Tag Archives: food

A Lucky Mistake And A Venezuelan Breakfast

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Having returned to my place of work for further training, it wasn’t until I arrived that I realised I had set off far too early. I could, in fact, have had another hour in bed. Those that know me, know how precious sleep is to me, and will therefore understand how unimpressed I was at the situation. As such, I felt the need to treat myself, and made a beeline for a café across the road I’ve been eyeing for some time now: Café Latino, Mi Cocina Es Tuya.

It’s small, sweet, clean and decorated with (I presume) Venezuelan or at least Spanish bits and pieces. It’s clearly family run, and as soon as I entered I was shown my seat and handed a menu as well as a taster of their passion fruit smoothie. 2 minutes later the chap was back, and I ordered a ‘Latino breakfast’ (chorizo, fried eggs, cornbread and beans) and a mango juice. He was very friendly and handed me that day’s newspaper to peruse at my leisure – and who doesn’t love a good leisurely perusing.

You could see part of the kitchen, and smell the order being cooked. My drink arrived first, followed by the food – the cornbread had a smily face on it, my breakfast was almost as happy to see me as I was to see it! The chorizo was home made and delicious, the eggs weren’t overdone (a surprisingly regular occurrence when buying breakfast) and I was offered salsa verde and chilli as accompaniment. The beans reminded me of Costa Rica, where rice and beans were present at every meal (literally. Every meal.)

When I was finished, I still had 2 hours to kill before going to work, however I never felt rushed. When I asked for a glass of water I was brought it with a smile, and when they found out I could speak (some) Spanish I was offered a Spanish newspaper to read and told I should come in more often to practise.

After a while, temptation did overcome me and I ordered the churros. It was a bit of a feast and I loved every minute of it.

The prices were not dirt cheap, but they were not unreasonable and I didn’t feel ripped off. For everything I paid £14.

So yes, I would recommend this place. I don’t know if the cuisine is Venezuelan itself, but it was delicious and the people who run the cafe are friendly and accommodating (and patient should you want to practise your Spanish!) Muy bien – see, I’m practically fluent already.

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Jimmy’s World Grill

This is not a well kept London secret. Some unexplored nook or darkened cranny. This is a UK chain of world food buffet restaurants; however, I deemed it worthy of a hallowed blog post thanks to a) the cheap prices, b) the good location, c) the good food and d) the chocolate fountain that I’ve been harping on about.

At £7.99 for an all you can eat week day lunch, the price is definitely right. I ordered a glass of pineapple juice – drinks come extra – but given it was practically fish bowl sized, it seemed worth the price.

So Jimmy’s consists of a series of ‘live stations’ – including a noodle stand where a chef made your noodles from order and a naan stand where – you guessed it – a chef made your naan to order. There was a Tex Mex station that was closed, but given the other choice on offer this was not too great a loss.

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Strewn between the live chefs flinging food together with expert ease, there were vats of curry, rice, trays of fried chicken, vegetable dim sum and spring rolls, and a salad bar. There was also a pizza and pasta station – and I haven’t even started on the dessert yet.

I ate my way round the world – from Thai green curry to chicken korma to cous cous to pizza to olives to prawn crackers – I had a little bit of it all, and was surprised by how good it was. None of it was cold or looked suspiciously congealed which is always a plus, and honestly I almost wished I had a bigger stomach. I didn’t end up trying out a live station as I was so full from the help-yourself bit, but they seemed to know what they were doing and the food I saw them turning out looked good.

However, I do have the separate dessert stomach and that was ready and waiting to try out the dessert buffet – included in the £7.99 price. All the offerings were cut into little bitesize pieces to allow for people trying everything:

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Cheese cake, red velvet cake, more cheese cake, a cocounut…thing, carrot cake – ALL THE CAKE

And finally the chocolate fountain had marshmallows and chunks of fruit ready to be skewered. I very nearly went full Vicar of Dibley on that thing – and for those of you who’ve never watched Dawn French’s Vicar of Dibley series, it starts off like this:

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(Image from UKTV Gold.)

And ends up like this:

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(Image from Somersoft)

Yup.

Any way, I would recommend Jimmy’s if you’re ever in Wimbledon, looking for a cheap and filling meal and feel like avoiding the hefty gastropub and restaurant fees of the area. Whilst its not exactly culinary genius, its a buffet – that’s not really the point. Easy, accessible, filling and…well, now I’m hungry.

Pie And Mash: The Epitome of British Cuisine

It came to my attention recently, that despite living in London for over 2 years now, I had never ventured through those hallowed doors into a pie and mash shop. Pie and Mash being the standard London meal, I felt this would not do, and five minutes of investigation showed I had such an establishment down the road from me in Tooting.

Boom.

So off I trotted after a morning of hard work not listening to my lecturer, and arrived to the little, slightly run down looking caff called Harrington’s. The windows were steamed up and the doors closed tight against the pouring rain; at first I thought it was closed so I was relieved when I made my way in to find it reasonably busy. 

The woman who served me was brusque but friendly, throwing together my pie, mash and parsley ‘licker’ quickly. The pies had been cooked that day and were still hot from the oven, and the parsley sauce loosened up the mash beautifully.

I wasn’t ready to face the jellied eel, although I came close enough given the parsley sauce is made with the water the eels are stewed in! But sitting at that bench with the women behind the counter chatting amiably way, salt and vinegar on the tables and the tiled walls, it was easy to feel I’d slipped back in time. From old men who’ve been visiting the same place for 50 years for their fix of pie and mash to young families who pop in for the warm, cosy and traditional feel of the place – its universally loved. And cheap with my meal clocking in at roughly 3 quid. 

It was warming and homey and everything you could ask for from pie and mash.

I will be returning, and hopefully pie shop hopping around London. This new area needs to be explored to the fullest. I want to eat all the pies I can. ALL THE PIES. 

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Oh, there’s a picture of the pie. Wasn’t exactly the most beautifully presented plate, but that wasn’t really the point any how. Trust me when I say it tasted better than it looked. 

Don’t look at me like that. It did. 

The Curse Of The Killer Tonsils Followed By An Ode To Take Out Food

Earlier this week, I went out to the student union at my university for drinks. My friends bought me a dirty half pint (for those not in the know, this is a concoction of several different alcohols. Its usually pretty deadly.) I downed it despite my burning throat, and I think the last couple of days have been the revenge of my tonsils for daring to put them through such cavalier usage. 

The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry, and though I am neither a mice nor a man, my plans have joined theirs in…well, going awry, wherever that is. 

So no museum, no ice cream in Camden, and sadly no work. Simply bed, enough pills to make me sound like a rattle when I move, and endless episodes of House (Who doesn’t love some Hugh Laurie…) 

But they have merely been postponed, and for now, I felt I would write on a subject I personally know rather a lot about. That’s right. 

Take Out.

Now, in London, it’s a risky business allowing somewhere to make and deliver your food. Everyone’s had that experience, with the shaking and the stomach cramps and the head in a toilet for 24 hours. If you haven’t, well, you haven’t eaten enough take out. Get out a pizza menu for goodness’ sake, its like a rite of passage. 

But its also a smorgasbord for just about any food you can think of. From Caribbean jerk chicken to Brazilian pastels; Japanese sushi to Thai green curry – its all available within the hour. We’re not just talking Dominos pizza either (although they are pretty good). There’s plenty of independent places just dying to feed you. 

Where I live now (Tooting), is crawling with curry places (although I’m told Brick Lane is the king of curry houses. I’ll need to test that theory out, I think…) We’re also surrounded by plenty of Thai places – although the best ones I’ve had are out in Putney – namely Thai Square, and the other one is throughout London but none of their branches are close enough to me – they’re called Jasmine Garden. If you live close to one, enjoy, but don’t be surprised if I quietly seethe with jealousy. 

Avoid fried chicken as a rule – although Favourite Chicken and most Morleys are usually okay. I’m always deeply suspicious of it though, having seen friends and house mates pale and feverish and sick for days. I’m less suspicious of chicken than kebabs though. I’ve never eaten a kebab in my life. Everyone is utterly horrified by this fact; I guess you may think that leaves me unqualified to talk about take out food. If you want to chomp away on meat that’s been left to ooze merrily away on a hot stick for days, then be my guest, it just isn’t for me!

But I digress. For Mexican food, if you’re in South West London, Mexican Fresh is generally a good bet. For pizza, there’s any number of places. I liked Perpericon (and no that isn’t a misspelling),and Basil Leaf Pizzeria and Grill. Generally best to choose a place that specialises in pizza rather than one that kinda does it on the side. Trust me on that. 

Although when you get home at 3.30 am and you want something to eat, pizza from anywhere will do, I’ll admit. In that case, just-eat.co.uk will keep you right with the places that are open!

After that long, slightly feverish ramble, I feel I will leave sharing one thing I discovered today whilst innocently looking for pictures of pizza – because who doesn’t like pictures, right?

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(from, as you may have guessed, allweirdpics.com) 

Now that, my friends, is indecision gone wild. Enjoy! 

 

Les Miserables: A Slightly Different View Point

Before we saw Les Miserables, and before I bestow you with my – possibly slightly skewed – view, there was food to be had. Always important. 

We had to Pizzeria Trattoria – I believe there’s a few in the area, but the one we headed to was right beside Leicester Square tube station. They have a special menu: 2 courses and a glass of wine for £10.95; very reasonable for the area, and even more so given the standard of the food. 

I opted for bruschetta – the portions were generous for a starter; 3 large chunks with chopped fresh tomatoes and olives. They made sure to offer ground pepper and I cleaned the plate! To follow, despite there being pizza and pasta on offer on the menu, I went for pollo del piazza (chicken with tomato sauce and mozzerella, fries and a salad). Now you can probably tell that I am not a natural food critic. I’m not picky enough. For me, ‘it’s tasty’ will do. So yeah. It was tasty. 

With the amount of Italian restaurants around Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Soho – very few stand out. This one did because of both the low price and the quality of food. I mean, you couldn’t get better portions or taste for so little in many places in central London. For that reason I’d definitely recommend it.

Although watch out when you’re putting your coat on. The artwork on the walls is somewhat sharp, and when I clumsily knocked it with my hand, I found this out the hard way. 

On to Les Miserables.

I learned 3 things over the course of this play. You may or may not agree.

1. Eponine really needs a stiff drink, a cigarette, a hug and for God’s sake, won’t someone tell her there are plenty more fish in the sea?

2. Javert is a bit of a drama queen. It was bread. Get over it. 

3. The Incredible Hulk was apparently based on Jean Valjean. 

Okay, that was perhaps slightly flippant. I really did love the story, and I definitely preferred the stage version to the film. Several moments moved me, almost, to tears (not all the way. But then, I have a very cold heart.) 

The set changes, the design, the acting, the songs – it was all pretty spectacular. I could definitely see why the show has been running for 26…27? Years. I would happily go again. It seems to be a show that gives opportunity to a lot of brand new drama school graduates, and it’s always nice to see some fresh talent. They always throw a lot of enthusiasm into the performance! 

It really is a pretty amazing show of theatrical skill. One of my favourites so far, and one that I think everyone should see at least once. 

Now, I’d best be off. Essays to write and such. But voila! 

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The Gorringe Park – a misleading name…

This post is not about a park. Indeed not. It’s about a PUB. 

Even more exciting. There’s alcohol there. We all know I love a drink. Being both a 21 year old student and British I think its pretty much in the constitution.  

Any how, this place is in Tooting – very close to where I live in fact! And it’s no ordinary pub. Oh no.

Firstly, there’s fancy popcorn. I think the term they use is ‘gourmet’ or something, but I’ll settle for fancy. Lots of flavours, like chocolate or chicken tikka – I’ve yet to sample but I’ll get back to you when I do. They have some decent draught ales and ciders, another plus. And FOOD.

My next mission will be to sample the delights on their menu. Mainly the desserts. I’ve always had, and always will have, a serious sweet tooth. 

But we haven’t even got to the best part yet. OH NO.

What can it be? I hear you cry. What could possibly be better than popcorn and booze? 

Well…if you could give me a drumroll please…

Ah sod the cheesy gameshow host thing. There’s a cinema under the pub. They play a variety of DVDs – kids ones for mothers and children during the day, and then an evening showing. They have reclaimed cinema seating as well as a squishy sofa and chairs at the back and beanbags.

BIG beanbags.

Oh, and tables with feet. 

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See, feet!

(As always, sorry about the less than fantastic photo. I’m going to dig out my camera charger this week as my phone just doesn’t cut it. Either way, that’s a table and it has feet. That must be pleasing, or perhaps a tad creepy, but either way it’s cool.)

 

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The cinema itself.

And…oooh it gets even BETTER.

Sorry, that’s probably pissing you off now, but it does.

It’s FREE. You can take your DRINKS down there. So you can DRINK and WATCH FILMS on a BIG SCREEN.

FOR FREE.

Well, the drinks aren’t free. But it’s still cool. 

Any how, there you go. Free pub cinema. Happy days. I’ll get back to you about the food, but it looks pretty damn good. Next time I plan to sample the popcorn. 

In other news, it’s pay day this Friday. I’ll have MONEY. I can finally get that Vera Wang dress, some diamond ear rings, a tiara…

Or, more importantly, food. Like, loads of it. If I’m not 300 pounds by next pay day then I have failed. 

Rainy Days in London Town

When it rains in London, the parks don’t do you much good. Of course there are cafes in the bigger ones – but in general, you’re trapped until it stops raining.

And this is England. Once it starts, it never seems to stop. Much like a hormonal woman watching Titanic (or, if you’re me, Toy Story 3. I know, I know.) 

But there are other things on other. Museums. Cafes. Restaurants. So whilst I’m trapped inside by the rain and overtime at work, here’s a run down of my favourite things to do when the heavens open – which, lets face it, is most of the time when it gets to September. (Also since I did a run down of things to do in the sun, it seemed appropriate.)

1. Natural History Museum

There’s always fun exhibits on. You can wander around most of it for free, but there’s a charge for some of the more interesting areas. I don’t think there’s much open now – but soon enough there’ll be the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and in February there’s Britain: One Million Years Of The Human Story. Am actually quite excited for that one!

An ice rink also opens come 31st October and they usually do a Night at the Museum, where they show you artefacts they have that are surrounded by folk lore. They even have a cursed jewel, said to have left all it’s owners dead in it’s wake…spooky!

2. Pubs. Millions of Pubs.

This was on my sunny list, but there’s nothing nicer than sitting inside a cosy pub, with a fire or at the very least central heating, with a pint (or a glass of wine if you have to get all sophisticated on me) and a friend. When it gets closer to Christmas they break out the mulled wine and cider too, and even in winter a lot of the pub gardens have blankets, shelters and heaters for you to snuggle under. 

One of my favourites is The Coach And Horses on Barnes High Street. They have a huge garden, blankets freely available and heaters you control yourself. It’s kind of refreshing to be sitting outside, watching it pelting down around you but not getting wet yourself. There’s often deals on the food too – we got 2 courses and a bottle of wine for £20. The staff were friendly; even though you needed a form for it they allowed us to fill one in there and then. 

Another one is The King’s Head, Roehampton. You may know these are both Young’s pubs, but even though they are a part of that group they’re all so different that to be honest – you’d never notice. The King’s Head has been refurbished recently – its warm, the food is gourmet (if pricey) and the staff are really friendly. We went there as a group for dinner and drinks at Christmas, and they bent over backwards to make us welcome. We’re hoping to go again this year!

To be honest, many of the nicer pubs are further out. In Central London they are either ludicrously expensive or small and dingy, but that could just be lack of exploration on my part. There are some lovely little ones in Chelsea or Kensington. The two above just happen to be my favourite for rainy days!

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3. Camden Market

Most markets are free to the open air and generally quite miserable in the rain, but Camden is different. Most of it is undercover, and you can shelter whilst looking at the odd little knick knacks found throughout. There’s the book store full of old copies of classics; a store hung all over with gas masks (I kid you not); a shop guarded by a giant robot statue and that essentially houses an all day rave. Then of course there’s the food stalls. 

You can get a good container of tasty curry there for £4. It was just the right size to quench my hunger I was pleased to say, and cheaper than what you’d get practically anywhere else. If curry isn’t your deal, there’s Thai, Chinese, Burgers, Pizza, you name it – it’s there. You can also puff away on shisha at the Moroccan cafes dotted about, or investigate the Stables Market. Horses were once housed there and there are now some impressive statues to commemorate that. 

4. Book Shops.

Brick Lane Book Shop being my current favourite, although there’s another in Balham (unfortunately I don’t know the name) but I plan to investigate it very soon. It’s dark and smells of old paper, perfect for hiding. My favourite kind. I love the old places, the different places, the independent places. Waterstones and WH Smith are great – but you find the real treasures in the old, forgotten stores or the charity shops. I can happily spend hours hiding away in London book shops (although after reading on someone’s blog they went into a book shop only to find it was a front for a somewhat dodgier kind of deal, I’m a bit more careful before stepping inside…)

5. Coffee!

London is brimming with coffee shops. And I’m not talking about your Costas and Starbucks and Prets. There’s a whole world of cafes to explore – I even have a book full of them. 

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Proof. There’s me, and I have the book. Can’t say better than that.

I’m now on a coffee trail throughout London. I’m thinking every 2 weeks, or maybe once a month if it gets a bit pricey, of trying out a new place in that guide. I’ve already got my sights set on the closest one…roll on Thursday…

6. Sleep

Now this is my personal favourite. But it’s also somewhat boring, so I won’t spend too much time on this. You get the gist!

Any way happy rainy day to you all, I hope you’re having a fun packed day of…well, fun.

Streatham Restaurant #4: Addome

Final restaurant – we were too full to continue! We headed here, right up next to Streatham Hill, for our final taster meal.

They were small and very busy, so we had to take it to go, although they did allow us to sit down for ten minutes whilst we waited for them to prepare it. It seemed to be family run, quite quaint – unusual for a London Italian restaurant; most of them are run by chains at this point. 

Small tables, a little cramped but if one has good company you don’t notice the rest! We were only there briefly, but the food that we ate once we got back was delicious…

The course was: Trio of Neapolitan Bruschetta. Fancy, right?

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Excuse the brightly coloured plate. But it was tasty, tangy…and well, I dunno what else to say about Bruschetta!

Any way this brings the Streatham Food Festival series to an end. This week, I have an induction to work at a large supermarket and an ear infection unfortunately! Have you guys got anything fun planned? 

Streatham Restaurant #3: Nineteen

Back to the food festival – we were starting to get really full at this point! Heading on to another Italian place for some gnocchi (which I only just learned how to pronounce. Gave the waiter a few laughs when I tried to explain what we wanted!) 

Service here was really good, the atmosphere was nice and the restaurant itself was bright and breezy – a relief given how hot it was. We asked for tap water and it came with ice and lemon (not that it was really appreciated, given we gulped it down within about five seconds flat). 

So the full name of our dish was ‘Gnocchi with sundried tomato, squid and rocket’.

Now I don’t often eat squid, after I was tricked into think calamari were onion rings and got a nasty fright when I bit into it. I don’t particularly mind it, it just strikes me as somewhat tasteless, and kind of chewy.

Which is always surprising; when you look at a squid, it looks more like jelly than anything else. But there you go.

The meal itself was tasty – a good portion given how cheap it was and the idea it was simply a taster platter. The sundried tomatoes were very strong and salty, and somewhat overwhelming – but added some flavour to the squid. The rocket balanced it out with its peppery taste, and the gnocchi was delicious. I’ve yet to know what gnocchi actually is though. I feel it’s a gap in my food education.

Okay, I looked it up. Dumpling things. 

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There it is in all it’s glory. Presentation isn’t necessarily spectacular, but the food and the restaurant itself made up for that – and to be honest, I’ve never been that fussed about the way a meal looks. As long as it tastes good, its on a plate and not slopping into my lap, I’m happy. 

But then I’m a student. Perhaps I’ll grow into one of those foodies that turns their nose up at a dish if the parsley’s not facing North or something. 

Any how, one more restaurant to go…but I have to say, despite the reputation – Streatham has such a variety of food destinations. I hope I get to stay in the area when I move, if only to experience some more! (Plus my favourite Thai take out is nearby, and I don’t want to move out of it’s catchment area. That really would be tragic!)

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Pratts and Payne, Streatham

So this weekend I was working, tramping the hills of Highgate in the far north of London to hand out leaflets. Not too taxing, admittedly…in the end we finished early on the second day, and ended up heading for a pint at a nearby pub. 

Now, I don’t often head that far north, it’s an alien planet – and even quieter than normal given the Northern line of the tube was shut – making it a mission to get there, I can tell you! 

That’s one thing about London transport, at least part of it shuts down every weekend, without fail, for maintenance work. Why don’t they do it at night – when it isn’t running any way? WHY?!

But any way. If I get too much into the whole London transport system I will explode, and that would make a mess.

Back to the delightful voyage of food related discovery I went on through Streatham! Much more pleasant.

So after heading to The Hideaway Jazz Cafe, we moved on to ‘Pratts and Payne’ for some English grub (by the way, why is ‘grub’ slang for food? Its possibly one of the most unappetising sounding words…) They were busy, and service was somewhat brusque. They kept us waiting for the food, but when it arrived, it was admittedly delicious. My other half went for ‘huevos rancheros’ and I had ‘goats cheese, honey and fig tart’ – all much fancier than we’re used to, with our current diet of baked beans on toast!

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I have to admit, I’ve never seen a square egg, but its all about learning new things! It was quite spicy, but very tasty, and a surprisingly filling portion given the cheap price.

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I love me a bit of goats cheese. The fig set off the taste nicely with a certain amount of sweetness, and the presentation wasn’t half bad.

Once again, sorry for the slightly dark pictures, next time I’ll have my camera charged and ready to go. I guess with my excitement at seeing the outside world again, I forgot it!

Any how the atmosphere was pretty buzzing, although the decor struck me as a tad odd with what looked like neon sales signs displaying prices in frames across one wall (49p! and so on). The fireplace had…well, a fire, painted into it, and we nabbed some comfy armchairs next to it. Luckily no heat eminated from it, given how hot a night it was. There was a nice selection of beer (including Fruli – strawberry beer, perfect for my childlike palate!).

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I would perhaps go back for a drink, and the food was very tasty, but I think if I was cashing out for dinner in a restaurant, I personally would perhaps go for something a little more unique (although if there was another food festival involving cheap food? I’d be there like a shot.)