I was wandering around Shoreditch this past Saturday when it got to be lunch time and guys, it’s been a long since I had one of my old days of wandering. I love wandering around London. Everything is always changing! Curtain Road??!! Who’s been down Curtain Road lately? Can you gentrify gentrification? Because if so, it’s a-happening on Curtain Road.
So I had this idea in my head. I’d go to Tramshed. They’ve been closed lately (a fire?) and I figured I’d check out what’s new at Tramshed. But I never got there because I was walking down Rivington Street when I passed Santo Remedio, the Mexican place, and noticed that IT WAS CLOSED. Which is super sad. Because I liked Santo Remedio and I would have gone back for some tacos. Social media says they closed because of things outside of their control. What does that mean?? Stingy landlord? Council problems? In the absence of information, people start to make things up, don’t they? I was imagining all sorts of worst-case scenarios.
Santo Remedio wasn’t the reason why I never got to Tramshed, though. (Although I did stand there for a bit, wondering.) The reason why I never got to Tramshed was a guy named Munur, who was standing in the doorway next to Santo Remedio while I looked at the menu for a new looking place I was pretty sure was not there a month ago.
“We just opened three weeks ago,” he told me, and then launched into a very thorough explanation of all things Popolo.
“Great! Honestly, you don’t have to convince me! I’ll come in!” I said, as I took a place at the counter. (Cement counter, interestingly enough. Sorry, I notice these things.)
I was quickly introduced to everyone within eyesight. We talked about Santo Remedio. We talked about Instagrammers with 90,000 followers. (12 years people! 12 years and all I have is 900 Instagram followers!) I went back and forth on what I wanted for lunch. Pasta? More pasta? I’d just been to Italy! I’d just eaten at Frescobaldi! Who cares? I wanted more pasta. Butternut squash and sage ravioli, thank you. Also, did you say anchovy something? I’ll take that too. Perfect.
The squash ravioli, warm, comforting, autumnal.
The anchovy something (sorry), green, bitter (in a good way), and anchovy (in a very good way).
Delicious. Throughout, Tony the Spanish Bulgarian was there for everything I needed. Including that second glass of white wine, which I probably didn’t need.
And then…after I pretty much told everyone in the entire Popolo how much I did not like grouse, they brought me — surprise! — grouse cappelletti. And it was good. It was very good. Life was good. Popolo was very good. Shoreditch was good. And maybe I’m okay with grouse now. As long as it’s wrapped in pasta.
And no, I didn’t tell them that maybe their name was a little too close to Polpo. I thought about doing it. But I didn’t. And then my friend Lee told me she saw I was at Polpo earlier and I thought again about telling Popolo their name was too close to Polpo. But you know, choices people.
The Verdict: Go. And go soon! I think you will like it.
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.
I was in London in July for many reasons. Three hotels during my stay, also for many reasons. The Andaz Liverpool Street was my first hotel. Let me start by saying that this is a very high quality hotel, so in a way I feel bad about what I’m about to say. BUT there were just so many quirks. Particularly, they were quirks that were totally in the control of the hotel.
So firstly…lovely arrival. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about their more or less deskless arrival area, but it was fine and neat and different and I am all about trends in the hotel industry, so it was fine. They were very sweet and wanted to take my luggage to my room but I was jetlagged and just wanted to shower and change immediately so I said no. And I hate feeling like I have to tip someone else to do something I could have done myself.
I am a Hyatt Platinum member so I was upgraded to a king room. It was nice. But I could feel the people who had slept in the bed before me. I hate a mattress that dips.
Then, I felt like an idiot because #1 I couldn’t figure out where to put the room key to turn the lights on (hint: the thermostat) and #2 I couldn’t find the hair dryer, which they say is in the desk — and it is — but I still couldn’t find it. I had to call the front desk both times.
So then the wifi. MEH. At a hotel of this caliber, the wifi should be all connected, all the time. If they can do this in hotels in the middle east, they can do this in LONDON. For the love of God. My iPhone 5 kept dropping the connection and it is not my phone’s fault.
OK, the bath tub. It is seriously two feet high, if not taller. There is no step. So you really have to throw yourself into the tub and hope you don’t slip and fall and break something. I was frightened. I am a normal person. And I was frightened. Do NOT grab the towel rack to swing yourself out of the bath tub because it is HOT. HOT. Don’t. (Really, I am curious about their insurance claims.)
There is like NO sound proofing in this hotel. And hotel staff have NEVER been trained to use their INSIDE VOICE when they are outside guest rooms. From around 8:30 to 10 am the two mornings I was there, there was shouting, yelling, and MUCH SLAMMING of doors, particularly on Sunday. (Also, when I checked in on Friday around 1 pm.) I don’t even know where these doors were that they were slamming, but they were slamming them. Many times. Like every two minutes because at one point, I counted. (Although maybe it was the plumbing system? I don’t know. It sounded like doors slamming.) I was really trying to sleep in on Sunday morning and it was totally impossible. I mentioned this to Daniel the manager when I checked out and he was very nice and polite about it. But I don’t know. I am your guest. I shouldn’t have to tell you these things.
Almost lastly, the plumbing system. It is loud. They use some sort of vacuum to pull the water out of the sink and the toilets. Old building.
lastly, my reservation was complicated. I am acknowledging that. I booked one night through BA for free with Avios and then I booked the 2nd night directly and combined the reservations. I emailed the hotel in advance to combine the reservations. I still got a bill for the first night. Daniel was very helpful in having it removed.
OH WAIT…the nasi goreng from room service. IT WAS DELICIOUS. You should get it. and the free non-alcoholic minibar was awesome. Meantime beers for 5 quid which I actually think is an okay value for a hotel.
Location…The Central Line is RIGHT there. You can get anywhere in London in about 20 minutes. Really, the best. OK, it’s not surrounded by the British Museum or anything, but it is easy to get to/from.
The Verdict: Probably wouldn’t stay here again. Deathly afraid of that bath tub and too much SLAMMING.
Note: A version of this review appears on TripAdvisor. I would like to note that I feel that a lot of the reviews of this hotel are fake given the lack of detail in many reviews.
The Damage: None. This was VERY unexpected. The restaurant decided to comp us (Mathilde, really). We were ready to pay. Expected to pay. But all such offers were declined. You know how I feel about this. So we left a nice tip. The tip was the only damage.
The Background: This is one of the nicest meals I can remember having as of late. Up there with The Loft which was almost exactly a year ago. And remember, as I’m eating all this and thinking that this is the nicest meal ever, I had no idea that I wasn’t going to be paying.
Because I continue to run out of words after all these years, I’m going to try to do this in pictures. Hopefully these photos will convey the beauty of the meal and Francesco Mazzei’s skill and style.
L’Anima bread. I could have had more of this. Was hard not to fill up on it before the dishes started arriving. (Things got off to a pretty slow start, but quickly picked up pace.)
Scallops and ‘stocca fisso’ with peppers & anchovy. I love anchovy more and more with each passing meal. This was a fantastic combination of flavors. Salty.
Borage tortelli with “Famiglia Gottardi’ balsamic vinegar. I’ve been thinking about these plump little pockets for days. The gentleman at the table next to us had a whole plate of them. JEALOUSY.
Wild sea bass with smoked aubergine and jar tomatoes. I loved the smoked aubergine. And the crispy skin on the sea bass. I mean, I loved the whole dish, but the aubergine and the skin were the best parts. And look at those little leaves, scattered around the plate.
Veal tuna. This was particularly lovely and tender. Summer. I like capers. A lot.
Sicilian rabbit, served in an almost Asian-style. (Putting aside the tomatoes, of course.) At this point, I was so full, I couldn’t do justice to this very rich dish. Francesco came out of the kitchen after he saw our returned plates to see if anything was wrong. (Talk about embarrassing.) I did not have the nerve to ask for a doggie bag. But had I know it was possible, I would have.
Lovely sorbets. I thought this was the end. I mean, I know about palate cleansers and all that, but this seemed like a sunny-weather type of end to everything. I was wrong.
Because then the most deliciously light but tremendously rich hazelnut soufflé arrived. Maybe a little too eggy for me, but still absurdly delicious. Ah, L’Anima, I think I’ve lost my heart.
The Verdict: Sadly, Francesco is married. I checked. I’ll still go back though.
The Background: Home is no longer. I liked Home in the early days. The food was good. The service was good. But this was like 2005? 2006? Then something happened and it became tremendously average. Speaking of tremendously average, it was during my walk to Cataloupe for lunch earlier in the week for a terribly average lunch that I noticed The Book Club. And immediately made plans to dine there later in the week.
The Entrance: I like the look of The Book Club. A lot. It's all Ercol chairs and simple furniture. The sun comes in through the windows just right. Everyone looks the tiniest bit more beautiful and we all feel very on trend.
The Food: We order a bunch of different things. For me, it's the risotto. But it's not really risotto. It's like orzo or something. There's no creaminess. It's just rice and veg. Hmmm. Not what I expected. And it's not very delicious either. A generous portion, sure. But there are lots of twigs in stems in there and I didn't come out for lunch to eat weeds.
Most egregious is the burrito. With CHIPS. With F*CKING CHIPS. I am reminded of the time I went to a Chinese restaurant in Stockholm and was presented with a bread basket. WTF?
OK, I lied. Even more egregious was the tomato soup. I should have brought a ruler or placed something else in the photo to give you a sense of scale. This was like a gallon of tomato soup. For £4.95…a disturbingly good value. Note I asked waitress, "How big is the tomato soup? Do you think the tomato soup and the risotto would be too much?" No, no, she said. You'll be find. It's a very shallow bowl.
Shallow my ass. With all due respect, of course.
Oh, and I haven't even talked about the taste. It's like all marinara. Would you eat a bowl of marinara for lunch? I didn't think so.
The Victim: Jess my fellow London restaurant blogger, with a little romance thrown in for good measure.
The Damage: £40something
The Background: I have a confession to make. I was once a pescatarian. This would have been around 1994 – 1995. One whole year. No red meat or chicken. Just vegetables. And some fish on occasion. The good part was that I probably weighed a lot less that year than other points in my life. The bad part was that I was a frequent guest at the infirmary. (And yes, I did eat lots of protein. Fish! And beans. And eggs. I did eat eggs. Maybe that makes me a ovo-pescatarian?)
I was glad to return to the land of pepperoni pizza. I like pepperoni. And I really like bacon. But I've missed all those vegetables I used to eat.
I know…I probably could have both bacon and vegetables. But I don't. I'm just stupid.
So Saf has intrigued me from the start. Because it's very much about the veg. And the nice reviews were compelling. Add to this Jess' 21 Day Detox, and Saf was my suggested dinner destination.
The Entrance: Saf is a lot more modern than I expected. I was thinking it would be more hippie-tree-hugging. Sure, it smells like wheatgrass. But it's really quite a nice space.
The Service: Is weird! I stand in the entrance for ages before someone acknowledges me. I totally messed up and wore my invisible cape, so it wasn't surprising that the hostess looked right past me and asked the people in line BEHIND ME if they had a booking. And then once Jess and I were seated, I sometimes felt like I was one of those guys at O'Hare airport that wears the headphones and has the little orange sticks to guide planes in with. You! Over here! Yes! Over here!
The Food: "Cheese" to start. That's actually nut cream. But it tasted vaguely like cheese. And you know, it was pretty darn good. Particularly served with the partially sun-dried tomatoes. And hey, I like flax.
For my main, I chose the Buddah Bowl–teriyaki glazed smoked tofu, organic jasmine rice, wok fried greens, kimchee, kimpura & sambal. Seemed like a lot of seaweed to me. I don't mind eating seaweed. It just wasn't what I was expecting. I liked the tofu though. And the rice. But it seemed more like a lunch dish than a dinner dish.
Jess ordered the Root Vegetable Tart with buckwheat and herb crust, purple sprouting (broccoli???), and creamed spinach. By the end of the meal, she'd maybe eaten half of it. Too heavy, she said.
The Dessert: "Chocolate" tart for her (which I think was actual chocolate, just with no dairy products added) and a "winter tart" for me. The winter tart was like eating a mixed berry muffin from Pret. Too much like breakfast. Too bad.
The Conversation: I am intrigued by Jess' 21 Day Detox. She's trying to convince me to do the same. Hmmm. (As I sit here eating delicious-packed-full-of dairy-Comte from Borough.)
The Loos: Co-ed!
The Verdict: I liked the vibe of Saf. I liked that I felt like I was doing something good for my body. I liked the "cheese" plate. Wasn't so crazy about the rest, however.