StreetXO

Meal courtesy of StreetXO

Eaten and written by @onehungryasian

David Munoz – owner of 3 Michelin stars for DiverXO in Madrid, has brought its little sibling StreetXO to London. With the original branch in Madrid established and much praised since 2012, this has been long awaited after its arrival in London was announced way back in 2014.
FILE1526With a selection of dishes taking us through their menu and featuring some of their classics, things kicked off with some of the cocktails. From one featuring cotton candy to another being served in a wine glass as large as a fishbowl (literally, it was bigger than my head!) – it sets the tone for a dining experience unlike any other.

My cocktail featured jasmine, coconut shrub, lime, ginger and violet candy nectar. Where the description sounds like it could be overwhelming, the final experience of it wasn’t. The flavours work well together with nothing quite overpowering the others, and drinking from the large bowl wasn’t just for style – by doing so I was forced to stick my head in the bowl, muffling my other senses apart from smell and taste. A great start to my meal, though other cocktails weren’t quite as well thought out: a cocktail being served in a large replica of a heart; another in a strange boat and one simply in a glass with no props.

The food kicked off spectacularly, with their signature dish of Pekinese dumplings served with strawberry glaze, a fried pigs ear, gherkin and more sauce drizlzed on top. It is served on paper (of course…), with chefs liberally spraying and splattering strawberry sauce all over it to create a serving plate that’s part art, and part utterly delicious dumplings. It’s an extremely messy dish, with diners encouraged to grab a dumpling in their hands and wipe it across the paper to soak up as much sauce as possible. And it’s absolutely worth it!
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Next up was their “club sandwich” – featuring suckling pig, ricotta chilli mayonnaise, and then a quails egg placed on top. Again, messy eating leads the way with instructions to flip the quails egg yolk down into the bun, then eat. The bun is so light and fluffy it almost disintegrates under the weight of the ingredients and by merely being picked up. Again – bold flavours in careful balance make this a brilliant follow up to the dumplings.
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This was followed up by one of my favourite dishes of the evening. Hot smoked scallops with citrus ponzu, coconut-kaffir lime and apple blossom, that is testament to the skills of the chefs here. Huge flavours to play with here that could easily have led to one overpowering the others, but end up in perfect balance that made this dish outstanding. This works again with the next dish, Carabineros in a tom yum soup which was superb (a “simple” recipe the chef told us, and then took 5 minutes to explain how to make it)
Unfortunately, such careful handling of flavours doesn’t seem to be at play across the whole menu. Lamb shank in a tamarind glaze was dull and almost cliché in its presentation; a papaya salad with seafood, while fresh, was lacking in flavour and spark when sat next to the scallops and prawns; the Korean lasagne had far too much going on in one mouthful and was overwhelmingly sweet; and the Carbonara XO didn’t feel like one coherent dish, with fantastic wild boar feeling like an afterthought to udon noodles and olives. More a stir fry than a carbonara I thought, and disappointing in comparison to either classic dishes.
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Things improved with the new dessert menu, with various flavours of ice cream being served up in polystyrene boxes, with lids being lifted to carefully placed additions littering the surface like pieces of art. All of them were great, with the strawberry flavour in particular being a favourite of mine.
Overall, the experience here was a very mixed bag. The dishes are works of art, with silence inducing plating that stuns and wows diners. The flavours are there to back it up, largely, but at times it feels as if style is prioritised over substance on both the food and cocktails.
The last few dishes I ate weren’t necessarily bad or poorly cooked. Perhaps the bar had been set so high with the first dishes that I was bound to find some disappointing flavours in the menu? However, on telling the chef our thoughts he discussed how flavours can either complement, or contrast each other much like wine. I totally agree, except as with all things, finding the perfect balance is crucial, and is something lacking from some of the dishes.
FILE1532It could have been very easy to have a poor or disappointing meal here, especially at the price point they charge. On average, dishes are around £14 to £18, and will generally consist of 4 bites before they’re finished. Dishes are certainly filling given the rich flavours they play with here – but a few unfortunately ordered dishes and it could easily turn a night of excitement into disappointment.
I would definitely come back again, even if it was just for the dumplings, scallops and club sandwich. They’re also looking to run a lunch menu, with a choice of 4 dishes of 6 for £25 – well worth the money for the overall experience and a chance to try some incredible looking and tasting, food! Tip – sit at the counter to get a full view of the chefs plating up and cooking the food!

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!

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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.

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Flesh & Buns (desserts only)

Flesh and Buns  (1 of 12)
You can come to  Flesh & Buns for desserts only, just let them know before sitting down
See the full meal review on Flesh and Buns here. Once I saw the Kinako doughnuts on the menu I knew I had to return and try, I’m not a fan of doughnuts but anything to do with roasted soybean (kinako)….I’m there.

Below is a breakdown of the desserts you can get at F&B, (less the Yuzu tart, and Black Sesame Creme Brulee)

Desserts:

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S’MORES – passionfruit marshmallows, biscuits, almond chocolate £8
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2 pieces of marshmallows, 2 slabs of green tea/ or almond chocolate of your choice, and 4 slices of biscuits
Their signature dish, a small bonfire is placed in front of you while you make it a bit of a plaything and make s’mores. It’s overpriced for what it is, but you should try at least once!

Flesh and Buns  (7 of 12)
BONE DADDIES SUNDAE – matcha ice cream, blueberries, honeycomb £6
Nothing can go wrong with a matcha sundae, lthough it can get a bit fiddly with the shape of the glass being so tall.

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Vanessa and I eating our way into Covent Garden
Flesh and Buns  (11 of 12)
Kinako Doughnuts – (with roasted soybean custard filling) £6
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Warm and oozy
The inside of the kinako doughnuts were warm, and you can smell, and taste, the strong kinako aroma as the custard oozes into your mouth…The doughnuts were coated with too much sugar though I think!

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CHOCOLATE FONDANT and matcha ice cream £6
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A repost from my previous visit with Grace
Service: 12.5% service charge

Bits and bobs:

  • Do visit restrooms – you’re in for a treat
  • £15 corkage fee if you want to bring cake
  • No signal as it’s below ground level, but they have wifi!

Price: ££

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Kopapa

Kopapa (5 of 7)
A quick brunch at Kopapa on a Sunday
History and Background:

Kopapa was one of those places that kept popping up on my Instagram feed, and having never had food from New Zealand, I took the opportunity to stop by. To keep it short, it’s an innovative, fusion style restaurant located just by Seven Dials, Covent Garden.

Menu changes continuously, but some things will stay and remain as a favourites, notably their Turkish eggs dish! Opened by owners New Zealanders/ people of Maori descent;

Kopapa: a Maori word for ‘a gathering, to be crowded, and a building to store food in’.

Highly recommend place to go for pre-theatre and post-theatre meals.

The meal:

Kopapa (2 of 7)
Soft shell crab burger £12.50
Crab burger is something new for me, but was slightly dry, it could be that it was so early in the morning… But nevertheless, more sauce is needed with this burger!

Kopapa (3 of 7)
– and yes, I have a habit of requesting burgers to be sliced in half… you need to see what’s inside!
Turkish eggs (below) – 2 poached eggs, whipped yoghurt, hot chilli butter and 2 slices of toast. To me this dish doesn’t look too appetizing, since the idea of chilli butter, yoghurt and eggs looked like such a strange combination. This however, was one of the best brunches I’ve had…the combo works really well but unfortunately I can’t put this in words… (I’m not a great food writer) but I highly recommend everyone to have turkish eggs even if its not at Kopapa!

Kopapa (6 of 7)
Turkish eggs £9.50
Service: 12.50% service charge

Bits and bobs:

  • Brunch times are specific, and a different menu to dinner, I would recommend going for brunch first! Check their website for more details.
  • Leicester Square is actually a closer stop than Covent Garden, so if its easier for you, stop off there

Price: £

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inamo St James

Highly decorated, elegant and classy at inamo

History and Background:

So I’ve never done a completely negative review, and I am going to try and refrain from doing one. But let me first introduce to you inamo…

the core of inamo is our interactive ordering system

Reflecting on how innovative technology can be in the 21st century, inamo has created a unique and pioneering ordering system whereby you order off the table on an interactive touch-screen. Food and drinks are illustrated and there are bonus add-ons in this app-like programme, where; you can watch the chefs cook through a camera, call the waiter with a single touch of a button, or even request a cab to go home. This is definitely inamo’s unique selling point, along with their core values to serve the most high quality Japanese fusion foods.

I’m slightly relunctant to label inamo as mainly Japanese. It is strongly fusion, with influences from China, Thailand, Korea and other far east specialties.

The restaurant is also the second branch opened after Soho, and has been around since 2010, at least.

The meal:

Looking online, they actually have special offer for 3 courses at £20.00 with a glass of house wine. That’s a steal… but see for yourself if it’s worth it.

Papaya and Pork Belly £7.00

This papaya and pork belly combination was very strange, very strange. It didn’t complement well, and I think the papaya was almost sour. Pork belly seems a little dry and too chewy.

Soft Shell Crab Maki Roll £7.65

I’m practically screaming in my head right now. I actually visited inamo back in September and it’s taken me this long to write about it because I genuinely did not enjoy the food. As you can see above, the texture of the sushi is strange. My usual food photos would show you how grainy it can look, and you can tell when rice is cooked right. Here, it was so mushy. Utterly disappointing. This was not sushi rice either, they did not use Japanese rice. The soft shell crab was definitely over fried or either old, and not fresh. Can you tell?

Hot Stone Rib Eye £18.50

This is probably the tastiest dish there I had, but even then I thought it was overpriced for the amount of meat you were given. A good plaything though, you get to sizzle the meat according to how cooked you want it. We had to change the hot stone once before the dish was finished.

Udon Noodles in Miso Broth £14.25

I tend not to write too much in my posts, because 1) sometimes I’m too lazy, or too busy, or mainly 2) I’m content with the food and there’s nothing more to say than to display the food porn. But when I’m unhappy… heck I can write an essay.

Udon noodles was so-so, slightly overcooked, but the combination of flavours did not go so well. There was too much going on, and too many condiments. Frankly, too much salt, and potentially too much MSG. The portion was also surprisingly small. (Photo does not depict how small it was… I just zoom in. A lot.)

Service: The restaurant is so big you can barely get their attention when you want to. Since you basically communicate with the interactive whiteboard on the table, you have to request for their attention there. But for some reason they’re extremely slow. (Even though we were the only other customer in the restaurant). 10% service charge.

The bits and bobs:

  • You’ll never need to book. Seems like there’s always space.
  • Highly recommend not going for the sushi

Price: £££ (Rather than the literal aspect of the price, its the worthiness of it.)

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Maze by Gordon Ramsay *

French cuisine with Asian influences at Maze, Gordon Ramsay

History and Background:

One Michelin Star

Gordon Ramsay restaurants are no strangers to the restaurant scene.  Thirteen restaurants in London under is belt, but are all of them worthy of praise? Having been to a few, York and Albany, and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, ( and see Savoy Grill, Gordon Ramsay review here), I find that each restaurant is as different as it can be, to the next. I came to Maze with thefoodforker almost 2 years ago and have not been impressed enough by it to return. Bluntly sounding, Maze by Gordon Ramsay isn’t one that I would recommend if you’re looking for top notch good food. Nevertheless, it is under the reputable Ramsay name, and their mains are cheaper in comparison to its brothers.

There is a sushi bar incorporated into the restaurant since Autumn 2012, and along with every dish served, there is an Asian twist to it. This restaurant combines the french with the far east.

The meal:

Prices are not included in some pictures, since this was a set meal. Previously at what was a steal for £25 for 4 courses, it now has a similar deal – £33 for 4 courses. Please see website for details: http://www.gordonramsay.com/maze/menus/

Sea Bream, enoki mushroom, dashi, ginger £13.50
Neatly presented in classic French fashion, the Sea Bream
The meat wasn’t very tender, and actually quite dry.

Portions were small and very average and It’s fair to say that Maze lived up to what you would call the Michelin stereotype, typically small portions for a hefty price. Thankfully this was a set meal for £25.00, totaling £30.00 for service charge, but I would have rather spent that £30 elsewhere in a more casual setting.

Probably one of my favourite from this meal, Bok Choi was lacking in quantity. My mum cooks better Bok Choi than Maze… #eatwithmum
Strawberry shortcake
Vanilla ice-icream, honey glazed banana and a whole lot of chocolate elegantly grouped together.

Service: All french waiters with lovely accents to better incorporate the french theme. 12.5% service charge

The bits and bobs:

  • Coat room service
  • Private rooms available
  • Tasting menus available

Maze on Urbanspoon

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Price: ££