Brawn, Bethnal Green

Last night, I had an appointment in Shoreditch, so figured it would be fun to stick around and have dinner nearby… since we almost never make it over there otherwise. I booked Brawn on Columbia Road, a restaurant that I had been wanting to go to for years, and just never made it to… and was SO excited that tonight was the night!

And wow, did it meet expectations. We started with two appetisers, the radishes with smoked cod’s roe (basically, taramasalata), the dip which was creamy and briny and very good…

We also ordered the rabbit terrine, which was one of the best terrines I’ve ever had. It was the perfect combination of being full of taste and still moist. Such delicious pate!

As a main, Andre got the pappardellle with beef shin ragu. I had a bit and it was quite good, as you could really taste the meat well over the freshly-made pasta.I went for the pink fur potato ravioli, stuffed with cheese and topped with another cheese (melted taleggio) that was delicious… and scattered with chanterelle mushrooms. So, the mushrooms were fine, but I didn’t find that they had tons of taste (more texture, really), but tasted very good with the ravioli and grated cheese on top!

The cheese inside the ravioli may have also been taleggio, but didn’t taste of very much, whereas the taleggio on top was dreamy… seriously, taking a bite of the ravioli with and without the taleggio topping were like tasting two different dishes!

After this, we shared the chocolate, olive oil and salt, which was just that, a chocolate mousse topped with a little olive oil (very strong and a nice complement to the chocolate, giving it a different aftertaste) and salt on the top… a simple but genius combination!

So, after all these years, what did I think? I’ll be back in a heartbeat, especially with all of the good-looking dishes that were coming out of the kitchen and that we hadn’t gotten to try yet!


Ella Canta, Mayfair

A girl’s night in early December, before the Christmas season properly kicked off… My friend Sara had been wanting to try Ella Canta, the Mexican restaurant that had recently opened in the Intercontinental Hotel by Martha Ortiz (better known for her restaurant Dulce Patria in Mexico City, which Sara had recently also been to and had an amazing experience). I am never one to say no to modern Mexican food, and expectations were high, so we tried it out!

After a margarita at the bar, we ordered a few appetisers to start… the guacamole, which was topped with ricotta and pomegranate (good, and we gobbled it up in about two seconds!) and the salmon tostadas, crispy chips topped with salmon escabeche, avocado, and a chipotle sauce. The tostadas were good, but a tiny morsel each… it would have been nice if they were slightly more substantial!

Next appetiser that came was the ceviche, which was also good but also small… sea bass ceviche topped with mango and a sangrita sorbet, it was called a vampire ceviche on the menu due to its colour!

They also kept bringing chips and salsas, both a red one and a green tomatillo one… we had about five of these, as both salsas were so good!

After this, the main dishes… Cindy had ordered the carnitas, whereas I ordered the cochinita al pibil. When our dishes arrived, we were sure that they switched them…

This was Cindy’s carnitas, which we both expected to be in shredded pieces… her pork was slow-cooked but not in pieces… served with an arbol chili sauce and a salad. I had a little taste and can attest that it was very good and very tender!

My cochinita pibil looked more like what I would have expected the carnitas to look like… as my pork was shredded… cooked in a delicious sauce with an anchiote paste on the side (the rust coloured sauce) and served with a black bean tortilla and black bean salad and some pickled onion, my dish was a good combinations of flavours!

Sara went for the soft-shell crab, served on a guajillo hummus and pineapple puree. I tasted a bit of her crab, that also was layered with tomatillos and radish, and it was much lighter and flakier than most soft shell crabs you get (that can sometimes be VERY fried). Yum!

Finally, it was dessert time, and we had a little room left, so we decided to share the cheesecake. It tasted like a US cheesecake, only more dense… we gobbled this up in seconds!

So what was the overall thought on Ella Canta? Everything tasted good, but not much was ground-breaking or amazing… it was “just” posh Mexican food. After Sara’s visit to Dulce Patria, we were expecting a bit more zing… and left dinner satisfied but not excited.

Hot Wok Kitchen, Holloway Road, London

A Friday when I was out and about, I stopped by a local place that I had been eyeing on Holloway Road after a meeting.

Hot Wok is always filled with people, and I do love my Asian food, so I decided today was a good day to try it out! The menu contains a mixed of Asian foods, all kinds of noodles from pad thai to stir-fried noodles, Chinese noodle soups and pho to laksa, and other stir-fried dishes.

As it was cold out and I was craving a heavier soup, I went for the Singapore laksa with tofu. It was darker and less creamy (ie, less coconut milk) than your typical laksa, with lots of spring onion, sprouts and tofu. The only thing I found weird was the noodles, they had put both vermicelli (which I love) and egg noodles (which I don’t so much) in the soup – I’m not sure if that’s their typical thing or if they had just run out of one kind of noodle… but it wasn’t great.

But, the soup was good and everyone else looked like they were enjoying their food too… so I’ll be back to try some other dishes soon!

The Phoenix, Chelsea

A night out with my friend Hanna, and we decided that we needed a little something to eat as we tucked into a bottle of white wine…

I have been going to the Phoenix since I moved to London, first for a birthday party.. needless to say, the food is quite good for a pub! Apart from their sit-down restaurant, they also serve bar snacks, including charcuterie plates, fries, and chips/hummus.

We went for the fish gougons… nice and crispy, served with a lemon aioli

And a wild mushroom toast with poached egg.

Both very good, and just barely enough… we ordered some more later on in the night. But these were a good way to start a long, overdue catch-up session!

Sea Me Peixaria, Lisbon, Portugal

Andre has been raving about SeaMe ever since he’s been going to Lisbon, but for some reason, we never made it there when we went together. Finally, this time, we did.

The menu is great, filled with seafood and fish appetizers, fresh cooked fish, and sushi. It’s a seafood extravaganza, and delicious. When you walk into the restaurant, there’s a bar, then the seated tables behind, and all the way in the back, a layout of the fresh fish that you can choose for the evening.

We started off with two sushi rolls (4 pieces each) of fusion sushi, on one, a spicy tuna with the cured tuna on top and tuna with chili inside – and on the other, scallop and a tempura crunch on top, filled with asparagus, salmon and chili. Both good, but neither exceptional.

Then, a delicious seabass tartare, served with red onions, scallions, and tobiko , mixed in an eggy-seeming (but probably not?) dressing. It bound the mix together and gave it a little extra flavour.We also had a delicious leg of octopus (at this point in the night, I had stopped taking pictures) and a black rice with sepia… both of them were finger-licking good, and had they not been such generous dishes, we would have ordered more of each!

A really great restaurant, worth a visit when you go to Lisbon, make sure to make a reservation, as these days, even the bar is overbooked!

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!

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).