Category Archives: Food

Restaurant Review – Umami Burger, The Grove, West Hollywood, LA

The Grove Truffle Burger

On our trip to LA we visited Umami Burger at The Grove (a shopping centre in LA). So far, so uninspiring, right?

But Umami are the best burgers I’ve maybe had in America. Ever. OK, tied with In-N-Out. But they’re amazing.

Umami Burger, The Grove
Umami Burger, The Grove

Umami Burger is a gastro burger chain in California, although they have a branch in New York and Florida too. Anyway, it’s basically about packing a burger full of as much rich, savoury flavour as possible. And they take it very seriously. Consequently Umami is always super-busy. The word has spread and the people, they have arrived.

Here’s what the menu looks like (the menu various slightly from venue to venue):

Umami Burger menu
Umami Burger menu

We went for truffle fries, fried pickles and sweet potato fries to share. We also got some aoli dipping sauce.

A blurry shot of our sides
A blurry shot of our sides
Fried pickles
Fried pickles

Burgers-wise, I went for a Royale, which is a beef patty topped with braised short rib, roasted garlic aioli and Umami’s truffle cheese. Here it is:

Umami Royale burger
Umami Royale burger (note the pool of blood on my plate. YUM!)

Andrew went for a Grove Truffle Burger, which sounded insane: beef patty, parmesan fondue topped off with The Grove special truffle sauce. Cray. Here is it:

The Grove Truffle Burger
The Grove Truffle Burger
The bite-through of the Grove Truffle Burger
The bite-through of the Grove Truffle Burger

Everything was incredibly fresh, savoury and addictive. I’d say moorish, but addictive is more accurate.

A side note: they also service Mexican coke(-a-cola) there, which is apparently coke without all the fake stuff in. SUPER sugary.

Service: 5

Venue: 5

Value: 5

Overall: 10/10

You can find Umami Burger venues by clicking here.

Nearest tube: hahahaha.

Images © Andrew Phillimore

Lunch Review – Brick Lane Beigel Bake, Brick Lane, E1

The Brick Lane Beigel Bake Salt Beef Bagel

This is hardly a new joint to hit the trendy East London restaurant scene. Brick Lane Beigel Shop opened in 1977, and has had customers flocking to it for its authentic bagels ever since. Open 24 hours a day, BLBS is most famous for its salt beef beigel. Last week I made it my mission to track it down. Having lived in London for five years it seems crazy I hadn’t been before.

Easy to miss, hard to forget: Brick Lane Beigel Bake
Easy to miss, hard to forget: Brick Lane Beigel Bake

The place is nothing to look at, and is certainly not going to win any customer service awards, but it’s doing well anyway so why change what’s not broken?

Inside BLBB
Inside BLBB

I got my beigel and scurried back to my nearby office to marvel at it. The salt beef comes in massive hunks, and I got English mustard which gave it an amazing kick. Note: if you are slightly afraid of hot mustard, do NOT get it. I had loads in mine, but I am hard so managed to tough it out.

The beigel itself was wonderfully chewy and light, and the beef was a heady meaty-salty flavour. I really enjoyed it, but at the same time I wouldn’t go there every lunch time. But then I don’t go anywhere every lunch time.

 

The Brick Lane Beigel Bake Salt Beef Bagel
The Brick Lane Beigel Bake Salt Beef Bagel

Simon, my aforementioned curmudgeonly friend, came with me. He said he didn’t understand what put the beigel above any other decent beigel, and also claimed he could eat another one straight away afterwards. He is quite a greedy fellow, but I also think the beigel wasn’t exactly filling. More of a hearty snack than a full meal.

So essentially what I am saying is: good sandwich, like the authenticity, would go if in the area.

Service: 3

Venue: 4

Value: 5

Overall: 7/10

Brick Lane Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB

Nearest tube: Bethnal Green (12 min walk), Shoreditch High Street Overground (6 min walk)

 

 

Top 5… Budget London Date Venues

The Prop Store

Sometimes life calls for a little date. Not a big date, which would demand for heels, a blowdry and ~booking~ something (P.S. I’ve never got a blowdry for a date. Soz, Andrew). I’m talking a spontaneous, “Hey, shall we go out tonight? Just you and me?” date. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be with someone you feel a bit woozy with love or lust about, it could just as easily be a pal.

These evenings, in my experience, are normally best when they’re local, often in a little place that you discover – a gem that’s budget-friendly. In these places, the staff leave you alone to chat, the wine is decent and the food delicious. You leave the place arm in arm and step out into a cold, dark evening thinking how life is a little bit better for your date being in your life.

I’ve compiled a list of my top five date venues, where I’ve had evenings like this and think you might be able to enjoy them too.

1. Le Mercury, Upper Street, Islington

Le Mercury, Upper Street
Le Mercury, Upper Street

I’ve had more than one lovely evening here, with a range of different people from friends to family to my boyfriend. Each evening has been great. At Le Mercury they serve simple French food, and offer little tables close to one another and soft candlelight. There’s a huge capacity, and due to their massive popularity in North London they’ve actually expanded from their original restaurant to a second venue just down the road. The great thing about Le Mercury is that for those on a budget or splitting the meal, each offering on the menu is the same price per course. So starters are all £4.45, mains £9.95. And you know what? The food is really bloody good for that price. It holds a little special place in my heart, and is definitely one of Andrew and mine’s favourites.

2. Petek, Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park

Petek, Stroud Green Road
Petek, Stroud Green Road

I’ve written a more extensive review of Petek before, which you can read by clicking on the link above, so I won’t go on too much. But this is one of my fave date venues. It helps we currently live very close to Petek, but it is like a beacon of joy on the somewhat grey Stroud Green Road. Inside the lighting is glowy and soft and the service is friendly without being all up in your grill. It’s pretty darn perfect. And it kind of feels like you’re on a Mediterranean holiday in there. All that is missing is the stray dogs.

3. Kettners, Soho

Grab a booth at Kettners
Grab a booth at Kettners

OK, so Kettners might not fall into the “little-known place” bracket, as it is a London institution, but I like it as a date place so it’s going in, alright? Good.

I’m not talking about the restaurant here, cos that’s all sparkly and new and, well, just a fairly standard Soho restaurant. I’m talking about the champagne and cocktail bar. That might sound a little intimidating, but don’t be put off! Really it’s a cosy and relaxed bar, and is great for people watching. Dangerously, you can buy champagne in glasses, half bottles or bottles. And they stock a lot of champagne. So what might start out as a cheeky flute of bubbles can gloriously descend into an evening of being drunk on champagne and feeling all cosy and great. They do great cocktails too.

4. Albertine, Wood Lane, Shepherd’s Bush

Albertine, Wood Lane
Albertine, Wood Lane

If you ever had the misfortune to be in Shepherd’s Bush, as I did for a good while when I worked at the BBC, then Albertine is like a beautiful oasis in the drab wasteland of Shepherd’s Bush. I’m not suggesting you go there for a meal, because I’ve only had one proper meal there and it was slightly odd and slapdash. No, I mean you go there for drinks and snacks. Albertine’s is a wine bar, and owned by a guy who is obviously passionate about wine. Consequently, the wine list is bloody massive and has wines from all over the world. They also do a good line in bar snacks, with my faves being mini chorizo sausages. It’s all a bit rustic at Albertine’s. You can sit in the window, hunker down for the night and have really great chats.

5. The Prop Store, Southbank

The Prop Store
The Prop Store

One of my closest and most charming friends introduced me to The Prop Store, for it is attached to the National Theatre, where she works. Had it not been for her, I don’t think I would have found it as it’s quite easy to miss a lot of stuff on Southbank, especially in the Summer when the Prop Store operates.

Yes, indeed, this is a seasonal bar. As I said, it’s run by the National and exhibits inside an interesting array of props from the theatre company. The bar itself is kind of tiny and it does take a while to get served, but the drinks are reasonable for Southbank, and you can spill out onto the river bank on a hot, sticky summer evening and have one of those nights when you’re like, “Yeah, London is so pretty and awesome and I get to live here!” And although I generally find Southbank a bit too frantic in the summer months, it’s nice to rest up at the Prop Store and watch the world go by.

So that’s my list. Do you have any cute little places you like to go on for dates? Think I’ve missed somewhere? Rant at me in the comments.

Brunch Review – Caravan, Granary Square, N1C

Baked eggs, tomato pepper ragout, Greek yoghurt, chorizo and sourdough toast.

This Sunday I had a hot date with one of my closest friends, Ames, and Andrew. Without any deliberation we selected Caravan for the venue of said hot date.

Caravan is located just north of Kings Cross station, underneath Central St Martin’s. It faces out onto Granary Square, which had loads of weird events going on – something about the industrial revolution. This seemed to involve dressing pre-pubescent children up as chimney sweeps and someone screeching along to “Who Will Buy” from Oliver. It was a no from me.

We arrived at 1pm at Caravan and was told there was a 45 min wait. No worries, I thought, it means I get to spend more time catching up with Amy. However, an hour came and went… We were sat after 90 mins, but I am not really sure it’s worth a 90 min wait. You can go away and they’ll text you when your table is ready, but we were stuck in some pseudo-Victorian nightmare and just wanted to eat.

So anyway, yeah, cut to the chase – we got a table…

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Sounds sickly, was actually amazing.
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Sounds sickly, was actually amazing.

 

I ordered a salted caramel hot chocolate, which sounds incredibly sickly. I don’t really like sickly things, so I have no idea what came over me – I think I was discombobulated from the Industrial Revolution outside. In fact, it was absolutely delicious. It tasted like a creme brûlée in a drink. I pretty much drank it like a shot.

Obligatory brunch photo of a flat white
Obligatory brunch photo of a flat white

Food-wise, I ordered baked eggs, tomato pepper ragout, Greek yoghurt, chorizo sausage with sourdough toast.

Baked eggs, tomato pepper ragout, Greek yoghurt, chorizo and sourdough toast.
Baked eggs, tomato pepper ragout, Greek yoghurt, chorizo and sourdough toast.

 

It looked kind of on the small side when it arrived, but was actually incredibly rich. I’m glad I got the chorizo though, mostly because it’s my fave. The egg yolks were cooked all the way through though, which was a massive shame. The ragout was nice and punchy, and the bread soaked it all up nicely.

For some unknown reason (again, I blame the child slave labour homage outside), I ordered toast too. It came with tiny pots of homemade jam. The jam wasn’t actually that good – pretty flavourless – but the jars were cute. I shared the toast with Amy, as I felt totally sick by this point.

Look at those jam jars!
Look at those (blurry) jam jars!

Amy and Andrew ordered jalapeno corn bread, fried eggs, black beans and guindilla pepper. I had a bite of Andrew’s, as I badly love corn bread. Again, the yolks were cooked through, which seems like a pretty easy thing they were getting wrong. There also wasn’t much of the dish, and not enough sauce, so it was kind of dry.

Jalapeno corn bread, fried eggs, black beans, guindilla pepper
Jalapeno corn bread, fried eggs, black beans, guindilla pepper

Andrew also ordered some kind of amazing museli thing, which was honey roasted. It was incredibly rich, but very yum. Not very healthy I don’t think though.

The museli thing
The museli thing

The service was good at Caravan though, after we got past the hostesses (who seemed to have mastered the art of flouncing past mass hoards of people vying for their attention). The atmosphere was really buzzy and it was great people watching. I would go again, but perhaps if I had the day off and could go when it’s less busy. Having said that, there are lots of amazing brunch places in London that means cafes and restaurants really need to work hard to gain my loyalty and I’m not sure Caravan was really on its game on Sunday.

Oh, the bill came to just under £50 for three, with three hot drinks.

Service: 2

Venue: 4

Value: 3

Overall: 3/10

Caravan, 1 Granary Square (off Goods Way), London, N1C 4AA

Nearest tube: Kings Cross/St Pancras (5 min walk)

Square Meal

Food Review – #NationalBurgerDay Event

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August 27th was National Burger Day in the UK. This event was dreamt up by lifestyle newsletter Mr Hyde, Tweat Up and a range of premium burger vendors across the country. In London there was to be an event where all the best names in burgers would be flipping and selling their patty delights. It could have been just a cynical marketing ploy, but the evening was so brilliant that I don’t mind – I’m just glad they did it.

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On the night itself, over 1000 people flocked to Dalston Yard, which has been home to Street Feast all summer. There lay all the best names in burgers: Bleecker Street, Byron, Dirty Burger, Disco Bistro, Honest Burgers, MEATLiquor, Mother Flipper, Roti Chai Street Kitchen, Breddos Slider Bar and Two Nights Only plus a special appearance from Eat My Pies, who made a burger pie. Phew! Quite a roll call right there. Sadly, the only team lacking were Patty & Bun.

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Tickets were a little over £11, and for that you got entrance, one pint of Meantime beer and two shots – a pickleback and a chilliback.

We decided on a shortlist before, based in part on the menu and part on good things I had heard about particular burgers.

My hit list: Bleecker Street, Disco Bistro, Honest Burgers and Mother Flipper. This seemed to be the same hit list as everyone else, so the queues were pretty lengthy.

First we hit up Bleecker Street for their cheeseburger triple. That’s three quarter pounders with cheese. It was enormous.

The Bleecker triple being prepared
The Bleecker triple being prepared

 

The Bleecker Triple in all its glory
The Bleecker Triple in all its glory

 

The Bleecker holding form well.
The Bleecker holding form well.

 

Luckily, everywhere was slicing their burgers in half so you could share with co-Burger Adventurers. Andrew and I split our Bleecker and then Andrew was asked to pose as a model…

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When we eventually got to bite down on our Bleecker it was INCREDIBLE. So, so juicy and perfectly cooked with a pink middle. The cheese was unctuous and melted perfectly, but the absence of toppings really allowed the meat to be the star of the show. Who needs lots of gimmicks when you’re cooking amazing quality beef to such a high standard? It was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. I cannot praise it highly enough.

We then went and got a Disco Burger from Disco Bistro. A Disco Burger is a rare breed beef patty, cheese, Carl’s special bun sauce and pineapple & bacon jam. Here it is in all its splendour…

The Disco Burger
The Disco Burger

 

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Christ, this was so good too. Much smaller than the Bleecker, it was a different beast entirely. The patty was decent and juicy – a little more well done than my preference, but hey ho this isn’t a major gripe. The thing that really made you sit up and notice with this burger were the toppings. The cheese was all melted into the pineapple and bacon jam, which was sweet and sour in equal measure and insanely moorish. This was Andrew’s favourite burger, and came a close second for me after the Bleecker. I definitely want to go to Disco Bistro now and sample their fare further.

We then visited Pickleback Alley for our Pickleback shot. For the uninitiated this is a shot of whiskey with a pickle juice chaser. They were rank. I hate whiskey anyway, much to my brother’s chagrin. I felt like my throat had been striped afterwards. The only thing that would help was a burger.

The Picklebacks
The Picklebacks
Not a fan.
Not a fan.

Mother Flipper had a giant queue, so we got in line like the good little Brits we are. We placed our order and then waited for our burger. Mother Flipper were doing lots of exciting things, including a smaller burger with a maple and bacon cronut for a bun. We went for a Dirty Barbie, which is a double patty, American cheese, candy bacon, candy fried onions with tomato relish and barbecue sauce. It sounded incredible, and I’d heard such great things about Mother Flipper. I was sure this burger was going to be The One. When it arrived, it was slightly overcooked but the grill chef was under A LOT of pressure with a huge amount of people waiting for their burgers so I can forgive that. However, the toppings made the burger incredibly sloppy and they all sort of slid off! Burger nightmare. Once in my gob, I couldn’t taste the patty but the toppings were nice if a little too overpowering and unbalanced. The BBQ sauce was too strong for my taste. And I found the texture of very crisp, chewy bacon and slippery fried onions not totally a pleasant one and it didn’t really work. I am sure Mother Flippers are better than this and I am excited to try them again when it’s a less frenetic atmosphere.

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The Dirty Barbie
The Dirty Barbie
Inside the Dirty Barbie
Inside the Dirty Barbie

Last burger of the night. We waddled over to Honest burgers and ordered an Honest +. This is a special creation for the night and contained a Ginger Pig beef & bone marrow patty topped with Red Leicester cheese, crispy pigs cheek, shallot & parsley salad, red onion relish & homemade pickles. Another big queue for this guy! However, there were comfy sofas to snuggle up on while we waited – and the people watching potential at the event was brilliant. Everyone was SO friendly and we got talking to a lot of people about what we had, what they were having next etc. Everyone seemed so passionate and excited about burgers. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE.

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Anyway, Honest burger. This was a good burger. Really nice and meaty and the parsley salad actually made a lovely little refreshing break from the tidal wave of fried food. I was so full by this point I wasn’t able to give it my full admiration. Honest Burger were also serving crispy pig cheek scratchings, which had all sold out – they sounded so good though. Next time.

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The Honest+. Apols for the crappy photo, it was dark by this point.
The Honest+. Apols for the crappy photo, it was dark by this point.

The evening was so brilliant and made me so happy that I live in London. It was great to see so many people so passionate about what they were doing. There’s nothing more soul destroying than eating generic food that’s made without care and love. Everyone at National Burger Day was on their A Game, and the customers were loving it. It was a beautiful evening, which helped too. I’m so happy that I went.

Oh yeah, the Chilliback? I ducked out. I sipped my chilli tequila before giving to Andrew and it was actually really lovely, but I am weak and couldn’t handle it. Andrew said that was delicious though. Maybe next time…

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Most photography © Andrew Phillimore

 

Restaurant Review – Burger & Lobster, Dean Street, W1D

The HUGE lobster

Burger & Lobster is the Ronseal of restaurants: it does exactly what it says on the tin. They serve burgers or they serve lobster. Those are your two choices. In theory, anyway. Both items are priced the same, £20 (again, in theory). It does raise the question of who would order a £20 burger when you can get a £20 lobster, but let’s proceed with this review, shall we?

We – and by “we” I mean Andrew and I – went with two awesome pals we met at a fitness bootcamp in Highbury Fields. Having falling off the bootcamp wagon and into our bootcamp instructor’s bad graces, we decided to go the whole hog and eat loads of food together. In for a penny, in for a pound. We went one rainy Saturday night, and put our names down – there was an hour wait I seem to remember, so we went for a swift drink in the Crown and Two Chairmen up the road (a Soho fave of mine, I know not why), but were called much more quickly than an hour to say our table was ready.

We sat down and ordered cocktails and beer, and got down to the serious business of choosing a crustacean to eat. The menu goes that you can get a lobster roll with chips and salad for £20, a burger with chips and salad for £20 or a lobster with chips and salad for £20. I know I already covered this, but there are further options. You can get a larger lobster to share for more money, which comes with unlimited fries (greedy!) and salad (meh, who cares?!). We went for a massive lobster to share between the four of us, with unlimited fries. On the advice of our waiter, we got it grilled instead of boiled and we all opted for the lemon and garlic butter sauce.

The HUGE lobster
The HUGE lobster
The huge claw with lots of yummy meat inside.
The huge claw with lots of yummy meat inside.

Our monster lobster arrived. Yikes! We donned our complimentary and very flattering plastic bibs and went to work. It was DELICIOUS. The lobster was sweet and soft, tasting ever so slightly of the sea. The butter sauce made the dish stand up to attention, and the fries were, well, they’re fries but they were good.

Me with my classy bib
Me with my classy bib

The tasty cocktails kept coming, and the atmosphere was lovely – relaxed yet buzzing. The waiters were pretty busy, as the place was packed to the rafters, and it is a large restaurant, but they were attentive.

It's time.
It’s time.

The meal was slightly on the pricey side – I think about £140 for four with drinks maybe. Could be wrong, it was a while ago. BUT we did all eat A LOT of lobster, and it was such a fun night out. It was a really sociable, laid-back evening, and those are some of my favourite evenings.

Service: 7

Venue: 7

Value: 8

Overall: 7/10

Burger & Lobster, 36 Dean Street, London, W1D 4PS

Burger & Lobster also have branches in Mayfair, Faringdon and the City (near Bank)

Nearest tube: Leicester Square (7 min walk), Tottenham Court Road (9 min walk)

Burger & Lobster on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review – Patty & Bun, St James St, W1U

My Ari Gold

First up, apologies for my absence. I know you’ve all been lamenting about it. But it was birthday. I turned 30, guys. I also went on holiday and had weddings to go to. So there we go. Now for the main point of business…

I have read really, really good things about Patty & Bun, so decided to check it out with a few of my wonderful friends. We gamely queued up, put our names down and continued to queue. We did queue for an hour, which is a bit galling, but I was with great friends and the time passed quickly as we caught up. Other ingenious people in the queue were going to offies and buying beers. It was also a warm summer’s evening. If it was pouring with rain I probably would have been less full of humour about it. Actually, I wouldn’t have queued.

Anyway, once we were in, we were seated by a lovely waitress who was sweet and attentive throughout our meal. We ordered beers, burgers, chips and coleslaw all round. Actually, I had a wine, which was served in a tumbler. Details, details!

Here’s a glimpse at the menu…

The full Patty & Bun Meny
The full Patty & Bun Meny

I went for an Ari Gold (a cheeseburger by any other name would taste as sweet…), as did most people. A few cheeky chappies in our group went for Smokey Robinsons.

The food arrived…

My Ari Gold
My Ari Gold
Rosemary salt fries from Patty & Bun
Rosemary salt fries from Patty & Bun

My burger was brilliantly juicy and very meaty. The pickled onions cut through the grease and added a really interesting flavour. The cheese I couldn’t taste so much, but it was a wonderful burger none-the-less. A world away from the terrible grey, unseasoned thing I had at Shake Shack.

A slightly blurry inside of my burger
A slightly blurry inside of my burger

The fries were nicely seasoned, and the colesaw fresh and zingy. Our super-waitress brought us a huge array of condiments, which is always a good sign I feel in a burger joint.

My friend couldn’t finish her burger, so her loving, doting husband merrily hoovered up her Smokey Robinson after eating his Ari Gold. He proclaimed that the Smokey was better. And he’s a doctor, so don’t argue with him.

I was pleasantly impressed by Patty & Bun. It’s a great alternative to MEATLiquor, and I much preferred the laid-back vibe there to the slightly manic atmosphere in MEATLiquor. The only bummer was no chilli cheese fries.

Service: 9

Venue: 7

Value: 6

Overall: 8/10

Patty & Bun, 54 James St, London W1U 1E

Nearest tube: Bond Street (7 min walk)

Patty & Bun on Urbanspoon

Food Review – Koshari Street, St Martin’s Lane, WC2

Koshari

It’s my last week working in Covent Garden for a while, and having put of visiting Koshari Street for one reason or the other (rain, laziness, other shiny things caught my eye), this week I was determined to get a visit in.

Koshari is an Egyptian dish which is a mixture of pasta, lentils, pulses topped with chickpeas, tomato and garlic sauce, caramelised onions and some herbs. It is carb-tastic.

Koshari Street sell koshari and pretty much nothing else. Here is the menu so you can check if I’m wrong.

Koshari Street menu
Koshari Street menu

Oh they do a salad as well. Alright, I was wrong. Let’s get over it and move on.

So I ventured in, and was helped to a medium bowl of koshari by two very nice staff in what was a pretty empty shop/restaurant. I got to choose from the level of heat in the tomato sauce: mild, hot or mad. I went hot. I’ll let you into a secret: it wasn’t that hot at all.

I got back to my desk and took out my swag…

Voila! What a take out looks like... I know, exciting, right?
Voila! What a take out looks like… I know, exciting, right?

Inside, well, it didn’t look that pleasant. I blame the caramelised onions, which kind of look like meal worms…

The koshari
The koshari

Eh. They tasted delicious though! As I excavated through the layers, I was pleasantly surprised by all the flavours in the koshari. The portion was incredibly generous, and I couldn’t finish it all though. Here’s a picture of the layers… (It’s not a great photo. Standard.)

Koshari

Would I go to Koshari again? Sure, it is delicious – but massively filling. A perfect warming dish for winter though, or perhaps a perfect hangover cure. And it’s perfect fodder for tourists, workers or theatre-goers deep in the heart of theatre land.

Rating: 5/10

Koshari Street, 56 St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4EA

Nearest tube: Leicester Square (3min walk)

 

Restaurant Review – Petek, Stroud Green Road, N4

The mixed shish from Petel

I needed cheering up last night, so Andrew suggested going out. I thought about where I wanted us to go. Somewhere warm, friendly, with good, reasonably priced food. It was no contest – Petek won out.

Since moving to Finsbury Park, Petek has fast become my favourite restaurant. It’s a lovely, large-ish Turkish restaurant on Stroud Green Road. Outside, when it’s sunny, people sit on the chairs and tables and sip their delicious cocktails. Inside, there’s a busy atmosphere and decor, which never fails to bring a smile to my face – the twinkling lights dangling from the ceiling, the happy but bustling waiters. It’s just brilliant OK. And the food is also absolutely delicious.

As soon as you’re seated, you’re brought a huge basket of freshly baked, warm flatbreads with a chilli-tomato salsa and some beautiful gleaming gems of olives.

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The portions at Petek are more than generous, but I never learn and always dive into the bread basket with wild abandon.

The delicious complimentary chilli salsa. It's addictive.
The delicious complimentary chilli salsa. It’s addictive.

We can never resist ordering their fresh, homemade baba ghanoush, which is fresh and creamy with a wonderful olive oil zesty zip. It comes in a huge bowl and is a pretty big feast in itself.

Petek's homemade babaganoush. 'Scuse boyfriend's hand - he just couldn't wait.
Petek’s homemade baba ghanoush. ‘Scuse boyfriend’s hand – he just couldn’t wait.

Petek does a large menu of grilled meats and hot and cold meze. The grilled meats come in all varieties and I’m yet to find a disappointing option. Last night I went for their mixed shish.

The mixed shish from Petel
The mixed shish from Petel

This comes with a huge salad, both chicken and lamb grilled shish, yoghurt sauce, rice and pita bread. It was delicious. I’ve never had better grilled meats, and the rice is always perfectly cooked and steaming.

I cannot remember the name of Andrew’s dish, but essentially it’s grilled chicken in a tomato sauce, with rice and yoghurt and grilled veggies. He said it was excellent too.

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This massive meal, with two drinks, came to £40. More than worth it. I’m just planning on when I can go back next.

Service: 5

Venue: 5

Value: 5

Overall: 5

Petek, 96 Stroud Green Road, N4.

Nearest tube: Finsbury Park (5 min walk)

Petek on Urbanspoon

Recent London Eats – Round Up

Big Apple Hotdog

Recently I’ve been having lots of yummy snacks here and there. Although not worthy of a full review, I thought I’d share with you my recent foodie adventures around London.

Big Apple Hotdog
Big Apple Hotdog

I got this “Huge Pole” hot dog from the Big Apple stand at Munch London mini street food festival. Smothered in sauerkraut, pickles, American mustard and ketchup – it was delicious!

Fried plantain
Fried plantain

I had it with a side of fried plantain, which I normally love. Could no way make even a dent in this after the Huge Pole.

Chorizo, potato and pepper tortilla from Brindisa Soho
Chorizo, potato and pepper tortilla from Brindisa Soho

I’ve always wanted to go to Brindisa for tapas. Sadly, it didn’t live up to expectations. Also, they brought the wrong thing to our table and then tried to charge us for it. Little niggles, but annoying all the same.

Croquetas de Jamon from Brindisa
Croquetas de Jamon from Brindisa
Cheeeeeese from Neal's Yard Dairy
Cheeeeeese from Neal’s Yard Dairy

I am a cheese fiend. Neal’s Yard is one of my favourite cheese shops, just behind La Fromagerie in Highbury Barn.

Bakewell Tartlets from Lily Vanilli on Columbia Road
Bakewell Tartlets from Lily Vanilli on Columbia Road

We stopped off at Lily Vanilli over the bank holiday.

And a cuppa!
And a cuppa!
More tea! This time from the excellent Dishoom in Shoreditch
More tea! This time from the excellent Dishoom in Shoreditch

My re-visit to Dishoom was much better than my slightly let down meal in Covent Garden.

A delicious Bacon Roll Naan for breakfast from Dishoom
A delicious Bacon Roll Naan for breakfast from Dishoom

This chap was filled with well-cooked bacon, cream cheese and chilli ketchup. Not a combo I would have considered before, but now I am a convert.

Restaurant Review – Homeslice, 13 Neal’s Yard, WC2H

Salami and rocket pizza, Homeslice

 

Homeslice's yummy pizza menu
Homeslice’s yummy pizza menu

I’m working in Covent Garden at the moment, and was very happy to hear about a new pizza joint opening up called Homeslice. The self-confessed nomadic tribe Homeslice have now secured a permanent spot in Covent Garden’s most famous courtyard, and are serving up wood fired pizza by the slice or 20-inch whole pizza. I went on a mission to find out more.

Homeslice is a small venue, and I imagine gets packed out in the evenings. However, I was there for lunch and got a table pretty easily – but every table was filled and the place was bustling with people stuffing their faces (in the nicest way possible). The menu is pretty simple – pizza or nothing. If you don’t like pizza, don’t go here – a nugget of wisdom from me there. There will be more, stay tuned.

As I was in my lunch hour, I was pretty rushed and also didn’t fancy sitting at my desk tinkering with words having stuffed myself with a huge pizza. Carb comas are never fun in the work place (nugget 2). So my lunch buddy and I plumped for three slices to share.

Unfortunately you don’t have the choice of the whole menu if you order by the slice. Upsetting, as I wanted to try the duck guy. I love me some of that canard. Anyway, we ordered three slices as I said from a very friendly waiter who was so nice he almost tempted me to get a carafe of wine. I go back to the carb coma thing and add it’s not advisable to drink at lunchtime when you’re freelance. No one likes you turning up smelling of wine (nugget 3).

The slices came thin and fast (do you see what I did there). Here follows some gratuitous photos (and ever so slightly crap) of pizza:

Margherita pizza from Homeslice
Margherita pizza from Homeslice

Doesn’t look like much, does it? But it was delicious. The base was thin and crisp and in no way soggy. The toppings pleasingly slipped off in big chunks and landed in my gob. I was ready for my next slice…

Courgette and artichoke pizza from Homeslice
Courgette and artichoke pizza from Homeslice

I’m going to tell you now that I don’t like artichoke. Every time I’ve eaten it, it has been bitter and slimy: two of my food worsts. The fellas on this pizza were neither, but they were also nothing – this pizza was a little bland and would have benefitted from a sharper cheese than mozzarella to add some interest. That’s my answer to everything: more cheese (nugget 4 – guys, I am spoiling you all here with these nuggets!).

Salami and rocket pizza, Homeslice
Salami napoli and rocket pizza, Homeslice

This little chap was a dream. The salami was delicious and crispy, the rocket lovely and peppery, adding something nice and fresh to what could have been a bit of an overly rich slice o’ pizza. Instead I found myself sad that I hadn’t ordered a massive 20-inch pizza all of this fella.

The bill came to £14. I took a picture of it with you in mind:

photo (4)

Will I be going back to Homeslice? Oh sure. They do takeout too, so I can snaffle some on my lunchbreak no problem. It’s great pizza. Is it the best in London, as it has been lauded by some? I don’t honestly know as I have not even begun to eat all the pizza in London, but it is different and interesting in a world that seems to be dominated by crappy, ubiquitous pizza chains serving up unimaginative and tasteless pizzas. That can be no bad thing. Also, they serve prosecco on draught! The dream!

Service: 5/5

Venue: 4/5

Value: 3/5

Overall: 4/5

Homeslice, 13 Neal’s Yard, WC25 9DP

Homeslice on Urbanspoon

BURGER REVIEW – Lucky Chip @ The Sebright Arms, Coate Street, E2

Lucky Chip Burgers at the Sebright Arms


Lucky Chip Burgers at the Sebright Arms
Lucky Chip Burgers at the Sebright Arms

I’ve been wanting to go to the Sebright Arms for ages, to sample the much-raved about Lucky Chip burgers. Having dined at the Slider Bar (at The Player in Soho), and found them wanting I’d heard many people say The Sebright is where to get the real Lucky Chip experience. Indeed, my friend Ed claims that The Sebright serve the best burgers in London town, and Ed knows what is up.

The Sebright is a rough-around-the-edges pub in the no man’s land between Bethnal Green and Hoxton, but it is a large venue with plenty of comfy seating and extremely friendly staff. We went on a Friday night and it was busy, but not unpleasantly so and everyone seemed to be having a good time. An all-round good vibe, if you will.

Lucky Chip have a residency at The Sebright, and no doubt the reason behind the pub being so bustling. The menu looks a little something like this…

The Lucky Chip Menu at the Sebright Arms
The Lucky Chip Menu at the Sebright Arms

I went for a Royale wit Cheese, but most people (seasoned Lucky Chip fans) seemed to favour the El Chappo. We also all had chili cheese fries and wings for sides (not each, we’re not greedy. Well, only slightly greedy).

The burgers were delicious – very juicy meat, perfectly medium-rare (a good burger has to be nice and pink in my opinion), the bun didn’t fall apart and the fillings were a perfect accompaniment. My dining friend, Toby, dubbed it “just like a Big Mac”. I think that’s a little harsh – the flavour and style is similar to the ubiquitous Big Mac, but it is so much more hearty, meaty and juicy than a Big Mac. The best burger I’ve had in London? Yep, easily.

Chili Cheese Fries @ The Sebright
Chili Cheese Fries @ The Sebright

The chili cheese fries were totally smothered in chilli and jalapenos, with a moderate sprinkling of cheese. They were very good indeed – but not as good as those served at Meat Liquor. However, the experts said the fries had improved since their last visit, with tweaks being made to the recipe. I like that Lucky Chip aren’t resting on their laurels, but instead striving to make things better. I’d definitely order these again when I go again (when, not if!).

The BBQ wings
The BBQ wings

The chicken wings were the let-down on the night. The BBQ sauce wasn’t punchy at all, and instead just a slightly sweet, sticky glaze. The chicken itself was flabby and not at all crisp. And there was no extra dip. MeatLiquor wins here again I’m afraid in the wings stakes. With a few tweaks, these could be great but instead I found myself wishing I hadn’t bothered with them.

As I said before, the staff we lovely and smiley and fast to serve you at the bar. The drinks were good – the boilermaker (a beer and whiskey cocktail) was a particular favourite. I had a really excellent time, and would definitely recommend this place. It’s not fine dining, it is no frills but what it’s doing they’re doing well. Sure, there are a few niggles, but they’re slight and I am sure as the place evolves these will get ironed out.

Service: 5/5

Venue: 4/5

Value: 3/5

Overall: 4/5

Lucky Chip @ The Sebright Arms, 31-35 Coate Street, E2 9AG

Nearest tube: Bethnal Green 15min walk

RESTAURANT REVIEW – Dishoom, Upper Martin’s Lane, WC2H

Lamb chops from Dishoom
Lamb chops from Dishoom
Lamb chops at Dishoom

I met up with a few friends this week and headed to Dishoom. Incase you can’t be bothered to click that link, it’s a “Bombay cafe in London”. Yep. I’d heard relatively good things about Dishoom, so went along cautiously optimistic…

The welcome on the door was good, and as we’d booked a table there was no wait time. The service was speedy and we were soon engrossed in conversation and drinking cocktails, beer and wine. One of my friends claimed his chilli martini was amazing. I sipped it and thought it was “meh” – certainly not much kick to it. A bit style over substance. Which set the tone for the rest of the experience…

As a group of copywriters and editors, we started reading the menu and promptly felt ill due to the language used. It was so try-hard, pretentious and frankly nauseating. Here are some gems… “Delicate minty yoghurt, cool as the cucumber“, “Paneer is vegetarian first-class fare and a subtle cheese to make. Marinated then gently charred with red and green capsicums” “The skewer’s antecedent was the warrior’s sword.” Double-yew tee eff?

Anyway, we went for a starter each – sorry, I mean “A Small Plate to be Taken Lightly” – and I got Vada Pau, which was described on the menu as some kind of chip butty. The food arrived pretty quickly and was dumped down by a waiter who couldn’t care less who ordered what, even when it became quickly obvious we hadn’t ordered them as sharing dishes. He seemed to be annoyed to have to say what anything was more than once too.

The Vada Pau was good. The potato was deep-fried and soft and fluffy on the inside. It came with a green dressing, which was deliciously zesty, plus some chillis for sprinkling. I added a modest amount of chilli, where my friend Matt gamely added the whole lot without much thought. I asked him how he found it and he reported it was too hot. Oh Matt.

But before we’d really got through our starters, our main course arrived. Again, dumped down with no real interest in who was having what and even when we told them it was met with a shrug and the pots were put down all in the same place so we had to hurriedly move them around the table.

I ordered Spicy Lamb Chops, which in the menu said they come pink. I like lamb pink. It should be pink. These chops – at over £11 – were not pink (see photo above), they were overdone and dry. They had some spice mix on them, which added nothing to them really. The only nice thing on the plate was the pomegranate seeds. I also had rice – mistakenly I took too much (again, see photo above). We also ordered waaaay too much naan, which was good – but it’s naan, so how hard can it be?

The meal came to £33 each including drinks, and I think we all left feeling rather underwhelmed. There was a huge queue outside, as, annoyingly you can’t book for groups numbering below six (when will restaurants stop this ridiculous no-booking policy?! It’s frankly deeply uncharming of them), and I felt genuinely sorry for them that they were queuing in the rain for unsatisfactory food and service.

Would I recommend Dishoom? No. I mean go along, see what you think if you want, but don’t come crying to me when you have to eat dry meat and undercooked rice, served by someone who feels they’re totally above having to talk to you.

But there are far better places to get a decent and different curry/Indian-style meal – namely Tayyabs. Go there instead – you won’t regret that.

Service: 2/5

Venue: 2/5

Value: 0/5

Overall: 2/5

Dishoom, 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9FB (There’s also one in Shoreditch)

Nearest tube: Leicester Square 2mins, Covent Garden 5mins

Dishoom on Urbanspoon

RECIPE – Corn fritters with bacon and avocado

Brunch chez Zoe: Corn fritters, bacon and avocado
Brunch chez Zoe: Corn fritters, bacon and avocado
Brunch chez Zoe: Corn fritters, bacon and avocado

Yeah, I’m obsessed with brunch, OK? Sometimes I even cook it myself instead of going out. I know – big whoop. When I got my Love Food Market hamper I went on the hunt for good meals to eat chilli jam with. I was more interested in the chilli jam really, the meal was the accompaniment. I found this recipe, which is ideal for a lazy weekend brunch meal, or even a weekday supper. Whatever, just eat it as your mouth will be pleased about it.

Corn Fritters with Bacon & Avocado

Serves 4 | Prep: 10mins, Cook 10mins

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1 red pepper, diced quite small

1 fresh red chilli, diced really small (seeds removed, duh)

50g self-raising flour

1 egg, beaten thoroughly. Go on, get in there.

3 tbsp milk

1 + 1/2 large cans of sweetcorn (actually, I just whomp in as much as looks right)

Handful of fresh basil leaves

8 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon (it being smoked is very important. Don’t settle)

Juice 1/2 lemon

2 avocados (give ‘em a squeeze to make sure they’re ripe, yeah?)

Directions

1. Heat 1tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan for about 2 mins. Then whack in the peppers and stir them around for about 5 minutes, until they’re a bit soft and smelling GOOD.

2. Add in the chilli to the peppers and fry for a bit longer – 2 mins. Tip out the peppers and chilli into a little bowl and put to one side. Turn the heat off.

3. Sieve the flour into a largish bowl and make a well in the middle with the back of a spoon. Chuck your beaten egg in the well and stir it in slowly (I tend to use a balloon whisk for this. I like my balloon whisk). Then add the milk until it’s all combined with no (or very few, none of us are heroes here) lumps.

4. Drain the sweetcorn well. Then whack it into the batter you’ve just made in the bowl, along with the chilli and the pepper from your little bowl. Chop up all your basil and add that too. Give it a good old stir so all the veg is covered in the batter.

5. Put the grill in your oven on to high and stick your bacon under the grill. Keep checking on it – you’re going to have to multitask from now on. Be brave. If I can do it, you can. You want your bacon to be crispy but not black. Flip it over from time to time. It won’t take long – 10 mins?

6. While your bacon is grilling (we’re multitasking, remember?), heat about 2 tsps of oil in your frying pan (doesn’t have to be clean from the peppers). Don’t let it get searingly hot – just medium/high heat. Then use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of batter into the frying pan. Try to put them in so they make puddles away from each other (I do three at one) – 1 spoonful a puddle. They spread, so watch out. Let them cook for about 2 mins, then use a fish slice to flip ‘em over and cook on the other side.

7. Get a plate out and put your pancakes on it. Pop them in the oven (you can check on the bacon now too) and then make another batch. This means everyone can eat together in harmony.

8. Once all your mixture is gone, pop all the pancakes in the oven for a bit (check the bloody bacon will you?). Now to make the side bits.

9. Chop up and peel an avocado anyway you can. Make the dressing by mixing the rest of the olive oil (look, a small glug if you’re having trouble keeping track) and the lemon juice together in a jug or bowl.

10. Arrange your pancakes and bacon on the plate with the avocado too. Drizzle over the dressing. Serve with Tracklement’s Chilli Jam – no other jam will do, trust me, we’ve tried.

11. Eat and enjoy your weekend.

Adapted from BBC Good Food.

 

Brunch Review – The Front Room, Tollington Park, N4

The Front Room Full English Breakfast
The Front Room Full English Breakfast
The Front Room Full English Breakfast

Since moving to Finsbury Park a lot of locals have said “Oh, have you checked out The Front Room yet?”, so I knew it would have to be one of my first stops (after Petek and Dotori – more on those another time!). The Front Room is a cafe situated on the “up and coming” (but still rather grey) Tollington Park in Finsbury Park.

We popped in one rainy Saturday morning for brunch, and it was just the right, reassuring level of busy. We were seated right away and then took a look at their reasonably priced and decent-length menu. Cue shoddy picture:

front_room_menu

 

My dining companion and co-brunch fan, Andrew, went for The Front Room Breakfast. He explained that he had to get the full English out of the way so he could then focus on other items on the menu on return visits. I went for the Pancake Special with a side of bacon. I also got a standard English Breakfast and a freshly squeezed orange juice (both good and strong) and Andrew got a white Americano, which he deemed “good”.

The food arrived really quickly and looked great. Andrew’s full English wasn’t swimming in grease and had generous portions of all components. My pancakes were nicely presented… See photo…

The Pancake Special, The Front Room
The Pancake Special, The Front Room

 

The bacon was tipped on by me in a haphazard fashion, so that makes it look a bit rank. Anyway, the pancakes were ok – a bit pappy and dry. The fruit and yoghurt was nice and fresh though. The bacon I could have taken or left. It was generally OK. The eggs benny on the other table was giving me food envy, to be honest.

The staff were lovely though, the service was quick and the atmosphere nice, laid back with a bit of buzz.

Service – 4/5

Venue – 3/5

Value – 5/5

OVERALL – 3/5

The Front Room Cafe, 158 Tollington Park, N4 3AD

Nearest Tube: Finsbury Park (5 min walk)

The Front Room is open 7.30am-6pm Monday – Thursday, 7.30am-11.30pm Friday, 8am-11pm on weekends.

The Front Room on Urbanspoon

RECIPE – Sticky Pan-Roasted Sausages with Grapes

Stick Pan-Roasted Sausages with Grapes
Stick Pan-Roasted Sausages with Grapes
Sticky Pan-Roasted Sausages with Grapes

When I received some delicious Cumberland sausages from Love Food Market, I wanted to do something a bit different with them to really enjoy the flavour. I had a little look on my go-to website for recipes, BBC Good Food, and that’s where I found this recipe…

Sticky Pan-Roasted Sausages with Grapes

Serves 4 | Prep 10mins, Cook 25mins

This dish is perfect for some light comfort food. You can have it on its own or bulk it up with some buttery light mash or polenta and veg. I made mash, steamed green beans and corn-on-the-cob for my sides. Gotta get your five-a-day, guys!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 450g good quality pork sausages – I got mine here
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 100g grapes – green or red, doesn’t matter
  • 2tbsp red wine vingear

Directions

Cooking sausages

1. Put the oil in a wide frying pan, and heat over a medium heat. Then pop in your sausages and fry for 10 mins, turning every so often.

Sausages

2. Add in your sliced onions, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Your onions will start to soften and the sausages will go golden brown.

sausages and grapes

3. Tip in the garlic, fennel seeds and grapes and then cook for 5 mins more. Give them a gentle stir every so often. The grapes will start to soften.

4. Pour in the vinegar and let it coat all of the other ingredients in the pan. Cook for a few more minutes until it goes ever so slightly sticky. Serve!

We really enjoyed this dish. The vinegar and grapes cut through the rich, meatness of the sausages. We really love mixing sweet and savoury tastes, so this definitely is one we’ll make again.

Food Review – Love Food Market hampers

Love Food Market hamper - inside. Packed with loads of lovely, luxury foods.
Love Food Market hamper – inside. Packed with loads of lovely, luxury foods.

When the lovely people at Love Food Market got in touch with me to ask if I wanted to review a hamper, I couldn’t really say no. Chorizo to review? Who could say no? (Clue: not me).

Love Food Market are suppliers of luxury British produce. Self-confessed foodies Em and Sue gather together all their favourite British-produced food on their website to make it easily accessible to fellow food lovers. There’s a huge selection of foods on the site, from fresh sausages, cheese, olives and crackers to sauces, jams, pickles and chocolates. I had a lot of fun agonising over what I was going to select.

In the end I went for…

Summerdown Mint’s Chocolate Mint Thins from Love Food Market – £3.95

These were SO minty, they actually made my mouth feel fresh and zingy after eating one. They are quite rich, so one goes a long way. They would make the perfect after dinner mint for rich, Christmas dinner parties – and much more interesting than a generic After Eight!

Sneaky peek inside!
La Fromagerie the Charcoal Biscuit – £2.35

These biscuits definitely go best with a creamy, sharp cheese like a good goat’s cheese. They were earthy and unusual – definitely a good pressie for a cheese lover!

Tracklements Chill Jam Heart – £4.50

Easily our most loved thing in the package. The chilli jam was sweet, with a lovely warm kick to it. We’ve had this jam with loads of different meals – the best one being a brunch of hot corncakes with advocado and bacon – I’ll post the recipe soon. I love the packaging of this product too. We’ll definitely be buying more of this, as we’re already out!

We also got a delicious garlic chorizo dried sausage, which they unfortunately seem to be out of. If it comes back in, I’d definitely recommend it. And we got some cumberland pork sausages – I haven’t taken a picture of them, as who likes to look at raw sausages?! They were SO good though – so tasty and meaty. I cooked them with grapes – I will post that recipe soon too, as it was so good.

The box itself was really well packaged, and the range of ingredients on the site was really good. The site is easy to use and Sue and Em are delightful if you have any questions about your order. I loved that the cold foods came wrapped in an organic wool package to keep them insulated – such a good idea!

So if you’ve got a tricky foodie friend or relative to buy for this Christmas (or just fancy treating yourself!), I’d say you won’t go far wrong with Love Food Market’s hampers. You can hand pick everything yourself so there’s nothing the recipient won’t be so keen on.

Food Review – Housebites Takeaway

Rib-eye steak, peppercorn sauce, creamy mash with spring onions and a side of fried plantain - Housebites Takeaway
Rib-eye steak, peppercorn sauce, creamy mash with spring onions and a side of fried plantain – Housebites Takeaway

Countless times I’ve listened to people moan about wanting a takeaway that delivers roasts on a Sunday, or a lovely juicy steak on a Friday night. Well, I’ve discovered the answer: Housebites.

Housebites claims to be “the new way to order gourmet takeaway from great chefs in your local area for the price of a pizza.” Let’s see.

When you visit Housebite’s website, you’ll be asked to input your postcode so they can show you the menus of the chefs cooking in your area In my area (Islington, yo) there’s a selection of chefs, but Wesley catches my eye – he does a mix of Caribbean-style food and some more standard dishes. I placed an order through their website for two lots of what you see above – steak, sauce, mash and side of plantains. Some chefs don’t deliver, but luckily Wesley does, so all I had to do was get the plates ready and wait.

The food arrived still hot. We unloaded it all, and it was packaged well (leaking takeaway is the worst) and my God, there was plenty of it! I couldn’t eat all of it. Although the size of the steak was on the small side, it was a decent quality. The fried plantain were the stars of the meal though – A and I wolfed those right now.

I’d definitely use Housebites again. It’s not the cheapest option when it comes to takeaway – our order was about £25 (inc delivery), but it made a lovely change from MSG-esque chinese or oily curry takeouts. And today’s a Friday, it’s payday – so why not?! Go on, treat yourself.

Housebites isn’t available country-wide yet, but it is spreading.

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