The Barbary

This weekend was all about new favourites.

The team behind Palomar has opened their second restaurant concept in Covent Garden at Neal’s Yard, one of my favourite little spots in the city. For those of you who have not been, its a perfect spot for a date night.

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I’ve had Barbary on my list for a while and finally A and I landed up there on a Saturday evening. Might not have been the best choice of day considering the fact that they don’t take reservations but the vibe, people and the lovely wine definitely transported us to the Barbary Coast.

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We finally got our two seats at a 24 seater kitchen table and I was possibly behaving like a little kid who had been left free to roam in a candy store all night. I literally wanted to try everything on the menu. But before that, I gave myself a bit of history lesson and quickly read up on the food culture and traditions of the Barbary coast which are made up of some beautiful ingredients and some great traditional cooking techniques. The spices, seeds and seasonal fruit and veg seem to define the menu which changes depending on the season of course.

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We got a couple of dips to begin with along with the Moroccan cigars. They were crispy golden spring rolls filled with a delicious sea food mince.

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The baba ghanoush was creamy and velvety with a perfect smoky aubergine flavour
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I lately have got a thing for pickled beetroot and this was even better as it came on a bed of whippy thick yogurt

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The msacabha chickpeas took me down memory lane as they reminded me of the white peas my granny would make when we visited her after school. This would be my staple Friday lunch. A tiny squeeze of lemon and they taste divine

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The fluffy cauliflower charred on the ends and served with this jeweled tomato and herb dressing is an absolute must

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The black salmon dukkah was possibly the best thing on the menu. I couldn’t get enough of it as my fork kept going back to the plate even when the fish was over. The glossy marinade with honey and all the crunchy seeds was something that I would love to recreate in my kitchen

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The salmon gets to feature twice!

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The chicken was juicy tender and A’s most loved dish of the night

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The monkfish skewers was the special for the evening. I love anything that’s cooked on a charcoal grill and this was no exception. The cooking technique seems to bring out the flavour of the meat for me. The skewers were garnished with this citrussy olive oil reduction which added a bit of zing to the fish

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Last but never the least the knafah was ordered to put the sweet tooth to rest. This dessert is as sweet as it can get. The crispy rice noodle cake dipped in honey with a sprinkle of pistachio and a touch of orange brought a swing to my spoon and a satisfied sparkle to my eye

This has got to be your next culinary destination. You can find them here  https://thebarbary.co.uk/

 

 

 

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Barrafina

Seem to be getting the Monday blues and Tuesday grey’s at the same time.  Think I know what’s the instant cure. 

Headed to one of our favourite restaurants and its bloody damn good, that’s why we don’t mind the wait. It’s the best for a reason and I am sure you will agree after what you are going to see. Trust me if you haven’t already visited, you are definitely missing out. 

Barrafina on Drury Lane, that’s the one we go to, is a whole load of deliciousness on your plate. 

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 We started off with the specials for the night- miso grilled aubergine. For some reason most people I know (and probably those that I don’t either) aren’t big fans of the vegetable but this one was wiped clean in just under 2 minutes.

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Next up we got our prawns. I know its a sharing concept but with food this good no one was willing to share their piece.

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The courgette flower stuffed with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey is my favorite dish on the menu. Trust me order a couple as you wouldn’t want to share this one.

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The pork belly literally melts in your mouth. Its gooey yet crispy if you know what I mean.

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The harrisa chicken wings perfectly fit the definition of comfort food done well

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We forgot about the calamari but then reminded ourselves about the concept- food comes when its ready with finishing touches from the head chef standing right in front of you.

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The crab bun is another one that features on our order every time we visit. The squishy brioche bun and the beautiful crab will only leave you ordering another one.

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At this point we were soo full and soo aware that a massive leg of lamb was on its way. The chef was specially cooking the lamb for us as it wasn’t a part of the menu on the day. There was no way we could have refused. Of course we were not able to finish it and I think the chef saw the look on our faces. I wasn’t willing to leave a piece of meat this juicy & tender. Barrafina doesn’t do takeaways but a small exception was made for us this time around.

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As I always say, there is a separate compartment for dessert. We ordered the orange sorbet and the torrijas. Both exceptionally amazing. The orange sorbet is like having a calippo in an orange and the torrijas is cakey, carameley, nutty……mmmmmm

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Decided to take some pictures along the way.

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Too cool for school……maybe

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Posing failed. This is what happens when you eat and drink too much.

Gunpowder

While carrying out my usual night time routine, of which Instagram is an important part I came across this small venture near spitalfields market. Gunpowder is the brain child of a young husband and wife team who understand the eating out audience of London. The food is delicious and represents the India and the young Indians of today. The flavours are a melting pot of all the different states of the country and sum up the food journey in just about 12-15 dishes. This one had no curries and no rotis only tapas style sharing plates.

I was most thrilled with the drinks menu as every cocktail sounded divine, mango and chilli bellini and pani puri margarita with crushed puris on the rim. It just doesn’t get better.

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When it comes to drinks A and I have very different choices. He went for the gimlet with honey and lemon and I went for the mango chili Bellini.

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Honestly, the gimlet only sounded half as nice as it tasted and drink-envy led to me having one all to myself.

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We knew we had over ordered as always but who cares when you get a fresh hot crispy aloo tikki topped with yogurt, tamarind chutney and chickpeas. It was lovely however I wouldn’t have minded a tiny bit of spicy green chutney to finish it off.

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Hold on, this one will definitely interrupt the conversation. The okra fries are the best I’ve ever had. The batter was extremely light and perfectly spiced.

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The doughnut filled with spicy venison does catch everyone’s attention. The bhujia as we call it back home did add an interesting texture to the bite.

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The tandoori chicken with a dollop of butter chicken gravy was the showstopper and my favourite

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Actually I couldn’t decide between Ma’s Kashmiri lamb chops and the chicken. The lamb was tender and melted in our mouth.

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Sipping on our cocktails or if I may say chugging away on our drinks and talking about the coffee festival we visited earlier we didn’t realise we were at our last dish of the evening. Aunty sulu’s wild rabbit puloa was scrummy but spicy. Why thank you Aunty Sulu!

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We did need more yogurt than that as the portions were pretty generous.

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See if something else catches your fancy. They do change the menu a bit every 45 days. I missed out on the duck and the Nagaland ribs. Saving something for next time.

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It is a small space so to avoid disappointment plan an early dinner. They do text you when your table is ready but it could take over an hour. Luckily we got there in time and were seated within 20 minutes.

As I said earlier the streets of London never fail to surprise and there was definitely a sparkle about this gunpowder.

Sticks & Sushi

The glorious sun decided to make a short appearance over London town last weekend before the dark clouds took over.

We wasted no time and decided to walk to Covent Garden to grab some sushi for lunch. There were a couple detours on the way to pick up some nutella cupcakes from hummingbird and a photo opportunity to capture one of my first no fur or puffy jacket appearances this year. I usually feel frozen for 8 months of the year.

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I absolutely love these jimmy choo’s and can totally live in them. Leather jacket from Zara, sweater from Uniqlo, leggings from Nike and of course my favourite boy (may be talking about my photographer or bag)!

We made it in time for some sticks and sushi. The walk took a bit longer as we decided to explore the glorious streets of London. They never fail to disappoint and I always seem to discover something new.

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Sunday lunch without a cheery drink is not allowed. I went for a yellow juice while A went for a beer.

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While nibbling on the scrummy edamame beans with spicy sauce we discussed the new restaurant openings around town. Went to a couple last weekend.

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The crispy ebi bites arrived in no time and before we knew it they were all gone. I could have ordered another one but didn’t want to be too greedy.

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We ordered some of our favourites, spicy tuna, California roll and the prawn tempura roll.

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The California roll was so fresh and the crab, avocado and spicy soy made for a delicious bite.

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The star of the day was the crispy tempura roll. Who doesn’t like a bit of crunch.

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Finally we got the chicken meatball and lamb chop sticks. They both will be ordered again however I might get a couple more of the lamb next time. I like mine medium to well and you have to ask for it otherwise they are served medium.

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We ate to our hearts’ content and decided to walk back home to burn all those calories. A’s got a one up on sticks and sushi as this was his discovery.

I would recommend booking as they were really busy even after the usual lunch hour.

Chicken & Quinoa Spring Salad

Its not only the clothes that start getting a tad bit happier and brighter during this time of the year, its also the food.

The breads , soups and pastas are replaced with salads, smoothies and sushi.

To cheer up our after workout Saturday afternoon I came up with an easy and quick quinoa and chicken recipe. I had some mini chicken fillets in the fridge and this preferred protein goes well with quinoa.

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Now for the ingredients, just in case you are in the mood for some quinoa goodness

1 packet quinoa

8 mini chicken fillets

1 red pepper

1 red or white onion

1 tbsp. cajun spice

1 tbsp oil

1/2 lemon

Handful coriander

Handful flaked almonds

1tsp salt

1tsp pepper

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I started off by chopping the onion and red pepper

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Its up to you whether you want chunky chicken pieces or thin slices. I like them thinner so I further sliced the mini fillets into two

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After all the chopping and slicing I added the chicken pieces to the pan along with the oil and the Cajun spices. Make sure the oil is hot before you add the chicken to the pan. Mix well to ensure even coating and cook the chicken for 5 minutes.

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Slide the onions and peppers into the pan

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Mix them with the spices and cook until the veggies soften and start to caramelise. Don’t let the chicken burn, keep swirling your wooden spoon for some sparkling compliments later

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I used the quinoa and puy lentils mix for my salad and followed the cooking instructions on the bag

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Once cooked I emptied out the quinoa into a bowl

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By now my chicken and veg mix was also cooked to perfection so I transferred that to the bowl as well

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Gave it a good mix and squeezed half a lemon over it along with some salt and pepper

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Once I was happy with the flavours I sprinkled a handful of flaked almonds over it. You will be surprised how they add another layer of texture & taste to the recipe

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Finally sprinkled some sparkle with fresh coriander. I absolutely love the smell and the colours of this herb.

I was starving by the time I finished cooking, just look at those colours aren’t they calling out to you.

I grabbed my bowl full and sat in front of the telly to finish off my guilty pleasure – an episode of Marvel Agents of Shield.

 

Dover Sole with Chilli Parsley Butter & Baked Kale

Super kicked with this recipe. I was so pleased with the final result and had a big smile towards the end of the meal. It was quick and tasted delicious, we could have had a bit more but I only bought two fillets. Will just have to wait until next time, which won’t be very long from now.

Started of by making the butter mix.

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Roughly chop a small bunch of parsley and make sure the chili is cut into tiny squares.

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Cut two small blocks of unsalted butter for two fillets.

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Put the chili and parsley into the bowl with a small squeeze of lemon.

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Add 1/2 tsp of paprika and adjust the flavor after giving it a good mix.

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Have a lick and see if you are happy with the taste, if not add some more lemon and paprika. If you have the time and patience you can keep it in the fridge for an hour, if not just use it like this. I didn’t have the patience as we were very hungry after a long day at work.

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Season the fish on both sides.

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Place it on a pan with a few drops of olive oil. Don’t add too much as you are going to cook it in butter. Remember to keep the flame on medium.

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Add the beautiful chili parsley butter.

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Let it sizzle……..

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Turn the fish over after 4 minutes and add more butter if you like. Depending on the thickness of the fish it should take about 4-5 minutes on each side.

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While the fish is cooking, season the kale and drizzle some olive oil over it.

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Keep it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 150°C fan and do keep a watchful eye on it as you only want the edges to become crispy and not burn.

If you want you can sprinkle some parmesan over it once its roasted. Its entirely up to you.

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Here go my January goals. I am allowed to cheat a bit, what do you think?

 

Chicken Kebabs with Harissa Yogurt

This recipe makes for a perfect mid-week supper. Its quick, fresh and healthy. Definitely fits into the January lean and green goals, as I like to call them. No resolutions for me please. I am not sure if I have ever managed to fulfill any new year resolution till date. So this year I decided to set some goals- lets see how that goes.

Now coming back to my kebabs. I took inspiration from a mix of Indian and Mediterranean flavors that are freshly put together in my kitchen and served with some super easy and fresh harissa yogurt.

This will serve 2 very hungry people and 4 not so hungry guests.

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Take 4 chicken thighs and cut them into rough chunks.

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Chop 1 white onion, 3 cloves of garlic, tiny piece of ginger and a bunch or coriander.

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Throw everything into a grinder and add 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper.

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Next up 1 tsp of coriander powder.

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Finally a tiny amount of chili powder.

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Quick tip- adding olive makes it a finer chicken mince.

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I prefer this sort of a shape and size but you can make them smaller to serve as an appetizer or larger to make a grilled chicken burger.

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Add a little bit of olive oil to a large frying pan and cook until brown. Approximately 4-5 minutes on each side should do the job.

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Make sure you cook them over a low to medium flame so that they don’t burn.

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For the harissa yogurt take 1 cup of yogurt, 1tsp salt, 1 tsp harissa paste and mix them all together. Next up, squeeze half a lemon into the mixture and tadaaa….ready to do.

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I served mine with some spinach and beetroot salad and wholemeal pita.

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And of course my favorite diptyque candle to add to the sensory pleasure.

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Fancied a little chicken pita. I like mine salad heavy what about you ?!

Milos

Daddy in town usually means lots of eating out. I have been saving up going to this restaurant for a while now and we finally made it last weekend. We were lucky enough to get a reservation only because they haven’t done a massive PR launch yet, but I highly recommend calling up before as it’s soon going to be one of the highlight restaurants of 2016.

Estiatoria Milos is on St James’s and you just don’t know what to expect behind those closed doors. It took me by surprise. It almost felt like I had been transported to another land – possibly somewhere in Greece or maybe even New York. It was the perfect combination of sexy and relaxed www.milos.co/restaurants

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That door did lead to some really good looking people and even better food and wine.

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We all dunked into the dips as soon as they were put on the table and the bowls were wiped out before you could say Greek Yogurt! The red pepper and feta was the first one down.

Next up we were taken to the market place and had to choose our meat, fish and veg.

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We went for the red snapper, a few lamb chops and a mix of the bright and beautiful vegetables.

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Goes without saying that we couldn’t have left without ordering the family favorite, a portion of crispy fried squid.

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The Greek salad was so fresh that it almost seemed like someone had gone and plucked the tomatoes and cucumbers from my grandma’s garden.

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Tender juicy lamb chops simply grilled. I like mine medium to well.

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The fish wasn’t the prettiest dish but it was up there with its flavour. Milos doesn’t believe in too much spice or flavouring-  they just want you to experience each ingredient in its organic form. The snapper was also grilled with salt and served with olive oil, lemon and some capers.

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There’s always space for some dessert. Try as I might-  I just cant seem to remember the name of this dessert but its a cross between a cake and a baklava, I am not sure if I am making any sense but you have to try it even if you don’t have a sweet tooth. We also ordered yogurt with fruit and flower compote and that’s the one I am going to try and replicate at home. The rose and honey compote was divine.

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I couldn’t help but post another picture of the peppers, aren’t they just absolutely stunning. Please go and try Milos for peppers sake.

Bang Bang

Last weekend’s exploration was all about Bang Bang! The food was definitely ‘bang’ on considering I am a fan of Vietnamese. A small canteen style family run restaurant on Warren Street will definitely be a place that I will frequent a lot considering its only a short walk away and the exciting bit is they also do bubble tea! I wont babble anymore and tempt you with what we ate that afternoon.

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Crispy fried squid is an absolute essential. Loved the fact that it was tossed with fresh red chillies, coriander and shallots.

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The little brother is a massive duck fan so we ordered it two ways. A fresh summer roll bursting with aromas and a deep fried spring roll stuffed with lots of duck and a hint of salad.

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Anything but healthy. I could eat it all by myself.

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This was my favorite, papaya salad and shredded chicken with a honey chili dressing. The eyes were watering and there was steam blowing out of the ears but the salad was a dream.

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We didn’t think much of the Vietnamese chicken curry but if you like things on the milder side of life you might just enjoy this.

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The bao’s are considered quite trendy currently and a lot of places have them on their menu. We tried the chargrilled lime leaf chicken and liked it enough to order a second one. Would definitely try the pork belly one on our next visit.

You can find them here www.bangbangcanteen.co.uk

A satisfying meal followed by some furniture shopping made for a good Saturday.

Hunan

Hunan is one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in London.  What I like most about this place is that they don’t have a food menu and you are left to the mercy of the chef- which isn’t a bad thing. All you get is a massive book which is full of different kinds of wines and sake.

After a point I lost count but honestly we must have tried at least 25-odd dishes. Despite there being 8 eagerly waiting hungry souls, I did manage to squeeze in some shots of my favourites.

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We started with the lettuce wrap. I love the contrast of the crunchy lettuce with the soft mince chicken. Great combination.

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No turnips for me please! However I did give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. I think I might have had 2, maybe more than my share.

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Hero of ’em all. I couldn’t exactly guess the ingredients for the batter but it was very light and had a lot of garlic. We ordered this one a few times until the waiter actually said ‘are you sure you want another one?’

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There wasn’t much left of the spicy chicken sauce.

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Lamb seemed to be the preferred meat on the table and rightly so. The crispy lamb with the orange jelly was a hit.

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A Chinese meal is not complete without noodles and not just any noodles but the hawker style crispy Chinese noodles.

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No introduction needed. Fried banana with heaps of vanilla ice cream. Simply delicious and doubled for the table.

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Signs of a good night. Even the waitress seem to have enjoyed the sake shots. Definitely recommend the lychee flavored shots. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the bottle but I am sure they would know if you ask for lychee flavored sake.

If you are a foodie its a great place for a date night if not then please take a group of friends but do go to Hunan. They don’t encourage walk-in’s so please make sure you book in advance.

You can find them here http://hunanlondon.com/