Monthly Archives: January 2013

Fast and furious times: Vietnamese at Le Gia

Copyright of Le Gia. Sourced from Le Gia website

Copyright of Le Gia. Sourced from Le Gia website

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Address: 41-42 Deptford Broadway, SE8 4PH

Area: Deptford

Nearest Station: Deptford Bridge/New Cross

Tel. No.: 020 8333 7491

Website: http://www.legia.co.uk/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Casual dining, Quiet meal

Ah, Deptford. The place was known to me primarily because of its history – its illustrious naval and maritime heritage, and its rather less salubrious reputation as the place where Christopher Marlowe died in a tavern brawl. And although I’d been to neighbouring New Cross several times to visit friends, I’d never dined out in the area. All in all, the place was a big unknown for me.

But now that I live in New Cross, I can appreciate the fact that Deptford is an exciting and varied place with a well-established Vietnamese community, presenting me with several good dining options right on my doorstep. However, the way that I discovered Le Gia harked more towards the ‘Christopher Marlowe’ side of things – the drinking side, not the stabbing, I hasten to add.

Nursing a massive hangover, I woke up after having unexpectedly crashed at my friends’ place in New Cross. Not willing to be more of an imposition, I went out in search of sustenance. Taking a curious and slow stroll towards Deptford, I chanced upon Le Gia, and looking at the menu, decided that this was exactly what I needed.

First impressions were a bit odd. It’s rather ‘hidden’ from the outside, and you wouldn’t expect a Vietnamese restaurant in what looks like an ex-pub. The inside is a bit clinical, the simple tables being dwarfed by the high ceilings. At the time they were playing Vietnamese karaoke videos on the TV above the bar – thankfully, for the time of day, the videos were on silent; I’ve discovered since that the karaoke is a constant feature of Le Gia, and in the evenings they let it all out by unmuting the TV.

The other thing that struck me, and still puzzles me, is that the place was and is usually nearly empty. Every time I have been (although the last time I went was a few months back) the only other diners have typically been a table of the owner’s friends. Usually a bunch of tough-looking and quiet-spoken fellows, I might add. You can draw your own conclusions from that…

Pork and stuff onna noodles - happiness in a bowl

Pork and stuff onna noodles – happiness in a bowl

This emptiness should be off-putting in most cases, but in Le Gia’s case it’s more than out-balanced by the quality of the food – which is why this place intrigues me. I love squid with chilli and salt, and Le Gia definitely delivers with their version: slightly crunchy-fried, a good level of salt and pieces of chilli lying around just asking to be eaten. The vermicelli noodles with grilled pork (and other toppings, depending on the option chosen) are delightful, tasty and filling; the one with grilled pork, spring rolls, pork hash and fresh vegetables is a must. Similarly good for the comfort eater is the grilled pork chop on rice – the rice is slightly sticky and soft, just how I like it; the pork is smoky and tender. Whilst those are the stand-out dishes for me, I’ve always been rather envious of the meals that my family and companions have had with me. Le Gia seems to be rather strong across the board.

Grilled pork chop. Happiness on a plate

Grilled pork chop onna rice. Happiness on a plate

And to finish off the meal, I always order a cup of Viet caphe, being in love with all things with condensed milk in them. It’s a sensibly-sized cup of the strong stuff and drip-filtered slowly in the traditional way. It is achingly sweet – they do not skimp on the condensed milk. Full marks to them here.

I’ve had a chance to try some of the other Vietnamese places in Deptford, but still I’m drawn back to thinking of Le Gia. So why has the place always been empty? I wish I knew. Maybe I’m just blessed with the ability to always go at the right time to get a table. Who knows…

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It makes for a nice local Vietnamese, that’s cheap and cheerful and serves good food. And you can always get a table!

Currently listening to: Sinsemilia – +2 Flics

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Categories: Vietnamese | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A quiet corner in bustling Deptford: Coffee and treats at Deli X

Copyright of Deli X. Sourced from Deli X website

Copyright of Deli X. Sourced from Deli X website

Cuisine: European

Address: 156 Deptford High Street, SE8 3PQ

Area: Deptford

Nearest Station: Deptford/Deptford Bridge

Tel. No.: 020 8691 3377

Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Deli-X/249955361716103

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Loitering over drinks, Sinful snacks, Community feeling

Having only just become a ‘proper’ Londoner (i.e. not just a weekday commuter/weekend playboy) within the last year, I thought it best to set down some roots and really explore the multifarious wonders of Southeast London.

And so, one sunny Saturday afternoon in April 2012, I decided to explore Deptford Market. I spent a fruitful hour exploring amongst the stalls, the fishmongers, the butchers, the greengrocers, the Chinese and Vietnamese stores, the flea market on Douglas Way, the Albany Theatre… and came away with a bag full of veggies, some Chinese ingredients, a nicely-weighted cleaver, a cafetière and an idea that yes, Deptford Market was actually a pretty cool thing to have around.

Well, I decided to head further north along Deptford High Street to explore what else lay beyond the railway bridge. I chanced upon the cheerfully-coloured Deli X and popped in, attracted by the deli displays of fresh fruit and vegetables and tempting cheeses.

The deli itself is small but well-laid out, and is rich with an eclectic theme. Having noticed that I looked a bit lost amongst the vegetables, one of the owners came over and offered to help. Friendly as ever, she managed to steer my attention to the coffees and cakes they had on offer. Clever girl she was, doing that. It wasn’t long before I relented to a Portuguese egg tart and a coffee, after which she sent me over to the dining area, a charming place filled with couches, mismatched tables and chairs.

Carrying on with the eclectic and mismatched theme, my coffee arrived in a bowl that perched precariously on an under-sized saucer. Funky, but risky – the girls here must have the balancing and hand skills of, I don’t know, a circus juggler.

I’m not a coffee aficionado, but I think I know enough to pick out bad coffee – this most definitely did not fit that bill. And as for that first egg tart, it was creamy and very more-ish; although they admitted that they didn’t make them themselves, they were going to give them a shot. I wish them the best in this endeavour

Since that first visit, I’ve also had the pleasure of having their almond croissants, which are a real guilty pleasure of mine and, I feel a good way of measuring up different places that sell them. Deli X’s almond croissants are rather sinful, with a generous filling of smooth and rich almond paste nestled amongst light, flaky and buttery pastry. The croissants occasionally have a bit too much powdered sugar on it, but other than that they make for a great afternoon snack.

All in all, it looks like a place you could linger in for an hour (as I have done on a few occasions, mainly after job interviews), reading one of the books that they have on their shelves, talking to the owners – or, as I did on a recent visit, you can admire the art they hang on the walls. Superhero art this time around – I was invited along to a private viewing the next night, so as to meet the artist and perhaps purchase a piece to adorn mine and my brother’s place. Unfortunately I already had something planned, but I appreciated the gesture.

VERDICT – A good place. I always enjoy warm welcomes, and they are in abundance in Deli X. When coupled with a feel that is relaxed, spacious and comfortable in its uniqueness, I think that Deli X is on to something here.

Currently listening to: Hexes – Lipgloss Ghosts

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The Dark Ages weren’t so dark after all: Chicken Kiev and other comfort foods at West End Kitchen

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Copyright of West End Kitchen. Sourced from West End Kitchen website

Cuisine: European

Address: 5 Panton Street, SW1Y 4DL

Area: Leicester Square

Nearest Stations: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square

Tel. No.: 020 7839 4241

Website: http://www.westendkitchen.co.uk/

Good For: Filling meal, Cheap and cheerful, Quiet meal

It is interesting to see that Chicken Kiev is making a ‘come back’ in London, according to the Evening Standard. Firstly, I am glad: Chicken Kiev was always a favourite school supper of mine, as it combines so many good things – breading, juicy chicken breast, butter and garlic – even if the execution back then was not always top-notch. Secondly, I am somewhat bemused that this dish has supposedly been absent from the West End since the 1970s. Granted, ‘sophisticated’ (as the Evening Standard names them) restaurants may not have been serving it, but I’ve been getting my Chicken Kiev fix for some time now in the West End. Gosh darn it am I being smug.

Welcome to the West End Kitchen on Panton Street.

It’s a small diner tucked away between Leicester Square and Haymarket, and has apparently been serving well-priced comfort food for many, many years now. I stumbled across it with my ex a few years back, when we’d just been to see a film; wet from the rain and desperately hungry, we couldn’t muster the effort to trudge to Chinatown and so we ducked into one of the few open doorways on Panton Street in order to dry off a bit and see what the menu had on offer.

That first time, I had the rather butch Pique a lo Macho (fried beef, chips, egg, sausage, onion, olives, pepper and cheese) that turned out to be a veritable macho mountain of hot and fulfilling food that would have overwhelmed lesser men. That and the friendly and irreverent service was enough to charm us back. Any time we were hungry and in the area, we would pop into the West End Kitchen.

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen - yummy yummy I've got love in my tummy

Chicken Kiev at the West End Kitchen – yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy

And it is through these repeated visits that I came to appreciate their Chicken Kiev. It is a well-made dish: succulent chicken breast wrapped around creamy and rich garlic butter and encased in wonderfully crispy breading. It comes with standard boiled vegetables and new potatoes on a bed of adequately done rice, all of which are nothing that special when compared to the spinach and chicken jus of Primo, but then again you can have a very decent meal here for under £10.

And when you’re hungry and in need of some comfort food, do you really need anything more?

VERDICT – A good place. It’s a nice go-to place for a decent feed and you will always find a welcoming booth. And, now that Chicken Kievs are chic again, why wouldn’t want to be flocking down to the West End Kitchen?

Currently listening to: Horrorpops – Freaks in Uniform

Categories: European | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a new day, it’s a new burger: BRGR.CO throws its hat in the ring

Copyright of BRGR.CO. Sourced from BRGR.CO website

Copyright of BRGR.CO. Sourced from BRGR.CO website

Cuisine: American

Address: 187 Wardour Street

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Tottenham Court Road/Oxford Circus

Tel.: 020 7920 6480

Website: http://www.brgrco.co.uk/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Sinful snacks, Friendly conversation, Filling meal, Good sides

BRGR.CO first appeared on my radar courtesy of my brother pointing me and his friends in the direction of an offer of a free burger to the then-unknown BRGR.CO’s first 500 Twitter followers. “Who were these guys?” was my first question. “When shall we collect on our free burger?” was my second.

So, having followed them and then having rounded up a posse, we hit BRGR.CO to see how one of London’s newest additions to the burger scene was doing.

In light of some of the pretty savage reviews we’d been reading in the days immediately after its opening, I was somewhat nervous about what to expect – but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised by BRGR.CO. Not amazed, but just surprised.

Our waitress was a delight – all smiles, friendly chatter and helpfulness. Even as our group expanded from 3 to 5, she was obliging enough to scrounge around for other chairs and tables in order to accommodate us all. Nothing could flap her; thankfully for her, all we needed was for her to note down our food.

An order of onion rings went down quite the treat as my brother and I waited for our friends to turn up. Nice and crunchy, full of real onion flavour (I’m looking at you, Burger King, even if I do love your onion rings so), and not overly greasy, it was a shame that there wasn’t more to the serving.

Fries fries fries

Fries fries fries

We were excited by the number of fries options on offer, and proceeded to order enough to feed a small army – regular, truffle parmesan, chilli and chilli and cheese. The chilli was suitably meaty and messy and imparted its saucy flavour well to the fries, but I must say that I very much enjoyed the truffle parmesan fries, even if the topping resembled some sort of gloopy béchamel sauce. What sort of parmesan – and truffle ‘sauce’ – are they using that it melts like that? No matter, I would have gladly had another bowl of it.

Now on to the main event – the BRGRLICIOUS burgers. I had ordered the 6oz. (it being the biggest option in the freebie deal), which they recommend having medium rare to medium. So as to “preserve the juiciness and the flavour”. The burger comes with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and dill pickles on the side, so you have to pay a bit extra for things like cheese and bacon. I opted for the provolone, as it’s not something you see in a burger that often.

The 60z burger. Maybe I should have put the toppings under the burger?

The 60z burger. Maybe I should have put the toppings under the burger?

The provolone didn’t really add much to the burger. Additionally, when I took the burger apart in order to put the greenery inside, the provolone really didn’t make it look great. My brother and friends were similarly puzzled by this assemble-it-yourself set-up (maybe we’re just a lazy bunch who need our burgers spoon-fed to us).

The burger itself: there was a pleasing char-grilled flavour, good meatiness, some juiciness… but little else. The burger tastes a bit flat; it feels a bit flat. Maybe it’s a lack of compelling seasoning, or maybe the thinness of the patty reduces the burger’s impact. When compared to the bog-standard fast food burger, it is much better, but when lined up against the best that Soho has got to offer – Patty & Bun being a good example of a stellar recent opening – it falls rather short.

Considering the time and effort they’ve taken to put this whole operation together, and the pride they take in their ingredients, you would expect something a bit better. So perhaps BRGR.CO hasn’t quite hit its stride yet. Let’s hope that they do.

VERDICT – An okay experience. They’ve done a good job with the space, and they’ve definitely hired some great people to take care of customers. But the burgers themselves were not awe-inspiring. If BRGR.CO are going to pitch themselves in the top league of burgers in London, they need to do more to create a compelling patty. They definitely have the potential for it.

Currently listening to: Gojira – Into the Wilderness

Categories: American | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kamayan Supper Club: Filipino Food in London

CHECK OUT MINE AND MY BROTHER’S NEW FILIPINO SUPPER CLUB VENTURE – THE ADOBROS

When was the last time you sat down and let someone serve you Filipino food?

Chances are, if you’re the average Londoner, it was either a very long time ago or NEVER. But this need not be the case!

Let me take the time to introduce you to a friend of mine, Mae of Pepe’s Kitchen.

It has long been a mission of hers to get more people eating Filipino food, at home and elsewhere, through catering events, hosting cooking classes and generally feeding anyone who would let her do so. I’ve very fortunately been one of those people she has fed, and boy I am a better person for it.

Well, Mae has been thinking of how else she can spread the good news about Filipino food (short of her following the footsteps of Travis Kraft – American Adobo and Salo-Salo will never get old), and after months of informal chit-chat, we decided that we should launch a supper club.

So please give a big, grand old welcome to the Kamayan Supper Club, our chance to share our love of socialising and eating – Pinoy style – with friends both old and new.

“What is Filipino food?”

Well, why not come along to the Kamayan Supper Club and find out??

Categories: Filipino, Supper Club | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments