Meal courtesy of Hankies

Written by Ed @onehungryasian

It takes something special to standout amongst all the restaurants in the Soho area. And yes, Indian tapas is probably something you’ve seen and heard about a dozen times now, a popular trend that sees no sign of stopping.

But why should it? The bold and vibrant flavours lend themselves to small dishes well when diners want to pick at a dozen things, and each mouthful becomes a new experience in itself across a variety of dishes.

Hankies Café on Shaftesbury Avenue enters the fray, selling Indian street food tapas style from a rather nondescript venue despite the neon sign at the front. You’ve likely walked past it a few times without giving it a second thought, but you really should consider heading in.

At the heart of the menu lies the “hankies”, also known as roomali/rumali roti: thin flatbread quickly rolled, spun and baked on a grid and then wrapped up into a hankie shape for diners to enjoy with their curry.

DSC_9048Grab one, and use it as a vessel for the great variety of curries and dishes on the menu. Chutneys kick start the meal with tangy spiced chicken or mushroom, with fried pea poppers and dahl puri remaining some of the highlights of the entire meal, especially with an addictive tamarind mint chutney.

Chilli lamb chops are tender to bite and quick to finish with their marinated flavour, and the very popular lemon chilli & jaggery chicken were juicy and perfectly cooked. It was more than tempting to take a piece, dip it in the yoghurt sauce and shovel them into my mouth one by one.
On the curries list, my personal favourite, a paneer tikka, was a great “wet” curry to dip the roti into. A crab and egg dry curry was a bit lacking in punch, but the kidney and keema curry pairs perfectly with the roti and is highly recommended.

Overall, the food here at Hankies is bold, packed with flavour, and great value for the portions. Tapas style generally invokes an internal cry of alarm of having to pay a bit more than you’d wish, but I could happy spend £8 in here for a roti, chutney and a dry curry and leave an extremely happy man.

Throw in an extensive cocktail list which mostly everything at £5.50 (with some real hidden gems in there), and you’ve got a great restaurant that is worthy of your attention. Don’t expect queues comparable to the other Indian sharing plate stalwarts in London either!

Smith & Wollensky

Meal courtesy of Smith & Wollensky

Written by Verna G


“Brunch”, probably one of my favourite words in the history of existence, especially on a Sunday, when one is recovering from a deadly hangover. A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be invited to try out the new brunch menu at the newly refurbished Smith & Wollensky, situation along the Strand, in the ever-so-grand Adelphi building in Central London.
Upon arrival at the restaurant, we were greeted by the white and green theme colours, our coats collected, and led to our table. The interior of the place is very grand, the lights slightly dimmed to a warm yellow and the patterned flooring completing the very American-esque feel of the place.

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In the spirit of trying everything, we first decided to cure our hangovers with a much-recommended Bloody Mary. Despite never liking the drink every other time I tried it, I actually really enjoyed it this time – they were well-mixed and perfectly seasoned (is that a weird way to describe a drink?) with the ideal level of pepper and not too sour with the tomato juice, which was great for waking up our hungover souls. And if like me, you decide to go for an alcohol-free version, they are referred to as the Bloody Shame ;).

image004Food wise, we ordered the Eggs Oscar, Braised Beef Hash & Poached Eggs, and also the Black-Rye Reuben SandwichBagel. Of these three dishes, my personal favourite was the braised beef hash with poached eggs. Why? Let me explain.

The Eggs Oscar (£20), described to me as the amped up version of Eggs Royale, where the usual smoked salmon is replaced with shredded crab and asparagus really caught my attention. However, when it was served, I must say I was a little disappointed. Despite looking the part, it was a little under seasoned, and most importantly, the poached eggs on top were over cooked… The yolk was no longer runny! The asparagus, though it sounded great to be paired with the crab, was actually a bit too chewy. Personally, I would have selected asparagus tips to be served with the delicate crabmeat and not the stalky parts that I was presented with.


The second dish we were served with was the Braised Beef Hash & Poached Eggs, and you would be happy to know that the poached eggs here were runny and perfect – made up for the lack of runny yolk in the previous dish. The beef was also very tender and well seasoned, and the hash potatoes seemed to be a great match with everything else on the plate. The only thing I wished was that there was more of it, as the price of this dish was not cheap (£18) and it was listed under “Big Plates”. It certainly was not what I consider to be a big plate of food and left me still hungry…


Lastly, the final main we ordered was the Black-Rye Reuben SandwichBagel, served with skinny fries. I have to add, this was served quite late, as the waiter seemed to have missed this dish when we first ordered, so we had to reorder it and it took a little time to arrive at the table. Nonetheless, I did enjoy this SandwichBagel mashup, it was quite special and the black-rye bread was a nice touch in terms of flavour. Though, as ever, I just wished there was more filling, as this was also not a cheap dish for essentially a sandwich (£15), so I’m a little hesitant on whether I would fork out money from my own wallet for this.


Overall, the three mains were not too bad, but I was definitely not blown away with anything. In addition, somehow I felt the service was a little too slow? Maybe I was just super hungry so I was more than aggitated, but it took around 45 mins before any food reached our table. And when food was served, the overcooked poached egg just added to the disappointment that I desperately didn’t want to feel. Maybe things would have been different if I was reviewing their famous steaks, instead of the brunch menu? Or perhaps I simply went for the wrong dishes, despite being told about them specifically…

I guess the highlight of my visit was when the Beverages Manager, Scott, did a tour with us around the restaurant. Scott did a great job showing us the gorgeous venue, telling us the story behind Smith & Wollensky, and also showing us his beloved wine cellar and the special US wines on offer, as well as telling us all about their renowned steaks and how their maturing process enhances the flavour of the meat, despite being an expensive way of curing beef to be served as steaks.

In case you were interested, here are two cool facts I learned about S&W. 1) Did you know that the name came from the owners picking two random names from the Yellow Pages and combing them? And 2) did you know that the owners’ most successful chain of business is actually TGI Fridays? Yeah no me neither!

All in all, I enjoyed my visit, but felt a little let down by a few aspects of the place. Might have been our luck on the day, but the service was too slow for me, as even the fruit platter we ordered as dessert took ages to be served… In terms of food, I think next time I visit, I would definitely be trying the famous steaks instead of anything else. When I watched others around us dive into their meaty and juicy steaks, I was very not-so-secretly jealous of them… #thestrugglewasreal


Meal courtesy of Benihana UK

Event attended and written by @onehungryasian and published by Steph

Benihana is one of those iconic restaurants that you often see pop up in movies or cartoons, with chefs spinning spatulas, fires being lit across the table top and showmanship all around as the chefs attempt to spin bowls filled with rice. I’d always assumed it was something only to be seen in movies, until I was invited to their Chelsea branch for their birthday party to celebrate 30 years in London. And guess what? It’s as crazy and fun as it looks!

Benihana are launching a special £30 menu called Rocky’s Choice, available all of September and packed with some of their classics. It’s a brand that embraces its retro appeal and menu, and unashamedly puts the theatre of the dinner on an equal pegging with its food, if not higher! From the moment you walk into the restaurant and are greeting enthusiastically from the door staff with Japanese phrases, to sitting down at a cosy but comfortable table for 8, Benihana clearly takes its service and care seriously. There are multiple rooms available for private functions, birthdays are BIG events for the whole restaurant to get involved, and if you need it, they also have a room where your bodyguards can relax while you eat!

The meal: 
In true fashion with their retro theme, the £30 menu kicks off with an onion soup that’s got a slight Japanese twist to it, with spring onions, mushrooms and dried onions added at the last minute for that extra onion kick. Next up is the salad with ginger dressing, and while totally serviceable, won’t set any fires alight. But don’t worry, because next up is when your table chef will join you and introduce themselves, and quite literally, set the table on fire.
Benihana (1 of 4)
This is where the fun begins, as the chef demonstrates his skill with his spatula as he spins, balances, juggles and throws food all over the place. Nothing will land on you as a diner, don’t worry about that, and you’re encouraged to sit back and relax as the chef cooks up the rest of your meal on the teppan (grill surface). Hibachi vegetables gave the chef a chance to show off the famous onion volcano which may singe your eyebrows unless you sit back like you’re told, and keeps it plain and simple (in a good way) with some grilled vegetables.
Benihana (2 of 4)Benihana (3 of 4)
Next up is grilled prawns which our chef took the tails off within several seconds through some flashy knife work, and then proceeded to play handball with his spatula on, before landing it in his pocket. These are accompanied by ginger and horseradish dips that I’d recommend taking full advantage of! Fried rice gets shaped into a heart and a spatula underneath to imitate it beating is a somewhat surreal but fun experience, and we’re still not finished with the meal!

Next up comes teriyaki chicken that is sweet and tender, cooked extremely well on the grill in front of you. And finally, steak is grilled and sliced into pieces in front of you, and highly encouraged to be dipped into the horseradish sauce.
Benihana (4 of 4)
Overall, Benihana is a great fun night out for anyone, and especially for any kids (though cocktails here are punchy and delicious!). You can’t beat the theatre of the whole affair, especially when the lights are dimmed and the chefs light their teppans on fire one by one. If you’re looking for something a bit different this month and for a good show, you can’t go too wrong with Benihana! The food is filling and good, but the experience is definitely not one to miss!

Amanzi Tea

Amanzi Tea (28 of 28)
Widest selection of teas on Brewer Street, Soho

History and background:

Drinks courtesy of Amanzi Tea. 

With over 150 different types of loose-leaf tea, Amanzi Tea hosts one of the widest range of premium quality unique blends in London. Amanzi offers a range of white, black, green and exotic teas. Matcha latte and Matcha frappes also highlight the menu, a range from super-detoxing matcha ginger to matcha chai.

Classic teas are also available such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey, with food available sourced from Cocomaya. Situated just off Brewer Street is its second branch, with the original Amanzi located in Marylebone offering a similarly extravagant range of teas.

Calling themselves ‘tea-ristas’ you’ll come to find them to have extensive knowledge on the variety of teas. Tasting stations and tea tasters are widely on hand to help you pick your choice.

The drinks:

Amanzi Tea (19 of 28)
A selection of little goodies can be consumed alongside your drink
Amanzi Tea (5 of 28)
A range of drinks in cute bottles on display, tea sets and stirrers are available for purchase too
Amanzi Tea (6 of 28)
Packets of premium quality loose leaf teas also available for purchase
Amanzi Tea (12 of 28)
Bubble teas!

Priced competitively at £3.95, Amanzi offers flavours which differ from your usual Chatime, Vanilla, Cherry, Lychee and Passion Fruit caught my eye, along with fresh tapioca. Albeit a small range, it’s pretty impressive for one a tea specialist to offer signature drinks from Taiwan!

Amanzi Tea (11 of 28)
A unique matcha bar at Amanzi

Per my previous comments, Amanzi has a matcha bar available which can also be ordered as a frappe. Brewer Street is well known for its Japanese restaurants and Chinatown is just a stones throw away, the addition of the matcha bar at Amanzi proves popular for its Asian locals.

Amanzi Tea (10 of 28)
Beneficial blends such as Immuni-Tea, Detox and Hangover are some of the most popular on the menu.

What is great about Amanzi is the description of each tea it gives you,the benefits and ingredients are also listed out. Great transparency here.

Amanzi Tea (27 of 28)
Popping bubbles are available too
Amanzi Tea (16 of 28)
This one caught me eye! Black tea – Golden Monkey King
Amanzi Tea (20 of 28)
An array of colours – all organic though!

We had a selection of fine teas such as Gyokuro (Japanese), Jasmine Pearl (Chinese) and Cinnamon Spice (Indian).

Gyokuro is a Japanese rarity of the top class. The tea gardens are covered with bamboo mats two weeks before plucking. The liquor has a deep green flavor with a hint of sweetness. This was one of my favourite teas of the day, sweet yet bitter at the same time. Enjoyed it hot.

Amanzi Tea (24 of 28)
Our frappe, green tea, and bubble tea

We had the Matcha ginger lemonade, Green Dragon Bubble Tea with lychee popping bubbles, and Taro bubble tea.

Matcha Ginger lemonade is a virgin cocktail shaken with pure matcha, fresh lemon, ginger and agave. Served over ice. A very refreshing drink and great to quench your thirst.

Green Dragon Bubble Tea is based on matcha green tea, blended and served with customised bubbles – we chose the lychee ones. The lychee popping bubbles came as a surprise, full of flavour and aromatic. All the fruit bubbles are filled with various kinds of fruit juice and burst in your mouth when consumed.

Taro is a starchy edible tropical Asian fruit eaten worldwide. Tapioca pearls are made from the starch from the cassava root and are cooked fresh daily.

Amanzi Tea (26 of 28)
I can never resist Taro!
Amanzi Tea (23 of 28)

Bits and bobs:

  • Friendly and knowledgeable staff. Feeling queasy? They’ll know the right tea for you
  • Walking distance from both Oxford Circus station and Piccadilly
  • Plenty of seats and spacious too

Price: £

Amanzi Tea Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

MUGA Ramen Bar

MUGA (11 of 21)
MUGA Ramen Bar

History and Background:

Meal courtesy of MUGA Ramen Bar.

A ramen bar and an open kitchen with minimalist design is situated on Panton Street, a new opening for 2015, MUGA Ramen Bar.

Joining the ramen craze alongside the front runners Kanada-Ya and Ippudo, London is spoilt for choice when it comes to this particular Japanese specialty. Upon entry I was greeted with the usual ‘irrashaemase’ which means welcome in Japanese. something of common courtesy in Japan, which has been well adapted here in London!

As I walked in, I soon realised I was the only one in the restaurant, awkwardness crept over me as I worried about the quality of the food and why it would so empty in the early evening. By the end of the meal however, groups of people seated themselves behind the counter as the night seeped in.

A very convenient spot at the heart of the West End Theater District, food is served quickly and in generous portions. The prices are also very competitive too!

The meal: 

MUGA (5 of 21)

Deep fried whitebait in vinegar sauce topped with spring onions and slices of carrot. I think it was the first time we had whitebait in that style, not too fishy and perfect for sharing as an appetizer.

MUGA (7 of 21)

This was one of my favourite things on the night and I’m also weak towards takoyaki (fried octopus in batter). Served elegantly on a marbled plate topped with Japanese mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce and Katsuobushi. The actual takoyaki balls are dashi flavoured batter with bits of octopus meat inside. Definitely a must-try!

MUGA (12 of 21)

Tonkotsu Ramen:

Tonkotsu (Pork bone broth) based Ramen Noodle Charshu Pork, Ajitama, Kikurage, Takana, Beni shouga, Spring onion, Sesame seeds

Charshu Max:

Aburi Charshu (4pcs), Mixed vegetables, Spring onions, Leek, Garlic chips, Egg and Sesame seeds

Many ramen joints in London specialise in particular traditional Japanese noodles such as tonkotsu however, MUGA serves a variety of traditional style ramen.  You could have a chance to try salt (shio), soy sauce (shoyu), miso or tonkotsu based noodles with various sizes of thickness.

MUGA (14 of 21)
SHOYU £9.90 with CHARSHU MAX £4.90

Shoyu Ramen:

Shoyu (Soy sauce) based Ramen Noodle Charshu Pork, Ajitama, Menma (Seasoned bamboo shoots), Nori, Leek, Spring onion, Sesame seeds

When the shoyu based ramen with charshu topping came, exquisite presentation wasn’t the only thing we were surprised about. The rolled charshu layered up in circular form topped with freshly cut spring onions is a definite jaw dropper! The charshu itself was tender and soaked in broth for a number of hours meant it just rolls of your tongue.

MUGA (18 of 21)
Massive portions! Compare that to the cup of tea!
MUGA (20 of 21)

Being full by this point was an understatement but we had to try some desserts. The mochi ice cream consists of soft rice cake stuffed with vanilla ice cream, topped with Kinako (soybean powder) and Kuromitsu (molasses sugar syrup).

The mochi ice cream was too frozen and slightly hard on the teeth but with kinako powder was an added bonus and wins me over any day!

MUGA (21 of 21)

I admit I’m not a fan of dorayaki in general since I’m not so fond of the texture, but at MUGA, the dorayaki is served warm with a generous filling of azuki allowing the dessert to be light and sweet at the same time.

The bits and bobs:

Service: It’s quite a large ramen bar place but the waiters friendly. Minimal interaction but attentive. 12.5% service charge.

Price: £
Muga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Criterion Breakfast (2 of 14)
Criterion’s interior gives a very West End feel, with the Criterion Theatre just next door
Criterion Breakfast (4 of 14)
Quiet and tranquil, a rare occasion being first customer of the day at 7.30am
History and background:

Prestige and reputation sure does get repeatedly mentioned in my posts, but this one is a little different. It’s very hard to find a restaurant like the Criterion, a restaurant so quintessentially English and enriched with so much history there’s even a Wikipedia page for it.

Breath-taking interior design by architect Thomas Verity in a Grade II* listed building at the heart of Central London makes the Criterion certainly one to visit. I held my mother’s birthday here last year and most recently re-visited the Criterion for Louise’s 21st, and also, for the new breakfast menu.

You almost feel as if you’re part of history as you walk in, when you know the Criterion has been mentioned in Sherlock Holmes’ book on Dr. Watson’s meeting with a friend, to being in the same place where Winston Churchill once visited. Events often take place here, weddings and celebrations alike, but also regularly featured in TV, such as Downtown Abbey, Batman: The Dark Knight and Gambit.

The meal:

Ongoing deals at the Criterion

  • 50% off breakfast menu until 30th June 2015
  • Afternoon Tea and Cocktail £19.95
  • 2 courses and a Pimm’s cocktail £20.00/ 3 courses for £25.00

(Full prices are listed below)

Criterion Breakfast (10 of 14)
Poached Eggs on toast with smoked salmon £10.50
Criterion Breakfast (5 of 14)
Confit Duck Leg, fried egg with Belgian Waffle £13.50
My first instinct was, “It’s Duck and Waffle!”, being a frequent diner of Duck and Waffle, I’m not sure I’ve tried a different take on this particular combination until at the Criterion. They do not use a duck egg, more mustard is used than wholly maple syrup, but mustard is subtle and so does not overpower the sweetness of the sauce. Duck confit was tender and soft, a very very good alternative if you can’t book the 40th floor establishment.

Criterion Breakfast (13 of 14)
Added Avocado (from sides) £4.00
Criterion Breakfast (14 of 14)
Played around with this dish to get it presented the way I wanted. Hehe.
Below was Amy’s choice of breakfast was the Berries and Walnuts Criterion Pancakes, really fruity and fresh, pancakes really fluffy!

Criterion Breakfast (12 of 14)
Berries and Walnuts Criterion Pancake £6.50
Criterion Breakfast (8 of 14)
The obligatory bird eye shot… not that I’m particularly great at it (We ordered two pots of teas £4.00 per pot)

Dinner in the semi-private terrace area, tables arranged in a long vertical line for a group of 20.

Criterion (41 of 63)
Obligatory snaps for Daisy, and Dan multitasking his way through dinner
Criterion (24 of 63)
Louise (birthday girl) on the left, Paul, Parisha, Fia, Arya and Minh chatting away
Criterion (15 of 63)
Soup of the Day (3 courses for £25) – Tomato Soup
Criterion (13 of 63)
Ham Hock and Black Pudding Terrine, Celeriac Remoulade, Watercress, croutons
Criterion (40 of 63)
Pan fried ‘Loch Duart’ Salmon, beetroot and horseradish puree, sauteed vegetables, beurre blanc
Criterion (33 of 63)
Homemade Pappardelle Pasta, courgette, peas, mint, black olives, chili, rocket salad (v)
I had the pasta, the vegetarian option, since the other two mains were wildly popular on the table.

Criterion (36 of 63)
Roast corn fed chicken supreme, celeriac puree, chorizo, white cabbage
Criterion (32 of 63)
Another take on the salmon
Criterion (46 of 63)
Always room for dessert! Dark chocolate and blood orange cake, vanilla creme fraiche, caramel, blood orange sorbet
Criterion (54 of 63)
Passion fruit and mango Eton mess, blackberries, basil cress
Criterion (60 of 63)
A paparazzi shot for the birthday girl
Criterion (62 of 63)
This cake, is ginormous. Patisserie Valerie.
Service: Very accommodating, friendly, knowledgable and not intrusive. 12.5% service charge.

Criterion Breakfast (1 of 1)
(Photo courtesy of Paul Choong) Criterion staff hard at work
Bits and bobs:

  • Make this your pre-theatre meal with Criterion Theatre just next door! (39 steps is one of my favourite plays)
  • Can easily accommodate birthday meals, or large parties, as far as I remember, no cake fee
  • Tube station at your doorstep
  • Afternoon tea also recommended
  • Live music during the evening on Fridays and Saturdays from 7.30pm

Price: ££

Criterion Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Square Meal


Engawa (1 of 20)
My Japanese love affair continues with Engawa, at Ham Yard
Engawa (19 of 20)
A modern but highly authentic Japanese drinking and dining experience at Engawa

City AM – Half a dozen chefs (all Japanese) work in contemplative silence, constructing towers from nigiri, radish, beef, roe and kumquat, agonising over the placement of every sliver of chive

History and Background:

Opened a mere 4 weeks ago (March 2015), Engawa has already made rounds in the restaurant industry over its unique washoku style dining. Ham Yard took me by surprise, a small hidden gem neatly tucked away from the bustling streets of Shaftesbury Avenue. A location perfect for Engawa to reflect the tranquility of upscale Japanese dining, but also very conveniently, centrally located. The restaurant glistens with surreal serenity as you enter the front door in slight awe.

A bit about Kobe Beef:

Kobe beef traditionally has a strict import ban, being one of the most expensive and sought after beef you can find, and is farmed under very stern conditions. From being fed particular foods to the way it is raised, only 300 such cattle are exported every year, and is strictly documented online. Kobe beef ban was lifted in May last year, allowing Engawa to become the first and only restaurant to be able to serve this prime produce. (Edit: a handful of others now sell Kobe beef on the menu)

Other Engawa specialties include Wagyu beef, teppanyaki and sushi, as well as wagashi – Japanese style sweets.

The meal:

Engawa (4 of 20)
The Hakozen Bento Box (14 piece selection) £40, only available on the lunch menu
Engawa (17 of 20)
Grace taking her own shot of the bento box – it’s a beauty! (FYI Houji-cha is available for £4.00)

The menu differs from lunch to evening, and tasting menus are only available in the evening, specific opening times so please check their website here.

Engawa (5 of 20)
Selection of seasonal dishes, includes fish and Kobe beef sashimi as well as a variety of Kobe dishes. Served with barley and edamame rice and a soup of kombu dashi.

It’s been a while since I was fully satisfied with a meal from start to finish, I was so impressed that, I already had decided we will be back before we had even finished our meal! Each compartmentalised dish was made on point, and with precision, thanks to the eagle eyed executive chef Akira Shimizu watching over his peers. Many thanks to Daniel Ashworth, Engawa’s General Manager, (former manager at Nobu) for explaining these individual dishes to me in detail.

Engawa (14 of 20)
Tamago (Japanese omelette) with spicy cod roe
Engawa (16 of 20)
Seasonal Vegetable and Potato Salad with Home-made Tartar Sauce
Engawa (15 of 20)
Spinach and Seasonal Mushroom Salad
Kobe Beef (1 of 1)
Seabass (locally caught) and Salmon Egg (imported from Canada)
Engawa (12 of 20)
Yellowfin Tuna (imported from Spain) and Scallops (from Japan) with Caviar
Kobe Beef (1 of 1)
Kobe Beef Sashimi Tataki with Kumquat (on the right)

Melt in your mouth Kobe beef

Engawa (11 of 20)
Stewed Kobe beef with ito to garashi garnish
Engawa (9 of 20)
Seared Kobe Beef with Teriyaki Sauce, white onion and rosemary garnish
Engawa (8 of 20)
Kobe Beef Meatball with tomato reduction
Engawa (10 of 20)
Slow cooked Kobe with Daikon & Sudachi Zest Garnish
Engawa (6 of 20)
Fried Tofu with chives and bonito dashi dressing

There is another cup (photo not taken) of egg plant and daikon, in bento box photo above it’s the compartment next to the soy sauce.

Engawa (7 of 20)
Fried Maki Roll with pepper, green bean, avocado
Engawa (13 of 20)
Deep Fried Seabass marinated with soy and wasabi

Service: There was an overwhelming staff to customer ratio upon arrival this was expected given the size of the restaurant. Attentive, and observant to the point I didn’t even realise that my glass of water was being filled up. 12.5% service charge.

Price: £££

Engawa on Urbanspoon

Square Meal