Village Hotel Whiston, Liverpool 10-2020

After being put up at this hotel for a course, their attached restaurant for breakfast and I ended up going for lunch too (due to time and convenience) was the Verve Grill.

English breakfast was simple and substantial, with all the necessary bits although clearly not the highest in terms of quality. But it was included in the room so I won't complain.

Lunch was mainly a burger or wings menu. I opted for the more substantial Go Spicy burger which was a thick beef patty, Hot Pepper Jack cheese, jalapenos, salsa, guacamole. Overall it was very tasty and the thick patty better than I expected given the breakfast. Best of all was the lattice fries (it came with both lattice and normal fries too, but I asked not to have the normal ones) which were like crunchy hash browns in every fried bite.

Even more to my pleasant surprise was that they still had Eat Out To Help Out and so my £14 meal became £7.

I wouldn't go back there specifically, but if staying there again I'll eat those fries again.

Spice Village Whiston, Liverpool 10-2020

Although probably not quite in Liverpool (I'm not sure where Liverpool technically ends), I found myself staying close to Whiston. After a sunset walk through Stadt Moers park, the little shopping area of Whiston with its Tesco local became my dinner haunt. The praising reviews of Spice Village were matched by the constant flow of people picking up takeaway.

There were so many things I wanted to try, but for just one person with no refrigerator, I settled on jale jule. I asked if the naga heat for this dish was as potent as the naga I had in India (, and he reassured me not.

Their description is "A popular dish of sylhet for hot lovers. Fresh chicken tikka or lamb, mixed with onion, naga chilli, garlic, ginger, peppers, dhanya and cooked in medium dry sauce with cumin, mustard and a touch of mace. Garnished with naga and chillies." My lamb option was a tomato base with a fiery heat that started slowly then built up and left a long burn. A few times I had to stop eating to wipe my tears and let my tongue settle down, but it was delicious along with the small amount of yoghurt that I had to ask them for. Peshwari rice £2.1 had a bit of sweet flavour to it with some coconut flavour although I expected to see some dried fruit or nuts and there weren't any.

Oh well. I'll eat here again if stationed near Whiston again.

Kurdish Restaurant Real Taste, Liverpool 10-2020

After attending a course, it was time to take the train back to London. I wanted to get takeaway from YourThai but I didn't have time to stop there before departure. My other option was Mowgli street food but they wouldn't take a phone order, only if I downloaded their app which I definitely couldn't be bothered doing. Looking around the station on Google maps, I found this place and thought Kurdish is something I haven't really tried before.

The restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside - with construction poles outside and a name like Real Taste, if the reviews hadn't been so good (4.6 on Google maps) I would never have been here.

Lamb qouzi £8 came as simply flavoured lamb on the bone which was delicious, salted nicely and so very tender. It sat on top of an ample amount of ghee-flavoured rice (biryani) as well as a soft folded naan bread, salad and a large container of okra soup rich in savoury tomato broth.

Even more impressive was that the place is cash only and I only had £6.60 on me. I asked to downgrade my order but the server said not to worry and placed my full order anyway. What incredible and unexpected service in these difficult times. I will look forward to coming back here if ever in Liverpool again.

Akoko, London 10-2020

I've relatively recently discovered African food (other than Ethiopian which I've known for a little while now) and am doing my best to try it more. There's been Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Eritrean (similar to Ethiopian). Some of the latest London places have the or more generic West African, and Ikoyi has been on my very expensive list for a while now but not sure if I'll ever get there. Otherwise Chuku's, Chishuru, Sweet Hands and African Kitchen Gallery are all still waiting too.

Akoko was a new arrival, opening up in the shoulder period between lockdowns. The soft opening offered 50% off the full set menu price of £59, a bargain definitely. It did however come with several service mishaps - but I suppose you have to expect that. Our dining colleagues wanted the meal to start at 8pm instead of 7pm (which the restaurant was happy to change), and they turned up around 8.15pm. It gave limited time for the mandatory 10pm shutdown, but the restaurant thought it would be ok.

However in starting later, they suggested we order the normal or vegetarian menu so it could be commenced for their arrival. Unfortunately communication between the staff was non-existent and whereas one suggested that, another we told and look confused, then another came and asked, and another then came after our colleagues arrived to officially take the menu. Drinks (cocktails were not yet served which was disappointing but acceptable) were then asked about 8 times by 4 different people (without exaggeration) in 10 minutes. Of these requests, about 4 of them came AFTER the drinks were already ordered within a 2 minute period. And despite all that, they didn't bring out my friend's drink until being reminded later. Hmmm.

The food:

- Isu, truffles - yam topped with truffles cream and shavings. Nice;
- Boli & epa - plantain crisp with peanuts. Not that sweet for plantains (more starchy than sweet) and heavy peanut coating overpowered any other flavours;
- Veal cheeks bofrot - veal cheek meat in a fried casing. They said there were vegetables inside too but couldn't really tell. It was served on top of some kind of inedible black pulse;
- Miyan taushe, crab - pumpkin soup with little crab bits at the bottom was quite good. Guinness bread was very spongy with a rind crust and really excellent. Butter very soft could have used a little seasoning. The shoehorn device to spread the butter was fun too; 
- Smoked jollof rice & goat - I was very much looking forward to this dish and the very nicely seasoned goat was tender and slightly spicy. Jollof looked good but not seasoned and overall a bit disappointing. Garlic flowers and leaves topped the dish and were full of flavour. I suppose maybe the rice blandness was to balance the other ingredients, but I hoped for more.
- BBQ quail yassa - a tender half quail and ridiculously tasty and flavoursome. Possibly the best I've had (my only comparison being Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants). My only gripe was the quails were different sizes for each serve (and I got the smallest one!);
- Burnt uda cream, Ghanaian cocoa butter, goat milk icecream - mild goat milk icecream was very nice. It sat in a sweet boat of cream. I expected some tartness (not entirely sure why) but there was none.

If I assume that the service improves to standard professional level, I don't think I would go back for the full priced menu. I did like some of the dishes, but others seemed to lack. Maybe I need to try the others first to compare. Or alternatively if they offered a la carte, then I could pick the dishes that worked for me.

Uncle Lim's, London 10-2020

There's not much reason to go down to Croydon other than the most available and not silly expensive (thanks corporations) visa centre in London. For this reason I've ventured once per year. The first time was a quick (other than the visa process) in and out job. The second found me eating at the new Boxpark eating area next to East Croydon station. The third time was brunch at The Breakfast Club in the same area. And this most recent one was a very early dinner at Uncle Lim's at the Whitgift shopping centre.

The shopping centre doesn't look all that flash in itself, and Covid times certainly haven't helped. But Uncle Lim's was the first place we tried after lockdown opened up in June, and so coming for a second time was an easy choice.

The Malaysian auntie is lovely and the seats are only available in the corridor part of the shopping centre outside the restaurant entrance. I suppose it technically counts as takeaway? In any case the first time was on a Sunday when they would normally be closed, but since it was their first day back and re-creating all their pastes, they were only too happy to serve us.

On that occasion, the laksa and char kway teow and teh tarik were the choices. This time laksa £7.5 and har mee £7.9 were chosen. The soups were all rich and spicy and flavoursome with a good amount of chilli, and the colour of soupy dreams. Laksa uses rice noodles (would prefer mix of egg and rice) and har mee uses egg noodles. A dessert of bobo chacha was nice and sweet, although less thick than the version I'm used to from my mum.

I'd happily come back for those noodles again, probably har mee over laksa if I had to pick one as it is much harder to find in London.

Uncle Lims Kitchen Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Casa Guedes, Porto 09-2020

After a slightly underwhelming visit to the seafood part of Bolhao market, a late breakfast/early lunch for heading off toward the beach was made easier by Casa Guedes being nearby. Porto seems to have a reputation for sandwiches, others (that I didn't get to try) being the pressed hotdog cachorrinho at Gazela Cachorrinhos da Batalha.

Casa Guedes meanwhile has the pork roll €3.9 plain or €4.9 with melted goats cheese. Online reviews say to get the cheese because it keeps the bread more moist. All I can say is that it was somewhat true, but that the plain could be more moist with a little of the gravy from their serving pan. And i did prefer the simpler flavour of the plain one.

Do yourself a favour and get both. I'd want 2 for myself next time too...

Porto Cruz, Porto 09-2020

Technically in Gaia rather than Porto, this gelato shop was a little stop on the way back after a drunken tour and taste at Ferreira. Given the immediate area filled with port wineries, they are known for port flavoured gelato, although I didn't really like the thought of it and we'd probably tasted enough port for the day too.

Pistachio had pieces and a decent flavour. Passionfruit was very tangy but had a few too many crystals €3.5 for 2 wasn't too bad.

Cremosi, Porto 09-2020

I was looking for a good gelato and a few options came up on web searches and Google maps, such as Gelatopia or Santini. Cremosi didn't figure at all and it was only when walking past it late at night back toward the Airbnb did I mentally note it. It's a very large place with sitting space and work hours much later than the standard ones.

To deal with Covid and only one person ordering at a time, they had a mixed weird system where sometimes you pay for the gelato then select the flavours, and other times you have to select the flavours before paying. It was confusing to go twice and get asked to do things in different ways.

What I do know is that the pistachio was phenomenal - thick, creamy, nutty, excellent. The lime, mint, ginger was very tangy with a strong ginger flavour, I liked that too.

They also have desserts - tried the lemon tart which had too thick of a base and was much much too sweet. 

Also I made a mistake of getting gelato with the crepe (simple and fine, expensive for the nutella addition though) as it melted too fast. The gelato price was the same to get separate or together, so that's a life lesson. The pistachio was as good as I remembered, the port flavour tasted... like port! The 3rd was coconut I think and that was alright.

Cana Verde, Porto 09-2020

For the final lunch before heading to the airport, timing meant that we would need to eat around 11-1130am and unfortunately it meant that a lot of restaurants weren't open yet. I was keen to eat in an outside alley restaurant, my partner was keen for some seafood rice, but it was not to be. We went instead to Cana Verde, at least open and well reputed to be one of the best local places around.

The lunch set meal is a steal at €8 for soup, bread, choice of main and coffee. Certainly all during our meal locals kept coming in and filling all the tables.

The first was a chicken soup with orzo - simple. Soft bread with nice crust came with it too. Salmon cutlet was nice and fatty and perfect grilled, with soft potatoes. Duck rice was very flavoursome and bits of meat all throughout. It was topped with a strong melted cheese, which seemed a little unusual but made for a heavy, salty dish.

A quick and easy local meal that is recommended. As we left, we went past a place Flor de Braganca which was even more heaving with locals and had a queue of workman outside. Next time...

O Maleiro, Peso da Regua 09-2020

A daytrip from Porto is the Douro valley, known for the most beautiful road in the world (N222 along the Douro river), wine and scenic views. After hiring a car from Porto and driving about for the day, full of windy little roads and steep ascents and descents to all kinds of recommended views, it was time to head back to Porto and get a meal along the way.

We arrived to Peso da Regua around 6pm looking for dinner. The main restaurant on my list was The River Restaurant for roasted goat, but unfortunately they didn't open until 7.30pm. After a wander around the bridges, it was just too long to wait. A Google search found O Maleiro closeby and with roast lamb on the menu. Again unlike what Google said, it opened for dinner at 7pm and we got there around 6.55pm and they were happy to accomodate.

I was disappointed that when I chose the roast lamb, they said they were only serving the short day menu. Shame. The options there seemed less enticing but we settled on two. Seated outside meant we could watch a glimpse of the Douro river as the sun set, enjoy wine served by the bottle (then charged by how much of it was consumed) and listen to the sounds of the homestyle kitchen preparing their food.

- Secretos de porco preto na brasa €14 - the Portuguese version of the Spanish Iberian black pig was extremely juicy and tender with the fat and meat grilled until they fused together to a beautiful taste and texture. Potatoes looked like crisps/chips to my dismay, but that faded when I realised they were thinly sliced potatoes freshly fried and hot, some thin to be crisp, some thicker to have a little soft potato in the middle. Buttered rice came with it too for even more food;
- Lulas grelhadas €12 - two large whole squid grilled and well charred with potatoes and salad.

A value meal that was unexpectedly excellent and perhaps my favourite of the whole week in Porto.