Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Gate Islington - vegetarian restaurant in London

Inside The Gate.  Source: The Gate

The Gate Islington is a restaurant in Angel, London, which serves exclusively vegetarian food.  

While I'm not a vegetarian, I was quite interested in trying out what The Gate had to offer.  After all, I had never been to a vegetarian restaurant before, so it was new territory for me.

I had a +Groupon deal at The Gate: £17.50 for a two-course meal and a drink.  I had the choice of the full menu - no messing around with limited set menus.  

I started with the beetroot 'ravioli'.  Rather than filled pasta, this was beetroot filled with goat cheese.  It was definitely different and I thought it tasted pretty good; the salty cheese contrasting well with the sweet beetroot and apple.

Beetroot ravioli - starter: Roasted and shaved beetroot filled with goat cheese, caramelised apple and walnuts, served with heritage beetroots, watercress and basil & celery granita.

Courgette flower - starter: Filled with sweet potato, pine nuts, basil coated in crisp batter, served with puy lentil salsa.

I chose the chipotle corn cake for my main.  Aubergine is always a winner for me, so I was attracted to this dish.  There's a lot going on here, with lots of different ingredients fusing together both in terms of flavour and presentation.  The end result was good and there was certainly an empty dish at the end.  The corn cake added a bit of stodge too, which made the meal a bit more filling.

Chipotle corn cake - main: Corn & polenta cake , pan-fried & seasoned with chipotle chilli and coriander , served with aubergine, oven-dried tomatoes, sweet potato & served with a red pepper & black bean salsa lime and coriander dressing and crispy fennel.

I went with the girlfriend and a couple of friends, one of which is a vegetarian - so I was in good company for this veggie adventure.  We were impressed with the modern, yet cosy atmosphere, as well as the generally good portion sizes.  We felt the menu and quality was good overall too.

At the end of the day, The Gate won't be for everyone.  And dare I say, I would even have liked a bit of meat with my meal.  But if you're looking for something a bit different and you're open to the idea of trying a vegetarian restaurant, this could be a good place to visit.  

Nearest Tube: Angel

The Gate on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Seoul Bakery - perfect for a quick Korean meal in Central London

Seoul Bakery is perfect if you're looking for a tasty yet good value Korean meal in Central London.

It's certainly not the best Korean restaurant in London - far from it.  Situated in Saint Giles High Street, it's not even the best Korean restaurant along that road, which happens to have four or five Korean restaurants along it.  But that's not a problem because Seoul Bakery does not pretend to be the best.  It's small and it's cramped, but it's forgiven because it's fast and it gets the job done.

I ordered the 'rapokki' - essentially tapokki plus ramen noodles, served with a boiled egg and fish cake.  This cost £5.50, so no surprise that the ramen were of the instant kind.  But considering I was here for a quick and cheap lunch, it was fine.

I topped myself up with some tuna gimbap, filled with vegetables and pickle.  Gimbap can be described as Korean sushi, though the fillings tend to be quite different to their Japanese equivalents.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend ordered the janchi guksu, a wheat noodle soup in a clear and light broth.  The soup could have done with a slight dash of soy sauce, but that's no problem - better than finding it too salty, for sure.

Like I say, don't expect anything fancy at this place, and don't even bother if you're going as a large group.  But if you're out alone or as a couple and you're in need of Korean food at fast food prices, this is one to consider.

Closest Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Seoul Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

On The Bab - Korean street food in Shoreditch, London

The girlfriend and I were strolling along Old Street in Shoreditch, London, looking for a Vietnamese restaurant when all of a sudden we discovered On The Bab - a Korean 'street food' restaurant.

I've been to plenty of Korean restaurants in my time, but this one - as a result of its 'street' theme - looked a bit different, so we decided to give it a go.

The menu is reasonably straightforward, with dishes divided into 'small dishes', 'on the bab' (rice, noodles or buns) and 'traditional'.  There is a fourth group too: 'special/comfort', which is what I opted for...  

With the so-called special dish - baek ban - I got soup (not pictured), rice, salad, kimchi and a choice of bulgogi beef, spicy pork, spicy chicken or vegetable fritters.  I went with the spicy pork, which tasted really good.  What I liked was that it was: soft, not too chewy, thinly sliced and spicy enough without it being overbearingly so.

As a personal preference, I would have preferred a bit more kimchi and the rice to have been a bit stickier, but I can live with that, as the pork was pretty good and there was plenty of it.

The restaurant is quite small and does not take reservations.  So it is very much more suited to couples and perhaps groups of up to four, who are after a quick meal and who don't mind dining in an informal setting.

Mr Men toilet sign...

On The Bab on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 September 2014

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food (Fitzrovia, London)

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food (Fitzrovia) is a bustling Lebanese restaurant tucked away in a relatively quiet side street by Oxford Street.  

Menu choice is good, with 17 different mezze dishes to choose from, plus nine other mains and 11 various wraps/pittas.  Among my group, there were a couple of vegetarians too, so it's definitely suitable for the veggies out there.  Sadly their website does not seem to be working at the moment, so I am unable to link you through to their menu.

Refreshing freshly squeezed fruit juices.

I shared my meal with the girlfriend and we opted for a mainly mezze-based meal, so that we could experience as many of the different dishes as possible. The mezze dishes were reasonably priced, with most costing between £4 and £5, which I thought was good considering the restaurant was not too skimpy on the portion sizes - just right in my opinion.

The best of the mezze we ordered was arguably the hommos shawarma.  The lamb was excellent - it was very well flavoured, soft and moist.

Hommos shawarma: chickpea purée topped with marinated thin slices of lamb fillet.

The sawda djej was a strong dish and one that the girlfriend in particular really enjoyed.  Personally I found the sauce a bit too sweet, but I can see why others feel that such a flavour could work well in contrast to the livers.

Sawda djej: sautéed chicken livers with garlic and pomegranate molases.

I was a fan of the kibbé lahme - soft, crispy, meaty, not greasy and not dry. Could definitely order this again.

Kibbé lahme: deep fried lamb and cracked wheat parcels filled with onions comfit, minced meat and roasted pine nuts.

The arayes dish was a good pick too.  Filled with spiced lamb and sprinkled with pomegranate, this was a welcome change from ordinary pitta bread.  On its own it could be perceived as a bit boring, but it works well with the other mezze.

The makalé samak was big in terms of overall volume.  The aubergine was good but the tiger prawns and calamari were quite small and hard to find - overall I would say this dish was average.

Makalé samak: deep fried tiger prawns, calamari and white bait with spring onions, crispy aubergine and chilli minted Greek yoghurt. 

Our final dish was a mains - the (vegetarian) moussakaa.  If, like me, you love baked aubergine, then this dish may be for you.  It felt like quite a light dish, in contrast to some other similar dishes I've had in other Mediterranean restaurants. My guess is that this is down to the differences in this dish, depending on which country it comes from. 

Moussakaa: baked aubergine in a tomato sauce, onions, garlic, cumin and chickpeas, served with basmati rice.

On average our meal among the group came to around £21 - not bad considering how full we were and how much food was on the table.  

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Big Feast at Big Easy (Covent Garden, London)

Big Easy is a 'bar.b.q & crabshack' restaurant in Covent Garden, London, serving great food within a lively atmosphere.

As the description of the restaurant suggests, Big Easy's menu focuses on barbecued meat and seafood. The majority of our eight-strong party opted for the 'Lobster Fest'; for £20, you get either a lobster roll or grilled whole lobster, which is served with fries and house salad, plus a drink (cocktail or craft lager or ale).

Lobster roll

Grilled whole lobster 
Both the lobster roll and grilled lobster tasted great. Along with a decent portion of chips, this was a satisfying meal.  

At £20, the Lobster Fest is the same price as the meals at Burger and Lobster (see previous blog entry).  However, I felt that Big Easy is better because:
  • The lobster is at least as good.
  • You get a drink with your meal for the same price.
  • The side salad is better quality.

I went as part of a group of eight and I thought the restaurant was great for a gathering of friends. We were celebrating a birthday and they were very accommodating; although the kitchen was no doubt busy, they looked after our birthday cake for us until our main meal was finished.

Thumbs up from me!

Big Easy on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Peloton & Co cycle café in Spitalfields, London

In addition to trying new foods and restaurants, my other interest is taking part in the odd cycle ride (see end of the blog post).  So while I was wandering around Spitalfields London today, I was pleased to stumble across Peloton & Co - a small cycle shop that also doubles up as a café.

Tour of Britain being shown on the big screen.

Peloton & Co served everything you'd expect from a café, including: teas, coffees, soft drinks, cakes and more.  The teas we ordered were £1.50 each, so competitively priced.

The shop had a nice homely and almost rustic feel to it - unlike your average coffee shop chain. They also had a projector screen showing the Tour of Britain - fantastic mid afternoon entertainment!

Next time I am in Spitalfields and in need of a quick drink, I'll be sure to visit this place again!

Me riding the London to Windsor 2014 cycle ride.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Mugen - excellent Japanese restaurant in the City of London

As a worker in the City of London, I've walked past Mugen plenty of times and seen lots of (what I believe to be) Japanese people in there - always a good sign for a Japanese restaurant!

Recently, I finally decided to go in for a quick meal before an evening event, so I was after something relatively light.

The menu is not cheap, but there are a few more affordable items on there, namely the ramen noodle soups and curry dishes.

The girlfriend went for the special ramen with miso soup. It was a delight. Check this out...

It tasted as good as it looked - and it looks good to me!

I opted for a much plainer looking soba noodle soup with tempura prawn and vegetables. It may look simple but the flavour of the broth was still top notch. 

I also appreciated the fact that Mugen presented the tempura in a separate dish, meaning the batter would not go all soggy - other restaurants please take note!

While we were there, a private function was going on with a load of Japanese businessmen all enjoying themselves eating Mugen's tasty food. There was a sushi chef in the middle of the party plying his trade, making fresh sushi. Great scenes - will have to go back there one day to try their sushi and sashimi dishes out.

Nearest Tube: Bank

Mugen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Revisiting Haz - as good as it was the first time

Recently, I revisited Haz St Paul's twice in quick succession, following my first visit in which I really enjoyed the food.

There's a nice modern setting in there, and there's a really good atmosphere. The place is busy, but not cramped - just right in my opinion.

The menu has lots of good choices on there and that sometimes means I don't know what to get - not necessarily a bad problem to have. 

So when I went for a team lunch, I chose for the mixed meze - perfect for when you're a bit indecisive.

Mixed meze
I went to Haz again on a separate day for dinner. I opted for the lamb tagine, which had beautifully soft and moist meat that tore apart really easily. The vegetables and sauce were well favoured too. Lovely.

Lamb tagine

The girlfriend opted for the (meat) mousakka. While the presentation perhaps wasn't great, I'm told it tasted awesome, which is the main thing!


With reasonable prices, good portion sizes and tasty good, I'll be sure to go again!

Nearest Tube: St Paul's

Haz on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Tsunami (West End, London)

I recently went to Tsunami Japanese restaurant with the girlfriend and we had a great time. The restaurant has a contemporary feel and a decent menu, with a wide variety of sushi, sashimi and hot dishes to choose from.

Situated along the restaurant-filled Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, London, Tsunami isn't short of competition - but it holds its own and it's a good choice for your money.

Takoyaki - deep fried octopus, squid, prawn, cabbage, spring onion.
While it's not necessarily the cheapest Japanese restaurant in London, at the time of writing there is a 40 per cent discount deal available here at OpenTable (formerly toptable), which I certainly took advantage of.

Yellow tail sashimi.

The girlfriend and I picked a selection of hot food, sushi and sashimi, all of which was very good. The highlight was perhaps the 'Dragon Volcano Roll' - something that I had not seen before. The picture doesn't particularly do it justice (at all), but it's quite unique, fun and tasty. In fact, it was voted 'Sushi Roll of the Year 2012'.

Dragon volcano roll - jumbo prawn with avocado & cucumber roll with crispy flakes, spring onions, tobiko, dried shredded chilli topped with creamy sauce.  

We finished off with green tea and sesame ice cream. I like green tea ice cream, but I had never had sesame ice cream before. I've got to say, it was pretty damn good and I'll be having it again for sure.

Green tea and sesame ice cream.
Overall it was a good experience at Tsunami and it's a place I can recommend - particularly if the 40 per cent discount is still available.

Nearest Tube: Goodge Street

Tsunami on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Pizza East Shoreditch

Pizza East is a small chain of three restaurants located in Portobello, Kentish Town and Shoreditch. It describes itself as a place where you can get "honest food with rustic simplicity" but how does it really fare?

Walking into the Shoreditch branch, I found a relatively large and bustling restaurant - so clearly a popular place.

Bethnal Pale Ale action.

Naturally I ordered a pizza and found it had a good crispy base and crust - just how I like it. The toppings were a bit sparse though - see below.  Nonetheless overall it was a good decent-sized pizza that filled me up.

Anchovies, tomato, mozarella, capers, olives.

As a restaurant with the word 'pizza' in its title, you'd expect there to be a good choice of different pizzas and you're not wrong; there are 11 different pizzas overall ranging from £8 to £14:

Pizza menu at Pizza East, source

But despite the name, there are also non-pizza dishes on the menu.  My colleague ordered the mac 'n' cheese.  I can't say I tasted any of it, so I'll have to reserve judgement on its taste, but it certainly looked tasty.

Mac 'n' cheese.

Overall I had a good time at Pizza East and I wouldn't mind giving a few of the other dishes a go.  Maybe that man 'n' cheese...

Pizza East on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Dozo Soho - Japanese restaurant

Dozo Sushi is a Japanese restaurant in Soho, London.  While its name strongly suggests that it specialises in sushi, its main menu actually features many other items including grilled dishes, bento boxes and noodle soups.  So there's definitely something for most people, should you not fancy sushi.

The girlfriend opted for a donburi dish - specifically a sushi don.  Essentially a sushi don is a large bowl of sushi rice with salmon sashimi on top, served alongside a miso soup.  If you like salmon sashimi but want something a bit more filling, this is a good choice; it is a simple yet great tasting and filling dish.  

Sushi don.
I do like a good noodle soup, so I opted for the Spicy Ramen.  This consisted of ramen noodles (obviously), stir fry beef, fish cake, nitamago egg and vegetables.  There were lots of different ingredients and flavours here - I quite enjoyed it and was glad I ordered it.

Spicy ramen.
As we paid the bill, the waiter gave us 10 per cent discount for paying by cash - worth knowing if you're planning a visit and fancy a bit of a discount.

Closest Tube: Leicester Square

Dozo Soho on Urbanspoon