Category Archives: London

Goodbye London!

London is an amazing place for eating. We knew we would miss it when we left, but we never knew how much we would miss it until we actually left London for good. In our short time in this beautiful yet frustrating city, we’ve tried so many different cuisines, dined at so many different restaurants and eateries that it’s literally impossible to document them all. We’ve tried in our blog to capture as many food experiences we’ve had in London as possible, and they’re the perfect way for us to look back on our time there and reminisce.

Some of our favourite places in London to eat at are in Chinatown, since being Asian those flavours appeal the most to us. We consider the roast duck in 4 Seasons to be the best in the world, and the service at Wong Kei to be the most hilarious and shockingly bad experience you’ll ever get. Food is of a generally high quality in Chinatown in London, and we’ve always taken that for granted. When we went to San Francisco, we ate at a couple of restaurants in Chinatown, and really struggled to find a decent meal. It was then that we really missed the variety and quality of the restaurants in London’s Chinatown. You can walk into almost any restaurant there and know that you’ll be reasonably satisfied with the food, if not better. There are of course exceptions to that rule, but we’ll come to that later.

Some things we’ll also miss in Chinatown will be Leong’s Legend, not the best example of Taiwanese food no doubt, but we love their Bamboo Glutinous rice, and their dim sum isn’t bad at all. We will also miss Viet, our favourite place for Pho, technically not in Chinatown, but very close by just across the street. The lady boss is very friendly, and the fried calamari is oddly addictive.

A stand out restaurant in all of London for us is definitely Roka. We celebrated our 5th month anniversary there, and it holds a very special place in our hearts. It’s quite the place to see and be seen, and is quite expensive, so it’s not somewhere we go to all the time, but only reserved for very special occasions. One such special occasion was when we nearly burnt down our entire flat. Basically we had set a pot of beef rending on the stove to simmer, and went into our room to do some work, without realizing that we had left the heat on high. After about an hour, we opened the door to our room, and walked into a cloud of smoke – the entire flat was filled with it! Our beef rending was, to say the least, ruined, and we were quite lucky that nothing caught fire. Feeling absolutely devastated, we wanted to go somewhere to cheer ourselves up, and Roka it was. (As a side note, it took us about 2 weeks to rid the house of the smell of smoke, it was awful.) In August 2010 Roka closed because there was a fire in the kitchen (the irony). They’ve probably reopened by now, and hopefully have taken the time while they were renovating, to revamp their menu and look, to place themselves even more at the forefront of Japanese fusion cuisine.

Another of our best meals ever in London was at Eastside Inn. It was our favourite restaurant of 2010, and we were wowed by both the good service and the absolutely wonderful food, created by Chef Bjorn. We had planned to go back there for our farewell meal in London, but they had unfortunately closed for good. It was a very sad day for us when we found out about their closing, and we sincerely wish them all the best for their next venture, whatever and wherever it may be.

One of our favourite finds of the year was Chili Cool, a Szechuan restaurant near Russell Square tube station. D first introduced us to that restaurant, and we fell in love with it after having a proper ala carte meal there. Since then we’ve introduced so many people to that restaurant, and we really look forward to going back to Singapore and hunting for the best Szechuan restaurant in town for our major ass-burning, tongue numbing experience. Who wants to join?

We’ve not always eaten at atas places, and have tried to post reviews of places for varying budgets. Cheap eats include places like My Old Dutch (awesome gigantic crepes), GBK (forever having 2 for 1 deals) and ICCo, probably the cheapest eat ever in Central London. We’ve unfortunately neglected to put a budget tag in our posts, but we’ve included, whenever possible, a website where readers can find out more about the restaurant, possibly look at the menu, and find out if it suits their budget. Alternatively, do as we do and look for more reviews online (try tripadvisor, or toptable, and search for the restaurant name) for a generally more objective opinion. Many other blogs do include an idea of the price range of the food at different restaurants so it would be useful to use those to supplement our posts.

Speaking of websites, we just can’t forget the horrible disconnect between what’s promoted on the website and the reality of the restaurant at Euston Chinese Restaurant. Do go read that post for our full rant. It was really just a convenient, lazy way for us to eat something, but it turned out to be one of the most horrible meals ever in London.

Another of those horrible meals was at somewhere you’d least expect to have a bad experience – Plum Valley in Chinatown, which proudly claims to be a fine dining restaurant. There was little, if any at all, fine about the dining at Plum Valley. The food was bland, or burnt, or soggy, and we got the impression that arranging some orchids on a plate with your food was their idea of fine dining. Plus, service was horrible – our server was disinterested in us and was more engrossed in reading the newspapers of playing solitaire, all done in full view of the diners, and she was also very careless with our food. It was the first time we felt so negatively about a meal that we made a complaint to the manager, who appreciated our comments and was so apologetic about our bad experience that she waived the bill for us. We’ve avoided writing an explicit review of Plum Valley for that reason. This is our first time writing about that meal, as since then it seems that they’ve improved vastly, judging by the far more positive reviews online nowadays, and we like to take some credit for that. J

We’ve been sporadically following some of our favourite London food blogs since we left, and it does remind us of the wonderful times we’ve had in London. At the same time though, it reminds us that we’ve left for good. Most of the reviews on those blogs nowadays are of places we’ve never heard about, and the food looks very different from what we’ve been having while travelling in USA and Korea, and definitely very different from what is available in Singapore. What used to be standard, easily accessible fare to us is now becoming more and more foreign, and while we used to consider London our second home, it will gradually become more a memory; a place we used to live in, but is now so removed from our current reality that it seems so very far away. We’ll always have a soft spot for London, and maybe, someday in the future, when we return for a holiday we’ll hopefully find that everything has remained more of less the same as when we left it. It would be so awesome walking around the city, familiar with the sights, sounds and scents, as if we’d never left.

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Nuocmam

35 Great Portland Street
London W1W 8QQ
0207 631 2099http://www.nuocmam.co.uk/

It was the last day of the academic year, and it was the day we all handed in our summer project reports and gave our final presentations to the lecturers in our department. After a whole year of hard work a celebration was definitely called for. Nuocmam was chosen because it was running a 50% offer on toptable. For some reason we (read: the powers that be) negotiated for a different deal instead: 25% off food and 50% off bottles of wine – which might seem like a fantastic offer if you’re a huge wine drinker, but considering the demographic: poor college students, many of whom don’t even drink in the first place (for various reasons), this deal sucked. But the rest of us (read: those with less say in the way things are run around here) went ahead with the sucky deal anyway, since everything had already been arranged and it was too late to make alternate plans.

The above was just a rant, and has nothing to do with the restaurant, but everything to do with the undemocratic decisions, but I should move on now.

Nuocmam is a rather new Vietnamese/Japanese fusion restaurant near Great Portland Street Tube Station, and it trying very hard to establish itself it seems. Restaurants like Noucmam are a dime a dozen in London nowadays, and to be honest, it’s becoming quite a tired concept now. The selection of food items is what you would come to expect in a restaurant like this, so we didn’t find anything too exciting in the menu. Since we were there to hang out with our coursemates, food was secondary in the whole experience, so we weren’t bothered at all by the uninspiring choices or the quality of the food, which we’ll come to in a minute.

Anyway, we had to order an appetizer and a main in order to enjoy the 25% offer (oh don’t get me started again), so we went with the Dynamite Roll and the Yuzu Squid. The Dynamite Roll was basically a soft shelled crab maki roll, which was nice, but that’s about all we can say about it. It was definitely not as dynamite-ish as its name would suggest. The Yuzu Squid fared a little better. The squid was nice and crispy and the yuzu sauce gave a good tangy burst with each bite.

For our mains we had the Kimchi Miso Lamb and the Slow Braised Pork Belly Broth, with a Stir Fried Egg Noodles as a side (personally we don’t think Asian restaurants should charge extra for serving staples like rice and noodles. They should come included in the meal). The lamb was quite tasty, but nothing special. I suppose with the 50% offer (that we should have got dammit) it could be considered quite good value for money, but on the other hand I think for a truly ‘wow’ experience, go to Roka, or even Tsunami.

The pork belly on the other hand was outstanding. Visually, it got major envious looks from everyone – it was served perched on top of its own little fireplace, and just looked amazing. Tastewise it hit the spot as well – the pork belly was beautifully tender and the broth was very flavourful. Definitely something we would order again. The egg noodles were nice, but oily.

One of our coursemates had the Pan Fried Fillet of Seabass, which was quite delicious as well, the fish very nicely cooked with good flavours, and something worth a try if you ever find yourself in Nuocmam.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10

Melati

30 Peter Street
London W1F 0AR
0207 437 2011
http://melati-restaurant.co.uk/

For some strange reason there are 2 restaurants called Melati about 400m from each other in Soho. Both are unrelated, but both serve Malaysian/Indonesian food. We had planned to go to the Melati along Peter Street, but ended up stumbling upon the restaurant along Great Windmill Street first. Thinking that it was just a branch of the one along Peter Street, we went in, but we quickly realized that it wasn’t related at all to the Melati that we wanted to go to, so off we went again, navigating ourselves through the confusing streets of Soho till we finally arrived, starving, at the Melati along Peter Street.

So starving we were that we practically ordered their entire menu; actually, no we didn’t, but we had far too much food than we could handle (as we usually do).

Drinks: We ordered a glass of Grass Jelly drink and a glass of Bandung (Rose Syrup). The Bandung was exceedingly sweet, and had probably more condensed milk than one should consume in an entire year, but it was nevertheless oh-so rich and sinfully good. As the ice melted the drink got a lot less cloyingly sweet, but it was definitely something I would order again. The Grass Jelly was far more sensibly flavoured, and also really good.

Appetizers: The Curry Puff we ordered was enormous, and the light fluffy pastry reminded us of roti prata which we really liked, but the filling was a complete let down. Another appetizer we had was the Tahu Goreng, which was horrible – presentation-wise it was a mess, and the tofu was tasteless and the peanut sauce was watery and bland.

Mains: We had a Laksa, which looked and smelt amazing. Taste-wise it was pretty good, but it definitely paled in comparison to the Sedap version, which is by far the most authentic Laksa available in London, and you can quote me on that.

The Mee Goreng Istimewa was quite disappointing – the noodles were just average and the satay was pretty nice, but the beef rendang was appalling and the pickled vegetables were horrible. The beef was very tough and though it was marinated well, was poorly cooked and did not melt in your mouth as a good beef rendang should.

We also shared (yes, I told you we ordered a lot of food) a Sambal Ikan Goreng, which was probably the best dish of the whole meal. The fish (mackerel) was a good choice to cook in that style and the sauce was tangy and flavourful. The problem however, was that it was more ketchup than sambal.

Service: We struggled a little to get their attention at some points in the meal, which was quite unforgivable since we were literally the only customers around for the most part of our meal, but otherwise they were very pleasant and courteous.

Service: 7/10
Food: 5.5/10

Joy King Lau

3 Leicester Street
London WC2H 7BL
0207 437 1132
http://joykinglau.com/

Joy King Lau is really just another Chinese restaurant tucked in a really obscure corner of Chinatown, hidden (currently) behind a lot of construction. The food is quite typical of Chinatown fare, with the usual crispy duck, tofu dishes, small selection of dim sum (their egg tarts are pretty good) etc, but the one dish we really love at Joy King Lau is their House Special Fried Noodles. This is pretty much the only thing we order when we go there, and it (usually) never fails to disappoint.

The noodles are crispy, and it is topped with a wonderful selection of prawns, squid, and various pig parts – stomach, liver and slices of pork. We love the variety you can get in one single dish, and it’s not expensive too – that dish, with tea and service adds up to about £7, which is very reasonable for what you’re getting.

Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10

Euston Chinese Restaurant

40 Doric Way
London NW1 1LH
0207 387 2518
http://www.eustonchinese.co.uk/

Oh don’t let the website fool you. There is no way Euston Chinese Restaurant is a ‘sophisticated, stylish and comfortable restaurant’, and the only reason why you’d bring someone there for a business lunch or a romantic dinner as the website would suggest you do, is if you never want to see your dining partner ever again. Someone should really sue them for giving such false impression of themselves. The notion that they’re actually expecting advance party bookings is just staggering. Talk about delusions of grandeur! And don’t get me started on those photos on the website!

The truth: Euston Chinese Restaurant is a dodgy looking, dirty little Chinese restaurant in the basement of housing block, the kind of place you’d be hesitant to even call a restaurant, and probably the last place you’d expect to have a website. We were staying at a friend’s place along Doric Way, and since we didn’t feel particularly hungry and were quite lazy to walk anywhere else to eat, we decided to pop in for a quick bite, fully expecting to have a lousy meal. Well, we did indeed get a lousy meal as we expected, but it was only when we got back and looked at their website and realized the discrepancy between what is promised by the website and what is actually delivered that really got us riled up.

Food is cheap at Euston Chinese Restaurant, and there’s a good reason for that – the food isn’t very good. Every order comes with a complimentary appetizer of either Fried Chicken Wings or Spring Rolls, and though the website mentions a minimum spending of £10 per person, it didn’t seem to mind them that we only spent about £5 each. The Fried Chicken Wings were nicely fried, and we really liked the fried garlic which accompanied the wings, but that, and the diet coke were the only good points of the meal.

Our mains were the Fried Noodles in Hokkian Style and the Bee Hoon Goreng. The Bee Hoon Goreng was just so-so, and the Fried Noodles were definitely not done Hokkian Style and smelt funny.

These two dishes were an absolute insult to Malaysian Cuisine, and overall this was the single worst meal we’ve ever had in London. Avoid at all cost.

Service: 5/10
Food: 4.5/10

Golden Gate Dessert House

This is a really lovely little (and oh yes we mean little – there is probably room for at most 20 people in this café-ish place) dessert house along Shaftesbury Avenue. Everything in the menu is quite cheap, and they serve some nice desserts and don’t seem to mind if you sit around and chat, even if you’ve only spent like, £2 per person.

The mango pudding is quite nice, but if you go for the ‘regular’ you’ll have it without condensed milk, which is quite pointless if you ask me – mango pudding needs the condensed milk to give it some oomph. The pudding is not the most awesome you’ll ever have, but it’s good enough for the price you’re paying.

We absolutely love the bean curd at Golden Gate Dessert House. This is smooth and silky, and even comes with a little jug of sugared syrup for you to customize the sweetness level, and a container of this lovely (cane?) sugar for you to add some wonderful texture to your velvety smooth bean curd. The only other place we’ve seen serving this sugar accompaniment is at Shan Shui Beancurd on top of the hill at Lantau Island in Hong Kong, so you can imagine how excited we were to see this again!

We’ve also tried the mango shaved ice, which was not quite as good as we hoped. The shaved ice was extremely inconsistent, and contained perhaps more chunks of ice than fine shavings, and the mango wasn’t all that fresh. Most appalling though was this chocolate cake that D had – it was just a swiss roll dipped in some chocolate, which was very disappointing, and it didn’t even taste very nice at all. Considering their wide selection of cakes on display at the counter you’d think that cakes would be their forte, but we think you’d be better off sticking to the beancurd instead.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10

Curry Competition

K received an email from Malaysia Kitchen inviting him to sign up to be a judge for a Malaysian curry competition, held at 54, a Malaysian restaurant at Farringdon. He responded immediately, but we were still unable to get a reservation for dinner, so we had to settle for lunch instead. (Damn those people who check their emails more regularly than we do!) Anyway, 4 restaurants were featured in the competition, and each submitted a curry for the tasting.

Ayam Bintang (Chicken Curry) from Bintang (in Camden):

Not bad, but not rich enough. The curry was very thin, but fortunately, the flavor was pretty good. 7/10

Potato Curry from Bonda Café (in Sussex Garden):

This was our least favourite curry of the 4. (Don’t you find it strange why people say ‘least favourite’ when they actually mean ‘most disliked’? Kind of misleading isn’t it since it suggests that the subject in question is actually considered a ‘favourite’ when it isn’t at all?) So what we really mean is that we didn’t like this curry at all. The potato wasn’t cooked very well and there was very little flavor in the curry at all. 4/10

Malaysian Chicken Curry from C&R Café Restaurant (in Bayswater):

The curry was a little too watery, and it was a little sweet. We would have preferred a little more salt in the curry and a thicker consistency, but we liked the addition of potatoes in the curry. 5/10

Kari Kambing (Lamb Curry) from Makan (in Portobello Road):

This was our favourite. We loved the strong flavours and the nice thick consistency of the curry. Lamb is definitely a good meat to use in a curry, so this entry benefitted from its choice of meat. We found that there was a little too much oil though. 8/10

Overall this was a nice event, but we felt that it could have been better organized. We were pretty much left to ourselves the moment we sat down, and it would have been nice if we had individual portions instead of having to share the curries family style with this other diner we’d never met. (Thankfully she was a vegetarian, so the only curry she could eat was the one we didn’t like anyway! A took a sneaky peak at her score card, and she gave a really high rating to the potato curry, which just goes to show what awesome things vegetarians miss out on by not eating meat..ha! Yes, we’re unapologetic for our views towards vegetarians, deal with it.)

Service: NA
Food: NA