Australasia – Manchester

AUSTRALASIA

As the name of the restaurant suggests, Australasia Restaurant in Manchester serves Modern Australian cuisine, drawing its inspiration from not only Australia but also the Pacific Rim by incorporating a mixture of influences from Indonesia, Southeast Asia and Japan. The entrance to Australasia is an impressive glass shaped pyramid, through which is a staircase that leads down into the glamorous beige dining room. It’s a beautiful space and reminiscent of a well-appointed Hampton’s beach house on Long Island, New York, or as this is ‘Australasia’, a house on the northern beaches of Sydney.

Australasia embraces a ‘tapas’ style philosophy, with the menu offering a large number of sharing options ranging from sushi and sashimi, tempura, robata grills and other small plates. Also available are larger main plates for those diners who wish to follow a standard three-course format.

We shared everything, starting with a soft shell crab and courgette flower tempura (£12.50) that was really tasty. The tempura was well seasoned with a batter that was lovely and light. Both the crab and courgettes were nicely cooked with the crab proving to be fleshy and moist.

London Food Blog – Australasia - Soft shell crab tempura

Australasia – Soft shell crab tempura

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House of Ho

The House of Ho opened in January 2014 in Old Compton Street in Soho and is the first London restaurant by Bobby Chin. Born to an Egyptian mother and a Chinese father, the food at The House of Ho echoes the influences that Bobby gained during the 18 years that he spent living and working in both Hanoi and Saigon. In July 2014, Bobby was appointed Vietnam Tourism Ambassador in Europe.

The House of Ho features a rectangular shaped dining room with an impressive frontage that looks out onto Old Compton Street. Tables right by the windows are therefore perfect for people watching. There’s a long bar area, and bamboo tables have been interspersed with a selection of Vietnamese art from Bobby’s own collection. The result is a restaurant with a modern Vietnamese feel to it that is smart yet relaxed.

The menu features lots of variety including a selection of pho cuon rice noodle rolls. We tried the one with confit of duck (£5.50) and found the duck to be dry. The noodle rolls themselves were really impressive however as these were delicious and fabulously authentic. There were also some perilla leaves in the roll which were really fragrant.

Imperial spring rolls (£6) were really yummy with a crispy wrapper and came with a delicious filling of pork, mushroom and prawn that was moist and satisfying. A sweet chilli sauce served as the condiment and it worked really well with the spring rolls.

House of Ho - Imperial & Noodle rolls with duck

Imperial & Noodle rolls with duck

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Lanes of London – Afternoon Tea

Lanes of London pays tribute to the great multiculturalism that is the hallmark of the English capital by drawing from its many and varied culinary pockets for inspiration. Head Chef Anshu Anghotra trained at Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc’s culinary school at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and cooks an all day menu designed for sharing with four key sections, each of which have been named after a well known London Lane. There’s ‘Brick Lane’ for some fiery, spicy flavours; ‘Edgware Road’ for some Middle Eastern exoticism; ‘Kingsland Road’ for the fragrant aromas of Asia and ‘Portobello Road’ for a touch of eclectic comfort dining. Its an interesting menu and extends to British classics including fish and chips. What’s more, there’s also afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and pastries (£23 or £29 with a glass of champagne).

Lanes of London is a really engaging restaurant with a classically smart décor, which is sophisticated yet comfortable. Located in the Marriot Hotel on Park Lane, it’s like a little oasis that makes for a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. We had gone to Lanes of London for afternoon tea, but tempted by the rather engaging all day menu we decided to try some fried chicken with a honey and sesame sauce (£12) from the Portobello Road section of the menu and the Cornish lamb cutlets (£10.50) first.

Lanes of London - Fried chicken

Fried chicken

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Flesh and Buns

Flesh and Buns is the latest Izakaya restaurant by the people from Bone Daddies, the successful ramen restaurant founded by chef Ross Shonhan who previously worked at Nobu and Zuma. The concept of Flesh and Buns centres around hirata buns, folded steamed buns commonly filled with pork. Here, you have a choice of different fillings, all of which are accompanied by salad, a sauce and pickles. You create your own buns here, filling them however you wish. And as a precursor to the buns, there are also a choice of raw dishes, snacks and small dishes.

Flesh and Buns has a common appeal. Not only is its concept of ‘flesh and buns’ original, the décor is funky and appealing with a buzzy vibe. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a long sharing table, and circling the table are cozy booth seats and round tables.

We kicked off with a tuna tataki with grapefruit, dry miso, coriander (£10) which was truly lovely. The tuna was fresh, the use of dry miso added depth, and the coriander provided a fresh fragrance to the dish. There were also little beads of dried rice which gave the dish a crunchy finish.

Flesh and Buns - Tuna tataki

Tuna tataki

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Momofuku Daisho – Toronto, Canada

View of the Shangri-La

View of the Shangri-La

Momofuku is a household name. The first of the Momofuku restaurants opened in New York in 2004 and within a year it had captured the public’s imagination with its innovative approach to Japanese noodles. Chef and owner David Chang had spent some time cooking at a soba bar in Tokyo, which was the source of his inspiration for Momofuku, a term that translates as lucky peach. A second restaurant soon followed in 2006. Known as Momofuku Ssäm Bar and serving burrito-style Asian food, it again tantalised the public with its originality. More successful than the first, Momofuku Ssäm Bar headed into the San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2009. It held onto a top 50 position until 2013 when it dropped to 86th.

But Chang’s third restaurant, Momofuku Ko, was to become his pièce de résistance‎. Opening in New York in 2008 as a tiny 12 seater that only accepted reservations six days in advance on an ‘online first-come-first-serve’ basis – a policy that infuriated many – it went on to win two Michelin stars, cementing Momofuku’s worldwide fame.

When a restaurant becomes that famous, the only way to go is to think like Nobu and franchise. Consequently restaurants have sprung up in Sydney and Toronto with four Momofuku branches in Toronto alone: the Noodle Bar, Daisho, Nikai (the bar) and Shoto. The latter was recently revered as the best restaurant in Toronto and offers a 10-course tasting menu that changes daily. It is the more food-centric of the Toronto Momofukus and while it sounded good, it also has a painful ‘you must go online to book at 10am on the day policy’. So we decided on Momofuku Daisho, the more casual dining restaurant where the reservations policy is far less stringent.

Momofuku in Toronto stands adjacent to the glamorous Toronto Shangri-La Hotel and spans over three funky floors. Daisho sits on the top floor and its glass ceiling not only gives the space a great sense of light, it also offers a bird’s eye view of the architectural success of the hotel. The menu is group friendly and offers a selection of big format dishes such as bo ssäm, a whole slow cooked pork butt with a dozen oysters, white rice, bibb lettuce and a Korean ‘ssäm’ BBQ sauce (serves 6 to 10, $240 – about £150). But the most delectable sounding of the big format dishes was the prime beef rib-eye which is dry-aged for 65 days and roasted for about 2-3 hour (serves 6 to 8, $600 – about £387). Reading about the big format dishes made my mouth water, but as we were only two we settled on the smaller plates on the menu.

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