RSS Feed
  1. Pullman Dining Carriage | London to Exeter

    February 15, 2015 by Dini

    Train fine dining

    10 February 2015


    When Great First Western invited me to travel in style from London Paddington to Exeter St. Davids in Pullman first class style, I thought ‘why not?. It is definitely an experience, and something I wouldn’t ordinarily do. My alternative would probably be what most do, a quick basket dash in M&S convenience for a stockpile of sandwiches and snacks and just make do.

    As a result of my experience, I’ve realised ‘making do’ really isn’t the best… if you have:

    1) the finances

    2) journey time is sufficient to enjoy a leisurely three course meal

    3) missed a lunch or supper time service on destination arrival

    If you’ve got a big tick next to all of the above, then you’ll easily be converted to the idea of train fine dining. Of course, the major clincher was the fact that Mitch Tonks (famed seafood restaurateur of The Seahorse,  Rockpool and consultant for Hawksmoor Air St) created the menu, with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients from the south coast of England (train final destinations).


    A quick trip to the galley in the carriage next to our dining car, revealed Chris; our Chef for our service. He looked unflappable in the small, swelteringly hot galley (which couldn’t have been bigger than 6x 2 metres), I was in sheer astoundment how he managed to rattle off  three courses for twenty diners in the carriage.


    Image c/o Mitch Tonks

    Image c/o Mitch Tonks

    On to the food…

    Starter: Dressed South Devon crab (£10*) ~ fresh and succulent flakes of crab from Brixham (as Mitch put it, more superior than Cromer’s finest)

    Main: Ox cheek in Sharpham wine, Somerset quince jelly, roast new potatoes, courgettes and cauliflower cheese (£26*) ~ I am a massive slow cooker fan of cuts such as ox cheek and shank braised in this way. The meat becomes so tender it falls apart. The quince jelly had just enough bite to cut through the richness.

    Dessert: ‘The Seahorse’ olive oil and pine nut cake with Blackmore Vale dairy mascarpone and grappa syrup (£9*) ~ a moist and light sponge laden with the hint of grappa , followed by West country cheese board (£9*)

    Wine: Cornish wines by Knightor, selected by Mitch Tonks to accompany the menu (at £27* for 2013 Trevannion 75cl) as well as few more glasses of  a fab Jean-Jacques Bardin Sancerre, Loire – 2013 (£19* for 37.5cl).

    Cautionary notes:

    I learnt quickly that there is a certain knack to dining on a train, a sudden jolt, break or twist on the track, means your table components can roll or fly in directions (including your lap). Therefore, diners ought to have swift reflex manoeuvres, this did cause much banter between the brilliant serving staff (who were learning silver service literally on the job) and diners. Secondly, being spoilt with a sumptuous lunch or dinner might mean the onset of a ‘carb coma’, but do stay alert as you don’t want to miss your stop! I did wistfully wonder if Hercule Poirot might tap me on the shoulder or if I might sit next to a Peter Whitman type (Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling Limited) in the glamour and splendour of a vintage dining carriage but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Thankfully, the only crime on board, was the fact Exeter arrived in no time at all and I needed to hot foot it off the train.

    I was informed by our waiting staff that breakfasts and late weekday journeys were the busiest of the services on daily journeys and is actually bookable for those with a first class ticket or ordinary ticket holders if seats are available. Click here, if you’d like to find out more about First Great Western’s Pullman routes.


    *Please note: I received a complimentary ticket and dining experience on this occasion, where I have labelled prices, this is for your reading reference. Prices of the dishes are inclusive of mineral water, bread rolls from Pullin’s bakery, Somerset farmhouse butter, accompanying seasonal vegetables and coffee or tea.


  2. Gymkhana | Michelin Indian style

    February 15, 2014 by Dini

    Birthday private dining


    15th February 2014

    Birthdays are smashing, an occasion for good company and pushing the boat out. With this in mind, Gymkhana was my first port of call for luncheon date with a gaggle of five gregarious girlfriends. Since opening in Mayfair in the autumn of 2013, it had been a hot ticket and I wanted to get in before gaining an inevitable Michelin star*, like it’s sister restaurant, Trishna in Marylebone.

    After some wrangling in the form of telephone queues, emails and a visit to see Front of House, I landed the plush private dining vault in the basement. A group on a budget, I was also granted the set three course lunch,for £30, as a ‘one-off’ as the vault is normally chargeable for a higher priced tasting menu. I took this as a minor win in addition to my determination to land a hotly contested table.

    Image c/o The Independent

    Image c/o The Independent

    Soft mood lighting, swathes of cushioned velvet banquettes and no worry of your table being turned at the two hour mark are three thankful advantages of dining in the vault. Starting as we meant to go on, aperitifs to hit our table included carafes of punches and a couple of Bloody Mary’s.


    The punch above is the ‘Bombay Presidency’ namely ordered as it featured Ceylon Arrack, poignant as a tipple from my motherland. I loved the theatre of pouring my punch over ice and grating the fragrant nutmeg as a garnish.

    To share and try as many dishes as possible, we tried a combination of all of the dishes available on the set menu. We also ordered recommended dishes such as the vindaloo suckling pig, which was so tender it fell apart and the Dosa with Chetinaad duck and coconut chutney.

    I rarely go for an ‘Indian’, as a Sri Lankan I can dine from sub-continent dishes at home. Therefore, to pay for it, is certainly an extravagance, and to be disappointed is just dismaying. Having dined at Trishna (Gymkhana’s sister restaurant) previously and enjoyed my experience, I knew it wouldn’t be a disappointment, it’s worth a visit just for the superb wine flights. The reason why I chose Gymkhana is that it takes Indian food and raises the sophistication bar. It isn’t the paneer or chicken I could even dream of recreating myself. I would say though that the dal  (lentils) dish didn’t cut the mustard with me, it just didn’t have any punch. Notably dal is a subjective dish, where most have a bias towards their regional style of preparation, whether with tomatoes, mixed lentil varieties or with a kick of dried red chillies.

    Would I go back? In a heartbeat… the ambience, sumptuous surroundings and delicacies on offer leave you fulfilled in every way. For an afternoon, you can definitely feel like a Maharani, transported back to the days of the Raj. There is of course an underlying hankering to make another reservation there and then, to return to try more dishes or work your way through the dangerously good cocktail list.

    *Added note in 2014 – Gymkhana has since been voted National restaurant of the year and gained one Michelin star, to be included in the 2015 guide.

    42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH
    020 3011 5900

  3. Chateau Marmot

    November 13, 2013 by Dini

           A transatlantic voyage of  international bistronomy


    8th November 2013

    Oh what a night, it was definitely a ‘transatlantic voyage’ as the menu had described. Tonight’s Chateau Marmot temporary dining experience was created and exacted by the talented Laurent Quenioux (LQ) and entourage flown in from LA. The location was a minimalist warehouse in deepest darkest Shadwell, sharing a clandestine back street with The Times newspaper HQ, Pennington Street.

    Laurent Quenioux (LQ)

    Laurent Quenioux (LQ)

    The six course menu (£49) was a circle navigation of the globe, one could say fusion cooking, but as LQ calls it ‘international bistronomy’. I especially like the fact he had taken heed to ensure ingredients were seasonal showcasing root vegetables, venison, chestnut, and persimmon, to name a few.

    Rosana was my dining partner, we both settled upon the Butlers ‘75 (£10) as an aperitif to kick off the evening. It was a heady little number, fizzing with both champagne and small batch gin, aiding our bubbly conversation for the rest of the night. To accompany the rest of the courses, we shared a taste of the 125ml glass wine flights on offer: The Marmot (£26) and the Haute Marmot (£36), giving us a chance to compare and contrast the matches and see what worked best.

    Course 1: A refreshing dish, with hints of spice from chipotle, cleansing guacamole and delicately soft razor clams.

    Course 1: Razor clams, guacamole, carrot pico de gallo, chipotle, huitlacoche

    Course 1: Razor clams, guacamole, carrot pico de gallo, chipotle, huitlacoche


    Course 2: I’d never had venison rare before, the addition of the raw quails egg was a great binding agent but didn’t mask the taste. In the past when I’d tasted venison, it would have a rich gamey taste, this didn’t, it was fresh and held it’s own. I loved the yuzu, giving a real citrus zing. Wine 1: Percheron Old Vine Cinsault or Richard Rottiers Moulin a Vent

    South Downs venison tartare, yuzu kosho shisho gel, basil seeds, chocolate soil, chicken liver, cardamom

    South Downs venison tartare, yuzu kosho shisho gel, basil seeds, chocolate soil, chicken liver, cardamom


    Course 3: I found the aji chile amarillo piquant against the salmon. The addition of samphire, was pleasing, not adding colour to the plate but additional seasoning, to awaken the root veg. Wine 2: Laurent – Perrier Brut NV (served for both flights)

    Salmon crudo, aji chile Amarillo, parsnip/swede/turnip salad, watercress & tarragon varnish

    Salmon crudo, aji chile Amarillo, parsnip/swede/turnip salad, watercress & tarragon varnish


    Course 4:  By breaking the soft hen’s egg, it cleverly gave extra body to the chowder. The sliver of foie gras was sufficient enough to add richness to the crispy hushpuppie. Wine 3: Macon Charney or Riva Ranch Chardonnay

    Chestnut chowder, bacon, corn, pumpkin pie spices, poached hen’s egg, huckleberry hushpuppie, foie gras

    Chestnut chowder, bacon, corn, pumpkin pie spices, poached hen’s egg, huckleberry hushpuppie, foie gras


    Course 5: This  was one of my favourite courses, down to the superb quality of the pork, my knife cut through it like butter, shredding so easily. The mash was unusual in that it was a potato -plantain combination, thankfully that was less avant-garde than had it actually been banana. Wine 4: Borsao Garnacha or Charge Rioja

    Slow cooked pork cheek “parmentier style”, banana mash potato, Cointreau, confit shallots

    Slow cooked pork cheek “parmentier style”, banana mash potato, Cointreau, confit shallots


    Course 6: It was the first time I had tasted persimmon, it’s orange hue is so distinctive in the market stalls at the moment, so was glad to try it. The pudding  slightly sweet but dense with the fruit pulp, I loved the textures of indulgent panna cotta, ice cream against the tart sticky gel. Wine 5: Williams & Humbert 12YO Oloroso or H& H Madeira

    pudding, corn streusel, corn panna cotta, barley ice cream, cranberry gel

    pudding, corn streusel, corn panna cotta, barley ice cream, cranberry gel

    Artisanal cheese board: An expertly chosen selection of complementing European cheese. I especially loved the Livarot AOC (a first for me) and a favourite of mine, Comte AOC, it’s nuttiness blended with the tart hedgerow jelly. Wine 6: The Wolftrapp Red, SA (£7)

    Artisanal cheese board: Golden Cross Goat (UK), Ossau Iraty (France), Comte AOC (France), Livarot AOC (France), Haford Organic Cheddar (Wales), Fourme D’Ambert AOC (France) – served with CM hedgerow jelly, chutney and crackers

    Artisanal cheese board: Golden Cross Goat (UK), Ossau Iraty (France), Comte AOC (France), Livarot AOC (France), Haford Organic Cheddar (Wales), Fourme D’Ambert AOC (France) – served with CM hedgerow jelly, chutney and crackers


    A lot of care, attention and expert planning went into the menu creation, ingredients sourcing and presentation of these dishes. I loved the textural contrasts, plenty of firsts for me and supreme excellence in plating to draw your eye to each and every little detail. If you see the chance to dine at CM or at an LQ event, I can’t recommend it enough. As a touring experience there’s another one in November 2013 in London and a couple in Bath in December 2013. If you’d like to attend a dining experience like this, then check out updates from Grub club and for LQ or CM specifically.

    *Rosana (Hot & Chilli) was invited along for a complimentary meal to blog the experience and I took up the offer as her plus one and it’s her photos that kindly grace this blog.


  4. Bea’s @ Maltby Street

    May 26, 2012 by Dini

    Saturday Sugar Rush

    Bea’s is a ’boutique’ chain of cake, come sweet things eateries, with 3 outlets in London and Maltby St, serving up Saturday fayre. Cupcakes aren’t really my thing and even Bea’s didn’t capture my imagination, so I was looking for something different. Hence, when I heard Maltby St regulars not only regaling about St Johns doughnuts, but Bea’s breakfasts’ too, I was intrigued to find out more…

    Beas signage

    Housed in a railway bridge arch, close to London Bridge, it’s quite a unique location. On Saturday’s, Bea usually shares the space with Rachel McCormack (supremo of all things Catalan), lends the space on Sundays to @Roast_Sunday and has just started up Tuesday film nights.  Bea’s ethos for a small business is a noble one, ensuring good quality, locally sourced ingredients, waste food is composted and using energy efficient induction cooking methods. I especially like the fact, that she has a summer rooftop garden for a fresh and direct  supply of herbs and vegetables – nothing like growing your own!

    The Arch

    Having gorged on a delicious St Johns doughut, that sweet fix was only the beginning, as thankfully at 10.30am there was no queue at Bea’s. Our gaggle of food bloggers hit the benches to start a sumptuous breakfast banquet, of calories and delight. I guess one could say we took over the joint, with our over-zealous photography (via smart-phone, SLR’s and compact cameras) and re-arrangement of the benches to accomodate our table of twelve (by the end, as the ‘food-loving twitterverse’, started to join us). Sorry Bea, for creating a little bit of chaos, but at least we ate with happy hearts.
    A simple offering of breakfast classics were on the offing, so the six original diners, ordered one of each, so we could have a biteful and pass it on, trying everything and not wanting for anything. Sometimes, especially in a new restaurant, I suffer from pangs of food envy, but thankfully I’m always with someone who’ll allow me a bite and vice-versa. This option of filling the table and creating our own human lazy-susan, suited me to a tee.
    Breakfast dishes
    Our selection: American style pancakes (plain or with blueberries) – we opted for cream and a side of bacon, French toast with sides of caramelised banana and walnuts and macerated strawberries and eggs benedict. This was quite an order, but could be forgiven as eventually shared between eight of us!
    Pancakes & cream
    My favourite, was the simplest of all the plain pancakes, drizzled with copious amounts of maple syrup and with the cream and bacon. Real comfort eating, that hits the spot. I loved the accompanying sides with the French toast, great textural contrasts, but with such a generous wedge of brioche, I preffered the lighter and fluffier pancakes. I have to say the portion size is really generous (the split bill costing us £8 each including a drink), so the portion could easily be shared between two, if you don’t have a healthy appetite.
    If there’s ever a queue for the Arch or you haven’t the time to dine in, Bea has created her own empire at Maltby Street, around the corner you can find her husband Franz, running a delicious Austrian stall with regional cheeses and cooked treats.
    Cheese dumplings with sides

    On offer were cheese dumplings, with poatoes/salad – I sampled a dumpling and they were deliciously crispy on the exterior and oozing with a cheese filling. The strudel also looked divine, dusted in a plentiful amount of icing sugar, something to try for next time. I asked him if he’d be doing another Austrian supperclub, as he had done last year (as I’d heard such good things about it), alas no. However he did let slip that they’ve just bought a food truck, so he’ll be hitting Eat Street (Kings Cross), with his Austrian fayre – a great addition, to the mix.

    For the sweet toothed, theres’s also a cake stall, selling her signature cakes and treats. Always decadently merchandised to entice and ensure that you take home at least one item for later.
    After lazily exploring the rest of Maltby Street, we saw on twitter that Bea was trialling her new range of ice-lollies. So we made a four o’clock pitt-stop, to investigate. On offer were a range of sublime ice-cream and sorbet styles.
    Lolly galore
    Flavours included: coffee, Pimms & lemonade, ginger & raspberries and strawbeeries & cream. My favourite was probably the sweet ginger one, using a stem ginger syrup, it was powerfully zingy but mellowed out by the tart raspberries. I submitted my ice-lolly cart naming suggestions of “Torvill & Cream” and “Ice, Ice, Baby”, the week before on Bea’s twitter request, so we’ll see what she eventually names it!
    Quite a foodie extravaganza catered by Bea, Franz and Crew, and worthwhile trying, if you fancy relaxing with friends, for a simple brunch or tea-time treat.
    Timings: Saturdays 9/10am – until it’s all gone! (around 2pm ish)
    Address: Bea’s of Bloomsbury at Maltby Street Market, Arch 76, Druid Street, London, SE1 2HQ

  5. Seventeen Notting Hill

    May 22, 2012 by Dini

    Sichuan Bloggers Dinner

    May 2012

    Chinese food is a cuisine that I know little about, having spent a week in Guangzhou and just two days in Beijing, my food adventures extended to finding out about Chefs’ love of ‘nose to tail’ especially in garnishes and visiting a snake restaurant, where the snakes’ heart and blood were prized over.  When Mark (the GM at Seventeen), a Sichuan-Chinese restaurant, in Notting Hill invited me to a bloggers dinner, I accepted but hoped that tripe and exotic meat were off the menu…

    17 Notting Hill

    My only knowledge of Sichuan, was of the peppercorns and of course their inclusion in five spice seasoning, one of my favourites. Therein, I knew it was going to be a ‘hot’ dinner…  I was welcomed into the basement of this Chinoserie decorated restaurant and a glass of sparkling wine to start off the proceedings. Pre-starter nibbles included boiled peanuts and pickled vegetables

    Pickled vegetables

    Seventeen Skewers Platter – had grilled lamb, that had been marinated in cumin and fiery Sichuan chilli

    Lamb skewers

    Sichuan style fish – This was a dish that involved poaching the soft grouper fish and then leaving to infuse in oil with a bountiful amount of red chillies

    Sichuan style fish

    We were asked if we’d like the chillies strained off, the usual presentation to table, but the daring table resisted and went in for the kill…

    You can see from the photo below, we didn’t even manage to make a dent on the chillies, as there was an immense amount of them.

    Leftover chillies

    Sichuan Beef shank – This was served cold, a mouth quelching contrast to the heat of the previous dish. It was also a stand-out dish as the meat was so tender and soft, that I think the Chef may have used a velveting technique, in the preparation

    Beef shank

    Chongqing Chicken – This was another cold dish, but fiery in it’s concoction of dried red chillies, Sichuan peppercorns and sesame seeds. I wasn’t a fan of this, as it was a little greasy and not sure how I felt about it’s temperature, I’m okay with a cold salad, but not so with ‘curry’ type dishes

    Chongqing Chicken

    Wok fried Gai Lan – I loved the heady quantity of garlic laced through this dish, certainly enough to keep the vampires away but taste buds in check

    Wok fried Gai Lan

    Twice cooked pork – suitably fatty from using pork belly, the pork had a good contrast against crunchy vegetables and soft chillies

    Twice cooked pork

    Dry fried green beans with minced pork – another stand-out dish and reminded me of the Laon dish, Laab, a great side dish to perk up rice with

    Green beans with minced pork

    There has been a common thread  with all the mains and side dishes to this point and that is – CHILLIES, this restaurant certainly challenges the Scoville scale barometer, but done in an artful way. I’m not going to lie, it’s hot, I didn’t suffer from heart-burn, but did need a good cool down and certainlly made my heart race a little faster…

    For the cooling down period, a helping hand was given with a dessert of Mango pudding, just like a soft set mousse

    Mango dessert

    Next up were mochi balls (I know traditionally Japanese, but looking at their dessert menu, there’s usually only western dishes, so this was a trial) – glutinous rice balls stuffed with a sweet black seasame filling and rolled in crushed peanuts. I’ve tried these once, before at Feng Sushi and preferred these ones because of the contrast of the crunchy exterior to the soft centre

    Mochi balls

    Finally came Chinese tea, served in a dainty pot and cups. This was well indeed to soothe and aid digestion for the night

    Chinese tea

    This is a Chinese restaurant that offers a mix of the typical dishes a westerner would expect and want as well as authentic dishes that would appeal to a native (such as tripe and the several abalone dishes – or perhaps that is catering to the Notting Hill set?). It ticks boxes and the prices seem reasonable (for Notting Hill) at £38 for a set dinner menu.

    Thanks to our host Mark and Chefs on the night, for the entertaining evening and complimentary meal

    I really want to find out more about the cuisine and dishes, so I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be perusing Fuchsia Dunlop’s blog and reading her memoir: Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper!



    Address: Seventeen, 17 Notting Hill Gate, London, W11 3JQ
    Telephone no: 0207 985 0006


    Seventeen on Urbanspoon

  6. Street Feast

    May 16, 2012 by Dini

    Street Feast – In the beginning…

    May 2012

    Nestling around the corner from Brick Lane lies the Scalter street carpark, and the host venue for the inaugural ‘Street Feast’.  London’s appetite for street food fayre is at full throng with markets and pop-ups springing up across the capital. A few favourites from already popular markets have formed the collective for this Friday night shindig.

    Here’s a video of some of the highlights:

    (thanks to Street Feast / Yin & Yang’s for the use of their youtube video)

    What sets this market apart from the others, is that it’s a night-time affair with a fully licensed bar and dining room aptly named ‘The Carwash’, because it usually is one!

    It’s a little rough round the edges but the table service and vibe more than compensates for the surroundings.

    My first visit’s street feast picks were:

    The Rib Man – moreish and tender pork ribs, falling off the bone and smothered in a choice of BBQ or Holy F*uck hot sauce


    Mama’s Jerk Station – Spicy chicken with a cooling mix of salad and a jazzed up tropical mayo


    Homeslice – Fresh wood-fire baked thin crust pizza’s with simple but delicious toppings, such as chorizo, rocket and parmesan

    Which means next time I need to make a beeline to check out …

    Big Apple Hot Dogs, Hardcore Prawn and  The Bowler – I tasted the hotdogs before and know it’s a great offering and read review on the others, so curious to try out… I’m sure the vendors will come and go as the weeks go on, but it’s good to see how they mix things up and create wacky executions of their classics like the HomeSlice – RibMan mash-up pizza (as seen at Eat Street) and Beas of Bloomsbury’ deep fried brownies (as seen at Stock MKT).

    I don’t recommend that you dart there for 5pm before the crowds as the vendors will probably be still be setting up and getting going. Give them a chance to set up by having a post work drink then come over, I have a feeling the street feast party vibe kicked in post 9pm, judging by tweets that night…

    Street Feast is usually held on Friday nights
    Website:  – for updates on venues
    twitter: @StreetFeastLDN

  7. London’s French Dips

    April 23, 2012 by Dini

    Dunkin’ a Sarnie…

    21st April 2012

     My first introduction to the ‘French Dip’ was at my recent visit to the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar. There, I tried a cheese oozing brioche bun filled with beef and  gravy or mustard, for dunking. This was a revelation and a definite ‘comfort eating’ addition, to add to my favourite treats.

    Short rib French dip

    Hawksmoor Short Rib French Dip

    Twitter enlightened me that Rosie (a Food Journalist) and her friend Andrew, were setting up a French Dip stall in Brixton Market, so I was keen to try out their version. Tempted by Rosie’s preparations, on her twitter feed, I knew it would be a good thing…

    Scotch Beef Joint

    Scotch Beef Joint - pic c/o @RosieFoodie

    The Scotch beef from Moen & Sons, was PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) standard,  it was tender due to the slow roasting from the day before. The buns had been baked by Kindred Bakery, the recipe developed especially for London French Dip. I’d say for this type of baguette bun, you need more than a double dip, so that the bun’s truly drenched. Andrew told me he was being conservative with dunking, as some may add mustard and didn’t want the bun to go soggy. I’m not a mustard fan, so went without, but  I did love but the accompanying pickled gherkin garnish, it was a tasty addition.

    Kindred Bakery Buns

    Kindred Bakery Buns

    I loved the Team’s hands-on attitude, from sign writing to cooking all from scratch. Their positivity didn’t dip, even with the adverse weather, however they did have a support team on hand. It was also cool that they found Brixton suppliers, ‘keeping it local’ as well as ‘real’.

    For a Stateside comparison, @Cupcake_Kelly recently posted about a Tennessee version at Sweet Celebration’s  – Their classic ‘Short French Dip’ is made with “Warm Angus roast beef and Swiss cheese served with hot au juice” priced at $8.49 whole or $5.49 half. I like the idea of a dunking bowl or gravy boat, not sure about the crisps side though!

    I guess a lot of the above is subjective, to individual’s taste and preferences … how much to dunk, what bread (French baguette or brioche bun), cheese or no cheese? The Hawksmoor offering is priced at £10, you of course have the bells and whistles of dining in a swish bar, a cocktail in hand and central heating. The London French Dip Team’s offering was well priced at £4, considering they used good quality meat and buns.

    London French Dip Sign

    London French Dip Sign


    You can follow London French Dip (@LondonFrenchDip) on Twitter for updates and their stall location, they hope to be at the Saturday market, on a monthly basis and are considering different roasting meats… so watch this space…

    Hawksmoor Spitalfields: 157 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ
    Telephone No: 020 7426 4856


  8. Wild Serai’s Malay St. Food

    April 12, 2012 by Dini

    Malaysian Brunch Feast

    9th April 2012

    My Easter Monday’s, are usually a lazy day, for recovering from Easter eggs’ excess and watching a James Bond or Ben Hur repeat on the telly. This year, I found myself making a trek to New Malden, in high winds and rain, all in the name of street food.  I knew Yolanda (our Wild Serai supperclub host) would pull out the stops, as she’d co-hosted a previous supperclub, with Goz (Plus-Six-Five), also a diner at the brunch.

    Wild Serai Table
    Wild Serai Table

    The table was set simply, with batik floral printed cloths and fresh flowers. Giant Keropok (shrimp crackers) were piled high on our tables, which I found irrestitable, a bit of a school girl error, to start filling up on such trifles, when so much was to follow…

    Shrimp crackers

    Shrimp crackers

    Sharif (Yolanda’s boyfriend) earnt his brownie points that day, as he barbecued our meat in the adverse weather conditions, for the starters. The chicken and beef skewers were tender and so much better having been charcoal barbecued, as opposed to just being griddled. The satay sauce was delicious, a crunchy consistency, balanced with freshness from red onion and cucumber chunks.

    Meat skewers

    Meat skewers

    Satay Sauce

    Satay Sauce


    The Mee Goreng Mamak, was executed really well. The noodles were plump and were coated well, in the spicy sauce, without any greasy residue. There was a lovely balance of seafood, with juicy tiger prawns, sliced fish balls and cake and decorated with fried onions.

    Mee Goreng Mamak

    Mee Goreng Mamak

    Next up was the Penang Rojak. I visited Penang (Malaysia), a few years ago and it is known as a ‘Hawker’s Paradise’. I tried the Rojak there as I was told it was a speciality of the area. I recalled that there was a variety of fresh and deep fried items that could be selected (like a pick-a-mix) and the thick treacle like, sticky sauce was ladled on, hence it’s translation ‘mixture’. Wild Serai’s version was a heady mix of pineapple, turnip (which was not my favourite, a little hard), deep-fried tofu (deliciously porous, soaking up the sauce) and fresh cucumber. This was a lighter sweet and sour sauce, using prawn paste and tamarind. The plate was garnished with nuts and rice-crackers.

    Penang Rojak

    Penang Rojak

    Roti Jala, was a new dish on me, I’m more akin to Roti Canai (a cross between a paratha and roti) for soaking up my curry sauce. Roti Jala was a thin and latticed pancake. The Jala referring to a ladle with five holes, thereby creating the patterned pancake.  The roti was accompanied with a tender Malay lamb curry, which had been tenderly cooked on the bone. It was medium in chilli heat, cooked in coconut milk, making it rich and creamy.

    Roti Jala & Lamb Curry

    Roti Jala & Lamb Curry

    Nasi Lemak and at (60 sen) referring to the Malaysian price you can pick this street food breakfast staple up for. Normally sold on road-sides parcelled up beautifully in banana leaf pyramids. From afar, the street carts selling them look like topiary displays. Likewise, our plates were ‘cleaned’ by the placing of a fresh banana leaf, to eat from. Dainty, heart scooped coconut rice piles were decorated with boiled quails eggs, ikan bilis in Grandma’s special sauce and Nyonya fried chicken. I am such a fan of ikan bilis (dried anchovies), that I love it in anything, whether it be curry, sambals, omlettes and even salad garnishes. This was real soul food, again the textures were so wonderful together, even something as simple as the fried chicken, had been marinated for 48 hours in curry leaves, shrimp paste, lemongrass and blue ginger, making it really crispy and tasty.

    Nasi Lemak 60 sen

    Nasi Lemak 60 sen

    Dessert came in the form of an adapted version of Ais Kacang. Beautiful shaved ice, drizzled with evaporated milk, rose and palm sugar syrup, sweet corn kernels, tapioca pearls, red beans, sea coconuts (a cross in texture and taste between rambuttan and lychee) and jelly (mango and honey-dew melon).

    Ais Kacang

    Ais Kacang

    Every stir, uncovered new assortment of sweet jewels, bursting with flavour, I absolutely loved the combinations.

    Ais Kacang stirred

    Ais Kacang stirred

    A much needed caffeine pick-me up came with Teh tarik (pulled tea), still frothy from being poured at height between two metal tumblers or jugs. Sweet, Malaysian tea, made with black tea and a combination of evaporated and condensed milk.

    Pulled Tea

    Pulled Tea

    Not that I needed it, as I was so full of food and contentment, by this point. However, how could I resist just one small banana fritter?  This for me, was a true hark back to my childhood, as it was a typical tea-time treat that my Mother would make, using up any over-ripened bananas.

    Banana fritters

    Banana fritters

    I hugely enjoyed the Wild Serai Seafood Feast and this was indeed a great contender to it, showcasing some great street food. For the vast quantity and selection dishes, £25 is a bargain. Yes, ok in Malaysia this street food is a pittance in £ terms, however this pricing needs to be compared to a ‘dining out’ experience in London and it fares extremely well on value, execution and consideration of diners.

    New Malden, normally famed for it’s ‘Little Korea’ (a collection of Korean take-aways, eateries and supermarkets), handy for stocking up, getting your fill of Kimchee or taking a peek as I did through the windows. Alas, I was full on my return to the station, but a little Sushi lady vendor (I know, Japanese not Korean – before you say it), right in the station’s entrance, caught me eye. With a steely look, she meant business and I’m sure could take on any trouble with her sushi roll-mat. Something, for another visit, but how I’ll be able to resist the beckon of Wild Serai’s Malaysian food, I’m not sure…

    To find out about more Wild Serai events check on the  Read more about Malaysian Street Food Brunch on Edible Experiences site or sign up to their mailing list here.

  9. Eat Scandi

    April 6, 2012 by Dini


    The ‘Scandilicious’ Way


    Signe Johansen, otherwise known as ‘Scandilicious’ on twitter and her eponymous first cookbook, hosted a Scandinavian Smörgåsbord feast, fit for the most ardent of carb-lovers. Held at the spacious Holloway apartment of @chuchibum (Hannah, co-host), once the guests started eating, we simply didn’t stop being spoilt with treats, constantly flowing from the kitchen. This was the first brunch held in March, I didn’t mind this, as Signe’s excellent baking reputation proceeded her and she rolled out a stellar performance.

    The table was dressed with single flower heads and rhubarb stems in vases. I especially liked the cute jug, inscribed with  ‘modestly small jug’ and the wall hanging ‘keep calm and keep kissing’. All comforting touches, in addition to our hosts’ warm welcomes and hospitality, to put diners at ease.

    Bloody Mary

    Bloody Mary

    On arrival, we were treated to an aperitif of a ‘Scandi’ Bloody Mary (I opted for the boozy variety, made with Aquavit, tomato juice and spiced up with horseradish and dill). The table was decorated with savoury muffins, deliciously soft and moreish.

    Jarlsberg & Fennel Muffin

    Jarlsberg & Fennel Muffin

    This was washed down with the rather virtuous ‘Green Goddess’, a cucumber, mint, ginger and apple juice concoction. A pretty zingy and cleansing combination.

    Green Goddess

    Green Goddess

    Next arrived, homemade yoghurt with sweet n’ crispy rye granola.

    I couldn’t resist but add Signe’s Queen’s compote (a blueberry and raspberry jammy mix) making a ribboned swirl.

    Queen's Compote

    Queen's Compote

    This was a medley of textures and taste, soured yoghurt, crunchy nuggets of sweetened granola and sticky compote.

    Having the choice between cardamom and cinnamon and cardamom buns, my favourite were the latter. I thought the combined spices worked well together. These were delicious by themselves or smothered in the Queen’s compote.

    Cinnamon & Cardamom buns

    Cinnamon & Cardamom Buns

    Next up, was another refreshment, a divine smoothie made with: raspberry, vanilla, ginger, blended with peanut butter. This was so delicious, fruity with a creamy, nutty edge from the peanut butter.



    To the main event: Gravadlax. Juicy morsels of sliced salmon, dressed with dill, in a sweet and salty cure.

    Gravadlax & Celariac

    Gravadlax & Celariac

    Signe served the salmon with baked celeriac crowns, with a Halen Mon smoked sea salt crust. This was a completely new way of eating celeriac for me, I’d have never have thought of salting and eating the crust. The celariac was quite starchy, so great to have the silky contrast of salmon and hardened salt crust of it’s skin.

    There were also Peter’s Yard sourdough crispbreads, laiden in beautiful biscuit tins, to drape salmon on. Being resourecful, even the circular discs of the crispbreads were utilised, dressed with dill and a dash of Norwegian Kaviar (creamed, smoked cod roe).

    Norwegian Kaviar on crispbread

    Norwegian Kaviar on crispbread

    More vibrant colours were added to the mix, with an end-of-winter salad, featuring golden and purple beetroot, dressed in a delicious vinegarette, using Womersley Foods’ raspberry vinegar.

    End-Of-Winter Salad

    End-Of-Winter Salad

    All was not over, out rolled some freshly made oatmeal bread, soft and just beckoned to be smothered in butter.

    Oatmeal bread

    Oatmeal bread

    This came in handy to dunk into my baked eggs, seasoned with allspice and Abba anchovies.

    Split Baked Eggs & Buttered Bread

    Split Baked Eggs & Buttered Bread

    Next up were some Norwegian vanilla & sour cream waffles, this was served with poached rhubard in blood orange syrup. Very sweetly heart shaped waffles, that were light as a feather and contrasted with the tart and sticky rhubarb.

    Waffle & Rhubarb Compote

    Waffle & Rhubarb Compote

    Our penultimate item, was a freshly fried cardamom doughnut, a light and billowy fried treat. This was washed down with a choice of coffee from Square Mile or Tea’s from RareTea Company.

    As a surprise finale, Signe presented us with some brownies (the recipe from her forthcoming book, Scandilicious Baking). They were velvety soft, rich with dark chocolate and a gooey centre.




    I can’t say enough to say how good this brunch was. Reminding me of familiar Scandi favourites as well as a few new twists that I can try at home. Signe has a few more brunches and dinners pencilled in and there are some baking classes in the pipeline too. Thanks to both Signe & Hannah, they were devoted to producing a stunning array of delicious food and drink and were consummate hosts.

    If you’re going to go along, I recommend skipping breakfast or lunch, you’re going to need all the belly space you can make. I’m a carb-aholic, so loved the different buns and breads but with the generosity of food provided needed a caffeine kick at the end to get me moving again from my food-coma and definately didn’t need dinner!

    For details on these, please check out Signe’s Scandilicious blog:



  10. Canary Wharf’s Obikà

    March 18, 2012 by Dini

    Mozzarella in the City

    11th March 2012

    Not quite in the City, but in the business hub that is Canary Wharf, where the suited City Slickers either dart to grab a quick bite to eat or languish in restaurants, ‘wining and dining’ Clients…

    Invited by Ms. Lapanovich (Obikà’s GM), to dine there for lunch, I was quite curious about what exactly a Mozzarella ‘bar’ was all about. So, it seemed was everyone else, my invited guest, five of my Canary Wharf working friends (who had never heard of it, I have a feeling they stick to the safety of Plateau, Boisdale & Roka). Even the TFL employee (who I sought directions from, at the station) said on my asking of the ‘Italian’ restaurant: “What that Mozzarella place? I’m partial to a bit of Mozzarella, but a whole menu of the stuff, not sure about that…”

    Obikà derived from the Neapolitan dialect, means “Here it is” … slap bang in the middle of a Canary Wharf concourse it was indeed, with the luxury of a deli, island bar and surrounding tables, quite an investment for the Italian company, with multiple sites already, across the globe.


    We opted for a bottle of Tierre di Sant Alberto Prosecco (Valdese) which was light and refreshing and a jug of tap water to reign in our Sunday lunch excess.

    ProseccoIt was either the Prosecco or the Lurisia artisanal beer for me, as the wine selection didn’t tempt. unlike those on Opera Tavern’s list.

    Bufala classica with Caponata alla Siciliana

    This was delicious, a balance of the Caponata’s [sweet (with sultanas) and sour notes (vinegar and capers)] contrasted against the creaminess of the classic mozzarella. I was ‘instructed’ by the Waitress not to dress my mozzarella with black pepper, olive oil or balsamic, as this would detract from the cheese. This was fine as I had the flavoursome accompaniment of the caponata, however had it been solo with just the undressed spinach leaves, it would have been a little bland. In addition, we had shards of Pane Carasau (a Sardinian bread, which I can only describe as being like a poppadom), handy for scooping with.

    Bufala classica e Caponate alla Siciliana

    Insalate: Prosciutto Coto e Spinaci

    This came in a glass bowl, undressed, with a mountain of salad leaves. This time I had no instruction, was I ‘allowed’ to dress the salad?, was she going to do it?, was I suppossed to do it in the bowl? …. Too many questions, I just wanted a simple lunch. Perhaps, it would be good for the staff to ask if we’d like the salad to be dressed or put a small jug of dressing on the side, so we can add, as we please. After this debacle and creating a dressing mysef, I did like the textures of crunchy walnut, soft Prosciutto (dry cured from Parma) and leaves against the oozingly soft cheese. I’m so glad this was mixed leaves unlike the dishes’ description, as I found the spinach leaves (aforementioned, a little acrid when undressed).

    Prosciutto Cotto e Spinaci


    Dalla Cucina – Tortino di Riso

    I’d never had this dish before, so I was intrigued to try it. Inside the encasing of aubergine laid arborio rice with smoked mozzarella, accompanied with pesto. The pesto was fresh and was a good contrast to the cheesy rice. I was told the texture was not supposed to be wet like a risotto but more of a dry, baked effect. It was nice to try, but I think I’ll stick to my favourite classic of Parmigiana di Melazane.

    Tortino di Riso

    Pizze – Salmone e Ricotta

    This was on a flat base, my favourite, but there was a lot of crust wastage (see gallery), because there was no oozing sauce. I’m a hater of waste, so this made me a little sad. We were told afterwards that we could have requested for pesto, but alas it was too late. The ricotta was delicious creamy and rich serenading the delightful Forman & Field smoked salmon. My dining guest, had only that week been to Forman’s Fish Island to visit them and get a first hand view of the slicing of their salmon. I prefer pizza’s that pack a punch and would have opted for the nduja one instead, my guest wasn’t so keen (my loss, I guess one has to make compromises when sharing). I’m told by an Italian work colleague, that the Neapolitan’s prefer simple pizza’s, allowing the core ingredients to sing… this pizza follows that ethos.

    Pizza - Salmone e Ricotta

    Dolci: Degustazione di Dolci

    This comprised of Buffalo Ricotta cream, gently folded with toasted pine nuts, candied orange peel and honey. It was thick and rich, a few spoonfuls were just enough.

    Crema di Ricotta


    This Tiramisù , I’m told was layered with mascarpone and egg white, but for me it was much lighter, like a zabaglione topping, sitting afloat of espresso drenched Savoiardi. There was no Marsala in sight, but that’s a good thing, as in a small glass like this, it might have been overpowering.


    Torta di Capri

    A crumbly torte, jammed pack full of rich, dark chocolate and almonds. This for me, could have done with being served with a scoop of gelato or mascarpone (thankfully I ordered a scoop)…

    Torta di Capri

    Gelato Artigianale:

    A single scoop of Pistachio gelato (as I simply can’t resist this, it’s truly my benchmark flavour for rating a good gelato) complimented the Torta, by adding a creamy contrast.

    Pistachio Gelato

     Their gelato’s are sourced from Oddono’s (which is my absolute favourite London supplier for Pistachio gelato). Their version is light in colour, due to using natural nuts from Sicily and not adding any artificial colourings. It has a good texture, with pistachio nuts churned through it. I’d probably say that it’s the best way to finish off a meal there, as I had ‘work’ to do that night, I skipped dessert wines.

    Having taken the time to speak to Obikà’s GM, I get the concept more and what they’re trying to achieve and encourage Brits to try more. Yes they have ‘classics’ that I have grown up with from Italian restaurants over here, but also introducing new dishes and their wanting us to be more ‘hands-on’ in dressing our own salads.

    In terms of their specialisation – Mozzarella, I thought the quality was great, having tried their Classic and Smoked and displayed in tanks, for all to view. Another trip is in order to try their Burrata (from Andria), which is one of my guilty pleasures. One last note, on Obikà’s serviceware, it’s sourced from the rather classy Broste from Copenhagen. Beautiful crockery sets, that display the dishes with grace.

    Thank you Ms. Lapanovich for the meal for two, I’ll be back with my own credit card, for burrata and perhaps a scoop of gelato and to @mcginners (my dining co-hort).


    Obikà Mozzarella Bar: Unit 1 West Wintergarden, 35 Bank Street, E14 5NW

    Tel no: 0207 719 1532



    Obika on Urbanspoon