Tag Archives: culture

Constancia

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a well cooked carnivorous meal. Amongst the stands lining Shoreditch’s Food Market, this stand stuck out the most. I could smell the meat from a mile away. I went directly to this stand without second thought because Argentinean beef is my weak point- the Argentineans really know how to prepare their beef. The sandwich exceeded my expectations- a mouth watering, medium-rare, excellent quality beefsteak glazed in a nice garlic-y Chimichurri sauce, with melted cheese and salad. A simple but perfect combination, I seriously recommend these sandwiches to any meat-fanatics. They have a restaurant located in Bermondsey (South London), which no doubt serves food just as great as this stand does, but with more choice.

£20 (2 people)

52 Tanner Street, London, SE1 3PH

Constancy: Website / Menu / Facebook / Twitter

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Beigel Bake

Everyone loves a good bagel so look out for the Beigel Bake, a small place with a fantastic sense of tradition and in the perfect place on iconic Brick Lane. This place is great for your quick bagel fix after a late night out, a quick lunch or just a snack on a student budget. It is open 24/7, and for a smoked salmon cream cheese bagel, it is just £1.60. There aren’t many choices available, but they cover most of the classic fillings, like herring, cheese and egg. The bagel itself was chewy and fluffy at the same time just as a great bagel should be. To be honest, I thought it was better that way, more traditional. The bread choices are also basic, but the bagel is great quality, especially for the price. All in all, visit this place, it is well worth it.

£3.20 (2 people)

159 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB

Beigel Bake: Menu

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Herman Ze German

The German stereotype is taken to another level with ‘Herman Ze German’; the menu and decorations are bound to make you laugh. “Our Wursts are Ze Best” is written in neon lights on the wall, they have replaced the word chips with ‘pommes frites’, and they refer to women as ‘Fraulein’. The hotdogs themselves are perfectly cooked and juicy, and the sauerkraut is pleasantly combined with crispy onions. However as I prefer my hotdogs very saucy, I believe a healthy dose of mustard and ketchup is required. The bun I would say is the weakest part of the experience- very basic bread that doesn’t add much. The atmosphere however is cosy, the staff are friendly and service is great. It is the ultimate solution for a hot dog craving.

£14 (2 people)

33 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JP

Herman Ze German: Website / Menu / Facebook / Twitter

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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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Duck and Waffle

In a city that never sleeps, its almost imperative that there be a restaurant that never sleeps. Staying open 24 hours, and sitting 40 floors high in the middle of London’s financial district, Duck and Waffle has assumed this role in some style.

The vibe of the place instantly makes you want to just have a fantastic time. The restaurant being absolutely packed, with the constant sound of trendy tunes mixed with intense laughter and conversation, makes the ambience unbelievably lively. The big glass windows allow it’s exclusive clientele to look over the city they rule, with panoramic views of London stretching from Canary Wharf to Westminster Abbey.

I went with 3 of their small plates, the roasted octopus, wild cornish pollock meatballs, and the foie gras creme brûlée. Also, the mood seemed to scream out for a cocktail, so I went with a concoction of Jack Daniels, amaro, and smoked maple leaf and autumn flavours called Autumn. The flavour of the whiskey drowned in the aromas of the smoked leaf and autumn flavours made this cocktail hit the senses in multiple ways, leaving a beautiful feeling of wholesome satisfaction after every sip.

The octopus was nicely grilled, with the squeezed lemon juice over the pieces giving it a nice tangy flavour in addition to the fishy taste of the octopus. The meatballs were also very tasty, with the lobster cream giving it a classy dressing and the breaded crumbs on top giving it a nice crunch. The winner though, by a clear margin, was the foie gras creme brûlée. I was initially skeptical about ordering a creme brûlée made out of foie gras, but thank heavens I did. With a crispy top, and a hint of caramel custard, it initially disguises itself as just another creme brûlée, but soon after the wonderful foie gras carrying its baby pieces of butter roasted lobster marches in to remind you that this is a dish of another universe. I’m honestly surprised it wasn’t featured in “Interstellar.” Every bite of this was like the first bite, as the foie gras blends so well with the caramel and lobster that I constantly questioned what it is I was tasting.

I would recommend Duck and Waffle for the creme brûlée itself, however with its spectacular views, drinks, and atmosphere, I would rate it as one of the best spots for a great night out in London I’ve been to so far. On a side note though, our group paid around £80 a person, so a trip here wouldn’t be the best time to forget your wallet!

£160 (2 people)

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4AY

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Beijing Dumpling

It was the day after the clocks went back, and although it’s supposed to be the warmest October in years, the one hour change somehow made it feel that winter had descended upon us. On such a day, one must listen to the heart. And the heart pointed towards some good old steamed dumplings.

So I wandered into Chinatown and followed this dumpling compass to Beijing Dumpling, a fairly typical looking Chinatown eatery with the chefs situated near the entrance so curious travellers treading upon the West End’s Silk Road (otherwise known as Lisle St) can marvel as long threads of dough are flipped and kneaded into all sorts of dumplings, wontons, and buns. The restaurant was near empty, but for the smell of soy sauce and steamed pork balls, which made it as full as I need it to be. I went with the plate of Siu Long Bao. I also ordered their “Special fried rice.” Although I wasn’t expecting much, the service at this place wasn’t the greatest. The main waiter seemed to take great offence every time he was called, and hence he wasn’t exactly a pocket full of sunshine while interacting with me.

The Siu Long Bao dumplings were decently tasty, however the outer layer was a bit too thick, so there was a bit too much of a wheat taste instead of that of the pork ball in the soup. Also, I felt there wasn’t enough soup in the dumpling, making it a bit dry. The fried rice on the other hand, was extremely well made. The “Special” turned out to be a Yang Zhou Fried Rice, which is in my opinion the best kind of fried rice anyway. With minced barbecued pork, prawn, egg, and vegetables, it offers a mix of flavours like no other fried rice dish across any cuisine I’ve had. These guys got the texture and flavours all right, including the amount of soy and MSG to add which can be tricky, so props to them.

Charging £5 for 8 pieces of dumpling, and £4.5 for a very authentically and deliciously prepared fried rice, Beijing Dumpling definitely gives a good bang for your buck. Worth a visit if you are in the mood for a decent Chinese meal under £10!

£20 (2 people)

23 Lisle St, Chinatown, London WC2H 7BA

Beijing Dumpling: Menu / Facebook

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Baozi Inn

If someone closed my eyes, kidnapped (or gently transported), and dropped me in the middle of Newport Court, I would swear I was on a by-alley in a Southern Chinese city. The first restaurant on Newport Court is Baozi Inn, a typical, compact restaurant that serves a (surprise surprise) Southern Chinese and Sichuan Chinese fare.

Ambience wise it is just what you’d expect from such a place. The tables are essentially on top of each other yet seat multiple different groups. You’d have to struggle quite hard to not eavesdrop, however if you get my luck and the group sitting next to you talks about literally nothing other than chicken farming for 45 minutes, then it becomes less of a struggle. Also, don’t expect any sort of traditional Chinese music that you might hear at tourist traps. Here, they stick to the most authentic of Chinese restaurant music – yelling in every dialect China has to offer.

I ordered a plate of boiled pork Beijing dumplings, Chengdu pork wontons in a spicy garlic sauce, and Pork Dan Dan noodles. The dumplings were £7.50 for 8 pieces, and the noodles £7.80, very reasonable for the size of their portions. The Beijing dumplings were excellent, with great texture and perfect size of the pork balls inside. My only criticism would be that there should be even more of the boiled soup inside, so that the taste of the dumpling explodes in the mouth after biting it. The wontons were quite spectacular, completely doused in typical Sichuan chilli and garlic, with a great blend of tangy and spicy. Taking my first look at the noodles, I held my breath in fear, as it looked like just noodles and minced pork, with no chilli sauce!!! However, the gods were kind and I found that there was a significant amount of Sichuan chilli sauce, it had just sunk to the bottom. So if you eat this, make sure you properly mix the noodles with the sauce, as the sauce is what makes any Sichuanese dish. This dish most definitely held true to that as the sauce, like with the wontons, had a fantastic mix of spice and soy/tangy flavour that complimented the minced pork excellently.

A peculiar aspect of this restaurant is that the waiters seem to be in a rush to take away your plates when they have the slightest suspicion that you’ve finished eating. So in case you’re taking a slight break but are not done yet, keep a close eye on your plate as it might be snatched away at any second. Do this, and I’m sure you’ll end up loving this typical Southern Chinese gem as much as I do!

£30 (2 people)

26 Newport Ct, London, WC2H 7JS

Baozi Inn: Website / Menu / Twitter

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