Review: Tonkotsu

Tonkotsu, Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 4QG

Walking down Dean Street away from the bustle of Oxford Street the restaurants were getting quieter and I was relieved by this as I didn’t want to have to go elsewhere if there was a queue. Upon walking in the door of Tonkotsu we quickly realised it was full, which is a great sign because it means it has good food. Luckily the wait for a table was only a few minutes so we had a table almost straight away. Phew because it takes me bloody ages to decide where to eat as I detest paying for bad food!

The menu was full of tantalising offers so we ended up with a 3 course meal. IMG_20170917_145445 It was tough to choose a starter as most sounded great so I managed to persuade my other two companions to get ones I also wanted to try so we could share them 😉 The gyoza were fantastic, the panku prawns were unbelievably tasty and the crab croquettes had a not so appealing mushy kind of texture but also great flavour. What a great start to a meal.

Mains we obviously had to choose ramen in this sort of famous ramen bar. I had chilli chicken and one of my fellow diners opted for seafood which looked absolutely stunning. The flavours were delightful and just the right amount of heat made it a great dish. The spring onions in the ramen were so fresh and packed full of punch, it was great! The bowl appears large but itsn’t your typical gigantic bowl of soup so it was easy to finish. Usually when I have ramen or similar I end up leaving half a bowl of liquid.

Not liking caramel I had limited options with the dessert. I decided to try the fruit flavoured mochi ice creams. I discovered I am not really a fan of the new trendy yuzu fruit flavour. The mango was nice and the raspberry was delicious. What I did not know about mochi ice cream is that it comes inside a shell of pounded sticky rice. I found the best way to describe this small ball of ice cream is like a frozen jelly baby. Very weird texture on the outside for me and I’ll be honest I scooped out the ice cream and left the outside part. I am not a fan of sushi because I am completely averse to cold rice, not the typical raw fish explanation and so I guess that also follows me into the dessert section too. A shame really because everything was so great. Perhaps I should have done my homework before picking my dessert! The salted caramel miso ice cream sandwich had an unbelievably intense caramel flavour. Why it even has tiny slices of Guinness cake on the outside I am not sure as all it does is create a better aesthetic as you cannot taste it at all.

The drinks list is the same, if not slightly bigger than the food menu so there is a lot to offer. They brew their own beer which I decided to try. It was incredibly bubbly and I managed to pour it over the table on first pour. At £5.50 a bottle I must admit I was expecting something of greatness but it was pretty disappointing. I would stick with the alcohol made by the professionals. I am told the yuzu lemonade is also pretty good as a non-alcoholic option.

You are only given chopsticks and a spoon for the ramen but I am sure that they would have some forks backstage if you struggle with the hashi (Japanese for chopsticks). I learnt something new today 🙂 It is quite a small restaurant so be prepared to wait at busy times. The service was pretty good but could be a little faster. The tables are cosy but not difficult. You can see the chef cooking at the front of the restaurant which is a nice idea. Overall a good dining experience and I would say a great place for lunch.

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Review: Lilac Fish restaurant

Lilac Fish restaurant, Eastbourne BN21 4DB

Almost every time you head to the British coast tradition dictates that you must consume fish and chips. There isn’t as much choice in Eastbourne as you would expect in a seaside town. We wandered around for a while before we stumbled upon this little gem just off the main beach road. Lilac is a great colour but it was more the 4.6 Google review that confirmed to me that this was probably the best we were going to find.

We were welcomed by a lovely, slightly flaky lady who seemed incredibly happy to be there. Despite her strange nervousness she was really lovely and always shocked when a customer handed her a tip. She also seemed to be a little scared of the slightly grumpy men behind the fish counter who she had to give the food orders to. IMG_20170924_132328While we were sat there we saw multiple regular customers come in and out of the place delighted with their experience which is such a great thing to see and gives you a warm feeling about a place. I overheard one of the counter guys in a conversation with a customer and they said they were of Greek origin which to me means ‘ah fantastic, they probably know good food!’

Well now I can tell you Greek people can also make a mean fish and chips. I had haddock and as the piece I had was on the small side they also gave me an extra half. Great service. Well cooked piece of fish in a really tasty batter. The chips were proper fish and chip shop style chips which are actually quite tough to find these days. When people say that English culture is dying is this what they mean? You can barely find a decent chip anymore? 😉 There was not a drip of grease on the entire plate. Utterly delightful.

Lovely people of Lilac restaurant see you next time we are in Eastbourne. We salute you.

 

Review: Bill’s

Bill’s restaurant, Eastbourne BN21

An unusually sunny Sunday in September had us headed to the coast. We got there nice and early to beat the traffic and get a good parking spot. First call was breakfast and we decided on Bill’s as a place we recognise and a lot of the local places seemed to have closed for the season already.

I can only describe the staff in this place on an early Sunday morning as a group of hungover young people fumbling around in the dark with the exception of one capable young lady who seemed to be having to organise the whole place. We ate in a nice spot outside in the sun, I’m sure the two beautiful dogs sitting next to this table had nothing at all to do with this decision 🙂 The tables are like small garden furniture features but just big enough to house a plate and a coffee for two. At least my metal chair came with a cushion and did I mention the sun was shining?

My coffee wasn’t bad but the cup and saucer it came in had bits of food stuck to the outside where they hadn’t been washed properly. I am quite glad I didn’t see the inside of my cup before the hot brown liquid was poured into it. I just closed my eyes and savoured the caffeine.

I love a good eggs Benedict and so this was my choice for breakfast on this glorious day. The ham was really tasty. The hollandaise was a little watery but thankfully tasted like a great hollandaise. Weirdly one of my poached eggs was perfect but one was overcooked. I decided to let it slide because it still tasted great and to be honest you never know what the staff will do to your dish on it’s return. Anybody who knows anyone who has worked in the service industry would probably agree with you. I was already battling with the dirty kitchenware I didn’t want this on my mind as I was eating too.

Bill’s in my experience is usually a pretty good value for money experience if you concentrate solely on the food and don’t mind lazy or inexperienced service. It’s never a first choice for me but it’s a hopefully quick, pretty satisfying, fairly priced meal.

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Review: Gurkha Dine

Gurkha Dine, Eastbourne Rd, South Godstone RH9 8EZ

This is our new local curry house so we had to try it. I am very glad we did this early on as I was definitely not disappointed. This is a Nepalese inspired curry place and I believe the first time I have tried it as opposed to an Indian or Bangladeshi inspired curry house.

There is a small car park outside. The welcome to this place was very friendly. We had choice of any table on a Friday evening which we were quite surprised about really. Nice table setting with proper napkins, long white table cloths and silver cutlery. The menu is quite extensive with your usual dishes plus the chef’s specials and some pizza for that friend who can’t really get on with spicy dishes 😉

Indian beer on tap while you wait for your food which is great. When the food came the smell was already enticing me. It tasted just as good. The ingredients were incredibly fresh. As a big fan of fresh coriander I was jumping for joy. I went for a chicken bhuna which is my favourite curry and it was lovely although not spicy. I would hazard a guess at this being the case because of the area we are in but I can’t be sure. The other curry on the table was a lamb hariyali which I have just learned essentially means green curry. Wow this curry was delicious and I have found a new favourite! I also had a spinach side which was a little heavy on the garlic but also absolutely delicious with a few bits of grated ginger on top. Ginger is on a par with fresh coriander in my world. Yum.

Perfectly average priced meal for great fresh ingredients and great flavours. I will be back.

 

Review: The Bell Inn

The Bell Inn, Outwood, Redhill, Surrey RH1 5PN 

As explained previously I have moved from London to the countryside of Surrey and this is a place not short of pubs serving wonderful food. Sunday is of course the day of the roast and so we headed to the Bell Inn for some roast lamb.

The staff were very welcoming here. It’s a lovely old country pub with low ceilings and dark wood. We sat outside on dining tables under a corrugated type roof as the weather was nice. Dining inside could possibly feel a little claustrophobic but hard to tell. We were under attack a little from flies but to be expected when you are dining outisde I suppose. There’s ample parking but it’s not so much fun to drive on the all stone floor.

The lamb was definitely the star of the show with our dinner. The meat just fell off the bone and tasted divine. The rest of it was a little disappointing though really. The roast potatoes were under cooked and there wasn’t enough gravy which was quite watery and lacking in that yummy gravy flavour.

I would be willing to give this place another chance as the meat was so fantastic so they obviously care about quality. Fingers crossed they see the value in all the trimmings too.

Bell Inn

Review: Song Que Cafe

Song Que Cafe, Kingsland road, London E2 8DY

I was lucky enough to live close to this road full of Vietnamese places and am ashamed to say I didn’t take advantage of this while I lived there! I got a recommendation from someone for this one so we went for a quick lunch.

Unfortunately no photos for this post. It was weekday lunch and the food was thrown together but as long as it tastes good I’m happy.

Similar to a great Chinese restaurant the service was straight forward and efficient. The guy came to our table asked us what we wanted and then spent the whole time looking at the other side of the restaurant. Our pause made him think we weren’t ready to order but actually we weren’t sure he was ready to take our order. Was a funny moment.

So let’s talk Pho. It was my first time trying it to be honest. It was wonderful! Sweet then a hit of heat. Great flavours. I love it. I can’t believe I realised this after moving out. Mistake. The restaurant also offers a quick lunch menu with rice or noodles, a choice of meat or tofu and a cup of Jasmine tea. I’m pretty sure I don’t like Jasmine tea so ordered a lemonade and was pleasantly surprised that not only was it homemade but utterly delicious. The rice is more basmati style than sticky fried long grain which also surprised me.

This place was far greater than my expectations and I would happily pass on those recommendations to eat here.

Review: Mildred’s 

Mildred’s, Camden, London NW1 7BW

So I’ve been meaning to try a veggie restaurant for a while and happened to find myself in Camden with a friend who is a vegetarian so we decided to munch down in Mildred’s. The first thing that caught my eye was that there is a restaurant called ‘Fat Burger’ right opposite. I wonder which came first and how happy Mildred’s are about this? I must admit that place would normally be more appealing to myself.

With the exception of one bright happy lady the staff seemed to be in a somewhat zombie-like state. Could this be a reaction to not enough protein or as my partner suggested it is Camden so perhaps they’re all stoned. Well whatever it is it doesn’t give for a great atmosphere. The fact that the waiter also couldn’t work our exactly half of our bill was a little concerning.

The tables are very close together and it felt like a competition with the two couples next us as to who can hold the louder conversation. It was busy so I understand the need for extra tables but it obviously affects your dining experience.

Anyway to the food! I ordered a Sri Lankan sweet potato curry and my friend had the mushroom pie. The curry wasn’t bad but it felt like it was missing something. The only real flavour came from the little bowl of fresh spicy salsa type thing on the side. The rice wasn’t cooked enough. Nobody wants their rice to crunch! I am told the pie was nice enough but I didn’t try it, the chips that came with it looked incredibly greasy. I didn’t want any of the dishes that came with chips and I’m glad of that. The portions are quite large though so you shouldn’t leave hungry.

The desserts had much more flavour. I had a lemon cheesecake which was sharp and sweet. The chocolate brownie was lovely and served warm but quite rich.

Every time we were given a menu we were informed of something that wasn’t available that day and it tended to be one of the more appealing options, which was a shame. There was one rose wine option on the menu but it was a lovely wine and we happily shared the bottle.

Overall I would say it’s a great place for a veggie who doesn’t have a lot of options in probably most restaurants in the area but as a carnivore I’m not sure I would choose to return.

Review: The Wiremill

The Wiremill Lakeside Pub, North Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6HJ 

So I’ve moved to the middle of nowhere in Surrey and this was our first dining out experience here. It was a lovely sunny day so we chose an outside table that are all set up to give a view of the lake as you eat and drink. The tables are a little narrow and there is a bit of a pond smell going on but it disappears quite quickly. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and a view you can’t really complain about.

The pub offers weekly craft beers and I decided to try one and really enjoyed it. It was quite a light beer, perfect for the hot weather called Single Hop. The menu offers a big selection of tapas or main meals. I got to try their famous scotch egg which came with a lovely piccalilli. Also the pulled pork croquettes which I didn’t really enjoy. Wiremill 1 I guess you take a bite expecting potato and you get a mushy meat experience. Not to my taste. I was super hungry and so my stomach decided on a large surf and turf type dish that included steak, prawns and squid. The steak was fantastic. The prawns came in a mix in a jar on the side which was a bit awkward to eat but nice flavour. There was plenty of battered squid but it was dry and needed some kind of sauce. I much prefer my food to come on a plate and I was cutting through the pretty paper with my knife so was checking I wasn’t eating that also.

Wiremill 2

When we ordered our food we were informed of a bit of a wait because there were quite a few tickets in the kitchen. Honestly the place wasn’t packed but the wait wasn’t as long as anticipated so it wasn’t an issue. It’s not a place you want to rush off from anyway. I’d happily return here. It’s a shame you have to drive to it as it would be a great place to have a few beers on a sunny weekend afternoon. I will be interested to see what it is like on a wintery day.

Review: The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club, Rufus St, London N1 6PE

This is probably the most popular breakfast joint in London.  Every time we headed there, even on a Sunday morning when the city is like a graveyard, we always found a Breakfast Club 1queue waiting for us. With so many other great places to eat around I never saw the point in queuing to eat there so we always went somewhere else. We finally managed to get a table straight away before 9am on Sunday morning so already we felt like champions.

 

We were welcomed by a smiley friendly lady which was a great start! The tables and set up are very much American diner style although the decor is a little more trendy. It took me forever to decide what to eat as so many of the options sounded very appealing. I wanted to order multiple dishes but one was most definitely enough. The coffee tasted weak but felt strong.

As super hungry customers we opted for the two biggest meals on the menu. The Full Monty and the All American. The ingredients are clearly great quality which is for me a big part of a good meal. It’s nice to see real mushrooms in a breakfast. The bacon was a little dry but a little sauce fixed that. The toast was thick and fresh. There was probably 4 eggs worth of scrambled on my plate which was too much. If you are a big eater you will not be disappointed. I tasted the pancakes also which are perfect.

Quality food, great service and leaving a satisfied customer I can see why it is so popular. I would be interested to see if this is the same experience when it is crazy busy. I would definitely head back to try some other dishes on the menu, if I can get there without the queue 😉