Friday, December 27, 2013

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Yamal Alsham (Imperial Wharf)

Beautifully decorated on the inside but a little out of the way, Yamal Alsham is a Lebanese place that specialises in mezze dishes. I visited using a Wowcher deal that I had bought for £29, which claimed to be worth up to £85 worth of food. Having. A. Laugh. Nothing against the food we ate, which filled our appetites and tasted good, but in no way would that ever be worth eighty quid. What we ate was worth £29, and not a penny more; the so-called “deal” off Wowcher promptly put the “sham” in “Alsham”.

Discluding the fact that any “deals” you buy off Wowcher, Groupon or LivingSocial isn’t a deal at all but just you forking out the price of the meal, then, and Yamal Alsham is still somewhere I’d recommend. The food, on the whole, was good (the spicy potatoes were my favourites, it’s my most enjoyed thing about Lebanese cuisine, and the houmous was some of the best I've had), although not all of it was brilliantly presented – the curdled cheese just looked like cheese gone off. The wine that came with the meal smelt, and tasted like Sainsbury’s £6 wine, and was promptly left untouched. It was very annoying to be short-changed in the manner that we were, and had we not bumped into former premier league footballer Pavel Pogrebnyak, sat on the table next to us, I would be much more severe in my grading of this place. As such, I’m trying to be nice. If it’s good enough for a footballer, it should be good enough for me.

Grade: B

(There’s actually a Lebanese cafĂ© just outside my work, where I often get my spicy potato wraps. On the balance of things, I still prefer that place.)

PUB REVIEW: Waxy O’Connor ’s (Picadilly Circus)

As you might expect given the prime touristy location of Waxy O’Connor’s, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to get a drink here, alcoholic or not (one coke is £3.90, and a round consisting of an amaretto and coke and one Jack and coke came to an excess of a tenner). The place is cosy enough, especially the upstairs where I like to bring in my own Smirnoff vodka to decant into my drink. Cheeky as it may be, it’s also somewhat of a necessity given the extortionate prices they’re peddling their drinks for. However, you can only get away with this during 12-2-ish, because in the late afternoon, they instate a bouncer on the door to check your bags for booze. It’s almost as if they know their prices are ridiculous and that money-savvy people may be looking for ways around it.

The toilets are awful, most of the ladies’ toilet sinks weren’t washed and had poo round the sides, so it’s good to know that the high mark-up that they’re charging on their drinks is being spent on the customers, eh. The clientele are mostly pompous City types who work in advertising. So not clever, but think that everything they say is gold. Really quite awful.

Grade: E

(but, if you can sneak your own booze in, C. I recommend the upstairs because you’re less likely to escape detection; so understaffed is the pub, the baristas rarely come to clear the used glasses.)

Christmas Dinner.

This year, me and the brother were put on Christmas roast-cooking duty. These were the fruits of our labour:

We sprinkled a bit of cheese on our veg, just 4dabanta.

We marinated the turkey in lots of peri peri sauce.

Delicious food, all ready to be eaten!~~~

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Cape Town Fish Market (Oxford Circus)

A classy-looking joint, Cape Town Fish Market is particularly popular with tourists who want to give their tootsies a rest from shopping. It even boasts an actual fish tank with exotic fish in their venue. The food isn’t bad either, with the salmon teriyaki I ordered an absolute treat. The sauce accompanying the meal might just be some of the best teriyaki sauce I’ve ever had, so that’s well worth checking out (I suspect some wine may have been added into it to give it an extra kick; whatever it was, it worked!) My friend had sea bass, which also tasted wonderful. For starters, I ordered the fish cake, which was pretty decent (made more so by the fabulous sauce accompanying it), as well as a sushi nigiri set, which was relatively paint-by-numbers fare.

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Provided you use a Tastecard, the dining at Cape Town Fish Market is relatively affordable, but a word of warning: 1) the restaurant help themselves to a healthy tip, which doesn’t wash with me, because if the service is that terrific, you shouldn’t have to give yourself a tip, if you know your service has merited one from us. And 2) those bottles of water on your table that the waiters are all too happy to crack open for you? Yeah, £3.50 each. They’re there to lure you into a false sense of security. And then the waiters are all too happy to bring more to the table, even when you haven’t asked for any more. A real shame, as, had those two things not let the place down, I would be singing CTFM’s praises, especially that of its main dishes. As such, I left the place feeling a little hard done by.

Grade: B-

Restaurant review: TEN TEN TEI (Picadilly Circus)

A cosy Japanese restaurant off Shaftesbury Avenue that graciously dabbles in more than just sushi, I went to Ten Ten Tei with eight of my coursemates to celebrate making it through term one (trust me, it was no cakewalk!). It was selected ahead of the neighbouring Kulu Kulu because when I called Kulu Kulu to book a table for us, they vaguely said they didn’t take bookings and that we could “just all show up”, which sounded a bit fishy to me. I like things that I’m certain of, and Ten Ten Tei’s keenness to actually find seats for us is what immediately put me in its good books.

The menu had a lot of variety, and between the nine of us we sampled six or seven different dishes, all proficiently cooked and presented. I’m a sucker for seafood, so I went for ten don. The prawns were absolutely brilliant; thick, juicy, generous slabs of the thing, and a big step up from Massala Hut, where I have a good mind to complain about false advertising, so meagre/non-existent were the prawn quantities. 

However, the rice was a little tasteless, and as I’d been a little carried away when ordering and asked for the large portion, there was also quite a lot of rice to slog through. Thankfully, the complimentary soy sauce on our table made the task much less gruelling.

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To drink, I had the plum wine. The quantity-to-price ratio of this left rather a lot to be desired - £4.90 for a teeny, tiny glass, but it did taste wonderful, and barely alcoholic at all. i don’t know about the concentration of the drink, but I was feeling merrily light-headed after my meal despite the small glass size, so, it must have been doing something right.

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We got complimentary miso soup with all our meals, a nutritional, flavourful treat, and I washed it down eagerly, vegetables included. From the remaining meals ordered, I detected that the meat parts were all artfully present and well-cooked, but the noodles and rice excited me, and the respective orderers, less. However, that could be said of pretty much all restaurants, and for the good quality offered throughout, nice portions and tasty meals, overall, my impression of Ten Ten Tei was a positive one.

Grade: B+

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I gotta have my bite, sir.

A rather immense ice cream sundae I had at my local Spoon's:

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Two buffet meals this week.

Diwana, Euston. £6.95 for vegetarian all you can eat.

There was a seriously excellent selection of food on offer, and the majority of it was cooked better than you standard bargain basement Chinese buffet. Such was the usage of quorn supplements that, like Kailash Parbat, you didn't notice the lack of meat in your meal. And the fact that it's a buffet means you can stuff your face to your heart's content, for a modest price :)
However, what let this place down was the horrendous, horrendous service. Abrupt waiters who didn't register a request and had to be prodded into reminding, and when you did remind them they glared at you like, gee, I don't know, it wasn't their job to serve us or something. One was in my way and didn't even have the manners to step aside. Charming.
So, for that, I'll have to give this place a B-. Shame as the food was lovely, but the waiters there really need to be schooled in etiquette, just truthing.
Pizza Hut, Oxford Circus. £7.50 for all you can eat.
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I went to Pizza Hut's lunchtime buffet out of nostalgia for when I did it as a kid, but was disappointed to discover that both the quality of the food, and the quantity, is nothing like what I was used to all those year's ago. There was one flavour of pizza that came out consistently: margherita. Also known as the most boring pizza flavour. The pepperoni one tasted flat and flavourless, and the less said about ham and tuna the better. Only the veggie pizza have anything going for it. The salad bar was also extremely paint-by-numbers and dull.
Factor in awful service (we ordered bottomless cokes and they seemed extremely reluctant to top them up, knowing that they weren't going to get any extra money for it) and the fact that every time I tried to make eye contact with a waiter, they purposely looked away, and I can safely say I will not be going back to this dive in a hurry.
Grade: D

Friday, December 06, 2013

It's all gravy.

Just a lil' tribute to one of my favourite elements of a good meal: gravy.

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Sunday roast, Wetherspoon's.

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Cottage pie, work canteen.

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Vegetarian toad-in-the-hole, work canteen.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Massala Hut (Euston)

Following the roaring success of Raw Spice, here was an Indian restaurant I was far less impressed with. As with the previous place, I ordered a prawn dish, as I thought I’d compare the quality between the two kitchens. It was distinctly lacking here – there was plenty of jalfrezi, but basically no prawn. On closer inspection of the vegetables in my dish, and I’d be extremely surprised if they weren’t past their sell-by-date, and the cooks had clearly piled in the spices thinking “Jalfrezi! Ah! That means spicy!” without any consideration for the customer’s taste buds. I was not happy, particularly given the menu makes it sound like they were going to be generous with the prawn quantities. The other dish, the lamb pathia was even worse. Liquidy and runny, it was basically an extremely spicy soup! Such was the consistency and the hotness; it also meant that barely any of it could be eaten. So there’s your waste of food, which only exacerbated my mood (I hate leaving leftovers).

The pilau rice was pretty uninspired, meaning that the highlight of this excuse of a meal was probably the coconut naan bread; the one item the kitchen managed not to fuck up. And if the bread was the best thing about the culinary experience that is dining at Massala Hut, you know it’s not going to be somewhere I’m recommending to friends.

Grade: E