Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saturday eating: Banh Mi Bay/Prufrock/Kerbisher & Malt

With time running out rapidly before I was heading off on holliers, I headed into town again on a rain-soaked Saturday to continue my field research for my cafe article. I had been forwarded an email by my editor which said that I could meet with someone at Prufrock after 1pm on Saturday. Since it was lunchtime, JD and I headed to nearby Banh Mi Bay for some Vietnamese grub beforehand. The place was packed; personally, didn't think the food was up to much. Since it was so cold outside, I plumped for a bowl of home-made banh canh (hot noodle soup, with the noodles being made of tapioca flour). I had never had banh canh before but got the feeling that whatever had been served to me was no the real deal. Noodles should be long rather than small inch-size piece morsels?
JD's pork banh mi on "Vietnamese" bread, ie. baguette? Nothing to write home and not a patch on the ones you can find in Paris either....

Banh canh - does not not look like the dishes I found on Google images?

My day didn't exactly improve after lunch either; on arrival at Prufrock, I was told that the person I was to speak to (Jeremy) would not be free after 1pm as per my email. In fact, there had been a change of plan and he was going to be teaching after 1pm (well, gee thanks for letting me know). In the end, I ended up catching a few moments with the barista behind the bar (who I later found out was in fact Jeremy but only because I found a video of him of Youtube, rather than him introducing himself to me at the time......cos clearly that would make too much sense??!!) but it was awkward cos there was a constant stream of customers coming in for coffee and I didn't want to be a nuisance. All in all, a bit of a nightmare....

Prufrock do have good coffee but after my experience and the "too cool for school" treatment, I would be reluctant to head back. I had started off this research on such a high with Workshop Coffee and was swiftly brought back to reality again - oh wellos.....
The "controversial" (or "too cool for school") coffee menu; 4oz = cortado, 60z = flat white, 8oz = latte)

Prufrock's filter brew bar 

Saturday finished with a quick dinner at Kerbisher & Malt before heading to the flicks. The last time we visited this chipped in Brook Green was over a year ago and at the time, our meal was good but not fantastic. This time, all the food was much improved and I am looking forward to our next visit! :)

Friday, 27 April 2012

Workshop Coffee Co

One of my side jobs at the moment is being a food writer for an online magazine. My contributions to date have been resto reviews; that is, until my editor came to visit me at work and suggested that I write a piece on top cafes in the capital, all within Zone 1. I pitched the idea that we could do a list of 5 cafes but rather than a top 5, list them as being the best of a particular category (newcomer, food, cake, established, connoisseur). Of course, this meant doing a bit of field research and my first port of call was Workshop Coffee Co in Clerkenwell. 

Workshop Coffee Co used to be called St Ali (after a famous cafe in Melbourne and until recently, had ties with the cafe in London) and is renowned for serving great coffee and yummy food to match. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim (director of operations) to chat about the cafe and the food they serve over a flat white. The ethos of Workshop is very much trying to use the best ingredients where possible (coffee and food alike) and then treating these ingredients with respect (roasting the coffee properly, cooking food simply) and serving this to the customer in a relaxed environment. Our conversation not only covered what was going on at Workshop but what was happening with the London food scene at the mo - very enjoyable! Had it not been for a prior engagement, we could've been chatting for hours longer! Tim was particularly proud of the burger on the Workshop menu; sadly, the kitchen wasn't open when I was there so I wasn't able to try it.

The burger, however, stuck in my head; so much so, that JD and I returned later on to try it out. The burger is usually served on the 1st floor restaurant but that was fully booked so we sat down on the ground floor and they were more than happy to serve us burgers there. The deets: 250g patty (bigger than most) and using rare breed Dexter beef - very, very good and well worth the trip out East :)
Pork rilletes with cornichons

Corn fritters - a brunch favourite!

 THAT burger!

A filter coffee to finish the meal - I found out that I'm a fan of the "full bodied" stuff :)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

1st novelty cake!

One of my very close friends from Uni asked if I could make a b-day cake for his nephew to celebrate his 1st 12 months on planet Earth. Of course, I was more than happy to help - the brief was that his nephew liked rabbits hence our 2 little friends perched on top of this cake. I have to admit that I haven't done sugarpaste modelling since my Squires course 3 years ago so was more than a little nervous when attempting to make these bunnies. I eventually found a video on Youtube which demonstrated how to make bunnies using polymer clay to help me out!! The principals were the same I figured so that served as my guide! I soon realised that sugarpaste is not the easiest stuff to make models with as it does not hold its shape very well and has a tendency to dry out easily which makes sticking limbs to a body very difficult when you work as slow as moi. As a result, bunny no. 1 (on the right) is looking a little "dumpy". I soon learned from my mistakes and decided to make bunny no. 2 smaller and in superfast time too since his "perter" shape. If I had to make the again, I would probably choose to work flowerpaste next time but am proud of myself of "making it work" with sugarpaste :)    


I have read great reviews about Zucca and have been meaning to visit for a while but been put off by the rather long trek to Bermondsey from our pad out west. Zucca is also one of the restos at the mo which is widely popular so practically impossible to get a spot for dinner (at a decent time) unless you are prepared to book 3-4 weeks in advance. We were very keen to try the place hence the putting up with an early dinner reservation on a Saturday night at 6:30pm.

It was our first time walking down Bermondsey Street and we were surprised to find a little, cool neighbourhood.....a bit like Shoreditch but no hipsters and no trying too hard. Zucca itself was lovely, the resto was bright, airy, contemporary and very relaxed - kind of what I imagine River Cafe is like......or would like to be :)

Service was impeccable, food was simple and delicious - hands down the best Italian resto I have eaten in here in the big smoke. If only Zucca were in my neighbourhood!!
Open kitchen :)

Delicious bread - I could've eaten those grissini ALL DAY!!

Starter of pork belly with pea shoots - not what I am used to for pork belly but tasty nonetheless

Roast cod with borlotti beans and clams - fish was very well cooked but the star of the dish was the broth, yummers! Slight gripe in that the dish could've with more than just 2 clams, otherwise don't advertise it on your menu!

We ordered a side of purple spouting broccolli - perfectly cooked and delicious. I loved the purple flecks of juice left on the dish :)

My dessert of hazelnut cake with poached rhubarb - nice but not particularly sophisticated and a slight stodgey end to a meal.

JD's pannacotta with pears - perfect!

Very happy to see Zucca using a Faema machine but disappointed to see the hopper in the coffee grinder filled to brim so the likelihood of getting stale coffee was very high. I was also the first person to order coffee for the night and my espresso wasn't particularly pleasant, oh wellos :(

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Pitt Cue Co

Buoyed by our visit to "no-reservations" Meat Liquor, we started feeling cocky and decided to see if we could grab a bite to eat at the other hot table in town, Pitt Cue Co. 

As we walked past, we could see that the place was already packed but I decided to pop my head in anyway and ask if they had a free table. Luckily for us they did (some 2-tops had placed their names down and never bothered coming back) and we got to eat straight away.....on a Saturday afternoon no less! Pitt Cue is absolutely tiny - only around 18 covers in total, the place is so small that we had to share our table with another couple.

The menu is pretty brief - on our visit, there was only a choice of 4 meats on offer which are served with your choice of a side. We both went for pulled pork and I chose grilled hispi cabbage for my side. We also ordered an extra portion of hot wings to try. Pretty tasty BBQ but not sure why we had to wait so long for it - I assumed that all the meat was already pre-prepared and that they weren't BBQ-ing to order?? Also, it would've been nice to have the option to try all the meats on offer like the BBQ Shack in Brighton. Have to say that Pitt Cue has superior BBQ than BBQ Shack; I'm glad I finally had the chance to try their food but the thought of queuing is putting me off a repeat visit so will probably put it off until I get some serious cravings :)

Saturday, 7 April 2012


JD and I have been wanting to try Meat Liquor for a while but we have been put off with the idea of having to queue for a burger, surely nothing can be that good? We happened to be in town at an "awkward" time for eating (ie. think late afternoon/early evening) so decided to try our luck. No queue, yay! The dining room was much larger than I had expected and despite it not being full, it still took them a while to sit us. We finally discovered the secret of the queues for Meat Liquor - it's not because they are ultra-busy....more like they are disorganised.

Food was pretty good - we ordered burgers, chilli fries and onion rings and it was all delish. I only wished that I could've seen what I was eating as opposed to eating lunch/dinner in light that was more suitable for the Bottoms Up Club. One thing that would put me off from a return visit was the fact that staff who were on break could sit next to the customers. It's not such a great deal but was a bit pissed off that there were seats around the corner which they could've sat at rather gossiping right on top of us.

Lovely burgers but beware the lighting and the staff...
 The light in which you will be eating in

Friday, 6 April 2012

Giaconda Dining Room revisit

Ever since our first meal there, we had always planned on going back to Giaconda Dining Room but haven't managed until now. This was due to a few reasons:
  1. I was working out in the burbs until quite recently and was too lazy to come back into town for dinner.
  2. Giaconda is only open from Tuesdays - Fridays so no option for weekend dining.
  3. It is also widely popular and has a small dining room so booking ahead is a must and there have been times when we wanted to go but haven't been organised enough to get a reservation ahead of time.
As it happens, I now work just around the corner from Giaconda giving us the perfect excuse for a re-visit :)

The menu has not changed much since our last visit but still packed with dishes that you want to try - solid cooking at bargain prices! Our dinner was very enjoyable, perhaps the only gripe was our rather gruff waitress who was more interested in being efficient rather than welcoming. Bad service really does stick out like a sore thumb, eeek!
Salad of beetroot and leek vinaigrette - full of flavour and lovely, zingy dressing over fresh salad greens. Perfect start to a meal. 

Roast rack of lamb with gnocchi alla romana - the lamb laid on a bed of ratatouille which was a little too sour for my tastes. The dish was to serve 2 people; it is adequate but fatties like ourselves might find it a little on the small side.

My dessert for white peach vacherin - the scoop of peach sorbet was originally perched on top of the meringues but slid to this position once placed on the table. Tasted great but this picture just reminds me of something lewd instead! (The remnants of a public school education, haha!) 

JD's pud of Délice Joconde