Posts Tagged With: Soho

A brush with tiger’s milk: Having ceviche at, er, Ceviche

Copyright of Ceviche. Sourced from Ceviche website

Copyright of Ceviche. Sourced from Ceviche website

Cuisine: Peruvian

Address: 17 Frith Street, W1D 4RG

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Leicester Square/Tottenham Court Road

Tel.: 020 7292 2040

Website: http://cevicheuk.com/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Sharing many dishes, Introduction to new foods, Efficient service, Good cocktails, Zing, Buzzing atmosphere

Wow. I’d never tried octopus that good before. Seriously. The texture, the taste, the marinade… I would decimate the world’s population of octopus if I could guarantee that they would end up as this dish.

Let’s rewind a few hours. I was feeling rather sluggish after helping get a birthday girl absolutely hammered the night before (she’d boldly claimed that she was “remarkably sober” after dinner. Was that the reddest flag you’ve ever seen?), and was in need of a hearty meal, for I can assure you that thin, cold pizza, no matter how tasty, does not quite cut it.

I was therefore a bit concerned that my suggestion of Ceviche for dinner that night with a friend was a bit ill-thought through – they specialise in small Peruvian dishes, which to my mind did not quite scream, “I am a meal that will kick your hangover’s arse”.

I need not have worried though. Through a skilful and deft selection process (me and my friend are naturals at this, obviously), we managed to secure for ourselves some pretty amazing dishes.

And what was very surprising was the speed at which these things arrived at our bar-side perches. The place was full and they were only able to give us stools at the bar – not too cramped, not too uncomfortable, but all just a bit high to be good for normal-sized *cough* people like my good self – but that did not seem to get in the way of swift service: I hadn’t even had time to decide what my back-up cocktail would be (my original non-alcoholic choice not being available) when BOOM, the first dishes arrived.

To start with, we had the Don Ceviche (fresh sea bass ceviche in Amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, limo chilli, sweet potato and red onions) to enliven our taste buds and whet our appetites. For those not in the know, ceviche is essentially good cuts of raw fish, usually sea bass, marinated in a flavoured and spiced citrus mix that is often known as tiger’s milk. A very tantalising dish, of which we hoped the Don Ceviche would be an apt introduction.

The sea bass was chunky and soft, with a great texture in each bite. The marinade was zingy and crisp, with the chilli working together with the citrus/vinegar to really sting your mouth (note to self: do not have acidic dishes when you have a mouth ulcer… ouch). It was flavourful and rather more-ish.

The Lomo Saltado (beef fillet, sliced, flame cooked with red onions, tomatoes and proper chips) was ordered under stern instructions from my brother, Mr Beef Man himself, and it did not disappoint. The strips of beef were rare and tender (a bit too rare for my friend), and had a delicious umami feel about them, encased in a slightly smoky grill flavour. The oily marinade was good for dipping the chips into, but maybe if it had been made a bit saucier, we would have something more substantial to work with.

Don Ceviche and his companions, Pulpo y Chorizo

Don Ceviche and his companions, Pulpo y Chorizo

But the stand-out dish, as you’ve probably guessed (if you were paying attention earlier on), was the pulpo y chorizo (marinated and braised octopus and chorizo skewer, with a samphire and black quinoa salad). I will admit that the chorizo was the main draw for us, but woah – that octopus made a name for itself. ‘Succulent’ is definitely the word that springs to mind: juicy and tender with real substance to it, it was the texture of the octopus that really won me over. And it was a perfect match with the chorizo and the samphire salad (and I guess the quinoa too…? Slightly superfluous though). We both enjoyed this so much that we had a second portion sent over straight from the kitchen to satisfy our salivating appetites.

As a bit of an after-thought, we thought that the second order of pulpo y chorizo would benefit from being accompanied by some chicken saltado tequeños (wanton [sic] fritters filled with cheese, chard and Botija olives), primarily because we were intrigued to find out what wanton food was like. It was rather restrained; tasty and chunky filling, crispy and thin skin… a good fried dumpling, but disappointingly not excessive or gratuitous or even faintly promiscuous.

This was all a good spread for two people (if perhaps a bit pricier than expected… curse our hungry stomachs and their desire for a second wave of food), and most certainly met the criteria of being a hearty, fulfilling meal. Furthermore, although I was a bit wary of hair of the dog, my El Beso cocktail (lemongrass infused pisco, fresh lemongrass, lime, ginger and guanabana juice) was an excellent pick-me-up, keeping with the zingy feel of the evening – a kiss, if you will, to rekindle the life in my hangover-ridden body (eerruugh cheeeesy).

As the service was quick and efficient, and the food was swiftly delivered to our perches, we were in, fed and out all in just over an hour – and that only because we decided to skip dessert and go to Haagen Dazs in Leicester Square in order to develop diabetes.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It has a fun and fresh atmosphere, which when teamed up with quick service and some killer dishes makes this a properly good dinner outing. Ceviche did a good job in introducing me and my friend to Peruvian food, and did so in an unashamed and bold manner which fits in with the rather vibrant and lively feel they’ve got going there. But less talk, more pulpo y chorizo, mmkay?

Currently listening to: Chthonic – Kaoru

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

A steak that would mash your insides: Getting our beef on at MASH

Copyright of MASH. Sourced from MASH website

Copyright of MASH. Sourced from MASH website

Cuisine: American

Address: 77 Brewer Street, W1F 9ZN

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: 020 7734 2608

Website: http://www.mashsteak.dk/restaurants/london/

Pricing: High

Good For: Filling meal, Proper service, Carnivorous eating, Ambience, Smart-casual dining, Place for romance, Quality meat

Well, that was a filling meal. Stuffed right to the gills, rolling out of there like a tubby barrel, groaning at the sides; I’d been MASH’ed.

Let’s rewind a bit. My dad wanted to take me and my brother out for a nice steak meal, and after scoping out a number of different places, finally settled on MASH. MASH, if you don’t know, supposedly stands for Modern American Steak House, but rather confusingly has come to us via Denmark, but fear not – this was a thoroughly American evening.

Your first impression is shaped by the rather spacious and grand lobby you enter at street level, guarded by an imposing bouncer and overseen by an ever-smiling receptionist of sorts. Once she took my details, she informed me that my party were waiting for me downstairs, but what she didn’t mention was that there would be two waitresses waiting there too, greeting me by name and shepherding me to my seat. So far so good.

Your second impression is formed by the cavernous space that greets you as you enter the bar and main dining room. All decked out in Art Deco and illuminated by warm lighting, the area is truly impressive. How did they get such a big basement, with such high ceilings, right in the middle of Soho?? You could spend a good few minutes just looking around, soaking up the atmosphere and imagining you were in 1930’s New York, as smooth jazz tinkled over the sound systems.

Cavernous. Like a cave

Cavernous. Like a cave

Your third impression is coloured by the large racks and chunks of beef hanging to dry in their airing cupboards separating the bar and the restaurant. I won’t go so far as to say that I am astounded and wowed by raw meat (a childhood spent around the wet markets in Hong Kong can have that effect upon you), but I was still fascinated by the way that they were being presented almost like pieces of art. Pieces of succulent, tender, meaty, art……. Ahem.

So, let’s talk food. Let’s talk STEAK. I opted for the bone-in N.Y. strip (approx. 600g), culled from IBP prime, Nebraska cattle. For those uninitiated to what this means, N.Y. strip is cut from the short loin and is a rather tender piece of meat, being from a little-used muscle; it was also described to me by my brother, steak expert that he is, as like the bigger half of the T-bone steak and with a bit more fat to it. And as for IBP prime, Nebraska, “this certified and hormone-free, corn-fed beef is as tender and flavourful as you can imagine”.

Bone-in N.Y. strip. Imagine all of that meat in your stomach. OUCH

Bone-in N.Y. strip. Imagine all of that meat in your stomach. OUCH

As far as I was concerned, it was a wonderfully tasty steak that had no need of sauce. Cooked perfectly to rare, it was extremely succulent and not hard to chew through. But I must reserve highest praise for the fat lining the edges of the N.Y. strip – never have I had fat that melted that easily in my mouth. None of this horrible stringy and chewy fat that I can picture very clearly on that Slug & Lettuce steak a colleague had down in Poole (*shudder*); it actually felt socially acceptable to eat fat this luxurious. All in all, I was very happy with my choice of steak; I think we were all happy with our choices, my brother and my dad contented as they were with the long-bone ribeye (Danish beef, dry-aged for 70 days. 70. DAYS. I did not know you could age beef for that long).

As for sides, I accompanied this with macaroni and cheese (rich, thick and creamy) and creamy spinach (creamy, unsurprisingly). And, since the 600g of steak had quite properly finished me off, all that was left for me to have for dessert was a richly sweet glass of 2008 Patricius “Katinka”, Late Harvest Tokaji. What a perfect way to end an evening of gluttonous steak eating.

Why you gotta hurt me like that?

Why you gotta hurt me like that?

VERDICT – A good place. It’s a rather impressive venture, all the way from the extremely friendly staff to the atmosphere and décor and to the well-executed steaks. Rather cheekily, they delivered the bill to us in an envelope labelled “The Damage”, but I think that just topped off what an enjoyable evening it was, where a father was able to take his two darling sons out for a ‘simple’ steak dinner.

Currently listening to: Cancer Bats – Drive This Stake

Categories: American, Steak | 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

Rock ‘n’ Roll Ramen: An evening in with Bone Daddies

Copyright of Bone Daddies. Sourced from Bone Daddies website

Copyright of Bone Daddies. Sourced from Bone Daddies website

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 31 Peter Street, W1F 0AR

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square

Tel.: 020 7287 8581

Website: http://bonedaddiesramen.com/

Pricing: Medium

Good for: Filling meal, Buzzing atmosphere, Warmth in your belly, All about the flavour

It was with great sadness that I heard that Melati on Peter Street (not to be mistaken for Melati on Great Windmill Street *shudder*), my favourite place in all of London to get nasi goreng, was closing down. Many was a post-interview lunchtime spent comforting myself with that stunning plate of hot, tasty and spicy Indonesian fried rice with all the trimmings; now, all gone, like tears in the rain.

But it was with great curiosity that I heard that it was to be replaced by Bone Daddies, one of burgeoning crowd of new ramen houses now serving London’s lucky denizens. I could only hope that they could do justice to the site, and judging from the initial feedback, it looked like it would.

And so, I found myself a willing companion to share the experience with me. It was a horrifically cold day and even colder night, and so she lapped up the suggestion of a steaming hot soup of ramen to warm us both up. Speaking of the cold, I hope that Bone Daddies get their door sorted out – it doesn’t close automatically, meaning that I feel sorry for those sat closest to it. Thankfully, my companion and I were sat some distance away, by the far wall.

It is a busy place. They’ve managed to squeeze in quite a fair few tables (too high for short people like my companion and I – dangling legs is not a cool look), more so than Melati ever did – it gives the place a buzz, but it also made it a bit of a struggle to navigate our way around other diners. Being tucked up at one end of the table, we were both unaware of the condiments that were on the other side of a very lovey-dovey couple, whose intertwined hands would have probably made it very awkward to request pickled garlic, the chilli oil etc. We didn’t particularly need them (the condiments, and possibly the PDA next to us too), but it would have been nice to have actively made the choice not to need them.

We ordered the soft-shelled crab and the tender-stem broccoli as starters. The former dish was wonderful – subtly-spiced crispy pieces of deep-fried crab that imparted a certain je ne sais quoi, something akin to smoky flouryness, when I think about it; probably not the most appropriate description, but I guess that just means you’ll have to try it! As for the latter dish, it was pleasing enough – the tender-stem broccoli had that right level of crunch as well as tenderness – but my companion felt (and I agree) that it could have been significantly enhanced with just a bit of a light stir-fry with onions and garlic. Perhaps that’s just our Hong Kong taste buds getting in the way.

Just as we were finishing the crab and broccoli, our ramen arrived with great flourish – her with the tonkotsu, me with the tantanmen. If I were to judge our dishes just by looks alone, then Bone Daddies has done its job extremely well. Just look at the picture of my tantanmen below.

The tantanmen: rich, creamy, brothy goodness

The tantanmen: rich, creamy, brothy goodness

How can that not be appealing? My companion was struck by extreme food envy, which was only sharpened when I let her try some. That first slurp of that thick, creamy soup from the tantanmen is a real eye-opener, what with the spice hitting you, followed by that sweet and nutty sesame flavour, with everything wrapped up in oily warmth. It was delightfully rich and soothing: the perfect antidote to winter chills.

That tantanmen soup really nailed it for me that night. But let’s not forget the other components of the dish. The noodles were well-cooked and added good carby weight to the bowl. The pork mince was lovely in that it just went everywhere, so that nearly every spoonful of soup had chunks of meat in it (alongside the tender slices of pork floating around in there too), giving real texture and bite to the tantanmen. But no review could be complete without a special mention of the slow-cooked egg, with its gooey and golden yolk just begging to be slurped up. And unlike Tonkotsu, you do get a whole egg (result!). I could have probably done with another piece of bok choy, but just having the one piece doesn’t diminish the tantanmen.

As for the tonkotsu, from what I did try, the broth was surprisingly earthy and deep, signalling to me that yes, Bone Daddies probably did boil some pork bones for a good twenty hours. But, as good as that tasted, I think that the mix of flavours in the tantanmen makes it my outright winner for the night.

Bone Daddies provided me and my companion with a wonderful, absolutely filling meal, and armed us with enough warmth in our bellies to protect us from the cold outside. They did their job well, and I hope that they continue to impress.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It was good enough for my brother and his girlfriend. It was good enough for me and my companion. It was even good enough for my mother. Perhaps – just maybe – it will be good enough for you too.

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

Steak is what we wanted, and steak is what we got: Flat Iron sets up shop in Soho

Copyright of Flat Iron. Sourced from Flat Iron website

Copyright of Flat Iron. Sourced from Flat Iron website

Cuisine: Steak

Address: 17 Beak Street, W1F 9RW

Area: Soho

Nearest Station: Oxford Circus/Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: N/A

Website: http://flatironsteak.co.uk/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Friendly conversation, Quality meat, Smart-casual dining, Carnivorous eating, Good sides

Once upon a time, there was an outfit offering steak in a tucked away room above a quaint ickle pub called the Owl and Pussycat, hidden away down a small alley in a distant neighbourhood called Shoreditch. This outfit called themselves Flat Iron, and marketed themselves around a relatively unknown cut of meat called the, er, flat iron. The perfect recipe to remain off the radar and continue in relative obscurity.

Well hello there, Mr Flat Iron

Well hello there, Mr Flat Iron

Pffft. Yeah right. When I did go with friends, it was the last week of their residency at the Owl and Pussycat, and although we were able to waltz in just after 6pm for a table, by the time we left the queue was IMMENSE. Flat Iron had hit upon something golden: a tender, delicious steak at very affordable prices (nearly everyone in our group had the wagyu special, for only £16), in one of the most happening neighbourhoods in London (yeah, I just said happening, urk).

But I’m not here to talk about days of yore. I’m here to talk about Flat Iron’s new base at 17 Beak Street. They quietly opened last week, see, a bit earlier than expected, so I thought that it was the perfect time to rally the troops and organise an outing for some meaty tenderness. One of the troops had been so eagerly awaiting Flat Iron’s opening that he replied to my text before I even had the chance to put the phone down. Expectations were high; Flat Iron had better deliver!

The good delivery started as soon as I walked in the door: with a smile and a warm welcome, I was ushered downstairs to the bar to await my friends and a table, and was pleasantly surprised to find it quite spacious. I hate being asked to wait at the bar for a table, only to find that I am scrunched between the bar stools, the small packed-together tables and busy wait-staff carrying precariously perched plates of food around. Not so at Flat Iron, where I was able to prop myself up at a table and enjoy my negroni and the popcorn that had been popped in beef dripping, all in relative peace and comfort.

It wasn’t long before the others arrived. When Hungry Friend (she’d forgotten to eat lunch – how, I really don’t know) plonked herself down at the table, her eyes popped at the thought of beef-dripping popcorn; and into her mouth they all popped. Thank heavens they’re free and all-you-can-eat, as we must have polished off three cans whilst down there. A friendly note for the Flat Iron crew: starving girls need feeding, and some bar snacks would not have gone unappreciated that night.

But no matter, for even though there were five of us our table was ready within ten minutes and we were guided back upstairs. I suppose the short wait was a result of it being only their second day of being open to the public (and the fact that they have two floors of dining now), but I felt particularly blessed after the queues I’d seen at the Owl and Pussycat. Just as short was the time it took for us to order – with only one main course on offer, do you really need to spend ages deliberating? – as well as get more popcorn for our ravenous Hungry Friend. The amount she devoured was scary.

We tried to take her mind off the wait for our food, but Hungry Friend’s situation was not helped when the kindly staff accidently brought someone else’s order to our table (the spectre of my experience at Patty & Bun back to haunt me?). Although they were quick to realise the mistake, it was still enough time for some salt to be added to one steak, rendering it useless for its original dining destination. So, it had to sit there and wait for the rest of the dishes, taunting Hungry Friend and making the minutes stretch into days. More popcorn and the sympathetic attention of the staff could not ameliorate the situation enough.

Look at those beauties - medium rare flat iron, crispy fries and aubergine bake

Look at those beauties – medium rare flat iron, crispy fries and aubergine bake

So we were thankful when the rest of the food did come. I was concerned that my first dream-like experience back at the Owl and Pussycat would have spoiled my expectations, but I needn’t have worried, as my medium rare steak was glorious: the tender, pink slices that were meltingly soft were full of flavour, so much so that I didn’t feel the need to use any of the sauces our table had on offer. It combined very well with the crispy fries, and even better with the aubergine bake (I forget exactly what was in it) that was juicy and delicious. It was a perfect reflection of that taste experience earlier in the year.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. It is a quality steak; it is served at a great price for what it is; it is centrally-located in Soho. Surely that’s a tick list for success? All five of us thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and left satisfied with the experience, even if there were a couple of service lapses (especially painful for Hungry Friend, as she stared down that lonely, mis-ordered steak that was not hers). These slight lapses, however, I can forgive as ‘early days’ problems needing to be ironed out (maybe with a flat iron?? HA). But with a staff that friendly and attentive, I’m sure Flat Iron will go on to do good, very good. Get in there before the queues build!

Currently listening to: Dem Brooklyn Bums – Guido Slouch

Categories: Steak | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments