We were looking for some dinner in Soho and I had narrowed down a list of nearby restaurants to a few. From that list, Blai chose Bukowski Grill, which specialises in American grilled stuff, all cooked over charcoal on a Josper grill. It was our first time there and for some reason, in the five years that the original joint’s been open, it hadn’t really hit my radar. I’ve only just found out now that this Soho branch, their largest restaurant, only opened earlier this year.

I think it was the burgers on the menu that put me off initially – there seem to be a million burger restaurants in London and most are quite good. Bukowski Grill, thankfully, has other things on their menu as well and it was these that caught out eyes. We started with a nibble of Tasso pig cheek with pickled peach relish (£3.50). For the price, it was a generous little dish of pig cheek prepared as a hot spiced ham. In a weird way, it reminded me a little of a spicy char siu!

Dinner at Bukowski Grill in Soho. Excellent stuff!

We felt we needed to order the highlighted 72 hour beef rib with tobacco onions (£12.25) – and we had no idea what to expect. It was certainly not this beautiful beast. This massive beef rib was fantastic, all smoky and tender, and equally magnificent were the tobacco onions, which turned out to be fried onion strings. Gnawing on the rib felt a little like being in the Flintstones.

Dinner at Bukowski Grill in Soho. Excellent stuff!

A fried chicken thigh milk buttermilk waffle with green chilli maple syrup (£8.50), with a fried egg (£1.50) in our case, was also excellent. Can’t go wrong with chicken and waffles and the spicy syrup made this version quite unique.

Dinner at Bukowski Grill in Soho. Excellent stuff!

We had some chips on the side as well but… no photo of that. They were chips. They were good.

A little sweet thing was exactly what we needed now. A salted caramel soft serve ice cream with peanut butter brittle (£3.25) was near perfect. I liked the salty caramel ice cream but the peanut butter brittle needed to be in smaller, more manageable pieces (and the best peanut brittle I’ve had has been the stuff from this shop in North Vancouver, BC, Canada).

Dinner at Bukowski Grill in Soho. Excellent stuff!

I think what surprised me were the very reasonable prices for everything and all the dishes flying past us did look great – the milkshakes and, yes, even the burgers. It’s a fun little spot, with plenty of seating, and lots of Bukowski‘s NSFW poetry on the bathroom doors. I’m keen to visit earlier in the day too to try their brunch menu.

Bukowski Grill
10-11 D’Arblay Street
London  W1f 8DT

There are branches in Brixton and Shoreditch too.

What with all the flying out of Gatwick’s South Terminal in the last few months, I’ve had the chance to try Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store Cafe a few times already. I still haven’t tried the original restaurant at King’s Cross but I know there’s an emphasis on vegetables, without being a fully vegetarian restaurant. Healthy without being boring.

Our flight to Milan earlier this year was a morning one and we took the chance to eat off their breakfast menu. Bruno’s Power Breakfast was a small platter of eggs benedict, truffles, broccolini, grilled vegetable ratatouille with dukkah and avocado on toast. I loved the emphasis on greenery for breakfast and that avocado toast was excellent stuff. The only letdown was the hollandaise made without butter….without butter, it’s not hollandaise, sorry.

Bruno's Power Breakfast

Baghdad Eggs were fried eggs and spiced butter on salt-baked celeriac waffles. I don’t think I could detect the celeriac in the waffle batter but the combination was fresh and fantastic.

Baghdad Eggs

My flight to Stockholm was after work on a Friday, meaning that dinner was going to be a long way off. A selection of small dishes seemed like the perfect nibble – Thai minced chicken (this looked like larb in lettuce cups and was served with watermelon), a Greek-style dish of artichokes/tomatoes/cauliflower/mushrooms, and grilled aubergine with tonnato sauce. Everything was fine and just tasty enough. OK, nothing was spectacular but y’know, very good and very creative for an airport.

Small Dishes - Thai-style chicken, artichokes and tomatoes, aubergines.

Sweet potato fries were also ordered and were perfect. Extracting them from their plant pot was like playing a gustatory version of pick-up sticks though.

Sweet Potato Fries

Then the flight to Bordeaux (you would have thought I’d deliberately flown out of Gatwick South Terminal this year…) had me looking for a snack. I spotted the avocado toast on another table and ordered that…but with a side of bacon. The hipster snack was perfect – the avocado fresh and well seasoned. I didn’t need nor want the sliced onions on the side – onion breath is always a faux pas on an airplane.

Avocado Toast

The bacon was overcooked though and had turned into bacon jerky, just a bit too chewy for my liking. I’d skip that next time and uh…maybe get more sweet potato fries.

Bacon

Other dishes that looked good (as they whizzed past me) include their burgers, their salads, and their fish and chips. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s mostly healthy. I think it’s a great addition to Gatwick and possibly the best place to eat in Gatwick South. The only thing that would make it better is more reliable free wifi but hey, that’s just me.

Grain Store Café and Bar

Gatwick Airport
South Terminal

The weather that evening was vile – all stormy and windy and with a windchill below zero – and I didn’t want to venture far from my hotel. I was staying in the Scandic Alvik and while there’s a good supermarket and good cafes nearby, there are few restaurants in the area. It’s in a good spot though as the train gets you into central Stockholm quickly but that night really was something; I needed somewhere to eat close by. I did note a cute restaurant at the end of the street by the water on Google maps and heck, that restaurant – Sjöpaviljongen – turned out to not just be by the water but on the water. They found a table for me right by the open fire (I must have looked like a drenched rat) and I am forever grateful to them for it. Service was exceptional that evening and I was made to feel most welcome.

Open Fire!

The selection of bread that was brought over was divine. My favourite was a sweet-ish dark bread that was utterly divine with lashings of the accompanying whipped butter. I could have eaten the whole lot if I didn’t have lots to look forward to.

Bread and Butter

My first course of Råbiff på svenskt gårdskött, ramslökskräm, betor, kapris och sommartryffel (Steak tartar on Swedish meat, ramsons, beetroots, capers and summer truffle, 165 SEK) was beautiful, all delicate little things tossed together with contrasts in every bite. Slivers of fried potato gave the whole mixture a lovely little crunch.

Råbiff på svenskt gårdskött, ramslökskräm, betor, kapris och sommartryffel

I was extremely happy with my Sjöpaviljongens fisk- och skaldjursgryta med aioli (Fish- and shellfish casserole with aioli, 199 SEK) – again another little break from cream. There was salmon, cod, another white fish I couldn’t identify, shrimps, crayfish, and mussels all mixed up in this tomato based broth with fennel, onions and dill. A little slurp of soup, a little dollop of aioli on my fish….mmm… I’m salivating just thinking about this.

Sjöpaviljongens fisk- och skaldjursgryta med aioli

It was lovely and cosy in there and I wished I didn’t need to head back to hotel! The photo below shows you the inside and its coziness reminded me of many of the traditional Swedish restaurants I visited when I visited West Sweden a few years back.

Sjöpaviljongen

I loved the place so much I returned later that week for another dinner, this time with colleagues. And this time the weather was gorgeous (such a change less than a week later!) and we had drinks prior to the meal on the deck on the water. We could look out upon the calm waters across to Kristineberg (another Stockholm district).

This time I started with Toast Skagen med kalixlöjrom (Toast with a mix of prawns, dill and mayonnaise and a fish roe topping, 129 SEK), quite a common classic Swedish starter.

Toast Skagen

I was really looking forward to my main course of Biff Rydberg med rå äggula och senapsgrädde (Biff Rydberg with egg yolk and creamy mustard, 259 SEK); I was thinking about it all day since we had to choose our dishes in advance for such a large group. This was fabulous – a kind of luxurious version of the classic Swedish pyttipanna, which is a hash of potatoes, onions, and meat. And here there was fried potatoes, fried onions, fried pieces of fillet steak and a raw egg to hold it all together. Oh, and a butter sauce. Delicious.

Biff Rydberg

A final photo of the restaurant!

Sjöpaviljongen

If you go, do make a booking if you can – the best way to contact them is via their email address on their website.

Sjöpaviljongen
Tranebergs Strand 4
167 40 Bromma
Stockholm
Sweden

Apparently Friday nights are taco nights in Sweden. There’s some understanding (thanks to a clearly ridiculously successful marketing campaign) that Friday nights are for cosy nights in with tacos (or pizza) and junk food; there’s even a word for it – Fredagsmys (cosy Friday). Swedish tacos are … very different from Mexican tacos and perhaps are more similar to those eaten of the Old El Paso kit variety here in the UK. Actually there are some clear differences from these as well as this hilarious Reddit post illustrates.

Anyway, I thought of this tradition as I munched away on some excellent Mexican food in Sweden. We’ll rewind to half an hour prior to proper tacos – after a few days of butter and cream, I couldn’t face another very rich cream-laden Swedish meal. I contemplated the highly rated vegan Chinese place near my Airbnb flat but when I saw the reviews for La Neta, a Mexican joint just a little further walk away, tacos tacos tacos consumed my mind.

The restaurant on Barnhusgatan is tiny – it’s a basement joint with a large kitchen (I believe they make their tortillas on site) and shared dining tables and a counter by the window. Queue at the till, place your order, find a seat, and pick up your order when your buzzer goes.

I had one each of the tacos on offer that day: Tacos de Pastor (marinated pork with pineapple), Suadero (a slow cooked beef), Bistec (grilled steak). They were 22 kr each and were served on homemade corn tortillas.

Tacos

Of course, tacos are not complete without a salsa bar – and I’m glad to report that La Neta had a little one! I added the chopped onions and coriander and helped myself to the green and red salsas on offer. From what I can see on Instagram, their salsas are made fresh each day. They were perfect – the tacos and the salsas. The meats were all tender and flavourful and tacos just looked right. An aside: I read recently that La Neta was opened by two natives of Monterey, California, both of whom missed the Mexican food they could get easily back home – these were legit tacos.

Tacos and Salsas

There were quesadillas too.

Quesadillas

had a Rajas (poblano chili, courgette, corn, onion and philadelphia – 28 kr) …

Rajas

… and a Choripapa (potato, chili, onion and chorizo – 28 kr). Both were excellent and of note was the Mexican chorizo which was totally on point.

Choripapa

My Mexican dinner hit the spot – and fret not, I went straight back to trying more Swedish foods after my palate was refreshed here. There are freshly made tortilla chips and larger tacos in flour tortillas too. And you can even buy their freshly made corn tortillas by the kilo. I love this place!

La Neta
Barnhusgatan 2
111 23, Stockholm

There’s a second branch on Södermalm.

The first thing that comes to mind when Sweden is brought up is probably meatballs. Or Ikea. Or Ikea meatballs. Of course, on a week-long trip to Stockholm (for business and leisure), there’d be plenty of time to try the real thing. I had my first meatballs on this trip at Meatballs for the People, a meatball-loving pub/restaurant located in the trendy area of SoFo (south of Folkungagatan) in Södermalm.

Untitled

I visited for lunch and there was a short menu of traditional Swedish meatballs, a Caesar salad with rooster meatballs, and an open-faced meatball sandwich. One of the first for me please! This was also my first experience with the lunch deals in Stockholm. I placed my order for my meatballs and the total price with a drink came to about 130 SEK. I waited for my lunch, there were little stations around to help yourself to homemade pickles, bread (and knäckebröd) and butter, and after your meal, biscuits with coffee. Lovely!

Swedish Meatballs!

My bowl of beautifully tender meatballs came with a little hill of mashed potatoes, lingonberries, pickled cucumber slices, and plenty of the usual cream gravy. I loved the lingonberries, clearly just fresh berries cooked gently with a little sugar; they made for a sweet-tart pop beside the creamy gravy and potatoes. Highly recommended!

They also sell their meatballs (quite a few varieties from what I could see that day) to have at home.

Meatballs for the People
Nytorgsgatan 30
116 40 Stockholm
Sweden

I love thin crust pizzas. Not the thinner than deep pan kinds but the really, really thin ones….the ones we had at Pizzeria La Montecarlo in Rome. While the cracker thin crust I recalled wasn’t exactly achieved at Pizza Union, it makes a good attempt at these thin crust Roman-style pizzas. And they’re extremely budget friendly!

Pick Up

The most expensive pizza on the menu at Pizza Union is £6.50; the cheapest is £3.95. For that price, you get a large thin-crust pizza that is plenty for one for a meal. If you need dessert, there’s a sweet dough ring with mascarpone and nutella (I didn’t try it but it looked amazing) or gelato from Oddono’s. We started with drinks and olives while we waited for the buzzer to go off, letting us know when to pick up our pizzas.

Olives and San Pellegrino

My Calabria, with mascarpone, spicy n’duja sausage and rocket, was excellent with plenty of each ingredient. The n’duja gave a lovely punch to the crisp pizza. Again, not the thinnest but thin enough. If you’re expecting soft, fluffy Neapolitan-style pizzas, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Calabria

Blai’s Regina, with parmesan, ham, mushrooms and olives, was a classic and I think the layer of melting cheese worked well with the crisp base. Oozy cheese, crispy base. Yes.

Regina

For dessert, we shared a tub of gelato (£2.50) which was generously filled though a little denser than we like it – unlike freshly scooped. But like everything else on the menu, it’s very good value.

The place does fill up quickly on a Saturday night (when we went) but with lots of communal tables, you’re sure to find a seat; the pizzas also fly out so turnaround is quick. I like it very much.

Pizza Union
246-250 Pentonville Road
King’s Cross
London N1 9JY

There’s a second branch in Spitalfields.

We were wandering around Covent Garden when I recalled a restaurant that a friend had recommended to me – On the Bab. We trotted over there for a light dinner early that evening and found it absolutely rammed with Korean and Chinese students. They sure can sniff out a good place for a meal!

And good it was, selling the kind of Korean food that’s a little bit junky, a little bit trendy, and a whole lot of popular. Korean fried chicken has to be on that list of course. This was their Yangyum chicken – sweet spicy (small – £5.5). Larger orders on other tables seemed to include extra salads. The chicken was good though a little swamped by the sauce. I enjoyed it though.

Yangyum Chicken - Sweet Chilli

Bab Twigim – Korean style kimchi and cheese arancini (£3.8) were very moreish and contained that very trendy combination of kimchi and mild melty cheese. Cheese (this mild stuff at least) does seem quite popular in Korea, showing up on all manner of spicy dishes.

Kimchi Arancini

Kimchi and cheese egg muffin (£3.5) came highly recommended from my friend and whatever I was expecting, it sure wasn’t this! This had been made in some mould with the kimchi and again that mild melting cheese (similar to an American mozzarella) had been cooked within a soft pancake-like batter. Excellent.

Kimchi and Cheese Egg Muffin

On the Bibimbab (£7.5) didn’t come in a stone bowl but was still very tasty with its multitude of ingredients. Of course, a hot stone bowl would have made it all better…

On the Bibimbab

In all, a solid place for a Korean meal in an unlikely location – Covent Garden. The only downside is how cramped the restaurant is, with neighbouring tables really pushed up against each other. But still, I’d like to try more from the menu! There are two other branches in addition to the Covent Garden one.

On the Bab
36 Wellington Street
Covent Garden
London WC2E 7BD

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