Tag Archives: Restaurant Review

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Restaurant Review – On the Bab, Old Street, EC1V

I have acquired a Korean food expert in my family. She is an expert because she’s Korean. Well, she’s American but her parents are from Korea. I have acquired her because my brother had the good fortune of her agreeing to marry him. The first time I ever had Korean food, my sister-in-law (let’s call her Irene, as that’s her name), Irene’s mum ordered it for about 20 people at a Korean restaurant in LA. It looked like this:

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Korean food in LA is good, but I had no point of comparison apart from Irene’s Mom’s cooking, which is excellent. If, like me pre-2005, you don’t know what Korean food is like it’s a lot of barbecued marinated meats, pickled vegetables, noodles, spicy sauces – that kind of thing.

In recent times, I’ve tried Bibimbap in Soho, which is alright for a quick meal. And then last week I went to On the Bab, a Korean place in Shoreditch that had been recommended to me by the great and good of Twitter. I don’t really feel that optimistic about Korean food in London as it’s not like there’s a booming Korean community here. Not that you need a massive community but it does seem to help, like the amazing Chinese food in San Fran or the Jewish food in New York. ANYWAY, on to On the Bab…

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I went for a takeaway option, ‘cos I gotta work yeah? On the smaller-than-eat-in take out menu they do a range of dishes including bibimbap with bulgogi (a barbecued marinated beef), which I got. It took a pretty long time to arrive, but that means it’s fresh right? As I waited I was asked to go outside with all the other takeout gang. There’s no waiting area and the restaurant is pretty small, so kind of understandable and I was amiable about this because it was sunny. UNLIKE the huddle of ladies at the counter who muttered “Go outside? Us? He can’t mean us! Let’s just stay here,” because apparently they were too good for the pavement unlike me – pavement troll extraordinaire.

I eventually got my plastic bowl and scuttled back to the office. Here’s what it looked like:

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My work buddy Kat looked over in disgust. “What IS that?” she said. “Um, barbecued meat, pickled vegetables, rice and a fried egg,” I replied trying to sound casual and like it was a nice lunch she should be jealous of. “Sounds RANK!” she said, turning back to her screen.

It wasn’t rank, but it wasn’t amazing either. The egg was ok – the runny yolk leaked pleasingly into the disk, the beef wasn’t without flavour but also I can’t really remember it being standout which says something. The rest was just vegetables so really, what skill is there? They were… nicely chopped?

Maybe I went for the wrong thing, maybe I am being a dullard snob, but I should be able to pick the national dish and expect it to be done with some flair. Especially as it cost me £10. It was just lacking… lustre. I think what London needs is a decent Korean restaurant, but I am yet to find it…

Service: 1
Venue: 4
Value: 1
Overall: 4/10

On the Bab, 305 Old Street, EC1V 9LA

Nearest tube: Old Street (5min walk)

On The Bab on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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

Restaurant Review – Shake Shack, Covent Garden Piazza

Shake Shack Shack Burger

I have to make a  confession – I have turned into everything I thought I was not. I, Zoe, went and queued on the opening day for something. I have never done it before (and don’t plan on doing it again). I have always judged people who have queued for Harry Potter books, Apple Stores or Kate Moss at Topshop; “Those idiots,” I bleated to myself. “They’ve been sucked in by consumerism. They are the advertisers’ dream, giving press to these events!” Then I became one of them. Grim. So what made me become a massive hypocrite? Burgers. Yes, a hot, greasy sandwich. Forgive me.

In case you don’t live in London/live under a rock (same thing? I JEST!), Shake Shack opened in London last Friday to great fan fare. The hype was huge. They’re from New York! They make burgers! I had one at Dubai airport! Wow, the stakes were high – and so were the queue levels. YET STILL I went along.

Here’s the Shake Shack menu:

Shake Shack's London menu
Shake Shack’s London menu

Yes, you’re right, that is £7.50 for a burger. No, it does not come with fries. No, there is not table service. What there IS is a massive, hour-long queue manned by harmless yet slightly annoying Shake Shack workers who try to enforce the British queuers to do “mexican waves”. We’re British – we love queuing and we hate enforced fun. Know your audience, Shake Shack. Eesh.

So you queue for an hour to go into a little, noisy hut to place your order. It’s like the world’s smallest McDonalds with Kiss FM playing so loudly you have to shout your order (and they get it wrong anyway). I have photo evidence:

Inside Shake Shack's ordering "hut".
Inside Shake Shack’s ordering “hut”.

 

Aside from burgers, SS do “custards” (read: milkshakes) and “concretes” (read: McFlurries). They have interesting flavours (chocolate, vanilla… haha, I kid. They do have those flavours but they have other things like, um, sea salt and brownies and jam etc). They also do crinkle fries and crinkle fries with plastic nacho cheese on top (bleurgh). I will never cheat on MEATLiquor’s chilli cheese fries with those nacho-carby things.

So then you order and go and find a table. Someone might help you find a table – there were loads of employees there (that might die down though after the first wave of enthusiasm). You get a buzzer thing and they buzz you when your food is ready. Then you go to a window, get your order, realise your order is wrong, ask a man to get you the right order, wait 10 minutes and he brings you the right burger after everyone else has finished their burgers.

Here’s what my burger looked like (clue: it looked like a BURGER):

Shake Shack Shack Burger
Shake Shack Shack Burger

Inside the burger:

Inside the SS burger
Inside the SS burger

The burger was nice, yeah. Moist, meaty, but overall slightly bland. It had nothing that made it stand out as being worth queuing for an hour. I like burgers too. I love MEATLiquor et al. I just found this burger REALLY underwhelming. I do not understand the hype. The concrete was fine. But just that: fine.

So I feel like Shake Shack are going to clean up because everyone is like me, and gets excited by hype and has to see it for themselves, but ultimately I feel like there are a lot of home-grown places in London doing far more interesting and better burgers. It all just felt slightly soulless and deflating.

Service: 3

Venue: 2

Value: 1

Overall: 4/10

Shake Shack, 24, Market Building, The Piazza  Covent Garden, London, Greater London WC2E 8RD

Nearest tube: Covent Garden (3 min walk – maybe more depending on how many annoying tourists are in the way)

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

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:

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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

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