Jun Ming Xuan

Meal courtesy of Jun Ming Xuan

Attended by me!

History and Background:

Nestled within several residential flats and a couple of minutes away from Colingdale station, Jun Ming Xuan isn’t your local Chinatown stop off for some earthly dim sum, but yet it certainly draws in the crowd on a typical sunday for families and locals alike.

Service was top notch, all waiters welcoming, with food served at the speed of light. Lucky enough to meet the owner of the restaurant whose young looks may I say, deceive you. Enough passion and flair can be felt from this restaurant, don’t overlook this as a place for your fun day Sunday dim-sum as Giles Coren once correctly noted ‘it’s one of the best dim sum restaurants in London’. It certainly was for me.

There is parking near the restaurant but scarce. Totally worth visiting.

The meal:

Jun Ming Xuan (13 of 50)
Seafood Katafi pastry with fresh mango sauce

May I say, this was one of the best complementing sauces I’ve had in dim sum to date. As you crunch your way through the crispy exterior you’re met with prawn filling on the inside supplemented by the fresh sweetness of the mango dipping sauce. We helped ourselves to a second serving of the dip!

Jun Ming Xuan (30 of 50)

We had an array of fine dishes, picking out the notably more famous, well known or peculiar dishes. A feast by no means – a great feast.

Jun Ming Xuan (6 of 50)
Honey Glazed BBQ Pork Puff

More doughier than I’ve had before but presented fresh from the kitchen piping hot a great classic dish for dim sum.

Jun Ming Xuan (12 of 50)
Paper wrapped prawn roll with sesame

A similar filling to its signature seafood katafi pastry, but with more nutty aroma topped with sesame seeds and wrapped with thin edible paper form for its skin. Crunchy. Oh we too had this with Jun Ming Xuan’s fresh mango sauce.

Jun Ming Xuan (15 of 50)
Cuttlefish cake and coriander

A great dish, and in fact my fathers favourite!

Jun Ming Xuan (25 of 50)
Cheung fun doused in light sweet soy

A second round of dim sum delicacies, we had both some fried, and some steamed. Prawn, chive and spinach juice dough came in unique green skin form, it was good but not impressive. The shanghai dumplings, the siu long bao was the worthy winner, the skin thin and taut with plenty of soup encased within. A suckling delight.

Jun Ming Xuan (31 of 50)
Shanghai dumpling
Jun Ming Xuan (37 of 50)
Baked Lotus Leaf and seafood fried rice

We were so full by this point and so my father ate most of this! Steaming hot once we unraveled it for its release, aromatic and fresh. A really big portion too with plenty of condiments within.

One can never forget the desserts! We knew the salty egg custard buns were next and boy did they taste good. The bun not as soft as my favourite ones in Hong Kong, but a very worthy comparison. Salty egg less sweet as I preferred. The surprise came with one of my favourite classic desserts,  Chilled mango pudding with plenty of bits! Very refreshing.

Overall, a highly recommended place to go to albeit a little far from Chinatown, it’s known far and wide already so do pay a visit. Also rather rare for me to say I love every dish from beginning to end!

Price: ££

Squirrel

Meal courtesy of We are Squirrel

Event attended and reviewed by Steph (@cameraeatsvegan) and published by Steph (me!)

Salad Bar

History & Background:

Squirrel assures that it is ‘Nuts about Health’, and champions a provision of healthy and fresh alternatives for the ‘Grab and Go’ market. Its location is a 2 minute walk away from South Kensington Station, and already seemed very popular despite its recent opening – the place was buzzing both from people queuing up for freshly prepared food, as well as from people passing by admiring the unique décor (described to be ‘natural surroundings that even a squirrel would feel at home!).

Interior

The Meal:

The Ginger Spice grain bowl that I tried was a vegan-friendly option – tofu, quinoa, beetroot, sweet potato, avocado, spinach all tossed together with a ginger miso dressing. Despite my initial hesitance at ‘ginger’ (they assured me that there would be no whole pieces of ginger in the food), its addition really made for a refreshing lunch. Enough of the miso dressing was provided to generously coat the greens in the bowl, and a mix of different textures provided a satisfying meal from just one bowl. Also, the sweet potato and tofu really bulked up the ‘fullness’ of the meal – the bowls are generously portioned so I ended up taking away my leftovers!

[The other picture is of Oh My Cobb’, a salad containing chicken, egg, kale, quinoa, avocado, sweetcorn and a spicy cashew dressing. Didn’t try this, but Caroline couldn’t finish it, as they are very generous with the kale!]

Oh My Cobb Salad

Noticing the ingredients of the other grain bowls (every ingredient is displayed clearly on their menu board), the other dressings sound as if they would also provide an interesting mix of flavour.

Perhaps following the journey of the ingredients from the salad bar in front of me to my bowl played a part, but I did notice the freshness of the flavours (Squirrel pride themselves on offering a transparency between their food and their customers).

Nuts yoCarrot JuiceAsides from grain bowls, other food on offer includes House Salads, soups, and also a breakfast menu, to takeaway or eat-in. What is also interesting is their nut/dried fruit bar where you can decanter a selection of healthy snacks into a pot to take-away.

Service:

Although recently opened, the service is fast and true to the ‘grab-and-go’ market that Squirrel is aiming to cater for. You can also customise ingredients according to your taste or dietary preference, and staff are both very friendly and enthusiastic in showing customers what Squirrel has to offer.

Price: £

 

Circus

Meal courtesy of Circus

Event attended by Ed T @onehungryasian and published by Steph

Circus (14 of 14)History and Background:

London has restaurants and theatre acts by the dozen, and venues that combine the two are popping up throughout the city. Circus, hidden away in Covent Garden, is one such place that describes itself as a “cabaret restaurant” offering cocktails, Pan-Asian food, and the all important circus acts to entertain guests throughout their evening.

As a concept, it’s great to combine dinner and the show in one. Every 20 minutes or so, an act gets up on the stage-cum-main dining table (only available for large groups), and performs acrobatic feats to dazzle and wow the guests. There’s a great spark of excitement and theatre as the lights dim, music kicks in and the acrobats act out a small scene to set the story. A bit awkward when it comes to eating as you might not be able to see your plate, but you wouldn’t want to take your eyes off the acts for the 5 minutes or so they perform.
Circus (12 of 14)The venue itself isn’t particularly large, and every table can see the main stage where all the acts perform. But large mirrors, plush decor and careful lighting create the impression of a spacious venue. If you’re one of a large group, you may be lucky enough to be sat at the main table which doubles as the stage. You’ll receive an upfront experience as the acrobats are quite literally within touching distance as they balance on one another, or spin from a hoop attached to the ceiling.
The meal:
Circus (9 of 14)The menu is Pan-Asian themed and split into sharing dishes across starters, mains and desserts – an important thing to take note of as guests are asked to order a minimum of 2 courses (one of which must be a main). Starters of date and water chestnut gyoza and tempura sweet red prawns were perfectly cooked and crispy, and were a great way to kick start the meal. The prawns especially were served with a chilli aioli which we were tempted to just keep to eat with every course we’d ordered that evening!

The rest of the starters includes sushi in various forms, dim sum and other tempura dishes – with plenty of attention paid to fish, meat and vegetable lovers alike.

Circus (2 of 14)Along with the starters, the mains are also meant to be served with dishes served on large plates or portioned up for diners to pick at quickly. An abalone mushroom toban yaki (braised mushroom) was a spectacular hit, with large slices of the abalone mushroom hitting all the right umami spots, and the great balance of herbs to lighten the broth. A large ‎piece of miso cod made for a great main dish, with the grilled miso sauce creating almost a crust on the fish that was seriously addictive. And a nice touch was the sprinkling of seeds on the rice to give it a diferent twist!
Finally, desserts, which unlike the starters and mains, are not for sharing. Partially because they’re not designed to be, and also because you won’t want to. The chocolate fondant was slightly overcooked and didn’t have the gooey middle we all dream of, but it was still a decent chocolate pudding that I’d scoff down any time. But the filled churros with dulche de leche sauce and poached peaches? Wowza. Just get it. Perfectly cooked churros that aren’t heavy, dry or stodgy? Heaven.
Circus (4 of 14)
Service:
Overall we were  impressed with the food here, it’s by no means cheap but it is very good. In the 2.5 hours we were there we saw 5 acts, albeit the last 2 were fresh spins on acts we’d seen earlier in the night. Once you throw in the performances and the fun atmosphere, I’d say Circus is definitely worth visiting on a special occasion, and as many others did, in a larger sized group. The venue turns into a club later on and that party vibe is palpable from the moment you sit down and continues through the night. And while the acts don’t feature nudity or anything explicit, they’re somewhat risque and cheeky, so best to leave the kids at home!

Square Meal

Aubaine UK

Meal courtesy of Aubaine

Attended and written by Daisy, @petitediningroom and published by Steph

History and background:

Aubaine is a classic, elegant Parisian salon with a relaxed ambience. A chic contemporary French restaurant, boulangerie and patisserie serving simple, classic dishes with 9 branches in London and 2 branches in Dubai, whereby most are located in the central and the southwest. It is a perfect dining place for date nights and celebratory events.

Superb food, urban yet rustic interiors and personable service give Aubaine an air of relaxed sophistication and an aura of chic

The meal:

Offering the Summer en Provence set menu, the executive chef created 3 courses of traditional Provencal dishes for us to experience the taste of south France.

Aubaine (1 of 12)

Goat cheese, pepper puree, basil, cherry tomatoes with edible flowers to kick off the starters. It’s a refreshing salad with a kick, mainly from the pepper puree. Light and appealing for the taste buds.

Aubaine (2 of 12)Bayonne ham, kidney beans, Marconi, pesto soup

There is a strong pesto flavour, which can get slightly heavy for the starters so I would suggest to get something lighter for mains if you choose this dish.

La petite bouillabaisse

It is a traditional Provencal fish stew with sea bass, red mullet, mussels, squid and potatoes. This is one of my favourite French cuisine dishes. A beautiful dish, not the best I have had, but it is amazing for this price.

Aubaine (12 of 12)Roasted corn fed chicken breast with green olives and rosemary, toasted fregola

Chicken was juicy and moist. First time tried the fregola and it went very well with the dish.

Aubaine (8 of 12)Aubaine (7 of 12)

White chocolate fraisier

A twist of the classic fraisier, combining the white chocolate into the crème patisserie with fresh strawberries,topped with an olive oil glaze and with a soaked syrup sponge.

Personally, I prefer the classic Fraisier, which is light and fresh. I was surprised that the olive oil glaze goes really well the cake. I would recommend this for people who have a heavy sweet tooth.

Raspberry tart

This is not on the menu, a classic raspberry tart, filled with almond paste and crème patisserie. The acidity of fresh raspberries on top balanced out the sweetness of the tart and cream.

I would recommend to try their lavender cocktails, we went for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc , sweet and fruity , goes well with our dishes. Crisp and refreshing, perfect for the current summer weather!

Service: Amazing service, special thanks for the manger. Very welcoming, helpful with the food and wine choice, friendly staff.

We went to the branch in Dover street, slightly quieter than those one on the main street i.e. Selfridges. A great location for a date night. The 2-course meal for £15.50, 3 course meal for £19.50.

Available from now to 30th Aug.

Square Meal

The Painted Heron

Meal courtesy of the Painted Heron.

Bloggers event attended and written by Bella H, reviewed by Steph

The Painted Heron (8 of 31) History and Background:

The painted Heron describes itself as a “Contemporary dining room with upscale Indian menu and an outdoor cigar lounge.” It’s slightly off the beaten track on a quiet corner on riverside Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. It is obviously popular for those celebrating, as the restaurant was noticeably busy for a Wednesday evening, with happy birthdays being sung all around. This could have been a factor in the slow service we experienced; it took over 2 and half hours for all the courses to be served!

The meal:

We chose two mixed starters, the fish starter, which included Pollock fish tikka, tandoori roasted tiger prawns, and soft shell crab, and, the meat starter, containing wagyu beef kebab and lamb chops.

The Painted Heron (5 of 31)

The Pollock tikka was a highlight and the prawn had a great smoky taste.  The wagyu beef was succulent and the best item on the meat starter; the lamb however was a little chewy.

I was at first hesitant to try the palette cleanser, avocado lassi, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The added cumin gave it a little kick while being very refreshing. A light relief after some spicy food!

The Pollock tikka was a highlight and the prawn had a great smoky taste.  The wagyu beef was succulent and the best item on the meat starter; the lamb however was a little chewy.

The Painted Heron (21 of 31)I was at first hesitant to try the palette cleanser, avocado lassi, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The added cumin gave it a little kick while being very refreshing. A light relief after some spicy food!

Palettes cleansed, we moved onto mains. We had big selection of curries to sample including chicken tikka sweet chilli, black tiger prawns, rose veal and a super “hot” lamb shank super. The chicken tikka sweet chilli stood out the most, while the sweet chilli didn’t stand out, it had a distinct smoky and sweet flavour and I found myself going back for more.

The ‘osso bucco’ lamb shank was also lovely, tender meat, but I found the super hot flavour too overpowering to enjoy. Maybe those with a higher spice tolerance would like more!

To accompany the curries there was naan, yellow lentils and spinach, asparagus and okra and watercress, mango and sweet corn salad.  The mango salad was a much-needed fruity addition to combat the spice from the different curries.The Painted Heron (31 of 31)

The finish, we indulged in carrot halva profiteroles, gulab juman black forest and rose petal ice cream. There were mixed opinions on this one. It was nicely presented, and the rose in the ice cream was refreshingly fragrant and not too overpowering, however the profiterole was a little dry.

The Painted Heron (24 of 31)

It was a good, unique meal in a lovely location but I would only recommend to those willing to spend that little extra for something different to traditional Indian cuisine.

 Price: £££

Square Meal

Clutch Chicken

Clutch Chicken (4 of 31)
Clutch Chicken, fried chicken the new trend!

History and Background:

Meal courtesy of Clutch Chicken

Clutch Chicken is a restaurant with true wit, chicken jokes on blackboards and puns aligning the menu, enticing you to grab your chicken fix for the night.

Joined the craze in 2014 with a hub in Haggerston, Brits continuous love for fried chicken have now transcended to making restaurants specialising in just that. Though the interior is somewhat unique, lined with mirrored tables that make seemingly awkward glances at ones own appearance…

There were floods of Deliveroo and Jinn deliveries whilst I spent my evening there, a seemingly more popular option for a night with fried chicken that a sit-in.

The chicken and eggs are free range and are fried in groundnut oil.

The meal:

We were served a bit of everything, from their coleslaw salad to their buttermilk fried chicken.

A very satisfactory meal but nothing particularly impressive. It was not the best fried chicken I’ve had but it made a good meal, in particular, with an alluring cocktail and drinks menu, it would be perfect for locals craving decent fried chicken with a bunch of friends.

Clutch Chicken (20 of 31)
Put a wing on it – honey and sesame  £12.00

We had some Love Me Tenders, (breast fillets), the lemon and parmesan flavour and sweet soy garlic. An oriental asian kick to the sweet soy garlic and very saucy.

Pictured above, my favourite was the Put a Wing on It, honey and sesame, aromatic and crunchy but maybe slightly too sweet.

Clutch Chicken (26 of 31)
Sweet Beak Brownie £5.00

The biggest surprise was it’s brownie. Served with an oozing center, the brownie is served hot and absolutely moreish. Definitely a second serving to take home kind of dish.

Bits and bobs:

  • 30% off on Mondays
  • Weekly Instagram competitions!

Price: £

Dumpling Shack

It’s been a very long time since I’ve done a write up of my own free will and not a “review” that was formally requested. You can almost say I feel some sort of liberation writing this post, I would never call myself a food critic and I do cringe at the words food review but this blog has always been a platform in which I share my views and opinion on the topic of food. 

Dumpling Shack

Situated at Broadway Market’s Schoolyard and open from 10.30am until sell out time.
(Tip: Do come before 12.30pm otherwise you could end up waiting more than 20 minutes, usually all sold out by 2.30-3pm)

Dumpling Shack (9 of 36)

Most people would have seen these dumplings on Instagram, @DumplingShack has attained a mass of 13.3K followers at the time of writing, an impressive feat by no means, particularly for a food trader.

Though historically Dumpling Shack have sold a variety of different types such as Cornish crab and prawn, and lobster dumplings; some garnered more attention than others, most notably its ‘brunch’ dumplings. Certainly worthy of an Instagram picture, the brunch dumplings consists of pork, caramelised onions, smoked cheddar and a runny quails egg. Picture credit below to @bakeryee

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For the past few months, Dumpling Shack has established itself as one of the leading street food traders around, with features in the Evening Standard and other reputed magazines.  This led to their first collaboration on solid ground with the restaurant Shotgun, a sell out event, where diners were able to experience Dumpling Shack #restaurantstyle.

Dumpling Shack (24 of 36)

The on trend dumplings of the year are the above Shen Jian Baos (pan fried pork soup dumplings), originated from Shanghai, it can be best described as the doughier version of the Shanghai soup dumplings, xiao long bao. Some describe it as Shen Jian Bao Zi, or Shen Jian Man Tou, as the outer skin is softer and more bread-like in nature. Pan fried and wrapped in dough, containing pork and gelatin fillings, Dumpling Shack is generous with their broth, in which the gelatin melts into soup once fried, giving these dumplings their unique flavour.

These Sheng Jian Baos, the Dumpling Shack version consists of pork, prawn and leek, priced at £7.50 for 4. With the occasional lamb or gyoza option, you’ll need to request these specifically as stock is limited (mentioned on Instagram if these are available). Not to mention they now do some amazing homemade fresh soy milk £2. 

@mayluuluu @alishawong_tl and @annabutlerx are your main pleaters, dumplings are made to order and consumers are able to witness the pleating first hand.

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Photo credit: @bakeryee

I am lucky enough to go behind the scenes every week, to experience life as a street food trader and to catch a small glimpse of the growth of John’s business. That’s just a part of it too, most of the work is done the night before, with the dough and the mixture all prepared by John himself,  as well as a horrendous 5am wake up call to start Saturday trading.

Keep your eyes glued for Dumpling Shack‘s future events, since, the most recent @_atthetabl_ workshop was a sell out within 30 minutes.