one of the best burger joints in London.

And we found it a bit disappointing, to be honest…

Andre started with a green basil lemonade which he liked…

He went for their regular burger, which had nothing especially unique about it… but it does come with their toted rosemary fries, which are pretty good.

Except he was slightly worried that it hadn’t been cooked enough, as you can see here the meat is pretty raw still… (but as an update a few weeks later, he finished the burger and didn’t get sick…)

I went for a different option, Honest Burger had created a chicken burger with Kricket, a local modern Indian restaurant, a Keralan fried chicken, fried with a special blend of herbs and spices, and a chili and garlic mayo, and radish on a bun (and the same yummy fries).  I found my chicken over-fried and the meat pretty dry, they could have gotten some good tips from all of those Korean fried chicken dishes out there…

And then the sides… the cabbage coleslaw was addictive and good, and the salad with fennel was just okay…  They overdid it with the olive oil, the salad was swimming in it…  So, overall? Really not impressed. A still-raw burger, dry chicken, and oily salad… not much of a reason to go back!

El Al and the White Villa, Tel Aviv, Israel

Back to my trip to Tel Aviv, quickly… the flight over actually had quite good food… I took El Al and was not especially excited by the packaging and set-up of the dishes…  I mean, see below… lots of plastic and not great plating… but you know, the food was delicious. I had originally ordered the fish dish, which they ran out of by they got to my row, so I could choose between the chicken curry or the veggie mezze… and the flight attendant strongly suggested I go for the mezze, so I did.

And they were really good, different peppers, vine leaves and cabbage, all stuffed. Served on a bed of tomato roughly chopped base and slightly herbed and spiced, these were really good! A small jar of harissa and another of tahini acted as good dipping sauces on the side.

The next morning, at my hotel, the White Villas, I was treated to a delicious breakfast… labneh, fruit, a salad,a mni gazpacho soup with small mozarella balls in it, and lots of bread served with olive oil, nutella, and jam. YUM.

Then, it turns out that there is also hot food included in breakfast… the first day, I had to try it, as all the hot options sounded so good… I wanted to get the shakshuka (we are in Israel after all), but the lady suggested that I wait…

In her words, if this is your first shakshuka in Israel, don’t eat this one, as it’s kind of fancy… go into a hole-in-the-wall, shitty place and order one there first, an authentic one! Haha, I appreciated the honesty.

Instead, I got the two fried eggs served on a bed of sauteed greens and onions, and oh wow, was it delicious. Topped with some cheese (kind of like a fontina, but with more salt in it, and lots of black ground pepper.

I was disappointed that this dish wasn’t bigger, as it was SO good. The greens were varied and really fresh, so had a nice taste, especially with the sweet red onion. And the cheese melted over the eggs… yum.

The Nest Cafe, Ripley, Surrey

On a Saturday drive down into Surrey, we stopped in Riley, a cute town near Cobham, for a quite bite before heading into the Surrey Downs.

We had driven by the Nest Cafe before, but today, at 3pm, it was bustling with people!

We grabbed some food as we hadn’t eaten yet, and the tartines on the menu looked the best at the time. We went for an avocado toast… a generous portion with a side salad… which tasted like… avocado toast.

We also got one of the marinated mackerels on toast, which was very nice… slightly over-marinated, if you ask me, but there was enough bread to counteract the strong fish.. this was a delicious tartine!

Then, resisting all the delicious cakes and pastries that were sitting out, we hopped back into the car and drove off into the woods! Gotta love the small roads of the English countryside – with the late-fall sunlight at the end fo the afternoon, it was beautiful!

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!

Archibald Microbrewery, Montreal Airport, Montreal

And finally, before getting on my flight, I began to get hungry again… and tired. I figured, if I ate before my flight, I could get a few hours on rest before landing. The meal service is slow enough these days that it tends to be one or the other, either food or sleep!

I went to Archibald’s, which I had noticed the last time I was at Montreal airport, it looked cosy and almost like an alpine ski restaurant, with its black and red checkered blankets. Very chic.

I grabbed a delicious glass of wine, recommended by the waiter… wish I had taken the name down!

And then ordered some food. Everything seemed a bit heavy, so finally I at least went for something simple, if not exactly light… the steak with roasted vegetables. The steak was juicy and flavourful (and cooked perfectly to my medium rare request). This was the perfect way to wind down before my flight (and sleep, I did!)