Belgo

Belgo, a chain restaurant specialising in mussels and beers

History and background:

Once voted London Restaurant of the year in 1996.

5 Belgo restaurants, 5 locations. A well known Belgian chain in London, with open kitchen designs, waiters dressed up as monks and dungeon looking interiors, the Covent Gardern branch was my choice of visit that Saturday afternoon.

I tend to not like doing reviews for chain restaurants, since they’re too common… but Belgian cuisine isn’t something that I would usually go for! (Unless we talk about waffles…)

Croquettes

A starter course, croquettes consisting of Gruyere cheese served with Belgo beer relish. This was tasty, crunchy and tasty. Bit too cheesy for one though, so do share your food!

Classic Moules Kilo Pot

Classic: White wine, celery, garlic and onion with a shot of cream. I can’t say much about this since I only had one, but it was good. It is a maaasssive pot, so again do share your food. If you’re ever craving seafood or mussels, Belgo is the place to go for. They have 4 different types of Moules Kilo Pots.

Belgian frites

Yeah I know, I took a photo of a bowl of chips. But it was a good bowl of chips, famous at Belgo apparently. “Double cooked chips

Crisp Pork Belly

What the caption says. Creamed mash, Belgo apple sauce and buttered spinach. Too crispy. So crispy that it stuck to my teeth and it was hard to knife down, and the pork meat was too dry. (But then again… why did I go for this option? It’s not its specialty.) Mash was great, but too heavy after the croquettes.

Too much starchy foods.

Service: Slightly overstaffed, service was okay, 10% service charge. The waiters are dressed funny. They’re like in Harry Potter robes.

Bits and bobs:

  • Underground, no signal/ mobile phone service! Supposedly wifi but we couldn’t get onto that
  • Lot of seats, the seating plan is similar to a school’s dining hall. So don’t need to book really… plenty of seats.

Price: £ and 1/2?

Belgo Centraal on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Tombo とんぼ

Authentic Japanese Food
Authentic Japanese cafe at the heart of South Ken, Thurloe Place

Green Tea, Matcha Mania!

Tombo has introduced itself as London’s first authentic Japanese café and delicatessen. Situated near South Ken station, its become a hub for sushi lovers who live in the local area and Imperial College students.

The cafe has a clean, fresh and friendly look about it, reminiscent of the Muji brand I would say. Grace and I however, came here for one purpose, not for the food, but for the desserts. Matcha #foodporn begins now.

For those not Asian enough, the definition of Matcha is finely ground green tea and is famous for its use in the tea ceremony. Matcha is grown under cover for a period of time so that the leaves are protected from the sun bringing out lots of amino acid and rich flavours.  For Matcha, only the tips of the plant are used. [Tombo’s definition]

The desserts:

Matcha Latte £3.60 (S), £4.20 (M)

First off, started with Matcha Latte. Nothing special, better ones in Hong Kong, but hey I’m not in Hong Kong.I thought it was too bland, could have added an extra spoon of matcha powder. This is apparently Tombo’s speciality.

Zen tea
Sen cha, is a type of deep green tea with the full Umami taste. Tombo: “the leaves of this classic green tea are steamed twice as long as regular Sencha which makes the tea sweeter, richer and energizing. Full of antioxidant agents.”
Matcha soft serve ice cream £2.70

Again, I’ve definitely had better. The matcha flavour not strong enough, but a soft serve is a soft serve! 7 out of 10. (Yes Louise, I know you’re dribbling.)

Below is one of my absolute favourites, matcha tiramisu! I absolutely loved this one, I’m screaming for more right this second. Aroma is there, the flavour is there, strong matcha smell is there, a very roasty scent, I present to you the matcha tiramisu!

Matcha Tiramisu £3.20
Visual appeal only, our least liked dessert!

Yeah I’m not sure what this was and I can’t find it, I think it’s panacotta something. That’s red bean you can see there. The texture was like rubber, too much gelatine. We didn’t even finish it!

Matcha tart £4.10

My number one dish. The strong matcha flavour comes out in full force, you can really taste the roasted green tea leaves in here,  this is definitely the best matcha dish at Tombo. The tiramisu was sweet, but this one was not, it had just the right sort of bitterness to it.

Matcha Sundae £5.70

Those are matcha brownie cubes, too dry. If you see the fuller picture below, we have some cornflakes at the bottom, adding a bit more character to the sundae.

Tombo original matcha brownie £2.80

Probably the best matcha brownie I’ve ever had! (Well, I think this may have been my first matcha brownie…) I’m running out of adjectives here, but it’s just so, bloody, damn good. Bitter, but again, the right sort of bitter, strong and not sweet, and not dry at all.

We’ve only gone and ordered 8 different types of desserts, don’t be shy.
Oh don’t worry, we finished all of it.

Service: It’s a cafe, so you’re not expecting too much service, but the waiters are friendly. Japanese. 10% service charge

Bits and bobs:

  • 10% off for IC and vet students nearby, website sets 10% off for all university students though.
  • No booking
  • Don’t over order…
  • Their sushi afternoon tea looks unique, you may want to give that a try.

Price: £

Tombo on Urbanspoon

sketch, (Lecture Room and Library) **

Sketch Library Room and Library, the epitome of fine dining
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Sketch Gallery, one of the many hubs within 9 Conduit Street

Brace yourselves for this one. A whole lot of photos #foodporn coming your way…! (8 courses to be exact)

History and background:

** 2 Michelin Star

Opened up by renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire and restauranteur Mazouz in December 2002, it has reached worldwide recognition for its sketch houses, The Parlour (patisserie), The Glade (afternoon tea, cocktails), The Gallery (brasserie), The Lecture Room & Library (2 Michelin Star) and The East Bar (drinks).

sketch is truly one of a kind, with 5 restaurants and bars inside, all interlinked to one another, its a foodie’s world. A venue perfect for food, drinks and entertainment, its definitely a destination I would highly recommend visiting. (Your wallet might be emptied out by the time you leave Mayfair though…)

Its quirky food style in its tasting menu is highlighted below, at the Lecture Room & Library, the two Michelin Star menu inspired by Gagnaire. Imaginative, and unique. A second visit is definitely in the books, to try the A La Carte, our neighbour’s lamb certainly looked very appetizing!

The meal: (8 courses – Tasting menu £110 pp)

With the help of Liam and Simon, (managers @sketch) I was able to get a recap of all the courses of the night. (Unless you really believe that I would be able to recall everything I had at the top of my head.)

1. Feuilletes:

Bread soufflé, sorrel cream

I know I’ve literally taken a photo of bread and butter, but its not just any bread and butter it’s sketch’s bread and butter. Personally I prefer softer bread, it hurts my teeth if its too hard, this was hard. But the butter and sorrel cream were unique to the table, really flavoured. They did something with a lime before serving it to us..

Humus, pomegranate, sesame oil, cumin cracker

This was my favourite out of the feuilletes, I just loved the look of it. Very dainty and delicate.

Squid ink sticks dipped in a clementine and thyme olive oil // Parmesan sable

Can I also say that this was my favourite feuillete too? Tastewise. There’s two here, the squid ink sticks and the parmesan biscuits. The squid ink sticks were a bit of a plaything, allowing you to snap the sticks and dip in olive oil to add fragrance. I loved the parmesan cable, it had the perfect aroma, and tasted very toasty and cheesy.

Goat cheese basket, plum, spinach

Wasn’t too sure about this one, but imaginative.

Dirty martini jellies with lime

I don’t usually like olives, but I liked what they did here, very good combination.

Foie Gras

This consists of cubes of Foie Gras and red tuna, artichoke Cream, endive and grilled leeks, hazelnut opaline and  kombu bouillon.

Ceps (Declension of French Ceps) [i.e. mushrooms]
BBC definition: cep is a Gascon term for the Boletus eduilis mushroom. That is, the penny bun in English. (This is my err WTF moment). I love mushrooms (x10000).

Above is pan-fried cep with cep cream. If you like mushrooms I would really recommend trying this, the flavours are really brought out here, they sure know how to cook.

Below is cep ice cream – (yes, mushroom ice cream) with coffee jelly. Coffee jelly a strange addition to the mushroom course… I can’t say it worked, but the mushroom ice cream made up for it.

Amateur photography skills… a photo difficult to take, with time against my side. The mushroom ice cream with coffee jelly.

I really liked the mushroom ice cream, it was very unique.

Big plates and small portions – fine dining cliché
‘The Sea’

This was the seafood part of the tasting menu. With three parts to it, above, the pan fried hand dived scallop in a spinach velouté, razor clams with shallots. The scallop was SO GOOD, words just can’t describe it.

Below, the Oyster in Champagne, Parmesan and fresh ginger. Mmm. Frankly, wasn’t a fan of this one. Smelt too fishy…

Oyster in Champagne
Louise looking hungry
Duck

This constituted of sliced challans duck with cassis, red onions, reinette apples and turnips. Duck was tender, succulent but its complementing side dish was a little less impressive. Below the poppy seeds and paimpol coco beans.

I’m too unhealthy to like beans… oopsies.

Pierre Gagnaire’s Grand Dessert: 

Here we go guys…

The last hurdle!
The last hurdle!
Courtesy of Poyee Chan
Photo credit: Poyee Chan

I had camera problems when it came to the desserts… I guess my camera got too excited. Fortunately fellow bestie Poyee came here recently, a she sure knows how to take a photo or two!

I didn’t like the cocktail – it was too strong for me… and I can’t even decipher what the waiter was saying… but it’s some sort of cocktail. I have a feeling it may have been this dish, (correct me if I’m wrong!) Blackcurrant Vent de Sable Chartreuse Granite.

London Honey Ice cream, Fig and Timor Pepper Marmalade

This one was good, sweet, soft and creamy! There is also another dessert – (at the back), wasn’t too fond of that…

Sweetcorn and Vanilla cream – I think!
Italian Meringue

And that, is the last of the desserts, some tasted too much like perfume, and some were amazingly good.

Petite fours to end the day!

  • Turkish delight scented with pine tree
  • Chocolate tartlet, milk jam, chocolate liqueur
  • White chocolate, mascapone, amerena cherries
Petite fours
Petite fours

Service: What you would expect from a 2 michelin, service was perfect. 12.5% service charge.

Bits and bobs:

  • Would recommend popping a bottle of wine, they serve it to you in these fancy wine holders/ jugs
  • Cloakroom service
  • Highly recommended to book in advance
  • They have very fancy toilets on the ground floor in The Gallery, please go check it out!

Price: £££

Sketch Lecture Room and Library on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Snowflake Gelato

No slowing down for Snowflake as cold winds embrace London for another winter

History and background:

*Winner of Great Taste Awards 2013 & 2014

Snowflake Gelato opened their Soho counterpart in September 2013. Its opening had an influx of visitors, with consumers eager to get their taste buds on the new trendy dessert counter in town. Snowflake really accentuates the fact that it is authentic, using only the freshest of ingredients.

organic Jersey milk from the happiest cows in Somerset, organic cream and sugar

An attempt to visit this place was last week, and I could barely even get to the counter. Always crowded at peak times where diners seek to go after a nice meal, you would struggle to find a seat unless you wait, a long time.

There are no prices in this post, since I did not note any down, but they would come at around £8-£15. You can’t find prices online yet but it is expensive.

The meal: (Or post-meal rather)

Nutty Snowdrift

“Sicilian pistachio, Piedmont hazelnut and Avola almond gelato alongside all three nuts in their natural state, topped with a glazed caramel sauce and served in a fresh waffle cone.”

I loved the gelatos, hazulnut and pistachio are one of my favourite gelato flavours, the combination gives you such a nutty sensation. With Snowflake they really do give you the visual appeal, perfect for instagrammers… but really, its just a cone and 2 scoops of gelato right? Worth £8.90? (You decide.)

Knickerbocker Glory

Boris had this, described on the website as madagascan vanilla, strawberry and chocolate gelato, fresh strawberries, shaved chocolate and strawberry coulis – fresh organic whipped cream optional.

Sorry, too lazy to put it in words myself. I didn’t really try this but I felt like the gelato tasted of artificial flavouring.

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Snowfloat

I didn’t like this much, it was pretty much soda with a gelato inside, and I didn’t like the gelato, it tasted fake (?!) A snowfloat on the website is put in as made with luxury gelato or sorbetto and crushed ice. From the traditional Coke Snowfloat to a strawberries and cream Snowfloat.

Luxury Maple

Louise had this, its very pretty indeed, and I think she liked it. I find Snowflake to be very commercial, and really reigns it in with the visual appeal, so I’m not too sure on the waffles and crepes…but there’s nothing like pretty food!

Service: Its a dessert parlour, so N/A.

Bits and bobs:

  • Expect a lot of queues, don’t go at peak times
  • They have a Bayswater branch
  • Do party bookings, and for events

Prices: ££ (For dessert pricing)

Provisional prices below, emailed in by the Snowflake team:

Gelato (two scoops): £4.50
Crepes:£5.80
Waffles: £4.90
Sundaes: £7.90
Hot drinks: £2.80 for coffee, £3.80 for hot chocolates and pot of tea from £3.90
Milkshakes from £4.30

Snowflake Gelato on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

21 Covent Garden

21 Covent Garden, a place perfect for get-togethers!

History and background:

You can’t really find a more centrally located restaurant in Covent Garden than this. In the historic cellar vaults of a Georgian heritage site, is 21 Covent Garden, a restaurant which offers tasty, authentic, mouth-dribbling Italian food.

Down the stairs and to the basement is where you would find private vaults ideal for gatherings and group dinners, accompanied by loud background music to liven up the already intimate and cosy atmosphere.

A 3 story building, with a terrace and a courtyard, means plenty to explore in this little corner of the Covent Garden Piazza.

They do good deals here for parties and dates, with ample of choices to choose from, the menu can be limited to a 2 course, or a 3 course. Or of course, the A La Carte.

The meal:

We came here for OT’s birthday meal, with roughly 10 of us, it made us a party booking. hich ultimately gave us more to choose from, out of the set menu selection. The prices (if any) are A la Carte prices.

Wild Boar Tortelloni Pancetta £6.00

This wasn’t my starter, but it sure looked good. Seems a bit creamy, tortelloni is accompanied with green beans & sage cream.

Crostini Selection £5.45

Fia and a few others had this. Vine plum tomato & basil, goat’s cheese and parma ham with caramelised fig, smoked salmon & horseradish cream.

A highly recommended starter
Fried baby squid, spring onion & saffron aioli £6.25

I loved this. Crispy but chewy enough to really feel the texture of the squid, the complementing creamy sauce that came with it was a good addition.

Arancini  £4.25

I had this for my starter, it had a chewy, cheesey, potato-ey texture to it with a crispy coating. Use of sage cream in this too.

Wild Mushroom Ravioli  £14.25

A lot of you know how much I love mushroom. Can I just repeat that again? I love mushroom. Of course I went for the Wild Mushroom Ravioli, it was cheesy but I would definitely order it again. I wasn’t in much of a cheesy mood after the starter – so try not to order to much cheese in your meal… Lambrusco cream, parsley & pecorino in the ravioli.

Salmon cooked in a paper bag £15.25

Salmon alongside baby leeks, garlic, rosemary, new potatoes and tender stem broccoli. A lot of people opted for this, and actually quite a few people weren’t very impressed with it. To put it straight, its literally just salmon in a paper bag. Something you can do in your own oven. Didn’t look that impressive either. Potatoes looked average and normal. Overall, I would say it lacked the wow factor, and certainly lacks the visual factor. No X factor material here…

Quarter corn fed chicken cacciatore, aubergines, carrots, thyme tomato gravy and focaccia

This will not be in your usual 2 set or 3 set menu, in fact I couldn’t even see it on the A la Carte, definitely on the party menu. Looks very filling, and I don’t think my friends finished it either, but no complaints about this one.

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Spaghetti and chicken meatballs £13.95

Only Wendy had this, and oh boy was she not happy with it. She was not satisfied with this at all, and to be honest, doesn’t look very impressive either. I think these were chicken meat balls but she actually ordered the beef or pork instead. The sauce was too creamy, and bland. Not good.

Profiteroles with chocolate sauce & sweet mascarpone

One can never finish a meal without having desserts! Profiteroles.

Wild berry & apple crumble with mascarpone

This was my dessert. I love all types of crumble and yes the crumble was good, but the wild berry really masked the flavour of the apple. It was so sour I struggled to finish the filling. I just ate the crumble bits.

Service: Slow. I think given that it was a Friday night, and we were a big group, I’ll let it go. 12.5% service charge.

Bits and bobs:

  • No signal, underground. My favourite tennis player was on, I was almost crying.
  • Good for dates, but can be loud given the background music
  • Rooftop bar and terrace

Price: ££

21 Covent Garden on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Asadal

Busy on a Friday night, one of London’s biggest Korean Restaurants.

History and background:

Slap-bang in the middle of the High Holborn intersection lies Asadal and easily one of the most popular Korean restaurants in Central London. It first opened in 1991 in New Malden and then relocated to the City in 2005 (and what a good decision that was). Predominantly filled with City workers, business men and women, a large portion of its customers come from local universities such as LSE, which is a 2 minute walk away.

Working near Holborn myself, meant that I have been to this restaurant countless of times after work, and no doubt, it doesn’t disappoint. Although, I wouldn’t say it’s the most authentic Korean restaurant out there (the dishes are more catered towards a British audience), it does deliver good food.

Pajeon £8.90

I usually go for the Kimchi pancake, but on Friday, I went with the Seafood pancake (pajeon). Some type of sauce always complements the pancake, though I am not sure what it is..

One of my favourite pancakes in London. Crispy and crunchy.

Pancake made of egg, wheat and rice flour batter, pan fried with spring onions, oyster, mussels, prawn and squid.

Shikhye – Rice punch

Below we have Korean BBQ! A lot of people come here for the BBQ, they have a great selection, I would recommend anything marinated, or Kalbi.

Dewji Bulgolgi £8.50

Dewji Bulgogi is spicy marinated pork, we had this bare, but you would usually complement it with lettuce. Annoying thing about Asadal is that they do the BBQing for you. I’m one of those people who like to DIY it!

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Galbi £9.50

This is the Galbi – beef. So good and succulent… I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Specially marinated cuts of rib of beef
Yu Khei Bibimbap £9.90

Bibimbap consists of vegetables and beef and rice, then you mash it all up. Yukhei is raw fillet beef but it gets soon cooked inside the hot stone bowl.

Sam Gae Tang £13.50

This is a whole baby chicken stuffed with sticky rice, dates, ginseng, chestnuts, garlic slow cooked and served in broth. The first time I’ve had this at Asadal, or even in London. It was mostly good, though some parts of the chicken were quite dry.

Sticky rice soon became unsticky… lost it in the soup!

Not denying its popularity, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best restaurant out there…nevertheless, it serves good quality food at an alright price.

Service: Not great service to be honest, it’s quite impersonal. They do have a lot of staff, but you need a lot of staff for a 120 seat restaurant. 10% service charge.

Bits and bobs:

  • The restaurant is underground, little service/ signal and no wifi
  • Booking recommended but with 120 seats, you don’t usually wait long anyway

Price: ££

Square Meal

Asadal on Urbanspoon