Dub Jam – Covent Garden

Summer is finally here!! Or, at least for now. This is England after all.

What better way to celebrate the sunshine than with a lil’ bit a reggae to chill you out! Roll on Dub Jam, a tiny little restaurant situated near Covent Garden.

image

With Dub Jam you hear it before you see it. Playing Reggae music from Trogan Records out of large speakers at the back, this chilled out restaurant really does put you in a good mood! The decor is very beach shack-esque, with benches made from surf boards and light fittings made from buoys and old paint tins. Apparently most of the tables and chairs are made on a budget of just £250! It is small at a mere 16 seats so get there quickly to grab yourself a seat.

image

I will first off say how lovely the waitresses were in this place, service with a smile really does make a difference!

We started off with come cocktails and I had the Rum Punch, a reggae-infused fruity rum cocktail. How is it infused? Why, the cocktail is fed out of a tap through the speakers of course! It was delicious and I could have put my head under that tap all night long if I didn’t fear the hangover the next day…

image

We sat down and checked out the menu which is written on black boards above the counter, and instantly wanted all the side dishes available. We held back and just ordered 3 – the rice n ‘peace’, the rude boys skin on chips and KJ’s sweet potato chips. I decided on the Peppa Pig – Jerk pork belly skewers with peppers and a side of sunshine slaw (+ love according to the blackboard!).

All jerk skewers are marinated for 48 hours, then slow cooked for 8 hours, then smoked, and THEN BBQ’ed once you order. Phew! Is all that effort worth it? Indeed it is! The pork tasted delicious and soft, and the peppers had a nice crunch! The one thing I wasn’t a fan of was that my skewer had green peppers on it (blergh!) so it would be great to decide which peppers you can have on it. That is very nit-picky of me though…

image

Surprisingly I think my favourite part of the dish was the sunshine slaw! I am not one of mayonnaise’s biggest fans, so thankfully this slaw is made with yoghurt and coconut! It was so scrummy and went really well with the jerk pork and the spicy salsa that you get on the side.

I think the real winner of the evening were the sweet potato fries – huge chunks of soft sweet potato with perfectly crispy edges and seasoned with some sort of Italian herb(?). They were so tasty and I think I would have been happy with just those and the slaw! The regular chips were equally as chunky and were tasty too, however the rice and ‘peace’ I could have left. Nothing too spectacular about the rice to be honest, but then again I am not a great lover of the stuff.

If you want jerk, rum and reggae then this is your place! As you can see my friends had a wild time…

image

There is actually a difference in price between eating out and take-away which they don’t tell you on the website which is a bit cheeky, but I guess it encourages people to take out rather than cram into the tiny space. Either way I think this should probably be mentioned on the website.

The bill came to about £18 for my skewer, a cocktail and sharing 3 sides (quick note – I believe it might be cash only). It may be a bit on the pricey side for what is essentially take-away food. But I think the experience of Dub Jam is great, it simply puts you in a great mood!

http://www.dubjam.co.uk/

20 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9HP

Dub Jam on Urbanspoon

Flat Iron – Soho

It says something about a restaurant when I visit it 2 times in 4 days. But that is what I did at Flat Iron. Boy is it good!

£10 for steak in central London? Hello!

image

Situated on Dean Street at the end of Carnaby Street, it’s location is trendy and very easy to find. It has a no reservations policy so make no mistake, you will have to wait. Sometimes for quite a while. Sometimes for like 2 hours.

To be fair, me and my friends went on a Friday evening. We arrived at about 6ish and they had tables free straight away, however not all of us were there so we couldn’t sit down. We waited in a bar for about 45 minutes until we had all grouped. The waiting list was then 2 hours… I had expected this so we were fine heading to a bar and having a glass or 3, they just take your name and number and call you when the table is nearly ready. We decided to return a bit earlier to check out the bar located underneath the restaurant. The venue decor is quite industrial, think wood, brick and dim lighting. The cocktail list is relatively short but the ones we tried were delicious and pretty reasonable (range from about £5.50 to £7.50). They also do home made doughnuts and hand fill them for you with passion fruit curd. I reeeeally wanted to try one but knew it would just ruin my appetite.

So at about 9 o’clock we were ready to eat! Upstairs is where the magic happens. I would guess there were about 4 benches each seating 6ish per bench, and the seats are fixed to the table kind of like a park bench. The tables are shared, so you are more than likely going to be sat next to a stranger during your meal. Some may like this, others not. Personally I was far too concentrated on the food to really care. Once sat you get a mug of beef dripping popcorn to share which is perfect to satisfy your hunger for a brief moment.

The menu is ideal for me, limited. (I am awful at deciding) You have a choice of the Flat Iron steak or the special, with a selection of 5 sides and 4 sauces to choose from. I opted for the Flat Iron, a relatively unknown cut of meat in the UK, and shared the chips, spinach and aubergine side dishes with a friend. I also chose the bearnaise sauce to go with it.

Lets start with the steak. Presented pre-cut on a slab of wood with a side salad, cooked rare as I ordered it, and lightly seasoned with salt. It was damn tasty. ’nuff said. Some may find it quite a small bit of meat, but when you factor in the sides it is more than enough! You also get the joy of eating it with a mini meat cleaver which is a bit different! The bearnaise sauce was lovely and creamy and complimented the meaty flavour of the steak well.

image

Next to the sides, oh the sides!

First, the creamed spinach. Creamy and Spinachy.
Next, the dripping cooked chips. Crispy, oil-free fries that taste like roast potatoes. I could have eaten them all day.
Finally, the roast aubergine, tomato, basil and parmesan bake. Now I am not usually an aubergine fan, but by jingo this is a damn good dish!

For pudding I think we only had one choice, a salted caramel mousse thing. They dispensed it out of a pressurised canister into small tin mugs, then you grind salt onto it yourself. It was nice, quite a dense but creamy texture. To be honest I wouldn’t get it again because it wasn’t anything spectacular, so maybe one of those doughnuts next time (and yes, there will most certainly be a next time!).

image

All in all a fab place to go for some cheap but good quality steak.

I have to give a shout out the waitresses too who were all lovely and chilled, making for a relaxed evening!

The bill came to around £20 – that included the steak, 3 shared sides, sauce and a shared bottle of wine. It’s fair to say I was a happy girl after all of that!

http://flatironsteak.co.uk/

17 Beak St, Soho, W1F 9RW. NO RESERVATIONS

Flat Iron on Urbanspoon

Franco Manca – Balham

image

Holding the title of ‘best pizza in London’ by many people is probably quite daunting for some. However, Franco Manca absolutely deliver every single time I have visited (and I have visited it a lot), consistently producing amazing pizzas. The menu is very small, only 6 regular pizzas with one meat special and one veg special a day. I pretty much go for the same pizza every time because it is so divine!

The Balham restaurant has been around for about 6 months, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t queues out the door most nights. Don’t let the queues put you off though, the restaurant has a pretty quick turnaround so you wont be waiting too long. If you really don’t do queuing then there is a pizza express exactly opposite, but do you really want to turn down visiting the best pizza in London for a chain restaurant?!

Luckily the last time we went it was pretty late so we were seated straight away. Tap water arrived and pizzas were ordered. I went for my usual no.6 which is topped with both dry & semi-dry chorizo. I am an absolute sucker for anything containing chorizo so this naturally is my choice most of the time. The sourdough pizza is blast cooked in a wood-burning “Tuff” brick oven that is actually made in Naples, and so it arrives at our table very quickly indeed! I’m sure I have never had to wait longer than 5 minutes max. between ordering and eating. You will notice (and hopefully you can see from the picture) that the pizza isn’t quite like your normal pizza. Many people have likened it to a naan bread due to it’s soft and doughy texture, even the crusts are lovely and soft so please do not discard these if you usually do that! It is very easy to eat and usually has disappeared within about 5 minutes, leaving me one full and happy girly. The no.6 has a tomato base, some come with only a little bit of tomato and others none at all. I found the ones with only a little tomato (no.4) were less easy to eat because it is more dry due to having less sauce. It does have ricotta but it just personally isn’t enough. If ever I decide to venture away from my usual I always make sure to add extra tomato sauce to it (at an extra cost though, boo…). However I will always keep coming back to Franco Manca because it has a special place in my heart, and just looking at the above picture makes me drool.

The Balham restaurant is relatively small but feels like a real restaurant. For this reason I prefer the Brixton branch – It has bigger queues but it has a great atmosphere and a rustic feel. Franco Manca also has a branch in Chiswick, Tottenham court road, Northcote road, Stratford’s Westfield and Broadway market.

The Bill? A bank-breaking £6.95 for the ‘best pizza in London’… Bloody bargain!

http://www.francomanca.co.uk/

53 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9EZ

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon

Flying Saucer Cupcakes

flying saucer cupcake
(Please excuse the absolute mess of my kitchen in the background, I was in a rush…)

Here it goes, my first recipe post! Bear with me…

Our office has semi-regular bake off’s and so far I have won both the best taste award and the best looking award in the last two, so my winning streak was at stake here! This time around the theme for the bake off was “Absolutely Fabulous”, so you could take it literally and bake a wine bottle shaped cake with fags ends coming out of it, or go all OTT on the decoration. I decided to go for latter…

Having scoured the net for inspiration, I stumbled upon a blog called raspberri cupcakes. Oh my. I implore you to go and check it out! Amazing recipes with amazing photograph, serious food porn! So after perusing her recipes I was inspired by a particular post and decided to make it my own.

flying saucer cupcakes

Flying Saucer Cupcakes (Orange Cupcake, sherbet icing and a hidden chocolate ganache centre)
(makes around 14 well filled cupcakes, recipe adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes blog)

For the cupcakes: 
165g baking spread (I used stork)
100g of caster sugar
100g of soft light brown sugar
1 large orange, zest and juice
3 large eggs
300g self-raising flour, sieved

For the icing:
165g salted butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sieved
a splash of single cream (I probably used about 15-20ml)
3-4 tubes of refreshers sweets

chocolate ganache filling:
50g of dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)
150ml of single cream
small knob of butter
pinch of sugar

to decorate:
flying saucers
sprinkle of crushed refreshers
sugar stars

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (fan-assisted use 170°C/340°F). Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer for several minutes. Add one egg at a time and beat into the mixture until all combined. Zest and juice an orange. Add the juice, zest and flour and quickly mix until combined. Line a cupcake tray with paper cases and spoon the mixture in, i filled mine up to about 3/4 full. Let the cake, see the oven! Bake them for about 10-15 minutes and check on them with a skewer, if it comes out clean then they are done. If they still have some cake mix on them then put them in for a bit longer. Mine took about 18 minutes but they did have quite a bit of batter in them! Cool them in the tin and remove them and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache I placed a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, making sure the bowl doesn’t actually touch the water (you want the steam, not the water, to heat up the bowl). Break up the chocolate and place in the bowl along with the cream, butter and pinch of salt and allow to melt, stirring continuously until completely combined and smooth. Take off the heat and leave to completely cool. The ganache should then be a lot stiffer than before, more like truffle texture (like the inside of a ferrero rocher!). Using a small knife cut a small circle out of the middle of your cooled cupcake, then fill up the hole with chocolate ganache. Apologies for not having a picture of the chocolate centre, I was in a mega rush getting these ready in time for work!

To make the icing beat butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and light. Gradually add icing sugar a bit at a time, mixing with each addition until all icing sugar has been added. I found that my icing was a bit stiff so I added a bit of single cream into it to smooth it out a bit more! You many not need this though. Crush up the tubes of refreshers (I poured them into a bowl and crushed with the end of a rolling pin until I had small pieces) and then add them to the mix. Overall I used about 3 1/2 tubes but you may want more or less, its completely up to you! Place mixture in a piping bag and pipe over cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles of crushed refreshers. I also added a flying saucer to each to follow on with the sherbet theme, and a couple of sugar stars. Et voila!

Don’t forget that because you have fresh cream in the ganache and in the icing, if you aren’t going to be serving these immediately you should keep them in the fridge.

My cupcakes at the far end

I’m going to be honest with you, I did not win the bake off… My winning streak is over!! The chocolate thing on the right and the colourful macarons on the left won. But in actual fact, I am not happy with how the cakes turned out because they ended up quite dense. I had to use plain flour and add baking powder which never seems to work well for me, so I am just going to blame that! I will be attempting this cake again at some point and hopefully sort myself out on the ingredient front! However, the icing – awesome! So please don’t let my slightly dense cake put you off giving these a go, they do taste pretty wicked regardless!

Hope my first attempt at a recipe post was OK, hopefully there will be more to follow!

Sen Nin Japanese Teppanyaki & Sushi Restaurant – Islington

I have a weakness for sushi. I also have a weakness for 50% off deals, and thankfully Sen Nin in Islington has both said things on a Tuesday. Absolute winner! Slightly incorrect name for this branch as they no longer do Teppanyaki! However the Camden branch does.

To celebrate my friend passing her driving theory test we decided to take a trip there yesterday, we have been a couple of times before on a Tuesday but then they took away the 50% off deal so stopped going. Happiness was restored when my friend snapchatted me a picture of the sign saying it was back, so another visit was on the cards! (don’t judge, the sushi is pretty expensive and we are relatively poor… plus who can resist a 50% off deal!) Slightly incorrect name for this branch as they no longer do Teppanyaki! However the Camden branch does.

When we arrived at about 6.30pm there were several tables already occupied, and for some reason we were all seated in the same section of the restaurant which was a bit odd. But we were sat down quickly and drinks orders taken promptly. The waitress was very attentive (possibly too attentive?) and came back to us several times to see if we were ready to order. I am terrible at deciding what to eat so I took my time. We ordered several different sushi and entree dishes and said that we would have them whenever they were ready. First out was the vegetable gyoza which were OK, slightly slimy but I can cope with that. Next we got the prawn tempura, chicken nanbanzuke, salmon nigiri, california roll and tebasaki.

sushigyoza

So my thoughts:
– prawn tempura had a nice light batter but not too much flavour, however we did get a cheeky batter baby sweetcorn too which was a nice surprise!
– The california rolls were nice and big and you got 6 per portion. They were slightly too big and when trying to bit them in half most of the stuff fell out, so you either had to have a huge mouthful of the whole roll and end up looking like a chipmunk, or catch all the fallings out if you bite it! It’s fair to say we tried out both techniques with entertaining results!
– The tebasaki are basically chicken wings that were deep fried (i think) with some spice and some teriyaki sauce. I could take or leave these, they were very small and had some spice but for the price they definitely are not worth it. To be honest i have had better chicken wings in KFC…
– Salmon nigiri was very tasty, you only got 2 pieces which for the price isn’t great. But the salmon was smooth and very easy to eat and not too thin a slice, but I am a sucker for sushi so I will pretty much like anything! If only you got more per plate.
– The chicken nanbanzuke was several chunks of chicken along with leeks (bit random) on a skewer and marinated in a sweet spicy citrus sauce. Nice but not remember-able unfortunately.

So after all of that we still fancied some more… so we ordered more salmon nigiri and volcano rolls. The volcano roll was a salmon roll which was then covered in a light tempura batter. This meant that the outside of the roll was crispy and warm from the batter and the inside was cold with a generous amount of yummy salmon. This is topped with tobiko (flying fish roe) and a mayonnaise-y sauce. I have never had one of these before so I cannot comment on what it should taste like, but to me it was delicious!

IMG_20140303_153747volcano roll

We have never ordered any of the main meals here so I’m afraid I cannot comment on what they are like! I did spot a Pad Thai and a Penang curry which are Thai rather than Japanese… and lamb chops too! I think we will just stick to the sushi and starters. Also, on a Sunday they have an unlimited sushi buffet at £9.95 so I might have to give that a try too if ever I am in the area.

Overall the bill came to about £69.26, but take off 50% and it came to £34.63! Bloody bargain when you consider we had 4 beers and 8 dishes.

http://sen-nin.com/islington/

206 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RQ

Sen Nin Japanese Teppanyaki on Urbanspoon

Cattle Grid – Balham

Having moved to within walking distance from Balham, on a hungover Sunday afternoon me and 3 friends were in need of something edible. “Something fried” was my friends only requirement.

I have walked past Cattle Grid several times as it is right by Balham station but have never ventured in. It recently underwent a re-furb and opened up again on the 12th, so we decided to give it a try. This was at about 3.30pm and the place was pretty busy (which I find is always a good sign), there was no space on the ground floor so we were taken upstairs and ended up having the whole top floor to ourselves for the entire meal. Upstairs is nowhere near as pretty as the ground floor, which is lovely and light and has some beautiful tiles on the floor. It slightly seems like they forgot about upstairs! The one nice thing was that we were eye level with all the trains pulling in to Balham station which was nice to watch as we waited.

Being the only people upstairs I was slightly worried we were going to be forgotten by our waitress (a nice blonde Australian lady). It was OK but I’m sure if we were downstairs we would have had a better service. I liked the look of the menu, all on one laminated page and had a “Cow” and “Pig” section. We also were given a bottle of water almost immediately on sitting down which is great. I ordered a beef burger with mature cheddar and bacon, and seeing as how it doesn’t come with chips i ordered a side of them too!

Once again i got overly excited and ate half before taking a picture, and i also apologize for the quite poor picture too! I blame hungover me.

Cattle Grid

So, thoughts. I wasn’t particularly impressed to be honest. The waitress said that the burger is usually cooked medium which was OK for me. It definitely was not medium, it had no pink to it at all! (my friends “rare” burger is what i would probably consider medium) It was actually quite dry and over-cooked, I don’t really understand how though because there was so much juice (fat?) dripping out the end of the burger on each mouthful. I don’t think it particularly tasted of much either which is a shame really. The bacon on top was quite thick and relatively chewy, and the cheese was barely melted in the middle of the burger. The bun was brioche-esque and looked quite dry but thankfully wasn’t, it also didn’t disintegrate which is a positive! There was also a good burger to bun ratio. This chips were skin-on which i always love, and they weren’t too bad! I think they needed an added something though, maybe some sort of seasoning?

All in all, a bit of a let down on the burger front! However, my friends ribs looked awesome so maybe just burgers are not their forte? I’m undecided on if I would go back, maybe to try the ribs. But the more I think about it the less likely I think I will go back. There are just so many other better restaurants out there!

Overall the bill came to £12 for me which included: burger and fries (no drink)

http://www.cattlegridrestaurant.com/cattle-grid-restaurant-balham.html

1 Balham Station Road, London, SW12 9SG

Cattle Grid on Urbanspoon

Hache – Shoreditch

Instead of having a romantic night in with the fella, me and my friends decided that we should all have a group valentines day together, as a sort of “screw you” towards the day in question. With several of us being in relationships it felt nice to all come together and just celebrate the friendships that we have with each other. Unfortunately my other half had to work but I substituted him for my good friend and got sufficiently squiffy with her as my “partner”.

As communal lovers of all things burger related, Hache felt like a great option for all of us. We have been several times before and the one in Shoreditch is just round the corner from B@1 with it’s 241 cocktail happy hour (cheeky!). Having booked a table of 10 of us (on valentines day even) we were well accommodated amongst the couples surrounding us. We had a few people arrive late and the waitresses were very understanding. Having worked as a waitress before it really makes you aware of their role and personally I try and make it as easy for them as possible, because I know what it is like to have terrible customers… They took our orders relatively quickly and the drinks arrived promptly.

If you live in Shoreditch, Clapham, Chelsea or Camden then you are lucky enough to have this burger restaurant at your doorstep. Now, the selection in Hache is bavarian hachepretty vast for a burger restaurant and I have to say I have tried a large amount of them. Particular highlights are the Louisiana (topped with peanut butter – definitely a particular taste), the Lamb burger (with mint sauce and redcurrant jelly). However I decided to go for the Bavarian as i am a sucker for anything cheese based, and this comes with a particularly large slab of Bavarian cheese on top. You can order how you like it cooked as well as what bun you would like – Ciabatta or Brioche. I chose medium rare and brioche. I also ordered a side of sweet potato fries as I have a slight addiction to them and Haches are pretty damn tasty.

I got over excited when the food arrived and quickly ate a large amount before I remembered to take a photograph, but here is the burger in all its glory. It comes with a topping of caramelised onions too which really complemented the cheese and wasn’t too sweet so it wasn’t all you could taste. The cheese was de.li.cious. Lovely and smoky and melty and yummy. The meat was cooked really well, medium rare how I ordered it (the picture totally doesn’t do it justice) and the bun was lovely and squidgy. All in all a great mouthful of burger.

Overall the bill came to about £23.50 for me which included: burger, fries and I shared 2 bottles of wine between three of us.

You don’t need a best friend, you need great friends. The quote that sums up the night.

http://www.hacheburgers.com

147-149 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3QE

Hache Shoreditch on Urbanspoon