Taiwanese food! I love it and I loved what we tried at Ho-ja on Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush. I was first introduced to the restaurant by a friend who organised a karaoke night in one of their two private rooms downstairs. While the karaoke was ok (language variety good, song variety in English meh), the food was memorable. I returned last week with Blai.

The location was one I remembered as being an old-fashioned British diner in times past – I recall having Spam fritters for the first time there! The business has turned over a couple times since then and is now Ho-ja. The space is large and is peppered with wooden benches and tables – we’re shown to the end of a large communal one as the smaller tables are all taken. We have menus but one needs to order and pay at the counter and the food is brought out to you when it’s ready.

Dinner at Ho-ja in Shepherd's Bush last weekend.

Our spread looks good, no? First up was a pork katsu bento – it’s not really in a bento box but is akin to the set meals that are typically Taiwanese. For something like £6, we got a slightly greasy fried breaded pork cutlet, some stewed cabbage, beansprouts, and rice. Portions are certainly hearty.

Dinner at Ho-ja in Shepherd's Bush last weekend.

A side order of their chicken popcorn is surprisingly greaseless by comparison. It’s extremely addictive and it would be worth ordering this as a bento main.

Dinner at Ho-ja in Shepherd's Bush last weekend.

The Ho-ja beef roll also comes with vegetables (steamed broccoli here) and are flaky scallion pancakes rolled around lots of salad leaves and some stewed beef. Fabulous stuff! We loved the freshness of the greens with the richer bread and beef. Just watch out for the skewers holding the rolls together… it’s easy to accidentally give yourself an unwanted piercing.

Dinner at Ho-ja in Shepherd's Bush last weekend.

With a bubble tea and a regular jasmine tea, the bill came to about £22, a pretty good deal. It’s definitely a place to look out for if you’re in search of a bite in the area.

Ho Ja
39 Goldhawk Road
Shepherd’s Bush
London W12 8QQ

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I found myself back in West London the past weekend and met up with friends for Saturday brunch at Bush Hall Dining Rooms, the all day eatery next to the music venue that is Bush Hall. I used to live in the area (well, down the road in Acton) and it felt good to see the Shepherds Bush area again! Anyway, on a Saturday morning, it’s pretty easy to get a table though do book if you’re looking for a guaranteed spot after noon.

Brunch (well, ordered off a breakfast menu)! A friend’s eggy bread with bacon and maple syrup kept her quite happy though we do think that sourdough doesn’t make the best eggy bread. And personally, I would have preferred a plate rather than the chopping board.

Eggy bread with bacon and maple syrup

Eggs Benedict looked and tasted excellent – no complaints there. There was a very generous amount of ham!

Eggs Benedict

My chorizo jam, guacamole, fried eggs on toasted sourdough was all the savoury, creamy, eggy stuff I needed to get through the afternoon.

Chorizo jam, guacamole, fried egg on toasted sourdough

The only downside to their breakfast menu is the inability to order a side of potato product with our breakfasts. We had to wait until noon before we could finally get our hands on a portion of skinny fries which we proceeded to wolf down. No photos of that!

But then we could also get dessert. Between three of us, we split the autumn mess – a very pretty mixture of meringue, poppyseed and orange flower creme patisserie, oatmeal biscuit, mint tea jelly and cumin chocolate fudge. Perhaps the only dud in that list was the fudge, the cumin adding a little too much of an earthy note. The jelly was the big hit for me. But it was a fun dessert to eat!

Autumn Mess

I have visited in the past for dinner and can vouch for the deliciousness of their other dishes too. Service was a little lacking when the restaurant was empty and then very harried when full – they might want to look into that a little but otherwise, it’s a good casual all day eatery in the area. We never felt rushed and with free wifi and large tables, it’s a great spot to gabble away the hours.

Bush Hall Dining Rooms
304 Uxbridge Road
London W12 7LJ

Over the last long weekend, we found ourselves in our old hood, dropping by on old friends. We lunched at a new Mexican restaurant I’d spotted a few months ago – Habanera, a Mexican restaurant on Uxbridge Road, close to Shepherd’s Bush. The place was empty that Monday and we found a seat in the back, under the skylight, easily.

To take the edge of our hunger, we started with some chips and salsa (£3.50) – I liked that we could choose our salsa and we went with their excellent salsa verde with its tomatillo, coriander and chilli. The chips were whole small corn tortillas that they’d clearly fried themselves – good stuff.

Chips and Salsa Verde

To my delight, there were lots of non-alcoholic options on the drinks menu. A Sandía (watermelon, raspberry & tarragon) (£3.95) was refreshing, as was a homemade lemonade with mint (£2.50).

Drinks

Chicken tinga quesadilla (£5) turned out to be two and they were generously filled with spiced chicken and lots of perfectly toasted cheese.

Chicken Tinga Quesadilla

Carne asada tacos (£5.50) were topped with grilled steak, avocado, and salsa verde. I would have liked some extra hot sauce for these but I didn’t see any bottles until later, behind the counter. Our waitress could have been a bit forthcoming with this.

Carne Asada Tacos

Huevos rancheros (£7) were a generously sized portion of eggs, tomato, avocado and salsa verde again. This would make a fine brunch for one and I liked that they’d properly warmed the flour tortilla on the side.

Huevos Rancheros

The only thing is…we were eating a lot of salsa verde! I wish our waitress had actually looked properly at our order and warned us that the dishes we’d ordered all had salsa verde (they only say that there’s salsa on them). We would have switched the salsa with our chips at the beginning if we had known.

For dessert, I was thrilled to see an impossible cake (£6) on the menu. It also goes by the name chocoflan as, yes, it’s half chocolate cake and half flan. What makes it impossible is how it’s made – one of the batters is poured over the other but it magically separates while in the oven. We got a huge slice to share between us and to make it even more insane, there was a drizzle of dulce de leche or some other caramel on top!

Impossible

Overall, good food and generous sized portions but service needs some stepping up. It’s a great addition to Uxbridge Road though.

Habanera
280 Uxbridge Road
Shepherd’s Bush
London, W12 7JA

Jen of Dashi Dashi organised a Saturday lunch meetup last weekend and we, Luiz of The London Foodie and his Dr G, and May of Slow Food Kitchen gathered to try her local Sichuan restaurant, Tian Fu, in Shepherd’s Bush. I’d already got the thumbs up for this restaurant from a couple of my Chinese colleagues and was looking forward to that lunch. Of course, I was looking forward to the company too, not having seen any of them for a few months!

I have to admit that I did feel like I was cheating a bit on my local Sichuan restaurant by heading to another relatively local one. Well, they needn’t worry – not because the food was bad (actually, the food was very good here) but because they don’t do our favourite corn with salted egg yolk! Do any of you feel this way with your local favourites?

Between the five of us, we ordered six dishes. First to arrive were the dry fried green beans (£6.80) which came in a massive pile and were fried till tender with pork and minced pickled vegetables. They were rather toothsome little beans, lovely things.

Dry Fried Green Beans

The rest of the dishes arrived in equally large portions. The fish fragrant aubergine (£6.80) came in a large shallow bowl full of the tender, silky vegetable. The flavours were well balanced and utterly addictive and let the record show that a certain blogger finished the last of the sauce with the last of the rice at the end of the meal! (I’ll be honest – if my stomach hadn’t been full to bursting, I would have done the same!)

Fish Fragrant Aubergines

Cumin lamb (£8.50) while not Sichuan but rather from Xinjiang, was exactly as I remember in the Muslim Restaurant in Beijing: tender slices of lamb fried with lots of cumin and onion. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so good. It’s absolutely delicious with white rice and I can even imagine it being a great bar snack by itself.

Cumin Lamb

The dry braised beef tendon (£8.50) had a wonderfully addictive chew to it and had a slow burning heat with all the chillies with which it was fried. I don’t normally order tendon but this was just delicious.

Dry Braised Beef Tendon

A grilled sea bass in chef special chili sauce (£12.00) turned out to have been deep fried in batter but it was still delicious for it. As you’d expect, a whole fish, with bones, topped with a whole mishmash of things making up the special sauce, is quite difficult to eat but it was quite worth all the work. There were loads of things going on in that sauce – lots of different tastes and textures too. A warning to pescetarians and those with allergies out there: the special sauce on top contained minced pork and peanuts!

Grilled Sea Bass in Chef Special Chilli Sauce

Surprisingly, the water boiled pork (£8.00) came with lots of crushed chilies rather than the usual whole dried chillies or dried chilli chunks I’ve usually seen, making it quite spicy. Thin slices of pork, along with Chinese cabbage and beansprouts, were swimming around in the chilli laced broth; you don’t drink the oily broth unless you’re a masochist! However, I can’t recall many Sichuan peppercorns, those little nubbins of numbness.

Water Boiled Pork

With jasmine tea and white rice for everyone (surely it’s impossible to eat Sichuan food without white rice), and service, the total came to £72.20. The menu has something for everyone – there are many Sichuan dishes (both spicy and not spicy) and even a section in the back for British-Chinese dishes. There’s even an all-you-can-eat Sichuan hotpot deal that I’d love to try in the winter. Service was a bit grumpy but it’s great that we have another good Sichuan place out here in the west. Thanks for organising this again, Jen!

Tian Fu
37 Bulwer Street
London W12 8AR
(it’s very close to the Debenham’s end of Westfield, towards the green)

Tian Fu on Urbanspoon