I know I’m a broken record, but I really love Vietnamese food. I could happily eat it all day, every day. Even pho, which I once wrote off as boring. Pho is now one of my favorite things ever. Particularly for breakfast, which is when it is more typically eaten in Vietnam. (Who knew? This was a surprise to me too.) So when I noticed that Kavey was raving about Viet Food in Chinatown, I made a beeline for it and all its delicious Vietnamese food.
Today was my second visit but I sat in the same exact spot as my first visit: at a stool by the window, watching Wardour Street walk by. How do all these people fit into Londontown? I do not understand.
I like the decor of Viet Food. They’ve taken it very seriously. I like the tile entrance and the vintage-industrial feel of the loos. I also really, really like the pulsating electronic music.
I also like the very reasonable prices on the menu, although I wonder sometimes how Chinatown restaurants will survive, the way rent prices are going. I would honestly pay a few quid extra if it meant the Chinatown survives. (Please Boris, protect it.)
For today’s lunch, I ordered the seafood balls — exactly what you’d think they’d be — and the Vietnamese chicken curry. The seafood balls were super, super hot and while they were good, I had higher expectations. (I did sort of fall in love with the tiny little jar for the sauce that came on the side though.) The chicken curry was great and I would gladly have this again. The curry is more subtle than Thai curries. If I were a better home cook, I’d know why. My guess is that the Vietnamese version has more lime and more lemongrass.
The Verdict: I like Viet Food. I like the decor, the service is okay, and I like the prices. I haven’t eaten at enough of the world’s Vietnamese restaurants to make a fair comparison, but I’d recommend a visit if you, like me, love Vietnamese food.
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2015 has been the year of saying “Yes!” I’ve been saying “Yes” to a lot of the things that I used to say no to. Firstly, I have more time than I used to have. Secondly, and frankly, I got tired of saying “No.” Of the many things in life I really can’t say no to, French food ranks highly. Very highly. One day, I will go to France and learn to cook. I promise you, mom. (My mother learned to cook by mail in the 1970s. The Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu. She still has the binders. She wants me to learn.)
So French food. Brasserie Gustave invited me and a +1 to come along for lunch one day, so I brought along Jen and a +2, Baby Arden. (I asked in advance if that was okay.) It was time to introduce Arden to the concept of “Ladies Who Lunch.” Given the speed at which Arden shoved two beautiful madeleines into her beautiful gob, I think she is now a convert, both to “Ladies Who Lunch” and to madeleines. Thank you to the staff at Brasserie Gustave for providing the madeleines. Also thank you to Brasserie Gustave for putting up with our mess because this is how things looked when we left…they get extra points for this…
But really, our meal at Brasserie Gustave was tremendously lovely. I understand now why Fay Maschler liked it. And Jay Rayner. If you are looking for a place to take your parents for lunch or dinner, Brasserie Gustave is it. The space during the day is light and spacious, the service is attentive, and the food is deeply French and deeply good.
Deeply, deeply French like delicious, garlicky escargot…
And deeply, deeply French like perfect, buttery foie gras…
Richard, our host, was very attentive and kind during our meal. So too our server — the one who brought Arden the madeleines. Richard brought us his suggested wine pairings with each course. (Whenever I am in a French restaurant or in the hands of a knowledgeable server, I put myself in their hands.) My favorite was the Coteaux du Layon from Maison Langlois-Chateau, a honey-toned Chenin Blanc.
For lunch, Jen and I “pseudo-shared” our two mains. I say “pseudo-shared” because of course we were like “We can share!” but really, we each enjoyed our mains so much that there was really the only tiniest bit of sharing there towards the end. (After we had finished talking, you know.) My Rossini was honest perfection, the beef perfectly medium rare, the spinach perfect and well…more perfect foie gras. How many times can I use perfect in this blog post?? I see now that they are offering a Chateaubriand Rossini for two for £70. You should go to Brasserie Gustave with that special someone in your life and get it.
Jen ordered one of the day’s specials, a baby chicken perfectly prepared. I would tell you what it tasted like but Jen only let me have the tiniest of bites at the end of our meal, so enthralled was she in the entire dish. By this point, I knew the feeling.
The Verdict: I tremendously, tremendously enjoyed my meal at Brasserie Gustave. If my father ever makes good on his threat to come visit me again, this is where we are going. Richard and his team are fabulous hosts and the food is fabulously French. Prices are a tiny bit high but honestly, it’s worth it. Go go go. (They also get super extra credit for dealing well with an active 13 month old.)
I was a guest of Brasserie Gustave. They are very kind hosts. We tipped on our guesstimate of the full bill.
How do you write about a thermos? (Or, well, in this case, a Thermos®.) I hadn’t considered how to write about a Thermos until AFTER I attended a coffee-making workshop at Workshop in Clerkenwell hosted by the PRs behind Thermos. In hindsight, I exhibited very poor planning skills.
Because it’s really hard to write about a Thermos.
It’s easier to write about coffee or well, making coffee. So in many ways, the Thermos PR team were absolutely brilliant in coming up with this event. They chose a great location — Workshop in Clerkenwell — conveniently located down the road from me. They brought in a fantastic barista. And they served us some great coffee. (Or, well, we served ourselves great coffee after we made the coffee ourselves under the expert tutelage of the instructors.)
The Genuine Thermos Brand Beverage Flask keeps drinks hot (or cold) for up to 24 hours, thanks to the double-wall vacuum insulation. The team demonstrated this magic by filling our Thermoses with coffee the night before the event. I had a cup the next morning — 36 hours later — and the coffee was still pretty warm. Definitely drinkable.
The baristas at Workshop showed us how to use an Aeropress and a coffee cone — aka the V60. I like the idea of a coffee cone because it’s so low-tech. I like low-tech a lot these days. Life is too complicated already. Here’s a Vine I made of the coffee cone process:
This was a fun event. I learned a lot about coffee-making and left so caffeinated that I had to go buy a banana afterwards to slow myself down. (The potassium in bananas are good at absorbing caffeine, apparently.) And now I have a nice new Thermos.
I was invited to attend this event. I received a Thermos and a traveling coffee mug in return for my attendance and writing up the event.
I went to Dublin in early November and truthfully, it was a terrible trip. Nothing worked out the way I planned. I woke up on the day of the departure, all set to head to City Airport, when a text arrived from BA, letting me know my flight was cancelled. Damn London fog! I attempted to rebook online and was unsuccessful. Luckily, my BA Silver status got me through the massive phone queue within 5 minutes but there were barely any options the next day.
I departed for Dublin 25 hours later than expected. So that kinda sucked. But a surprisingly tasty dinner and some Irish whiskey at Cleaver East at The Clarence Hotel set me to rights.
Here’s where I ate and drank in Dublin during my short visit and before a group of guys tried to mug me after I checked out of my hotel on Thursday evening. (Yup. That not-stressful-at-all-thing happened. Always be alert.)
Cleaver East: I was practically the only diner at Cleaver East on the night I visited, and I stayed for a lonnnggg time. Service forgot about me for a bit but once they remembered I was there, we got on swimmingly. The early bird special — two courses for €21.95 — was a great value. Particularly because I ordered it at like 6:40 pm and the special ended at 6:45 pm! Hah! You really can’t go wrong with beef carpaccio in my book, and the pan fried sea bass was a generous portion. I enjoyed my meal here. The Verdict: I’d go back.
Winding Stair: Social media pointed me in the direction of The Winding Stair, a small bookshop and bistro facing the Liffey by the pretty Ha’Penny bridge. In hindsight, my generous starter of smoked trout pate would have been enough for lunch. I could barely finish my main of beef cheeks and colcannon. (Lunch special: 2-Course €19.95, with glass of house wine €25.95) I liked the Winding Stair although I really would like them to refinish the staircase. It has seen better days. The place has a bit of a rickety feel, which might make it loveable to some. Me? I wanted to sand and stain everything. The Verdict: I’d go back for the food and view out onto the Liffey.
The Stag’s Head: While walking through Temple Bar on my 2nd evening, we dropped into this popular corner meeting spot for some Guinness. There’s a comedy club upstairs too so expect a lot of entrances and exits. (It was slightly distracting, the constant “Where is the comedy club?” questioning.) I can imagine the ground floor is unbearable when it’s too crowded. The Verdict: I’m not sure I would go out of my way, but it’s a nice enough spot.
Jule’s: I hadn’t eaten all day on Thursday so before I checked out of my hotel, I stopped into Jule’s for the lobster special. (As you do.) At 19€, it certainly wasn’t a bargain. Tasty enough, but a tiny portion. More fries than lobster. Staff were super helpful and friendly though. The Verdict: On the fence. Would want to consider price-to-value ratio in more detail first.
The Porterhouse: The Porterhouse, with its fantastically wide beer selection and central location, made for a perfect meeting spot. It also had the advantage of being right outside the doors to my hotel, The Clarence. (More about The Clarence in a later post.) Seriously great beer selection, not too crowded and live Irish music! I could have spent more time here. The Verdict: I’d go back here.
I may have enjoyed my time in Dublin, but as you may be able to tell, I did most of my eating and drinking relatively close to my hotel. (I’m selfish like that.) This was partly convenience and partly because my plans were thrown off by my flight delay. I like Dublin though so I’m sure I’ll be back. Always good to visit somewhere where everyone can pronounce your last name.
I learned something the other day. It’s really hard to take a photo of a box of beer. Unless you have a good table, a clean backdrop, and some props. I have a glass dining table and it just didn’t work. I debated using my bed as the flat surface but that seemed weird, and then I had the backdrop problem so there really was no good solution.
So what is Flavourly? Formed in 2012, Flavourly is the UK’s fastest growing artisan food, snack and craft beer discovery service. Through their monthly deliveries, they help foodies and craft beer enthusiasts discover artisan foods, snacks and craft beers.
If that sounds like I took it straight from the PR, you’re right. I did! I never said I wasn’t a little lazy.
But here is what’s funny. The PR contacted me about Flavourly and then I went to the opening of the very nice cocktail bar WM Barker & Company under Dirty Dick’s on Liverpool Street, and I met the very lovely Hannah from Hiver, the honey beer, there. We got to talking and I mentioned Flavourly, thinking I was coming up with a really unique idea that would help her grow her business. Hah, such misplaced confidence. Hiver is already in with Flavourly, and when my box arrived, there was Hannah’s beer, right there!
Here’s what I received in my box…
19th Brew Golden Ale by Eden Mill: Refreshing and well-balanced golden beer.
Amber Ale by Fourpure: An American amber ale with toasty malt character.
The Brown Honey Ale by Hiver: Honey complements and adds depth to darker roasted malts. Very, very interesting.
Black IPA by Stewart Brewing: Fresh pine and tropical aromas.
Black Saison by Firebrand: Dark and full or roasted malt flavors.
Azimuth IPA by Hardknott: A balanced hoppy beer.
Seven IPA by Seven Brothers: Classic American IPA. Possibly my favorite.
Rose Wheat Beer by Ticketybrew: A rose wheat beer, probably my least favorite.
I also got some snacks which I ate immediately. They were from Man-o-Masa. Chipotle & lime tortillas and some white cheddar too. They were nice…maybe a little too grainy for my taste. I was much more interested in the beer. And well, if I were Flavourly, in making snacks part of the package, I might work on my snacks to beer ratio. I know eating is cheating in the UK but still…
I’ve done some research on Flavourly since my box arrived and learned that they went on Dragons Den and EVERYONE wanted to invest. Flavourly then turned them all down and went on to earn their own money through Crowdcube. SMART guys, very very smart. They earned £300,000 through crowd-funding, which is amazing. The company has grown a tremendous amount…I found one article that says that they’ve grown more than 500% a year since 2012. When they launched the club in 2013, they received 4,000 orders on the FIRST DAY. Check out this article for more deets.
OK, I’ve given it some more thought and maybe my photo isn’t too bad…I took it on the kitchen counter and then Instagrammed it up…
Flavourly costs £24 quid a month and includes 8 beers and 2 snacks. It’s a great Christmas present for the beer-lover in your life. If I drank more beer at home, I would totally subscribe! It is now definitely on my list as my new go-to birthday present for folks that like beer.
Flavourly was kind enough to send me a beer box for free. I enjoyed my Flavourly experience and would highly recommend it to beer-lovers in the UK.
This is my second visit to Shotgun and I’ve come at a bad time. It’s 3:45 pm on a Tuesday. There’s one occupied table in the place. I stand at the door, by the host’s table. I stand and stand and stand. No one comes. So I walk to the bar. There are three people behind it, busy unpacking things, cleaning. Even though I think I’m pretty visible, they don’t see me. But I swear to God I am pretty sure they know I’m there. They’re just not ready to talk to me.
A woman comes up the back stairs and sees me. She looks at me, oddly, and then looks at the people behind the bar. She does one of those head nod things to them. The “UM THERE’S SOMEONE HERE” head nod. The staff turn and look at me.
“Oh! Can I help you with something?”
“Uh, just wanted to have a late lunch and I’m pretty sure you are open all day, right?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Do you want to sit at the bar?”
All the tables are empty. Except for the one occupied one. I don’t want to sit at the bar. I have a big bag with me (Mulberry Sample Sale) and my handbag weighs 20 pounds and I just want to sit down and have some space. They let me sit down at a table.
A server drops by and takes my order. Pulled pork sandwich and a side of mashed potatoes. Although they don’t call them mashed potatoes. That’s fine. I just can’t remember what they’re called. I order a class of the house wine on tap too.
And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. They bring me my tap water. And I drink that, because I am thirsty. I am pretty sure they leave the bottle with me because I pour another glass, but later, the bottle disappears when I am not paying attention and I wonder why they would do that, take the bottle away. Because I still want water.
And I wait some more. And finally, they bring me my glass of wine. Finally. “Sorry for the delay,” they say.
And eventually, my pulled pork with a side of potatoes and two pickled okra arrives. I had joked about the lack of veg at Shotgun on Instagram a few weeks earlier. Green salad for you, or nothing. “You could have the pickled okra,” they told me. It’s not obvious on the menu. Next time, I will ask for a whole big portion because it’s great and okra is hard to get right.
And my pulled pork sandwich is great too. Although I am still not a fan of the bread, which is just too soft for me. Too wet. I need more structure. I mentioned this on Instagram too a few weeks back and Marina told me that she prefers the soft stuff.
I have never been one for white bread so consider that.
During my first visit to Shotgun, I had the brisket. It was fantastic. So get that. But the service was off then too. “We need the table back at 7,” they told us. “Yes, we know,” we told them. “We’re flexible so kick us out whenever.” The hostesses stood there at their stand, staring at us, willing us to leave.
The eye…the window to the soul.
(Later, the staff give us a glass of wine each, on the house, at the very narrow bar.)
The Verdict: Go, and eat all the delicious meat. But beware staying longer than 1 hour and 45 minutes. And don’t go to hang out at the bar either. It’s only meant for sitting.