Thursday, November 6, 2014

Orrery: Serene and Elegant French Restaurant in Marylebone

When my friend mentioned having lunch at Orrery, a Michelin-star restaurant on Marylebone High Street; I originally misheard the name and thought he said we were at going to eat at ‘Ovary’. Seeing my bemused look, my friend then spelled out the name but I was none the wiser to what Orrery meant.

Chicken Liver Parfait

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tommi's Burger Joint: Marylebone's Chilled-out No-fuss Burger Joint

Right after Meat Liquor and Patty & Bun opened up in Marylebone; another burger joint started making waves on the High Street: Tommi’s Burger Joint. I still swear allegiance to the juicy Dead Hippie Burger at Meat Liquor and I adore the chicken wings at Patty & Bun but there’s something about the Burger Joint that keeps drawing me back for more.

No queues. At all.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Opso: Greek flavours with a modern twist

Opso is my new favourite restaurant. It’s located on Paddington Street, just off of Marylebone High Streets and sits in the space that used to be Ping Pong. I’m quite happy about the change in occupants. Gone are the dark, tired looking interiors of Ping Pong, now replaced by the airy light wood interiors of Opso.

And now, anytime I want to go out for a meal, I keep veering back to Opso. So much so, that I’ve tried pretty much most of their menu which is full of inventive creations using classic Greek flavours to the best results.

Here are some of the dishes I've tried:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Best restaurants in Minneapolis: My top picks for 2014

After every trip to Minneapolis, I start liking this city a bit more and more. Of course it helps that I only visit in the summer. (I made a mistake of going in the winter of 2007 and there was snow up to my waist!)

The Stone Arch Bridge

I love how all the building are built to celebrate their industrial legacy, loved the sleek Guthrie building dedicated solely to theatre, the Walker Art Centre and the gigantic public library. But my favourite is the Stone Arch Bridge encompassing the vast Mississippi river, full of healthy Minnesotans cycling and running on the paths. In retrospect, I should have been one of those active people exercising away given the amount we ate out – but hey I was on vacation and my brother had a whole slew of restaurant recommendations. What can I say he is my brother after all.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marbella and Vejer de Frontera :: My One Week Andalucia Road Trip

After Granada, we drove to Marbella. Our route took us through the Sierra Nevada mountain. Beautiful views though at times I was bit queasy with all the sharp turns! We soon hit the coast and I was expecting Marbella to be full of over-the-top full of stag parties and crazy kids but we stayed in the Casco Antigua - the charming Old Town, which is close to the beach. Despite the fact that it was wet and rainy, I couldn't help but love the picturesque little streets of the Old Town. 

Costa de la Luz

We checked into the romantic  La Villa Marbella hotel for one night (60 euros a night). Their rooms are more like small apartments and are simply amazing. Each room had a theme: ours was ‘Bombay' and after two days of continuous driving, relaxing in our beautifully decorated room was such a treat. The staff are friendly and helpful and parking is close by. Oh and when you check in, they give you list of breakfast options – tick everything! Breakfast is so good.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Granada and Cordoba :: My One Week Andalucia Road trip

Generalife Gardens of Alhambra in Granada

After Seville, we hit the road early in the morning and headed north to Cordoba, about an hour and half drive. Cordoba is home to the famous Mesquita, the 'Great Mosque' which is stunning. It was originally a mosque which got converted into a church. Inside the simple spacious interiors is a forest of 856 red and white stone pillars that form striped red and white arches that are unusually striking. I could imagine it being one of the most tranquil places to worship with its beautiful and intricate prayer wall. There is massive altar in the centre that was built by a Spanish King to convert it into a church and who, infamously later regretted building it saying it spoiled the beauty of the original building and "destroyed something that was unique to this world".

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Two Days in Seville:: My One Week Andalucia Road trip

Doing a road trip around Andalusia has been a dream of mine for a long time and it finally happened this April! We decided to take a week driving around Andalusia in a loop – starting at Seville, visiting Cordoba, Granada and Marbella and finally chilling at Vejer.

The first day after landing in Seville airport, we took a cab (about 20 euros) to our hotel IMG Rey Alfonso X in Barrio Santa Cruz, dropped off our bags and then just wandered around Seville soaking in the atmosphere, eating tapas after tapas and of course, relaxing with a siesta! 

Walking around Seville is a pleasure – it’s a city with such charm and gorgeous Moorish architecture. Since we were there during the Holy Week, we also got to see some Santa Semana processions led by various brotherhoods which were fascinating. 

On the second day we visited the Cathedral which was stunningly impressive. I believe its one of the biggest Cathedrals in the world. Originally, there was a huge 12th century Mosque which knocked down and a decision was made to build "a church so large, future generations willl think we were mad". My favourite part of it was the Giralda – a former minaret of the original mosque that remains and was converted to a bell tower. You can climb all the way to the top and its fairly easy one since there are no steps but just a sloping pathway winding all the way to the top (so that a rider on a horse could get to the top!). 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mandarin Kitchen: Excellent Chinese restaurant in Bayswater with the best Lobster Noodles

I’ve never really eaten much seafood at Chinese restaurants – I always tend to go for the more meaty options. But when we were told that Mandarin Kitchen in Bayswater serves the best Lobster Noodles in London – I was totally up for checking it out. The source of this information was our trusty driving instructor Albert Low; who by the way is an excellent instructor. Leave a comment if you’d like his contact details for driving lessons in Central London or Richmond. He’s one of the best :) 

We went to Mandarin Kitchen on a Thursday evening and it was packed. Unfortunately we didn’t make a reservation and had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table, but seeing all the delicious plates of food being carted out of kitchen and being in no rush, we settled in to wait. And then soon enough, we had a table – one of the best, right near the window which was prime viewing position. 

We started with some lovely Oolong Chinese tea (Ti Kuan Yum) and ordered one of their signature dishes – Steamed King Scallops in a garlic soya sauce that came with tiny crystal noodles. It was delicious and I’ve never seen scallops so big. A great starter to whet our appetite and then shortly later, the piece de resistance appeared – a gigantic Lobster with Ginger and Spring Onions on top of a bed of soft glistening noodles. The waiters break it up for you and serve it quite efficiently so all you have to do is dig out the soft delicious lobster flesh. And having soaked up all that lobster juice, the noodles were incredibly tasty. Such a simple elegant dish – and Manderin Kitchen deserves all the accolades for it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mondsey: A Malaysian Supper Club in Bermondsey

I stumbled upon Mondsey at the Bermondsey Street festival and had a taste of what this talented duo of Karen and JP could offer at their food stall and resolved to find them again. I was in luck; they also held regular supper clubs in Bermondsey showcasing Malaysian cuisine. So I roped in my Spanish friend to come with me to one of their Saturday night supper clubs. He'd never been to a supper club before and was gamely up for a new experience. (He also asked if there would be single girls there - I may have said yes).

We rushed in a few minutes late and were welcomed with an utterly refreshing cocktail called Monk’s Ice Tea made with Plantation Barbados Rum and Air Mata Kucing (a juice made from Malaysian fruits). I couldn't get enough of it – and sneakily had two more refills.

We started with the familiar sounding dish of Chicken Satay with  peanut sauce. This was nothing like the smooth sauce that usually feels like its peanut butter from a jar. This was the real deal – a chunky moreish peanut sauce that’s lavishly spread on tender skewered chicken.

The next dish of Otak-Otak was for me the most interesting; a spiced fish mousse wrapped and sealed in a banana leaf. JP said it’s usually made using mackerel but he used cod which eliminated the typical fishy smell. This was served with toasted brioche made by Karen, who is a trained pasty chef. A delicate subtly spiced dish that introduced new flavours to me and was one of my favourites of the night.
Braised Pork and stir-fried Morning Glory

Then came the main courses: Braised Pork in Soy and Garlic with Quail Eggs (Tau Yew Bak) and Chicken Redang (Redang Ayam). I loved the pork, slow cooked for 5 hours – it was decadent delightful dish. All served with white rice and the some gorgeous Stir-fried Morning Glory with Chilli and Shrimp paste (Kangkun Belacan).

You can imagine that by this point after 5 courses served family-style with ample portions we were quite full. And when the dessert of rice pudding appeared, I didn't think I could finish it. But this was no ordinary stodgy rice pudding. Karen’s culinary finesse was highlighted as it was the lightest rice puddings I've tasted (I think she whipped it with cream?!). Made with black glutinous rice and sprinkled with fresh mango and crunchy biscuit crumbles – it was delicious and one of the highlights of the night.

Black Rice Pudding with Mango

You'd think the meal would end with this but no, we were treated to some Lime and Kaya (a Malaysian coconut cream) financiers and Jasmine tea.  This meal really made me appreciate the diversity of Malaysian food and Karen and JP were such generous hosts. 

For a minimum contribution of £25 each, we got to have an amazing 7 course meal in the company of some lovely people who were seated at the table with us.  What's more is that they donate all profits to Alzheimer's Research UK Charity! Here is their progress on JustGiving. 
Kaya and Lime Financiers

I highly recommend Mondsey Supper clubs if you if you want to treat yourself to some authentic Malaysian cuisine. They’ll be hosting supper clubs for rest of the summer and their next event is on July 19th.  They have 8 spaces for every event so it's perfect if you want to do something interesting as a couple or meet some new people or go just go with a group of friends who love good food!

You can book tickets for their next events here or here . You can also follow them on twitter @mondseyeats or on Facebook or check out all their gorgeous creations on their website here.

Read more about Malaysian Supper Club 5 July 2014 on Edible Experiences

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hawksmoor Spitalfields: My Guide to choosing a Hawksmoor Steak

I had the best steak of my life at Hawksmoor. It needed no frills, no sides, and no sauces; it was just beautifully grilled and amazingly succulent meat. One piece of advice – go with a group of friends.

You see this isn’t a place for a romantic date for two, this is the type of place you go with a gluttonous group of friends so that you can justice to all the meat and sides.

You need to do this because the best cuts come in gigantic sizes like 800 to 900 grams. I mean on a good day, I could do maybe 300 gm but sharing a 900 gm steak between two people is so out of my league. I went with a friend and we finally settled for the Rib eye and Fillet which totalled 750 gm and ordered 2 sides – a light healthy salad and some yummy unhealthy triple cooked chips. But I wished I could have tried more – I wanted the creamed spinach and the mac n cheese and all that good stuff.

That’s when I realized you have to come in a group. It’s way more cost effective because then you can share the gigantic 900 gm steak between four people and get to try all the delicious sides on offer.

Guide to Hawksmoor Steaks

I also thought I’d write up a little guide because I found it quite bewildering initially on which steak to choose.The first four are offered as fixed sizes on the menu so if the smaller cuts on the specials chalkboard are gone, these are probably the best bet if it’s just two of you.

1. Fillet (300 gm for £34) (about £11.30 per 100 gm)
A popular prime cut that’s considered the most lean and tender steak of all with little fat which makes it a bit lower on the flavour scale.  This comes from the inside the sirloin and essentially, it’s a muscle that doesn’t do much work hence why it’s so lean and low fat.

2. Rib eye (400g for £30) (about £9 per 100 gm) 
Another popular cut that comes from the rib section is the Rib eye. It has a higher fat content and hence more flavour and with a good cut, you can see the marbling of fat on it.

3. Bone in Sirloin (500 gm for £28) (about £5.60 per 100 gm)
Sirloin is a cut that from the hindquarters of a cow. It’s sort of in-between a fatty rib eye and a lean fillet that comes on the bone. The fatty bit sits on top of the steak and can be cut off.

4. D-rump (350 gm for £20)  (about £5.70 per 100 gm) 
This is a cheaper cut from the backside of a cow that is a little bit tougher than other cuts but has huge amounts of flavour.

The next four are on the daily specials board and come in different sizes which is best for large groups to share.

5. Chateaubriand (£13 per 100 gm)
The most expensive prime cut - very similar to the fillet but much larger and pricier.

6. Porterhouse (£9 per 100 gm)
A part sirloin, part fillet steak with less bone and more meat from the lower side of the cow.

7. T-Bone  (£8 per 100 gm)
A T-Bone steak is similar to Porthouse and slightly cheaper. Again, with a fillet on one side and sirloin on the other, makes the cut both tender and flavourful.

8. Bone-in prime rib (£7.50 per 100 gm)

This usually a bigger cut with a bone in it from the rib section and again has a lot of fat. It’s essentially a rib eye with a bone.

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Square Meal