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Drink Viennese coffee

6 May

As much as I enjoy clocking out at 5pm on a weekday, it is a pain when your friends only finish later and make arrangements to meet at 7 one tube stop away from the office. So what do you do with 2 hours spare? Go shopping, stay at your desk and answer emails, have a drink somewhere? With the first two unappealing (not enough hands and it had been a long week), I opted for the latter, but not alcohol (it had been a heavy drinking session the night before here) and went for coffee.

Camden Passage in Angel is always an area I walk past on my way somewhere else where I end up saying to myself: ‘Must remember to come back here,’ so with dinner only a street away from it, I took my free evening paper and went in search of Kipferl – a Viennese cafe that had been highly rated by bean hunters in London.

With the gloomy weather we’ve been having lately, the interior was cosy in a pared-down, Continental way and as I’ve never been to Austria was reminiscent of the great cafes I visited in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg.

The back is a restaurant specialising in Austrian fare, particularly sausages, while the front is a cafe offering Austrian coffee and cakes like strudel and Sachertorte. Keeping it simple (I was going out for dinner after all) I ordered a latte and a vanille kipferl – a buttery shortbread crescent dusted in icing sugar.

It was great to sit back, sip my good latte, nibble my kipferl and finish the crossword without feeling harassed by the staff to hurry up and give up my table for someone else.

Was really glad I did remember come back that way.

PS The dinner date was a birthday celebration here. And though I’m not an eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet fan, the mood was festive, food tasty and plentiful – and on another spectrum to my two hours before. But that’s London, eh?

Slurp udon noodles at Koya

22 Apr

Koya in Soho keeps to the Japanese minimalist tradition. The interior is white walls and communal wooden tables and chairs (not benches though) in one small space and the menu’s focus is the udon noodle. Have it hot, cold, in broth, or with a dipping sauce. Eat it with tempura, seaweed or a poached egg. And in keeping with Japanese tradition – it delivers excellence.

We started with steamed asparagus and miso butter. Making a second choice was a lot harder and after much deliberation, I ordered the kamo hiya-atsu (hot broth with cold udon noodles and duck) while my friend Sam went for the special of hot noodles in broth with tempura ginger and peas.

We slurped it all and though my duck was lovely and not too fatty and my broth not too salty, I think Sam’s choice was the winner of the two.

We definitely got our zen at Koya – simple yet tasty food, friendly, speedy service, affordable prices, and of course, a chance to catch up over a Kirin beer or two.

Relive the 60s American style at The Diner

13 Feb

Okay, so the waiting staff are more suited to the Camden surrounds, dressed in black with bed hair (but wearing Buddy Holly glasses), yet the red leather booth seats, fantastic soundtrack and mega shakes are pure ode to the diners of years gone by.

Monday lunchtime saw me and my colleague Laura sticking to the tacos side of The Diner‘s menu – she ordered a burrito (too spicy for her liking) and I had a taco salad, which although the chicken was a bit dry, was big on the groovy factor.

I couldn’t fit in a shake but slurped on my cherry cola while  looking out for Danny, Sandy or at least a Pink Lady…

Eat Vietnamese on Kingsland Road

5 Feb

The best thing about having friends scattered across London is that you have the perfect excuse to explore eateries all over the city. So braving snow I thermalled up and journeyed to East (in more ways than one) to meet up with friends Sam (now a Dalston local) and Viv (part-time Londoner) for Vietnamese in Shoreditch.

Kingsland Road is now known as Pho Mile because of the number of Vietnamese joints on the street. The one we chose was Que Viet, whose golden pancakes Sam told us she had been dreaming about. Back in South Africa, my choice of Eastern food was limited to the local greasy Chinese takeaway, a sushi chain and a Thai restaurant that served Singapore noodles and green curry. And in terms of travelling I’ve only been to Malaysia, which has amazing food, but doesn’t make me an epicure in all things Asian. Which is why I fully trust Sam’s judgement. Aside from being a foodie with excellent taste, she’s Aussie and her experience in Eastern food makes mine very inferior.

Que Viet is more restaurant than canteen with leather seats, Gauguin-style paintings of pretty Eastern maidens and efficient waiters dressed in black. It also offers wine on the menu. Now to the food…

Yip, Sam those golden pancakes are definitely worth dreaming about.

Dreams are made of this

Something about the crisp iceberg lettuce, fried egg and fresh veg in sweet sour sauce is definitely yum (and I’m going to attempt to make it at home as it’s perfect after-work nosh).

We then ordered three mains to share with sticky rice – sizzling duck with Vietnamese basil, chilli sizzling goat (yes, goat) and prawns and stir-fried greens – all very tasty.

Duck on a hot plate

And despite the hip Hoxton location, the bill came to just over £20 each including service.

Don’t think I’ll be going to Vietnam any time soon, so I’ll just have to be happy with travelling to Pho Mile in London to broaden my culinary horizons.

Go gaga over a brownie

19 Jan

Because I’m committed to this blog so much, I sacrificed an early evening of a glass of wine and mushroom omelette at home to take a detour from work and visit Paul A Young, chocolatier in Soho.

Thinking I could walk away with a little bar of dark, I ended up stuffing a brownie (rather embarrassingly) in my plastic Morrison’s bag after I saw Time Out rated it the best in London.

I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for ‘best’ lists and just so I can casually drop: ‘These have been voted the best brownie in London’  as I walk past any of Paul A Young’s three outlets, I had to give it a try.

And it is indeed worthy of the title – silky, squidgy and oh-so chocolatey, I’ve had to leave half ready to rate again tomorrow night.

Oh yes, Paul A Young make other things as well – there was a pot of hot chocolate bubbling, various bars of milk and dark chocolate and salted caramel truffles and even chocolate ingredients for keen cooks – be aware it isn’t cheap (the brownie was £3.75), but then you don’t get voted ‘best brownie’ for nothing.


Munch on mezze at Yalla Yalla

17 Jan

I’ve been meaning to go to Yalla Yalla since it opened in Soho almost 4 years ago and by the time my mate Sam suggested we meet there for a new year catch-up another branch had opened off Oxford Street.

After complimentary olives (we agreed every restaurant should do this), we selected mezze to share: hommos shawarma (hummus topped with grilled lamb fillet), samboussek jibne (triangles of pastry filled with halloumi and feta), warak enab (stuffed vine leaves) and my favourite, the fattoush (a fresh herb salad perfect after all that heavy festive eating), which came with flatbreads. We really enjoyed the Lebanese red wine Chateau Ksara Prieure and said farewell to the new year detox by ordering a second glass.

Apologies for the lack of food photos – we had a lot of catching up to do!

Worth a visit: if you after (Oxford) street food full of Lebanese flavour