London


Here’s another one from last year. I went to Southall one Saturday in search of a particular crunchy snack to bring back to my father in Vancouver. That search ended in failure (dammit, I can’t find that brand from Leicester anymore) but that day, I discovered a fantastic Sri Lankan place that served an a fantastic, budget-friendly lunch.

The place was Palm Palace, the lone Sri Lankan restaurant amongst all the Indian and Pakistani restaurants all around it. It’s a little grotty, a little dark…but my goodness, its food is fantastic. I ordered a seafood thali – and my choice of seafood was prawns (crab and fish were available too).

This is what arrived.

Sri Lankan Thali

This is the thali underneath the poppadom. That hard boiled egg is a good indicator of scale.

Under the Poppadom

It was fantastic! All the curries were medium-hot (which can be made Sri Lankan hot by request) and all were very uniquely spiced. The prawn curry had lots of curry leaves, there was an aubergine dish that was insanely good, that fried vadai on top was just like a gorgeous spicy lentil doughnut. And dessert! There was even a little portion of watalappam, a delicious coconut milk and jaggery custard, that you can see in the bottom left corner. There was plenty for one person and unsurprisingly, I couldn’t finish it all. Kudos to the waitstaff who offered to pack up the leftovers!

Remember that I said this was a budget meal? The thali cost £6.50. This and a glass of mango juice gave me more change than expected from a tenner. Definitely one to try if you’re not in the mood for the usual heavier grilled meats and creamy curries in the area.

Palm Palace
80 South Rd
Southall, Middlesex UB1 1RD

Palm Palace on Urbanspoon

When my friend KK visits London, he hits the ground running, eating at all the best and interesting places. And he can do this as he’s supremely organised, whereas I just bumble along and am not so great at planning in advance! Speaking of planning, yeah, even this blog post is a few months old as we dined here before Christmas.

Anyway, we both ended up ordering the same items off the lunch menu as our tastes are very similar. We first started with a salami plate (not on the lunch menu) – thin slices of their own house cured salami went down rather too easily. This was some glorious pork.

Salami Plate

Radishes, Black Sesame and Gochuchang was the first of the restaurant’s famous pre-meal snacks to our table. I loved the combination of nutty sesame, spicy gochuchang mayo and the crunchy fresh radishes. It’s a great snack to try and recreate at home.

Radishes, Black Sesame and Gochuchang

The restaurant’s famous Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Pine Salt were little cornmeal nuggets served on a bed of pine needles.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Pine Salt

Oak Smoked Cod’s Roe on Rye was like the best taramasalata you could imagine. Wonderful.

Oak Smoked Cod's Roe on Rye

Our starter of Roast Scallop, Chervil and Miyagawa Satsuma was the only dish that afternoon that didn’t work for us. While the scallops were beautifully cooked, the satsuma and chervil combination didn’t do anything for it and I’m not convinced that the combination even gelled well. I would have been plenty happy with the scallops on their own.

Roast Scallop, Chervil and Miyagawa Satsuma

Luckily, our second course of Roast Chop of Rose Veal, Chestnut, Spinach and Brussel Sprouts was excellent. Everything on this plate sang autumn – the chestnuts, the chestnut puree, the lightly cooked spinach, the tender sprout leaves. And that veal was truly just gorgeous – tender and pink and flavourful.

Roast Chop of Rose Veal, Chestnut, Spinach and Brussel Sprouts

Our dessert of choice, Amalfi Lemonade, had use scratching our heads at first. Were we going to receive glasses of lemonade? Our waitress assured us no! And what arrived was fantastic – white pepper ice cream topped with lemon foam and little crunchy tuiles. I loved that novel combination of the white pepper and lemon – peppery and zesty.

Amalfi Lemonade

On our way out, we peeped into the tiny little room where all the salami curing takes place. Neat!

Curing Room

With drinks and the salami and the lunch menus and service, it came to about £50 each. No, not cheap in any sense but it is a lovely treat. I’d love to return for dinner as they have a 5 course meal (with snacks) at £55.

The Clove Club
Shoreditch Town Hall
380 Old Street
London EC1V 9LT

The Clove Club on Urbanspoon

Korean/Mexican fusion! That’s the basis behind Kimchinary, started by Hanna Soderlund as a street food stand, and which has currently popped up at the back in The Catch Bar in Shoreditch. If you’ve been following this trend for a while (as I have – I love both cuisines), you’ll know that it’s been around in the States for a while now and Kimchinary is not the only place here in London that’s explored Korean fusion like this. However, it’s possibly one of the most talked about in the city as its menu is quite novel and exciting.

Anyway, by invitation, a friend and I headed to The Catch Bar for the launch night of the Kimchinary popup.

Kimchinary

That night, we had the opportunity to try a number of the tacos on offer (the menu may change since we visited). Tacos are priced at £6 for two and all come on freshly made corn tortillas (excellent!).

Buttermilk fried squid – Pickled pineapple relish, kimchi guac, herb salad – was delicious. The squid was fried to perfection and the accompaniments were excellent with it. I would have liked a bit more heat though – maybe a bit more heat in the kimchi guac or some hot sauce on the side.

Buttermilk fried squid - Pickled pineapple relish, kimchi guac, herb salad

To my surprise, the Braised cavolo nero – Soy pickled enoki, kimchi puree, queso fresco – was one of my favourites that night. There was some great contrast between the ‘green’ cavolo nero, silky mushrooms, tangy cheese. It was very well balanced.

Braised cavolo nero - Soy pickled enoki, kimchi puree, queso fresco

Corn flake chicken thigh – Doenjang buttered corn, potato salad, crispy chicken skin – was promising but needed a bit of kimchi to give it all a kick up the backside. There was a bit too much salt and something sour like lime was required to balance out the oily and creamy.

Corn flake chicken thigh - Doenjang buttered corn, potato salad, crispy chicken skin

“Bulgogi” ox cheek & tongue – Radish kimchi, blackened spring onion, horseradish – the bulgogi beef was delicious and the horseradish did give it all a great kick. I only wished there was more kimchi. Well, to be honest, I absolutely adore kimchi so I’d like lots of it all the time!

"Bulgogi" ox cheek & tongue - Radish kimchi, blackened spring onion, horseradish

The only non-taco we tried that night was the Dukbokki – Rainbow chard, crispy shallots (£4) – and this was my favourite thing to eat that evening. The sticky rice cakes had been deep fried, with a great crust, and then coated with a spicy sweet sticky sauce. Silky strands of chard and crispy shallots and coriander and sesame seeds completed the delectable bowlful.

Dukbokki - Rainbow chard, crispy shallots

Overall, the little bites need a bit more heat and a squeeze of lime here and there but they’re fine little treats otherwise, especially with drinks; I’m sure everything will be ironed out with time. Service at The Catch Bar, however, needs improving. But then I realise that this is a bar, not a restaurant, so I guess that’s ok. Kind of.

Thanks again to Hanna for the invitation! Kimchinary will be at The Catch Bar for three months from January 17.

Kimchinary at The Catch Bar
22 Kingsland Road
Shoreditch
London E2 8DA

A large group of us met one evening to try the Greek cuisine on offer at Tsiakkos & Charcoal, a little restaurant in Maida Vale with a tiny kitchen and an equally tiny eating area. We were led to the back where tables had been reserved for us – the back being their sheltered outdoor terrace with lots and lots of heaters! Luckily, we just about stayed warm while eating!

The whole meal felt like eating in someone’s living room and we’d heard the food was some of the best Greek food in London. The small menu presented to us had a selection of starters and a handful of main courses. With guidance from our Greek friends who’d been here before, we all opted for the £20 per head meze deal (minimum two people) and then sat back and waited for the food to arrive. A lot more arrived than I expected – you really get a bit of everything that the restaurant has that day! All the dishes I photographed below were shared between four people.

Baskets of pitta bread first arrived with generous portions of houmous, tzatziki and quite possibly the best taramasalata I’ve ever had (beautiful flavour!).

Pitta and Dips

Grilled haloumi was tender and squeaky and doused in plenty of lemon juice and good olive oil.

Haloumi

Greek salad with feta was a lovely burst of freshness before the meats started arriving.

Feta Salad

First up of the meats was a ‘slow burnt’ pork, a long cooked large chunk of pork that was falling apart. No, no part of it was actually ‘burnt’!

Slow Burnt Pork

A portion of mousaka also came along – this was quite heavily and uniquely spiced with cinnamon and maybe cloves. I quite liked this but this started a conversation at the table about how different regions in Greece and Cyprus have different mousaka seasonings.

Mousaka

Pork and chicken kebab were overgrilled to slight toughness but the flavour in them was promising. A good squeeze of lemon juice over and they were chewy morsels that were pleasant enough. A little less time on the grill and these would have been perfect.

Pork and Chicken Kebabs

Kleftiko then arrived. This giant hunk of super tender lamb was sitting on an incredibly delicious rice pilaf. I would make sure to save space for this – this was one of my favourites that night.

Kleftiko

But that wasn’t all! In addition to all that meat, we also were brought a whole grilled sea bream! This too was beautifully cooked to perfection – I loved grilled fish.

Sea Bream

We were really rolling around stuffed by this point but I insisted on a wee little something sweet. A piece of baklava each was just enough sugariness to end the meal. It was a shame these weren’t homemade but the usual store-bought stuff.

Baklava

Altogether, a lovely meal at a good price – with drinks and the baklava, it ended up being something like £25 per head. If you’d rather have just a few things, the dips are under £4 and mains are around £10-15. The place is good for groups, especially with the meze option, but do make sure to book in advance! The place was packed on a Thursday night. Sure, seating could be a little more comfortable but I guess it all adds to the unique ‘ambiance’ of the place!

Tsiakkos & Charcoal
5 Marylands Road
London W9 2DU

Tsiakkos & Charcoal on Urbanspoon

Last year, my friend Roxanne and I managed to visit four Nordic Christmas markets in one day and only missed out on the Danish Christmas fair. This year, we vowed to visit the Danish one to finally tick that off our list! On the same weekend as all the other Scandinavian markets (it happens on only one weekend each year – keep an eye out for next year’s!), we made our way to the Danish YWCA near Finchley Road. It’s a beautiful grand building and yes, that day there were a lot of Danes about. This Christmas Bazaar cost £2 per person for entry.

Danish YWCA

There were not one, not two, but three eating ‘zones’ interspersed between the craft and grocery rooms and raffle tables. The first was outside with the wreaths and evergreen branches for sale. There was a Tulip hot dog stand!

A Tulip Hot Dog Stand

I loved all the hot dogs I ate in Copenhagen oh so many years ago and here was my chance to get one with the full Danish works again: ketchup, mustard, remoulade, diced raw onions, crispy fried onions, sliced pickles. And I even went for the bright red sausage (the rød pølse)!

Hot Dog!

Inside, we found rooms of traditional Danish Christmas crafts and even a groceries room full of Christmas goodies. The crafts were indeed very beautiful and I yearned for a reindeer head to decorate my living room.

Inside

Crafts

The Head of Rudolf

I didn’t buy anything major this year but I did leave with a few packs of Danish Christmas biscuits – mmm, such buttery buttery biscuits.

Outside in the back garden, a marquee had been set up as a sort of cafe serving drinks, meatballs and aebleskiver, the Danish spherical pancakes. Aebleskiver are delicious! They’re have a much more tender crumb than I imagined and they’re just perfect with jam and powdered sugar.

Æbleskiver

Everyone seemed to be drinking either gløgg or these yellow cans of chocolate milk. I had to try one of the latter and it is very moreish!

Chocolate Milk

Back inside the building, we finally made our way to the last room for eats – the YWCA’s canteen turned into a cute and cosy cafe where one could have various savouries, sandwiches and pastries.

I had to try the liver pate smørrebrød after one woman waxed poetic about hot liver pate. This was some good pate and I bet it would have been even better if it had been served hot.

Liver Pate Smørrebrød

Chicken and mushroom puffs were very generously filled and served hot.

Chicken and Mushroom Puffs

We finished with a slice of Christmas kringle – a puff pastry with plenty of dried fruit and spices of the festive season.

Christmas Kringle

We were stuffed by the time we left. Highly recommended! Keep your eyes peeled for when the 2014 weekend is – this year, I also reported the dates on Twitter.

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