Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dinner @ Mint Leaf (Indian)

Location: London, Haymarket

Give me a curry and I'm one happy gal'! Yes I'm pretty much easy to please.. to an extent. Maybe throw in a cocktail or two and its a done deal. Being part of the Taste Card, I was able to visit Mint Leaf knowing that I had the advantage of getting 50% off on all food (excluding drinks). It only costed me £29.99 for a 1 year membership for hundreds of restaurants in London and around the UK. If you're a foodie that finds yourself eating out more then twice a week, then I highly recommend getting one as it definitely saves you a lot of money. Mint Leaf, located in the heart of central London (Haymarket) is a trendy restaurant serving great curries and blow-you-away cocktails. Seriously, the cocktails were fantastic! If you love clubs and bars, then this restaurant is pretty much all you need for a good night out.

Pure deliciousness and if I was to be quite frank, they were the best cocktails that I have ever had. Period.  No indian meal is right without a cocktail in hand, well for me it isn't! The one to the right was a strawberry and basil cocktail and on the left was a refreshing strawberry and melon cocktail, both very sweet, refreshing and so damn good. 

To share, a delicious and a very strong saffron flavoured Lamb Biryani (lamb with basmati rice flavoured with mint, coriander and saffron). This was actually my first time trying a dry based curry and it was fab! A perfect dish to share, especially if you're belly is filled with any of their delicious and generous cocktails. The photo does not do any justice to the size of the dish, but it is perfect for 2. 

Our waiter suggested a sauce based side dish to compliment our briyani, so we opted for Dal Makhani (black lentils - slow cooked with tomato and butter). 

To also balance out the strong flavours, we also opted for the Bhindi Masala - Okra stir fried with tomato, chilli and spices. Note: no emphasise on the chilli, just a slight hint of it. However, the sweetness of the tomatoes counteracted with the heat of both the briyani and lentils. 

No indian meal is complete without a side dish of Naan bread. I usually go for the plan naan as it is neutral in taste, perfect for dipping in your left over curry sauces - I'm not the only one that does that, am I? 

Overall, it was an Ok experience and the was good. What let it down the most was the service, itt was only just average, mainly because the waiting time was  between 20-30minutes for your main. We hardly saw our appointed waiter, and when he eventually did turn up, there was less than 30 words exchanged during our duration their. So, yes communication lacks at this establishment. Other than that, the food was fab, but the cocktail was what stole the show. Would I go back? Mmmm..

To see the rest of what's available at mint leaf, take a look at their menu here

Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sweet Treats @ Hope And Greenwood (British)

Location: London, Covent Garden

Are you one of those people that no matter how hard you try, with every self control that you have and no matter how many times you tell yourself not to, find your hands in the cookie jar? Me! I'm one of 'those' people. I can't help it.. I'm a sweet addict. I can't help but indulge in a good bar of chocolate, a sugary lollipop and a rock hard gobstopper! Thats what we girls do.... and we do it good. 

I came across this adorable sweet shop one afternoon whilst strolling around Covent Garden with my boyfriend, it was one of those moments that when you see something so cute and you just have to grab hold of it, but in this case I had to go in. The pastel colours and cute packaging lured me in and I was intrigued. I have never seen a shop like this before, let alone one in London. 

It is a old fashion traditional sweet shop established by two individuals only known as Miss Hope and Mr Greenwood - I love the mysteriousness of the backstory to this establishment. They sell jared sweets, traditional packet sweets (reminds me of my young school days) and sweets from way back from what  I can remember that are now discontinued or are too old to be in with the 'hip' sweets.  If heaven was a sweet shop, I sure hope it looked like this....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dinner @ Bar Boulud (French)

Location: London, Knightsbridge - Mandarin Oriental Hotel

I have heard through the grapevine that Daniel Boulud serves up one hell of a meal. Well known for his soulful execution of the traditional french cuisine, and located in the heart of Knightsbridge, Daniel Boulud cooks up authentic french food in trendy and rich atmosphere of Mandarin Oriental Hotel. 

There is something about a good burger and fries, in whatever environment and on any occasions.. it will always filled the void, a hungry void that is. Having read so many great reviews on this particular dish, I was determined to dig in to the ultimate Piggie Burger (I love the name!). Inside you are spoiled with grilled beef patty with bbq pulled pork, bibb lettuce, green chili mayonnaise top with a cheddar bun and red cabbage slaw and accompanied by a crunch side of hand cooked chips/fries/frites. The burger was juicey, oh so tender and together it was a huge firework of flavours all rolled in to one. It was quite overwhelming. Note: you may need a few cocktails with this dish, I was kicking up a thirst after just a couple of bites. Mojitos are perfect. 

My boyfriend opted for the Pot Au Feu, which consisted of a very delicate, melted-in-your-mouth, terrine of braised beef, carrots, onion and gribiche sauce. A very delightful dish, again with some distinctive flavours. A little on the small side for me, but a great dish for a light supper. The beef was succulent, packed with flavour and everything literally fell a part, it was so soft. What was great about this dish was that little accompaniments (carrots and onions) balanced out and gave the dish a healthy kick. 

I couldn't help but feel a little out of this place at this establishment, the service was minimal and the atmosphere felt a bit 'cold'. However, putting that to a side, the food was great and we even got to see the chefs producing their magic from a distance, which was a great little incentive (I use that term loosely). Would I go back to Bar Boulud? Maybe in the near future, but not any time soon.

Bar Boulud on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dinner @ Toku (Japanese)

Location: London, Piccadilly Circus. 

I have always been a really big fan of the japanese cuisine, in fact, I could confidently say that it is a number cuisine that I could happily have for the rest of my life. The thing with Japanese food, is that you can't go wrong with it. It is healthy, fresh and filled with such flavours that one I can not put in to words how fantastic it is. My boyfriend booked us a table at Toku for a early evening meal and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice this restaurant was. A little over crowded when we were there, but it added to the atmosphere. I haven't heard much about this restaurant, nor have I ever come across it. Toku serves up simple yet tasteful dishes, in a surrounding that is bustling with the sound of sushi chefs doing what they do best and waiters/waitress providing a friendly yet knowledgable service. 

What I mostly love about Japanese food is that you can either have it in a style of 'tapas' where you can order a variety of dishes to share, or to just simply have a meal of your own, all of which are normally on the a la cart menu. I personally love sharing because it is fun and you can share the experience together. Toku has a vast variety of dishes available on their menu, but we opted for a tapas style dinner. The sashimi (raw slice of fresh fish) was so fresh that when biting in to the fresh fish, it still had a bit of a bite to it. I usually accompany my sushi with a large amount of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and soy sauce (traditional oriental dipping/marinate/seasoning sauce). I kid you not, the Sashimi tasted like the sea.. it was so fresh.

Along came the mother of all sushi meals. We ordered a 2 plates of delicious sushi rolls, both of which were gobbled up as fast as you can say "moshi moshi". Yes, I was in awe when I devoured in to them, they were absolutely mouth-watering tasty. The first dish we ordered was a teriyaki eel (sweet marinated eel) wrapped in a roll filled with avocado and and prawn tempura (prawns fried in japanese light batter). The second dish consisted of a selection of raw fish wrapped in a roll filed with avocado and crab stick. They both look as good as it tasted.. I wanted more, and more.. and a whole lot more.

With every Japanese meal that I have, dessert is a definitely a must.. it would be a crime not to. Since Toku is in partnership with Japan Center their desserts wasn't unfamiliar to me. I had the Japanese green tea brownie accompanied with a green tea ice-cream, both was perfect to cleans my palette. Green tea ice-cream, in my opinion, is ideal after a heavy meal as it is very light  unlike most dairy based ice-creams, which are heavy on the stomach and scales. My boyfriend opted for the sesame seeded ice-cream with almond flaked ice-cream. They were so light and so refreshing that I even ordered another one for myself.

If I was to be picky about this restaurant, my only complaint would be that it was a little cramp with all the tables slightly too close to one another. But this is a minor glitch, considering the food,  service and the speed of every dish that came out was great!

Toku, Japan Centre on Urbanspoon

Dinner @ Aubaine (Mediterranean)

Location: London, Regents Street

I don't often eat Mediterranean food, but when I do crave for it, my first pick would definitely be Aubaine.  Aubaine is one of my favourite restaurants to eat, especially on a Friday evening. The atmosphere, the food, the service, even the look of the restaurant gets you hyped up for the weekend.  Located just off Piccadilly Circus, in the bustling food quarter of Regent street. Aubaine serves up wholesome Mediterranean food that is jam packed with flavour and style. 

For starters I had the vegetarian option of  Asparagus and Duck Egg. The herb crumbed duck egg oozed out with a lovely big burst of flavour. The asparagus was cooked perfectly, but still had a bite to it, which is how I normally like my asparagus to be cooked. It was accompanied with a very strong Hollandaise sauce.. it was too strong for my liking, but delicious nevertheless.. it had a sharp tang that married together the duck egg and the asparagus. My main was Roasted Rack of Lamb with Nicoise Garnish. The lamb was just slightly over done for me, as I usually have mine medium-rare. However, the sweet jus and lovely vegetable was season very well and it all just melted in my mouth. My boyfriend had the Pigs Cheeks with spring greens and Dijon Mustard. The pigs cheek was so moist and succulent that it fell a part with the lightest touch of a fork. The strong mustard sauce was a little over powering, however the spring greens was very sweet and well balanced in flavour. All dishes was present beautifully and everything came out super fast. 

As a restaurant, it is perfect for having a light dinner after a long day of work. Socially, it is perfect  for drink enthusiasts as Aubaine serves the most delicious french and international wines, as well as sweet cocktails in a surrounding filled with lots of out-of-the-office workers. Having Strawberry Moons and All Bar One just opposite the restaurant, helps build up the trendy atmosphere. It is definitely a restaurant where people watch is a must. 

Dinner @ Cay Tre, Soho (Vietnamese)

Location: London, Soho

Seems like I'm doing more food posts than anything else these days! Maybe I should change the theme of this blog, no? yes? Let me know what you guys think!

Some people think its too spicey, some even say its smelly, but I love, love, love, love it. I am the world's biggest fan of Vietnamese food, If I could eat it everyday, I would!  My mother, who cooks the most amazing Pho ever, lived in Vietnam almost all her life. So, you can only imagine how skilful she is when it comes to Vietnamese food. Her broths are unbelievably tasty and healthy! She seriously does the best Pho in the world. I live in the trendy side of East London and is fortunate to have been bombarded (understatement) with streets upon streets of Vietnamese restaurants. Friday night on Kingsland Road is heaving with Pho-addicts. Pho is the greatest thing (vietnamese)man has ever made. If you haven't tried it... what are you waiting for? Go get a Pho!

So all this hype on twitter about the famous Cay Tre has been going on for a while now. At first, I wasn't really too bothered as I've always stuck by my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in East London, which by the way does the best Vietnamese spring rolls. See their website here. But since the hype was at its peak, I thought I test drive this restaurant, with the indication from a few others on twitter telling me that the East London branch (they have one in Old Street) was more favoured. But hey ho, like Walt Disney once said "We are not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public".

The menu had a mixture of dishes that ranges from traditional Vietnamese Pho (soup base noodles with a selection of meat to choose from) to my all time favourite (not a days go by that I don't order it at my local) Bun Thit Nuong, which is basically a vermicelli base dished served with BBQ pork, Vietnamese spring rolls and crunchy vegetables and herbs - accompanied with a very tangy sauce. Delicious!

Traditional Vietnamese Pho with sliced Ribeye Steak. The best part of this dish was the meat. It was so tender, it literally dissolved in my mouth. The broth was a tad bit under seasoned, but the herbs that accompanied the dish gave that very flavoursome oomph.

Bun Thit Nuong. I loved it! It was perfect and I just wanted to gobble it all up! Its a shame that I didn't order this, I opted for Pho as a very last minute decision (regretting!). The BBQ pork exploded with flavour. I could honestly eat so many bowls of this dish and not get sick of it. I love the fact that it is so simple, but the preparation that goes behind it is amazing. I need to get my mother to teach me how to make it, because she too, also makes the best Bun Thit Nuong. She is my hero!

Surprisingly, we didn't order any starters as we were still quite full from an early lunch a couple of hours prior to the dinner. Although I pleasantly enjoyed the Pho dish, it just didn't have that edge that made me want more. You know they say that people always makes the experience what it is? Well, I honestly believe  that the lack of service from Cay Tre was the major fault that made my experience a little awkward. I honestly haven't come across the most disregarding customer service in my life. They were luckily enough to have caught me on a 'Good Day', otherwise words would have been exchanged, and the discretionary service change @ 12.5% would have been still in my boyfriend's bank. Nevertheless, what we had was lovely and if I ever did go back, I would only go for a light lunch.

Cay Tre Soho on Urbanspoon

Lunch @ Dinner By Heston Blumenthal (British)

Location: London, Knightsbridge - Mandarin Oriental Hotel

If you follow me on twitter, then you all know that I am crazy in love with the culinary world. Most of the time I'm twitting about what restaurant I'm off to next and what reservations I have planned. Heck, I even tweet about my cravings. Food has always been a great part of my life. Correction, food is my life. I live for food. Food is God. I am a true believer of "you only live once" because you do only live once, so why not go all out whatever it is that you adore. For me, going all out is trying new things, eating new foods and indulging in fine cuisines.

In comes Heston Blumenthal.. An artist in his own right. His work is innovation, imaginative and artistic. A Vincent Van Gogh of the culinary world. A brilliant and talented chef with a great understanding of art, history and food. 

You wouldn't believe me if I told you that it had taken me months upon months to get reservations at his pop-up restaurants in Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Knightsbridge. It was a crazy effort to book myself and my BF a table for dinner. However, lunch seemed evidently easier to get a reservation, so we booked ourselves in for Monday afternoon. 

We arrived a little early, so we opted to have a drink at the Mandarin bar. I ordered myself a special Mandarin Mojito (orange liqueur of some sort - almost knocked me out!), the biggest Mojito that I have ever seen (The photo doesn't do the size any justice). This set me back £15. It was lush.

When we were seated at our table, and not a moment too soon, was handed a plate/board of home-made bread to start with. It looked and tasted fresh and it was ridiculously crusty. I'm not a huge fan of having carbs before a main meal, but this was a nice touch as it really sparked up my taste buds. And with the helping of that very strong, but tasty Mojito.. it sort of balanced out well.

The menu was probably the most simplified menu that I have come upon. Nicely worded with the help of each dish dated to what era it was established. A little history lessons before the final exam. This  is what makes Heston stand out from the rest and makes him the best of the best. 

Mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread, also known as Meat Fruit. Yes, that is the name and yes, it was uh-mazing! I've read so many food blogger reviews and 90% of them highly recommended this dish, some even said it was 'heaven on a plate'. I go as far as to say that this was truly one of a kind. The parfait just melts in your mouth like candy floss. I just love the hum of mandarin you get within the parfait. One thing I would say is that it was a pretty heavy dish to have as a starter.

My boyfriend had The Broth of Lamb, a delicious soup base dish with slow cooked hen's egg, celery, radish, turnip and sweetbreads. I had a spoon full of this soup and it was very flavoursome.

My main course was Spice Piegon on a bed of artichokes and ale. This was my first time trying Peigon and I absolutely loved it. It was cooked blue and just dissolved in your mouth. The ale sauce that accompanied the piegon was light and sweet, a perfect match for a gamy texture meat.

My boyfriend had the Roasted Duck dish, which weirdly isn't on the online menu. Sadly, I've forgotten the name of it, but my BF had nothing but good words to say about this dish. And a lot of mmmmm'ing and ahhhhhh'ing. 

I was told that I had to order this 40minutes in advance as they cook this dish everyday from scratch. This is the famous Tipsy Cake with Spit roasted pineapple. All I can say it was a spoon full of heaven. It was one of those dishes that you have to try to know how wonderful and special it is. Words can not describe how much I wanted more.... and more... and a lot more. An uh-mazing dessert! 

Heston Blumenthal delivered an exceptional meal with top class service, in an elegant surrounding. Every single waiter/waitress that we encountered had a smile on their face, they were all so helpful and even laughed and joked with us. It was that sort of relaxed environment that made this experience worth the money. And if you're wondering, this meal cost in total £140 including drinks. I would quite happily pay this again, with of course, the intention of ordering the tipsy cake x3 next time. Ha ha. 

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Afternoon Tea @ Beas of Bloomsbury (British)

Location: London, St Pauls @ One New Change

After almost a week of constant rain in London, the sun has finally come out of hibernation. So, to celebrate this momentous occasion, I met up with a friend for a girlie date of traditional afternoon tea at Beas of Bloomsbury located in One New Change, St Paul's. It was one of those days when my cravings got the better of me. I had a instant burst of the terrible sweet-tooth syndrome. How do you get over a craving? Easy! You don't .. you fulfil the craving. And so I did today. 

For £15pp, you get a selection of pastries and a vast options of tea. The sweet treats included: Red velvet cake, spongey marshmallows, banana cake, strawberry coated meringue, chocolate brownies and scones. And for tea, I opted for White Green Tea, which was absolutely delicious - I've never tried anything like it before.

After hearing and reading so many great reviews on this restaurant/cafe, I was eager to join the hype. It definitely did live up to its name. Beas of Bloomsbury is a great little establishment with adorable touches that they produce with their products (i.e - their very cute and very stylish sugar holder and reservation card holder). Simple touches is what made the experience worthwhile. Customer service is good, if not a little slow, however with their sweet treats being so delicious, you wouldn't notice the delay. The atmosphere is perfect for a few hours get away. It felt cosy and kind of reminded me of a boutique cafe.

A fab way to spend a sunny saturday, with a girlfriend, gossiping with a scrumptious red velvet cupcake in one hand and sipping on the most delicious tea on the other.

Bea's of Bloomsbury on Urbanspoon

Dinner @ Tokyo Diner (Japanese)

Location: London, China Town

People ask me what my style of comfort eating is, is yours chocolate they ask? No. Crisps? No. Or is it a juicy burger and greasy chips? No. Give me a plate of sushi and refillable green tea and I'm happy as larry. I'm not a huge fan of fast food, mainly because fast food and my skin aren't best of friends. So, what a better alternative to have than to have Sushi as my form of comforting eating. It is fresh, healthy and just so delicious.

Tokyo Diner, a little restaurant located in the heart of London's bustling China Town serves up the most delicious sushi in town. It is one of my favourite japanese restaurants in the city. The sushi is fresh, affordable, service is speedy and good, and the atmosphere makes you feel as though you are in Japan. 

The menu is full of wise words and handy tips for sushi newbies. However, the menu is also limited to only certain types of fish, excluding Tuna as they believe that Tuna is a on demand at high prices therefore causing this type of fish to be overfished. Despite that, Tokyo diner uses this to its advantage by executing the rest of the menu perfectly and most importantly making all their dishes fresh. 

Little touches to the service like providing their customers with free japanese snacks and unlimited refills of japanese green tea makes this restaurant jus that bit more special. The green tea is fresh and cleanses the palette and the japanese snacks are so addictive. 

Their fresh sashimi plater includes Salmon and Sea Bream. It was fresh and flavourful and it definitely goes perfect with a good amount of soy sauce and wasabi. That is how I always have it and it never fails to satisfy my taste buds. Yum. 

My main dish was a cold Udon noodles with a light broth like sauce for dipping. It was a hot sunny day, so I really needed something light and fresh and this was perfect. The Udon was perfectly cooked with a slight crunch to it. The light broth sauce was a little bland but by adding a little pitch of wasabi it gave the dish a hum of heat, which complimented the Udon perfectly.  

My boyfriend ordered this little cute dish of Tofu in a breadcrumbs on a bed of japanese rice with thick teriyaki-like sauce. I'm not too sure what the actual sauce it was, but it had a slight sweetest to it. I'm not a vegetarian but I could definitely live on Tofu for the rest of my life, especially the way that the japanese way of cooking it.. delicious and with lots of flavour. This dish was just that.. perfect in so many ways and it was cooked in a way that the tofu was dense in texture.. just the way we liked it.

For just under £30, you can get a starter to share, two main course and 2 drinks.. bargain or what?! A perfect little restaurant with meals that will get you wanting to fly to Japan, pronto! I am hoping one day my trip to Japan will happen and that I will consume food just like this. Amazing stuff.

Tokyo Diner on Urbanspoon
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