11.2.16

YASHIN OCEAN HOUSE, SOUTH KENSINGTON

Earlier this week I wrote about my favourite Chinese meal in London. And today's post is about my favourite Japanese restaurant in London - Yashin Ocean House. This post was meant to go live while I was actually in Japan last week, but due to a massively heavy schedule out there I didn't get any time to write or work, as I'd thought I would (not a bad thing - just means I'm a bit behind on posting!)
 
I've been to Yashin Ocean House before, once for food and once for drinks before a friend's wedding at the Armenian church round the corner... Yashin is a beautiful restaurant on Old Brompton Road, with a huge oval bar in the middle of the room, and tables dotted round one end of it. They also have a little terrace with outside seats for the warmer months. Yashin merges traditional Japanese techniques with more contemporary cooking ideas and their dishes are absolutely spectacular. I was invited down to sample some of their delights, and headed there just before going to Japan. I wanted to go before Japan so I could see how their food compared to "the real thing". There were lots of parts of the menu that were very similar to the food I ate in Japan and Yashin have the same emphasis on nose to tail cooking as they do in Japan. I love this attitude towards food and wish it was more prevalent in restaurants in London as it's so important to use as much as the fish or animal as possible.
 
A lot of the dishes at Yashin are real wow dishes, and one of the first of those we tried was the sashimi island without soy sauce. The plate of sashimi arrives at the table smoking with dry ice and each of the six types of raw fish is served with a non-soy based jelly or sauce to compliment it - fatty tuna with truffle infused ponzu jelly, prawn with coriander sauce, salmon with tosazu (Japanese vinegar) jelly, yellowtail with kizami wasabi, sea bream with a sweet sauce and rice crackers, and mackerel with grated ginger and chopped chives. I'm a sashimi fan anyway and this platter was my idea of heaven. Each fish and sauce had such a distinct flavour, and I didn't even miss the soy sauce. In Japan they rarely serve soy sauce with sashimi, and I did start to miss it a little there, but it really makes you appreciate the other flavours without having a pot of the salty sauce to dunk your fish in! Thinking about the meal at Yashin now, having been to Japan since, I'm surprised they serve mackerel sashimi. It's one of my favourite fish to eat raw, but I learnt in Tokyo that they never serve raw mackerel in Japan so it's interesting that it's on the menu at such a traditional Japanese restaurant here.


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9.2.16

CHINESE NEW YEAR AT HKK

Chinese New Year may've been yesterday, but you can carry on the celebrations, as the Chinese do, all week and beyond, thanks to HKK's fantastic specially crafted Chinese New Year menu that they're serving at their Michelin star restaurant, near Liverpool Street, until the 20th February.

I've reviewed the tasting menu at HKK before, and was expecting the same menu with little tweaks to add a CNY vibe, but their CNY menu is completely different (bar the duck course) and actually better than the menu I'd had before, in my opinion. To start with, the menu itself is beautiful. Not only does it give you the history of each course, but you're allowed to take it away with you as a memento of the meal you've had there (which is helpful when there are that many courses!)

Having just got back from a sake tour of Japan, I was interested to see that the first drink matched with the menu is a sparkling sake. In fact, the drinks paired throughout the meal are from all around the world - from Japan, to Venezuela, to France - and they all worked fantastically with each course. The cost of the CNY menu is £88 per person for food, plus £48 for the drinks, and I think if you're going to go for it, then definitely get the drinks too. I know it's not cheap, but as a special treat it's definitely worth it.

Course number one of nine (!) is the prosperity platter - a fresh and tasty salad of jellyfish, mouli, seaweed, ginger, leeks, roasted peanuts and crispy salmon skin - that's tossed high in the air for good luck and happiness. This is served with grilled spiced and salted Welsh pork with mustard and a goji berry foam, and a dried oyster sauce and iberico ham dumpling with black moss. All of which get the meal off to the perfect start.

 
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28.1.16

TOOTOOMOO, CROUCH END

Both this post, and the next couple that will appear on my blog, are scheduled, as I'm currently in Japan on a sake tour! And oddly enough, this one, and the next, are both reviews of Japanese restaurants in London. Long time readers will know how much I adore Japanese food, so to get to go to two restaurants in London serving one of my favourite cuisines, then to the place itself, is pretty magical. Starting with Tootoomoo. Though not strictly Japanese, Tootoomoo serves a range of pan Asian (from Thailand, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Japan) inspired dishes at its four restaurants in London (Whetstone, Islington, Highgate and Crouch End - where we went). The Crouch End branch has had a recent makeover and is all brightly coloured wooden tables, chairs and walls - we were sitting in the red area, hence the ruby glow in all my photos!

To get my taste buds going, we started with warm sake. I'm not (yet) a sake expert but am hoping the next eight days will teach me a thing or two about this Japanese rice wine, that's made by fermenting rice that's been polished to remove the outer layer. As I was off to Paris the following day and eating with Moosh who's not a meat fan, we stuck with the lighter dishes on the menu, starting with the mixed sushi (tuna and salmon) and yuzu sake maki (salmon, avocado, yuzu and citrus mayo). The sashimi pieces were incredibly fresh and light, and cut from the perfect part of the fish for sashimi. The rolls were good - not the best I've had, but certainly not the worst - though could've had a bit more going on. They too were fresh, just a little bland.
 
 

Having said we were avoiding meat, I couldn't help but order the duck and watermelon salad, which is a firm favourite of mine at some of the more expensive Japanese restaurants in London. Tootoomoo's version was the best I've had. The vegetable were crunchy and chopped into nice large chunks, mixed with a good amount of chilli and loads of herbs, and the duck was slow cooked with a crisp skin and soft meat, and just the right quantity of plum sauce, so as not to overpower it, but to give it a little something extra. I also got to eat all of the duck, while Moosh stuck to the salad.


For mains we shared the miso glazed black cod, with shiro, miso and lime, which at nearly £20 is expensive. Though black cod normally is.... This was well executed, and I loved the shiro, miso and lime sauce on the plate. The only niggle is the price.



Lemongrass prawns were great, though quite sweet - they could've done with a big squeeze of lime to finish them off, though they were huge and juicy, and it's good to order a prawn dish and get more than just a couple of prawns - for £10.50 this was much better value than the cod.


Tootoomoo is fun, and serves delicious food. They're also on Deliveroo so you can get their food delivered straight to your door, which I would definitely do if I lived near one their North London sites. More info about all their restaurants can be found here.

 Tootoomoo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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25.1.16

ROUX AT THE LANDAU, MARYLEBONE

When the lovely people at The Langham Hotel got in touch and asked if I'd like to come and test out their restaurant Roux at the Landau, I already knew the exact date I wanted to go... last Friday, on our way to Paris. What better way to start a girly weekend in the French capital than a three course meal at the restaurant owned by one of my favourite chefs before we jumped on the Eurostar. Despite the big names in the kitchen and the very grand setting, there's an excellent and affordable lunch menu - 3 courses, half a bottle of wine, coffee and petit fours for £45 - that we tried out.
 
The three course lunch deal gives you three of each course to choose from. A limited but truly mouth-watering menu, it was hard to choose what to have. While we were trying to make up our minds we were brought some lovely little amuse bouche.
 

For starters, I'd been eyeing both the game terrine, chestnut, pear, rosemary brioche and foie gras butter, and the cod brandade and confit, grilled squid, preserved lemon, monk’s beard. Luckily, Lucy wanted the terrine, so I had the cod and squid, knowing I'd get to try some of her terrine too! The cod was perfect - the most delicate of flavours married together in a dish that was just divine. Each element shone through without overpowering the other. The squid was cooked exactly as it should be and was so tender, and the lovely gentle citrus notes from the preserved lemon elevated the whole dish.
 
 
Lucy's starter was also sublime. The terrine was packed full of different cuts of different meats, again, all perfectly cooked, and still so juicy, unlike many dry terrines I've had in the past elsewhere. The only disappointment of her dish was the brioche which I found too dry, maybe even a little stale, though a good dollop butter and it was less noticeable!


Mains were a choice of seabass, crab bisque, Calasparra rice, fennel and lime; roast guinea fowl, Vacherin glazed gnocchi, king cabbage and hazelnut granola; or butter poached pork belly, three corner garlic, pickled mustard seeds and mead. Lucy had the seabass with crab bisque which was good, but it was my main of pork belly, as recommended by the waiter, that was the winner. The pork itself was melt in the mouth, while the sauce had incredible depth of flavour to it and the barley was the ideal grain to mop it all up.

 

I adore rhubarb - I love the flavour and versatility of it as an ingredient, and also the fact that it's in season from January, when little else that's exciting is! So for pudding we shared a selection of the cheeses, and the stem ginger pavlova, poached Yorkshire rhubarb, sherry and rhubarb sorbet, which turned out to be one of the best desserts I've had in a while.

 
 
Roux at the Landau is fine dining at its best. Yes, it's a formal restaurant, with a big name chefs on the door, but the quality of food and standard of service you get for less than £50 a head including booze is ridiculously good. The menu changes almost weekly, so check it out and get yourselves down there for a seriously good lunch.
 Roux At The Landau - The Langham Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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21.1.16

A WEEKEND IN PARIS

Nothing cures the January blues like a long weekend in Paris with a girlfriend, eating all the food and drinking all the drinks. So knowing we'd be feeling that post new year slump, Lucy and I booked the Eurostar and a beautiful Airbnb studio in Le Marais so we could get away last weekend. We started our weekend on Friday afternoon with a review I was doing of Roux at the Landau at The Langham Hotel (blog post on that to follow) then headed to Kings Cross where we caught a bit of Lumiere London and had a glass of bubbles at new D&D venue German Gymnasium, before jumping on the train to Paris.


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20.1.16

108 BRASSERIE, MARYLEBONE

108 Brasserie is the kind of place I could (and did) spend a whole evening eating, drinking and chatting away with a girlfriend. It's a beautiful brasserie style (obviously!) restaurant with leather banquets, dark wood flooring and big mirrors on the walls, situated just off Marylebone High Street. Bron and I went to check it out on a cold Monday evening as I was invited there to try the food. We settled in with a glass of English Sparkling wine and chose a variety of dishes from the extensive British led menu. All the ingredients used are top quality, with as many sourced from the UK as possible.

Bron started with the Dorset crab on toast with watercress & apple - a very generous portion of crab meat in a delicate dressing that tasted like the best version of a prawn cocktail dressing I've tried, on top of a hunk of soft, sweet made-in-house bread.


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17.1.16

ROAST JERK CHICKEN & GREEN RICE

It's that time of year when people are thinking more about what they're eating, and maybe following a stricter diet, but that doesn't need to mean we have to cut out all the tasty things. This recipe for roast jerk chicken with "green" rice is so easy to follow and makes enough for 5-6 people, so it's a great option to cook if you've got a few people over for dinner or for a weekend lunch. It's on the healthier side, as I've used wholegrain basmati and wild rice (which is higher in protein than regular rice and has 30 times the amount of antioxidants) but it's still seriously delicious.

Serves 5-6

1 large free range chicken
1 x 330ml can beer
2 tbsp. Groovy Food High Five Oil (a blend of organic virgin cold pressed blend of camelina, avocado, virgin olive, oleic sunflower and toasted sesame seed oils which provides essential omega acids 3, 6 and 9 and Vitamin E)
1 tsp sea salt
1 jar Encona Jamaican Jerk Marinade

300g wholegrain basmati and wild rice (or you could just use wild rice, or red camargue rice)
Handful of greens beans
Bunch of spring onions
Bunch of coriander
2 red chillies
Encona Peruvian Amarillo Chilli Sauce

Preheat the oven to 220C. Rub the chicken all over with the high five oil then sprinkle with salt. Empty (drink) half the can of beer then place the chicken open end down over the beer can and put the whole thing on a roasting tray. Roast the chicken in the oven for 50 minutes. After this time, take the chicken out and spread the jar of jerk marinade over the chicken. I used a pastry brush to do this but if you don't have one you can spread it on with a knife. Put the chicken back in the oven for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.

Once you've added the marinade to the chicken and put it back in the oven, put your rice on to cook - rinse the rice then cover with double the amount of water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook according to packet instructions (30 mins for the type of rice I used). During this time, finely chop the green beans, spring onions, coriander and red chilli.

Once the chicken is done (insert a skewer and check that the juices that run out are clear and not pink) remove from the oven, carefully take the chicken off the beer can, cover the chicken with foil and leave on a plate to rest for 10-15 minutes. Put the sauces from the chicken, and the beer from the can, into a saucepan, scoop the layer of fat off the top, and heat the gravy til it's boiling and reduced by half.

Drain the rice and add all the chopped greens beans and half of the spring onions and coriander. Cover the pan with foil til you're ready to eat.

Carve the chicken up into chunks and top the pile of meat with the remaining spring onions and coriander, and the chopped chilli.

Serve with the green rice, gravy and some Amarillo chilli sauce on the side.

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15.1.16

BONES DADDIES, BERMONDSEY

Ramen and Japanese restaurant Bone Daddies (who have two Central London restaurants - Soho and High Street Kensington, with a third branch in Old Street coming soon) have opened a Saturday-only restaurant in Bermondsey at their test kitchen site. From 12pm to 10pm every Saturday you can get tequila cocktails, homemade cider, mind blowing starters and delicious ramen with a side serving of pumping music in a tunnel on an industrial estate.

I headed along to the slightly difficult to find venue last Saturday to check it out, drink all the cocktails and eat all the food with Polly. Starting with (several) frozen yuzu margaritas - tequila, yuzu and lime, agave, orange liqueur. I never read the full ingredient list of the cocktails when we were at the pop up, and reading it now explains a lot! I blame my slightly debauched afternoon state on those delicious, citric, icy numbers!

 
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13.1.16

RECIPES WITH BAILEYS

Baileys is one of those drinks that I occasionally have a real craving for. On ice, straight up after a long, leisurely dinner. But it's also a great ingredient to use in cocktail making, as well as making puddings. Here are a couple of ideas of what to do with the creamy, luxurious drink.

FLAT WHITE COCKTAIL

Makes 1 drink
50ml Baileys
25ml vodka
25ml espresso coffee

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker along with lots of ice and shake until the drink is really cold. Strain in to a martini glass, garnish with a couple of coffee beans and enjoy! You can watch a little 15 second video here of exactly how the cocktail's made.

CHOCOLATE & BAILEYS MOUSSE WITH RASPBERRIES

Serves 8
200g dark chocolate
3 free range eggs, separated
2 pieces stem ginger
2 tbsp. Baileys
250ml double cream
Raspberries or blueberries

Break the chocolate up and put it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Leave it until the chocolate is 70% melted then turn the heat off and gently stir the chocolate until it's all melted. By removing it from the heat before it's all melted you'll make sure it doesn't overheat and split.

In a magimix or nutribullet blitz the stem ginger and Baileys. Add this to the melted chocolate, followed by the egg yolks. Leave to one side.

Whip 150ml of the cream gently until it starts to become thick. Whip the egg whites until they start to form soft peaks. Fold the cream, then the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the mixture into a large dish, then top with a layer of cream and then some fresh fruit (raspberries, blueberries etc). Leave to cool for a couple of hours in the fridge. Serve with a flat white martini for extra creaminess and decadence!


And if that all sounds a bit chocolatey for you, I've just found a recipe for sticky toffee pudding with Baileys salted caramel sauce that sounds like heaven!
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12.1.16

NEW FOOD WEBSITES

New year, new things to do. Two lovelies that I've met through the food blogging world have just launched new websites which are such great inspiration if you're looking for either somewhere super affordable to eat, or a restaurant with bottomless drinks included in the price.

Firstly, Leyla has launched London Cheap Eats - a definitive guide of where to eat in London for £8 or less. With London rated as the 7th most expensive city in the world, where your average meal for two people costs £66.77, London Cheap Eats has come to the rescue with a great selection of places serving food that's fresh, filling, recommendable and most importantly, affordable. You can search for a foodie spot by categories including restaurant dish, on the go, street food, multi course, meal deal, filling the gap and luxury cheap treats, or you can search by geographical areas of London. I can see London Cheap Eats becoming a go to for anyone looking for good food at amazing prices. If you sign up to the weekly newsletter you'll get an email with new entries, news and deals.


New website number 2 that I can see becoming a favourite of mine is Bottomless Bookings, set up by Gary. If you want unlimited, free flowing drinks with your food, then this is the place to find it. You can search for unlimited drinks offers at eateries all over the UK, whether it's bubbles, Bloody Marys or soft drinks you're after, you'll find them on Bottomless Bookings. It's a great concept for getting as much to drink as you like during your allotted eating slot, and will really help with group bookings when you can't all afford to pick and choose different drinks throughout the meal, or towards the end of the month before payday when people's purse strings might be a little tighter! They've also got a newsletter that will keep you up to date with all the bottomless drinks offers available.
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8.1.16

SIPSMITH AT HAM YARD HOTEL, SOHO

I'm not a fan of dry January. Firstly, January's a pretty miserable month anyway without having to knock booze on the head for 31 days, and secondly, I personally believe it's just as good for you to not drink for a few days in a row every week (the liver is a fast healer), rather than quitting completely for a month, then having a glass of wine most nights for the rest of the year. So a new pop up I'm really looking forward to this month (that's also on in February if you are doing dry January) is Swan on a Hot Gin Roof with London's finest gin distillers, Sipsmith, at Ham Yard Hotel. Every night (except Mondays) from Tuesday 26th January til Sunday 14th February you can book a session (starting at 6pm or 8pm on weekdays, and 4pm or 6pm on weekends) for some gin-laced winter warmers on the hotel’s hidden roof terrace. I had a sneaky peak of what's on offer and you're in for a treat. The rooftop is stunning. One of the best I've seen in London in fact - it's all fairy lights, fire pits and leafy plants, with tons of cosy sofas and woollen blankets for snuggling up, and stunning views of London. It's like a secret little hideaway in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Soho. Then there's the cocktails, which have been created by Sipsmith's master distiller Jared Brown and Ham Yard Hotel bar manager Eoin Kenny, who've taken inspiration from London's rich cocktail history and created one off hot drinks such as The Smoking Bishop, The Original (made with gin and gingerbread) and the Soho Gin Broth, which uses Barthelmas beef taken from a 1664 recipe. They'll also be serving more recognisable concoctions such as hot G&Ts and Steaming Juleps.

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6.1.16

TAPAS REVOLUTION, SHOREDITCH

Reviewing a restaurant right after Christmas was a risky move as I wasn't exactly hungry... I hadn't been actually hungry for days, having eaten way more than necessary on a daily basis for well over a week. But I got back to London on the 28th from my parent's house, and had plans to meet up with a girlfriend, so decided to go to Tapas Revolution, just off the top of Brick Lane, where I'd been invited to check out the food. I was worried the menu would be full of deep fried bits, and heavy meats, but we ended up having such a delicious meal, full of light bites, raw meat and fish, and wonderful salads.

Tapas Revolution is a chain. I don't normally review chains but it's only got a few branches and the menu appealed to me so thought it would be worth checking out - it definitely was. They've got London branches in Shoreditch (which I went to), Westfield and Bluewater (as well as one in Birmingham, and opening soon in Sheffield). The menu at Tapas Revolution is very typically Spanish (as you'd expect) and consists of lots of meat, fish and veggie tapas sharing plates - hams, cheeses, olives, anchovies, patatas bravas, croquettes.... All of which we skipped! We picked the lightest, freshest dishes on the menu, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

First up was carpaccio de ternera - seasoned thin slices of 45 day-aged ribeye from 8 year old basque cows, topped with shavings of parmesan, cress, a little lemon and salt. There was a beautiful piece of fat on the end of each slither of beef, and rolled up with the salt and the cress it was a heavenly mouthful. The quality of the beef was outstanding.

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