Opera Tavern, London 02-2020

 I'd known about Opera Tavern since 2012 when their Iberico pork and foie gras burger made headlines. Unfortunately they don't serve that anymore, but a half price Sunday deal got me there enjoying the Spanish fare.

- Jamon & manchego croquetas £7.5;
- Courgette flower, monte enebro & blossom honey £5.5;
- Chargrilled lamb cutlet, heritage carrot, sheep ricotta & offal meatball £12;
- Skrei cod, jamon sauce, chanterelle mushrooms & pickled iberico tomato £10.5;
- Patatas bravas £4.5;
- Cantabrian anchovies on straciatella with largueta almonds £9.5.

Delhi Grill, London 01-2020

After watching the incredible Jojo Rabbit at Vue Islington, the first dinner of the New Year needed something tasty and convenient. I'd regularly walked past Delhi Grill but never been inside. It has a modern look about it amongst some of the grunge of Chapel Market - not sure if that's necessarily a good or bad omen, but I suppose in a nicer area we prefer a nicer looking place (that isn't anything near glamorous).

Inside the TVs are all playing Bollywood.

- Vegetable samosas (potato & pea) £2.95 - simple and nicely done;
- Kurkuri bhindi (fresh okra fried in crispy batter) £4.5 - fine but a bit expensive;
- Railway lamb on the bone (spicy lamb & potato slow-cooked with tamarind) £9.95 - a deep earthy delicious curry;
- Chicken biryani (marinated chicken cooked in layers of basmati rice served with raita) £9.5 - decent with a slightly milder flavour. More on the wet side, which I didn't mind but others might prefer the classic drier basmati texture;
- Garlic & chilli naan £2.75 - ok but could use more garlic and chilli.

A good local option for curry.

Delhi Grill Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hache Burger Social, London 10-2019

It has arrived - a vegan burger that tastes like meat. I would even go so far as to potentially choose this burger over a beef one (not only for ethical reasons but even taste). However the cost then becomes a factor...

I had seen the name Beyond Burger but didn't know what it meant up until now. Elements combined together to form a vegan patty to resemble the atomic structure of meat. A 50% lunch offer at Hache to promote it was all I needed to try it. After a wander around Camden and a massage, the holistic day brought us to Hache. It is otherwise a relatively expensive French gourmet burger place.

Beyond Le Fume (Beyond Meat vegan patty, grilled aubergine, smoky semidried tomatoes, Violife Cheddar, zucchini straws, Rubies in the Rubble mustard mayo, toasted ciabatta bun, presented in a smoke-filled dome) £13 full price is majestic and has it all. Theatre, taste, dripping "meat" juice and accompanying grilled smoky vegetables to help. It is wonderful and flavoursome more than I thought. It has taken over the #1 vegan meat patty burger title from the tomato-based one at Temple of Seitan/Camden (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/temple-of-seitan-london-09-2018).

Truffle fries were alright, but the truffle oil was very strong and made it all seem a bit too fake. I'll stick with the burger. At £13 and more expensive than any meat one, it takes some consideration though.

Hach Burger Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Kahani, London 10-2019

A fancy Indian restaurant in Chelsea opened by a Michelin-star chef who used to be at Tamarind. The somewhat discreet location off the main road and the prices probably mean it really is a fancy dinner place generally, which is why the offer of 50% weekday lunch came about and worked well for me. Even half price with a cocktail and service charge is not a small number - although to be fair we almost certainly over-ordered.

(Prices are before 50% discount)

- Soft shell crunchy crab with Mangalorean spices, kachumber, smoked tomato chutney £12;
- Smoked Malabar prawns marinated with fresh turmeric, coconut, curry leaves £16 - big juicy firm-texture prawns that are really excellent;
- Guinea fowl tikka, chettinad spices, smoked tomato makhni sauce, Ajwain roti £20;
- Tandoori Somerset lamb chops with Kashmiri chillies, Nagercoil clove £16;
- Lobster tail, tossed with shallots, brown garlic, crushed peppercorns £28 - nicely cooked with meat that had texture and wasn't mushy, but probably a bit expensive still and wouldn't get it again;
- Hydrabadi Biryani with Prawn, braised fragrant basmati rice, exotic spices, mint, coriander £25;
- Garlic naan £4.

The food is good, what can I say. Probably not that much better in my mind to justify a return at full price over the cheaper options (probably equal to the half price amount) as say Dishoom, but I would gladly return if the special was running again. Although at full price, I'd still have difficulty choosing it over Farzi.

Kahani Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

14 Hills, London 11-2019

Located high up on level 14 near Bank, is the newly opened 14 Hills restaurant. It is a lush area full of green and I can only imagine how many landscape people must be responsible to keeping everything alive. Even the entrance to the lift (complete with door person) has wow factor with the impressive enormous LED screen on the ceiling entrancing you while you wait.

Once upstairs, you are greeted and then we were shown to the bar. There are expectedly good views from the top, including a small part of Tower Bridge on display. The Xpress Martini sounds excellent, but not wanting to have a late night awake, I opted for The Hive (Patron silver, Olmeca blanco, Montelobos Mezcal infused with thyme, aperol, amaro montenegro, honey, fresh lime) £11.5. It was an alright drink with a bit of smoke to it. I couldn't understand the honeycomb and stirrer on top, which really seemed for art decoration but little functioning else.

We waited 30mins for the table, which I think was because they forgot about us (maybe confused us for another couple). People who arrived with and after us were already seated, and it wasn't because the place was full. It was however, their opening night and so I think a little concession needs to be made (as the food was 50% off).

The French FOH staff and the French waitress made me think they was something French about this place. And the menu confirmed there certainly was. Some good quality bread (excellent crust) with butter started things off in typical French fashion.

- Crab (white crab, crab essence, cauliflower, oscietra caviar) £17.5 - warm bits of crab meat covered by a foam. Pretty good although I would have preferred a stronger crab flavour;
- Game (pork, duck & pistachio terrine, pastry crust, brandy cherries) £14 - a cold dish with reasonable crust (given it is cold) surrounding the the meats and asparagus. Pretty good actually;
- Turbot (roasted, with cuttlefish risotto, beurre blanc) £26 - a nice fish albeit bony with a rich sauce and a thick black risotto;
- Rossini (beef fillet, mushroom duxelle, seared duck liver, toast, madeira & truffle sauce) £36 - very tender, very rare (to request) fillet, with tangy mushrooms and an excellent piece of foie gras (that didn't have a very strong liver taste). Really good dish all around.

I'm generally not one to go for French food, but the quality of cooking here was very high. It has a nice setting too if you are willing to pay those prices.

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.

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? (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/quique-dacosta-denia-09-2013). 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 (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/longrain-melbourne-01-2017). 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

Indian Accent, London 07-2019

During the (now quite long ago) trip to India, the best Indian restaurant in New Delhi was noted to be likely either Indian Accent or Varq (for modern), Dum Pukht or Bukhara (for traditional). All sounded great and in the end I chose Varq (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/varq-delhi-01-2015) and Bukhara (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/bukhara-delhi-01-2015). Indian Accent is actually #60 in The World's Top 50 restaurants for 2019 and #17 in the Asia list.

Fate would have it that several years later Indian Accent would open a London branch in the expensive curry area of Mayfair alongside Gymkhana and others I haven't been able afford yet.

Indian Accent is certainly no cheap one either, but a special occasion meant that the price would have to come second to me getting one long term place off my eating list. Interestingly enough the clientele was unexpectedly Indian for the most part. However there were also some rich obnoxious loud Greek men with their much younger females. The waiter apologised but it's not his fault some people have too much money.

The cocktail Green chilli sour (hari mirch infused tequila, lemon oleo saccharum, mezcal) £13 was perfect. A drink with decent alcohol, smoke, chilli and a bit of tart/tang for balance. Really excellent.

Amuse bouche of a cheese stuffed naan and a delicious shot of spiced pumpkin soup started proceedings.

- Tofu masala, shishito pepper, quinoa puffs £9 - for a first choice I expected a few small expensive bites, but this was a a decent size starter of tofu fried with crisp puff texture for contrast;
- Tadka hamachi, avocado, calcutta chutney £17 - hamachi (he said it was a type of tuna, but it isn't quite) served raw with pieces of pomegranate, avocado (that was too hard and underripe) and some roe. It was actually very delicious;
- Baked sea bass, amritsari masala butter, sweet corn kadhi £25 - a nicely cooked fillet spiced with masala and served on top of kind of textured mash;
- Ghee roast lamb, roomali roti pancakes, chutneys £28 - I expected a roasted joint and ended up with a DIY set of condiments for wraps. There was coriander sauce, a spicy tamarind sauce (that actually tasted more sweet like hoisin), a strong garlic one and a moderately hot green chilli. It was fun compiling it all together and the flavours were good. A hot green chilli was available for the daring;
- Black dairy dal £7.5 - unusually sweet version for what I'm used to and less creamy. Still nice;
- Wild mushroom kulcha, truffle oil drizzle £6.5 - a bread stuffed with mushrooms and with some truffle flavour. Nice but I don't think it went well with the other dishes we ordered;
- 'Aamras', mangoes, cardamom cheese cake, summer berries £11.5 - a beautiful dessert. The cheesecake wasn't as strong in cardamom as I hoped (others could taste it more) and the mango sauce was very nice;
- complimentary Doda barfi treacle tart, vanilla bean ice-cream - a moist sweet warm cake with dotted icecream on top. For our special occasion.

The food is definitely nice, well executed and presented. For the price I do think I would prefer Farzi. Nonetheless I'm happy to have been here.