Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Islington’ Category

Morito

Moro is a great restaurant, but if you want to eat just tapas, you have to sit at the bar.  Cue Morito, a small tapas-only sibling next door.  Almost half of Morito is comprised of bar seating (thumbs up for the under-counter bag hooks), and the other half is made up of table seating.  It’s casual and buzzy and often crowded.

Still, on a recent Monday evening, I was able to snag a table for three, though it was wedged awkwardly in the corner near a waiter’s station.

Morito is a lot of fun.  The tapas are small and most are priced under £4 per plate.  The service was friendly, and most dishes I tried were excellent.  The perfect place to have a drink and catch up with a friend.  (I wouldn’t go with a bigger group – you’ll never get a table).

quail's egg and jamon £4

Winners:

Pepper potato and onion tortilla:  The classic dish, and a good measure of the rest of the tapas to come, I think.  Morito’s had a good firm texture, creamy with potato, sweet from the peppers and onions, and finishing with  a little chili kick.  (£3.50)

Quail’s egg and jamon – Eggs and ham.  It’s salty; it’s creamy.  What’s not to love?  Its prettiness is icing on the cake.  (£4)

spiced labneh with aubergine £4

Spiced labneh with aubergine – tangy, rich labneh perfectly complemented the slightly-sweet-and-smoky aubergine.  (£4)

Puntillitas (aka baby squid) – the perfect bar snack.  Seasoned, breaded and fried.  (£6.50)

Good, but not great:

Red prawns and alioli – Shell-on prawns were sweet but kind of lacking in meat.  And I would love if they’d been more garlicky.  (£6.50)

Salt cod croquetas – I like more creamy bechamel in my croquetas.  Also, bacalao is not my fave.  (£4)

Crispy aubergine with miel de cana – These were way too sugary.  Miel de cana has the strong flavor of molasses.  (£3.50)

Patatas mojo (aka salt crusted potatoes with green chilli and coriander sauce) – Despite the delicious-sounding menu description, these were a bit bland.  (£3.50)

There was an impressively large number of dishes to choose from, and generally, all were pretty good.

With cheap and cheerful tumblers of wine, each of us paid £20.  And because I still had room for dessert, I treated myself to an affogato down the block at Caravan, which is great on atmosphere, coffee and desserts.  (Dinner there, however, was underwhelming, in case you were wondering).

There’s lots of other dishes I wish I’d tried at Morito, including the mussel and chorizo empanadilla, the lamb chops with cumin and paprika, and the spiced lamb with aubergine, yoghurt and pine nuts.

So I’ll be back.  But only with one friend.

Morito, 32 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QL; closest tube stations:  Angel or Farringdon, but it’s a healthy 10-15 minute walk, so try to catch a bus like the 38.
Morito on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

Antepliler Turkish restaurant in Islington

There’s no shortage of Turkish restaurants on Islington’s Upper Street. It’s just too bad that most of them serve as mere pit stops for the crowds who come to my ‘hood on weekends to get pissed.  Imagine my excitement when I saw this glowing November 2010 review in TimeOut for Antepliler.  It’s always a good thing when a mid-range, delicious restaurant opens in your neighborhood, yes?

Happily, the service and decor at Antepliler lived up to expectations.  And the food was generally good, though based on my one meal there, I wouldn’t say Antepliler is a destination restaurant.  It’s more of a “great choice if you’re already in Islington” kind of place.

ripped-open puff of bread at Antepliler

Jon and I loved the breads, which arrived soon after we sat down.  Steaming hot and flavorsome, especially with the accompanying free chutneys and the cacik (£4.50), which was not free but when is strained cucumber with garlic and mint not a good plan?  

Patlican Soslu, a fried aubergine and tomato tapenade (£4.50)

Patlican Soslu, a fried aubergine with tomato tapenade, was too sugary.  Too bad as I love fried aubergine and was looking forward to this cold starter.

borek, fried cigars of feta cheese in a filo pastry (£4.20)

Borek were delicious.  Zippy feta cheese and crisp, greaseless filo pastry, all fried.   I’m afraid this dish isn’t going to keep away the crowds planning to get pissed on Upper Street, but its greatness as a bar snack cannot be ignored.

Ali Nazik, diced lamb on an eggplant puree (£10.50)

Listed under the category “Signiture Gaziantep Food” on the menu,  the diced lamb in Jon’s Ali Nazik was a bit dry.  We’d thought the lamb would be cooked as a large piece first and then diced, but it seems the lamb was diced and then cooked.  Hence the dryness.  The smoky eggplant puree helped give moisture to the dish, of course, but still, this is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes?

Simit Kebab, aka kofte (£10.50)

My Simit Kebab, kofte to you and me, was exactly what I like in a kofte.  The cracked wheat and abundant herbs in the minced lamb added a crunchy, earthy texture and flavor to the minced lamb.  The accompanying rice and salad were fine, but it was the generous portion of juicy kofte that was the star attraction.

With a beer each, our tab for two totaled £50.  Service was fast and friendly, and the interior was cheery and buzzing.  A very welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Antepliler Restaurant, 139 Upper St, N1 1QP, 0207 226 5441; closest Tube station:  Highbury & Islington (10-minute walk) or Angel (15-minute walk)

To read about other restaurants in Islington, click here.

Antepliler on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

Delhi Grill in Chapel Market, Islington

Like most city dwellers, Jon and I receive a lot of unwanted takeaway menus dropped through our post slot.  And like most people, we recycle the vast majority without a second glance.

Unusually, though, back in August, I saved the Delhi Grill‘s takeaway menu from the recycling bin because of (1) its limited, focussed menu options; and (2) its statement that they wanted to bring Whitechapel to the ‘hood.

A few days after I saw Delhi Grill’s menu, I was walking through Chapel Market and spotted an outdoor grill set up by Delhi Grill — clearly a cosmic signal that I ought to try out the stand’s offerings of custom-order kati rolls and potato-onion pakoras.

lamb kati roll at Delhi Grill's Chapel Market stall on Sundays (£3)

potato-and-onion pakoras

I ordered a lamb kati roll, which was basically sheekh kebab hot off the grill, wrapped in warm, soft roti.  It wasn’t as deliciously-dense and flavorful as the ones I’ve had at the Kati Roll Company, but it was pretty darn good.  At £3 a roll, it’s a filling lunch, especially if you add an order of pakoras, which you should do.  Somehow the pakoras retained their crispiness despite not being fresh from the fryer, and I enjoyed the hint of sweet spiciness from the paprika and chilli mixed in.

Despite our positive experience with Delhi Grill’s Sunday grill stand, it took me months to finally return to Delhi Grill for dinner.  Last Saturday, we gave it a go.

sheekh kebabs (£2.50 for two pieces)

chilli chicken wings (£1.95 for 4 pieces)

grilled lamb chops (£2.95 for 2 pieces)

Grilled items as starters were generally very good.   Sizzling, juicy, well seasoned.   The lamb chops could have used more marinade and fat, but I say this as someone who always prefers a wet marinade to a dry rub.

fish pakoras (£3.50 for 4 pieces)

Fried foods were very good, too, though you could accuse all the fried dishes of tasting the same because the chilli-paprika seasoning in the batter seems to stay the same, whether the pakoras are fish or onion.

biryani (£7.50)

Chicken biryani was a special of the day, and this was the low point of our evening.  The biryani had wonderfully-fragrant flavoring and texture, striking a nice balance between being moist and fluffy, but the dish was inexplicably served lukewarm.  Considering how hot and straight-from-the-kitchen everything else tasted, we were surprised that the biryani had been allowed to cool off before being served.

roti (£1) and naan (£1.50)

Overall, our dinner at Delhi Grill was delicious and cheap (£30 for two, including beers), and I’m thrilled that it opened in the ‘hood.  Special shout out to the guy making the rotis right in the dining room.  The set-up is saved from gimmick by the simple fact that the rotis are excellent.

Delhi Grill, 21 Chapel Market, N1 9EZ; 0207 278 8100; closest Tube station:  Angel

To read about other restaurants I like in Islington:

Delhi Grill on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

TenShi in Islington

I’ve lived in Angel Islington for close to five years now, and I love this ‘hood.  The many food-shopping options and shopping options, generally, make me happy.  As does running along the Regent’s Canal and being able to walk to work.

What holds Islington back from Best Neighborhood Ever status, I think, is its high percentage of mediocre restaurants.  So whenever I hear about a new place in the ‘hood with good reviews, I show up with high hopes, and honestly, I’m usually disappointed.  The latest example of this cycle of disappointment:  TenShi sushi, which opened earlier this year and has gotten recommended a number of times by TimeOut for being good value.

prawn tempura roll

I didn’t order anything very unusual, and yet it was all sub-par.  The prawns in my prawn tempura roll were flavourless, and instead of including crunchy cucumber slices with just the right dab of sweet mayo and wasabi, the rolls were flavored only with soy sauce. In fact, everything at TenShi that I tried tasted of soy sauce:  agedashi tofu, udon noodle soup.

yaki soba

Yaki soba, again, tasted mostly of soy sauce with a dollop of grease mixed in.   Whoever worked the kitchen that night was a lover of soy sauce, for sure, and I kept thinking of that scene in the Joy Luck Club where the clueless dinner guest destroys his food by dousing it in soy sauce.

Service was attentive and fast, and the prices were low (four mains and two shared starters totaled £60).  But if I’m craving sushi and want to stay in the ‘hood, I’ll  stick with Sa Sa Sushi (which is closed on Sunday evenings – hence why I was at TenShi on a Sunday evening).  So without further ado . . . .
Tenshi on Urbanspoon

Sa Sa Sushi

I’ve meant to do a blog post about Sa Sa Sushi for ages.  It’s one of those places where I eat very often and take for granted, and I feel very protective towards the kind and welcoming people who work there, so I suppose a part of me didn’t want to subject them to potentially-unfriendly scrutiny.  But you know, after eating the fish here at least three times a month for a couple of years, I owe them a shout out, no?

assorted nigiri and rolls at Sa Sa Sushi

Jon and I don’t vary our orders much here.  It’s our prerogative to avoid exploring the menu when it’s just a quick bite out in the neighborhood.   Which is all to say, I vouch for the rolls and the nigiri and have no opinion either way on Sa Sa Sushi’s other dishes.   Prawn tempura roll, of course, is one of my favorites, as are the crunchy-and-spicy [insert any fish here] rolls.  I like, for example, that when you order a spicy tuna roll, you don’t end up with a mayonnaise-chili-mash of last-week’s tuna.  Instead, the roll includes a hefty piece of identifiably-fresh tuna that is delicately spiced with chili.

udon noodle soup at Sa Sa Sushi

Jon’s an udon noodle lover, so he gets this a lot.  I’ve had a taste of his a few times, and it’s good, but when I show up at Sa Sa, I’m there for the fish.

Service at Sa Sa can be slow, but most times the slow-ness is due to the care with which the sushi chefs are making each roll and piece of nigiri (I’ve watched them while sitting at the sushi counter up front).

The restaurant’s decor is bright and inoffensive, if a bit charmless, and prices are reasonable (£4-6 a roll), so the tab usually comes to £20 a person if you’re sticking only with the sushi options (which you should).

I’m not claiming the place is a destination restaurant, but I confidently assert that Sa Sa is one of the best places to eat in Islington and miles better than what I’ve tried at TenShi.

Sa Sa Sushi, 422 St. John Street, EC1V 4NJ, 020 7837 1155; closest tube station:  Angel (exit the station and make a left, away from Upper Street and towards City Road).
Sa Sa Sushi on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

Jamie Oliver's Fifteen (Italian) Restaurant

Having eaten a delicious dinner at Trullo last week (which was opened a few weeks ago by one of the first fifteen chef-apprentices trained at Fifteen restaurant), Jon and I thought it was about time we tried eating at Fifteen. It is, after all, just a 20-minute walk away from our house, right off the stretch of City Road between Old Street and Angel stations.

It’s hard to be tough on Fifteen because it’s such a worthy venture, offering chef apprenticeships to what Jamie Oliver‘s website calls “disadvantaged youngsters.” Additionally, all profits go towards the foundation that owns and operates the restaurant.

Eight years in, though, Fifteen offers a menu that seems too routine to justify £8 starters and £20 main courses.  Perhaps Fifteen and Jamie Oliver are victims of their own success – many of us now value knowing where our food comes from and insist on seasonal, quality produce.  So restaurants have followed suit, and so what used to be quite special now seems ho-hum.  Our dinner at Fifteen reminded me of the time I ate at Chez Panisse and left wondering what all the fuss was about. I suspect that part of the reason Chez Panisse seemed so ordinary by the time I got there is because chef-owner Alice Waters had already single-handedly changed the way we ate.

pizza bianco with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto alla Genovese (£8)

Menu descriptions seemed a bit too fussy, as if masking the ordinariness of the dishes.  A white pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes and “pesto alla Genovese” (aka regular ol’ pesto made from basil and pinenuts) was tasty but also something you could picture at any half-decent gastropub in London these days.

ravioli stuffed with smashed peas and ricotta in a butter-and-mint sauce (£10)

On a hot day, the ravioli stuffed with smashed peas and served in a mint-butter sauce sounded perfect.  But the peas were rather tough and not sweet, and the butter “sauce” appeared to have been made by merely melting a lot of butter on top of the ravioli.  (I generally like to pretend that throwing in a few shallots and white wine makes it healthier).

Italian sausage with dressed Castellucia lentils with Swiss chard and salsa rosa (£19)

Jon *loved* his Italian sausages, and I must admit that they were pretty darn good, with a sweet-spicy flavor from all the anise and fennel seeds in there.  We troll London markets regularly looking for Italian sausage (with often disappointing results), so these were a treat, though £19 seemed a bit steep for what was essentially three grilled sausages.

Angus ribeye with roast garlic-tarragon butter, rocket and pecorino (£22.50)

Ribeye was fine.  Rare.  Juicy.  You know, steak.

risotto ai frutti di mare (£14)

Risotto with ‘fruit of the sea’ was too al dente, I thought.  I think the rice could have used just a little more liquid or oil, at least – it just tasted kind of dry and unpleasant.  The tomato sauce was overly bright and didn’t provide enough moisture.  Kind of a bummer, really.

linguine carbonara - the guanciale was the best part (£15)

Last but not least – the linquine carbonara was saved from utter blandness (because of under-seasoning) by the amazingly-fatty-and-smoky guanciale.  I would have asked for salt, but as attentive as our server was in some ways (bringing plenty of pitchers of tap water to our table without our asking), she was hard to flag down.

Fifteen is still going strong, which is nice to see given its giving-back-to-the-community mission.  On a Sunday evening, the place was packed, and the room is comfortable and still stylish after all these years.  The food is better-than-average, so it’s a nice option to have if you’re in need of a mid-priced meal in Hoxton.  Then again, on the basis of food and price alone, I’d rather walk a tad further to eat at Pizza East or stay in my neighborhood and walk to Trullo.

Total tab for two shared starters, four mains and a £30 bottle of wine (i.e., more than enough to feed and water four people):   £34 a person.

Fifteen Restaurant, 13 Westland Place, N1 7LP, 0871 330 1515; closest tube station: Old Street

Read Full Post »

Bistro Bruno Loubet dining room

Last week, I met Gourmet Chick and Londonelicious for dinner at Bistrot Bruno Loubet in Clerkenwell.  I’d been there once before, back in March, soon after the bistro had opened in the Zetter hotel, and that time, the food had been very good.  Clerkenwell is perfectly located between work and home for me, so I was glad to pay it a return visit when the three of us were debating where to eat.  (The beauty of dining out with other food bloggers is that choosing the venue is half the fun).

bread served in a flowerpot - a super charming touch

Things got off to a bumpy start when the day of our reservation arrived.  The bistrot called to confirm, and in classic passive-aggressive fashion, they asked if it’d be “OK” that they’d need the table back after two hours.  I asked if I really had a choice and added that it would have been nice to know this policy in advance (for example, when I was making the booking originally).  The restaurant’s response was that it was hard for them to know in advance that they’d need the table back at a certain time, which is kind of crap.  How do other restaurants – who don’t limit the amount of time you can have the table – estimate turnover times?

Anyway, to make a long story short, at the two-hour mark, we were asked to pay our bill or  move to the hotel bar.  I was supremely non-plussed and felt like I was getting booted out.  The first time I ate at Bruno Loubet, I enjoyed a leisurely and delicious meal with family friends, and this second time around, I left feeling kind of cranky, which is too bad, because our server that evening was attentive and helpful and generally everything you want in a server, really.

revised Lyonnaise salad (£7)

On to the food – like Gourmet Chick, I chose the revised Lyonnaise salad for a starter, and although I remember loving it the first time I ate at Bruno Loubet (poached egg and bacon on greens – what’s not to love?), this time around, I thought the greens-to-toppings ratio could’ve been a lot higher.  The generous amounts of crispy, salty bacon overwhelmed the frisee, and the egg was overcooked and not runny.   Sad.

Guinea fowl boudin blanc with leek fondue and chervil sauce (£7)

Guinea fowl boudin blanc (white sausage) was both impossibly light and heavy.  The texture was memorably fluffy, but halfway through, the salt got to me, and I had trouble finishing the boudin.  Good thing my dining companions wanted to try some, because otherwise, I would’ve been embarrassed that I hadn’t finished a meal comprised of a mere two starters.

lamb shoulder confit (£16)

Confit lamb shoulder was served in an unappetizing ball shape.  And disappointingly, the lamb was dry and underseasoned, so I’m 100% in agreement with Gourmet Chick there.

wood pigeon breast, cauliflower, almond, quinoa and giblet sauce (£15.50)

Gourmet Chick’s pan-fried breast of wood pigeon was a winner, though the presentation was pretty hideous.  Pigeon is too often served tough, but at Bruno Loubet, it was juicy, rare and had the richness that only offal can provide.  If I weren’t so annoyed about the service, I’d say I’d return to BBL just to order this dish for myself next time.

Things being what they are, though, it’d take a lot to get me to return to Bistrot Bruno Loubet.  Bar Boulud, where I’ve also been twice, delivers better service than BBL does; prices are similar, and Bar Boulud’s chop chop salad with lobster is still calling out to me.  So, as handy as Clerkenwell is for me, Knightsbridge will be my destination the next time I’m looking for a casual bistro meal.

With a £30 bottle of wine and glasses of dessert wine, we paid £50 a person for dinner at BBL.

Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Zetter Hotel, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RJ; 0207 324 4455; closest Tube station: Farringdon
Bistrot Bruno Loubet on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

Byron burgers in Islington

There are lots of foods I miss from the US – New York-style pizza, bagels, General Tso’s chicken – but burgers don’t make the list of things I miss most. It’s not that burgers in London are so fantastic, but at least they show up here in a form that’s better than say, bagels, do, so I don’t feel as deprived. Take, for example, the star item on the menu at Byron Burgers, which now has seven locations in London, and on the basis of its not using a rock-hard bun, has firmly crushed Hache, where I formerly went for a reasonably-cheap, decent burger.

Despite walking daily through Camden Passage, it wasn’t until last week that I finally noticed Byron Burgers had opened in my neighborhood. Because I’m always looking for something quick and cheap before a film at Vue Cinema or Screen on the Green, or even when I’m splashing out on a show at the Almeida, I had high hopes that Byron would fit those purposes. And happily, it does.

cheeseburger with American cheese (£7.25)

I loved that I could order my cheeseburger with that miracle of industrial-food-production: the American slice. It’s born to melt. And the burger bun was softer than it appeared and easily sopped up all the meaty juices from my medium-rare beef patty. It was a fast-food burger made with good-quality ingredients. I was one happy camper.

fries, onion rings and macaroni cheese, each £2.75

Thumbs up, too, to the onion rings, which were slightly greasy, but crispy on the outside and tasting of firm, sweet onions on the inside. Sadly, our French fries weren’t crispy, and the macaroni and cheese was downright horrible, comprised of macaroni noodles with cheese melted on top. Where was the thick, rich bechamel-based cheese sauce? Or the gratineed topping?

chocolate milkshake (£3.75)

Instead of dessert, I ordered a chocolate milkshake, which was thick, bittersweet and ginormous. Just like home!

Service was fast and friendly, and pitchers of tap water were brought to our table and replaced without our asking. Good stuff.

With a refreshing American-style lemonade (£2.25), a double espresso (£2.00) and a large glass of California pinot noir (£7.40), plus tip, our total for two was £45. Pricey for a burger dinner, but not bad for a tasty dinner out. Plus, if I exercise just a little more willpower next time, I suspect I can get in and out for just over a tenner, which *would* be cheap.

You’re very welcome to the ‘hood, Byron.

Byron, 341 Upper Street, N1; 0207 704 7620; closest tube station: Angel
Byron Islington on Urbanspoon

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers