27 Feb 2016


San Sebastian, Spain

I went to Arzak in San Sebastian last year with my family to celebrate my father's birthday. During our weekend in the Basque country, we had lots of delicious and reasonably priced meals, but the reservation at Arzak was of course the event I was looking forward to the most. Located in an inconspicuous stone building, you wouldn't assume that this is a restaurant that has been part of The World's 50 Best Restaurants list continuously since 2003, and currently holds 3 Michelin stars. Once we entered, we were shown to a large round table, made more intimate with a large suspended hemisphere light above us. I will take you through the whole set menu, including photos of pretty much all of the dishes. We stuck to local beverages the whole evening, and started with a wonderfully dry cava that almost tasted like Manzanilla. After having a few sips, we were presented with a set of strange looking amuse-bouches, including black pudding served on top of a crumpled beer can, and a red prawn gyoza that was one of the most deliciously crispy things I've ever had.

The first starter I had, the Beetroot Blood Apple, was something that didn't sound that good when described on the menu, but which worked really well. It was a tiny dish, packed with sweet flavours of creamy foie gras. I was then presented with the Lobster Sea and Garden, which with its bright reds, greens and yellows, looked as good as it tasted. The final starter consisted of warm oysters served on top of a red salt stone, which was not my favourite. The accompanying seasonal vegetables were amazing, but I didn't love the texture and in-between temperature of the oysters.

We then moved onto the mains, and began with one of Arzak's most famous dishes, the Red Space Egg. This has been slow poached at 65°C, which creates an incredibly smooth texture, with a delightfully 80s yet original presentation, unlike anything else I've ever seen. The egg is somehow clad in the skin of a red pepper, surrounded by cereals and crispy pig trotters. A must-have at Arzak. Another standout dish for me was the Hake with Black Garlic. This was white fish at its best, with a diverse range of flavours and crunchiness in the garnish. The parsley stalks worked a treat with this dish. Other main dishes were the Monkfish with Rhubarb, and the melt-in-your-mouth Beef Cheek in Ink. The deer steak served with quinoa over a lotus leaf was absolutely a great dish, but with its Thai flavours it seemed out of place in the middle of a Spanish meal. Although some of the amuse-bouches were of Asian origins, it worked better, as they were kept together at the beginning of the meal. My sister was pregnant at the time, and the kitchen was very helpful in selecting alternative dishes for her. The braised oxtail she got instead of our rare steak looked so good I almost felt jealous of her dietary restrictions. 

When it came to the desserts, my favourite was The Big Truffle, a cocoa and sugar truffle that melts and opens up as chocolate is poured over it. The visually best presented dessert was the chocolate cube with a fluid core of mint, neroli and kiwi. This dish was a work of art. The selection of small chocolates at the end were a bit strange though. They were shaped as screws and bolts, served on a shiny metal plate, and just looked a bit like they were made by a child.

I usually feel a bit ashamed when I take photos in upscale restaurants, but the atmosphere was so chilled there that it was no problem. None of the guests were pretending that this was an everyday meal for them, so pictures (without flash) were taken a plenty. It also felt completely natural to pass dishes around the table to ensure that everyone got to taste everything. They made sure the birthday was marked properly, with an cake with a candle, which we were all too full to even touch. We were also given a tour of the kitchen. In general, the staff was friendly, and the chef, Elena Arzak Espina, made a point of coming over to each of the tables and speaking with the guests. It was an entertaining meal, where no two dishes were similar. There were so many different textures and presentations. Every single drop of sauce, even the ones that looked like water, held a huge amount of original and satisfying flavour. Dining at Arzak was a truly memorable experience.


London, UK

In an otherwise not very lively street, The Table in Southwark is always bustling with a queue outside around weekend brunch time. It is designed and developed by the architects next door, Allies & Morrison, and draws a creative crowd probably because of this fact. I went with a group of five people on a rainy Sunday, and we waited for about 10 minutes outside before being seated in the simple, bright space. The menu shows that the restaurant is committed to sustainable sourcing and to the use of quality, British ingredients. We started off with some delicious smoothies, and went on to order quite a lot of food. I had the Sweetcorn Fritters with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. This was an interesting and filling alternative to my usual order of Eggs Benedict. The tomato compote and spinach were quite bland additions to this dish, but the sweetcorn fritters made up for it. I received an unpleasant surprise when I broke through to the yolk of the second poached egg, as there was some strange brown stuff in there. This was quite off-putting, and I avoided eating the eggs after that. The highlight of the meal was the waffles. I tried both the delicious blueberry version, and the even better coconut, maple syrup and marshmallows. These aren't big enough to form a full meal (even though the price isn't far from the other main brunch dishes) but they are definitely a must to share or eat on the side.The staff was nice enough to gives us a portion of Eggs Royale wrapped as take-away for someone who didn't make it out of bed on time, a service that they do not usually provide. All in all The Table serves up a decent brunch, where you can tell that the ingredients are fresh, but some of the flavours are lacking a bit of punch. I apologise for going into detail about this; but the weird stuff inside the egg yolk was enough for me to not want to return to this restaurant, even though the waffles might be worth reconsidering for. 

English Breakfast Eggs

The Table Cafe on Urbanspoon


Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is not known as a city for culinary travellers, but there are some gems spread around town along the beautiful canals. One of those is the simply named 'Pancakes!' which I was advised serves some of the best pancakes in town. I headed over on a Saturday morning, and saw a long line of people. I decided I was too hungry to queue, and went to eat at a random restaurant nearby instead. The food there was quite disappointing, so the next day I showed up to Pancakes! again, determined to brave the queueing. Despite the fact that it is a tiny restaurant, the wait was short, so after around 10 minutes we were seated outside on a small table in the sun. The problem, however, was the time it took to get hold of our food. We finished our freshly squeezed juices while waiting, so to the people who were lining up next to us, it looked like we had finished our meal and were just sitting there. We were starting to get some annoyed looks when our pancakes finally arrived. I had ordered a banana-bacon combo, which was just perfect. The balance of sweet and savoury, along with the crisp yet smooth texture, made this a pancake I will never forget. My friend chose a full on savoury version of mushrooms, onions and bacon, which also made for a delicious brunch. The prices are reasonable, and the portion size good, so this place is definitely a recommendation for a weekend in Amsterdam. I am not giving Pancakes! the full score on the Hanger-Meter because of the wait, but otherwise it was great. 

14 Nov 2015


London, UK

Located at the border of Chelsea and South Kensington, Brasserie Gustave serves traditional French cuisine with a seasonal twist. The low-key street presence of the entrance hints to the fact that this is not a show-off place, but somewhere you come for great quality food. After being greeted by Richard Weiss, the friendly sommelier and restaurant manager, we were seated in a red leather booth. Like the exterior, the interior is pretty relaxed, with comfortable furniture and just enough decorative accents to create the French brasserie atmosphere. 

We started off with two refreshing glasses of Kir Royale while scanning the menu. For my starter, I chose the venison carpaccio with black truffle, while my friend opted for the hand-dived scallops, also with a generous helping of truffle. The venison had a melt-in-the-mouth texture, and was lightly dressed and not too oily. I managed to get a taste of the scallops as well, which were served with a delicious and slightly bitter parsnip mash. The scallops themselves were seared to a light brown, crips perfection, while being almost sashimi-like inside. So far we were very pleased with our meal. For the mains, I went for the fillet of sea bass with roast garlic and vegetables. The crisp skin worked wonderfully with the succulent fish. My friend had the entrecote, which he happily devoured and said it was to a very high standard. For my dessert, I had the chocolate fondant, which I believe is a good gauge of the quality of a French restaurant. It was gooey and dark, but it was served with banana ice cream rather than the usual vanilla. This didn't work too well, and a classic combination like that should be left as is. My friend ordered the caramelised apple tart, one of their specials, and it is intended for two people. He did his best to finish it on his own, but after our huge and tasty meal it proved challenging. I helped him out as best I could, but at the end we had to give up and consider ourselves done with a great, classic meal. 

In addition to the honest, high quality food, something that really stood out to me at Brasserie Gustave was the atmosphere. By 8pm the room was buzzing with people, and you almost felt like you knew the strangers sitting on the next table. Everyone was happy and friendly, and the slight bravado of the sommelier helped with this. The couple next to us ordered a bottle of champagne, which was sabered in a performance for all the diners to enjoy. Despite this showiness, I would say there was very little pretence in Brasserie Gustave, and that it seems like a true neighbourhood restaurant where food and good company comes first.

Brasserie Gustave Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We were invited to review Brasserie Gustave, and the opinions expressed are our own.

1 Nov 2015


London, UK

SuperStar BBQ is a Korean restaurant off Tottenham Court Road, a newly up and coming culinary destination with a high density of good quality Asian eateries. With so much choice nearby, new restaurants have to ensure they stand out from the crowd, and SuperStar BBQ does just that. As you walk past the huge glass walls, you are drawn in by a myriad of suspended sparkly lights, into a contemporary, yet cosy dining space. My co-blogger and I were seated in a spacious booth with a stove integrated into the table. We were both starving, and more than ready to get on with some cooking. We started off with some Korean beers, and had a quick glance at the menu. I am a sucker for KFC (Korean Fried Chicken, not the other one), so I obviously opted for Set Menu 2 which starts off with some spicy and crispy pieces of chicken. This was followed by a range of cold kimchi plates and an absolutely amazing glass noodle vegetable stir fry. The sesame and soy flavours that this dish brought forward was a great hint at what we could expect in terms of marinades for the meat. With generous helpings of sides and Korean pancakes, our stomachs did not have enough space for what was to come.

With two types of beef, chicken, pork and vegetables, there was a lot to go through. The waitress who brought all of these delectable little plates was friendly and not overly attentive, and we were to a certain extent left to our own devices when it came to the barbecuing. As the FoodGrid consists of two individuals who rarely cook, I was worried about how this meal would unfold. I asked the waitress the slightly silly question of 'how do we know when the meat is ready?' and she seemed puzzled as if they do not get that question very often. Fortunately, ever single piece of meat I grilled turned out to be juicy and tender, probably more thanks to the amazing marinade and the fresh quality of the meat, than my own skills. Placing the various meats on the sizzling plate, we wrapped the pieces one by one into crisp lettuce leafs, and selected one of the many sauces to go with it. Because of this, I didn't realise how full I really was until the last dishes of miso soup and bibimbap were brought out. This is a place where you get small portions, but certainly not a small amount of food. The dining experience was social and interactive, not to mention tasty. SuperStar BBQ is a perfect place to bring a first date or even a work contact, as the noise level is good, which makes it an ideal place to have a conversation. The fact that it is also an entertaining way of eating is a savior if the conversation were ever to halt. When visiting this restaurant, come prepared, come hungry and with enough time to really make a night out of this meal. 

SuperStar BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We were invited to review SuperStar BBQ, and the opinions expressed are our own.

15 Jun 2015


London, UK

What I stumbled upon once as pure coincidence, has now become an all time local favourite on the corner of Fulham road and Park Walk in Chelsea. Once a traditional pub, Goat has been nipped and tucked into an uber chic gastro pub serving nothing of what one might expect by walking by. Abandoning the cliché of ‘reinterpreting’ traditional English pub cuisine, chef Marco Museli presents an array of delicious Italian dishes served to an impeccable standard one would expect from any top Italian restaurant. The chef does pay homage to the past life of the restaurant by serving one of London’s most delicious burgers which is topped with pancetta; a burger that every Londoner ought to try.  It has now been three times that I have been to Goat, and on all of my visits the consistency of the good food, great service and lively ambience has cemented it in being a local favourite perfect for a Sunday lunch in the sun, or a nice easy dinner any day of the week. When it comes to food, aside from the delicious burger, the pizzas are an excellent choice, which are wood fried and prepared with the simplest and freshest of ingredients. A favourite is the pizza with bresaola, rocket and parmesan, as well as the traditional margherita pizza. Both are fresh, and light, yet filling pizzas cooked to crispy perfection destined to please the harshest of pizza critics. With all the delicious food at Goat however, the smoking gun is the extensive cocktail list with cocktails rivalling London’s top bars. A must-order is the Earl Grey Martini, served in a bone china tea cup, and accented with flavours of lavender making it unparalleled in freshness and flavour. If ever in doubt of where to dine in Kensington and Chelsea, Goat is a definite choice that just keeps winning every time, and with a tucked away speakeasy style bar: The Chelsea Prayer room to its back, its also a solid choice for a night out in Chelsea.

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5 Jun 2015


London, UK

For the past few summers, Selfridges has created a pop-up restaurant on their 5th floor rooftop in Oxford Street. This year, Vintage Salt has taken over. Intended to mimic a Cornish fishing village, with maritime design and a seafood and grill-based menu, I went for weekend lunch with a friend, and I was happy to have been able to book a table online just the day before. You start appreciating the little things like this after living in London for a while. As I got into the restaurant's own lift accessed from the fragrance department, the seaside theme was already evident. The friendly waitress, dressed as a sailor, directed me to a table in the narrow outdoor space. From initial impressions, I got the sense that everyone one was there for a special occasion to try it out, and maybe it's not the kind of place that you'd return to, however it's possible that the atmosphere is a bit cooler around dinner time. I started with ancient loaf with hand churned butter. This was listed as one of the starters on the menu, and not as a side. The crispy crust and soft bread was among the best I've ever tried, I could almost have had it as a main as well. As an aperitif, I ordered the Dirty Sea Martini;  a vodka martini with some pieces of seaweed at the bottom of the glass. It was refreshing and interesting, but it smelled a bit too much of the sea, almost fishy. The cocktail menu generally looked interesting, and I'd like to go back one evening and try more of their drinks and one of their Champagne Popsicles.  

For mains, my friend ordered the Beef Burger with truffled fries on the side, and I went for the Camden Hells Fried Fish & Chips. When the food arrived I got a slight pang of food envy, as the burger looked amazing with a thick slice of cheese and an avocado topping. However, she said the meat was quite dry, and not as good as it looked. The fish and chips were pretty much what you would expect, the fish seemed fresh and the sides were tasty, but it didn't stand out as very different from what you would get served at a pub. Being a popular spot, the reservation email made it clear that you can only keep the table for 90 minutes. At the end of our slot, a crowd waiting at the bar had built up, but fortunately the waiters didn't put any pressure on us to leave. The staff seemed to have been instructed to not let a single drop of rain fall on the guests, as every time there was a cloud, they would close and reopen the roof. Luckily the weather stayed sunny and we took a quick peek at the London view before heading back down to Selfridges for some shopping. 

Click to add a blog post for Vintage Salt on Zomato

8 Apr 2015


London, UK

While the stalls on Exmouth Market are only open for lunchtime weekdays, it is lined with charming little restaurants that take care of the food crowd on weekends. One of the most popular is Caravan, serving world foods and boasting a basement coffee roastery.  Brunch is served between 10 and 4 o'clock, and compared to a lot of other London brunch spots, the wait is not too bad. It is always packed, but hanging around in the bar for 15 minutes should be enough to get a table. I have been to Caravan for brunch on three occasions, and every time I've ordered the same thing; baked eggs with chorizo. Served in tomato sauce with a runny yolk, these little dishes are amazing. They could be a bit more generous with the greek yogurt, but otherwise it is a perfect meal. As a side I recommend the avocado on sourdough bread, which is quite pricey at £5, but good enough to warrant it. Their baked goods change daily, and I was lucky enough to catch the banana bread once. It's one of the better banana breads I've tried, soft yet slightly burnt, and just sweet enough. It was so good that I got some extra to take home with me. The service at Caravan, on the other hand, is awful. The head waiter was so rude that my friend felt she couldn't leave without informing him of what she though. Not being as brave, I prefer to make my criticisms here on the blog. The lack of friendliness from the staff is what dragged down the Hanger-Meter rating for this restaurant. If you are ok with poor service, like I am, you should still go and enjoy some delicious baked eggs. 

Caravan Exmouth Market on Urbanspoon