Lunchtime fun time in Croydon: Part 1

Nearest Station: East Croydon/West Croydon

My team got moved down to Croydon in January this year – let me tell you this, it is a very different place from Canary Wharf. But whilst there aren’t that many suits and ties down there, there is still a Waitrose!!

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This isn’t Croydon…

However, unlike a few of my colleagues, I was rather okay with the transition: I was rather familiar with shopping and eating in Croydon from my days living in Surrey, and my commute is now hella easy and crowd-free… and I suppose I was getting a bit tired of the samey-chainey food options in the Wharf (WASABI I HATE YOU SO MUCH).

Sure, I would miss the lunchtime window-shopping, the glass-steel-marble skyscrapers, the preppy hot girls in their finest office wear, the… erm, prestige I guess of working in Canary Wharf? But hey, I love (re)discovering different parts of London; Croydon lunchtimes would therefore be fun times.

Over the past few months I have therefore taken it upon myself to discover the best in lunchtime dining in Croydon – not just for my stomach’s sake, but also maybe for my career’s sake: I think I’m well on my way to becoming my team’s (hopefully indispensable) Food Guy. See below for the results of my exhaustive, scientific and completely objective study.

 

Uncle Lim’s Malaysian Kitchen

Cuisine: Malaysian

Address: Whitgift Centre, CR0 1RZ

Tel.: 020 8688 8378

Website: N/A

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Filling meal

Ah yes, good old Uncle Lim’s; I’ve known you for a long time.

Cheap and cheerful Malaysian canteen that can whip up dishes fresh from the kitchen or, the more usual option for me, a selection of food from their hot counter, packaged into a Medium Meal Deal (rice/noodles, one meat, one veg, one drink) or their Large Meal Deal (rice/noodles, two meat, one veg, one drink).

Portions are hearty (the Large will put you into a food coma. You have been warned), the prices are cheap, the turnover of the food is fast enough, and the quality itself decent for what it is.

The Malaysian lamb curry may be a bit too bony and the salt and pepper squid a bit chewy, so I would go for the beef rendang (rich and flavourful but not too spicy) and the sambal aubergines – they are both delightful. The rice is soft and fluffy, whilst the noodles are a bit plain but more-ish in that “fried food tastes so good” way.

I also recently had the char kway teow; very generous portion and again very tasty. Rather surprisingly, the prawns were not the piddly kind you get in the supermarket, but more properly-sized beasts. Not bad for a canteen in Croydon!

Char kway teow = warmth in my belly

Char kway teow = warmth in my belly

It certainly does not stack up against Satay House or Melur, my two favourite Malaysian restaurants in London, but then again Uncle Lim’s has no pretensions (and certainly not the prices) to be like them. This is a place for a filling and hearty lunch that delivers flavour, if not sophistication.

I took my team’s business analysts here for lunch once; several have been back, including very recently for a colleague’s leaving lunch. If it’s good enough for them, surely it’s good enough for you?

VERDICT – A good place. Let me make clear that this is not the height of fine Malaysian dining in the capital, but it’s not trying to be like that, and so cannot be rated in the same way. You want something different in Croydon? You want teh tarik? You want a hearty meal that delivers on flavour for a good price? Then Uncle Lim can feed you, and he will feed you well.

 

Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney

Copyright of Chai Corner. Sourced from Chai Corner website

Copyright of Chai Corner. Sourced from Chai Corner website

Cuisine: Indian/Pakistani

Address: North End Mall, CR0 1UB

Tel.: 020 8633 1779

Website: http://www.chai-corner.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Takeaway

I was rather surprised to spot these guys in the Allders mall: Indian street food in Croydon? Seems a bit too hipster for the area… but the more important question is – how do they square off against the currently on-trend Dosa Deli and Everybody Lovelove Jhal Muri Express (as if that’s even a legitimate question)?

The reason I group Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney together is because a cursory internet search and first-hand experience shows them to be owned by the same people – and funnily enough, they do seem to cook each other’s food, with the ladies at Chilli Chutney producing the wraps for the lads at Chai Corner. Interesting business plan…

Regardless of who is making the wraps, they are tasty enough for lunch. The first time I went, I had the paneer tikka wrap: adequate amount of paneer filling bulked out by salad and a flavourful if mild tikka marinade/sauce/spice. I have since followed this up with other wraps, but the meat options present a rather unremarkable dining experience.

I hid away in the corner to eat this. THE SHAME (or rather the smell)

I hid away in the corner to eat this. THE SHAME (or rather the smell)

The pakora were good and crisp and nicely savoury, if rather oily, but the samosa is a nice and fresh little parcel of deep-fried goodness (just about superseding my love of cold 85p samosas from the corner shops, the height of gastronomic experience). A further visit for a sit-down meal with mia madre saw us having the tandoori chicken – a succulent and juicy affair – whilst the lamb seekh kebab salad was… interesting in its combination of olives and sun-dried tomatoes with lamb seekh.

At least the tikka was the right colour

At least the tandoori was the right colour

Are those... sun-dried tomatoes and olives? YES :-(

Are those… sun-dried tomatoes and olives in an ‘Indian’ salad? YES 😦

The output is quick, the prices are low and the food is adequate. It certainly makes for a change from the normal wrap experience, not that there are many in Croydon.

VERDICT – An okay experience. Dished out from the rough-and-ready stalls lining the passageway in the rather tired Allders mall, Chai Corner and Chilli Chutney’s food do an admirable job of bringing a different kind of Indian experience to town. It’s not particularly polished, but it ticks all the boxes for a decent and quick lunch.

 

Roti Masters

Copyright of Roti Masters. Sourced from Roti Masters website

Copyright of Roti Masters. Sourced from Roti Masters website

Cuisine: Caribbean

Address: 26a St George’s Walk, CR0 1YG

Tel.: 020 8760 0999

Website: http://rotimasters.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Filling meal, Friendly conversation, Spice

We’re getting into some serious lunch territory here. I’d initially spotted this little bad boy of a café back in December, on our team away day and Christmas lunch outing, and made a mental note to myself to check it out. Further research revealed some very promising reviews; Roti Masters moved high up my hit list.

And who wouldn’t want to try a bit of Trinidadian roti wrap? For the uninitiated, these are a true fusion food from the Caribbean: Indian-inspired flatbreads (roti) filled with Indian-inspired curries using Caribbean meats, spices and ingredients… it’s a recipe for success, one that I hoped that Roti Masters would, well, have mastered (ha!).

The proof of their ability is clear in the number of times I’ve been back: the man with the plan behind the counter now recognises me and has met my colleagues and even my dad and my mum – he now asks how the parents are doing! This is certainly one friendship I am happy to cultivate.

The Curry Goat Roti is a delight – succulent and tender pieces of goat in a highly-spiced and rich sauce, packed into a light and fluffy roti along with a myriad of other delicious fillings inside the light and chewy roti skin. Although it looks small on the plate, first impressions can be deceptive; this bad boy will fill you up.

It may not be the prettiest thing to look at it, but just remember: it used to look like a goat

It may not be the prettiest thing to look at it, but just remember: it used to look like a goat

The saltfish version of the roti is also very tasty and savoury, but I do understand that saltfish can be divisive – however, this is not too salty, so it’s definitely worth a spin.

The least comfortable lunch I had there was when I rather stupidly ordered the Buss Up Shot (the roti skins by themselves – oh so very more-ish in their fluffy doughiness) alongside a Hot Double (roti filled with mushy and hot chana chickpeas) and some palori (chickpea fritters that are ever-so-slightly crunchy on the outside but all chewiness on the inside) – as you can imagine, I ate myself into a food coma, albeit a delicious one. Have those things on separate occasions, not at the same time, or you’ll be falling asleep at work, as I did. But was it worth it? Oh yes…

VERDICT – A good place. Friendly, delicious, wholesome and tasty, Roti Masters is a no-frills café with some banging food at affordable prices. Not sure there’s much more to say oth- oh wait: “Suck it Canary Wharf!! You may have Roka and Le Relais de Venise, but Croydon has Roti Masters! BOOM”

Currently listening to: Sonic Boom Six – For the Kids of the Multiculture

Categories: Caribbean, Indian, Malaysian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things have gotten a bit fishy in New Cross: Maddy’s Fish Bar sets up shop

Copyright of Maddy's FIsh Bar. Sourced from Maddy's Fish Bar Twitter

Copyright of Maddy’s FIsh Bar. Sourced from Maddy’s Fish Bar Twitter

Cuisine: British

Address: 397 New Cross Road, SE14 6LA

Area: New Cross

Nearest Station: New Cross

Tel.: N/A

Website: https://twitter.com/MaddysFishBar

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Takeaway, Casual dining, Comfort food, Fresh seafood, Friendly conversation, Seasonal menu

The past year has been pretty tough: sometime in May or June last year, our local chippie in New Cross closed up for renovation works and then never reopened.

Once patronised by Sir Paul McCartney (no, really), Sirius Fish & Chips was run by a lovely Filipino couple who knew me and my brother quite well – courtesy of our mum introducing us to them, without our knowing about it, not long after we moved into the area. Whilst the fish was not the best, it was decent enough to fill the fish-shaped hole that appeared in my life on the occasional evening, but certainly I enjoyed going there for the conversation and the friendliness.

So yes, with the loss of my favourite Filipino-run chippie, I think it’s fair to say that New Cross suffered heavily for it.

For where was one to go for good fish and chips from a proper chippy (I’m going to leave Sefa Kebab out of this discussion, and for argument’s sake the other places at the far, far end of New Cross that no one ever told me about)? The nearest one I could fathom then was Brockley’s Rock, but as the name suggests, that’s in Brockley, not New Cross and certainly not just down the road from us. The round-trip, including bus ride, ordering and waiting, and loitering at the bus stops at both ends, took at the very least a good 45 minutes, if I remember correctly.

Imagine carrying that on the bus home and not being able to eat it

Imagine carrying that on the bus home and not being able to eat it

The cod was absolutely delightful and crispy, the chips that perfect middle point between overly-crunchy and soggy and the mushy peas a great texture – but 45 minutes is too much effort for a ‘local’ chippy. Brockley’s Rock is a gem that neighbouring Brockleyites can keep to themselves – this New Cross boy needed something closer to home. Desperately.

And so, when the news appeared on the grapevine that the London Particular (brilliant café, FYI) would be backing their friend, Maddy Inoue, in opening a new fish bar venture in the empty shell that was Sirius, of course I was excited. There was even to be a Kickstarter campaign to help her purchase a state-of-the-art fryer. Although hesitant that a ‘fish bar’ might entail grossly-exaggerated prices, my cynical thoughts were over-ridden by a stomach desperate for some really good fish and chips. So my brother and I chipped in (haha!) and backed Maddy on Kickstarter.

That was in the last quarter of last year; Maddy’s Fish Bar officially opened a week ago Tuesday. Suffice to say, it has been a long and tortuous wait. One that was thankfully shortened by just a few days, thanks to our Kickstarter contribution and subsequent invitation to a ‘VIP’ tasting session (ballin’) during their soft launch. Over the course of an evening, set in their bright, clean-cut and rather utilitarian space, we were treated to a wide range of dishes from the proposed menu, which is meant to be a modern twist on British classics.

Look who's in the window!! Sourced from Maddy's Fish Bar Twitter

Look who’s in the window!!
Sourced from Maddy’s Fish Bar Twitter

So what is on offer from Maddy, and how does her fare hold up as a neighbourhood chippy?

Rock Oysters: Not your average chippy dish, but certainly what you’d expect from a fish bar. I’m no fan of oysters, so I’ll defer to my brother on this one: “fresh”. So there you go.

Rock Oysters!

Rock Oysters!

Chicken Nuggets: These were delightful. Moist and tender pieces of chicken in a substantial coating (which admittedly could have done with being just a bit crispier), served with a home-made mayonnaise that was very more-ish. I can foresee these being a rather guilty treat.

Chicken (not Mc)Nuggets!

Chicken (not Mc)Nuggets!

Selection of Pickles – Egg in pickling broth and radish: The aforementioned ex-Beatle was apparently a fan of the pickled eggs of Sirius (no, really), so I’d love to hear his opinion on Maddy’s take on this classic dish.

You call that a pickled egg?

You call that a pickled egg?

Sadly, he was unable to comment, so I’ll blunder on. What we got here was a gloriously warm and soft-boiled egg that spilt its yolk ever so generously into the savoury vinegar-dashi bath that the egg found itself in; it was a real treat, and I can imagine that having one of these alongside your fish would be rather eye-opening. The accompanying radishes, on the other hand, were rather under-powered as a pickle and didn’t really add much to this course. Something to work on, I guess.

Salt and Pepper Squid: Continuing with the injection of Asian influences into a British chippy, Maddy is turning her hand to that favourite Chinese staple of ours, salt and pepper squid. She wasn’t so successful on this one – yes, it was crisp, had great texture and did not feel greasy at all; unfortunately, it lacked real bite and flavour. All I think it needs is just an adjustment to the seasoning – a much easier thing to improve upon than trying to rescue dead and limp fried squid.

Salt and pepper squid... with not too much salt or pepper alas

Salt and pepper squid… with not too much salt or pepper alas

Fish and Chips with Maddy’s Slaw, mushy peas and curry sauce: And here we have the pièce de résistance, the whole reason why I welcomed Maddy to New Cross with wide open arms: crispy crisp fishy fish. You can just see from the photo alone how phenomenal that batter was – light, fluffy and crispy, it covered all the bases. It’s good to see our Kickstarter money was used well! The whiting fish itself was cooked just right and was juicy up to the point before fish starts to fall apart. When I went back on opening day, I was able to have the panko-breaded plaice, which again was delightful and crisp – the picture below does not represent a one-hit wonder.

Crispy crisp fishy fish

Crispy crisp fishy fish

As for the chips – although Maddy did say that she had to go through several iterations of her chip recipe, I was fairly happy with where she’d gotten to that evening, for the chips were, like Brockley’s Rock, hitting that right balance between overly-crunchy and soggy. Really good chippy chips then, perfect for soaking up the delicious curry sauce accompanying the dish.

Maddy’s Slaw was a standard sauced cabbage affair, which adds some freshness and vegetable bite to the dish, serving its purpose adequately as a side dish.

The mushy peas, however, I was not hugely wowed by. Whilst the flavours were perfectly fine (good level of mintiness, even if I don’t like mint with peas too much), when I want mushy peas I want, well, a complete mush. Yes, mixing in whole peas with some mushed ones creates a pleasing contrast of textures, but… I’m just a stickler for a real mush of peas that I can scoop up with a chip. No doubt other people will like these peas – they are welcome to them.

Cornflake Ice Cream: You know that pleasing state, right at the beginning of your bowl of Frosties, where the coldness of the milk really brings the sugary flavour and crunch to the fore? That’s what this ice cream is all about. A shot of freshness, first thing in the morning.

Cornflake ice cream. Inadvisable to add vinegar

Cornflake ice cream. Inadvisable to add vinegar

I was able to confirm this initial impression on opening day, and discovered that Maddy had gone the extra mile by putting actual cornflakes on the ice cream. Winner winner ice cream dinner!

 

So, it all looks good, no? But I am sure you are wondering, “A chippy this fancy don’t come cheap”. And you’d be right in that this is no Sirius Fish & Chips – the standard meal of fish, chips and Maddy’s Slaw comes in at £8.50, and the portions are smaller (healthier!?) – but at the same time it is no pricey Fish and Chip Shop in Islington, which is what I feared the most for the local area. So yes, I think Maddy’s has done just about alright bringing these prices to New Cross… it’s a step up from before, but at least it’s a measured step and in the right direction.

VERDICT – A good place. Maddy’s Fish Bar is a more than welcome addition to the neighbourhood, not just because it fulfils the criteria of existing and being an open business, but because it brings some genuinely good fish and chips to the area. Friday Fishdays are back on!

Currently listening to: Battlelore – Beneath the Waves

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

Back to business…

Well, it has been a while since I last updated this… I haven’t lost interest in blogging as such, it’s just that life and actual living has gotten in the way: mainly adjusting to a new job, holidays and training for a couple of races later this year (excuses, excuses, I know).

So... they have WiFi here, right? For my blogging??

So… they have WiFi here, right? For my blogging??

But if you thought that I’d gone off trying new places to eat and hanging out in old haunts, you’d be sadly mistaken, for a very big part of this ‘being alive’ thing has involved some damn fine eating and drinking at places that I will eventually/would love to review on this site: Gymkhana, Discount Suit Company, Tsuru, Chotto Matte, Maddy’s Fish Bar, The LP Bar, Reverend JW Simpson, my favourite trio of dim sum places (Princess Garden of Mayfair, Phoenix Palace, Pearl Liang), the wide-ranging lunchtime options of Croydon (including the amazing Roti Masters), Meza, Mama Pho, Meze Mangal, Sager + Wilde, Mr. Buckley’s, Canteen, Central & Co., Koya, Goode & Wright, Boopshi’s, Ember Yard, Grillshack, Lahore Kebab House, Tramshed, Maxela, Pelt Trader, Carriage 34, The Albion in Islington, Zeret Kitchen, Jackson + Rye, Smokehouse, Bubbledogs… the list can go on and on, trust me.

THERE WAS A ROAST PIG INVOLVED

THERE WAS A ROAST PIG INVOLVED

And as implied, I also have a number of trips to report back on: the long overdue report on my fabulous dining during my Philippines trip last October, some foodie fun times in Lisbon, and most recently an excursion for deep-fried goodness in Amsterdam.

So much food...

So much food…

So little time...

So little time…

So much food. So little time to blog. A thousand sighs and a thousand tears.

BUT, all I reckon I need to get started up again is to just publish something, no matter how short.

So here goes!

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As some of you may have seen, New Cross’ very own Filipino Supper Club, The Adobros, will be hosting a pop-up dinner at No. 178 New Cross Road, a lovely little café that I reviewed here.

The Adobros

No 178

This is obviously very exciting for us, as catering for up to 40 (!!) in a café is a big step up from our usual supper club, where 10 lucky people are ensconced in our dining room for a wondrously friendly and filling feast of Filipino food. More importantly, to have the good folks at No. 178 acknowledge The Adobros in such a manner is very humbling.

The least we can do then to repay the support of No. 178 and all of the diners who have enjoyed or will enjoy our food is to continue delivering hearty, home-cooked feasts that bring together friends and strangers for that quintessential supper club experience.

So we do hope that you can come join us at No. 178 on Saturday 24th May for a taste of Filipino food. Details below!

Date: Saturday 24th May

Tickets: £25 per person

Menu: To be confirmed

To book a place: Email info@theadobros.com or leave your details at No. 178 New Cross Road. See theadobros.com for more details

Kain na tayo! Let’s eat now!

Categories: Filipino, Supper Club | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Future of Filipino Food in London?

It’s fair to say that Filipino food is still very much a Great Unknown for Londoners and the British in general. This is both a curse and a blessing – a curse in that people are always a bit wary of the unknown, and will always need reassurance to get them to try out Filipino food; but a blessing in that we still have that ‘wow’ factor, that there’s still a niche to fill and that it still provides an adventure for the average person. It is still an ‘exciting’ cuisine.

Does this get you excited? It should do

Does this get you excited? It should do

Certainly, this seems to be what I’ve learnt from my experience of running The Adobros supper club with my brother. “So give me the low down on Filipino food” is probably one of the most common questions people ask me when I tell them about The Adobros – followed by “Have you had any weird people come along yet?” For the curious, here is our brief explanation on Filipino food, and no, all of our guests so far have been lovely.

This relative obscurity has been perpetuated by the general lack of Filipino food available in London, and the UK in general. A cursory glance at www.london-eating.co.uk reveals, non-comprehensively, only 8 recorded Filipino restaurants (compared to 88 Vietnamese) in all of London which, considering that the 2011 census recorded an estimated 44,199 Filipino-born residents in London (a good 39% of all Southeast Asian-born residents) – and who knows how many hundreds of thousands more UK-born of Filipino descent – is pretty poor.

But I do have the feeling that we are on the cusp of some big change in terms of visibility and availability. Earlier this year, Lakwatsa managed to get some prime coverage in an Evening Standard article that trumpeted the impending success of ‘meriendas’ over tapas, showing Londoners one aspect of good Filipino eating. I’ve also seen a few more Filipino restaurants opening up of late: Kalesa in Clapham Junction; Cirilo east of Tower Hill; and Kabayan in Upton Park – I am still yet to try all of these new ventures. Let’s also not forget that latest hero of the Filipino community, Joseph Apostol, who bantered with will.i.am about Filipino food on The Voice.

Additionally, we’ve also seen a select few supper clubs popping up that are or have offered Filipino food in more intimate and familiar settings: the Kamayan Supper Club I ran earlier this year with Mae of Pepe’s Kitchen; Pepe’s Kitchen’s regular dinners and pop-ups; Kusina ni Lola’s one-off in Tooting (and hopefully more dates soon in both Liverpool and London); and of course our very own Adobros supper clubs – all of these have, as far as I’ve seen, been very well-received by a wide range of people. If all of these efforts are maintained and added to, who knows where Filipino food can go?

Hope. Strength. Love. What we hoped a charity dinner would bring to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan

Hope. Strength. Love. What we hoped a charity dinner would bring to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan

Perhaps we got a glimpse of this at the recent Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner that took place in the upstairs portion of Salvador & Amanda in Holborn. Initiated by Mae of Pepe’s Kitchen, the event eventually came to encompass the efforts of 6 passionate groups of chefs who whipped up a cracking eight-course meal for 40 people, primarily showcasing the tasty goodness of Filipino food – all in support of survivors of one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history.

Showing some real inventiveness and flair, and more importantly calmness-under-fire in the kitchen (for many of us it was the first time working in a professional kitchen and cooking for so many people!), this merry crew managed to prove themselves as worthy chefs of Filipino cuisine… and more than a few confirmed for themselves that a commercial venture may now be more than just a fantastical dream. And, rather interestingly, one of our diners let slip that he was in the process of setting up a Filipino food truck that will tour London’s finest street and farmers’ markets (gonna keep my eyes peeled for this one!).

Manila Machine, one of the first Filipino food trucks in LA. Can we have more of them here please?? Photo sourced from http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2010/06/filipino_food_truck_the_manila.php

Manila Machine, one of the first Filipino food trucks in LA. Can we have more of them here please??
Photo credit:LA Weekly Blog

A perennial problem of Filipinos overseas that has been oft-discussed is that there seems to be an inherent sense of inferiority about our own food– it has not been shaped and influenced by an imperial or royal court cuisine as with many other Asian nations, and it was most definitely not favoured by the Spanish and American colonisers. But why this sense of shame?  I have seen a clear-cut demand for Filipino food – booked-out supper clubspacked and lively pop-ups, flyers snapped up by curious passers-by, that glint in peoples’ eyes when their interest is piqued; these are not the indicators of something shameful. People are genuinely interested; the people want something new to eat!

The Adobros in action at one of their supper clubs. Photo credit: Cristina Chacon

The Adobros in action at one of their supper clubs.
Photo credit: Cristina Chacon

And so perhaps, just perhaps – and I say this without any intentions of arrogance – those of us who cooked up such a feast at the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner, along with our more established restaurateur kababayans, can be part of the new wave of foodies bringing Filipino food to Londoners all over town. After all, it’s already happening in the USA.

That’s what’s key – we need a critical mass of options available to get more exposure. There’s a whole merry band of us who are willing to provide those choices. Now it’s just up to you – are you willing to step up to the plate?

Come along and eat with us. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it.

Some recommendations on trying Filipino food:

Restaurants

Bintang – primarily a pan-Asian restaurant, Bintang has enough Filipino flourishes such as Filipino BBQ Sundays as well as a smattering of Filipino dishes on offer. Additionally, Omar has been very supportive of budding Filipino chefs and took part in the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner

93 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8NY (nearest Tube Camden Town/Camden Road), 020 7267 2197 http://bintangrestaurant.co.uk/

Cirilo – a new place near Tower Hill that nearly strays down the path of pan-Asian but brings itself back onto the path of righteousness with a wide range of Filipino specials. Happy to hear if anyone’s been there – do tell me!

4 Cable Street, E1 8JG (nearest Tube Tower Gateway/Tower Hill), 020 7702 2299 http://cirilonoodlebar.co.uk/

Josephine’s – Central London’s only Filipino restaurant. It can be a bit hit-and-miss, and it certainly feels a bit dated for Charlotte Street, but daaamn their Crispy Pata and lechon kawali are good 

4 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LP (nearest Tube Goodge Street/Tottenham Court Road), 020 7580 6551 http://www.josephinesrestaurant.co.uk/

Kabayan – these guys have got the East London and West Ham fans markets covered – maybe one day I’ll make it out there, but also happy to hear from anyone if it’s worth the journey!

12 Walton Road, E13 9BP (nearest Tube Upton Park), http://www.filipinorestaurant.co/

Kalesa – Clapham Junction’s finest (and only) Filipino restaurant. Some friends went here for brunch and reported back that the Filipino breakfast (meat, fried egg, rice and pickle) was delightful – a big plus in my books!

59 Lavender Hill, SW11 5QN (nearest station Clapham Junction/Clapham Common), 020 3417 5639 http://www.kalesa.co.uk/

Lakwatsa – a fun and chilled lounge where you pick up bubble tea and snacks, it’s a modern take on Filipino food for the youngsters and other cool peeps. Check out my review here

7 Blenheim Crescent, W11 2EE (nearest Tube Ladbroke Grove), 07900 266 080 http://www.lakwatsa.co.uk/

Port of Manila – my embassy friends maintain that for smart Filipino dining, Port of Manila is the place to go to in London. It’s all the way in Hammersmith, but as the saying goes, the harder you work (or travel) for food, the better it tastes!

129-131 Brackenbury Road, W6 0BQ (nearest Tube Hammersmith/Ravenscourt Park), 020 8741 2099 http://www.portofmanila.co.uk/  

Sunrise Café – of the options in Earl’s Court’s Little Manila, this is the best one of the bunch. The food is lovely, but it could do with some improvement in, well, everything else, as seen from my review here

12 Kenway Road, SW5 0RR (nearest Tube Earl’s Court), 020 7373 3840

Supper Clubs and Pop-ups

The Adobros – mine and my brother’s supper club (a little bit of a hidden agenda here!), serving up hefty feasts from the comfort of our New Cross pad

New Cross area http://theadobros.com/

Kusina ni Lola – judging from the positive reviews about her Tooting pop-up, this girl’s onto something. If you’re up in Liverpool, do give her a look-see!

Liverpool and London https://www.facebook.com/kusinanilola

MERienda – The lovely Maryanne’s imminent business venture, mixing up Colombian and Filipino flavours and recipes. Her empanadas at the charity pop-up dinner were exquisite, all crunchy crust and chunky filling. Keep an eye out for her!

London https://twitter.com/Merienda_ldn

Pepe’s Kitchen – my good friend Mae’s catering company. A talented and passionate lady, she does cooking classes, pop-up dinners and supper clubs. She did a lechon dinner once – I think that says enough! Visit her upcoming pop-up at the Sun and 13 Cantons in Soho (the pub helpfully reviewed here)

Marylebone area http://pepes-kitchen.co.uk/

Honorary mention for cooking such cracking Filipino dishes during the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner goes to James Jennings (saltfish laing was his thing) and Federico of Fooderico (some of the best lumpia I’ve had)

Categories: Filipino, Supper Club | Tags: , | 4 Comments

What does the fox say? Not much – it’s too busy eating at Foxlow

Copyright of Foxlow. Sourced from Foxlow website

Copyright of Foxlow. Sourced from Foxlow website

Cuisine: European

Address: 69-73 St John Street, EC1M 4AN

Area: Smithfield

Nearest Station: Farringdon

Tel.: 020 7014 8070

Website: http://foxlow.co.uk/

Pricing: High

Good For: Carnivorous eating, Umami, Friendly conversation, Smart-casual dining, Filling meal, Quality ingredients

Want to know what sort of texts I like to get?

“Dude, I’ve got a booking for Foxlow next Wednesday for 4. You in??”

This one came from my brother. As the booking also came during Foxlow’s soft opening, it also included a complimentary drink. I therefore do not hesitate to say: I love you man, you mah BRO (more specifically, my ADOBRO – cheeky plug for our Filipino supper club right there!!).

A smart but casual diner feel, with *gasp* matching furniture! Cheers to BarChick's website for the photo

A smart but casual diner feel, with *gasp* matching furniture! Cheers to BarChick’s website for the photo

Billed as the more casual sister restaurant to Hawksmoor, that esteemed temple of steaks, Foxlow’s offering of charcoal-grilled and slow-cooked meats automatically appeals to the carnivore inside of us all – hence all the excitement that I’ve seen bandied around online.

However, judging from the menu we were presented with that night, I would say that Foxlow is more an ode to all things umami – there are various ingredients in use there, like beef dripping, anchovies, meat stock, Gubbeen cheese, capers, kimchi and others, that suggest that those guys just want to make sure you get your savoury fix, whether it come in meat, vegetable or fish form.

And let me tell you – we chowed down and got our savouriness on. Guided by our helpful and chatty waitress, who tried to ensure that our order included all of the big-hitters from the menu (e.g. “I would say the monkfish is pretty nice and a must, but since you’re after meat, I wouldn’t bother”), we managed to get ourselves a good spread.

Anchovies on goat's butter crisps. NOM

Anchovies on goat’s butter crisps. NOM

First to come along were the anchovy and goat’s butter crisps. This consisted of a very thin crisp wafer flavoured with goat’s butter, topped with freshly chopped shallots and a piece of anchovy. Our waitress stressed the quality of the anchovy, with the chefs aspiring to provide a healthy balance of salt and fresh fish flavours; once you pop one of these into your mouth, you can see what she means. It was packed so full of flavour and savouriness, you were left craving for more, in spite of how rich they were.

Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise. Get some crabs!

Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise. Get some crabs!

Then came our starters, which we dished out amongst the four of us: Crispy Five Pepper squid, Brixham crab with devilled mayonnaise, Baby back Iberico ribs and Smokehouse rillettes. The squid had a hint of smokiness to it, but otherwise I felt them to be rather unremarkable. Good – not greasy, not salty, suitably tasty – but unremarkable. As for the Brixham crab, it was served shredded on green leaves, which I felt made it a bit more difficult to appreciate it fully. Still, it was refreshing and beautifully flavoured, with the devilled mayonnaise adding interesting but not overpowering bite. The ribs, as expected, were very tender and full of barbecue flavour. The smokehouse rillettes, on the other hand, were not as smoky as suggested by the name, but were brilliant in texture and taste. The winning starter, I felt.

Baby back Iberico ribs. Not going to quote Fat Bastard for this one

Baby back Iberico ribs. Not going to quote Fat Bastard for this one

So far, so good. By this point, we’d finished our complimentary drinks (my Tom Ford – a twist on the Tom Collins with gin, Benedictine, lemon and soda – was well-received for its light and herbal touch) and I made a move for the wine, selecting a very smooth and medium-bodied rioja crianza from the decently-sized wine list.

I’d originally earmarked the Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi for myself, but seeing as two of the group were also going to order it, I made the adventurous choice and went with the charcoal-grilled Iberico pork ‘pluma’. As our waitress explained, pluma is a type of cut from the loin, and given where it comes from in the pig and the quality of the meat itself, it can be served medium. And oh man was it tasty. It was tender, had a brilliant charcoaled crust to it and just packed an absolute savoury punch, almost akin to a well-flavoured steak. I have never had a cut of pork loin that tasted like this, and the next time I find myself in Foxlow I will definitely order it again.

Iberico pork pluma, in all its glory as captured by my brilliant smartphone

Iberico pork pluma, in all its glory as captured by my brilliant smartphone

The other dishes, in comparison, fell by the wayside. It feels bad to denigrate the other meats on offer, but this is more a tribute to the surprising delights of the Iberico pork pluma than a comment on any form of substandard quality on the parts of the other dishes. The beef was amazingly tender and was also beautifully-flavoured, but after the pluma it tasted rather pedestrian – it was like “Yeah, I’ve had shortrib before, so what?” The Eight-hour bacon rib with maple chilli also suffered a similar fate: again, slow-cooking it for that long produced meat that you could cut like you had a hot knife going through butter, and the flavours of maple and chilli produced something rather special – but hey, bacon rib tastes of bacon and we all know what that is like, right?

Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi. One of these things does not belong...

Ten-hour beef shortrib with kimchi. One of these things does not belong…

Before I do any more disservice to the other mains, let’s talk about the sides that we shared. The Beef-dripping potatoes with Gubbeen and capers provided us with very crispy and more-ish potatoes that were a very good accompaniment to our meals; the Broccoli with chilli and anchovy were crisp very well-appreciated, although the chilli was almost undistinguishable beneath the savouriness of the anchovy; the Sausage-stuffed onion was a slightly-caramelised onion in a thick and tasty gravy filled with substantial and nicely seasoned sausage meat – a good combination, but as a side dish it seemed rather overbearing, with the sausage meat competing too much against the main courses.

That rather unappetising lump in the foreground is a sausage-stuffed onion, whilst those are potatoes behind. Not that you can tell

That rather unappetising lump in the foreground is a sausage-stuffed onion, whilst those are potatoes behind. Not that you can tell

So, you’d think that by now we’d be done, right? Think again. Dessert was dangled in front of us, and we just had to take a bite. My Peanutella & Sweet Toast was a crushing blow to any semblance of healthiness I retained: here we had a Nutella jar filled with layers of, er, Nutella, caramel, peanut butter and peanuts, served with lightly-fried sweetened toast batons and – in case you thought Foxlow forgot the savouriness – a sprinkling of sea salt. It was perhaps a bit overwhelming, but in some instances that’s okay. Such as when you are chowing down with your bros, homes.

The photo is so dark because the evilness of this Peanutella and Sweet Toast sucked the light into it

The photo is so dark because the evilness of this Peanutella and Sweet Toast sucked the light into it

And thus our meal was complete. It provided enough sustenance to last us for a leisurely walk down to St Paul’s, across the Millennium Bridge and all the way to London Bridge (one of us is still new to London *cough* tourist *cough*) – and you know what? I’d happily walk that distance again just for a bit more of that Iberico pork pluma. Mmmmmm.

VERDICT – A good place. The dishes we chose were all good and decent, but there were certain highlights that really wowed, like the Iberico pork pluma – and unfortunately that did rather unceremoniously shove the other meats into the shade. But we can overlook that, for Foxlow was a very friendly and cheery place for us, and that’s already a very big plus for the place. Oh, and did I say that I liked the Iberico pork pluma?

Currently listening to: Fun. – At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to be)

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