Stazei Meli, Corfu 09-2019

Other than searching out gelato, there was only one dessert place in Corfu Town I wanted to try - the local place for loukoumades. These little fried donut balls can be so delicious sometimes, hot and soft, with a sweetness to bring in the night. Stazei Meli is also a place for breakfast, so I suppose it is an any time of day type food here.

After a walk through the barmy evening night-lit streets up and away from the port area, we joined other happy people for a sweet end (or maybe beginning even) to the day.

There are many different combinations to try and the smell of fried dough is in the air.

We did just have a big dinner, but I don't know still how others can eat 6 of these to themselves. It's much better value (not that it is anywhere near expensive anyway) but we chose variety over quantity.

Vegan (fig jam & pistachio) €2.6 for 3 and Chocolate & Fruits (dark chocolate, banana) €2.8 for 3 were our choice. The balls were warm and soft, although I admit I did expect more flavour from the dough itself. The fig jam was ok but not my favourite, which is unusual because figs are so local here and pistachios were my choice too. The banana and dark chocolate was a more standard combination and I preferred this.

I was very stuffed by the end, and a little disappointed if I'm being honest. Maybe I just had too high expectations. I'd still come back again when less full.

To Alatopipero, Corfu 09-2019

During this relatively quite weekend in September, one of the few restaurants that seemed to be flowing with guests was To Alatopipero. It had been recommended by my Airbnb host as somewhere for local food, so either was that good or had somehow similarly made it to everyone else's list. We walked in off the alley and I thought it looked quite empty. Then out the front entrance to the pedestrian courtyard seating area and it clicked - that's where everyone was, enjoying the warm autumn evening with a few street singers passing through also.

It was the last chance to try some local Corfiot cuisine.

- Handmade cheese pie €4 - cheese pies were actually deepfried pastries with very tasty feta inside. There were an unexpectedly high number of these for the price and almost difficult to finish them all. But I persevered;
- Sofrito €8.5 - quite plain in flavour with the meat not very tender and thin. Fries well seasoned with oregano;
- Pastisada (cockerel) €8.5 - chicken a bit dry but better than the sofrito. Nice flavour. Penne was ok but not al dente. I think the veal version at Bakalogatos was better.

A complimentary dessert was brought out too as a nice touch to finish. But I wanted to go for the loukoumades (at Stazei Meli) anyway.

Overall I thought the food was a little disappointing. It did have a good atmosphere to try to make up for it.

Bakalogatos, Corfu 09-2019

I was wandering through the streets looking for some lunch inspiration. I walked past the incessantly closed Soflaki, and also O Berdes (which was on my list) and To Alatopipero (recommended by my Airbnb host). But this didn't seem open just yet either. Around the corner just before the exit to the harbour side, I found a nice menu with a pleasant outdoor seating area here. The Greek name is Μπακαλόγατος.

So far I was yet to try and of the traditional Corfiot dishes - pastitsada, sofrito, stifado.

Pastitsada €9.5 was essentially spaghetti with a red sauce. Pasta was cooked through and not al dente. The sauce had an excellent earthy flavour, although the meat itself was not the most tender. But it certainly looked and tasted delicious, and such an excellent comfort food.

Yum.

Taverna Ninos, Corfu 09-2019

Ask anyone and read any food guide for Corfu Town, and Ninos will feature. Even when I checked in and asked for recommendations, the Airbnb host suggested it for traditional dishes and for gyros also. It seemed a good place to start my food return to Greece.

It's a very popular place with people queueing for takeaway. The meat on the spit actually looks remarkably good, and a far cry from the uniform meat paste that is common (moreso in Turkish places). I had also read the red sauce was a local Corfu thing and elevated it to the next level.

With enthusiasm I ordered the ridiculously cheap €2.5 gyros with pitta. After it arrived I had to ask for the red sauce; "oh you want the red sauce" - yeah, of course. I'm not sure what the red sauce is - tomato and maybe meat juice. I expected a bit of chilli from what I thought I had read, but there wasn't any. Pork meat was ok. I thought it was decent, but can't be the best. Unfortunately it was difficult to find another well rated place in town for it. I did go back again one more time for lunch a couple of days later (because Gia was closed) and thought the meat flavour was better that time. It's good overall, I have to admit.

Also on the first night I had saganaki €4, which was a deliciously salty and squeaky cheese perfectly grilled. It was tough having that all to myself, but someone had to do it.

Gia Souvlaki, Corfu 09-2019

After trying Nino and wanting another to compare, finding a good gyro was actually much more difficult than expected in Greece. I tried to go to Pitta Pappou but the staff pretended I didn't exist when I stood in the door trying to speak to someone. There was also Soflaki in an alleyway but it was closed every single time I went past (which was quite often).

Although not really a gyro place, gia has skewers and rotisserie chicken. I didn't have the stomach space to eat everything, but they were kind enough to cut off a piece of the chicken for me to try. Really delicious. I would go for that (kontosouvli) next time there.

Instead of this occasion I tried the Mix souvlaki €7. Chicken kebab was very tender but less flavour than the spit version. Pork skewer was nicely charred and had decent flavour. Sausage pork was quite salty but alright.

Cheap prices and friendly people. I would definitely have gone back if they weren't closed on the Sunday that I tried.

Solo Gelato, Corfu 09-2019

After a large quantity of gelato from Papagiorgis, I walked into Solo to look around and compare. Even though I couldn't stomach another one, I made a mental note that the place looked authentic with silver tins (albeit open).

I went back the next day to try it and even though it was more expensive for a smaller amount (but easily enough for 1), it was clearly a superior product and good enough for me to return the following day too.

The mango sorbet was thick and tangy. The pistachio was hidden underneath (don't know why considering they advertise they use Sicilian pistachios) and had a good colour and reasonably good flavour. It costs 0.5€ extra for one of those thick chocolate sticks which was pretty unnecessary in the end. They also tried to put liquid chocolate on top, to which I said no. I have to say that probably downgrades their product a little even offering it.

I tried the chocolate the next day (with pistachio again) and that was pretty good too.

Papagiorgis Patiserie-Gelateria, Corfu 09-2019

The most famous and busy gelato place in Corfu is this old one. It's also located along the main thoroughfare which certainly helps too. Other than a well staffed gelato area, there are also cakes which I didn't try but looked very nice.

The gelato is an extremely generous serve. The £1.70 cone with 1 scoop (they let me have 2x 1/2 scoops) is a huge amount with gelato stuffed in all through the cone. I tried the dark chocolate which was thick and good, but the pistachio was pale, weak and a waste of time unfortunately.

If you want only gelato, go to Solo around the corner.

Etles, London 09-2019

After searching for several years and failing to find a decently rated Uyghur restaurant in London, suddenly there were two. I had read about Silk Road but it sounded like a Chinese restaurant that had Uyghur dishes rather than an Uyghur restaurant itself. Chance would have it that I would come across this article by Fuchsia Dunlop, the UK chef who allowed me to cook Sichuan food at home. And good fortune means that I trust her reviews for all things around here (https://london.eater.com/2018/2/22/17039556/etles-london-first-authentic-uyghur-restaurant).

Etles in Walthamstow and Dilara in Finsbury Park shot to the top of the to-try list. Etles was the first one for me and we went with friends of whom one is from Yili, the same town in Xinjiang as the owners/chefs of Etles.

- Da pan ji (chicken, bell peppers, potatoes, garlic, ginger, soya sauce, herbs, homemade pasta) £30 for big plate - mild flavour, quite nice;
- Lagman (freshly handmade Uyghur pasta, stirfried beef) £9 - also mild flavour and probably needed more spice for me;
- Uyghur sis kabab (lamb marinated with special recipe) £2 each - delicious tender and fatty proper lamb kebab with lots of salt and cumin;
- Lamb kidney kebab £4 each - really good with a characteristic kidney texture and flavour. Delicious.

Unfortunately they didn't have polo (rice) that day. I also read they had samsa but it wasn't on the menu, and I was really keen for this after the great Uzbek food in Russia. They didn't mention it - until I saw another table receive them at the end of our meal - oh, it isn't on the menu but you can ask for it. Alright, give me one. Sorry, they ordered the last ones. Great.

I liked the food overall. Both kebabs had the most flavour, but all dishes were good to me. Our friends said that the kebab was better at Etles, but the other dishes were better at Dilara. I'll have to compare them myself.

Butcher Boys Prime Steakhouse, Umhlanga 10-2019

The final dinner of the trip was a choice between TA #1 The Grill Room at our lovely The Oyster Box Hotel or Butcher Boys. Looking at the menus, both had promising options. Butcher Boys won out for two reasons in the end - the prices are cheaper and they had ostrich steak. As much as I like a good beef, it's pretty easy to access that in many places of the world (albeit agreeably not necessarily at those cheap prices). But ostrich steak is much harder to find and after the great one at Arnold's (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/arnolds-restaurant-cape-town-10-2019) I was keen to have it again.

It was only a short safe 3 minute walk from the hotel and it did make me think it would have been nice to explore Umhlanga a little more during our time there. But next time instead then.

- Butcher Boys beef spare ribs 400g R165 + R5 to upgrade fries to the Butchers Boys type - thinner bones than I expected for beef and glazed with a sweet glaze. It was very nice. Honestly I thought they may have given us (big) pork ribs by accident, but they said it was beef. The BB fries upgrade meant adding garlic and parsley. The distribution wasn't very good and just sprinkled on the middle fries. The fries themselves were also nice in taste but average in texture and completely lacking crispness which was disappointing;
- Ostrich fillet steak R200 - I requested it rare and they cooked 2 of the medallions perfectly rare with a warm core. Interestingly the 3rd medallion was medium rare and that was much more tender to cut than the rare ones, which were tougher and chewier. Arnold's ostrich was medium rare too, so that must be the way to go for this meat. The flavour was a again similar to beef (as the standard comparison) just with a slightly different edge to the flavour. I did enjoy it. The mielie pap was a dense sort-of mash with bits of corn. They were served with a tomato relish (great for the pap) and a blueberry sauce (good for the ostrich);
- Garden salad R65 - simple, undressed accompaniment.

Overall a good meal. I have to order medium rare for my ostrich next time.

Butcher Boys Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Test Kitchen, Cape Town 10-2019

It was lucky that the October reservations for The Test Kitchen only came out in September. It gave me plenty of (last minute) time to read about where I wanted to eat in Cape Town and decide if it was worth paying the R2250 + 12% service to go to The Test Kitchen. The alternative would have been to try The Pot Luck Club, and in hindsight maybe I should have tried both. But there were other food places in Cape Town I liked the sound of and food there is otherwise relatively cheap.

When the bookings were released, I (like many others I'm sure) quickly logged in. I had hoped for an early session but somehow after nabbing one, it got taken and left me with 8pm. Oh well - that's not too bad. Actually since the sunset was around 7pm in October, 8pm worked out really well. It gave us plenty of time to return home after the drive to Franschhoek and more time to digest the large lunch and cheese platter from the afternoon.

This developed section of Woodstock is really quite nice. I've read the surrounding streets are not safe (in the evenings), so it would have been nice to come back during the day or even to the development area in the evening for a more relaxing night. There are security there and also designated door people from the restaurants to keep order and safety. It really is well organised.

Immediately upon entering the industrial and relatively indistinct door, there is the dark room. Dark it is indeed with eyes needing to adjust to see the lovely artwork and sketchings in the walls. After a brief hello and introduction, it is immediately onto welcome drinks and a tour of the world starters.

Sour (lapsang souchong old fashioned) was mildly sour, a bit smoky and very nice. Bitter (num-num & rose) was only mildly bitter, a bit sweet and also very nice.

The Dark Room
- Scotland: Billionaires - chicken liver parfait, porcini mushroom and truffle jelly, topped with 24 carat gold. The standout dish from the San Pellegrino website and it was pretty good I must say, if you like/don't mind the liver taste;
- Korea: Ssamjang Veg - marmite crackers and porcini dust are mixed into ssamjang paste of fermented soy beans. Raw micro vegetables are the vessels to eat it. An excellent delicious umami dip to eat tiny beetroot, carrot, cauliflower etc.;
- England: Pork Scratchings - pork scratchings with vinegar and celeriac dust to dip into a foam of Guinness flour;
- USA: Morel Burger - the world's smallest slider made of a morel mushroom patty. Not bad, could have been stronger flavoured;
- Ethiopia: Berbere Curry & Sheep Amasi - very crispy berbere cracker made from sorghum. Topped with shredded lamb. I could eat these all day long. Sheep cheese amasi (fermented) had a mild flavour unexpectedly;
- Mauritius: Coconut langoustine - langoustine piece with coriander paste, shellfish oil and fried curry leaves. Nice;
- India: Tandoori - perfectly textured swordfish on some slightly smoking coals, topped with cucumber, angel hair chilli, jalapeno. It was warm with a strong flavour and crunchy texture peanut salsa. Excellent morsel.

Then it was through the door with a secret knock into the more conventional The Light Room. We were offered the bar or a standard table, and the bar was the atmospheric place to be in front of the kitchen and with some overly exuberant Americans to the side, 2 having a domestic argument over wine, and an older 2 constantly proclaiming it's the best meal they've ever had (they had left by the time I took my photo of the room).

The Light Room
- Sword Belly "Greek Salad" - light and juicy swordfish served with pickled tomato, olive ice, skordalia dip and feta;
- TTK Lobster Salad, Coconut, Thai Aromatics - possibly my favourite dish with a perfectly balanced flavour profile. Poached lobster served with kalamansi caviar (for the sourness), coconut ice, coconut flesh scooped into little balls, chilli, shredded kaffir lime, and tiny basil and perilla. Drizzled with lobster oil and a nam pla dressing. Simply perfect;
- bread - sage beurre noisette glazed bread with snoek butter. Very soft and buttery bread and very mildly smoked fish flavour to the butter;
- Butterfish Bibimbap - teriyaki butterfish which was very soft and served with 3 types of kimchi vegetables, masterstock caviar, mushrooms and sushi rice. Very good to mix all around although I feel like gochujang is needed for true bibimbap;
- Sundy Roast - red wood smoked beef didn't make the flavour smoky but lightly accentuated beef tartare flavour. It was very soft and tender chunks of meat, horseradish cream and celery dust;
or daily special of Beef Sweetbread - pancetta wrapped sweetbread with walnut port jus. I'm not sure which sweetbread it was but they said it was beef. The texture was very creamy and soft (like brain, but it wasn't brain);
- Butter Poached Kingklip, Chestnut Jam, Snoek Extraction - kingklip fish with an excellent tempura cabbage on top. Served with snoek fish stock and a side of saffron mash;
or "Pap En Vleis" - local South African specialty Karoo lamb with a bolognese sauce. Full of flavour. Lamb was ok for tenderness, could have been more so;
- Rabbit & Ham in Two Servings - soft pork belly skin although the skin wasn't that crisp, cooked until only a thin fat layer remained. Tender rabbit rolls and celeriac foam. Served with a strong meaty sauce with rabbit chunks and topped with another micro vegetable.

Desserts from Light to Dark
- Rhubarb Trifle, Elderflower, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose & Mascarpone - very wine-y flavour and light;
- Pear, Jerusalem, Bourbon Oak, Pine, Sheep's Milk, Espresso - lovely poached pear, pistachio crumb and bourbon ice cream;
- Petit fours 1 - foie gras jam donut, crushed peanut snow and dessert wine
- Petit fours 2 - a tiny trifle to bring the meal back full circle to the box.

There was a creative non-alcohol drinks option of Tea Pairing for R500. Each was served in a wine glass and cold. They all had nice light flavours, a bit of fruity, a bit of sweet, and complemented the food well.

I thought the meal was creative, balanced and overall good, with some definite standout dishes (for me the ssamjang veg, lobster salad in particular). My partner thought it was outstanding. I'm glad we went and experienced one of the best restaurants in the world. I don't feel the need to return though and would do to The Pot Luck Club next time in Cape Town.

The Test Kitchen Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato