Icelandic Street Food, Reykjavik 01-2018

Looking for a reasonably priced meal in Iceland is difficult. Considering the numerical figure of prices in ISK have gone up and that the exchange has increased in their favour by about 40% in the past 5 years, there's no wonder it has probably overtaken the other Scandinavian countries in terms of expense.

$30 for an entree and $50 for a main? Sure. That's standard.

Anyway there's street food to find (whether from booths or actual sit-downs) and this place is one of them. They serve soup in a bread bowl with unlimited refills. And the staff aren't disgruntled about overzealous drinkers - they refill happily and if your bread bowl is near death or destruction then the refill comes in a bowl. Simple.

- Traditional lamb soup in a bread bowl ISK1890 - a deeply heartening soup with strong salty flavours and tender soft chunks of lamb. Truly lovely;
- Shellfish soup in a bread bowl ISK1890 - a creamy bisque with tiny prawns and lucky pieces of soft scallops. A complete different flavour to the lamb (obviously) but equivalently excellent;
- Fisherman's fav ISK2000 - I'm not sure if they offer free refills of this but you can get more bread. The rye slices were unusually sweet - perhaps that's how they have it here. The actual dish is a mash of cod and potato. It's alright but the soups are better (and cheaper).

It's easy to see why people flock here in the humidity to fill themselves with soup. There is also some little chocolate pastries, chocolate lollies and some licorice to finish for free.

Kricket, London 01-2018

I never had the pleasure of visiting Kricket in Brixton and now that it is closed, I'm glad the Soho edition allows bookings and has excellent food at relatively reasonable prices. I've only tried once to get into it without a booking and the wait during a Saturday night in May was 2.5 hours. Hmm so I ended up waiting 8 months instead.

The downstairs communal tables are in a nice relaxed space. For a winter Thursday evening up until 7.15pm we didn't have anyone sitting next to us, which I thought was unusual. The drink Dark Matter (spiced rum, mango, agave, red peppercorn, chilli) £9 was an excellent drink complete with fruity feels and a pepper taste and a chilli heat aftertaste.

- Samphire pakoras, date & tamarind chutney, chilli garlic mayonnaise £6 - little seaweed type things albeit fried so the sea flavour wasn't evident with a nice tamarind finish and some optional mayo;
- Bhel puri, raw mango, tamarind, sev, yoghurt £5.5 - a delicious concoction of puffed rice and other dry bits bound together with sauces. Reminiscent of the ones I had in India, just more refined;
- Jerusalem artichoke & pea samosa £6 for 2 - piping hot insides with a slightly chunky texture and an excellent tamarind chutney to swathe it through. Expensive at £3 each but really enjoyed it;
- Masala kulcha bread £3.5 - a puffy soft and gelatinous bread with a little ghee and spice. Lovely;
- Cockle thoran, coconut & curry leaf £7 - strong creamy seafood taste with some coconut and curry coming through;
- Karnathan mussels £10 - small shells but they were full of mussel in a quite spicy tomato-based curry sauce;
- Keralan fried chicken, curry leaf mayonnaise, pickle mouli £8.5 - very salty and tender pieces of chicken;
- Green chilli, garlic, Berkswell kulcha bread £4 - although more interesting sounding than the masala kulcha, I didn't like it as much. The chilli wasn't discernible and the cheese on top I didn't feel added much;
- Goose vindaloo, brussel sprout thoran £13 - they substituted duck for the goose without telling us. The goose itself was the main factor for ordering it as it isn't a common thing I find being offered. The duck itself was perfectly pink and delicious, a little (too) chewy, and a small bit of fat. The vindaloo had a mild flavour and much less spiciness than is typical. But the flavour still had clear noted to vindaloo and so I suppose it's an interpretation...

Overall the bill for 4 was £92 which included £12 of service and £15 for drinks. That's pretty damn good for anywhere in London. I'll happily be back here. I'd hope there would be goose available and would also want to try the garlic crab and venison keema.

Kricket Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Jena Christmas Market 12-2017

It's a small town not known for much other than Carl Zeiss. The Christmas market had two areas which were smallish but contained everything needed. In fact I'd argue it had almost everything Nuremberg did (other than the singing) and in a smaller area with much less people.

The Jenaer bratwurst is a tasty long thing in a bread roll. It was actually more satisfying than the Nuremberg equivalent of which they are famous.

Additionally the quarkballchen is something I didn't find in Nuremberg at all. These little sweet fried donuts of goodness are definitely worth the effort.

Brothaus Cafe, Nuremberg 12-2017

I had a hire car from Europcar in Nuremberg. As I didn't want to pick it up from the airport (since I arrived after 10pm), the most convenient place to get to from the airport, stay at a cheap Airbnb, and pick up the car early the next day was at Schoppershof/Nordostbanhof only a few stops on the U2 line. After a very comfortable sleep, breakfast nearby Europcar was essential.

There's a big shopping centre which I'm sure has a few pickings but the bakery Brothaus Cafe nearby piqued interest. Out the front you can see enormous wheels of bread around 2kg which I would have been delighted to take with me. Sadly not on this occasion.

The cafe does some cold tiered platters which I assume are a more traditional type of German brunch. Luckily they also have a wide array of sweet and savoury breads including sandwiches. In the end the carbohydrate overload of an excellent (but soft based) pizza with cheese, tomato and anchovies, a croque madame of even more cheese, and a pretzel proved enough. The ham and salad ended up being take away with the heavily laden seed crust adding to the grain flavour of the bread. Excellent.

Unfortunately the coffee was bitter and terrible. You can't win them all.

Mae + Harvey, London 11-2017

I've actually been to M+H multiple times this year, approximately 4 in 6 months. That may not seem like so much for a local cafe, but for me that's actually quite a lot. The small corner shop with a tiny amount of seating space, the open kitchen, friendly staff and the plant pots along the street outside all add character. Not to mention they do a good matcha latte (heavy on the matcha, minimal on the sweet).

The menu is small but there's something for everyone.

- Oliver's Puff Pancakes (fresh orange, orange compote, yoghurt, sugar, candied nuts) £7.5 - they replaced the fresh orange with raspberries which was probably a good thing. The pancakes were fluffy and thick;
- Waffles with zatar-coated halloumi, spicy baked beans, yoghurt, fried egg, avocado, chives £10 - delicious ingredients mostly the soft egg and squeaky halloumi.

My favourite local cafe and lucky that it is near. The menu does slightly limit return trips over and over but the waffles will always be a good option.

The website has also mentioned taco Tuesday and China-street-food Friday nights which I may have to sample before leaving the area.

Roka, London 12-2017

There was a Timeout deal to have a meal at Roka in Aldwych. The reviews have always been good and it was one of the few places to offer a special during the Christmas period. I am skeptical about Timeout deals because most of the time they aren't - Timeout just overinflate the perceived value to make it seem reasonable. For example this deal on Timeout costs £42 with a bellini and unlimited wine - in the restaurant it is £43 with a bellini or £59 with unlimited wine. So therefore you need to drink a lot of wine to make this actually a deal. And considering I don't drink wine and the extreme Christmas flu I had prevented me drinking anything, I just had to be content that the food was good. And to be fair, it was.

- Edamame with sea salt - standard and salty;
- Selection of vegetable pickles - decent kimchi;
- Robata vegetables with sweet yuzu miso - grilled vegetables with a nicely savoury balanced sauce;
- Soba noodle salad with kurumi dressing - cold soba salad;
- Chef's sashimi selection - one piece of salmon, tuna and kingfish per person. Quality was standard;
- Spicy mixed sashimi with cucumber & asparagus - I think this was replaced by the other maki roll;
- Vegetable maki with kampyo, cucumber, avocado - a refreshing roll with a bit of wasabi mayo;
- Japanese pumpkin & sweet potato salad - a bright orange mash that seemed a bit light in flavour;
- Chicken & sancho gyoza - small amounts of meat in the pretty parcels and nicely panfried;
- Prawn & vegetable tempura - juicy crisp prawns were the stars of the dish.

The sharing starters were all ok but paled in comparison to the mains. The robata items are all visible cooking in the middle of the open kitchen and it is impossible not to want these when selecting a main.

- Baby chicken, lemon, miso & garlic soy - outstanding chicken in flavour and tenderness;
- Beef sirloin, chilli & spring onion - requested and cooked perfectly medium-rare with reasonable tenderness but even better glazing and dipping sauce;
- Glazed baby back ribs with cashew nuts - 7 ribs per serve from a good meaty pig;
- Grilled skewer selection - chicken, lamb, pork and nicely done.

Finally the Roka dessert platter was presented to the table. The whole platter is impressive with the chocolate buddha being the most intricate. He is accompanied by various balls of fruit icecream, green tea and berry pannacotta, and some fruit. It's a fine way to finish.

Overall the food quality and presentation is excellent. The highlights are clearly the dishes cooked on the robata as expected these have great texture and strong flavours. I'm sure what the normal a la carte prices are like but I'd happily go back with another voucher - it's especially good value if you drink enough wine...

Roka Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

House of Ho, London 01-2018

I went to Bobby Chinn's restaurant in Hanoi back in 2011 ( It was the one splurge meal in Vietnam and the glowing red lights, the quirky magnifying glasses and my partner being told "you are beautiful" throughout the night made it memorable in addition to the food which was a definite different Western take on Vietnamese food.

I read Bobby closed that restaurant to open in London and for whatever reason has now left House of Ho but left behind a similar Vietnamese legacy to continue.

For the quiet Christmas/January winter months, Timeout had a special £12 cocktail + 2 tapas offer to lure in customers. Considering a cocktail is about £10 alone, the deal isn't bad. I  the serving size of each tapas is probably about half what the full sized dish is. Therefore the retail price of the deal is probably around £18. The tapas alone wasn't enough of a meal and so generous bowls of pho were ordered additionally.

The shining light is that all cocktails in the menu are available to choose from and there's a few nice options - Pandan Ho-Lada had a mild alcohol taste with a good amount of pineapple and an aftertaste of coconut. The pandan wasn't overly discernible. Saigon Lantern was a stronger drink with sour notes.

- Crispy squid with chilli & sea salt - tasty but very salty. The coriander and sweet chilli sauce helped to balance it out (as did the cocktails);
- Duck bun bao - a little disappointing to have one small bao. The flavour was similar to the standard char siu and it wasn't obvious by flavour or texture that it was upgraded from pork to duck;
- Sea bass & prawn dumplings - definite strong fish and prawn flavours within the dumpling;
- Hanoi duck spring roll - lots of shredded duck fried in a soft pastry with a light hoisin sauce;
- Beef pho £11 and Chicken pho £9.5 - identical mildly spiced soups topped with beef brisket (no sirloin) or chicken breast. The meats were ok without being outstandingly tender and it was nice to have beanshoots and mint (but no Thai basil). It was served with fish sauce and soy sauce (oddly) and also the standard chilli sauce.

It was a decent flavoured meal and I'd be happy to eat there again. It is on the more expensive side particularly for what looks like the signature dishes in shaking beef £23.5 or Chilean sea bass £32. I may wait until a deal is on again...

Cay Tre probably has a stronger flavour pho in my opinion but that may be due to some MSG.

The House of Ho Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Ichibuns, London 10-2017

Next to the persistent queue of the bubble wrap place (although I've actually seen times with no customers during the winter) was the shiny electric very typically Japanese manga pachinko-looking place of Ichibuns. It's a strange name that seems to draw influence on the ichi-ban meaning number 1 in Japanese, buns in that it may serve hirata buns (it doesn't) but instead has burgers, and that sometimes you may just have an itch you need to scratch.

A 6:30pm date at Picturehouse Central (the best non-Imax cinema in London) with Blade Runner 2049 meant an easy entry and seat downstairs.

The decor is hipster Asian with cool Japanese touches that overall do work for me. For some reason I expected a food court style selection of places to get street food when instead it's table service surrounding bars.

The peanut crunch ichi shake (sesame icecream, crunchy peanut butter, salted peanuts, maple syrup) £5 ensured I wouldn't need any form of dessert.

- Salmon & avocado maki (salmon, avocado, lime, tempura crumb, wasabi tobiko) £5 - an inside out roll with the typical ingredients with crumbs of tempura and a very mild wasabi caviar dip. Refreshing way to start the meal;
- King crab ramen (king crab, shiitake mushrooms, roast onions, beansprouts, spring onion, mizuna leaves, chili oil, soya marinated egg) £11 - crab claw meat with ramen that retained spring but sadly only half an egg. It was quite a salty savoury broth;
- Wagyu beef (slow-cooked wagyu beef, shiitake mushrooms, roast onions, beansprouts, spring onion, mizuna leaves, chili oil, soya marinated egg) £11 - essentially soy-flavoured pulled beef with the identical same as above. Do they use the same meat broth for both the ramens?

Overall it was a nice meal and adds ramen to the Chinatown armoury. I do prefer the thick pork tonkotsu that is available at nearby Kanada-Ya or Bone Daddies. But it's good to mix things up a bit.

A.Wong, London 11-2017

This is probably the highest rising restaurant in town at the moment complete with a recent Michelin star. London has generally been quite poor in Asian food for me however the high end places seem to have good offerings. The now closed HKK was my first taste of this finer cuisine in London many years ago and I hoped A. Wong would be the second.

Bookings were essential on Thursday night at 5.30pm before watching Big Fish The Musical closeby. Unbooked hopers were turned away even at that early time. It was an excuse to explore the dining scene of Victoria which I'm sure benefits from shows like this and Wicked and Hamilton bringing crowds nearly every day.

- A. Wong dim sum basket £6 - the signature selection of har kau (topped with a prawn foam), sui mai and xiao long bao. Each morsel was small and tasty and just not enough. The flavours were a little more refined than standard but you really are paying for presentation;
- Xian city "lamb burger" with sesame, coriander & chilli £12 - the first sharing dish was a winner. Again a bit expensive but you create your own little sweet bun burgers with lamb and condiments. There's enough filling for 4 buns and it would be much better if they provided this as such;
- Crispy duck: Mrs. Chow's pancakes & plum sauce £12.95 - the second sharing dish was a bigger winner. A duck leg is mashed up and provides the typical fillings for peking duck with five spice salt and pickles. There were 6 pancakes (from memory) and a brush to paint the flavours on. Another table received a second helping of pancakes but I'm sure if this is to order or not. We certainly didn't have any extra brought to us and had enough ingredients to fill another 2-4;
- Dong Po slow braised Blyth burgh pork belly £10 - strong flavours but overall a bit too fatty for me. The thin shreds of meat in between the fat were very soft but the amount of wasted fat (I have my limits) was a bit sore. The sauce was excellent with the rice;
- Yunnan wild mushroom, truffles & red date casserole £10 - another dish of flavoursome sauce (was there a tiny bit of truffle flavour?) with a tofu skin cracked over the top;
- Crab & seafood filled in braised leaves, shallot powder, cockles £10 - a Chinese cabbage leaf was circled and topped with a collection of seafood and crab meat. It made it difficult to eat as once you bite through the base, the toppings all fall away. It was mild and clearly flavoured by fish and cockles;
- Egg fried rice £3.5 - a generous serve of fried rice to mop up all the sauces. Adding the salty chilli oils lifted this to another level and a dish on its own.

The food is well executed and the presentation and art are clearly designed to be different and a more interactive experience than the standard mess of Chinese restaurants or the other end of high end expensive versions. This is food designed to be cool with decent flavours (and prices) to match. Similar to many of these institutes more skewed towards the Western palate, the chilli needs a better kick. But it'll do for now for a special occasion. I wouldn't necessarily advocate it before 7.30pm theatre starts as you may feel a bit rushed even with a 5.30pm dinner, but if you are comfortable ordering and eating fast and don't expect to wait in line to pickup tickets (they are all pretty fast these days to enter anyway) then give it a shot.

AWong Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Xu, London 12-2017

After successfully avoiding eating at Bao for the past couple of years due to not wanting to wait in line and finding other things to eat at Netil Market, I instead made it to Xu. I wanted yum cha and several Sundays ago discovered Xu isn't open that day of the week. The nicely coloured green and brown do make it look nicer than what could be construed as a tacky faux-Chinese interior, and it is helped by the food and attentive service. Interestingly I didn't see any Chinese wait staff despite being in Chinatown and a Taiwanese brand.

My disappointment was slight when I realised the menu is far from yum cha. But at least allayed quickly by the quality of the food.

- Tomato & smoked eel (with soy dried daikon) £5.5 - sweet tomato with a tiny amount of eel in chilli oil;
- Xian bing pan fried dumpling (pork, chilli vinegar dip) £6 - a large fried dumpling with mild savoury mince inside;
- Taro dumpling (Taiwanese sausage) £6 - beautiful thick gelatinous textured skin was the most exciting feature and so good I don't quite remember the filling;
- Chilli egg drop crab (white & brown crab meat with salmon roe, egg drop sauce, red chilli, fermented shrimp & garlic) £16.5 - a refined version of chilli crab with strings of meat mixed in a chilli tomato egg sauce that would be perfect with any kind of noodles or rice;
- Xu's mapo tofu (silken tofu with mapo sauce made using green Sichuan peppercorns from Yunnan) £11.5 - silken tofu on top of regular tofu with a sauce that was more reminscent of salty XO sauce. Different to the usual versions and excellent;
- Mushroom glutinous rice (wrapped in magnolia leaf, salted duck egg yolk) £7 - a surprisingly mild mushroom flavoured rice with a thick stick-in-your-teeth duck egg that wasn't very salty;
- Lardo lard onion rice £3.75 - good flavoured rice with strips of pork fat adding extra savouriness.

The Iberico pork char siu looked fantastic and I would be certain to order that next time.

This was a refined (and more expensive) version of classic dishes spanning the cuisines of China. The cooking and flavours are excellent. You just have to be prepared to pay for the experience.

XU Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato