Posts Tagged With: Tottenham Court Road

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

Categories: Peruvian | 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

Go East! A more inclusive Pan-Asian experience at East Street

Copyright of East Street. Sourced from East Street website

Cuisine: Pan-Asian

Address: 3-5 Rathbone Place, W1T 1HJ

Area: Fitzrovia

Nearest Station: Tottenham Court Road

Tel.: 020 7323 0860

Website: http://www.eaststreetrestaurant.com/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Lunchtime fix, Introduction to new foods, Casual dining

Filipino food is unfortunately rather scarce to find in London – not only are there very few Filipino restaurants around, but most pan-Asian places seem to peddle the idea that Asia consists of only China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Not East Street though. Walking down Rathbone Place one nippy October day from a lunchtime meeting (at a Filipino restaurant, coincidentally), I’d spotted the brightly-coloured signs announcing its presence on this rather non-descript road, and being the curious cat I am when it comes to checking out new Asian restaurants, I took a couple of seconds out of my day to study the menu. Although the menu was packed full of the typical pan-Asian favourites, I was rather impressed that they took the time to note where each dish was from and – oh, what’s this? Chicken adobo?? From the Philippines??? Really?? Is it any good? Methinks I’ll have to swing by another time to try it out…

Copyright of East Street. Sourced from East Street website

And so I eventually got the chance to pop in, some weeks later. The first thing that struck me was that this was not a run-down pan-Asian canteen (Chop Chop springs to mind – not that it matters hugely, as I love Chop Chop’s cheap and cheerful offering); in fact, what with the neon ads hanging from the ceilings, the sharing tables, the open-plan kitchen, the food products dotting shelves here and there and the plastic condiment baskets on each table, East Street was definitely going for the hawker centre feel. Only cleaner, better ventilated and with higher-quality fittings. And a more multicultural staff, as befitting a cosmopolitan city like London.

It was like these guys had gone on a gap year (their website does explain that “we’ve travelled all over East Asia to bring back our favourite dishes for you to try”), liked what they saw, brought the idea back to London and sanitised it. They went for a finer feel for their long-established Tampopo restaurants, but for East Street they’ve gone full-blown ‘street food’ and hawker centre. It’s different, it’s kitschy and it’s fun, even if the whole hawker centre atmosphere and pandering to ‘street food’ trends is a bit forced.

Nevertheless, it’s a refreshing take that makes it stand out in my mind. But what impressed me the most were the place mats, which doubled as educational tools – a map of the area with the featured countries highlighted alongside brief explanations of what characterises each country’s cuisine (see the online version of it here). Spreading the knowledge about the multi-faceted face of ‘pan-Asian’ cuisine – now that’s really refreshing to see.

They just need to hire this guy to help out with spreading the good news.

But as a half-Filipino, I decided to try what I like to think I know best – the sole Filipino dish on offer, chicken adobo. On their place mats, East Street defines Filipino food as “Chinese-influenced noodles and spring rolls and Spanish colonial ingredients, often with a tart sharpness to the flavour the dishes”, a description I would say is a good shot but not quite spot-on (I feel there needs to be more of a reference to the fact that three cultures – Chinese, Southeast Asian and Hispanic – mixed and borrowed from each other to create what we know and love today).

Bright and contrasting colours make for a pretty-ish meal

East Street’s Chicken Adobo with a serving of rice

And I would probably offer the same judgement on the chicken adobo. It’s an attractive dish, very well-presented with the bright colours of the broccoli, coriander and sweet potato crisps contrasting with the deep brown of the adobo – but it’s not quite there. If you are Filipino, you may have already spotted something a bit different about it – I have never seen coriander garnish adobo; it is not a flavour I associate with the Philippines, although its addition is not a problem for me. And as for the broccoli, yes it’s a great vegetable, but perhaps beans (sitaw), squash (kalabasa), aubergines (talong), kangkong, okra or other more indigenous vegetables may have been a better fit. Oh, and if you are going to serve sweet potato (camote) crisps, it’d be good if they were fresh and crispy.

The adobo itself on the other hand, was flavourful and reminiscent of what adobo should be like. Although on the sweeter side, the soy sauce and vinegar mix was present and pleasing – and there was enough of it to really mix into the rice, the way I like it. The tender chicken was a bonus, ensuring that the adobo sauce was accompanied by substantial meatiness.

But again, it’s a good shot, but not quite spot-on. Hopefully newcomers to Filipino cuisine will find it pleasing enough that their interest will be piqued, so much so that they will either demand more Filipino dishes from East Street, or want to go 5 minutes down the road to the only actual Filipino restaurant in central London and try everything else that las islas Filipinas can offer. However, I do think that East Street merits another visit – so you guys heard me, you’d better make sure your char kway teow and Singapore noodles are up to scratch!

VERDICT – A good place. I like the way that East Street have approached the pan-Asian concept by trying to shed light on the differences between the respective cuisines, and for that I salute them. Their food is not bad either, and I am willing to go back and try something different. Granted, the fact that they even deign to include the Philippines in pan-Asia may be colouring my judgement, but in my books that already suggests a bit of a more thoughtful approach towards the diversity of cuisines in the region.

Currently listening to: Circa Survive – Living Together

Categories: Pan-Asian | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment