Arnold's Restaurant, Cape Town 10-2019

South Africa is known for braai and meat particularly. One of the things I longed for but never had the opportunity to during the safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania in 2013 was trying game meats. They just weren't offered at the places we went.

There's a few places offering such things in Cape Town - Arnold's, Mama Africa, Karibu, Mama Africa, Gold, Marco's seem to be the names I found online.

Arnold's was extremely close to our accommodation off Kloof Street and so the easy choice for the first night dinner.

- Ostrich goulash soup (slow cooked ostrich, carrots, peppers) R55 - too heavy on the salt, but meaty and flavoursome. It wasn't the most tender meat, but otherwise couldn't be distinguished from beef;
- West Coast mussels (creamy garlic & white wine sauce) R65 - a waste of time. Tiny mussels that looked old and had no flavour and a soft mushy texture. The sauce also needed a good dose of salt and pepper;
- South African Game Platter R249 - grilled warthog ribs (smoked, flame grilled, lightly basted) were a lean meaty version of pork ribs cooked with a sweetened barbecue sauce similar to a ham glaze; crocodile tagine (mild Moroccan style sweet & sour curry-based) were tender pieces of meat, moreso than I've had from crocodile previously with earthy spices; kudu loin (grilled, rolled in cumin & salt) is a type of antelope with the medium-rare meat grainy but a mild game/beef-type flavour; ostrich steak was a very tender piece of meat with a very mild flavour to it, similar to beef eye fillet with the grilled and green peppercorn flavour coming through.

The best part of the meal was easily the unexpectedly tender ostrich steak. Although not the strongest in flavour, it tasted nice and was a dining revelation.

Arnolds Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Unframed Ice Cream, Cape Town 10-2019

After late-lunching at Hudsons The Burger Joint, a short walk away is Unframed. The open front store with the convenient engraved seating outside in the sun provides a perfect atmosphere to people watch, get asked for money, and listen to the hiphop blasting from the store.

There are a few usual flavours like salted caramel, vanilla but no nut ones sadly. There are also some very unusual ones like lime lemon basil (tastes like a granita) and the two I tried at R38 for a one scoop cone - strawberry coconut (quite sweet with only the tiniest bit of coconut) and turmeric latte (a fluoro yellow offering with a little bit of sweet, a lot of turmeric, and how the latte form does taste). I didn't like the strawberry but I did so the turmeric, although the flavour got a bit much in the end. Maybe it's more the colour and novelty factor.

These vegan ones were texturally quite slick and gummy. Not sure how they did it, but it was ok. Different.

If I went back it would be for a non-vegan one.

Addon 10-2019

I found by chance Unframed at the V&A food market. This time they had flavours that appealed to me more, including a potent vegan matcha and a perfectly coloured and reasonably strong flavoured bronte "just pistachio". A couple of ice crystals were present but that's nitpicking. These were really excellent in flavour and texture otherwise.

Unframed Ice Cream Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hudsons The Burger Joint, Cape Town 10-2019

Wandering down Kloof Street looking for a late 4pm lunch meant being followed by young males constantly asking for money or food. It didn't seem threatening at all, just repetitively one after the other. It's definitely a sad state to see in amongst the more affluent (mostly locals I think from the accents) eating at the nicely urbanised places lining the streets - burgers, NYC pizza, gelato, vegan etc.

Eventually we settled on the burger place with it's very cool funky disco classics (some of them modernised), football on TV, and all-round happy vibes.

They offer 180g or 250g patties. 250g is rather large sounding so went for the smaller one. Interestingly their Beyond Meat patty (ie. vegan) is much more expensive to choose.

- The Rockafella (free range beef patty, Swiss cheese, pulled pork, grilled pineapple, fried egg) R99 - an excellent combination of flavours from the charred beef, the tangy warm pineapple and the slightly sweet pork. Although advertised as medium-rare, the beef was much closer to medium/medium-well sadly. It had also been shaped lopsided so one end was much thicker. It was nice with more grill flavour than beef per se;
- Skin-on fries R27 - nice soft texture on the inside, could have been much crisper on the outside. Decent with the homemade peri peri sauce on the table;
- The Influencer (Cajun crumbed schnitzel, rocket, vegan mayo, vegan mozzarella, tomato, grilled pineapple, pickled red cabbage, house pickles) R88 - I think the schnitzel was a very very thin seitan and the width did mean the flavour was mostly fried batter (which was ok). Could have used much more spicing in it I think;
- Avo fries with sweet chilli sauce R45 - avocado thick wedges crumbed and deepfried. A rich taste and texture with the perfect amount of ripeness to be soft and have some flavour, and not too soft to liquify and fall apart. Excellent.

Definitely not the best burger I've had and would not expect it to be the best around. Maybe with the thicker patty and cooked better it would be elevated much higher. If I did return, there would definitely be avo fries on the side though.

Hudsons The Burger Joint Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Norma, London 09-2019

Another new opening in London and this one representing the food of Sicily. It's on my Mediterranean to-do list, but up until that point I'll have to settle for this gourmet restaurant. I was lucky enough to be there for the soft opening, otherwise the prices are definitely on the high side. And the cocktails were around the £12-14 mark to match. Oh well.

I perused the menu and was thrilled to come across raw red prawns. Could they be as good as the remarkable red prawn from Denia? ( I would have to find out.

- Red prawns, rosemary, orange £15 - the highlight of the meal was a soft creamy thing with strong brains in the head. Perfect and excellent;
- Cherrystone clam, saffron, shallot pickle £4ea - they had some huge clams on view but we were served moderate sized ones. These were quite strong (a lot of the liquid had been drained I think) and there was a bit of chew to them. Good but not as much as the ones at Richard Haward in Borough;
- West Mersea oyster, salted capers, fennel oil £4.5ea - this time I preferred the oyster to clam topped with some capers that accentuated the flavour rather than to over-salinise it;
- Saffron arancini, wild mushrooms, parmesan £11 - a perfectly cooked crisp golden sphere of mushroom goodness;
- Panfried violet artichokes, pine nut puree £10 - the artichokes were soft and presented almost like lamb cutlets. The slight char was nice. The puree was ok although I had to look at the menu to see what the base was (pine nut flavour wasn't that strong);
- Norma aubergine parmigiana £18 - a decent serve of very lightly seasoned but very flavoursome grilled vegetables and topped with cheese and on a bechamel (or similar) sauce. Like a lasagna almost;
- Rose veal chop, black cabbage with lemon and anchovy marsala sauce £31 - cooked to a nice medium-rare pink, the meat was reasonably soft and tender and full of flavour and juice. The cavolo nero had been a bit overwilted and too salty though;
- Slow-cooked cherries, almond milk pannacotta, cherry sorbet £8 - refreshing with an excellent pannacotta for taste and texture;
- Norma house sundae (honey gelato, orange flower water, slow cooked figs, ricotta, raisins) £8 - a mix of textures and flavours which was alright, but a bit confused I thought.

The prawns lived up to my hopes. The other things accompanied well. It would be expensive to go back. I'll have to consider.

Morito, London 08-2019

When a vegan friend visited from Australia, I thought Berber & Q (or Shawarma Bar) would be a good bet particularly for the roast cauliflower. However her veganism was going to be thankfully more liberal during the trip and so suddenly the options opened up. Oddly enough Shawarma Bar still ended up being chosen due to proximity and mixed options. However sadly for a non-reservations place, on this Thursday at 8pm the wait for 3 was going to be at least 1 hour.

Hmmm. The only other things along Exmouth Market on my list are Moro/Morito. After quickly scanning the street for not much and seeing that those two places were also very full, I thought I'd try my luck for the wait at Morito. There was a table right at the back available. How perfect is that.

The Moorish/African-inspired tapas reads wonderfully with so many great options to share. Between 3 reasonably hungry people, 6 dishes was enough with plenty of satisfaction.

- Flatbread £2.5 - wispy bread perfect for scooping up EVOO, the spice mixes (salt, za'atar, sumac, mild chilli);
- Spiced lamb, aubergine, pomegranate, pine nuts £8.5 - a beautiful classic mix of flavours and colours on a plate of aubergine yoghurt;
- Croquetas (salt cod) £3.25 each - shell flavour was nice but only mildly crisp. Insides were ok. The ones in Lisbon were a lot better;
- Octopus & pisto £9.5 - tender pieces of grilled octopus on stewed vegetables;
- Chicharrones (slow roasted pork belly, lemon, cumin) £8 - wow this was phenomenal. Crisp skin, not too much leftover fat, warming earthy flavours, outstanding. Picked by the vegan and adored the most;
- Crispy aubergine, whipped feta, date molasses £8 - soft aubergine chips charred and topped with an unusual feta sauce and mint.

Excellent dishes, all good flavours, showing the perfect Spanish and Middle Eastern crossover.

Morito Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Smoking Goat, London 08-2019

Smoking Goat has been on my London eating list for a very long time. Time passed by and so did the closing of the original restaurant in Soho, including my missing out on free offer of fish sauce chicken wings to the lucky last. It took a late night birthday to end up here and without a reservation the wait for 2 at 8.45pm on a Sunday bank holiday was only 20-30mins. Not too bad I say.

I've missed decent modern Thai food and in my mind the benchmark is still Longrain ( I wonder if Nahm Bangkok will compare, but that's a while away and Nahm London didn't excite me.

It's a pretty busy place on the corner of Shoreditch High Street. Sitting at the bar allowed us to watch the 2 bartenders mixing drinks and serving ice cream. The staff are attentive, friendly and pleasant. Unfortunately despite the name, there was no goat on the menu. I know Soho had it on the normal menu and I thought this branch had it (or used to) on the banquet menu. The waitress said something about the menu changing regularly and the quality of goat at the moment. Not sure.

Drinks were Sorrow, Tears & Blood £4.5 described as Bloody Mary with beer. Gee that tasted bad. Each to their own. Celestial Blues (mezcal, lychee, butterfly pea flower, egg white) £9.5 was pleasant but there wasn't much smokiness in the drink. I think I'd go for the rum cocktails next time.

- Steamed oyster, roasted chilli, fried shallots £3.5 each - this dish is a serious waste of time. The oyster was so small there was no oyster flavour and barely any texture. It was smothered in fried shallots and the taste was this alone;
- Smoked aubergine salad with chilli & egg £6.8 - lots of bird's eye chillies dotted the plate with pieces of charred aubergine flesh creating a slightly smokey salad in a fish sauce base. You could choose how much fire you wanted from how many pieces of chilli to chew on;
- Smoked brisket & bone marrow massaman curry £14.5 - a remarkably excellent curry full of deep savoury flavour, although it could have used more brisket. The presence of smoked chillies also helped the flavour along;
- Smoked lamb ribs with pickles £24 - delicious lamb ribs (a bit fatty but not excessive) with reasonably crisp skin, extremely soft meat and littered with herbs, jalapeños, bird's eye chillis and some smoked chilli;
- Sticky rice £1.25 each - sticky rice but plain. I thought it may have some coconut or pandan, but I suppose not for that price;
- Coconut ice cream, plantain, lime & condensed milk £4.5 - two thick creamy coconut icecream balls sat on condensed milk with lime squeezed and plantain chips on top. I didn't like the chips that much, but the other 3 ingredients were harmonious.

Altogether other than the oysters, it was an excellent meal full of flavour and left me wanting to come back. I particularly liked their smoked interpretation of Thai food and the different types of (particularly Mexican) chillies in the dishes. I definitely need to try the fish sauce chicken wings next time and the lamb laab. I can't wait.

Smoking Goat Shoreditch Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Chaya & Cacao, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

After the disappointment of Lola Valentina ( I was searching for another brunch place and found Chaya & Cacao. It's a nice unassuming but also hipster looking place with a coffee bar, an inside dining area, and a semi-covered outback with plants around. I also liked the sign "taco dirty to me..."

Points for humour and innuendo there.

Sweet Green smoothie (avocado, date, chaya, soy) 90pesos was cheaper and better than Lola's one with the date bringing out the sweetness of the other ingredients nicely. And the food was a world apart also.

- Mayan falafel bowl (chickpeas, beetroot hummus, green tomato pico de gallo, tahini, cucumber, pickled veggies, mixed greens, mixed seeds) 165pesos - look at the beautiful colours of that plate. Simply a stunning dish with all the Middle Eastern delights with a slightly Mexican tinge. The falafels themselves aren't the best I've had as they could have been a bit crunchier, but those are minor complaints. If only I had some flatbreads to crush them into...;
- Matcha hotcakes (nut milk, flax, green tea, cacao, coconut, maple syrup) 155pesos - a thick good stack of pancakes with colour although not really matcha flavour in it. Nonetheless they were quite good and soaked up the maple well. But honestly I couldn't get past the falafel bowl.

Brilliant brunch. Would love to go back.

Restaurant Mandinga, Cancun 07-2019

After taking the ferry back from Isla Mujeres, we walked past all the (overpriced) taxis waiting to look for food. Strangely enough there weren't many along the main road at all (which I thought there was from Google maps) and it wasn't until basically at the old Puerto Juarez port that we found Mandinga. There were no tourists here - there's no reason for tourists to venture this far out. And even though it's beachfront, the prices were very reasonable.

We sat in for our last meal in Mexico and it was definitely a good one.

A couple of complimentary fish pastries came out. Then our chosen dishes of seafood soup and seafood rice (approx. 100-200pesos). The rice was the more potent flavoured one, with strong seafood and salt coming through. It was actually very similar to those found in Portugal and Spain, both in terms of style and taste.

We struggled through bits of seafood, admired the beach one last time, and then took a slightly less overpriced taxi to the airport.

Goodbye Mexico.

La Lomita, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

For the last dinner in Isla Mujeres, it was just a small one. A little further away from the main hub along the north of Isla Mujeres, La Lomita was a little place serving Mexican.

My friend had a "Swiss" style burrito which was oddly (and unexpectedly for him) topped with cheese.

We stayed with the more predictable Ceviche mixto (white fish, shells, octopus, shrimp) 200pesos which was fine.

Los Burritos, Isla Mujeres 07-2019

For an evening dinner after watching a stunning sunset along Playa Norte, I couldn't decide where to go. We knew we weren't all too hungry and didn't want to spend a long time out since it had been a long day and was already past 9pm. I remember seeing a burrito place on the walk back home and so sought it out, after discovering that the food stalls in the plaza weren't very appealing to us.

I do like a good kebab/spit and so seeing this pork with discernible pieces rotating under a pineapple was music to my eyes.

It was also one of the few places that had guacamole.

- Guacamole (avocado, salt, pepper) 70pesos - a thick chunky form (not creamy) served with blue corn chips. Definitely not the best guac I've had, but it did nicely;
- Alambres pastor (250g of pork spit, pepper, onion, cheese) 100pesos - I really really enjoyed this meal of pork slices mixed with vegetables and topped with cheese. Tortillas, some raw onion salad and sauced topped with lime wedges made for a DIY taco experience. It was wonderful.

A large horchata washed down the hot sauce. One of my favourite fun meals.