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.


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!

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.


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.


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!


Ole and Steen, St James

London seems to be opening a number of different office/restaurant/shop spaces, such as NOVA space in Victoria and St James’ Market just south of Piccadilly.

Ole and Steen opened in St James’ Market probably nine months ago, and claims to be the best Scandinavian bakery in London. It has tons of breads, pastries, and light meals… including opened face sandwiches, salads, and amazing-looking focaccia breads that look like pizzas!

I went for two open-faced sandwiches (though probably only really needed one, as they were quite filling!) The first was the hot smoked salmon and egg salad sandwich, topped with pickled red onion. The salmon was fine, but the eggs were delicious… they probably had some mayonnaise in them, but what it really tasted like is that they had been slowly stirred to cook them, making them super creamy. Yum.

The other sandwich was the roast beef sandwich, with a remoulade sauce, a mix of ribboned cucumbers and pickles, and nice slices of roast beef ,topped iwth some pumpkin seeds and dill.

I mean, look at that roast beef! Have you ever seen better in a sandwich? Delicious.

They typically have three choices of the sandwiches, plus other sandwiches and salads… so I will be back soon to try the other options!

Murger Han, Mayfair

A chilly May day, I am craving Asian noodles, as there were strangely absent at the birthday lunch I’d been to at Min Jiang on the Saturday. I had passed Murger Han the previous week as I was walking through Mayfair, and thought that a place almost entirely dedicated to Chinese noodles would be a pretty good choice for the next day I was craving noodles!

The restaurant is quite simple, with chili oil and soy sauce placed on every table (and cute panda chopstick holders).

I started with some vegetable gyoza (nicely pan-fried and crunchy inside) but wish I hadn’t… with the noodles, it turned out to be way too much food!

Then, the Biang Biang noodles, served with pork, chili oil, spring onion, tomato and egg… the tomato was softly braised with the pork and egg (I think the eggy omelette was cooked in some kind of flavourful broth, and was borderline runny still… oh my, it was so tasty!) Underneath the noodles was a lot of chili oil and chili, which, mixed together with all of the ingredients, made the whole dish spicy and delicious.

There are a number of other noodle dishes here, including with some cold noodle dishes, along with their famous murger (which is essentially a pork sandwich that kind of looks like their version of a burger…), there are many new things for me to try out!

Black Roe, Mayfair

Out at lunch with a friend, Buck, we headed to Black Roe, as I’d been wanting to try it out for ages!

Black Roe is a Pacific Rim restaurant that specialises in poke, but also serves all sorts of delicious seafood dishes (and other).

The menu starts with a list of different poke bowls, then appetisers, and main dishes.

We went for the Black Roe poke, which contained both yellow tail tuna and regular tuna poke served with a warm, almost marinated rice, carrots and radish, jicama, and scallions… yum! It was Buck’s first poke and he was pretty impressed.

We also started with the scallops, grilled to perfection, topping a black quinoa and apparently mango salsa, though it tasted more like a  truffled mushroom puree to me underneath. But utterly delicious!


Then, the main courses. We started with grilled tiger prawns and monkfish in a citrus salsa… very good, but completely dwarfed in experience, size and taste by the


lobster macaroni and cheese. Holy crap, this was delicious. With the perfect amount of cream and a little bit of cheese, the macaroni was perfectly al dente and the pieces of lobster were big, springy and tasty. The. Best. Mac and cheese. Yum.

img_0177And some broccoli on the side, since we’re so healthy. This was slightly cooked with garlic, so had a little flavouring instead of being plain steam broccoli.


Overall, lunch was really good, with, funnily enough, the poke being the least exciting thing that we ate (while it was still good, it just didn’t pack as much punch as the other dishes).

So will I go back? Oh yeah. And I’ve already googled many iterations of lobster mac and cheese to make in the meantime…

Japan Centre, Piccadilly Circus

A quick lunch on a Wednesday… my typical go-to’s are either the Japan Centre or Whole Foods, as both are healthy and quick. On this particular day, I was thinking sashimi sounded good but didn’t have the time to sit down anywhere… so I went for the XL sashimi at the Japan Centre (they have everything from small to XXL, with the larger sizes having more varieties of sashimi than the small, which typically has salmon, tuna and yellowtail).


So I went for the very large one, which had salmon, two types of tuna, mackerel, sea bream, octopus, squid, scallop, sweet prawns, and red snapper. All delicious and fresh, this is better than what you find in most restaurants nearby…

Japan Centre wins again!