Depo Moscow and Batman & Uzbeks, Moscow 06-2019

I read about this food hall in the Aeroflot plane magazine and I'm glad I did. Otherwise I would have had no idea it existed. It's a large venue with food stalls all over the place and minimal English to be found. Luckily after strolling through the entire place, I came across a map that directed me to the Uzbek stall I was interested in and past many others too. The Azeri place was closed for some reason, but no matter, there were plenty of choices.

Batman & Uzbeks was a revelation. I have never tried this cuisine before. The samsas were outstanding pie-type pastry and some of the most delicious I have ever had. Chicken 100rub was not hot and average. But the beef 100rub and lamb 130rub both flavoursome, with the beef probably better to my surprise. Pilaf soft lamb (200g 280rub) but not much meat in my serve. It was quite sweet with onions and maybe fruit, and a mild flavour savoury. Still good overall. I didn't realise until now that this was created by the Chaihona #1 group - had I known I would have made more effort to eat at the restaurant.

I didn't expect to have Vietnamese food in Russia, but the staff were clearly Vietnamese and the prices are the cheapest we've seen (outside of Vietnam I suppose). Single nem but definitely not what nem is, but the flavour was ok. The noodle dish was served with decent nuoc mam, lots of chewy noodles, a flattened grate of charred meat that was quite good. Giant pots of noodle broth simmered in the background. Unfortunately the watered down mango drink was quite bad.

LavkaLavka, Moscow 06-2019

The most expensive meal of the trip was at a nice looking cafe type that served Russian cuisine. They like to source local ingredients and impressively pay credit to them throughout the menu. The English-speaking staff were pleasant.

I had my first taste of honey wine/beer, which was quite sweet, very nice, and not beer-ish at all (great for me).

- Borsch (with beef from Ksenia Petukhova with green onion & sour cream) 650rub - sweet with soft beef;
- Haunch of Deer (with red & black ashberry) 1050rub - I ordered rare and it was served largely medium or more. I didn't really feel like complaining, but was overcooked for my liking. Strangely also my friend ordered the same and received a bigger piece that was more medium-rare. Moderate game flavour. Ok overall. Probably should have sent it back...;
- Zander steak from 'LavkaLavka' fisherman (with chatney from vegetables) - excellent fish like cod. Good strong flaking texture held well.

There were oddly no sides or salads to pick and the mains didn't come with much either.

Dessert was a traditional 8-layer honey cake, two sorbets of blackberry and beetroot (great) and a strange herby sorrel on a fennel crumb.

The food was ok overall. For the price, I much prefer the simpler foods of Georgian. Modern Russian isn't really my thing.

Khachapuri, Moscow 06-2019

The first night of arrival into Moscow was quite late after a long commute from London. I couldn't wait to have Georgian food since my venture in St. Petersburg many years ago ( Luck would have it that the Airbnb would have a Georgian restaurant just down the quiet road.

The downstairs has a pleasant atmosphere complete with an ATM and a piano guy. The upstairs is brighter and more open. One waiter spoke reasonable English but all the staff were pleasant enough.

- Spinach pkhali 330rub - a cold ball of spinach, nuts, garlic, herbs. Takes a bit to get used to but not my cup of tea in the end;
- Classic Adjarian khachapuri (topped with raw egg regular) 320rub - bread like Turkish pide rather than the circular pizza style I've had previously. Really delicious bread, lightly salted cheese and egg runny but not completely raw;
- Khinkali - large dumplings with potato and cheese 70rub each (smooth mash, quite plain, average), mushroom 90rub each (strong mushroom with herbs, excellent), salmon 99rub each (soft salmon with herbs, more shrunken). Served with no sauces. Thick handles to pick them up and a bit undercooked inside.

A great meal to start off the trip. The kharcho or hot dishes would be on the list next time.

Solar Dos Presuntos, Lisbon 05-2019

For the final meal of the trip, we headed to a traditional place that I had read was well known. And the football guernseys, photos of celebrities and the huge number of large lobsters at the front of the shop made for a memorable welcome. When we arrived we were told there would be an hour wait or so. But another person showed up quickly and said no, it would be fine and we were seated on the first floor within 5 minutes. Very lucky!

The service is quite busy with lots of staff running around always active. We were sat near the stairs at the main bar/thoroughfare area so maybe that was why. It wasn't overly attentive service for us though and we often needed to flag someone down to ask for things.

The food is far from cheap, but still seemed reasonable overall. They aren't Cacilhas prices, that's for sure.

A series of starters lie at the table in wait and we chose the Escabeche €6.5 which were small sardines in a cure. Not bad albeit expensive.

- "Acorda" of European lobster (stew made with thin slices of bread, eggs & garlic) €29.5 - I thought the waiter described it as a stew served with bread. Then we thought he meant a sandwich with stew in it. Instead we got a stew thickened with bread topped with delicious morsels of lobster. It had been very very heavily seasoned and salted, a bit too much overall;
- Roast kid Moncao style with roast potatoes & baked rice €23.5 - I can't resist a good roast goat and this was a fine example that didn't have too much bones but simply roasted, seasoned and served with buttery potatoes. It was good.

The meal sizes are decently large and there was enough for takeaway. Part of the oddness is that they show you the meal, then serve portions onto plates for you and keep the rest to the side. You therefore also have to wait until they return to serve some more and also they may serve more than you want to eat at that point. In our case the remainders were next to us on the same table they prepare plates and cutlery and I can only imagine they must get in the way. This was to the point that while waiting for them to pack the rest for takeaway, a flustered waiter took away our remains, much to my ire. Luckily it was retrieved but it was a poor point for service.

I would return (and book in advance) as the food is actually good and there is good atmosphere. Having said that, I'm sure there are many other places in Lisbon who would serve equivalent food.

Solar dos Presuntos Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Gelato Davvero, Lisbon 05-2019

I had Davvero on my list and my brother had recommended it also. I tried the branch near the Time Out market which during the day was completely quiet. Although they did say they get much busier in the evenings when they can serve their cocktails and alcoholic gelato.

The coconut was outstanding with textured pieces of flesh, the pistachio was good, and the passionfruit (maracuja) had little seeds proving actual fruit was used and a tart flavour to balance.

Overall very good.

Gelato Davvero Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

O Cacilheiro, Lisbon 05-2019

My Portuguese friend from (near) Lisbon recommended many dishes to me, including polvo a lagareiro. I like any/all octopus dishes and I know Portugal does it extraordinarily well with my memories of it in Porto ( He said his favourite was at Solar Beirao in Cacilhas, but that really any of them were good. We weren't planning on stopping in at Cacilhas, but as we had plans to go to Costa de Caparica we had to pass through here anyway to catch the bus.

Solar Beirao isn't open on Mondays but many others are, nor is Cabrinha my other choice from reading online. In the end we settled for O Cachilheiro. Our waiter spoke English and was very friendly and even made jokes. He never asked for tips and certainly deserved one.

The food was also delicious with portions so large we had to get takeaway (for a small €0.4 fee for the boxes which is fair).

- Polvo a lagareiro €11 - beautiful serve of octopus, grilled and with the most tender flesh that required no knife pressure to slice through. Simply wonderful;
- Seafood stew (not the acorda, but can't remember the Portuguese name) - a very strongly flavoured (a bit too much salt in the end) stew rich with tomato rice and full shelled prawns, smaller peeled juicy prawns, pieces of crab, small mussels and more.

A testament to the quality of Portuguese seafood and the simple flavours they cook them with.

O Cacilheiro Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Zhang Ji, Oxford 03-2019

I didn't expect to eat Chinese food in Oxford, but after failing to get a seat at Oli's Thai, this was on the way back and looked alright filled with all mainland Chinese students.

Although some dishes are cheap, the one that interested me the most was Xinjiang Dapanji stewed chicken with potato and handmade noodles in spicy sauce £14.8. For the price it should and could definitely feed 2. However there seemed little point on getting some leftover takeaway and so on this occasion it fed 1 well. It was ok overall, the chicken had a lot of bones and the flavour didn't seem too unique. It could have had more chilli. The noodles were quite good though.

My flatmate from Xinjiang said the dish is traditional, although the fable may not be. I guess it makes a good story regardless.

I wouldn't order it again (from there). But I'm sure there are other things I would try next time.

I have to admit the service was excellent. I thought I left my book in the restaurant and the manager checked the place after closing at about 1130pm to look for me. I can only express appreciation for that.

Za'atar Bake, Oxford 03-2019

I wandered past this bakery on the way to a curry dinner and it looked interesting. I have a fondness for middle eastern food and seeing the sweet desserts on the counter meant a mental note to return. A few evenings later I made the trek to have some dinner and peacefully read a book. The owner from Palestine was serving was very friendly and took interest in explaining some menu items to me.

Naturally being a bakery with their own oven, the mannakesh baked flatbread was recommended. I went for the very simple Zaatar & Cheese (half zaatar, half cheese) £3.6 which was a medium pizza sized dish with crispy base and a fine spiced zaatar mix and mild cheese. It wasn't very salty overall (perhaps could have used a little more) but the flavours were nice. The Syrian style with minced meat and pomegranate molasses appealed also, but I didn't think I could eat that much.

The main attraction on the menu for me was the Maqloubah (traditional Palestinian dish of tender lamb shoulder, aubergine, tomato, onion, garlic, spiced rice with yoghurt and cucumber salad) £9.5. It was an earthy spiced dish pleasant with coriander and a touch of cumin. Overall excellent with soft meat and nice vegetables.

For afterwards I took home some baklavah which was different in the fast it doesn't soak in sugar syrup and is therefore much more dry. The owner (who admitted he buys them) was quite proud to show me the metal pan was completely dry underneath. He also recommended their homemade kunafeh for next time which he also said is very different to the (mainly Turkish) ones I have had.

I would definitely go back.

Dominique Ansel Bakery, London 04-2019

The inventor of the cronut and World's Best Pastry Chef 2017 has this London store that isn't the most conveniently located (ok, it isn't that far away but I don't go to Victoria very often) where the wares are on sale and display. And they all look delicious I might add. Lots of people ogle and decide what to choose and how much to spend. Funnily enough the cronuts aren't (or weren't this day) on display at the counter and so I didn't see anyone in front of me order them. Silly them.

Takeaway is cheaper than eat in (although to be honest you could probably just sit after getting your takeaway and they wouldn't mind...

The cronut £4.5 TA is designed with one flavour topping per month. For April is was topped with raspberry. The icing probably wasn't that necessary (or maybe it would be to break through and add contrast to the cronut alone) but the cronut itself was excellent. Sweet, crisp, soft insides. More donut than croissant.

I also like kouign amman £4.1 TA (affectionately known here as Dominique's Kouign Amman or DKA which is a homage to diabetic ketoacidosis) since tasting the syrup soaked delicacies in Brittany ( These were much less sweet and wet than the traditional ones but still good and more buttery than the cronuts.

Both were good, I probably prefer the cronut more.

The cakes also look delicious at between £6-8 each. I'll have to try one or two next time when my sugar levels are at a low.

Dominique Ansel Bakery Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato