Category Archives: ££

Thai Dream

Located in a tiny alleyway off Boswell St near Queens Square, with dim lighting and barely any decorations around the entrance, Thai Dream is about as nondescript as it gets. The look of its exterior coupled with the fact that dimly lit places with names like “Thai Dream” in Thailand usually provide other types of services rather than table service, did make me hesitate before walking in. In addition, my experiences with Thai food in Bloomsbury hadn’t been the best of late (read my Busaba review). However, I took a leap of faith, and opened the door.

Like a typical family run restaurant, the inside is simple, quiet, and warm. There’s one waiter, a middle-aged, perpetually smiling Thai man, and every now and then he’d yell Thai instructions at who I presume is his wife in the kitchen downstairs, who would of course yell back telling him to watch his tone. This man is so sweet though, he even told me, “Don’t come for dinner, lunch is cheaper no need to spend more money”. Their menu offered every Thai dish one could want, from tom yum soups to noodles to fried rice to curries. And the best part…almost everything was priced under £6!!! I decided to order one of their set lunch options, which includes any starter and any main course for £8.90 altogether. Being a cold and rainy day, I went with hot Tom Yum Soup, and a beef Pad Thai (noodles). The soup was…PERFECT. With lemongrass, kaffir lime, chilli, and mushrooms, all mixed together in absolutely delightful ratios, this soup satisfies every corner of the pallet. I wouldn’t mind for it to be freezing and rainy every day just so I had a good excuse to keep coming back for this King of Tom Yums. The Pad Thai, was almost identical to Pad Thais I’ve had at homes in Bangkok and Koh Samui. The hardest thing to get right about the Pad Thai is the fish sauce, but these guys nailed it, with its wonderful taste infusing itself into every bite. The texture of the noodles and thickness of the beef pieces were also on point, and just at the end of every mouthful, the lime would kick in just as it should.

It’s a pity Thai Dream isn’t more well known, however after reading this I hope you will help change that, by taking many a lunch trip here for a true taste of Thailand!

£18 (2 people)

17 New North Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 3PJ

Thai Dream: Website / Menu

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Wolkite Kitfo

Ethiopian food – not something you come across every day but peaks any foodie’s curiosity. Upon opening the menu and realising I hadn’t a clue how to gauge what was the right thing to order, I called over the waiter/owner/father of the restaurant to ask for advice. (His children were sitting at a table in the corner doing their homework intermittently shouting for his attention).

For 2 of us, we were recommended and ordered Gomen Be Siga – lamb and spring greens (£8) and Yetsom Beyaynetu – a selection of vegetable dishes (£7). Both of these were served on or with injera – a light and spongy sourdough bread. With no cutlery provided, injera was our utensil as seemed to be what the regulars around us were doing. Each feature on the plate was a good subtle blend of spices, though the sour taste of the injera although pleasant at first, was not something I wanted with every mouthful.

But if you loved the injera, you’d be a happy chappy here but don’t miss the Tej (£2.50 per glass), a mead-like alcohol served cold from a teapot into a berele (conical shaped glass).

£30 (2 people)

82 Hornsey road Holloway, London.

020 7700 3055

Wolkite Kitfo: Website/ Facebook

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Sen Nin

Sen Nin is a Teppanyaki flare restaurant, mimicking the style of service found in Benihana restaurants around the world. The main obvious difference is the price – Sen Nin is significantly cheaper. (roughly £20-£25 per head for the set menu as opposed to £50-£60 at Benihana in Piccadilly).

The idea is to sit around the hot griddle while the knife-wielding, joke-telling chef fills you with awe and excitement. There was fire, there were eggs in hats, there was food thrown into our mouths, there was utensil juggling, there were funny jokes and the teriyaki tilapia was cooked perfectly. I wanted another 3 pieces.

It makes for an incredibly entertaining meal out with friends. It’s not quite Benihana, it’s lacking the finesse and atmosphere that makes a good restaurant superb, but it’s worth going out of your way to see for yourself if Teppanyaki flare is not something you’ve come across before. Bonus tip: go on a Tuesday, all food is 50% off, quite the sizzling deal.

£48 (2 people) 

Islington -206 Upper Street, Islington N1 1RQ 020 7704 1890

Camden – 35 Pratt Street, Camden NW1 0BG 020 7096 1276

Monday – Thursday 12:00 – 15:00 and 17:00 – 23:00

Friday – Sunday  12:00 – 23:30

Sen Nin: Website

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Five Guys

This famous American burger chain opened its first branch in the UK in July 2013, 1 day before competitor ‘Shake Shack’ opened its first UK outlet just down the road. Serving sloppy American burgers, the two went head to head. Naturally, I had to try them both back to back.

I have no doubt in saying the burger and fries are better at five guys. This is not to say it’s the best burger you’ll ever eat. It’s still fast food, with an impressive production line (pictured), and patties are cooked from fresh not frozen. Toppings are free and numerous. If you get them all (as I did) your burger will fall apart and stuffing your hand onto your face will be the only way to polish it off.

The fries are loaded into a cup and intentionally served overflowing in the paper bag, you feel like you’re getting bonus fries. Go for Cajun fries if you like a little heat and flavour.

It’s messy, it’s fast, and if you aren’t full (which is unlikely) you can gorge on the free buckets of monkey nuts. Long live America.

£28 (2 people)

1-3 Long Acre, Covent Garden London WC2E 9LH

Five Guys: Website/Facebook/Twitter

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Bright Courtyard Club

This restaurant is not bright, there is no courtyard and it’s not a club. But as far as I’m aware, it is unique in that it has an all-you-can-eat à la carte dim sum offering – something of a rarity in London and certainly a bright idea (only available Mon-Fri 12-4.30pm). Dim Sum aficionados? You may have just found heaven.

The décor is elegant and classy – ceiling high vintage wine cabinets on display. The standard à la carte menus are presented on iPads, with items including Braised Shark’s Fin (£48), Braised Abalone on Rice (£36) and Iberico Pork Pot Stickers (£12)…it’s just that sort of place. But the all-you-can-eat dim sum menu at £18pp presents much better value and less pretentiousness, although it’s a meagre paper menu. Pfft.

The selection available to choose from is slightly smaller than the average dim-sum restaurant menu, but more than enough to not feel limited at all. The dishes are all-round on par with the best in Chinatown. Special mention must go to the mooli croissants, dough stick cheung fun and Shanghai dumplings. Steer clear of the stodgy chestnut patties.

£56 (2 people)

43-45 Baker Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 8EW

020 7486 6998

Bright Courtyard Club: Website / Facebook / Twitter

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Aida

Fancy a cake and coffee whilst shopping? Aida has some beautiful clothes, expensive, but lovely to look at while you pretend you can afford it. After the pain has sunken in that you can’t actually afford the clothes, they have some tasty cakes to console you. I ordered a vanilla Chai Latte which was deliciously sweet and creamy, accompanied with a dark chocolate, pecan and caramel tart. The chocolate on the tart was much to hard, I could barely put my fork through, but once I did the taste was lovely. The dark, unsweetened chocolate compliments the very sweet caramel pecan base, which is crunchy but much softer than the chocolate. I wouldn’t recommend getting both the Chai Latte and the Tart however because they are both so heavy, felt as though I’d eaten a full meal!

£10 (2 people)

133 Shoreditch High Street E1 6JE

020 7739 2811

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

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Busaba Eathai

Nothing screams “Authentic Thai Restaurant” more than placing on every table, an eating utensil that majority of Thai people have probably never seen. Having heard about Busaba as being a traditional Thai restaurant, you can imagine the shocking, earth-shattering, and devastating horror of seeing CHOPSTICKS on each table.

I can say with confidence to the people of Busaba Eathai: my dear but confused friends, you would have to travel no less than 3000 miles from Bangkok to find a local cuisine that uses chopsticks. To those of you wondering, yes, I still ended up ordering food, albeit with not the highest expectations. I opted for a green papaya salad and a red beef curry – the litmus test for any Thai eatery. While ordering, the Italian waiter suggested I get the curry with sticky rice as “that’s the way they do it in Thailand.” No, Salvatore, that’s the way they do it in China, but I’ll give you points for getting the right continent…

The papaya salad was surprisingly good. It was as spicy as I would want it to be, they put in dried shrimp which I felt was a very nice touch, and the peanuts provided a nice crunch in between the soft papaya and noodles of the salad. However, as I would soon find out, this was merely a cruel ploy by the Devils of Inauthenticity to place me in a false sense of comfort. The beef was thick and chewy, not thin and soft as it ought to be. They used regular lime leaves instead of kaffir lime, but that’s okay, kaffir lime is only the most important ingredient in all of Thai food. As I took my first spoonful, it starting pouring down outside. Clearly the Thai gods had flown over to London to shed their tears. My friend ordered a green curry, and upon seeing corn present in it I too wanted to shed tears. Additionally, instead of tangy and spicy, the curry was sweet and almost sugary. By now there was thunder outside. How they manage to get away with charging £10.50 for what evidently is curry powder in water is beyond my understanding.

Overall, when considering Busaba as an option for a Thai meal, it’s best to think of it as Indian/Chinese food served by Southern Europeans.

£20 (2 people)

22 Store St, London WC1E 7DF

0207 299 7900

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