Monthly Archives: November 2016

PB Eats… in Soho

Sabbatical time is approaching! I’m taking some time off work to rest, relax and of course, eat and travel 🙂 I’m not going to begin my travels properly until January next year, and I will be blogging all about it.  So for now, I’m focusing on catching up on all the stuff I say I can’t do because I don’t have time – paperwork, de-cluttering, organising.. and did I mention resting and relaxing?

I was in Soho for a whole day last week – appointments, shopping, meeting friends for coffee.  I walked around, taking in the Christmas decorations (a bit too early? Definitely!).

My favourite ones were down Carnaby Street – one word affirmations scattered everywhere – brilliant!

Before I knew it – it was lunch time.  Spoilt for choice I decided to try a place that I had walked past on previous occasions, but never been.  Keu! on Poland Street, basically a fast food Vietnamese restaurant.  I toured Vietnam for 2 weeks with my brothers and I loved loved loved the food.  All the curries, the rice bowls, the spring rolls, oh the spring rolls.  I think I had them with every meal (erm, bar breakfast!).  I obviously wasn’t walking into this place expecting a taste of Vietnam, but what I liked is they tried to make it look like a restaurant in Vietnam.

I ordered my meal and drink, paid at the counter – very quickly with no issues – and went to perch on a bar stool facing the world go by.  My drink came in a couple of minutes – I went for a lemonade, just what I needed after walking around for a couple of hours.

I waited about five minutes until my mains arrived, entertained myself by watching Asian Provocateur in the meantime. Romesh Ranganathan is so so funny – both in these series and live.  Back to the meal – I went for the only veggie/vegan rice bowl I could see on the menu – Com Chay.  This was described as a smokey aubergine stew with tofu, mushrooms and tofu broth.  What arrived was a massive bowl filled to the brim with rice and veggies and tofu.

Close up? OK – here it is:

The first few mouthfuls (bar the gigantic pieces of garlic) were delicious.  Luscious pieces of tofu, firm yet delicate aubergine – no trace of the smokiness though – mushrooms, herbs, spring onions all added to the initial yumminess.  But it did become a bit one dimensional after a while – there was A LOT of rice and I did have to pimp it up with a bit of soy sauce and some chillies pickled in vinegar.  I ended up eating only 1/2 of it – it was waaay too much food – and I wanted to be in a position to look forward to dinner.  So will I come back? Nope, not really.

After a bit more (essential) shopping, off I went to dinner to meet my friends who I will be going to Tromso with.  We’re off in just over a week – and that was what the essential shopping was for – making sure I have enough long johns to keep me warm :).  We met at Aqua Kyoto, just behind Oxford Circus station.   I love the decor of this place – all dark wood and beautiful crockery.

Now this isn’t a cheap restaurant – but who said I was going a la carte?  My friend saw an offer – £29 for 3 courses and a cocktail, and it being Japanese cuisine, although full of raw fish, I knew I would be OK with options.  The last time I was here we had a terrific meal off the same set menu – and the service was excellent.  Repeat performance this time? Yes, on the food for me, bit of a hit and miss with the meaty main (hair in a dish, argh!)

I didn’t take a picture of the set menu (and I can’t find it anywhere online) but there were three options for starters – sushi, sashimi or veggie tempura.  Mains were a mushroom rice, and two other meaty options (obviously didn’t look).  There was only one option for dessert – a pumpkin chawanmushi with a pear sorbet.  I chose my veggie options, and asked for just sorbet for dessert.

My tempura starter arrived and was thoughtfully served with a bonito free dipping sauce (arigato!) even without me asking. Well, they did ask when they were taking orders if anyone had any allergies…

Benefits of your friends not drinking Christmas cocktails? More for me! Saying that, there was so much ice in the glass, any effects of the alcohol were virtually non-existent! My tempura was excellent – and a reminder why I love this restaurant.  It wasn’t the usual tempura of button mushroom and baby corn. Oh no sireee! Here we had pumpkin, seaweed and shiso leaf – all hot and crispy. Yum!

My main of Mushroom rice was just as beautifully presented.  Didn’t look like there was much in there, but I was wrong – it was more than enough.

So many different textures and flavours – and multi-dimensional from start to finish!  It was essentially a mushroom risotto with more mushrooms, butternut squash puree, more shiso leaves, cubes of silken tofu (not sure what the sprinkles were, but I know they weren’t cheesy or fishy).  What a beautiful dish – and it left me in a happy place – full, but enough room for dessert.

For dessert I was expecting a couple of scoops of pear sorbet, but instead I got passion fruit sorbet and sour cherry sorbet on a chilled plate – pretty!  Perfect refreshing end to a lovely meal.

I do love this place, but to be honest the set menu changes often enough for me to stick to it instead of a la carte-ing it, and I will definitely be back.

PB Eats… Gujarati, Ghanaian, Thai

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love living in London.  I eat so many different kinds of cuisines everyday, all easily accessible, and all delicious! First stop this week was an early dinner at Chawalla, one of my go to places for Gujarati food in East London.  It is a vegetarian restaurant, and there is so much variety, from snacks to street food.  We started off with mogo, also known as cassava, a childhood staple.  It is usually boiled, fried and then eaten as they are, dipped in a mixture of salt, lemon and chilli powder. Or coated in a sauce.

Soft, crispy mogo, spicy tomato sauce, whats not to like?  Mains were channa puri – one of my favourite combos, whether made the Gujarati way or the Punjabi way.

A bowlful of sweet, spicy chickpeas in a thick sauce, 3 puris – deep fried, fluffed up flatbreads and an obligatory salad.  This meal had the right combination of textures and flavours.  Yummy.  A definite return restaurant 🙂

One of the other lunch time meals I had this week was Ghanaian food.  Now I thought it would be meat heavy, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few vegetarian and vegan options on the menu at Chop Pot.  It is opposite Liverpool Street station, had few places to sit down and eat, and virtually everyone was there for a takeaway, including me.

I love peanuts, and when I saw the spicy pepper soup with spinach, I know that is what I was going to order.

It turned out to be a thick, smooth, creamy soup with a good taste of peanut, a massive (good) kick of chilli, a few bits of spinach and a lot of what I think was palm oil – you can even see it floating on the top.  It was a tasty soup, but I found it very heavy. Going back and sitting at my desk for the rest of the afternoon didn’t help.  If you have this soup, make sure it is followed by a long power walk!

Sunday night dinner was a girly affair – mum, sister and I went out for Thai at our favourite Thai place – Elephant Royale in Gants Hill.

We’ve been coming here for almost two decades now, and the food was always consistently good.  Unfortunately due to a combination of surly staff, terrible service and the consistency of the food virtually disappearing, visits in the last two years were down to nil.  But I’m happy to say that there has been a change in the entire management team, staff and chefs – and we’re (well, they’re) back in business!  What did we order?

Crispy spring rolls, stuffed with glass noodles and veggies – delish!

Thai Green curry, loaded with veggies, tofu and a wonderfully rich sauce.  There was also a hint of turmeric in there – added this wonderful depth of flavour…

Coconut Rice – this was the best part of the meal – plump rice, full of coconut…and sugar.  It went perfectly with the curry, and also served as dessert.. haha!

Green papaya salad, sans dried shrimp and fish sauce but loaded with everything else.  Refreshing and perfectly complimentary with everything else.   Thank you Elephant Royale!

So this concludes the highlights of the week, stay tuned for more eats – I’m ready if you are! 🙂

PB Eats… Shoryu

One of my most favourite cuisines is Japanese.  I used to think it is limited to sushi and sashimi, and I thought after stopping seafood I might as well have struck Japanese food off my list. But two trips to Japan later, on a vegetarian diet – wow!  The variety! The flavours! Back on my list 🙂 Ramen took off in London a good few years ago, but it was always off limits as they were – and still are – pork based soups on the menu.  Until Shoryu came along – and introduced a soy milk ramen, the ‘White Natural’.

Not meat or fish based, but a stock made with soy milk, miso, konbu and shitake.  Whooo!  This ramen bowl was full of tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and seaweed.  We also got to choose the firmness of the noodles – from standard (my choice) to extra firm (no thank you).

Stunningly good, full of flavour and texture.  The noodles had the perfect bite and this bowl was the perfect dish – I loved it.  I also ordered a side to share – mainly because it sounded very intriguing on the menu – “Black sesame tofu with sweet miso sauce and tenderstem broccoli”.  I love black sesame – both in sweet and savoury dishes and definitely wanted to give this a try.

What arrived was a jet black block of tofu with a single, sorry excuse of broccoli – would make sense to leave it out!  This was so utterly delicious – the texture was more of a set pudding than tofu, with a hint of tofu, a hint of black sesame and that thick, rich miso sauce.

Since we had room for dessert (isn’t there always room for dessert) we decided to browse the dessert menu.  There was only one dairy free dessert – sorbet, but this time I was excited. The flavours – umeshu (plum wine), yuzu (my favourite flavour in the world) and chocolate and wasabi.  I went for the first two, accompanied with a cup of oolong tea.

This was turning to be the perfect meal. I got a cup with two giant balls of sorbet – both white.

Both flavours – the umeshu and yuzu were utterly delicious, but I did hit my limit once I finished.  My friend enjoyed her dessert as much as I enjoyed mine – she ordered the yuzu cheesecake and a matcha tea.

I absolutely loved Shoryu – I have never had a bad experience here – neither with the food or with the service.  And even though my options here are limited – well, there is only 1 main – it is consistently good, and I will keep going back!

PB Eats…in a week

I’ve been eating a lot over these past few weeks.  I’m planning to take a break from work for a few months – no 9 – 5, no meetings, no tube in the mornings – just want to travel and eat :).  So this means lots of lunches with work mates, I’ve been going out virtually every lunch time.   No fancy restaurants, but a lot of food.  Started off with good old Wagamama and my standard staples – it is either the Itame or the Yasai Yaki Udon.  I also ordered gyoza and added most of the gyoza dipping sauce to the udon – result = full of flavour.
Next meal of the week was in Camino , a popular tapas restaurant, where I’ve always had consistently good food.  I started off with some plump, juicy, grassy olives. They were fat and full of flavour – just how I like them.  I ordered my favourite dish, but forgot to take a picture of it – pan con tomate.  Nice, crispy bread, fresh, juicy sweet tomatoes with a slight kick of acidity.

I ordered a couple more dishes, the Patatas Bravas without the aioli, and this really interesting aubergine dish.

Some of the potatoes were soft, while others harder and crunchy – variety is nice, but here there were just a bit too many extremes of texture to make it enjoyable, and to be honest, I would have liked the bravas sauce to be a bit spicier.

I thoroughly enjoyed this dish – 4 baby aubergines, stuffed with a mixture of tomato, onion, coriander and mint, dressed with a ‘mojo verde’, a garlicy, cuminy coriander sauce.  Soft, flavourful and fresh.  I’d eat it again.  Next lunch time meal – Nando’s! I had a veggie wrap (hold the yoghurt) and decided to go for the macho peas.

Always ordering off menu and more, you can see from my sticker what I ended up with – hot, veggie, extra avocado, extra mushroom and there was even a special label. Why thank you 🙂  Always delicious, dipped in the medium sauce and the wild herb sauce.

I ended the week with dinner at Rocket.  Now here was one place where I was really limited in terms of options.  So when in doubt, I go for the dependable menu item – Pizza!  Thankfully the server was so accommodating and said she’ll put an order through for any pizza toppings I want – yay!  This base was similar to Franco Manca – chewy and totally moreish.

I went for mushrooms, peppers spinach and basil.  It was tasty but it was ginormous, and I couldn’t finish the whole thing. Obviously, because I wanted some sorbet 🙂 There were three options – mango, blackcurrant and lemon.  I chose mango (I will always choose mango 🙂 and blackcurrant.

The mango sorbet was creamy and not too sweet.  The blackcurrant sorbet was horrible.  Sickly sweet, icy, crystallised. Eugh.  I left it all.  I also didn’t get why they sprinkled copious amounts of icing sugar all over! Noooo!!

So that was a lot of eating out, and it is set to continue… Not that I’m complaining 🙂 🙂

PB Eats… Temple of Seitan

OK. I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t like any vegan cheeses.  None. Tried quite a few and there isn’t one that I like – either my tongue has a problem with it, or my gut rejects it in ways that makes me extremely uncomfortable.  I also am not a fan of mock meats.  So when I heard of VegFest in London, my first reaction was ‘hmm, loads of mock this and that’, but soon wore off when I saw the event programme and all the talks.

I did go to a VegFest in Brighton about 2 years ago, and that was on a very, and I mean, very small scale.  Not knowing what to expect, I rocked up to Olympia and was suitably impressed. Go Vegan! Cooking demos, talks, summits, and more importantly, likeminded people!  I wasn’t really interested in buying too much stuff (going through a cleanse at the moment, but that is another story for another time), but I was interested the food.

And everyone I spoke to was heading to just one place – Temple of Seitan for their ‘popcorn chicken’ and subs.  So, I queued up to literally eat my words. This queue was 40 min long – and believe me, that queue got longer and longer over the course of the day.  So I got to the front and there were 2 options:

And I only had one option – after 40 minutes of queuing, I was definitely going to get both!!

Now. That vegan popcorn chicken was stunning – chewy, crispy, hot from the fryer – stunning. I hoovered the whole thing down.  The sub had the same seitan as the popcorn chicken, but with the addition of seitan bacon (yum), cheese (couldn’t really taste it), lettuce (fresh) and a white bun (too white, too doughy).  I ended up eating mainly the bacon and the seitan strips.

Temple of Seitan are at the Boiler House  on a weekend, and I’m planning to go soon to try them again, along with Pomodoro e Basilico and Peanut Butter Bakery, two other vegan food stalls that have amazing grub! Go!