London’s dining scene is constantly evolving, with new restaurants opening every month to compete with old favourites. I love the way I can travel the world without leaving home, courtesy of  the culinary multiculturalism that thrives here in the capital. Pachamama, which opened in September, draws on the cuisine of Peru for inspiration, combining classic Peruvian flavours and techniques with British produce and a few modern European touches.

The entirety of the restaurant is in a spacious basement setting, so there is no natural light, but an attractive and welcoming space has been created by combining modern furniture (made by British craftsmen) with reclaimed antiques and a bright colour palette.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7883 Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7913 Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7938

The cocktail menu is a good place to start and of course, the classic Pisco Sour is featured, along with several other pisco-based cocktails. I tried the Regent’s Park – two types of rum, chestnut syrup,hazelnut liqueur, lime, orange – which was a cracker, and generous on the alcohol measures too. To my surprise, the flavours really did transport me to Central and South America too! Later we had a Rosa del Inca – pisco infused with pink peppercorns and coffee beans with vermouth, Campari and orange bitters – and a Dulce de Chasca – dulce de leche, rum, pisco and vanilla syrup, but holding the chocolate bitters with which they usually finish it. There are beers and wines too, for those who would like.

A small plates menu is designed for sharing, though go hungry – we chose 2 snacks plus 6 sharing plates and were absolutely stuffed even before dessert arrived.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7899 Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7893

From the snacks section, tequeños (£3.50) – small pastries filled with smoked cheddar and feta – were gorgeous; light, crispy and served hot from the fryer with a yellow chilli sauce.

Salt & aji squid (£4.50) was the main disappointment of the meal, its texture chewy like the frozen squid you get at a cheap pub chain. The spicing on the surface was good, and the aji pepper mayo with it too, but the squid so poor it was left uneaten.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7885

The first of our non-snack dishes to arrive was Cornish sea bass, samphire and tiger’s milk (£9). Lots of beautifully fresh fish was mixed with samphire, red onion, coriander, salsify, sweet potato, plantain, french radishes and chilli and dressed in a citrus marinade – this mixed with the juices that come out of the fish, is what’s known as leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk. That list of ingredients sounds a little random and confused but actually, this dish came together very well indeed.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7905

Next to arrive was quinoa, avocado and granny smith (£8), the dish that has finally sold me on quinoa. Alongside the headline ingredients were tomato, coriander, red onion, cubed fresh fig and something with some crunch – finely diced cucumber or green pepper. In what quickly became the word of the day, we both marvelled at how beautifully balanced this was, and agreed that, for a dish that sounds so simple, it was actually one of the stars of the show.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7908

Also from the Soil section and another highlight of the meal was fried aubergine, smoked yoghurt and pecan (£8). It’s a cliché to use the word silky about aubergine flesh, but truly, it’s the word that jumped to mind – it was just so beautifully cooked – and even with the fairly strong sauce, the flavour of the aubergine was not lost. The smoked yoghurt echoed the smoky aubergine and oh my, the umami of that brown sauce – we were told it included dashi, soy and crème de aji along with a blend of spices. All that with the crunch of crumbled pecans too.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7923

The two meat courses came next. First to arrive was this crispy lamb belly with green miso (£9), soft and meaty batons of lamb with crisp fat and a deep sheep taste, I’d almost have thought mutton except that they had the tenderness of lamb. Underneath a green sauce packed with fresh herbs, miso and the kick of chilli, a perfect balance to the fatty meat. Dressed with micro leaves and French radish, this was another hit.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7925

Pete was a bigger fan of the ‘Duck on Rice’ (£13) than me. Those quotation marks are directly from the menu by the way, and I’ve no idea why this one dish is singled out that way when nothing else is, especially as it is indeed duck on rice, and not another meat or grain masquerading as such. In any case, the duck comes two ways, a cube of confit and pink slices of breast. These are both fine but the divider was that rice – I found it horribly stodgy with an overwhelming raw cumin taste but Pete said it grew on him as he ate it. For me, this didn’t merit being one of the most expensive dishes on the menu.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7935

Last to be served was Cornish crab, saffron dashi, purple potato (£10) which included more of the beautiful fresh samphire we enjoyed in the sea bass ceviche. I loved the saffron dashi, thin and with some spicy oil added too. The crab, a fairly generous dollop of white crab meat, was full of crab flavour, even drenched in the punchy juice. The purple potato was a little bland, though that made it a perfect partner to the crab. This was a good one to end on for the savoury courses.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7947

We found the dessert list a little limiting; with just four items listed, two featured passion fruit and the other two featured chocolate. Since Pete isn’t a fan of passion fruit and we were sharing everything we ordered, our two desserts were both chocolate based.

First up, the aji truffles (£1.50). The two truffles that arrived were almost as big as hen eggs – we both agreed that four or five smaller truffles would have been far more inviting, not to mention easier to eat. Sadly, these lacked a rich cocoa hit, though perhaps that’s a feature of Peruvian chocolate tastes, I don’t know. The aji also seemed to be unevenly distributed – with my first bite I couldn’t detect it at all, in the second it gave me quite a surprise.

Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7940 Pachamama-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7944

I’m not often a fan of deconstructed desserts – they so rarely match the pleasure of the original constructed kind – so I was a little disappointed when our order of torta de chocolate, toasted quinoa ice cream (£6.50) turned out to be a plate of crumbled ingredients with a (pretty) quenelle of ice cream on top. The balance between the chocolate and the crumble wasn’t right, with far too much of the former resulting in way too little chocolate mousse – it didn’t help that the chocolate was quite insipid; a darker chocolate might have punched through all the crunchy cereal. The ice cream was smooth, well made and quite subtle in flavour – served with an actual slice of chocolate tart, it would be the perfect foil. It’s not that I didn’t like this dish, rather that I felt it could be so much better. Pete’s description of this one made me smile: “it’s like they melted a mars bar and upended a pack of dried roasted peanuts over it, not that that’s a bad thing, I’m quite liking it…

As you can see, the stars of the show were the six dishes we ordered from the land, sea and soil menu sections – meat, fish and vegetables in regular speech. The two vegetable dishes really wowed us,  perhaps because we’re unaccustomed to being so bowled over by these kinds of dishes, the two seafood dishes were also superb, as was that crispy lamb belly. Spicing, sauces and dressings were well judged and the prices seemed very fair for the portions served.

Next time, I’d probably skip the desserts and focus on the savouries; for me, these and the cocktails are where Pachamama really shines.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Pachamama London.

Pachamama on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Tombo, Japanese for dragonfly, is a small deli and cafe in South Kensington, just a minute’s walk from the tube station. It offers a small menu of modern Japanese food and quality tea. I’m a particular fan of it’s Japanese desserts, which often feature ingredients such as azuki (red bean paste), matcha and sesame.

On my latest visit, I tried the Tombo Afternoon Tea; served from 3 to 5pm, this is a lovely variation on traditional sandwiches, scones and cakes.

The standard afternoon tea (£12.90 per person) includes your choice from Tombo’s selection of teas, or for £19.90 you can upgrade to sparkling sake instead. I went for genmaicha which Tombo unusually combine with matcha. My friend chose peppermint tea, as she was looking for a non-caffeinated option. The teas were excellent and hot water is provided for top ups, automatically – a nice touch.

Tombo-Afternoon-Tea-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-155029 Tombo-Afternoon-Tea-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-155954

For the savoury course, we enjoyed temari sushi (salmon and prawn) and maki sushi rolls (salmon and french beans). Having checked it was possibly before our visit, my friend requested that all seafood items were switched for vegetarian/ chicken ones, she is currently on a restricted diet. I would ask Tombo to take more care with requests such as this – one of the sushi rolls served on the non-seafood plate contained salmon. That aside, in terms of quality and flavour, the sushi was very enjoyable.

Tombo-Afternoon-Tea-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7950 Tombo-Afternoon-Tea-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7952

On the lower layer of the slate food stands came a selection of desserts. On my visit these included azuki doriyaki (filled pancake), matcha cream doriyaki, matcha gateau, azuki gateau, a pink macaron and a chocolate. My friend wasn’t as keen on the azuki doriyaki or matcha gateau – she preferred the other desserts in the selection. My favourites were the matcha gateau and the macaron.

Tombo-Afternoon-Tea-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7954

Both of us really enjoyed Tombo’s afternoon tea – the sushi alternative to sandwiches is a really novel and welcome approach and the price very reasonable for the quality of food and drink.

675C9004 _MG_6154
Press images courtesy of Tombo Deli & Cafe

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Tombo Deli & Cafe. Thanks also for the two additional images of cafe exterior and afternoon tea stand.

 

If you have never been to a calçotada, it’s about time you did. This seasonal celebration of the calçot hails from Spain’s Catalan region, where locals celebrate the humble allium with much merriment and greed every year. I first learned of it from Rachel McCormack, who brought the tradition to London when she organised a calçotada at The Draper’s Arms a few years ago.

The calçot is a variety of spring onion much like those we have here, but the difference is in the growing – the calçot is earthed up as it grows, resulting in an extended white bulb with a shorter green top.

For calçotada the onions are cooked on a hot charcoal grill, briefly wrapped in paper to steam (which softens the outer layer) and then served to the table with romesco sauce – made with red peppers, almonds and hazelnuts, garlic, oil and nyora (a small, round red bell pepper that has been sun dried). Diners (usually bibbed) peel away the blackened outer layer of the calçot, dip the end in romesco and then tip up their heads and lower the calçot into their mouths.

Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7963 Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7959
Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7962 Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-201238

This is not dainty dining!

Calçots are followed with generous plates of grilled meats and sausages, and if you have any space left, a traditional Catalan dessert. I’m not going to admit in public how many calçots, lamb chops, chistorra (spicy sausages) and butifarra (fat pork sausages) I ate but let’s just say I definitely didn’t leave hungry!

Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7971 Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7969
Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-203537 Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7968

At Rosita & The Sherry Bar near Clapham Junction, the calçots are in season right now and you have two opportunities to join the calçotada, on Thursday 26th February & Wednesday 11th March.

For £35 per person, you can enjoy a set menu of olives, almonds, crispy aubergine to start, before calçots and romesco sauce followed by a selection from the grill – chistorra, lamb chops, Iberian pork presa and pork ribs (in place of the butifarra I had). On the side, chunky chips and little gem salad with pickled tuna. To finish, crema Catalana with cinnamon ice cream. Wash that all down with ½ bottle of cava Vilarnau rose per person – we tried drinking it from traditional porrón (pitchers).

Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-212211 Calcotada-RositaTheSherry-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-200340

Event details: Thursday 26th February & Wednesday 11th March 2015. Menu price £35pp. Payment will be required at the time of booking. Book via the Rosita website or ring 020 7998 9093. Full calçotada menu can be viewed on website.

Kavey Eats attended the calçotada as a guest of Rosita & The Sherry Bar.

Feb 212015
 

I love udon noodles! There’s something utterly compelling to me about these thick, white and slightly chewy Japanese noodles that other noodles just don’t match, though I’m a fan of pasta in pretty much all its forms. Recently launched restaurant Den describe themselves as udon evangelists’’ and their menu is suitably udon-heavy.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7413 DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7415

In King’s Cross, but quite a walk from the station, I suspect the location will most appeal to those who live or work in the area. For me, it’s actually quicker to travel a few extra stops into Central London, where most places are nearer to the nearest tube station – particularly appealing with it’s dark and cold or wet. The restaurant sits in a former pub, and the conversion is stark and modern, attractive though a little bare, perhaps.

The sleek communal tables will no doubt enable more diners to share the space when busy, but bench seating isn’t particularly comfortable. Then again, Den seems a short visit pit stop rather than a settle-in-for-the-evening kind of restaurant.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7498 DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7499

I visited on a really, really, really cold day so immediately asked which teas are available to warm myself up.

I enjoy a range of Japanese teas so I was a little disappointed that only a single option is available – Japanese green tea (£2). I’d have liked to choose from genmaicha, sencha/ gyokuro, houjicha and so on. Although the glass is very pretty, serving a very hot drink in such a thin glass makes it difficult to pick up until it’s cooled down a fair bit (unless you have asbesthos hands, which I sadly do not possess); I’d rather drink it when it’s hotter. And the glass doesn’t insulate its contents well so the tea is quickly too cool to enjoy. A ceramic cup would be better.

We (and other) guests were served a complimentary snack of deep-fried udon noodles, labelled as udon pretzels on the menu. These, as anyone who’s deep fried spaghetti can attest – what? it’s good! – were delicious.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7505

Red wine stewed pork belly (£6) was my friend’s favourite tsumami (small plate). It’s long-braised and full of flavour. I liked it a lot, though oddly the meat wasn’t as tender as I expected, given that the fat had certainly become melt-in-the-mouth soft.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7507

My favourite tsumami was seasonal vegetables in sesame sauce (£4.50) which, on the day of our visit, included beetroot, mange tout and green beans. These were an excellent combination of flavours and textures and the dressing, though not visually attractive, was delicious.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7509

Crispy mackerel (£6) was sadly not crispy at all, not even a little bit. Soggy and slightly mushy, this dish was left uneaten on the table.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7511

At this point, we had sufficiently warmed up that we were ready for a drink. Director, Cristoforo Santini (formerly at Matsuri St James) suggested the Nigori crème de sake (£5). Oh, this was marvellous, we both loved it! Unlike the more common clear sakes I’m used to, this one is unfiltered and thicker in texture. It’s also a touch sweeter, still with that wonderful distinctive sake flavour.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7514

When it comes to the main affair, the focus is – of course – on udon. The menu divides into hot noodles in hot soup, hot noodles without soup and cold noodles with dipping sauce. For many of the hot soups, diners have a choice between black and white broth (with vegetarian versions also available). The non-vegetarian broths are both dashi – an infusion of katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and konbu (seaweed) with either a little soy (white broth) or a bigger dose of dark soy added. The vegetarian versions replace katsuobushi with mushrooms for the infusion. For some of the dishes, only a white broth is recommended, to better balance with the chosen toppings.

We shared salmon miso and chinese cabbage (£9), which was full of beautifully made udon noodles, soft salmon, cabbage still with a little crunch and lots of mizuna leaves (aka Japanese mustard).

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7519

Our other choice was a bowl of den Carbonara (£8), hot udon noodles topped with egg, katuobushi and nori. I couldn’t really detect the egg (I assumed it would be beaten and tossed through the noodles) but the simple flavours of katuobushi and nori worked well, with an added sprinkle of shichimi powder. And of course, this dish is a great way to really showcase the udon noodles, made in house.

DenUdonLondon-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7522

Diners can also order from a short selection of donburi (rice bowls topped with various items) and there are also extra condiments, or toppings, available including crispy tempura batter (£0.5), natto (£1.5) and ume (£2). I didn’t spot the natto, but would definitely order it next time – the pungent sticky fermented soy beans pack such a punch of flavour.

There are no sweet options, not even a cleansing yuzu sorbet or matcha ice cream – the stalwart endgame of so many UK Japanese restaurants, and that’s a little disappointing. We are offered a fresh fruit plate (not listed on the menu) but decline. Perhaps a future iteration of the menu will introduce some dishes for the sweet toothed?

If you’re a fan of udon noodles, Den is a great place to enjoy them, though the location may prove off-putting to some – certainly it makes me less likely to drop by regularly, during the winter months.

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Den Udon.

Den on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Old Tom & English is not a members club but it feels like one. By that I don’t mean stuffy, exclusive or expensive; rather it’s a hidden gem, a welcoming space that calls forth a surprising sense of belonging.  Its only frontage onto Wardour Street is an impressive but subtly labelled blue door behind which a tiny reception space leads downstairs to a sweet little bar. Seating areas for diners include several intimate corners and alcoves, affording privacy and cosiness. Lighting is subdued but not nightclub dark; design by Lee Broom is low key, retro and classy.

A reservations-only restaurant and bar, Old Tom & English is the brainchild of brother and sister team Costas and Maria Constantinou, stalwarts of the Soho dining scene. It offers modern British food, vintage-inspired cocktails and a short but carefully curated wine list. The name, for those who don’t know their vintage spirits [my hand is up!], is a nod to a popular 18th Century recipe, Old Tom Gin which is experiencing something of a resurgence.

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7400 OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7399
Light; Crash Landing cocktail

As the menu consists of small plates designed to share, dining with a small group is the perfect way to experience the many menu highlights, not to mention the well-designed cocktail list.

The Crash Landing (£9.90) is based on the flavours of classic cocktail, The Aviation but here Sacred gin, maraschino liqueur and violet liqueur are topped with Pol Roger N/V. Bartender Alex skips the lemon juice of the Aviation but wipes the rim of the glass with lemon, so the aroma is still part of the experience.

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7423 OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7407
Irn Bru Margarita and Coffee Cocktail

For Burn’s night (the day before my visit), Alex created an Irn Bru gomme (syrup) for his celebratory Irn Bru Margarita. A nice take, though I will never develop a taste for salt-rimmed glasses.

The Coffee Cocktail (£9.90) is right up my street, not least because of the much-needed caffeine. Vodka infused with fresh ground coffee, with Tia Maria. I may have had more than one of these!

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7404

From the Veg section of the menu, egg and mushroom on toast (£7) which comes with jerusalem artichoke and an umami-rich Marmite butter.

And chips (£4), triple cooked and served with mustard mayo to dip. These are super!

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7409

From the Fish dishes, we have pan fried king scallops (£8), with bacon, goat’s cheese foam, chervil & sorrel. Two fat and tasty scallops; I thought the other flavours would overwhelm, but they complemented nicely.

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7412

And battered seabass (£9) with peas, watercress, spiced remoulade. Perfectly cooked fish with delightful crispy batter but oh my goodness, the star of the plate is the remoulade beneath!

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7405

Carnivorous to the last, we try all four items in the Meat selection of the menu (there are additional choices in the Specials). First, crispy pig cheek (£7), crumbed and fried and served with cider apple and fennel. Very tasty, though the pig cheek isn’t quite as soft as it could be.

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7421

One of the highlights of the meal, an impressive feat given the competition, is the generous plate of confit smoked guinea fowl (£9) with anchovy mayo. Beautifully tender with a deep and satisfying smoke and perfect with a dab of the butter.

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7419

I find seared rump of lamb (£11) a little pricy for the portion but there is no denying that it delivers on flavour and tenderness. The crispy shallots are a lovely garnish.

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7414

Another of my absolute highlights of the night is this lamb sweetbread salad (£8) served with pickled spring onions, charred leeks and crispy croutons. Sweetbreads soft and perfectly cooked. A really super salad.

OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7425 OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7428
OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7430 OldTomEnglish-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-notext-7431

I don’t enjoy the desserts as much as the mains. They’re decent, but none of them really touch on the excellence of the savouries for me. And you know I certainly have a sweet tooth.

The top two for me are the lemon & thyme baby doughnuts (£7) with smear of chocolate sauce and pistachio crumble – a touch dry and too little lemon or thyme coming through on the palate – and the rice pudding ice cream (£7) served with almond crumble, cinnamon and salted caramel; a light and refreshing dessert.

The flourless salted chocolate cake (£7) is OK, not as moist as I expect from a flourless recipe and not as rich in flavour either. My least favourite dish of the meal is the banana bread with whisky cream (£7) which is also a little dry, overly cinnamoned (not great with whisky) and lacking in whisky punch.

Old English & Tom is a lovely setting for a tête-à-tête, though it’s also perfect for an evening with friends; go with a small group and try as much of the menu as you can. Around four dishes per person (including desserts) is about right, with a few portion of those triple-cooked chips added to the mix.

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Old English & Tom.

Old Tom & English on Urbanspoon

 

Created by a driven, food-loving first-time restaurateur along with head chef Kyoichi Kai (formerly of Zuma), Kouzu is the latest high quality Japanese restaurant to open in Victoria. Once a neighbourhood not much associated with fine dining, the area seems finally to be coming into its own, with lots of on-going investment and building projects creating ever more commercial space for businesses and restaurants alike.

The team behind Kouzu share a dream of creating a restaurant of which they can be proud, one that uses the best ingredients to create delicious Japanese food in a luxurious but relaxed setting. The menu is, in the main part, traditional but the occasional fusion tweak reveals Kai’s classic French cuisine background.

Kouzu-groundfloorbar kouzi-sushi-counter
Images courtesy of Kouzu restaurant

Just a few steps from Victoria Station, Kouzu is housed in a beautiful 1850s period mansion; the enormous door looking out onto busy Grosvenor Gardens gives way to a small double-height lobby dominated by a fabulous modern art chandelier. One of the staff tells me that the design is based on the pupal cases of butterfly larvae, butterflies being the (understated) motif of the restaurant. Downstairs houses the bar and a restaurant space (as well as a private dining room). Upstairs is an extensive mezzanine floor where the omakase sushi bar and additional restaurant seating are located.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7284 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9891

We make two visits to Kouzu in December and January, the better to sample their extensive menu. On our first we sit downstairs, on the second, we visit the sushi bar.

New Stream Sashimi is one of the less traditional sections of the menu, bringing together Japanese and European influences in all six dishes.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0606

As soon as Yellowtail with Truffle Dressing (£15) is served to the table, the heady scents of truffle fill the air. On the palate, the shiso, myoga, ginger and spring onion hit the tastebuds first, and for a moment I’m disappointed. However the truffle flavour asserts itself a few moments later, and leaves a deliciously earthy aftertaste.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9892

Salmon with Yuzu Soy Dressing (£11) is a punchy dish of salmon dressed in yuzu, soy, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and a ravigote sauce (the latter a classic French vinaigrette with shallots, capers and herbs). For me, the dressing has been applied a little too long before serving, resulting in the salmon being “cooked” by the acid and slightly too pappy in texture, but the flavours are super.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9894

Beef Fillet Tataki (£17.50) is beautifully cooked over charcoal and sliced, and served with what is described as an oriental sauce and julienne salad. The sauce is sharp and the little salad heavy in shisho, which I love. That said, although tataki simply refers to seared and sliced meat, I can’t help but wish for a sesame-based sauce, which I (no doubt unfairly) associate with the dish.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9897

For the price, I expect the Foie-Gras and Spinach with Teriyaki Wasabi (£12) to be far less generous. Instead, I’m delighted with the generous lobe of perfectly cooked liver served with wilted spinach, a light fruit coulis and a wasabi and teriyaki sauce. The combination of flavours is superb, with the bold umami of the teriyaki and mustardy heat of the wasabi complementing rather than overpowering the foie-gras.

Small Dishes and Salads offer a range of little sides that can accompany orders from any other section of the menu; likewise the short and sweet Vegetables section – the two could easily be amalgamated.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9889

There’s not much that can be said about Edamame (£4.50), served with a sprinkle of sea salt as we read the menu and decide what to order. I’d love to see a little inventiveness here, with a couple of options such as a spice and salt blend or even a sticky chilli sauce.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9896

I have to order Agedashi Tofu (£6.50), one of my staple orders when I go out for Japanese food. Kouzu’s version is another fusion dish, the blocks of fried tofu sitting not in the normal soy and dashi broth but in a glutinous vegetable and fish stock sauce. Whilst I like the sauce well enough, what I’m less keen on is how it smothers the tofu blocks, resulting in a lack of the crisp surface I usually enjoy against the pillowy interior.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9907

The Portobello Mushroom with Garlic Butter (£6.50) is firmly in the European camp, indeed I’m unable to detect any Japanese influences at all. Whilst the meaty mushroom, herby garlic butter and thick, glossy Madeira sauce are tasty, I find this dish a little at odds with the rest of the menu.

Items From The Charcoal Grill cover the widest price range, from £12 to a whopping £85 (though that is for 200 grams of high grade wagyu rib).

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9913

I absolutely adore the Lamb Chops with Spicy Miso Paste (£12), which are served medium rare, with a selection of grilled vegetables. Lamb meat and fat are both delicious, the miso really works well here. The vegetables are all individually cooked to just the right level of crunch, full of fresh garden flavour and a simply foil to the main.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0610 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0611

Yakitori chicken (£12) is offered shio or tare – the first is served with smoked sea-salt, the second basted in a special soy sauce. I’m expecting it to come in sticks, as that’s how I’ve usually enjoyed it but here the tender pieces of chicken thigh are simply piled on the plate alongside grilled spring onions, peppers and chinese cabbage.

Tempura has a menu section of its own.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9902

We ask for a mix of the various different vegetables, each available to order separately. Batter is super light and crisp, just as it should be, and each vegetable is perfectly cooked inside.

The Specials section might be mistaken for main dishes, based on the prices, but as they’re not significantly larger than many of the previous dishes, I’d be wary of ordering a traditional two or three course meal and expecting to be satiated.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9910

Roasted Black Cod (£28) is almost a given on high end Japanese restaurant menus these days. Marinated in miso, it’s perfectly cooked – the signature soft and silky texture that is a trademark of this species of fish is shown off nicely. The white miso sauce is a thing of beauty, and I like the orange and fennel salad, to cut through the richness and lighten the dish.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0662

Duck Breast with Sansho (£25) is described as being served with a Japanese pepper sauce. However, this is another of the dishes that strikes us as more French than Japanese, with that classic, glossy sauce. The duck is superbly tender and beautifully cooked, as are the vegetables served alongside.

Lastly there is the extensive From The Sushi Bar selection including sashimi, nigiri sushi, sushi rolls and a few more nibbles.

For these we dine at the sushi bar, served by our personal sushi chef, Voy. He is happy to talk to us about the ingredients and I enjoy watching him as he works.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0615 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0617

We run through the fish and seafood we would like to enjoy before Voy starts creating our nigiri sushi, moving from lighter white fish to stronger and fattier ones.

After forming the rice (in a small sized block, just as I requested), all the fish are painted in nikiri, a thin sweet of soy, dashi and mirin, before being grilled with a blowtorch, topped with a garnish and served to individual dishes on the counter.

First is yellowtail (£6 each) with pickled jalapeños and a tiny dribble of truffle oil.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0603 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0620

Next is scallop (£5 each), painted with nikiri and blowtorched, topped with a cherry tomato and ume plum compte and thinly sliced fresh shisho leaf. The shape of those blow torched browned cracks is the cause of much hilarity on my instagram feed!

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0621 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0623

Third is salmon (£4.50 each), painted with nikiri and blowtorched, topped with avocado and some minute slivers of katsuobushi.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0628 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0632

For nigiri sushi four, we have a split. I have ikura gunkan nigiri (£4, so named as the shape of the nori wrapper suggests a warship) filled with juicy salmon roe.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0630

Pete has instead chutoro (£7 each, medium fatty tuna), painted with nikiri and blowtorched, topped with a puree of sundried tomatoes, chopped chives and a couple of bright yellow kiku (edible chrysanthemum) petals.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0634 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0636

Next, Otoro (8.50 each, the fattiest tuna), painted with nikiri and blowtorched, topped with daikon, Japanese mustard cress and a tiny dusting of ichimi togarashi (chilli powder). The balance of rice, fish and garnish is excellent in all the pieces we have, but particularly so in this one, for me.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0639 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0640
Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0642 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0645

We finish our initial selection of with a spicy tuna roll (£8 for six pieces) includes tuna, tobiko (fish roe), crab “miso” (the brown goo from inside a crab), avocado, spicy mayo, cucumber and probably a few more I’ve missed! Again, this has a great balance of flavours and textures.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0649 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0652

Voy asks us if there are any  we’d like to have again, or any new ones we’d like to try.

We pick the salmon and the chutoro to have again, plus I ask if tamago is available.

Voy rings the changes by changing the garnishes second time around, thus the salmon, once painted with nikiri, blowtorched and topped with daikon is finished with ikura and shiso leaves.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0656

Chutoro is served with the same garnishes as previously, at my request.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0659

We finish with fat slices of nori-wrapped tamago (£3.50 each), astonishingly light and fluffy. It lacks the tree-bark layers of the traditional cooking method but however it’s made, it’s fabulous.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9920 Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2015-0664

At the end, desserts.

On our first visit we are too full, but accept a plate of mini macarons served with our tea. Flavours are super but texture of shell enormously inconsistent.

The next time we finish with a scoop each of sorbet, mine a puckeringly sharp yuzu and Pete’s an unexpectedly creamy chilli cacao. Both are super smooth and served with a stick of light crumbly biscuit.

Kouzu-Japanese-Restaurant-London-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9916

Both of us agree that although Kouzu is not a budget dining option, the majority of the dishes are really excellent value for their quality; this is a restaurant we are very keen to return to, albeit most likely for special occasions. My top tip would be to skip the specials, which will quickly ramp up your bill, and select a feast from the new sashimi, grill, small dishes and vegetables sections which are very reasonable. For sushi lovers, an omakase visit to the sushi bar is certainly recommended, our deluxe sushi selection above came to exactly £97 (without drinks, desserts and service).

Service, incidentally, is helpful and friendly without being obsequious or overfamiliar and location is excellent for public transport.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Kouzu restaurant.
Kouzu on Urbanspoon

Jan 092015
 

Back in November, I was invited to a Secret Supperclub dinner by Miele. Taking place in a “secret location” that would be revealed only when our cars delivered us to the address, all I knew was that the meal would showcase what could be achieved with Miele’s steam ovens.

The location turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, being in the Miele kitchen showroom in Cavendish Place – I’ve attended events there several times before, and assumed from the hush-hush secretiveness, that the venue would be somewhere more exciting.

Still, a large dining table at the back of the showroom was beautifully decked out in a Christmassy theme and we quickly learned that our chef for the evening was Martyn Meid of INK restaurant. Our hosts were welcoming and it was a jovial evening.

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2 Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-3
Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-4 Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-9

Hailing from Klaipeda, a small port town in Lithuania, Martyn grew up in a culinary culture that had access to superb fresh fish. In order to enjoy fish during winter months, it was preserved in different ways, and Martyn developed skills in pickling, curing and smoking fish and other produce. Today he is known for showcasing a very stripped back Nordic style of cooking, with strong reference to the preserving techniques of his youth. He focuses on fresh ingredients, simplicity and precision.

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-1 Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-11

Salmon roe on a two-week rye sourdough. I loved the burst and salty fish flavour of the caviar against the rich and dense rye bread.

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-12

Cured mackerel with betroot and hay ash, served with a shot of dill vodka. The ash was a common element in several of the dishes.

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-5 Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-13

Next up was my dish of the evening – raw seabass cured in lime, pickled ginger, served on on burnt chicory, with apple vinegar. Martyn mentioned that he’d used a whopping 2 kg of butter to cook the chicory! This dish was all the more surprising for me as I’m not usually a fan of chicory, but here the buttery cooking brought out a wonderful sweetness.

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-14

Sadly, this was my least favourite dish of the meal and indeed many of us had the same issue. Described as a salted egg yolk on a bed of potato, with morel mushrooms, the egg yolk was shockingly salty; even a tiny piece of yolk in a full spoon of potato was too salty to enjoy.

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-205040 Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-15

The presentation won me over before I’d even tasted it! Crab, razor clam, langoustine, crunchy cucumber balls, grilled onions and cucumber emulsion. Marvellous!

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-10

Next was 12 hour salted cod with textures of tomato. I enjoyed this, though not as much as the seabass and chicory or crab and onion dishes, but for my friend Gary, this was his dish of the night.

Miele-SecretSupperclub-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-18

To finish, a bread panna cotta with raw milk chocolate.

6H0F8366 6H0F8428
6H0F8752 6H0F8883
Images of Martyn and his team at work, courtesy of Miele

We did, on occasion, get up to watch Martyn and his team at work, preparing the dishes using the show kitchen equipment just by our table. However, they were very focused (as you’d expect) and too busy to be able to talk us through what they were doing. I was frustrated by my resulting lack of understanding about how the specialist Miele steam oven technology was used and what difference it made to the cooking of the various elements of the dishes.

The ovens (and other items in the showroom, such as the zoneless induction hobs and integrated induction woks) looked amazing, but it was hard to tell for sure without actually cooking on them. As our oven at home is on its very last legs, we’ll be in the market for a new one soon, and I’d hoped to get a better feel for the advantages of a steam oven over other models, but I’m still in the dark on that front.

However, I’m grateful to Miele for giving me the chance to experience Martyn’s cooking at this intimate private event.

Kavey Eats attended the Miele secret supperclub as a guest of Miele. Additional images (any without copyright text) provided courtesy of Miele.

 

There’s something very indulgent about taking a mini city break in your own city of residence.

Holidays at home (or staycations, in the American vernacular) usually involve heading out of town; a shorter journey than heading abroad, perhaps, but further afield than the place you live. On the rare occasions we allocate leisure time to our local area, we tend to day trip, returning home to our own beds overnight. But booking a night in a hotel in your own city transforms a couple of day trips into what feels more like a proper holiday. It’s so much fun! Added bonuses: the travel is easy, and you don’t need to take much luggage.

Pete and I recently spent a night in the Citizen M Bankside hotel, within easy reach of Borough Market and Maltby Street Market, as well as other local attractions.

Read on for my personal guide to the area, plus a review of the hotel.

Borough Market

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9759

Borough Market needs little introduction from me; a food market much loved by locals and tourists alike.

I love to come and shop here; browsing through the huge array of fresh produce – meat, fish, fruit, vegetables – and a vast selection of other food items; bread, cakes, biscuits and doughnuts, charcuterie, cheese (oh my, such wonderful cheese), honey, truffles, coffee and tea, fresh filled pasta, beers and wines…

Borough Market Collage 2

Some of my favourite stops include:

  • Neal’s Yard Dairy is an Aladdin’s cave of cheese – all kinds and all in perfect condition – served by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who are happy to guide you and give a few tasters as you make your choices; I always buy some delicious Coolea plus an oozer and a goats cheese as well and often a piece of Stichelton.

NYD-Borough-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9887 NYD-Borough-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9882
Neal’s Yard Dairy

  • Jumi is the outlet of a small and young cheese producer from Switzerland, I recommend their marvellously pungent Murgu (blue) and the creamy soft La Bouse – don’t be put off by the cowdung translation!
  • Cheese lovers will also love The French Comte stall, selling not only the cheese but other items from La Franche-Comté. And there are many more cheese vendors besides these.
  • Utobeer has a fantastic selection of bottled beers, making it a great place to buy gifts for beer lovers.
  • Turnips is one of the larger stalls at Borough, almost a mini-section of the market on its own and has a fabulous range of produce. I often find the fruit and vegetables a little pricy but I do make a beeline for their mushroom stall; there’s a fabulous selection, in very good condition and fairly priced. I can recommend the king oyster mushrooms in particular, but have bought many different mushrooms over the years.
  • Visit The Tomato Stall for full-of-flavour tomatoes and juices from Arreton Valley, on the Isle of Wight.
  • Bread Ahead Bakery has created quite a stir, most notably for their doughnuts, the creation of baker Justin Gellatly. I’ve been unlucky the previous two visits to their stall, once I was too late and the doughnuts had run out and the next visit was over Easter, and they had replaced them with hot cross buns. When I finally got to try them on this visit, I loved them so much I went back for more the very next morning! Of course, do try their other baked products as well.
  • I first discovered Caroline’s Free From Bakehouse after I met her through blogging and social media. She’s won many awards for her gluten-free range and also offers some dairy free and sugar free items in her range.
  • Tartufaia Truffles sell fresh truffles as well as truffle-infused products, including a very tasty truffle honey.
  • If you love charcuterie, you’ll be spoiled by Borough Market, as there are many stalls and shops to choose from, offering British and European charcuterie of different types. I don’t have a single favourite, but have enjoyed items from several stalls over the years.
  • Although you can sometimes now find Chegworth Valley fruit juices in supermarkets and farm shops, you’ll find an impressively wide range here, plus fruit from their farm too.
  • For fish lovers, there are several fresh fish mongers (Furness and Shellseekers are two from whom I’ve bought good quality seafood), I’d suggest checking all of them to see what appeals on the day. You’ll also often find high quality smoked fish and eel on sale; House of Sverre and Muirenn Smokehouse are two such vendors.
  • Meat is readily available too. I’ve loved the game birds and venison I’ve bought from Furness, and the bacon, sausages and various cuts of met from the Ginger Pig. There are also several butchers selling meat directly from the farm, including Rhug Farm, Sillfield Farm, Northfield Farm, Hillhead Farm Wild Beef, Wyndham House Poultry and many others. For those looking for camel, ostrich, zebra, crocodile and various antelope, try The Exotic Meat Company.
  • There are a number of stalls selling products from France, so do explore. I tend to head to Le Marché du Quartier as my first port of call.
  • Indeed, it’s not just France that’s represented at Borough Market; there are stalls selling produce from Argentina, Croatia, Grenada, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Turkey… a lovely way to travel the world without leaving London!
  • I’ve only recently discovered Spice Mountain, but want to explore further, as based on my brief initial visit, they offer a really wide range of spices, including a selection of spice blends.

Borough Market Collage 1

There are also an ever-increasing number of street food vendors, selling hot and cold food to eat there and then. I’m not a huge fan of eating on the hoof, so I’ve not paid much attention to these, but there are plenty to choose from.

For more information on traders and opening times, visit the Borough Market website.

 

Cheers!

I’ve already mentioned Utobeer within the market (and there are a number of wine vendors too).

Take a very short detour out of the market proper to Laithwaite’s Wine, at the north end of Stoney Street. It’s a great shop in its own right, with a wide range of wine and helpful staff. But in the Favelle household, it’s better known as the easiest way to reach The Whisky Exchange (the other way in being through Vinopolis); a small shop space housing a truly impressive selection of whiskies from around the world.

Whisky-Exchange-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9842
The Whisky Exchange

Back to beer lovers, there are several breweries to visit in the area around Borough, Maltby Street and Bermondsey Street. Look up Anspach & Hobday, Brew by Numbers, Bullfinch, Four Pure, Hiver, Kernel, Southwark Brewing Company, Partizan

Local pubs include The Rake, a favourite with lovers of real ale but frustratingly tiny inside, so best visited during warmer months or very quiet times of the day.

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9720 BrewWharf-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9844 BrewWharf-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9716
Umbrella art installation just outside; Brew Wharf

Another great place to stop for a pint or two is Brew Wharf, within the larger Vinopolis complex, which offers a range of beers from London, the rest of the UK and international breweries. They also brew on site in their own microbrewery.

Wine Wharf, just in front, is the wine lovers option; another lovely space in which to enjoy a drink is Bedales Wine Bar and Shop, within the market area.

 

A Warming Pit Stop

I love to stop regularly for coffee or hot chocolate, especially during the colder months, but let’s be honest, I find excuses in the summer too.

The Rabot 1745 cafe sells a tasty selection of hot chocolates; their salted caramel is my current favourite.

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9715 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6188

Monmouth Coffee is the best known caffeine option, but I’ve only once been able to find an inside space to sit in all the many visits I’ve made to Borough Market over the years; I’m not one for drinking on the go, nor do the benches outside appeal. The coffee is, of course, super.

Round the corner, Gelateria 3Bis offers coffee, ice cream and hot chocolate and has the advantage that there’s usually a couple of spaces free at the tables and staff are friendly.

For those who don’t mind drinking and walking, there are also a number of takeway coffee vendors within the market.

 

Maltby Street Market

About twenty minutes walk from Borough Market is the much smaller but altogether funkier Maltby Street Ropewalk Market. You might think it’s not worth the walk, since Borough is so much bigger, but you’d be missing out. The small selection of stalls, tucked under the arches or along the narrow alley are charming, and most are not duplicated over at Borough. I don’t think the vendors list on the website is up to date, but there is always a good range of high quality produce, some to buy and take home and some to enjoy on site.

My picks include African Volcano for the best peri peri sauce and delicious hot food made with the same (the sauce itself is a must-buy ingredient but save space to order Grant’s pulled pork in a bun, peri peri prawns or peri peri burger are), Monty’s Deli for pastrami and salt beef sandwiches, Hansen & Lydersen for smoked salmon, St John’s Bakery for doughnuts. There are usually also a range of beer, wine and cocktails on sale from various of the stalls and arches such as Bar Tozino, which also sells fantastic jamón and other tasty Spanish snacks. Next time I visit, I’m keen to try Gosnell’s London Mead.

Open on weekends only, and do check dates as can vary during winter.

If you enjoy rooting through architectural salvage, a rummage in LASSCO is in order, at 41 Maltby Street.

 

Bermondsey Street

Bermondsey Street is the trendy hub of a local community that clearly values good food, a relaxed vibe and quirkiness. Where once it might be have been described as up and coming, it’s now firmly “upped and comed”; gentrified but still rather hip. Deserving of a post in its own right, I’ll simply point you towards Pizzaro (and older sibling Jose) and Zucca and suggest you explore this neighbourhood on your own. Do share your favourite finds with me, though!

 

Tourist Attractions

Southwark Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral, dating mainly from 1220 and 1420, although the nave is a late 19th-century reconstruction. All are welcome to attend services. Visitors may also enter to admire the cathedral, unless it is closed for an event. Do be mindful not to disturb those at worship.

HMS Belfast is a floating naval museum within a warship permanently moored alongside Tower Bridge. Adult entry is £15.50.

Borough-Market-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9813 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9755

I can’t believe I’ve not yet been inside The Shard, though I’d love to enjoy the views from the higher floors and I’m keen to try Hutong and Lang for high end Chinese and afternoon tea, respectively. You can buy tickets to access the Viewing Gallery online, though be warned, it’s £24.95 for an adult ticket.
 

Eating Out

If I offered a list of every good restaurant within the area, this would soon turn into a book!

Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-5462 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6185
Breakfast at Rabot 1745

Borough-Market-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9868 Elliots-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9850
Elliot’s Cafe

Favourites in 2014 include two meals at Rabot 1745 (which offers a great breakfast menu, as well as their regular lunch and dinner offerings), some delicious dishes at Elliot’s Cafe (I did feel a few dishes were much pricier than justified; then again they’re always full!), a simple, tasty and reasonably priced menu at Hixter Bankside (but we had some frustrating issues with service which were eventually resolved by managers but not reflected in the bill), and I’ve always enjoyed Brindisa for a snack or light meal.

 

Hotel Citizen M Bankside

My first encounter with a Citizen M hotel was up in Glasgow; it was the perfect option for an overnight stop en route to Islay and had vastly more positive online reviews than other budget chains I considered. The Bankside property offers much the same and is less than a 10 minute walk from Borough Market.

The immediate vicinity is the focus of a lot of recent development, with several new restaurant and cafe openings along the short stretch between the Blue Fin Building and Citizen M.

londonbankside_ext_04_low londonbankside_int_06_low
londonbankside_int_11_low londonbankside_ext_03_low
Exterior and internal garden area, images courtesy of CitizenM

Check in is meant to be self-service, with a bank of check in computers provided just by the entrance. It’s very straightforward, so we find it a little disconcerting that there are always at least two members of staff to assist, and they tend to step forward immediately, rather than allow guests to self-service first. It’s friendly, but somewhat negates the point of self-service over a traditional check in desk.

Lifts to residential floors can only be operated by those with a room key card, which is good as the open-plan ground-floor lobby is enormously busy throughout the day and evening.

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9692 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9695
Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9693 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9735

Rooms are small but have been very cleverly designed to maximise space, and a lot of thought has been given to convenience and comfort; these are too often overlooked in favour of funky design. Beds are huge and very comfortable (though rather high off the ground, and it’s a bit of a clamber for whoever gets the window side). Storage is minimal but sufficient for a one or two night stay. Keeping the sink outside of the bathroom cubicle makes both seem more generous; the shower is much larger than the cruise-ship-style pods often used by budget chains. Much appreciated touches include a large TV with a good selection of films available on demand (and without extra charge), power sockets that cater for various international plugs, a USB charging point and a funky lighting system that allows you to set mood with coloured lighting; I particularly appreciated the ability to keep an unobtrusive red light on in the bathroom pod overnight. Despite the small size, I find the Citizen M rooms more comfortable and appealing than many poorly designed larger rooms I’ve stayed in over the years.

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9750 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9742

Another thing I enjoy about Citizen M hotels is the very bright, colourful and quirky design. The public spaces are a sensory overload of funky lighting and Vitra furniture, and all kinds of artwork and random objects to add interest. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it, and very much enjoyed wandering around peering at all the things.

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9744 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9729
Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9745 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9740
Ground floor spaces

The lobby is cleverly divided into areas for lounging around reading or chatting, for working (power sockets provided), for eating breakfast, for relaxing. The only slight issue is that, as it’s open to non-residents too, it can be hard to find space during busier times.

You may decide not to eat at the hotel, surrounded as you are by so many fantastic food options, but the hotel does provide breakfast and dinner. The former is in the form of a breakfast buffet; you can either include it when you book or pay on the day, as you prefer. The quality is better than I’ve experienced at far more expensive hotels, the pain au chocolat was superb, and the sausages and bacon good quality. For dinner there are just a handful of choices, but again, what I tried was tasty and decent value too. You are also permitted to bring food in from outside, so go ahead and buy yourself a picnic from Borough Market or order a takeaway from a local restaurant.

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9743 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9738 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9741
Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9732 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9737 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-9734
Top row, breakfast; bottom row, dinner

In another nice change from other budget chains I’ve stayed in (and indeed, higher end places in the UK too), service is friendly and helpful to everyone, something we noticed at the Glasgow property as well.

Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-7270 Bankside-Kavey-Eats-(c)KavitaFavelle-2014-7272
View into the internal atrium area from the corridor to our room

I’ve also now signed up for the free-to-join Citizen M club which gives me 15% off the best available rate when booking future rooms at any of the Citizen M hotels.

 

Kavey Eats were guests of Citizen M Bankside hotel.

 

Do you like sightseeing excursions by boat? Yep, I do.

Do you like bird watching? Yep, I do.

Do you fancy eating raw scallops and sea urchins only seconds after they’re pulled out of the sea? OH MY GOD YES, WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-151109 Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7343

Seatours run what they call Viking Sushi excursions out of Stykkisholmur harbour in North West Iceland throughout the summer months. The standard and short versions are much the same; a difference of an extra half an hour out on the water; both take you out to the same local islands to view birdlife and unusual geological formations (with fascinating local mythology to explain them) before treating you to the “sushi” experience.

Our itinerary meant we could only make the shorter one, which turned out to be perfect. Any longer, and the cold winds out on the sea might have become more of an endurance test; as it was the sights followed by the sushi kept our minds off the chill factor.

Although the sun was shining, the air was cold. As we gathered speed, a scurry for gloves and scarves was accompanied by muttered regrets about not wearing warmer clothing. Chatting to other guests, we huddled on benches around the open front deck, admiring the coastal landscape as we headed out to sea.

Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7360 Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7364
Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7355 Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7377

The first island we approached was a nesting site for black-legged kittiwakes – adults have yellow beaks and black only at the end of their tail feathers; juveniles have black beaks and additional black markings around their eyes, on the back of their necks and along their wings as well as the tail tips. They made their nests in the natural hollows and on the ledges around the cliff edges. Moving around the island, a geological fascination of sweeping upright striations in the rock drew our attention.

Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7392 Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7381

The next island was the focus of a local myth. Lodged into a natural crack in the island was an immense boulder, said to have been hurled by an angry mountain troll in protest at being disturbed by local church bells. The clincher to the tale, so our guide insisted, was that the boulder has since been tested and is not of the same rock as the rest of the island.

Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7395 Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-7386

Moving on again, we found a colony of shags on a series of rocks jutting out of the water.

Finally, it was time to lower the net plough to the ocean bed. A few moments later, the crew winched it back up, opened it and let the contents spill out onto the metal counters below.

Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-162907 Viking-Sushi-Boat-Excursion-Stykkisholmur-Iceland-(c)KavitaFavelle-163853

There were about 20 of us on the excursion and we crowded around as two crew members quickly started opening the scallop shells and offering plump raw scallops on the half shell. A little wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger were provided, though they quickly ran out. Most of the other tourists politely tried a scallop or two, but seemed nonplussed by the raw seafood and wandered away again. Only a few were willing to try the sea urchin roe, though I did persuade a few more to give it a go, and they enjoyed it.

I was in absolute heaven and said to the younger female crew member that I’d happily carry on eating both as long as she carried on opening them and she seemed very happy to do so. I must have eaten at least 20 enormous plump scallops, so deliciously sweet and fresher than I’ve ever had before. I probably had the roe of five little sea urchins too!

Viking-Sushi-Collage-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2014
Click to enlarge

Oh, I did miss a sighting of a white-tailed eagle that Pete (not a fan of scallop or sea urchin roe) enjoyed while I was gorging on the sashimi feast. I was far too happy to feel any regret!

Our Viking Sushi Short tour cost us 5,025 kr per person (about £25) and was one of my highlights of the trip.

 

Pete and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in Iceland this summer. Our visit was almost scuppered by Bárðarbunga, an Icelandic volcano that chose the time of our visit to get a little fractious. Luckily, no flights were cancelled, and although Bárðarbunga did let loose its lava during our holiday, its tantrum had very little impact on our tour.

Late summer in Iceland means long, long days most of which were light and sunny, but Reykjavik was drizzly for most of our time there.

Reykjavik still holds on to a reputation as party central, but as far as we could tell, that seems to have calmed down a great deal since the 1990s heyday. What we enjoyed was a relaxed but funky city with just enough to keep us occupied for a couple of days, provided we liberally interrupted our sightseeing with coffee and cake breaks. We loved being within the centre, which was a pleasure to meander around. The colourful houses in the Mioborg area are home to a surprisingly high number of trendy coffee shops and restaurants. I particularly loved coming across the vibrant and artistic graffiti we spotted around town.

Reykjavik-Graffiti-collage-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2014

We found the Harpa Concert Hall as captivating as most visitors and whiled away a few rainy hours taking photographs inside.

Reykjavik-Harpa-collage-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2014

Hallgrímskirkja, a modern Lutheran church designed in 1937 and constructed between 1945 and 1986, is also impressive, though we paid a shorter visit. Architect Guðjón Samúelsson is thought to have been inspired by the basalt lava formations found across Iceland, and once we’d seen some of these for ourselves, that inspiration fell into place.

Reykjavik-Hallgrimskirkja-collage-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2014

We stayed two nights in Center Hotel Þingholt (written in English as Thingholt – that’s a Þ not a P!) The hotel sits along the walking route between Hallgrímskirkja and Harpa – an excellent location in Mioborg, Reykjavik – and we really appreciated our very modern room, though the concrete, leather and glass design won’t suit everyone. The hotel had a trendy bar area and restaurant, though we only ate breakfast there, a perfectly decent buffet offering.

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7272 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7269 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7271

Thanks to recommendations from Mondomulia and Iheartreykjavik, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Grillmarkadurinn. It’s name translates to Grill Market and owners Hrefna Rósa Sætran and Guðlaugur P. Frímannsson have forged strong relationships with farmers and producers, to showcase the best that Iceland can offer. The tasting menu (9,400 kr per person) is a great way to try a range of dishes.

Reykjavik-GrillMarkadurinn-collage-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2014

We enjoyed another great albeit much simpler meal in charmingly homely Jorundur restaurant, located just in front of Grillmarkadurinn. I chose one of the fiski pönnur (fish pan) dishes, a complete meal presented in a frying pan , though clearly not the one it was cooked in; my fried plaice and shrimps in a white wine sauce was both generous and delicious, served with creamy mash beneath and that sweet sour onion pickle. Pete had a tasty hamburger and a local ale. Here, our bill was around 6,000 kr between us.

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-133002 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-132956 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-131726

We made a few almost obligatory stops, and are certainly not sorry we did…

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is touted as the source of Iceland’s best hot dogs; I can’t say I found them noticeably better than the many others I enjoyed across the rest of Iceland, but our pylsa með öllu were a great first meal of the trip. Certainly, the hot dogs of Iceland inspired some kitchen experimentation, when we returned home.

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7248 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7244 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-7247

Sægreifinn (Sea Baron) is a pitstop recommended on virtually every food guide to Reykjavik. Located inside a rough-and-ready fish shack by the harbour, it was named for its owner, retired fisherman and coastguard Kjartan Halldorsson. Customers select and pay for their food on entering – skewers of fish are displayed in a fridge by the counter – and grab a seat at one of the communal tables. Most order a skewer or two of fish alongside the famous “lobster” soup; in Iceland langoustines are referred to as lobsters, and that’s the species used in this dish. The soup is a rustic bowl of flavourful broth, a few remnants of celery, pepper and tomato and some slightly mushy chunks of lobster meat – certainly not the best lobster soup I had in Iceland but hearty and budget-friendly.

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-170411 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-174936 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-6289

Coffee shops and bars are plentiful.

We liked Sandholt Bakarí (bakery) for its wide selection of cakes and doughnuts, and a lively space with plenty of seating. The lunch menu looked good too, though we didn’t have time to try it. Thanks to the girl who ate everything for the suggestion. Stofan Cafe, which we were drawn to by the historical building itself, was another lovely place to hide from the rain; it had the homely feel of a domestic living room.

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-111530 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-152145
Sandholt Bakari; Stofan Cafe

Another popular and oft-recommended spot is The Laundromat Cafe, first launched in Copenhagen. Upstairs is all about the cafe, with plenty of seating around a central serving station. I really like the cafe’s eclectic styling with funky red lamps, huge maps glued to the walls and row upon row of framed photographs of laundrettes (as we call them in the UK) from around the world. Downstairs there is indeed a working laundrette, should you need it.

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-145745 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-145718
Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-142657 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-142051

Micro Bar is a small bar run by Icelandic brewery, Gæðingur Öl. It’s right on Austurstræti but we kept missing it as the website doesn’t mention that the entrance is inside a hotel lobby!

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-194207 Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-182115

Here are a last few images of Reykjavik!

Reykjavik-misc-collage-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle2014

And remember, Single Gloves Speed Dating never dies!

Reykjavik-Iceland-KaveyEats-(c)KavitaFavelle-105839

I hope you enjoyed my little photo diary of Reykjavik! I’ll be sharing more from our trip around Iceland soon.

© 2006 - 2014 Kavita Favelle Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha