I woke up early last Saturday morning. Very early. I was meeting a good friend for breakfast and he had chosen Koya Bar, which surprisingly, with my love for the original Koya, I had not yet tried. This slightly smaller neighbouring restaurant was open all day, from breakfast to dinner, and I’ve been keen to try their morning menu. We found the place half empty that morning, though whether it was because it was breakfast time or because it was a bank holiday, I’m not sure.

Koya Bar

Their breakfast menu is full of both udon and rice dishes and it was one particular rice dish (actually a rice porridge) that was on my list of things to try. Their kedgeree (£9.90).

Kedgeree

What is served to you at the bar is a tray with a bowl of the rice porridge and a side dish of umami-rich fish flakes. Snuggled in the warm embrace of the thick porridge is an onsen egg (a slow poached almost half-cooked soft egg) and next to that were scattered a few shards of crispy fried fish skin and thin slices of spring onion.

Kedgeree

We stirred the fish flakes and all the toppings into the thick porridge and also found pieces of smoked haddock within. We spooned the mixture into our mouths and to my surprise, the curry used in the kedgeree tasted like a proper Indian-style curry powder rather than a Japanese curry. It was excellent, all warm and savoury and soothing. It was gone in no time.

Fish Flakes

I do need to try the rest of the breakfast options at Koya, especially the onigiri I saw on the specials board. Highly recommended for a fortifying yet quiet and relaxing start to the day!

Koya Bar
50 Frith Street
London W1D 4SQ

Koya Bar on Urbanspoon

I was on the lookout for a little something different. We wanted some brunch before heading to the British Museum and I’m not sure how things connect up in my head but I recalled passing Maroush Bakehouse on Edgware Road on the bus and looking at it in curiosity. What did they serve? Was it just bread? A little googling helped to answer my questions – they did indeed have lots of bread but they also served savouries and sweets inside. In particular, their breakfast was highly rated. I had to try it.

We arrived at about 11:30 on a Sunday morning and it was packed with a mix of locals and tourists. We managed to find a quiet table at the back. Ordering mint tea got us this very grand teapot.

Mint Tea

We split a few items on the menu. A lahem b’agine was as I remember from my university days – it’s flatbread  topped with seasoned minced lamb and the only thing that would have been better is if they’d heated it up prior to serving it. Or perhaps put some pickles on top.

Lahem B’agine

We also got a Lebanese breakfast, which every other table also ordered – and we could see why! It looked brilliant, all full of colours and very appealing to the eye. This huge plate held an omelette, labneh (strained yoghurt), ful medames (cooked dried broad beans), cucumber sticks, tomato slices and a big pile of wonderfully bitter olives. And there was lots of olive oil drizzled over everything. It’s all wonderfully healthy and I have to give special mention to the ful medames because I really could have consumed just a giant bowlful of that that morning.

Lebanese Breakfast

To scoop up everything, a basket of freshly baked flatbread is also provided. Brown or white.

Freshly Baked Flatbread

It’s a great place for a breakfast that’s not your usual fry-up.

Maroush Bakehouse
45-49 Edgware Road
London W2 2HZ

There are other branches on Earl’s Court Road and in Knightsbridge and at Hyde Park Corner.

Maroush Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

Whilst travelling is probably the only time I’ll ever be happy waking up super early. It was particularly so in Japan when every morning, I’d get to exchange my breakfast ticket for, well, an amazing breakfast.

At our hotel in Nagoya (Hotel Trusty Nagoya near Fushimi) offered four breakfast sets each morning and your choice had to be made the night before. There were two Japanese sets and two Western sets, and of each style, one was complimentary with our hotel stay and the other could be had for a small supplement.

This was the first Japanese set – tororo gohan, or mountain yam rice. Rice, nori, a bowl of soup, an onsen egg, raw grated tororo, pickles, hot tea and soy sauce.

Tororo Gohan Breakfast Set

The soup was clear and very savoury with thin slices of pork and root vegetables.

Soup

The tororo had a slightly slimy texture that was not at all unpleasant (well, if you find okra too slimy perhaps this would be a bit too much in the morning). It was delicious! I think one could mix this and the egg into the rice and it truly was scrumptious. Altogether, it was a brilliant start to the day.

Grated Tororo (Mountain Yam)

The other Japanese set was a full Japanese breakfast, complete with grilled salted salmon, soup, braised vegetables, fruit, pickles, a huge slice of tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), hot tea and rice. Again, this was fantastic – I love a good savoury breakfast.

Japanese Breakfast

I had to try one of the Western breakfast options (Nagoya is apparently famous for them) and decided on the simpler one that was included in our room price. I loved that super thick fluffy toast and was glad that I did try it! The sausages were more like hot dogs and the soup tasted tinned but the potato salad and vegetable sticks (salad is a breakfast food in Japan) were very welcome, as were the fruit and yoghurt.

Western Breakfast Set

If you’re curious, the other Western set (the one that cost extra) included a fancier salad and pizza bread!

Our hotel in Tokyo (Hotel Park Side in Ueno) offered a small breakfast buffet full of both Japanese and Western options. The quality of the ingredients was not as great as in Nagoya but it still beats a lot of breakfast options here in London!

Breakfast in Tokyo

Here we had components for both a Japanese and Western breakfast and I combined the two a bit. Rice, tofu, miso soup, nori, an onsen egg, and braised vegetables and bacon (oh yes!).

I also tried my first natto at breakfast in Tokyo and …. I found the strong flavour a bit challenging! That’s not perhaps my favourite breakfast food. But thumbs up to the Japanese breakfast in general!

I’m a big fan of the American baked goods sold by Outsider Tart in Chiswick. They have cookies the size of your head, gorgeous brownies and amazing cheesecakes. I don’t stop by as often as I’d like but I know it’s there, waiting for me to have a cheesecake craving. Relatively recently, they expanded their premises to take in the shop space next door (where there used to be an unsuccessful raw pizza place – I mean, why?!) and they’ve used this new space for cafe seating.

They call it Blue Plate and they offer hot breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes there. My friend and I visited on a Sunday morning and grabbed two seats at the large communal table, the smaller tables were all already full. Their menu that day (I think it changes often) read like a dream – pancakes, grits, hash, hot meaty sandwiches. Diner food galore.

Johnnycakes with blueberries (£6.50 for a short stack – 2 pancakes) were thick, fluffy, cornmeal pancakes studded with lots of the purple fruit and served already drizzled with syrup. We, of course, needed more and helped ourselves to the little pitcher set out. As with all pancakes, they fill me up something ridiculous and I have no idea how anyone can put down more than two (and if you can, they sell stacks of 2, 3, or 4).

Johnnycakes with Blueberries

I can’t only have sweet for brunch or breakfast though – savoury is mandatory in my books. Cheesy grits with fried eggs and sausage (£9) immediately stood out on the menu to us and a bowl of the creamy, cheesy grits, studded with sausage bits and topped with fried eggs soon arrived at our table. And a biscuit! I think this was my first biscuit in London and it was a mighty fine one it was too. The grits went down a treat, especially with a bit of hot sauce. They’re creamy and comforting and about a million times better than a bowl of oatmeal.

Fried Eggs and Grits with Sausage

Blai and I went back for brunch this morning. Blai was utterly rapturous about his cheesy grits and biscuit while I decided to try something else and went for the migas (£9.50), an excellent Tex-Mex mixture of scrambled eggs here with sausage, blue corn tortilla chips, onions, jalapenos and sour cream. There was also a good chunk of excellent cornbread.

Migas

The only thing missing there? Those bottomless cups of brewed coffee – they only sold Americanos here and only by the single cup (of course). There are freshly squeezed juices and smoothies and bottled American soft drinks also available.

They’re open 8am-6pm everyday and on Thursdays they stay open until 10pm. I’ll be back…often.

Outsider Tart
83 Chiswick High Road
London W4 2EF

Outsider Tart on Urbanspoon

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! We’re not religious at all but I’ve embraced the whole idea of Christmas and the fact that we get an enforced break from work and well, all of that eating, of course! Our feasting started Christmas Eve with a big Chinese meal for the three of us (Blai joined us this year for his first Christmas in London).

Christmas Eve Dinner

My brother had brought over a roast duck from Four Seasons (our usual duck of choice comes from Gold Mine but they had closed early the day before!) and I added a steamed fish, wontons in chilli oil, kai lan with oyster sauce and mapo tofu (I added some pork to that last recipe).

Mapo Tofu

A couple of the recipes came from Fuchsia Dunlop’s book Every Grain of Rice – and I highly recommend this book! I feel I ought to be cooking more Chinese food and I’ll certainly be using her recipes often.

Afterwards, there were slices of Heston’s Black Forest Buche (bought at Waitrose) for dessert. We’re still eating our way along the length of this excellent chocolatey buche.

Cross Section of the Buche

On Christmas Day, we rose late and started with a breakfast of smoked salmon and crème fraîche on blinis along with scrambled eggs.

Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs

Soon after breakfast, I set out a few bites while the main course was cooking. A bit of cheese, A bit of charcuterie, a bit more salmon. It’s what the Catalans call pica pica, all these little bites.

Untitled

And the main course? Well, we can’t go wrong with another slab of pork belly – it always goes down well in this family. This year, I roasted it with apples and onions and I loved the sweetness and slight tang the apples gave. For a recipe, start with this one and instead of fennel, use a couple of sliced onions and a couple of sliced, peeled green apples and a bit of dried or fresh thyme.

Slow Roast Pork Belly with Apples and Onions

Very buttery mashed potatoes, pigs in blankets, sauteed sprouts, roasted carrots and parsnips and, of course, that pork and there’s my first plate made.

My Plate

And now it’s Boxing Day and that’s all about using up the leftovers… but first, I’d like to hear what you’ve been eating this Christmas! Have you tried new recipes this year or is this a time for sticking to tradition?

The next on the must-eat list for Hong Kong was dim sum, of course! My first dim sum lunch was at City Hall Maxim’s Palace and it started with a queue; about an hour after first getting a number, we finally got a table. It’s certainly a big and fancy place and, surprisingly to me, tea was served in the British style – silver service! And trolleys! I miss trolley dim sum and to have it for the first time in years was great fun. I loved how each trolley had signs that said what each contained.

Trolleys!

We had quite the spread and highlights included that bottom dish of steamed beef with black pepper and orange peel, …

…these fried squid tentacles, …

Fried Tentacles

…and excellent siu mai.

Siu Mai

It was all very good, traditional dim sum but I believe that, in London, the dim sum at Pearl Liang or Princess Gardens matches it.

City Hall Maxim’s Palace
3/F, City Hall
5-7 Edinburgh Place
Central
Hong Kong

It was this next place, though, that spoiled me. Tim Ho Wan is most famous for being a budget, hole-in-the-wall dim sum restaurant with a Michelin star in Mongkok. They’re also famous for the crazy crowds that queue for hours to get a table. It’s certainly doing well as it’s now a group (chain?) of three restaurants and it was to the newest branch at Hong Kong station (under the IFC) that we went to have breakfast. At 9-10am on a weekday, it was possible to get a table without having to queue.

Steamed eggplant with soy sauce was delicious and not something I’ve seen at other dim sum lunches.

Steamed Eggplant with Soy Sauce

Pan fried turnip cake was a very good version with lots of thickly shredded daikon radish.

Pan Fried Turnip Cake

The steamed beef balls with bean curd skin were fantastic – these beef balls were meltingly tender and had a great flavour.

Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin

While we were deciding what to order, the man next to us leaned over and insisted we had to order his favourite, the malai goh, a steamed egg cake (the name translates to Malay cake though…is it from Malaysia?). I’m not normally a big fan of this cake and the version we had at City Hall Maxim’s Palace was just ok. This one, however, … you can’t see it here but it was amazingly soft and wobbled gently as the steamer was placed on our table. And yes, it was delicious.

Steamed Egg Cake

These char siu baked buns are a must order. They’re just about the best pineapple buns I’ve had – the bread was soft, the crust was intensely buttery and crumbly and the char siu filling was generous and wonderfully saucy. Such tasty tasty goodness.

Baked Buns with BBQ Pork

How much for this gorgeous dim sum? Every dish was only about 12-20 HKD, depending on size; it was a bargain.

I’d originally hoped to visit three dim sum places but after my first visit here, that third place got scratched off the list to make way for another visit to Tim Ho Wan to sample more from their menu.

Of course, we had to have the baked char siu buns again. Here’s the shot of their insides.

Inside the Baked Char Siu Bun

The prawn and chive cheung fun was good but nothing special compared to other dim sum restaurants.

Prawn and Chive Cheung Fun

I wanted to try their “glue dumpling”, an amusing translation for what actually is a large glutinous rice dumpling.

"Glue Dumpling"

This was amazing with its myriad fillings – dried mushrooms, salted egg yolk, slices of meat. Yes, full on slices of meat. I was sad that we just couldn’t finish it – it was very big.

Mmm...Glutinous Rice

We also had to order their har gau (prawn dumplings) after seeing a group of men painstakingly pleating the little things in the kitchen on our last visit. And yes, they were excellent but again, ones of similar quality can be found elsewhere.

Har Gau

I love Tim Ho Wan. This branch at the IFC is great – it’s in no way fancy with its wipe down tables and chairs but the food! It has an open kitchen and it’s possible to see the chefs all at work, making the dim sum that will feed all those in the queue. Did I mention it’s also cheap? Yes, it’s a total bargain for the quality – I now understand its popularity.

Tim Ho Wan
Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station
(Podium Level 1, IFC Mall)
Central
Hong Kong

It wasn’t the smartest decision I’d made in a long while. In a show of great ambition two weekends ago, I figured I was going to have a South Indian breakfast along Ealing Road, an area I’d been meaning to explore more, prior to meeting a number of food bloggers and tweeters at Pacific Plaza for lunch. Location wasn’t a problem as Ealing Road was just a 15 minute walk away from Wembley; what was a problem was my lack of discipline in the face of lots of Indian food.

Sakonis

It was Sakonis that I decided on, partially on a recommendation and partially on their breakfast buffet, perfect for a lone diner like me. It costs £4.50 and is only offered on weekends and bank holidays between 9 and 11am.

And what was on offer? Masala dosas, puris, upma, potato curry, idlis, sambar, yogurt, gathia, a spiced cabbage dish, coconut chutney, jalebis, chai. It’s vegetarian, if you hadn’t figured that out already. (Click through the photos for notes on what each item is.)

My First Plate

While everything was spiced, nothing was very hot in terms of chili heat; everyone can partake in this Indian buffet. The dosas were still crisp but the potato filling inside was just ok – make up for this with the delicious potato curry. The sambar is lovely with it too as well as the puris and idlis (oh, by the way, an idli soaked in sambar is a wonderful thing). The cabbage dish on offer reminded me of a stir-fried Indian cabbage dish I cook at home with lots of mustard seeds. And I’m already thinking of my next visit when I’ll top a bowlful of potato curry with cold, fresh yogurt and lots of the crunchy gathia! It’s a great introduction to South Indian breakfasts.

The popular dishes were refilled quite quickly, every 10 minutes in the case of the masala dosas. One man put away at least 5 of them!

My Second Plate

Two platefuls. Honest, that’s all I had. (Ok, ok, and a jalebi.)

Jalebi

Then why did my stomach refuse to take in any more food two hours later? (It’s most likely to do with the fact that I hardly ever eat breakfast most days.) We ordered a ridiculous spread at the Pacific Plaza food court and I didn’t really do it justice. I did better (read: consumed more food) towards the end of lunch though!

Sakonis
127-129 Ealing Road
Wembley
London  HA0 4BP

Sakonis on Urbanspoon

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