Welcome all!

Dear all,

thanks for coming and checking out my blog!

This blog came about due to my love and passion for food. I will base my posts on using the tastecard discount (which is a really good investment by the way) but will also draw your kind attention to things such as quirky snacks and maybe even some home cooking (eek!).

I live in the London area so most of my posts on restaurants will be based around there but as my boyfriend lives in Lincolnshire and I go visit him quite often, I’ll have some reviews based on restaurants there too! I will be reviewing some chain restaurants, as well as some gems that in my opinion deserve more attention and any up and coming deals and fairs that you will hopefully find useful!

Enjoy!

20140905_124723a


Breakfast Club! – Are you part of it?

Now, I know I am a bit slow jumping on this wagon for The Breakfast Club. I have heard some good reviews and some bad reviews so really I just wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about!

Nice Decor.

Nice Decor.

So I visited the Soho branch (they have 6 branches so far dotted around London) last week with a friend and despite it being 3pm in the afternoon, we still had to wait 10-15 mins for a table. It is crazy and I have a feeling that it is like that all round the clock.

We got shown to our table and perhaps it was the decor but when I sat down, I had a cosy feeling and it wasn’t all to do with the proximity of the other table. I looked around and I suspect that a lot of the decor has been well thought out even though the restaurant has a casual style about it. What I really like is that there is an array of condiments on the table already PLUS a bottle of tap water.

20150223_153259

Condiments and my tea!

Our order (Website Description):

VEGGIE ALL AMERICAN

Pancakes, eggs, veggie sausage, mushrooms, home-style fried potatoes and maple syrup 9.60

EGGS ROYALE

Smoked salmon on toasted English muffin with hollandaise 9.20

French Toast

2.50

ELVIS SHAKE

Made with proper vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, banana 4.40

Fresh Ginger & Lemon tea

2.00

Veggie Breakfast.

Veggie All American.

The food came pretty quickly. I ordered the Fresh Ginger & Lemon Tea with Eggs Royale and the French Toast to share. The tea was just as it was with no added sugar and actually inspired me to make my own version when I got home; it was not bad value considering. On the other hand, my friend’s milkshake was considerably higher in price but about the same in size. She thought it was well worth it though and really enjoyed it.

Egg Royale.

Eggs Royale.

My Eggs Royale came and it was fair, the greens were well seasoned and the eggs were well poached. The muffins were nice and bouncy but I guess for that price I was expecting a little more. I still thoroughly enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong but Eggs Royale (Eggs Benedict Royale) is cheaper in other places. For example, Patisserie Valerie with their variation on toasted brioche instead of toasted muffins for a more reasonable price of £8.50. It is just as nice there and you get even more on your plate.

Eggs Benedict Royal at Patisserie Valerie.

Eggs Benedict Royal at Patisserie Valerie.

My friend really enjoyed her Veggie All American and I have to say I was amazed by the amount of food you get with the ‘All‘ breakfasts. Perhaps, that was where I went wrong. The French Toast was nice and a must have for any carb lovers out there. It was less eggy than I expected but I still enjoyed it and I liked how they give you a bottle of syrup to go with it.

French Toast!

French Toast!

Last remarks are that the toilet was ok. It could have been cleaner and have a mirror positioned lower to accommodate shorter people like myself. The staffs were really friendly and attentive and I don’t think it was because that was their ‘company image’. I think they were just genuinely nice people. The website is amazing (link below) – it is so quirky! All in all, I do recommend this place, I would go again and maybe try the big breakfasts next time! : D

Thing that stood out: ALL the condiments, ALL for me! : D

http://www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com/home


Kopapa! All the rage?

Visited this restaurant a few weeks ago for dinner. I made an advanced booking after my friend said she couldn’t get a table on a Saturday afternoon.This restaurant seems to be the new rave with again another well decorated and famous chef owner.

We arrived on a Wednesday evening, half an hour before our reservation but the staff were very accommodating and showed us to our table. They asked whether we wanted our coats taken and we kindly declined. This is a rare gesture in restaurants so it may be a symbol of a ‘higher class’ restaurant? However, upon further observation it may have been a practical suggestion given the size of the restaurant. Yes, the location is great (only one restaurant in Covent Garden) but the lack of seating downstairs and with part of the space upstairs being taken by a bar, the restaurant is very…cosy and not in the fluffy sense.

20150204_193106

Table Set Up

There’s a nice buzz in the restaurant and it was beginning to fill when we arrived. All the staff were very attentive and friendly (with the exception of who appeared to be the manager). It does seem like they have a large staff to customer ratio for such a small space. The decor seemed a bit out there but in a 60s way with the steel framed staircase in the middle of the restaurant, the checked floor and a lot of black and white.

They have four different menus for different times of the day (Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Dinner) but this does not mean that the meals are any less expensive. A lot of items on the dinner menu looked slightly ‘poncey’ for a lack of a better word or posh – quite expensive for not a lot of substance. So in the end my friend and I opted for (website description):

West Country beef burger, smoked aioli, Emmental, crispy bacon & coleslaw, fries with garlic & rosemary salt, smoked miso & chilli relish – £14.

20150204_195329

West Country Beef Burger.

Yes the burger does come with fries but it is still relatively pricey for a burger even by London standards. I admit that I was fully prepared to not like the food when it came and conclude that the restaurant is overrated and trying too hard BUT the food was good. The fries with garlic and rosemary salt was just right and didn’t require any extra condiments. The burger was special and you can tell that the burger was probably hand minced and made. The meat broke away easily and was not the stodgy consistency you get with a conventional burger. The relish was pleasant and not too spicy although my friend claimed that it was all she could taste and nothing else. I felt that the bun probably let it down a little bit as it was quite dry and I was surprised that it didn’t come in a fashionable brioche bun. The coleslaw was nice and crisp, a bit zingy with the onions.

Cosy?

Cosy?

All in all, I enjoyed the food but I do have reservations about paying that much for a burger. It was nice but for me, only the chips were moreish. The toilets were bright and clean. It was one single toilet, not the cubicle types and no hand towels. I can’t speak for the other menus but I can’t recommend this restaurant for dinner. The food is nice but way over priced and one major thing is that you don’t feel comfortable sitting in there. The decor makes it near to impossible to relax, especially if you are sitting in the centre tables as you feel that something will bash in to you any second just because it is very cramped.

Thing that stood out: Fries with Garlic & Rosemary Salt.

http://www.kopapa.co.uk/


Jin Juu – Fancy Korean Restaurant?

As a good bye meal with my friend, we decided to go to an up and coming (I’ve been told it has only been open for a month) and perhaps ‘fancy’ (for a lack of a better word) restaurant which her sister recommended. It gets really busy in there so we had to make a reservation, perhaps it’s the buzz from the celebrity chef – Judy Joo.

20150204_132631

Classic Korean metal chopsticks!

I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t too sure about it as I made my way there and even when I sat down because with hyped up restaurants, you either expect the people there to be a bit stuck up or you think the food is over rated.

Anyway, I can’t keep up with the suspense anymore so suffice to say that I was surprised and thoroughly impressed. There were a few things that I think could be a little bit better but we will come to that in due course. So one example is the menu. They have three different kinds of menu and we had the dining, non-drinking one (as opposed to the anju – small plates to go with a drink). I’ve had some experience with Korean food, and even I found the layout of the menu a little confusing.

Our order (Website Description):

TRADITIONAL OFFERINGS

Mandoo (meat dumplings): £6.50

Three juicy steamed beef and pork dumplings. Seasoned delicately with Korean spices. Soy dipping sauce.

SIGNATURE

The Jin Chick: £8.00

Korean Fried Chicken, choice of thighs or wings, pickled white radish on the side.

Served with secret sauces – Kick up the heat with Gochujang Red. Get a hit of umami with Jinjuu Black Soy.

LARGE PLATES

Bibimbap Bowls: £8.00

Filled with white rice and seasonal vegetables. Topped with a fried egg. Gochujang sauce. Served in a stone bowl. Extras: Bulgogi marinated thinly sliced beef £3.00 & Thinly sliced marinated pork belly £3.00.

DESSERTS

Walnut & Miso Creme Brulee: £6.00

Pine nut shortbread, maple candied walnut.

Snickers Hotteok: £7.00

Flat Korean doughnut stuffed with salted caramel and roasted peanuts, peanut parfait, chocolate ganache, praline and Nutella powder.

The Jin Chick

The Jin Chick

All I have to say is that ‘OMG the chicken was amazing’! It was fried to give a soft textured crisp, not crunchy but just right and the meat was so soft and succulent. It was really well made and I was pleasantly surprised. To be honest, you could just eat the chicken without the sauces they provide as it had enough flavour but the sauce was a bonus. The soy sauce was the thick, sweet kind and the Gochujang had a kick to it with a savoury bean flavour. For the price we got alot of chicken, two massive pieces came up and it was pretty much like a main meal.

My portion

My portion

The Mandoo was also really nice. The pastry was soft but sturdy, as you can see from the pictures, they hold their shape and the meat inside although shaped into a ball would break away easily and it was soft. This is a sign of a good dumpling. What you don’t want is the meat to be full of bits and doesn’t break away when you bite into it but instead is all clammed up. Anyway, again I felt that there was enough flavour in the dumpling but the soy sauce added a much more intense flavour with the spring onions, garlic and chilli.

Mandoo

Mandoo

The Bibimbap Bowls was nice but not the best I’ve had I’m afraid and it isn’t just because the other two dishes were so good it was over shadowed. Previous bibimbaps I’ve had usually have a raw egg in the middle and this gives the rice a stickier consistency and the better ones I’ve had have more of a sesame oil flavour which I enjoy. This one was nice, it was pleasant ,the sauce wasn’t too hot, it had all the right vegetables and the meat was really good (soft and well flavoured) but I was expecting more given the high standards from the other two dishes.

Bibimbap Bowls

Bibimbap Bowls

20150204_134920

Mixed!

The desserts were really large portions and we regretted it as soon as it came, both feeling quite full from the food before. I personally was the fan of the Walnut & Miso Creme Brulee. It had a toffee like taste to it that reminded me of the asian toffee sweets that I used to have when I was a child. The miso balanced well and gave the dessert a savoury taste that works but my friend wasn’t too keen on this and said she couldn’t taste the walnut or miso. I didn’t rate the short bread much though as for me I think short breads should be denser and buttery.

Walnut Miso Creme Brulee

Walnut & Miso Creme Brulee

The Snickers Hotteok was interesting and that is my kind way of saying I will not order it again and I wouldn’t recommend it. The presentation for a start has a lot of room for improvement and it didn’t look appetising. The doughnut was really tough and the salted caramel did not come through at all. My friend enjoyed the peanut parfait but I wasn’t too keen. The chocolate ganache actually tasted nice and I liked the praline and Nutella powder. I would happily just have those by itself if it was presented in a more appetising way.

Snickers Hotteok

Snickers Hotteok

All in all, I liked the restaurant and the decor was quirky and the staff was attentive and filled our water up regularly. Although I did find our waitress a bit smug at times but she did ask us how our meal was, whether she was genuinely interested in the feedback was another story. I also felt a bit awkward at the end when it took her quite a while to give us our change back. She was probably expecting us to leave but then after a while realised she should bring change and gave us 6 x 50ps plus another pile of silvers. I had a similar experience in another italian restaurant, they just gave us 20p and 10p and I made a point of taking everything. I find it really rude and cheeky that they think they can get away with it on top of a 12.5 % service charge rate.

Wall Art

Wall Art

Anyway, diverging slightly, the toilets were nice and full of K-pop posters. Make sure you go to the pearl stickered door if you are a lady though (yes, it’s one of those restaurants). They also give you the all important tissue towels to dry your hands and hand lotion which is always  nice touch. I like the concept of the restaurant as well and I like that they express and try to teach people about Korean culture in their menu. As we left, all the staff was saying bye – they were quite a friendly bunch after all!

Quirky Decor

Quirky Decor

Despite the slight ‘change’ incident, I definitely still recommend this restaurant as the food is great and it is now one of my favourites in London. : )

Things that stood out: Definitely The Jin Chick and the Walnut & Miso Creme Brulee was a dark horse for me.

http://jinjuu.com/


RESTAURANT REVIEW: Give me a Princi London. 🍕🇮🇹

heyjulesb

I used to walk past Princi all the time and never paid much attention to it, apart from noticing just how many people there are in the restaurant and before what always caught my eye was the wood stove burning oven, which has since been replaced with a dine in area.  I honestly don’t think there is a day where this place isn’t filled with people.

The restaurant was brought to my attention when having a discussion with my friend about where to eat cake in London and she said “You got to visit Princi, they do nice cakes and coffee”.

I never knew this but Princi was brought to London in 2008 by Alan Yau who owns a wide range of restaurants.  Princi is a beloved Milanese bakery in Italy, and thanks to Alan Yau since 2008 we are able to share this love in London too.

The restaurant…

View original post 980 more words

Banana Tree – with a Tastecard

Perhaps my second most frequented restaurant with a Tastecard is this gem – Banana Tree. They describe themselves as ‘Indochina Kitchen’ on their quirky website but to me they are a panasian restaurant. They have 8 branches across London and I have been to the Angel and Soho (closer to Oxford Street) branch.

Their decor is styled like a canteen, like Wagamama but more stylish and less clinical. The red lamp shades they have remind me of those lights you see in the Hong Kong markets which is probably the feeling they are trying to recreate – asian street food updated.

I would recommend going to the Angel branch rather than Soho if you can. Like most places in central, as it gets busy the food quality goes down even with the best intentions. Plus, if you would like to have a proper conversation where you can actually hear the other person, then definitely go to the Angel branch. No booking required, just show up with your Tastecard.

Now for the food! Below is a list of things I recommend trying (website description):

Street Style Crispy Dough
A light and chewy Indochinese style dough served with our signature Kajang Satay sauce

Prawn Cracker Basket
Prawn cracker basket served with sweet chilli dipping sauce

Aubergine Half
with Aromatic Caramel Sauce, herbs, and crispy shallots

Mains

Phad Thai
Rice noodles wok fried in tamarind, palm sugar and fish sauce, with eggs, bean sprouts, peanuts & crispy shallots.

Banana ‘Frotiteroles’

Coconut Stuffed Green Thai Pancakes

Banana Tree Combo

Combo up your main course with our Indo House Salad, sweet corn cakes, Indo Viet crackers, steamed jasmine rice. Just Available with any of our Regional specialties or Stir Fries.

I would like to apologise for my lack of pictures in this blog as my memory card broke in my phone. : ( Sad times. Yes I know I should have backed up.

Anyway, so the Aubergine Half is a must try in my opinion, full of flavour and very soft and appetising! The Crispy Dough is something you should try at least once as well as it is quite a traditional asian food that isn’t really served anywhere else outside of China Town (as far as I’m aware). Their Prawn Crackers are also not the same as your average take away prawn crackers. These are full of prawn flavour and spice!

I would recommend the Pad Thai (although not the best I’ve had but still very nice). I would also recommend any dish under the ‘Regional Speciailities & Curries’ section. The food from this restaurant is just packed with flavour and there is just so much character that you can not go wrong. I also recommend upgrading to a combo as for an additional £2 or so you get a lot of extras. Plus, with the curries and main, it does not come with rice so bear that in mind!

Ready to tuck in!

Ready to tuck in!

The Banana Frotiteroles is again a must try! It’s sooooo nice and soft. They get it just right at the Angel branch and again this isn’t the usual banana fritter you get at a take away, this has been made with a lot of care and love. I recommend the Green Thai Pancakes as again it’s something unusual and to any coconut lovers out there – it is packed full of it!

Drinks wise, I’ve tried the Raw Juices which were ok. I’ve tried the Jasmine Tea which I think is cute how they serve it to you in a tea pot even if it is just for one person. In my opinion, a tea pot is the only way to go for a proper brew. I’ve also tried the ‘Viet Cafe Noung’ which I would recommend to any coffee fanatic. Not much bigger than an espresso shot but it has been filtered in a vietnamese coffee contraption and served with condensed milk.

Jasmine Tea.

Jasmine Tea.

All in all, this restaurant comes highly recommended by me. The decor is great, the toilets (individual rooms) are clean and the food is FULL of flavour. Apologies for not having prices as these were not available on the website. With the use of a Tastecard, a three course meal plus a drink will set you back around £15 which almost never happens in London. If you don’t have a Tastecard, I still recommend going to this restaurant at least once.

http://www.bananatree.co.uk/


Prezzo – With a Tastecard!

My first Tastecard review is on the restaurant that I perhaps use the discount on most which is Prezzo. They have branches all over the UK but the branches I have been to are St Martin’s Lane, Brentwood, Lincoln and the most frequent is Euston.

You may say what is the point of reviewing a chain restaurant? Well then I’ll ask you kindly to see this as more of a shout out rather than a review because in my opinion, it deserves more publicity and attention.

It is just an all-round good restaurant for dates, friends, families and business meetings. The food is good, the decor is different in each branch but it still makes you comfortable to sit in there.

Truffle Oil Infused Fries.

Truffle Oil Infused Fries.

So a little bit about each branch I’ve been to; St Martin’s Lane – it’s location is very central yet it is fairly quiet and ideal for a first date. The Brentwood branch is on the high street and great for friends and parties as they have loads of room at the back of the restaurant ideal for private functions. The Lincoln branch overlooks the Lincoln harbour and is very spacious. The Euston branch is by far the busiest branch I’ve been to and if you go after 7 pm you will most likely have to wait for a table (as they don’t take bookings). It is fairly cosy and by that I mean cramp and there isn’t much of a bar area BUT you do experience that London buzz.

So below is a list of a few favourites that I would like to recommend:

Calamari – With pesto and mayonnaise dip – £5.95