"After years of continuous eating,'A Girl has to Eat', a self-confessed food lover and eat-aholic, has been spurred on to create her own food guide & blog. Read about her fabulous (and sometimes not so fabulous) culinary adventures in her restaurant reviews. This and more!"

Tasting Room

Posted on Saturday, 7th March 2015

Last weekend, we were invited by Australian chef Chris Jordan, formerly at the acclaimed Flying Fish & 4fourteen restaurants in Sydney, to his pop up restaurant ‘Tasting Room’. Tasting Room is the first venture by Chris, and with it he intends to bring together a variety of themed dinners that draw inspiration from a mixture of local establishments ranging from chicken shops to cocktail lounges.

Tasting Room is located at Startisans, an indoor food market on Shelton Street in Covent Garden that showcases artisan food producers at lunchtime on weekdays. As his home is a local food market, he intends to use ingredients from nearby farmers’ markets and small businesses. The venue will hold a large communal table where diners are encouraged to bring their own drinks and which will also facilitate a sharing dining experience. Six ‘tasting room’ events with be held a month with regularly changing menus. Future events will look to collaborate with pop-up chefs from Michelin-star backgrounds.

Chris says, “I set up ‘A taste’ to provide a genuine alternative in the London restaurant scene. Now with Tasting Room as a more permanent fixture, I’m trying to demonstrate how inventive Modern British cuisine can be with a real emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients served with an air of fun and excitement. But ultimately it’s all about discovering unexpectedly delicious food in a truly relaxed setting.”

Last weekend’s menu drew upon teas by Yumcha, a teashop with locations around London including Soho. The starter was a ‘Caramel Sweetheart’, cauliflower and scallop, a complex dish consisting of beautifully seared scallops and fresh sweet scallop ceviche. Accompanying the scallop was a lovey cauliflower puree flavoured with ‘Caramel Sweetheart’, a white chocolate and caramel fudge tea, some tasty cauliflower cous cous and shaved cauliflower. The latter two elements completed the dish nicely by adding crunchiness and texture. This was a wonderful, skillfully executed plate of food.

Slow roasted Sufflok lamb shoulder with salt baked turnips, pickled baby turnips, turnip tops and ‘Egyptian Nights’ jelly was next. The lamb was tender and paired well with the jelly which was mint and chamomile.

London Food Blog - The Tasting Room

The Tasting Room – Sufflok lamb shoulder with salt baked turnips, pickled baby turnips, turnip tops and ‘Egyptian Nights’ jelly

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Boqueria Market

Posted on Monday, 2nd March 2015

BOQUERIA MARKET

Boqueria Market on Queenstown Road is the second branch of Boqueria, a Spanish tapas restaurant group. I visited the original Boqueria on Acre Lane in Brixton about 18 months ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The food was fresh and wholesome and the service was lovely. So once again I found myself south of the river to discover what Boqueria Market had to offer.

Boqueria Market is a really smart looking restaurant. The setting is intimate and the lighting is soft. The restaurant feels relaxed, yet there is a buzzy vibe to it that makes for an engaging dining experience. The menu is similar to the Acre Lane branch and includes a selection of traditional and contemporary tapas as well as a lovely variety of Spanish wines and sherries.

We began our meal with the premium jamón ibérico puro bellota (acorn-fed pure breed Iberico ham – large plate for £18). This was delicious with an intensely sweet flavour and earthy, nutty overtones. The pieces of fat running through the jamón were delicious too, with a melting, soft quality.

London food blog Boqueria - Jamón Ibérico

Boqueria – Jamón Ibérico

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Barrafina Frith Street – Visit No. 2

Posted on Monday, 23rd February 2015

BARRAFINA

Barrafina Frith Street opened to critical acclaim in 2007 following on from the success of its sister restaurant Fino, both of which are owned by the restaurateur brothers Sam and Eddie Hart. 2014 proved to be a great year for the pair, with a second branch of Barrafina opening on Adelaide Street, also to critical acclaim, and the original Barrafina on Frith Street winning a Michelin star.

As most Londoners know, Barrafina Frith Street is a tiny establishment. There are 23 stools which line the L-shaped marbled bar. There is a no-booking policy which means that at peak times diners can expect to wait for at least an hour before being seated. I first visited Barrafina in 2010 and thought it was brilliant (you can read about that visit here). The only thing that deterred me from going back was the thought of that dreaded queue. But with a Michelin Star comes the weight of added expectation. So despite the knowledge that we would have to wait, it felt like the right time for a revisit.

And wait we did, an hour and a half no less, and this was on a Tuesday evening. The saving grace was the fact that we were able to order drinks and nibbles as we stood in line. That said, the service was incredibly slow and we struggled to be noticed or served.

We started with two old favourites, the croquetas and the tortilla. Ham croquetas (2 for £4.50) contained a deliciously creamy béchamel filling and a crunchy exterior. They were a little salty, but they were very tasty. A prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla (£7) came with a runny centre that was lovely and warm. This was also tasty, but in contrast to the croquetas, was a little under seasoned.

Barrafina Frith Street - Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street – Ham croquetas

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street - Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

Barrafina Frith Street – Prawn & piquillo pepper tortilla

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Porky’s Camden

Posted on Tuesday, 17th February 2015

PORKY’S

Photos and words by Food Porn Nation and I.

In the southern states of the USA, BBQ is king. Meat is treated with reverence and when barbequed, is done using special slow cooked techniques that generally last for 16-18 hours. The result is charred meat that is distinctively smoky and tender. Here in London, the restaurant group Porky’s seeks to capture the essence of Memphis style BBQ by adopting they same slow cooking BBQ approach. And as they do in the Deep South, portions are generous, prices are reasonable and flavours are bold. There is plenty of meat and Porky’s happily caters to the heartiest of carnivores.

The Camden Town branch of Porky’s (there are also branches at Bankside and Boxpark Bethnal Green) is low-key with its friendly, casual service. In a nod to its roots, there are classical Southern posters hanging on its exposed brick walls with Tennessee greats such as Elvis playing in the background. The lighting is soft and low for a relaxed ambiance, making it a great venue for groups.

The ‘warm up’ mixed platter (£24 – serves 4) included the house chilli and 4 other starter items. The highlight of the platter was the house chilli which was homey, spicy and delicious. The BBQ wings were a little overcooked, but tasty with a sticky homemade BBQ sauce. Our least favourite items were the crab cakes as there was not enough crab, and the hush puppies which were floury and starchy. We also tried the garlic toast which was very buttery.

Porky's - The Warm Up Platter includes the house chilli and 4x of the following items. Bbq wings, crab cakes, hush puppies, pulled pork croquettes and garlic toast

Porky’s – The Warm Up Platter includes the house chilli and 4x of the following items. Bbq wings, crab cakes, hush puppies, pulled pork croquettes and garlic toast

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Nopi – Visit No. 2

Posted on Tuesday, 10th February 2015

NOPI

Nopi opened in Soho in 2010 to a great reception, and rightly so. It was an extension of the Ottolenghi chain of delis by Yotam Ottolenghi who is famous for his uniquely innovative blend of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cooking. Nopi gave Ottolenghi a presence in Soho, but it also made his delightful food accessible to a wilder audience.

I visited Nopi in June 2011, several months after it opened and loved it (you can read that post here). Little has changed in terms of the restaurant’s décor or design. Nopi is split over two floors. The ground floor is white throughout with individualised tables, and the basement plays home to shared seating with views of the open kitchen. The menu still holds true to Ottolenghi’s original and inventive fusion of Mediterranean, Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, and along with the main size plates, there are a number of sharing options and plenty of choices for vegetarians.

A dish of seared scallops (£13.90) was pleasant on the palate and worked well with the sweetness of a delica pumpkin puree and some savoury red chicory. The scallops were a touch overcooked however and slightly tough, but otherwise this was a good dish.

Nopi - Seared scallops

Seared scallops

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Kouzu

Posted on Tuesday, 3rd February 2015

KOUZU

Photos and words by Food Porn Nation and I.

Kouzu, which means ‘composition’ in Japanese, sits in a beautiful historical 1850s Grade-II listed period building in Belgravia. Kouzu is a slick, modern affair spanning two levels, with a sushi bar on the first floor and the main dining room on the ground floor. The contemporary décor is further glamorised by a lavish set of chandeliers gracing the entrance area.

Kouzu’s head chef is Kyoichi Kai who hails from Kyushu in Japan where he worked as a chef before moving to London in 1988. Chef Kai has cooked at notable restaurants such as Zuma and most recently at The Arts Club in Dover Street. His menu includes traditional Japanese fare such as sashimi, nigiri and maki. These are moderated by modern twists such as the ‘new stream’ contemporarily styled sashimi, charcoal grills, a range of tempuras, and cooked dishes such as miso-marinated black cod. On the drinks list there are a range of Japanese whiskies, cocktails, Japanese beers by the bottle and a variety of sake.

From the ‘new stream’ sashimi, the salmon with yuzu soy dressing (£11.00) was flavoursome, but the dressing of yuzu soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame seed and hot sesame oil was a little too acidic and salty and therefore slightly overpowering against the salmon.

Kouzu - salmon with yuzu soy dressing

Kouzu – salmon with yuzu soy dressing

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Fino

Posted on Tuesday, 27th January 2015

FINO

Fino Restaurant opened in 2003 and became one of the first restaurants in London to offer a contemporary brand of Spanish tapas. Others followed, but Fino has managed to carve out a niche as an oldie but a goodie on the London tapas scene. Fino comes from the hands of Sam and Eddie Hart, the well-known restaurateur brothers that also brought the critically acclaimed Barrafina to London. The original branch of Barrafina opened on Frith Street in Soho in 2007 and went on to won a Michelin star in 2014. A second branch of Barrafina also opened on Adelaide Street last year.

Fino’s Executive Head Chef is Nieves Barragán Mohacho who originates from the Basque country. Her menu changes daily, drawing on influences from not only the Basque region but from throughout Spain. The Fino menu makes for a tempting read, interspersing modern influences among much loved Spanish classics.

Fino has an address on Charlotte Street although the entrance itself is located on Rathbone Street. From here, diners are led to Fino’s restaurant and bar area in the basement. The interior is contemporary and boasts of a relaxed ambience. It is also spacious and well laid out, which unlike the tiny spaces of both the Barrafinas, would accommodate large parties well.

We tried the Cecina de León (£9.80), a smoked and dried beef which was maroon in colour. It was juicy with a strong character and a slightly fibrous consistency. Lightly salted and with small bits of fat running through it, the beef was delicious.

Fino - Cecina de León

Cecina de León

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Kanada-Ya

Posted on Saturday, 24th January 2015

Where: Kanada-Ya

Photos and words by Food Porn Nation and I.

Kanada-Ya on St Giles High Street opened its doors in September 2014 and has since cultivated a large following with its special brand of ramen. Kanada-Ya is the brainchild of the award winning tonkostu broth master Mr Kanada who has been making ramen in Japan since 2009. It specialises only in tonkostu ramen and does not stray into shio, shoyu or miso based broths.

The secret to Kanada-Ya’s success is its specially cooked 18-hour pork bone tonkotsu broth which is tended to overnight. There are three different types of ramen bowls available – the original, the moyashi (a lighter broth) and chashu-men (ramen finished with a chashu collar). The word ramen is taken from the Chinese word ‘lamien’ which means ‘hand pulled noodles’ and the ramen at Kanada-Ya is literally that – hand pulled noodles prepared on site by their very own noodle whiz. Kanada-ya also serve onigiri (Japanese rice balls wrapped in nori) that can be washed down with a selection of Japanese beers, sake or soft drinks.

Kanadaya - Chashu men, 18-hour pork bone broth, secret sauce, hand pulled noodles, chashu, pork, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion finished with pork collar

Kanadaya – Chashu men, 18-hour pork bone broth, secret sauce, hand pulled noodles, chashu, pork, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion finished with pork collar

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