Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Urban Social, London

Urban Social
148-151 Queensway
London W2 4SB
020 7243 9031

The only non-chain place available to eat at, at Whiteleys (the others are pizza express, Costa and Starbucks)

They do waffles, crepes, fruit juice/smoothies, hot drinks, some cookies and cakes. They often have a fresh hot organic soup on offer too.

I like their coffee. Costa next door is normally my default choice. But if I want to sit down and not have people constantly bumping me, then Urban Social is more conducive to that. And it's quiet, unlike Costa which is normally the hub of "loud" conversations.

Their crepes are decent, nothing outstanding, but better than a reheated sandwich if you want something hot and fresh.

Rating : 3 / 5

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Roti Chai, London

Roti Chai
3 Portman Mews South
London W1H 6HS
020 7408 0101

I'd bookmarked this place awhile ago and had been waiting for an opportunity to go here. Shopping with my brother on Oxford street, provided that opportunity.

The interiors are well spaced out, which is rare for this part of town. The large window, makes the space seem more open and a few knick knacks are placed around as decor to give an Indian feel without being overly cheesy.

We needed a quick lunch before another appointment, so I couldnt relax and enjoy the chaat - paani puri / bhelpuri etc. We opted straight for the protein dishes.

The chicken lollipops were good, but standard fare. It felt more crumb fried than batter fried.

The agni fire wings, were mind blowingly spicy in a good way. But be warned - this is only for chilli addicts. You can't handle the spice otherwise.

The manchurian chicken was a let down, especially as it was served with a very thin sauce and plain rice (Its a very Indian Chinese dish, served almost dry and with fried rice) the taste was good, but it was a disappointment purely because of its name. They should call it sweet and sour chicken or something.

Brother enjoyed his bun kebab. He said it was good - juicy & tender.

However, the only thing that really stood out for me was the hot chocolate with its lovely cinnamon notes.

The starters were much better than my main course. Which is why I suspect the chaat items may meet the mark.

Service was efficient and friendly. I might return to check out the chaat items, but for a meal, I'd rather go elsewhere.

Rating : 3 / 5

Monday, May 16, 2016

Paul, London

55 Baker Street
Unit 65
London W1U 8EW
020 7486 0626

Stepped in here for a quick coffee before heading for a seminar. Paul's makes coffee that's perfect to my taste - strong, good amount of milk, and not too bitter or too heavily roasted. Maybe I should stick to French instead of Italian coffees?

What I like about Pauls in general is that their coffee shops are always clean, tables are well spaced apart (so you aren't unwittingly eavesdropping on others conversations), they have outdoor seating. This outlet ticked all those boxes too.

Friendly staff who immediately offered to heat my ham and cheese croissant when I ordered it (others who shan't be named, act like you are asking for the moon if you want your croissant /sandwich warmed/toasted).

They have washrooms on the premises and are ok with people lingering around while working on their laptops.

I'd go here any day if they were closer to where I live.

Oh and they do lovely picnic hampers too. I remember ordering one last summer, think we'll do a repeat one of these days, now that it's turned sunny.

They have a membership / loyalty card, which gives you free croissants & coffee at various milestones

Rating : 4 / 5

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Dark Sugars, London

Dark Sugars
141 Brick Lane
London E1 6SB
07429 472606

When we were wandering around Shoreditch for a Street Art Walk, a couple of yelpers in the group, pointed out Dark Sugars and told me that I had to try them out.

I'd promised a friend I was visiting over the weekend, that I would pick up the rainbow bagels for her, so it was the perfect opportunity to try Dark Sugars Chocolates too.

There are large bowls of beautiful chocolate all around the store. Neatly labelled. You have the options to go fruity or alcoholic. I of course, chose the latter.

I asked the really sweet and helpful lady manning the store if it would be possible to try a bit of chocolate before I chose. She told me to look around and choose any flavour I fancied. I thought she would give me a bit of a scraping from the white and milk chocolate bars that she had on the counter, so this came as a complete surprise, but it was a foretaste of the generosity of spirit of Dark Sugars.

I tried the Tia Maria on her recommendation and was hooked.

Its an excellent quality chocolate shop without the fancy pretentiousness of other chocolatiers (who shall not be named). All sales are by weight and all chocolates cost the same - 7 pounds for 100 grams. So no complex mental maths involved in the purchasing scenario.

It seems a little radical to pop assorted beautiful chocolates into a plastic baggy like a candy buffet, but its definitely cost effective. If you aren't buying chocolate for yourself and want to gift it, they have different sized gift boxes and each size has a fixed price (5 to 100 pounds if I remember right. Where you are allowed to stuff in as much chocolate as can fit.

I made up a box for my friend and took it to the counter, the lady told me I could still fit in a few more chocolates and took me back to the bowls and asked which ones I wanted more of. She managed to fit in another 4-5. I mean, who does that? I'm blown away by how friendly and generous this shop is.

The pipette chocolate looked interesting and I asked her how it worked. Instead of just explaining to me theoretically about squeezing out the liquid in the pipette and throwing the plastic pipette away, she demonstrated one and gave it to me to taste.

I made up a few plastic baggies for me, the husband, the brother, the sister. I have a full house at home right now. and a gift box for my friend.

The chocolates were immediately devoured upon my arrival home and I'm waiting to head into shoreditch again so I can try the hot chocolate too and pick up more chocolate.

If you are visiting, I'd say : Definitely pick up one of the Pipette chocolates. They are amazing! The Irish kiss is obviously my favourite. Also, when I brought the chocolates home, they were voted the best of the lot.

Rating : 5 / 5

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lokkanta, London

31 Westbourne Grove
London W2 4UA

020 7792 0119

Lokkanta serves Turkish food, but more along the street food variety. Don't get me wrong, what they do, they do quite well, but don't expect fancy Turkish food here. What's available is similar to what you may see on a Lebanese menu with different names and spices.

They do a lot of grilled meats and doners (think shawarma)

We were given a plate of meze - hummus, a yoghurt dip, tomato based salsa and some pickled vegetable salad with thin strips of lavash like bread - complimentary while we waited for our food.

The lamb borek (Sigara Borek - 4.75) was lovely - mildly flavoured meat in a beautiful crisp outside, tender inside pastry wrap. Think of it as a cross between a samosa and a spring roll.

For mains I ordered the lamb iskander kebab (11.50) - doner/shawarma slices of lamb on a bed of crisp fried bread squares with toppings of tomato sauce and beautiful thick yoghurt and a side offering of garlic sauce and their chunky chilli sauce.

Brother ordered the lamb chops (Pirzola - 13.50)  which came with a small side salad on a bed of larger grain couscous. He loved the flavours and the meat was done just right.

I ordered Turkish tea (1.50)  that turned out to be just black tea (no mint, no Apple flavour - just served in a traditional Turkish shaped tea glass) brother had the ayran (yoghurt drink - 1.50) which was pre-packaged, but he found it very refreshing.

Service was very sweet and friendly. Staff was always smiling easily. They know the menu and can help you make a choice if you need it.

We were quite stuffed with this meal, but had to end with baklava (2.50). Their pastry layers are much thinner than most baklava that I've tried in this city - almost filmy, not too sugary. Personally I like a bit more crunch from the nuts in my baklava, but this was a more refined version and hence the nuts were really finely crushed.

We also got 2 pieces of lokum (Turkish delight) complimentary with our bill and it was so good, that next time I'll ordered the lokum rather than the baklava.

They have beautiful pictures from Turkey on the walls, I'd recommend taking a look while waiting for your food.

Rating : 4/5

Friday, May 13, 2016

Nagoya, London

110 George Street
London W1U 8NX
020 7486 4811

I was in the area for a seminar that finished late and I was searching for a takeaway place around 10pm. The only places that seemed to be open were pubs and I did not want to walk too far.

I saw Nagoya open, yelp rating 3 and I decided to take a chance. They had only one couple who were finishing up when I went in.

It's a small space (they may have more seating in the basement) around 5 tables with a sushi bar. Decor is very reminiscent of small Chinese style restaurants.

The lady at the counter was very sweet and gave me some recommendations when I asked her.

It took some time for me to get home (partly because a certain bus driver refused to stop & I had to wait 20mins for the next one), but the fried chicken karaage (4.80) had gone a bit soggy. The taste was very good and the chicken beautifully marinated and super tender and juicy. Family and cat loved the prawn tempura (13.00) which came with a dipping sauce.

The chicken Gyoza (5.50) was densely filled (personally I prefer a bit more give in my fillings) and tasty. Loved the mini 3ml bottle of sauce that came with it.

The pork tonkotsu ramen (10.80) was packed with the soup separately. Just 2 thin slices of pork and half a boiled egg (so not too much protein in the dish - more noodles to fill you up though) with sliced mushrooms & sprouts. The soup was a mild broth flavoured with miso. I enjoyed the clean flavours, but brother decided to spice it up. A nice complete meal in itself, if you aren't a protein addict like me.

The restaurant sells some Japanese ingredients for cooking at home like kewpie mayonnaise, Kikomans Soya sauce, seaweed wrap and pickled ginger.

The lady very sweetly offered me complimentary green tea while waiting for my order and I loved the fact that they lined the base of the bag with a piece of cardboard cut in the right size to keep everything steady.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Thursday, May 12, 2016

China Palace, London

China Palace
433 Harrow Road
London W10 4RE
020 8964 1669

With someone down with the flu and me in no mood to pander to different tastes and requests for soups and curries, the easiest thing to do was place an order for a home delivery.

I'd recently received a menu from China Palace and thought I'd try them out. I did over order, so I could stock the fridge and Mr Flu, could take out bowls of whatever he wanted and warm them up at his convenience.

Price wise, there's a 20% discount on home delivery, so its really value for money. Nothing was overly greasy, so this wasn't like cheap Chinese takeout.

We tried the schezwan hot & sour soup (3.15), which he found spicy enough to clear his head. I needed to add a bit more lemon and chilli in my yumgai chicken soup (3.50), which was a bit sweet from the addition of pineapple. I'm not a fan of fruit in my savoury dishes and I'm just about getting used to bits of pineapple in sweet & sour pork, but I couldn't handle it in my soup. It didn't spoil the flavour, but the taste of this soup was more sweet & sour rather than hot &sour which I had expected.

The egg fried rice (3.20) was simple and delicious in its simplicity. White rice, salted and fried with bits of scrambled egg. I could eat just that for a whole meal with just some spicy sambol or mushroom chilli paste on the side.

The thai green curry (7.20) was lovely. If I remember right the menu had given it a 2 chilli spice rating, but that was misleading. Maybe I should have told them to make our food genuinely spicy. However, the flavours themselves were lovely.

I also tried the crispy fried noodles with mixed meat (6.50). Generously topped with beef, chicken, roast pork and vegetables, this is a lovely dish. But I must remember not to order fried noodles in home delivery orders as they tend to get soggy by the time they arrive and we have eaten our soup and starters.

The peking pork dumplings (6.25) were lovely. The pork steamed buns (char siu bao/ baozi - 5.75 for 4) had good texture and taste, but I would have preferred more stuffing than just a tablespoon of meat in such a large bun.

Portions are standard size, but prices are value for money. I've ordered enough food for at least 6 meals and the bill was under 50 pounds. They threw in some prawn wafers and a couple of fortune cookies too.

They don't use plastic baggies for packing. The only plastic is the boxes and the cutlery (recyclable). The delivery guy gave me his hot bag and requested me to empty it myself in the kitchen while he waited outside.

I would order again, but I would request them to make our food extra spicy, since their level of spicy barely tingled our taste buds. Our definition of 1 chilli is tongue tingling. 2 chillis is when you reach for something to cool your mouth down and 3 chillis should induce smoke out of the ears and perspiration.

Rating : 3 / 5

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Yelp’s May New Elite Night at Bubbleology

45 Pembridge Road
Notting Hill
London W11 3HG

This was a lovely intimate event with about 12 of us. Bubbleology opened up the patio in the basement backyard which allowed us to enjoy the glorious weather today.

Managed to chat with almost everyone who attended. Bonus was meeting Alex's mum who is even cooler than him! (If you can believe it) She's Gold Elite herself!

Bubbleology served us a variety of flavours in tiny tasting glasses - which is a great format to try more variety. They brought in 2 large coolers of alcoholic teas that were an interesting innovation/progression.

Popping boba are my favourite, but the rose milk with rose jelly was surprisingly a close contender. Other favourites were the coffee with tapioca (coffee flavoured milk bubble tea anyone?) and the taro nut (taro flavour with coconut milk) which wasn't very sweet and let the flavour of the coconut milk stand out for itself.

They offered chocolate wafer straws too, but I didn't feel that it paired well with fruity teas. Maybe if I had waited until the coffee flavoured one, those tastes would have matched.

Only downside was that there was no loo onsite, after drinking at least a litre or two of bubble teas

Now that we can finally see the sun again, I think it's a great place to catch a cool drink on a hot afternoon while shopping in the area.

Rating : 4 / 5


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