Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2009

So I was planning to blog about our trip last week to the Ribera del Duero, but that’ll have to wait a few days because I learned today that my blog was nominated for two categories in the 2009 Lonely Planet Travel Blog Awards: Best Destination Blog and Best Expat Blog. I’m pretty psyched/chuffed.

Between now and 20 March 2008, please show some love and click here to vote for me, rwapplewannabe.wordpress.com. While of course it’s an honor to be nominated, I can’t deny that I’m a competitive bastard and that I’d love to W-I-N. :-)

Read Full Post »

pretty rice crockery at Busaba Eathai

pretty rice crockery at Busaba Eathai

The day after eating at Sake No Hana, Jon and I went to see the Babylon exhibit at the British Museum (which, by the way, wasn’t thought-provoking or even entertaining. It’s like someone googled “Babylon” and threw the results together in a cramped exhibition space).

Needing lunch, we continued our Alan Yau kick and walked over to Busaba Eathai, his Thai canteen.

And you know, it’s all about the details. Busaba Eathai could’ve been an anonymous, assembly-line Wagamama-type deal, but instead, the small things like pretty ceramic crockery for plain rice made me smile.

interior of Busaba Eathai

Busaba Eathai interior

Sure, it’s communal seating, but the dark wood and the sleek lanterns made my lunch seem more festive than a quick meal in a cafeteria.

chicken green curry at Busaba Eathai

green chicken curry at Busaba Eathai

And the green chicken curry was packed with tender chicken (not over-cooked like it is at, say, Wagamama), Thai aubergine and crunchy bamboo. The curry sauce was even spicy? Excellent. I could’ve drunk down the curry sauce alone. Actually, I think I did.

ginger-honey tea at Busaba Eathai

ginger-honey tea at Busaba Eathai

Feeling a bit under the weather, I ordered some ginger tea. When I was a kid, I used to cry when my mom made me drink the stuff. Now I crave it when I’m sick. (Moms everywhere are smiling smugly as I write this paragraph).

Anyway, Busaba’s ginger tea was sweet with honey. The buttery, crumbly shortbread-pistachio cookies kept things indulgent, rather than medicinal.

Overall, I had a pleasant, cheap and tasty meal (the vast majority of main courses cost less than £8).

Busaba Eathai is now my go-to place for lunch when I visit the British Museum.

Busaba Eathai, 22 Store Street, WC1E 7DF, 0207 299 7900; closest tube station: Goodge Street. [Two other locations; one in Soho on Wardour Street, and the other near Selfdriges on Bird Street.]
Busaba Eathai on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

spider roll at Sake No Hana

spider roll at Sake No Hana

Last April, when Jon and I visited Sake No Hana, it was still basking in the glow of post-opening hype. Even if I hadn’t blogged about it, I’d remember that the food was good, but not good enough to justify those prices.

Two weeks ago, Jon saw on TopTable that Sake No Hana was having a 50% off promotion, and you know, at half off, we thought Sake No Hana was worth a re-visit.

Things got off to a bumpy start when Sake No Hana couldn’t find our booking. They found us a table, but then we were uncertain whether we’d still get the 50%-off deal. Jon, being That Guy, was prepared to walk if the resto didn’t give us the discount. So, we asked our server if we’d be getting the discount, and there was much consulting among the various people who visited our table afterwards to confirm that, in fact, we would like the discount.

In the end, we got the nod. Feeling slightly awkward about the whole thing (there had to have been a graceful way of claiming the discount, no?), we tried to put it behind us, and we ordered with gusto.

seaweed salad at Sake No Hana

seaweed salad at Sake No Hana

I’m normally a fan of seaweed salads at Japenese restos. I love the slight crunch of the seaweed, along with the nutty sweetness of rice vinegar and sesame oil. It’s also, usually, a pretty cheap dish.

Although I wondered why Sake No Hana’s version was priced at £12.50, I figured at half off, I’d give it a try.

Well, the salad was super colorful and chock full of mushrooms. But the dressing was too acidic and citrusy – everything just tasted sour. The mushrooms lacked flavor, which meant they were just glorified sponges, soaking up more of that over-citrused dressing. The salad didn’t even have varied textures to save it. Too bad. Even £6.25 was too much to pay.

Sesame aubergine at Sake No Hana

Sesame aubergine at Sake No Hana

Sesame aubergine (£5.50) was much hyped a year ago, so Jon and I tried it out. It wasn’t bad, but the sauce was too sweet and thick. I would’ve preferred if the aubergine’s natural sweetness had been allowed to shine, instead of its (almost) drowning in sauce.

Because I had a craving, I ordered the spider roll (pictured at the top of this post). £10.80 gets you an elaborate, pretty-looking roll, but I couldn’t taste the soft shell crab. When it comes to sushi, simple is best. I feel sad when good seafood is overwhelmed by fussiness.

Tosa tofu with bonito flakes at Sake No Hana

Tosa tofu with bonito flakes at Sake No Hana

Despite not being a vegetarian, I love tofu. Especially if it’s deep fried. So the tosa tofu, crusted in bonito flakes and deep fried was a must. Crispy and hot on the outside; creamy and soft on the inside. I liked it, and though it normally costs £7, for £3.50, it was a steal.

Pork ribs for two at Sake No Hana

Pork ribs for two at Sake No Hana

Last time we ate at Sake No Hana, we got talked out of the pork ribs and steered towards some un-tasty crab. Not a mistake we’d repeat this time! Even at the regular price of £22, you get a lot of pork for your money. The enormous pork ribs were served in a cast-iron pot, almost French style. Jon and I loved its homey fattiness. It’s really the last dish we’d expect at a Japanese restaurant, but the braising liquid was beautifully clear and light, as if it’d been strained clean. All that was left was a sweet-salty-sour goodness.

Last April, we paid £125 with wine. This time, with 50% off the food bill, we paid £71, including wine. Even with the discount, Sake No Hana was no bargain, but I’d say £71 was a fair price for the food, chic decor and attentive, efficient service.

For my sushi fix, though, I’ll stick with cheap-and-cheerful Tomoe.

Sake No Hana, 23 St James’s St, SW1A 1HA, 020 7925 8988. Closest tube station: Green Park

Sake No Hana on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

dining room at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

dining room at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

Normalement, I make up my own mind and hate being a follower. But when Thomas Keller says he likes a place, I’m not ashamed to follow in his footsteps. Plus, I’m a francophile. Throw in the title of French Restaurant of the Year, and really, why did it take me so long to visit Galvin Bistro de Luxe?

Jon and I met friends at Galvin Bistro de Luxe last weekend, and when we arrived, the place was packed. And not with just anyone. No, packed with French speakers! While not a must-have for a bistro in London, it was a nice sign.

crab "lasagna" at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

crab "lasagna" at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

Starters included some not-obviously French items like crab “lasagna.” It didn’t look the way you’d expect, but sure enough, there was firm, al dente pasta in there layered with a rich, seafood crab meat. Tasty.

entrecote with pommes anna

entrecote with pommes anna

Honestly, I was shocked by how big the portion sizes are. The plat du jour, an entrecote (aka rib eye) served medium rare (at £18.50, one of the pricier menu items), included a generous slice of buttery pommes anna, buttery string beans, buttery bearnaise, and some totally token watercress. Butter really does make it better, no?

cheese tray at Galvin Bistro

cheese tray at Galvin Bistro

Well, no self-respecting French Restaurant of the Year could fail to have a cheese tray full of interesting and delish cheeses, served with a dollop of generosity. I hogged a few slices of cheese from my friend’s cheese platter, and then moved onto my dessert: a blackberry souffle.

blackberry souffle at Galvin Bistro

blackberry souffle at Galvin Bistro

I’d seen a couple of these souffles flying around the room, and it looked too good to resist. When it arrived, it was hot and airy, but after digging inside, I found the souffle so undercooked as to still constitute batter. And it was a bit too sugary. How disappointing. I wanted so much to love thee, blackberry souffle.

pear tarte tatin at Galvin Bistro

pear tarte tatin at Galvin Bistro

Cue the beautifully-crisped, buttery-crusted, caramelized pear tarte tatin. It was the crowning glory to a butter-filled wonder of a meal.

Galvin Bistro de Luxe is where you go for a long, convivial dinner. The restaurant really was a slice of Paris on an otherwise-charmless Baker Street.

For starters, mains, desserts and wine for all, our tab was £60 a person, including service. Not cheap, but good value for attentive service, a buzzy room, and large portions of tasty bistro classics. (And a steal compared to a trip on the Eurostar).

Galvin Bistro de Luxe, 66 Baker Street, W1U 7DJ, 0207 933 4007; closest tube station: Baker Street
Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

potato leek soup at the Marlborough Tavern

potato leek soup at the Marlborough Tavern

Last Saturday, Jon and I were in Bath for an afternoon of R&R at the Thermae Spa, and to fortify ourselves for the tough task of undergoing spa treatments and lounging in the steam room and pools, we needed lunch.

Despite its mention in the 2009 Michelin Guide, The Marlborough Tavern didn’t make a good first impression. Like most buildings in Bath, the Tavern’s stone exterior looked stark and forbidding in the cold, winter gray. But once we were inside, servers were welcoming, and the fireplace warming.

The menu choices were limited (i.e., a burger, a terrine, specials of the day and lots of sandwiches). But everything we tried showed a lot of care and attention to detail. And I much prefer a place that does a few things well, rather than a lot of things poorly.

My soup-of-the-day was a potato-leek with a suspiciously-dark-brown color. I’m guessing they caramelized the leeks to get it that brown, but however it was made, the soup was rich and creamy.  Homemade garlic croutons and lots of minced chives were attractive and tasty finishing touches.

veal stew

veal stew

Jon’s veal stew was hot, fork-tender, but I thought my chorizo-and-pepper sandwich was the high point of our lunch.

I’d expected a Brindisa-style grilled whole sausage slapped onto a roll, but despite the pedestrian appearance of the Marlborough’s version, the sandwich was delish. The bun was toasted; the chorizo was grilled and thinly sliced in neat-to-eat layers. The baby/microsprouts salad on the side added color, crunch and lightness.

chorizo sandwich

chorizo sandwich

Most mains on the menu were £8-10, and I loved the pot of fragrant English Breakfast for £1.50. Our tab for two mains, a starter and drinks totaled £30 after service.

Thermae Spa

Thermae Spa

And then the rest of our day at the Thermae Spa was exactly what we needed. It’s been almost a year and a half since our first trip to the Thermae Spa, and I was glad to see things were still as clean and luxurious as I remembered, especially when you consider the high volume of visitors the Spa receives. I love the Thermae’s spaciousness and the fact that all the water is thermal (it eases my liberal-environmental guilt).

If it weren’t a two-hour train ride to Bath, I’d be down there more often.  Especially during these cold, gloomy months.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95 other followers