Luca, London 05-2018

I was heading to the Barbican Theatre to see the interesting full immersive show The Encounter.

Luca is a well reputed Italian restaurant nearby complete with its own £160 pasta workshop (for another time).

With an early booking, we eventually moved from the bar to the restaurant. After they discovered we actually wanted the pre-theatre menu, they moved us back to the bar. No whitetable service (but that suits me better) and a 2 course for £17 menu.

- Fried baby squid (with devilled spices, lemon mayonnaise) - crisp little bits in a spicy coating;
- Cornish mussels alla puttanesca - soft mussels in caper and olive sauce;
- Rigatoni with pork sausage ragu, tomato, anchovy, mint - this was tasty but MUCH too salty. It wasn't anchovy salty (as I like that), but simply salt salty.

- Roast leg of guinea fowl (with Jersey royals, spring greens) - very good actually with tender meat and a savoury gravy;
- Crisp pork belly (caramelised chicory, dried figs, pickled apple) - reasonable but a little too fatty a pork belly;
- Breaded plaice (with peas, mousseron mushrooms, lettuce) - buttery, decently cooked fish, alright.

I wasn't enamoured with the meal overall. It just seemed to lack a bit for me. Maybe the full restaurant menu (with its much higher price) will show something different. Maybe I'll try it if I do the pasta course.

After the waiting and the moving there was no time for dessert. Next time. Maybe.

Mildreds, London 04-2018

Mildreds is a well known vegetarian/vegan cafe/restaurant with a branch in King's Cross (the one I went to) and also Camden (and others).

When we came in, the waitress said "you know we don't serve meat right?" Yes of course I do. Do I look that carnivorous?

- Halloumi burger (chargrilled aubergine, rocket, red onion, harissa, tahini in flatbread) £8 with sweet potato fries £4 - really nice combination of vouchers. Tasted as expected;
- Green falafel (tahini, lemon) £4 - a good crisp falafel (albeit not as good as Pilpel) and seemingly better value than the large plate version for £12;
- Chicken katsu curry (panko coconut crumb mock chicken, black rice, watermelon radish salad, yuzu dressing) £13 - this tasted nothing like katsu curry. Not to say it was bad, but a completely different flavour. The mock chicken was very soft (seitan?) and black rice chewy and good.

Strange that this hipster veg place doesn't have plant-based lattes. I do find that very odd.

The food was good. It's definitely on the expensive side particularly with service but when feeling guilty (or ethical), there's always a cost.

Mildreds Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

L'Ami Malo, London 05-2018

After 5 months I returned to L'Ami Malo, this time on the back of a Timeout voucher (great value of £19 for 3 courses and a cocktail = £36+ value). As pleased as I was to have a cheap reason to return, it is a bit of a shame that a good niche restaurant in Spitalfields (with a modern twist on the Breton classic) needs to have these vouchers to gain their business. But that's the dining scene...

The glaring omission in my last visit ( was not getting to try the chocolate/cherry/pistachio dessert and so it beckoned me.

Kir Normande (cidre bouche Breton, merlet creme de cassis) £8 is a light fizz drink with blackcurrant flavour. Francois Sour (calvados blanche, red wine, lemon, egg white) £10 was also refreshing.

- Roscoff onion tart (poached egg, cider hollandaise) £8 - soft pastry, nice egg, sweet onions, great;
- Smoked salmon maki (capers, shallot, dill, keta caviar, creme fraiche) £8.5 - quite disappointing. The galettes are not thin and crisp and so it just feels too thick and dry;
- Confit duck leg galette (braised red cabbage, caramelised pear, tenderstem broccoli, red wine jus) £14 - as typical of French, the duck is well cooked, quite tender and tasty with crisp skin. Parts of the galette are burnt butter crisp with the characteristic buckwheat flavour coming through;
- Cod wrapped in buckwheat (braised fennel, new baby potatoes, glazed carrot, chorizo sauce) £13.5 - the fish is cooked well but you can't taste the buckwheat flavour in the galette covering. So not a combination or method I want to try again;
- Souffle lemon & blueberries crepe £9 - a very good crepe with an excellent shell, although the souffle in the middle seemed just a strange filling in my opinion;
- Dark chocolate delice (buckwheat nougatine, griottine cherries, pistachio icecream) £6.5 - deep dark chocolate, average pistachio icecream (not strongly nut flavoured and had some freezer/ice texture to it) with sour cherries. The nougatine was sweet and caramel although I couldn't detect buckwheat.

I would go back here. I'm not sure if I'd go to the area specifically to pay full price, but the tart and duck leg galette will make for a good meal.

The service from the gorgeous two waitresses was of high quality and I tipped £10 to them. It's interesting that one told me when using the Timeout voucher alone, they aren't allowed to charge service. Plenty of other places seem to find a way to...

MEATliquor, London 04-2018

It's been a long time (10/2013) since I ate the wonders of MEATliquor ( I still remember the unventilated smell of the original venue along with my first taste of chilli fries, the incredible hotdog and no queues at MEATmarket, and wanting to have the sundae at MEATmission.

With my luck there's a newish branch in King's Cross, where the staff tell me gets busy on Thursday/Friday after work, and otherwise not really without ever any queues. That is music to the ears of my stomach.

These places also have a £10 lunch deal where there is any burger and fries and soda. I went and naturally had to upgrade my fries for chilli fries.

I don't remember thinking that highly of the acclaimed Dead Hippie burger. The meat tastes like meat (slightly cooked too much this day but didn't detract) and I closely analysed the sauce and thought it largely tasted of a cheese-type base. This could be completely wrong and the burger overall was very good. It didn't have the bursting flavour of Bleeker St but had its own place and elements.

The chilli cheese fries were great and as good as I remember, and the reason I use their recipe to make my own layover chilli at home.

I'll be back, for £10 lunch or a non-queue dinner. I'll be back.

Tsujiri, London 04-2018

I'm a very big fan of matcha and matcha icecream. I probably don't like the original as much as the true aficionados, but a good matcha latte, icecream and mochi will never be lost on me.

Tsujiri is a matcha dessert cafe and everything there is very green to match(a). It isn't the cheapest but I wanted to give it a try.

They have both a matcha and a houjicha (which I've never tried before in any form). Naturally I had to get this as part of a Shiratama sundae £5.8 - the soft squishy mochi balls and red bean were on point. The houjicha has a nuttier flavour than standard matcha. I don't like these to be overly sweet and to have a bit of the tea bitterness discernible, which was present here. It was very very good.

I'll definitely be back. Not sure for houjicha again or to try the matcha, but I'm sure I'll get to both.

Tsujiri Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

To Edesma, Larnaca 05-2018

The grilled meats of Cyprus (that I remember from Greece) are a primary food group. There's so many places to pick from and I did want to go to but laziness kept me closer to the flat. Luckily there's lots around and all at reasonable prices.

To Edesma looked good when I walked past during the day, and fate would mean I had it starred on my Google maps before even entering the country. Even more fate would mean I would see the chargrilled meat and a rotating lamb outside that evening. Sadly those were reserved for a pre-order Russian table. But inside there is plenty of charcoal meat still going around.

The outdoor area was nice and when rain started, some automated roofs opened up. Impressive.

- Mixed grill €9.5 - my first taste of Cypriot meat grill was a great one. This was a large serving with lots of variety - some minimally squeaky local halloumi, soft gyro chicken, a tasty tender pork skewer with just a little fat in the pieces, an even more tender and delicious chicken skewer, a decent sheftalia (local Cypriot lamb & pork sausage wrapped in fat), keftedes (fried meatball) which was a bit average, some average fries, a good basic salad with parsley and some bread to wrap things with;
- Snails €5 for 1 serve - these tiny little snails were complete with little faces, antenna and mouths agape. It's far from the French escargot covered in butter and oblivion. A little disturbing in the end but very tasty;
- Grilled vegetables €5 - simple and good. The green padron peppers were my favourite and not spicy.

They have no fresh juice. And noone will serve tap water. So in the end it became a packet juice (a prima in Australian-speak) for €1.

It was a very satisfying meal overall with quality tender charcoal meats, snails and vegetables. It didn't seem much to order but it was plenty (and more) for 2.

Davinci Gelato Cafe, Coral Bay 05-2018

Interestingly for a warm Mediterranean country, Cyprus doesn't seem to have a lot of gelato. I saw a few of the fluorescent ones near the beachside but those have never interested me. And there was a few vans in places but didn't look at those. I had trouble finding any artisanal ones in Larnaca, although apparently there's some around Limassol (where we didn't stop).

On the last beach day with some unexpectedly warm weather in Paphos, we ended up at Coral Bay beach for some sun and water. During the rest I found Davinci on my phone. Oddly Google maps had it located more inland but so be it. After a short drive amongst fields, a dead-end road leading to the side of a bridge overpass, I gave up and turned back. But as fate would have it I saw it along the main street of restaurants leaving Coral Bay. It was a joy to park and cross the road and see the flavours in front of me.

Sicily pistachio had a deep green flavour with an even darker mix on top (unsure what that was and didn't get any in my serve). It wasn't the strongest pistachio flavour but still reasonable. The dark chocolate was intense and mildly sweet - a really good one. There are lots of other flavours too but the 2 flavour cone for €3 was suffice and the cone had essentially been stuffed with the dark chocolate.

A good experience with a twist of adventure.

Maqam Al-Sultan, Larnaca 05-2018

I had read that Maqam Al-Sultan was a mix of Cypriot and Lebanese mezze and very good. In fact that is wrong, since it is all Lebanese. Nonetheless after the 15min burst of rain that swept through the town we ended up there.

The menu was actually more expensive than I expected. I suppose reputation, location along the waterfront and something different to the rest of town made it so.

After deliberation of how much we could eat, we opted for the Grand Mezze €39 for 2 people.

First Courses
- Tabbouleh - excellent and full of parsley;
- Fattoush - a simple fresh salad with bread;
- Hummus - strong flavours with whole chickpeas too. A very good version;
- Moutabal baba ghanouj - also a pretty good one;
- Shankleesh - sheep milk cheese in little crumbles I haven't had before. Not bad. Served with tomato;
- Muhammara - a spicy hot pepper dip I haven't had before. I did really like this especially smeared onto the Lebanese bread;
- Moussaka batinjan - a really good medley of aubergine, chickpeas and tomatoes. Apparently this is Lebanese moussaka and I like it.

There was also a couple of dolmades, some mild garlic crisps with yoghurt and chickpeas, and some other kind of cheese dip with cucumber that I wasn't so fond of.

Second Courses
- Falafel - simple and without any green herbs inside. Standard. I prefer the ones at Pilpel;
- Kibbeh makliyeh - deepfried oval pastry with minced lamb. Couldn't detect any pinenuts. I preferred the ones I used to have at Yalla Yalla;
- Sambousek lahme - another fried pastry with minced meat. Average;
- Sambousek jibne - lighter fried pastry with cheese. Average;
- Fatayer spinach - triangle pastry with spinach. Average;

Third Course
- Mixed grill - kafta (long minced earthy lamb pulled from skewers), shish taouk (very tender cubes of chicken), chicken wings (marinated and grilled), ouzi (lamb rice with pistachios) was deliciously earthy and spiced.

It was a good meal overall and plenty enough to take home to finish for dinner.

It's not an essential place to eat in Larnaca/Cyprus but for a change it's nice.

Omikron Brunch, Paphos 05-2018

There aren't many brunch specific places to eat. Well none of what I associate as classically brunch - which is fine, because you don't travel somewhere expecting or hoping to find the meals of where you left from. But it seemed a good idea to try a nearby and well reviewed (by local Cyprus blogs and sites at least) of how a foreign place is developing their scene.

Enter Omikron, a brunch place with healthy breakfast, hot brunches and drinks.

On this glorious sunny Saturday lunch, the balcony was full of people (locals and a few tourists) enjoying themselves of the warm shade. Cigarettes sadly filled the air and the mix was people in suits, young females with LV and a few families too. Strangely everyone was drinking a blended coffee drink but out of a takeaway container - what's the point of that? Less washing?

The coffee/vanilla blend with choconut wasn't available and so a normal latte (which wasn't overly bitter) was ordered. I spotted the deep berry coloured Dragon Drink smoothie (blackberries, morello cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, red currants) €4.8 across the room and had to get one myself. It was simple, tangy and very berry.

Pancakes seem to be a specialty of the place. Sweet & Savory Balance €6.7 had a stack of pretty good pancakes with a bit of (not-very as advertised) crispy bacon in between and maple syrup and a melting butter knob on top. Fine but too sweet for me generally.

I ordered The Ultimate €8.5 which is essentially a full English. Two fried eggs (I wanted poached but forgot to ask) were a bit overcooked and so the bottom yolk had boiled, the crispy bacon wasn't crispy and had way too much fat ratio, the sausages were actually very nice and flavoursome (as expected for meats in Cyprus), and the beans, tomato and mushrooms were all standard. I'm not entirely sure what the breakfast sauce was but some kind of tomato with mayo I think. It was quite a disappointing meal overall.

I wouldn't go back. But if I was there again, I'd order a drink and maybe the croissant sandwich (Crescent Shape).

Ta Perix, Paphos 05-2018

One of the great culinary delights in Cyprus is the meze procession. It's well known that for around €15pp, all the Cypriot taverns will serve around 15-20 dishes with all the local highlights and delights. Classically it is heavily meat based, but vegetarian and fish versions exist also. It starts with bread and dips, salads, then moves onto meats and grills and fillers, before ending with dessert.

The big problem is that for the large part even though it is great value, it is too much and a waste of food. We discovered this by simply ordering normal meals and so never were game to try Cypriot meze (although we did a Lebanese one).

Ta Perix is the only place I've seen that balances this by having a meze menu where you select what you like. It's similar to yum cha - just Cypriot and without the carts (to be fair many yum cha places are menu only). It meant I could happily avoid the dips and salads (nothing wrong with them, just I wanted to try other things) and focus. Unfortunately there's no seafood, which is a big glaring omission to me. But after you park, upon exiting the car you can smell the charcoal meat fumes in the air. It's great.

- Pickled quail eggs €1 for 2 - tiny little boiled eggs in a slightly chilli vinegared oil. Tasty;
- Salted sardines €1.5 - extremely salty/potent and great with the warm Cyprus bread. Reminded me of a very strong anchovy but also with the added texture of the bones and rest of the fish. Really enjoyed this;
- Charcoal wild mushrooms €3 - they didn't have wild mushrooms so served us normal ones instead. Simple unseasoned flavour;
- Zucchini flowers stuffed with feta €2.5 - a simple classic in thicker than usual batter. It was ok;
- Stuffed aubergines €2.5 - really liked this circles of aubergine deep fried;
- Charcoal pork chop €8.5 - I was craving to try a pork chop with reputations that taverns serve them bigger than the plate. This was a more modest sized one with the most basic flavour simply of pork. It was quite soft too without much graininess and no stringiness. The lemon went well with this;
- Charcoal baby pigeon €6.5 - really flavoursome with some marinade spices and grilled until charred. Similar to the Chinese quails except bigger;
- Boiled Cyprus traditional pasta €3 for 2 (they said it would be a half serve but charged us for a full one. I'm sure the size was a full one too...) - a thoroughly cooked (not al dente but also not mushy) pasta probably with butter and salt;
- Pourgouri €2 for 2 (they said it would be a half serve but charged us for a full one. I'm sure the size was a full one too...) - a type of wheat boiled and lightly seasoned with some tomato.

To finish off a hot slightly sweet cheese puff was served. A nice touch to end on.

Everything was served with some olive oil and a bit of chopped parsley. And there was a bit of lemon to squeeze too.

Unfortunately big snails and Jerusalem artichokes were not in season.

Overall it was a decent meal. Certainly not the best flavours we ate during our trip, but it allowed us the most variety which is important. It's a local tavern in a residential area and warrants support!