London Trip - Mini Reviews
Was in London for part of last week on one of my regular return visits and thought it worthwhile to mention my various eating experiences:
LMNT - Shoreditch/Hackney. Was taken here by friends who live in the nabe, I had heard about it before but hadn't ever been. I believe that it's related to Little Bay (Kilburn/Farringdon) and also Le Mercury on Upper Street. Menu mirrors those places - cheap, tasty bistro fare for very regular prices. I was impressed as I had been with Little Bay on previous visits there. Another feature is the theatrical decor and unique interior (some very funky seating options) which reminded me somewhat of Sarastro in Covent Garden. Would be a good and imaginative place to go on a date.
Brick Lane Beigel. Grabbed salt beef/mustard in a beigel after an evening out in a couple of nearby bars (I liked Green and Red, a relatively new Mexican inspired bar on Bethnal Green Road, has a restaurant section too which friends were talking up). Found both the bread and the meat very tasty although I would not claim to be an expert on Jewish/kosher food.
Canteen - Spitalfields. Made it here for a Saturday brunch. I liked the look/feel of the place although it helped that it was a sunny morning and that there was a good buzz in and around the redeveloped market (I'm told that evenings are a different vibe altogether). Didn't sample the menu extensively but enjoyed a watercress/bacon/poached egg salad and a glass of rhubarb juice. Friend had eggs florentine. Latte was good quality, service was efficient and pleasant. Bought some piccalilli to go from the little takeaway counter and that was tasty as well when I sampled it at home. Menu basically consists of some British staples including pies, roasts, fish and chips, traditional puds like crumble and sponge pudding. Nothing spectacular but solid fare. Overall I wouldn't make it a "destination" venue but would go back if I was working or socialising nearby. Probably not that cheap if you do a full meal mind.
Eriki - Swiss Cottage. This has been a favourite local Indian of mine for a 3-4 years now. Took foodie friends there who were visiting from overseas. It's still good (we ordered mainly vegetarian options and a fish curry as well as a couple of starters and various breads) and the service/setting is charming but I have a sense that the food is down a notch or two from its heyday. A couple of favourite items no longer appear on the menu and there is a different chef now compared with when I was a regular. I certainly won't continue recommending it as a destination place although still worth a visit if someone happens to be in the nabe. Next visit I need to try Moti Mahal which I hear consistently good things about.
Kiku - Green Park/Mayfair. During my 2 years living in NYC I have gone from mid level to full blown sushi head. As I am likely to return full time to London later in the year, I have been visiting/revisiting various London sushi/Japanese options to see what standard awaits me upon my return. Have very much enjoyed Saki, a new addition in Smithfield, on previous visits and still like Cafe Japan in Golders Green (compared to NY and Tokyo places I have sampled, food is not exactly top grade but everything else is and I'm a big supporter of good, longstanding neighbourhood restaurants) but was disappointed by Defune which came highly rated. Kiku is the London outpost of a Tokyo restaurant and has been around since 1978. Sat at the sushi counter and ordered a selection of nigiri including chu-toro, salmon belly, uni, kohada (first time I've come across this fish in London, traditionally the yardstick for assessing the quality of a sushi restaurant in Tokyo), yellowtail and sea bass. Thought that the fish quality was good and in some cases very good (although only yellowtail came from Japan, I'm a bit disappointed that London sushi bars don't import more varietals from Japan) and the rice/fish balance was good although rice could have been warmer. Also disappointed that they don't use fresh wasabi. But overall I can see myself becoming a regular there, prices were competitive for quality sushi. Didn't sample the sake selection which was limited and expensive, another dilemna that faces me when I return to London!
Vinoteca, St John Street. Have been here with work colleagues on my last couple of visits and this time had a glass of vino and snack. Very good on both fronts - had a pleasing glass of young Burgundy and some delicious pork/chorizo terrine with good bread accompanying. Waitstaff comprises a couple of charismatic and gregarious Italian dudes.
Kurz & Lang, 1 St John Street. Grabbed a currywurst and sauerkraut lunch on my way into the office and enjoyed this slighly gentrified version of a classic Berlin/German street dish. Nice latte too. A positive addition to the EC1 lunchtime options of which there were already plenty of good ones.
Wanted to make it to Mohsen which comes highly recommended by Howler and also by an Iranian pal of mine in London who goes there with his folks, that will have to wait until next time.