|Love food, hate waiting for it…|
Well, it’s really been a while. I honestly couldn’t really tell you why I’ve had no motivation to write for the past couple of months, but every time I sat down with an idea, I just had no idea how to tell it. I’m quite an introvert and usually expend most of my sociable online energy at work, and the last thing I’ve wanted to do after a day of making content is come home and do it all over again. That said, I really enjoy writing, and I have a lot of things I want to share, so hopefully drafting this post about a recent trip to London will kick my motivation into gear!
And what better way to get me back on the blogging wagon than telling you all about my restaurant adventures for that visit?
My boyfriend was working for a client based in the capital and I was on study leave for my apprenticeship, so all I needed was working WiFi (though even this turned out to be too much of an ask) and somewhere to plug my laptop into, and I was away!
We had a budget to stick to, so couldn’t go overboard, but managed to eat out at restaurants each night during the week except one (for which a cheeseburger from McDonalds was a worthy substitute), and I snuck away to my wonderful friend’s apartment on the other side of the city to cook her some well-deserved comfort food.
Read on to hear about my fantastic week in food!
Dishoom Kensington ****
My first meal out in the capital for the week was at the Kensington branch of Dishoom. I’d visited the Shoreditch branch before and had some tasty masala chai and a snack, so looked forward to experiencing a full meal in the stunning, 1930s Bombay setting.
A glass of nimbu pani was tangy and refreshing, with an unusual but welcome salty edge that helped to wash down the crispy squid, keema pau and chicken ruby with pilau rice and garlic naan.
Although the food was nice, I have a sneaking suspicion I didn’t make the smartest menu choices. You can’t always blame a restaurant for not blowing your mind; sometimes you have to blame yourself, and I think that I was probably the culpable party in this case.
A cardinal rule of getting the best out of your restaurant experience is finding the perfect dish on the menu for you – and this means striking a fine balance between your personal preferences and the specialties of the restaurant. Going to a pizza place and getting pasta is a bad move. Going to Dishoom and not getting a grill dish was probably just as ill-advised.
It’s not that the food was bad, the curry was just quite underwhelming for me, and didn’t feel like something I couldn’t get anywhere else. Nevertheless, the surroundings more than made up for my lacklustre menu choices, and I think I’ll pay it another visit sometime – and order one of the grill dishes!
Island Grill ***
I very rarely use my Tastecard. Mostly because I forget I have it, and partly because a part of me knows that restaurants don’t offer discounts for no reason. Chain restaurants do it because they can afford to, and still make a profit. Independent restaurants do it because they’re struggling to get customers through the door. And there’s usually a reason for that.
Nevertheless, I am always willing to give these things a go, even if I’m unconvinced. And, unfortunately, this time I kind of proved myself right.
I’m usually fairly forgiving of bad service. If things take a while, they take a while – I get it. Not everyone’s in a rush, and if something takes ages to arrive but tastes unbelievably good, that’s fine by me. Sadly, this wasn’t really the case at Island Grill.
Our starters of beef carpaccio and crispy squid didn’t take long to arrive, which is quite surprising because the squid felt like it had been cooking for a WHILE. I’ve honestly never eaten anything like it in my life – I feel like Gordon Ramsay would compare it to chewing on Gandhi’s flip flop or something equally imaginative.
After powering through the squid, we waited. And waited. And waited. Our mains took more than 45 minutes to arrive, and when they did, they were just… okay. I had a chicken dish with pork stuffing, spring onion mashed potato savoy cabbage, carrots and a chicken jus, which was pretty good. I’d been craving something savoury and hearty, and this hit the spot in a ‘pared back roast dinner’ kind of way. Fahad chose the duck, and although it was nicely cooked (thankfully), it didn’t really have much flavour.
It wasn’t really a horrendous meal, but I’m very glad I wasn’t paying full price for the pleasure of near-inedible squid and an unnecessarily long wait. In fact, even if you have a Tastecard, avoid this one.
I don’t think I’d like to think of myself as a restaurant snob, but there does seem to be something about chain restaurants that makes me slightly skeptical at the prospect of having a nice meal. But our midweek evening meal at Bill’s made me confront some of my assumptions about chain restaurants and my slight reluctance to accept that they can be good to eat in.
We ordered a sharing platter to start, and this was perfect for letting us try out a load of different tasty morsels from the menu, including calamari, devilled chicken skewers and olives. I am almost certain that there were some crab cakes too (although the online menu rather suspiciously doesn’t mention them), and that I really liked their sweet, fragrant flavour, but Fahad was less of a fan. He doesn’t quite share my impeccable taste in food, obviously!
Both of us chose burgers for our main dish – a buttermilk chicken burger for Fahad and a halloumi one for me. The portion sizes were really impressive and there was actually a lot of flavour, with everything being well-cooked and nicely presented. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the area and looking for consistent, reasonably priced food!
100 Hoxton *****
My goodness, I could write an entirely separate post about this place. Sometimes you search and search for a restaurant that has it all – amazing, flavourful, varied food; excellent service; a relaxed atmosphere; entirely reasonable prices – and find nothing.
For this find, I have to thank Tripadvisor. I was desperately looking for a restaurant that was a commutable distance from Junkyard Golf in Shoreditch, was nice enough to be a bit more of a treat than the places we’d visited earlier in the week, and wouldn’t break the bank. This was the first place in the area that caught my eye – drawing me in with the promise of tapas-esque plates of food to share, and a varied international menu.
We started with the flatbread and I was prepared to be underwhelmed. After all, how exciting can a bit of flatbread with houmous be?
I was ENTIRELY UNPREPARED for the out-of-body experience I had while eating this flatbread. A perfectly spongy bread, topped with creamy butternut squash houmous, sharp and juicy bursts of pomegranate seeds and an aromatic dukkah topping, garnished with fresh chillies and coriander. And a sharp, almost sherbet-y drizzle of some kind? It was delicious.
I was unbelievably impressed, and we’d only had half a flatbread each at this point in the evening.
Dish after delicious dish was delivered to the table, each as complex, exciting and flavourful as the last. Sea bream ceviche with tigre de leche that was light and fresh, with flavours of citrus and ginger, slices of red onion and coconut milk. Panko-crumbed soft shell crab with a Singapore peanut curry sauce. Pan seared duck breast with a miso orange sauce and pickled vegetables. All the flavours were so varied and different, and yet they seemed to be cohesive – each mouthful from a different plate logically progressing into the next.
Once finished with the main part of our meal, we didn’t hesitate to peruse the dessert menu. Yeah, we were pretty stuffed, but we just needed to try more. Between us, we split a huge slice of orange chocolate cake with chestnuts, kumquat jam and a burnt orange custard, as well as a fig frangipane tart with tahini ice cream and a sesame tuile. Both were incredible. My mouth is watering just remembering it.
If you go anywhere near Hoxton at any time whatsoever, make sure you pay this place a visit. I know I’ll definitely be returning for a bottomless brunch the next time I pay a visit to the capital!
And what an amazing way to finish my week.
I love visiting my friends that live in London, wandering around the city, taking in the sights, feeling anonymous in a place where the streets are so alive. And it’s all made so much better when food is involved! Now to count down the days until I return…