Another day, another Mexican restaurant in London. But this one is the REAL DEAL. Not a steamed burrito in sight! (Seriously, I am a little tired of steamed tortllas.)
After passing Santo Remedio one afternoon when they were closed, I desperately wanted a reservation. But they never answered the phone when I called. So finally, in a fit of desperation, I made an reservation request online with Quandoo. (Just a request.) About 2 minutes after they wouldn’t answer the phone, they accepted my request. So let that be a lesson to all of you. USE MULTIPLE CHANNELS. And…well…land lines are dead.
The proprietor of Santo Remedio is from the DF (that’s Mexico City) and the pork and chicken tacos are great. But we didn’t die over the staff-recommended ribeye, which felt like it had been worked over a few too many times. We failed to notice that Santo Remedio was BYOB, but no worries, the fabulous City Beverage on Old Street — seriously one of my favorite wine shops in London — paired wines with the menu, which is very cool. (Note that I see Santo Remedio now lists wines and beers on their menu so it looks like they are no longer BYOB.) We loved the guacamole and the tortilla chips but they probably got mad at us, so many chips did we request. (There are never enough tortilla chips in life. Never.) The rest of our food was just okay. BUT but but…I love this sort of restaurant. Small, and with a very friendly and present proprietor. Also, the upstairs looks like a cool space to rent out for your small drinks party.
Oh, also…CHURROS. The churros were lovely!!
The Verdict: I’m going to give Santo Remedio another chance.
One day, I will leave EC1, I swear. BUT EVERYTHING I NEED IS RIGHT HERE. So why go far? And look, there’s a new pizza place. Did you know that pizza is the #1 most ordered item on JustEat? Oddly, for the UK at least, pizza is about the last thing I ever order as takeaway. I much prefer an in-person pizza. Maybe it’s the way bridge & tunnel people in New York are raised. We eat pizza IN PERSON.
So The Wedge Issue. Relatively new to the ‘hood — oh how I wish their was a neighborhood Facebook group to discuss these new local things — and I was hungry and maybe the tiniest bit hungover so I made the slog and was one of the maybe four people in the place. After placing my order relatively quickly — I had sussed out my order in advance — the smoke detector went off multiple times . Surprise surprise, the restaurant filled with smoke. Doors and windows were opened so instead we shivered as we sat waiting, eventually smoke free. Then they were out of the IPA I wanted, and then my replacement beer order took ages to arrive because they were letting the foam settle. (Communication, people.) My Soho pizza — N’duja sausage, peppers, chilli, mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce — was tasty but a little soggy in the middle which made me sad. The husband-wife team that run the place seem very sweet, albeit a bit distracted. (American? Canadian? I’m not sure.) But hmmm. Too many questions. Most specifically, who were ALL THE PEOPLE that came out of the basement???
The Verdict: Maybe I caught them on an off day. I’d give them another shot. Good for groups and for one of those lunches where you have to please a lot of people with different tastes.
Amongst many things in life, I really cannot get enough sushi and Japanese food in general. I thank my old college friend Andrew for this, who took me out for my first Japanese lunch in Chicago one Sunday afternoon in 1996. It became our little tradition and before you knew it, I knew all the names of all the fish in Japanese. I still get the occasional weekend hankering for sushi. Or well, weeknight hankering. Or well, okay okay, any time of the day hankering. Here’s where I’ve been eating sushi lately.
Oliver Maki, Soho: Hah! I spent £70 quid on lunch! £70 just for my food and drink! Hah. Heh. I don’t know how that happened. OK, I do know how that happened. SUSHI at a Bahraini/Kuwaiti restaurant in Soho and I am so not an oligarch. I liked the modern clean-lined space, and I liked how friendly the proprietor and waiter were. I liked the loos. And the origami chopstick holder. I also liked the sushi. But I really can’t go around London splashing out £70 on lunch all the time now, can I? (To be fair, this did include a small £15 sake and I may have over-ordered food-wise. Also, they did give me a free umbrella, which I prefer to think of as a £35 umbrella so maybe I just spent £35 on lunch.) The Verdict: Only for special occasions or when someone else is paying. (Get the Jewel Box!) Or when you need an umbrella to go with your meal. Or well, when I make the millions that I deserve.
Sakana Sushi: Aldgate East: In contrast, I’ve eaten at Sakana Sushi on Commercial Street a couple of times now and I always waddle out for £20. (It probably helps that they are BYOB, but still, even with a £15 tiny bottle of sake, that’s £35.) (Note Yelp says they are not BYOB so call and check. They were BYOB in November and December of last year.) This space is super tiny and super brightly lit, but the service is sweet and the menu is interesting and the prices are very easy on the wallet. Help a sister out and go eat there. Bring your friends. If I had any criticism, it’s that the lights are too bright. The Verdict: The prices are so right, it’s a no brainer.
Tajima-Tei, Leather Lane: Why have I not eaten here before?? This is the most Japanese-feeling Japanese place I’ve eaten at in a while. The staff do that Japanese greeting shouting thing when you enter and the lunch special list is super-long…a cornucopia of bento box and combo options. (I am a sucker for any combination of anything that arrives in small amounts.) I arrived early but by the time I left, the place was packed with local city workers, including many Japanese-speaking ones. The mackerel in my bento box was particular delicious. I quickly fell in love with the restaurant, the staff and the food and I will be back many times. The Verdict: Fun for everyone.
I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker. And I believe what I read on the internet. After a gushing post about Little Viet Kitchen over on The Londoner, I put this new bijou Vietnamese on my list. My plan was to enjoy a leisurely lunch there yesterday but well — I actually went to the gym yesterday — so I was running at bit behind. By the time I got to Little Viet Kitchen, it was 1 pm and I had a conference call at 2 pm. It would have to be takeaway.
I eat a lot of Vietnamese food in London. I like Vietnamese food. I like trying new restaurants. These things should all be clear to the most loyal of my readers. I also make a good living, so I don’t mind spending money.
But I do mind getting ripped off. No matter how cute the restaurant is or how sweet the staff are.
Because Little Viet Kitchen is VERY cute. It’s all shabby chic inside and cozy and sweet. And the staff were hospitable and welcome and brought me a lovely jar of tap water with cucumber and lemon while I waited for me food. I LIKED IT. I was very happy with everything at Little Viet Kitchen for a while there.
And then I asked for my bill. And my beef bun (Vietnamese rice noodles with salad, beef wrapped in betel leaf, and two spring rolls) was £16.50. I was embarrassed. I was stunned into silence. I should have said something, but at that point, I had already placed my order, sat at their table, and drank their delicious cucumber water. How had I missed the price on the menu? Why had I not paid closer attention? The number was right there in front of me. I’m an idiot. And now I’m a poor idiot.
£16.50!!! For the love of God. In CHAPEL MARKET.
Granted, my food was tasty enough. But it was not £16.50 worth of tasty.
If you want some bun, you can get some at Song Que on Kingsland Road for £9.50, although they may not have beef. Ngon Ngon in Clerkenwell does beef bun for £8.50. Both places are definitely not as cute — and in fact, you may get yelled at by the staff at Song Que — but they deliver good, tasty value for money.
The Verdict: Little Viet Kitchen is cute and tasty, but not THAT cute and tasty. Head to Kingsland Road instead.
Hah. Just kidding. But you totally want to sing the song now, don’t you? I actually spent three nights in Bangkok. And I loved it! I mean, I’ve been to Bangkok before, but I was in my early 20s and I was with my parents so I didn’t get to really experience the craziness. Because this city is crazy. Crazy huge, crazy crowded, crazy with traffic. I don’t think I could live in Bangkok — the traffic would seriously make me want to die and public transport isn’t the greatest — but visiting is fun. It’s chaotic, but fun.
My hotel, the Lit Bangkok, was a centrally located oasis of modern, fabulously designed calm. I really loved it here and would gladly return. I loved the hotel bed — excellent mattress and excellent linens — and the marble bathroom and the lovely linen bathrobe and the staff in the bar and restaurant and the spa. Did I mention the spa? The spa was amazing. After a long day of walking, I had a one hour foot massage — lying down — and it did me a treat. I felt like a brand new person afterwards. (The spa is also deliciously beautiful.) The hotel is located a two minute walk (but a very long staircase) away from the National Stadium Skytrain stop, making it convenient for most things. In fact, if there’s one lesson I learned during my time in Bangkok, don’t sit in a taxi in traffic. Just have the taxi take you to the nearest Skytrain or subway stop and go from there. Visit the Lit Bangkok website.
Here are my main recommendations for Bangkok…
Top Floor of the Paragon Department Store: I have always loved fabrics — pashminas, wraps, sarongs, blankets, scarves…you get the picture. I read online that the top floor of Paragon was the place to go for Thai silks and cottons and all sorts of handcrafts. I had to be dragged out of the store, so enthralled was I with everything Thai and handmade. I picked up a ton of sarongs for all my gal pals as gifts. Beautiful and inexpensive to boot. Highly recommended. Note that you’re looking for something called Paragon Passage on the 4th floor. Visit their website.
Bangkok Rice Barge Afternoon Tour: This tour was crazy but it was still a highlight of my trip. They dumped six of us into a traditional Thai long boat and then we headed out into the main river, where we jostled for position with barges and ferries and all sorts of maritime vehicles. I come from a big family of boaters and we take boating pretty seriously, so the fact that we were not provided with life jackets while we were zipping around so many other boats and barges sort of bothered me. (The boat pictured is the type of boat we were on.) Specifically, there didn’t seem to be any rules on the river about right of way or port-to-port passing, which was a little crazy. Maybe the lack of life jackets wouldn’t have bothered me if I had felt safe, but I did not feel safe! Living on the edge, I tell you. After about 45 minutes of this, we pulled into a quiet canal where we were transferred to spacious rice barge and treated to an amazing selection of fruits and nuts as we put-putted at a much more leisurely pace around the rivers and canals of Bangkok. This was a much calmer experience and I felt a lot safer and my heart rate returned to normal. I still think you should do this tour! But just bring a PFD! View this tour on Viator.
Expique Bangkok Night Lights Tour: More crazy fun. Definitely a huge highlight of my trip. We piled into a bunch of tuk-tuks and zipped all around Bangkok…at NIGHT. I didn’t get home til midnight. We had Wat Po all to ourselves, which was amazing. Also, a visit to the flower market. Lots of very tasty snacks throughout. Visit their website.
Village of Love Food Tour: Delicious with great stops — this lady making fresh fishcakes was a definite highlight — but this tour was problematic because there were three children under three and they just should not have been on a 4 hour walking tour of Bangkok. Firstly, Bangkok is not great for baby strollers/prams. Secondly, kids have to go to the bathroom a lot. Thirdly, kids just shouldn’t be on a four hour walking tour. (Just to be clear.) We spent a lot of time standing around, waiting for everyone. I was extremely distracted frustrated by the time this tour ended and escaped as quickly as I could. Our tour guide was very nice though. Visit their website.
Not enough time, for all that I wanted to do. Not enough delicious Thai food. So if you go, spend more than three nights in town. So much good stuff. Must go back. Must!
I don’t know what I was expecting, but Chiang Mai wasn’t it. I wasn’t expecting the coffee shops or the coworking spaces or the expat community or all the restaurants and bars and FOOD. Chiang Mai is a city that likes to eat. A lot. Everywhere, on every corner, there’s a guy and a barbecue and FOOD. There are locals at the stalls and expats and tourists and everyone seems to be getting along swimmingly. How the Thai people stay so slim, I do not understand.
So I kinda fell a little in love with Chiang Mai. It’s so fun! And so cheap! And so delicious! (Did I mention the food?) I could happily stay here forever. I was sad I didn’t have more time here. In hindsight, I would have skipped Phuket (although it was nice to get some sunshine) and stayed up north. Ah well, next time. Here’s what I got up to while I was in town.
De Naga Hotel: Sometimes, I get lucky. I booked this hotel on the edge of the old town and whenever one of my tours picked me up or dropped me off, there were envious “oooohhhs” from the back of the car. De Naga is a gorgeous, gorgeous hotel. If they just upped their service, amenities and Internet speed, they could easily be five star. I really enjoyed my stay here. Great location, sweet staff, delicious food and drink. On the downside, the wifi was SUPER SLOW. Visit their website.
The Khao Soi I made in cooking school
Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School: I spent an enjoyable evening at this centrally located Thai cooking school. Ann, our instructor, managed to make cooking fun (always hard for me). We made so many things…spring rolls, hot and sour creamy soup, green curry, red curry, massaman curry, Khao Soi (the dish of Chiang Mai), sticky rice with mango and I forget what else but it was all in abundance. Lots of Brits in attendance so I felt right at home. Highly recommended. Visit their website.
Mmmm massaman curry.
Ugo: Foursquare directed me to the restaurant at this small guesthouse by Thapae Gate and I am so glad. The massaman curry was ACE. And beautiful to boot. I liked the food and the service so much, I went back the next day. Visit their website.
Fah Lanna Spa: The spa treatments in Chiang Mai are deliciously cheap so I headed over to one of the bigger and bolder ventures, Fah Lanna, for a scrub, massage and facial and enjoyed my visit immensely. (It was a trifle chilly though.) The facilities are beautiful, modern but rustic at the same time. I loved the sarongs they used so much that I bought two. The ginger tea at the end of my treatment was particularly delicious. I made my appointment online via their website, and they sent a car and driver to pick me up! (They would have also driven me home but I decided to walk so I could check out the street art.) Highly recommended. Visit their website.
At Nail: Continuing my tradition of flying 8000 miles to get my nails done — you can take the girl out of Long Island but you can’t take the Long Island out of the girl — I dropped in here for a quick pedicure and it was perfect and inexpensive. It’s a small space so perhaps best to call ahead. Visit their Facebook page.
Mandara Massage: After a busy day of touring, my dogs were barking. I forget now if it was Foursquare or TripAdvisor that sent me here, but it took me a while to find it — it’s actually located within a shabby looking hotel complex, The Top North Hotel. Service was sweet and the almond cookies at the end of my treatment (along with more tea) were also very nice. A good value and it did the trick, but perhaps not work seeking out.
Totally lifelike wax figurine!
Chiang Mai Mind & Soul Tour: The tour I just could not stop talking about. This was an absolute surprise. Super early morning pick-up — 6:15 am — and then we sped off into the mountains to bring gifts to the monks. This was followed by a STELLAR breakfast at a place by the airport and military base — all the movie star handsome Thai pilots in their jump suits — and then more monks and more gifts and more blessings and well, by the end, I felt very blessed. A real highlight of the tour was monk chat, where I spent an hour with a monk, chatting about how they live. (Yes, they do use Facebook. No, we couldn’t be Facebook friends.) Highly, highly recommended. Visit their website.
Chiang Mai Food Tour: While the food that we tried was great, our guide wasn’t the most interesting guy. I learned more from the other American on my tour that I did from the guide. I would give this a miss but then again, maybe you’ll get a different guide who will be totally awesome. Visit their website.
I can eat Pad Se Eu all day long. Her’s Dash’s version.
Dash Restaurant: On my last day in Chiang Mai, I decided to just randomly walk around and see where Foursquare sent me. Well, they sent me here, to Dash, and it was interesting. Firstly, it’s a lovely space and someone has obviously thought about the decor. Oddly, everyone there was Chinese but me. OK, maybe not so oddly. The Chinese are all over Thailand. China has a new middle class…have passport, will travel…and travel to Thailand they do. In droves! Where they all eat at Dash, apparently, and enjoy the tasty pad se eu. Visit their website.
When can I get myself back to Chiang Mai? How? Anyone, anyone??