Posted by Krista on June 30, 2012
Back to London. And the giant glowing orb in the sky actually cooperated for a moment. Everything was beautiful. (Look closely at Tower Bridge and you can see the Olympic Rings, getting ready for their descent.) I worked well, I ate well, I WALKED well. London is an incredible city to walk in, and I stayed entirely above ground during this part of my visit.
I moved into the compact but efficient Zetter in Clerkenwell for five nights. This made me more than a little teary-eyed because I was staying just a few blocks away from my old flat, a flat I lived in for over five years. Amazing how quickly London has changed in the short period I’ve been away.
I liked The Zetter. But the rooms are VERY small. (If you need to stay in this general area, The Hoxton is a bit more spacious.) The Zetter staff were lovely though and the bath products (Ren) were much much better than The Hoxton’s. (The Hoxton is generally cheaper than The Zetter though.) In short, if I could swing it, I might stay here again. But I think The Hoxton might still win out.
Here’s where I ate and drank…
Salvation Jane, 55 City Road, Shoreditch/City. I was glad to see something useful had finally gone into this strip of City Road. Let’s hope Salvation Jane lasts because the Indian street food place didn’t last long (and there were a lot of bailiffs involved) and then there was that Thai place that was all quite dark and scary and they were always rehabbing the toilets. We had some good coffees at Salvation Jane though, and the service was nice and overall, I like the vibe. The Verdict: Recommended for coffee talk.
The Old Fountain, 3 Baldwin Street, Shoreditch: I returned to one of my favorite pubs in London, The Old Fountain, with my friends Gerry & Ben. It was ridiculously different. There were no old men, the carpet had been replaced, and it had been entirely repainted and refurbished. I appreciate gentrification, but I was still a bit sad. That being said, the beer selection was ace and the rooftop was lovely. The Verdict: Recommended if you’re in the area and want to have some beers in a quiet place.
St. John, 145-57 St. John Street, Clerkenwell. I couldn’t not stop into the bar at St. John for some drinks and snacks. Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese for the win! The Verdict: GO.
Hoxton Beach: Whitecross Street Market, Barbican. You can’t see what’s in there, but it’s the most delicious falafel wrap EVER. I love these guys. I dream about them. And their pickled vegetables. Get a falafel wrap (this is the small) from Hoxton Beach and then head on over to the Two Brewers down by Waitrose for a cheeky pint. The Two Brewers lets you bring in food from the market. Genius idea. The Verdict: Yes to Hoxton Beach!
Grab Thai, 5 Leonard Street, Shoreditch: I think I’ve written about these guys before. Incredibly inexpensive, incredibly delicious. I normally stick to the green chicken curry for lunch. Good times: The Verdict: Cheap and filling and very good lunch. GO.
Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street, Shoreditch. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m an East London girl.) I really enjoyed my steak and chips. Couldn’t really complain. I also liked the design of the place and all the tilework. (It’s a Mark Hix place, btw.) Not sure how I felt about Damien Hirst’s preserved cow, but luckily, it’s high enough above the dining room that you don’t have to look at it while you’re eating. The Verdict: Very good.
10 Greek Street, 10 Greek Street, Soho. I’m somewhere in between on 10 Greek Street. I like the idea of the place and I like that it’s small and I thought all our servers were lovely but try sitting on a bar stool where a creepy man is pressing his sweaty back up against yours repeatedly for 45 minutes and, well, you might just end up feeling a bit UNWELL about everything. The food was very nice, but I drank a lot of white wine to get over my feelings of violation, so I am no good judge. The Verdict: I need to go back. (Talk about the beauty of natural light for photos, huh?)
Pitt Cue Co., 1 Newburgh Street. Somehow, during all my wanderings around Soho, I’ve never managed to make it down Newburgh Street. But here I was, hanging out on a street corner, 15 minutes before Pitt Cue opened. I think I might have fallen in love with one of the proprietors while I was waiting. Sigh. I meant to order the pulled pork bun but got the pulled pork meal instead (with a side of baked beans), but it really didn’t matter because it was all pretty excellent. And only 11 quid. The Verdict: GO. But don’t show up with 12 people. They are super super tiny.
The Gate, 370 St. John Street, Clerkenwell. So here’s my first question…when you KNOW you are going to open a restaurant on St. John Street, WHY do you give it the same name as a BAR further down on St. John Street? Confusing. Then, when I enter your restaurant, why do you ignore me? And then when you finally take my drink order, why do you walk away in the middle of my conversation? And then when you come to take my order, why do you tell me not to order anything on the menu because it is all going to take a really long time? And then when you come to ask “How is everything?,” why do you walk away before I can even answer??? My dining experience at The Gate is worth a short story of its own. I think you get the gist. They are CRAZY. The weird thing? My asparagus rotolo was weirdly EXCELLENT. The Verdict: I’m afraid to send you here. But the food is really good. (Note entirely vegetarian.)
While I was in town, I also saw the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern, which was quite affecting. I’d recommend it. I’m still thinking about it, a week or two later, and I think that’s what art is all about. I also saw the Christian Louboutin exhibit at the Design Museum, and while it’s nice to look at shoes, the exhibit didn’t give you much context about the artist, which was disappointing. There were also a lot of screaming 10 year olds. Who takes 10 year olds to a French shoe exhibit? Odd.
I’ve been thinking lately about trying to get back to London more often. Let me know if anyone is interested in an intermittent flatmate.
P.S. I’m realizing after posting this that I didn’t include Sedap on Old Street or The Modern Pantry on Clerkenwell Road. I revisited both. I still highly recommend Sedap, but I wasn’t too impressed with my watery omelet at The Modern Pantry, unfortunately.
Posted in EC1, Hotels, London, N1, United Kingdom, W1 | 6 Comments
Posted by Krista on February 10, 2010
61 Upper Street
Date of Last Visit: January 17th, 2009
The Victim: Me
The Damage: £15
The Background: You have to imagine me, sitting in my flat on a Sunday afternoon thinking, "I really want sushi." But it's Sunday. Pham is closed on Sundays. And I don't want to get on the tube. Why why why is there no sushi in Islington???
Well there is now. Thanks to Tenshi. And I'm pretty happy about it.
I liked Tenshi's spicy tuna rolls. Nothing special. Just honest.
Service is prompt and efficient, or at least it was when I was there. The atmosphere is VERY basic. This is really more of a take-out place. The good news about that, though, is they'll be open ALL the time. (I hope.) Not just from 12 to 3 p.m. and then 6 to 10 p.m. like Sasa Sushi down the road. So if you want sushi in Islington, you can have sushi whenever you want.
You can also have chicken katsu whenever you want, and this was a fine example. I'd eat it again. Good panko crust. I still like chicken katsu curry better, though.
The Verdict: (Relatively) cheap fun. Welcome to the neighborhood, Tenshi. I'm sure I'll be back many times.
Posted in Japanese, London, N1, United Kingdom | 10 Comments
Posted by Krista on December 8, 2009
120 Upper Street
Date of Last Visit: Friday, November 20th
The Victims: Too many to mention
The Damage: £20 or so each
The Background: I am almost embarrassed to tell you this.
You see…on Friday, November 20th, I had tickets to the cinema.
For the opening night of…
You know…the vampire chick flick.
And so we all went out to dinner beforehand. How many of us? Um…I think there were 17. 17 30-somethings. All out to see a teenage vampire flick.
The Entrance: So we were a little unsure which Gallipoli we were going to. And there are three of them on Upper Street. So Stacey and I went into all of them until of course, we hit the jackpot with the third.
And Gallipoli is packed! Really. My chair is getting bumped. My coat keeps falling on the floor. I am highly annoyed.
The Wine: We order some Pinot Grigio. It arrives warm. This is annoying. So I ask for a lot of ice. We get like three ice cubes. This is annoying too.
The Food: Mezze for everyone except a few. I love mezze because it's fun and communal and a surprise everytime. But at Gallipoli, the falafel tastes like sawdust. (Must write post about Hoxton Beach! Name is an oxymoron there, no?) There's not enough hummus to go around, and we have to pay extra for the aubergine. (The Turkish version of Baba Ghanoush.) I remember I liked the broad beans. And the vine leaves were okay. And as I'm having all these thoughts, people keep bumping my chair and I keep getting more annoyed. I'm tense. Very tense. And I'm tense enough as it is.
The Service: A little slow at the beginning, but eventually just fine.
The Baklava: Pretty good.
Food Verdict: Eh. Not for me. Too many people, too small a space, too average.
Film Verdict: Jacob was pretty hot. Edward was pretty pasty.
The Photos: Too dark for food photos, and I forgot my flashlight/torch.
Which Leads Me to My Question: Where's your favorite place for Turkish mezze?
Posted in London, N1, Turkish, United Kingdom | 9 Comments
Posted by Krista on October 19, 2009
4 Theberton St
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
The Victims: Gerry, Ben, Matt, Carolyn, Anne, Tobias…and I feel like I'm forgetting someone.
The Background: We'd been to St. Alban's for the beer festival. Drinking beer creates hunger. So we found ourselves on Upper Street, walking from one restaurant to the next, seeing if they'd take eight people. No one would. Until finally, we entered the very empty Sedir–always a bad sign when you're empty at 8 p.m. on a Saturday–and they said "Eight? Sure, no problem."
The Smell: Sedir smells like gasoline. It takes me a while to figure this out. I start imagining that we're all going to be die from chemical inhalations. But then I realize it's the stupid lamps. The stupid lamp oil makes the whole place smell like nail polish remover or something. Uggh. Headache.
The Food: I order our server's favorite dish–the Iskender–it's grilled meatballs on a bed of diced bread & yoghurt, coated with a secret recipe sauce. When the dish arrives, I attempt to send it back, thinking that they've given me the wrong order. Because you know, my entire life? During my entire life, MEATBALLS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ROUND.
So I eat a few pieces of meatballs (?) and have a spoonful of whatever it is that the meat is sitting on. Well, it's exactly what the menu said. Yogurt. And bread. There's a lot of meat. And a lot of yogurt. And a lot of bread. I get bored after about three bites. And it's just so gosh darned gloopy. Gloopy is really the best way to describe it. Gloopy meat and gloopy yogurt and gloopy wet bread. No thank you.
The Verdict: Eh. Not for me.
Posted in London, N1, Turkish, United Kingdom | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on October 7, 2009
58 Penton Street
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, September 19th, 2009
The Victims: Chris, Evelien, Al, Louise
The Damage: £50 each
The Background: There's not much background to report. Al & Louise got a sitter. Chris & Evelien got a sitter. So it was that we all went out to eat sans whippersnappers. I was coming from a party down the road at The Albion, so I was wearing very large shoes. These are the things I remember.
The Entrance: The Compass is more than a pub. It's more restaurant-y feeling. It's a nice big open room. To get to the ladies, you need to go down a long staircase. This was a bad thing for me and my shoes. I nearly died. Twice.
The Starter: Three out of five of us got the English snails to start (with garlic and parsley), and wow was this a generous portion. It was almost too many snails, because you know, after you've eaten the 8th or 10th one, you start to think about what it is you're eating. Uggh. I think I counted more than 18 snails on the plate. That's a lot of garden paraphernalia. I forget who, but at least one person at the table had never had escargot before. How have you lived???
The Main: That's my lamb there, with French beans (you can't see them) and new potatoes. (More like potato mash.) This was an EXTREMELY generous portion. I gave away half the lamb to Chris. The meat was pretty competently prepared. A great brown crust. Nice pink meat. (Although they never asked me how I wanted it done.) Ah, and the potato goodness it was all resting on was pretty delicious.
The Service: Either they are the nicest and sweetest servers in the entire world, or my cover was blown. The Compass had a large party upstairs, so our waitress apologized about 10 times for the delay in our food, and comped us the bread and olives. (Pet peeve though…I just don't think you should charge for bread. Olives, maybe. Bread, no.) Really…very attentive and pleasant. Well-done.
The Verdict: I could see myself going back here for a leisurely lunch. Or an early-in-the-week dinner.
Posted in London, N1, United Kingdom | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on August 28, 2009
27 Camden Passage
Date of Last Visit: Sunday, August 16th
The Damage: £3 something. Less than £4.
The Victim: Me
The Background: Douglas got there first. And he doesn't even live in the neighborhood. And plus, I walk by here ALL THE TIME. How did I miss this place? In short, I was mad.
And I was also mad because Frae is JUST LIKE Snog. (Without the double-entendre.) And Snog is just like Pinkberry. Man, isn't there anyone out there with a unique idea these days?
The Product: It's nice. They do that whole natural tangy yogurt thing. And you can pick your toppings. I went with bananas and graham crackers. The graham crackers were a bit stale.
The Verdict: I will probably find myself back here some day. That's just the type of person I am. A sucker for frozen good stuff. Even when I know there's a good chance I will be disappointed.
Posted in Desserts & Sweets, London, N1, United Kingdom | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on June 1, 2009
Banana Tree Canteen
412-416 St John Street
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, May 16th
The Victim: Me
The Damage: £15ish
The Background: I was in need of a quick lunch. I always walk by The Banana Tree and it's always got a good crowd in it, so I thought I would give it a shot.
The Entrance: Whoever designed the entrance is not claustrophobic. Seriously, there is absolutely no space between the door and the host stand. I wasn't quite sure where to put myself. Luckily, I was seated quickly before I fainted.
The Service: Fine. Nothing exciting. I was waited on two servers and they were both polite and nice.
The Starter: I started out with some sort of prawns. Fried. Rubbery. Bland. Tasteless. And despite the red flakes in the dipping sauce, there was no kick. No kick at all. Next?
The Main: I really should have written the name down. It was noodles of some sort. With chicken. They were rubbery. Bland. Tasteless. Are you sensing a theme to my review here?
The Weird Part: I'm not quite sure how to classify this restaurant. It was a bit Thai and a bit Malaysian and God knows what else. So I'm throwing it into my other Asian category.
The Verdict: Skip it. Blah.
Posted in London, N1, Pan-Asian, United Kingdom | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on May 28, 2009
Date of Last Visit: Saturday May 16th, 2009
The Victim: Me
The Damage: Not much
The Background: I've lived in Islington for more than four years now. And every so often, I still discover something new. Like the other day, when I got on the bus that just happened to go up the Essex Road. And I saw a few people queued up outside a shop. And I looked closely (or as closely as one can from the upper deck) and saw that it was a bakery. In Islington. That I had never seen before.
The Entrance: So I stopped there on my way back home from Dalston. And it was crowded. I had to queue. What I liked about it was that it seemed like everyone knew each other, and all the neighborhood kids must have worked there. To be honest, the donuts all looked a little sad. They could maybe work on their presentation. But in bakeries, as in all things, there is willingness and there is ability. And Raab's has a lot of willingness.
My Order: I honestly had no idea what to order. But I felt like I had to be quick about it. So an apricot and walnut loaf it was. Covered in sesame seeds. Did I want that sliced? Why yes, of course I did. And a few quid later, it was all mine. And I will admit to eating more than one slice on my way home.
What I really wanted, however, was pumpernickel. This country does not do pumpernickel, does it?
The Bread: Well, I certainly went for a novelty loaf. But I'm a sucker for that stuff and I liked it. I liked it a lot. I was sad when the loaf was gone. Very sad. Not sad enough to get on the next bus to get me another, but sad enough.
The Verdict: Why do we buy mysterious bread in bags from Tesco? Why not go to Raab's?
Posted in Desserts & Sweets, N1 | 9 Comments
Posted by Krista on March 24, 2009
Upper Street, outside St. Mary's Church
Date of Last Visit: Thursday, March 12th, 2009
The Background: I've just taken my Life in the UK test! And passed! In 4 minutes. (24 questions that I went through twice.) Really, citizens of Britain, you might want to consider raising the bar a bit.Just a little.
If you don't know what the Life in the UK test is, it's the first step towards either settlement (as in permanent residency) or citizenship. Here are some of the things that were on the test. I'm not even going to tell you the answers.
Are there more women than men in the U.K.?
Where does the Prime Minister live?
What is the legal drinking age?
Who is the Queen's heir?
Who is eligible for free dental care?
What is the maximum speed limit on a single carriageway?
Yes, for a second there, I thought I was taking my driving test.
But hey, on my way back into work (after a celebratory lunch at Ottolenghi), I passed this Pieminister cart on Upper Street. It's a bit new, I think. Part of me wonders if they really needed all that real estate–it's very big, isn't it?–but hey, it's still a fun idea. Must check opening hours.
Posted in London, N1, United Kingdom, Very British | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on January 29, 2009
140a Upper Street
Date of Last Visit: Monday, December 29th
The Victim: Me
The Damage: Cheap! Like less than £20 with a glass of wine.
The Background: Oh, I am just so very tired. But I've discovered over the years that the only way to recover from the trans-atlantic flight is to soldier through. I've done two loads of laundry and all sorts of errands. So now it's time for lunch.
My original plan was to go someplace central. Somewhere fancy. But I've watched too many movies on the flight over (Virgin Atlantic), and I am dragging.
One night, not so many weeks ago, I was out with the guys from Tipped.co.uk (fantastic social guide to things in London), making pom-poms at The Make Lounge (very cool place for getting crafty). I remember walking home (vaguely, as there was, somewhat surprisingly, a lot of champagne involved in the making of pom-poms) and wandering by Le Mercury. It was all candle-lit and full and gorgeous. Le Mercury by night is lovely.
So with this memory flittering through my sleep-deprived brain, it is to Le Mercury for lunch I go. and this time, it is sunny. Very sunny. And the windows at Le Mercury are large. Perfect.
The Entrance: I have my choice of tables. My waiter seems shy and not French. I don't mind so much.
The Starter: Foie gras with "poached dates." Poached dates, to me, sounds like dates that should be soft and warm. These were hard and cold, harder than any date I've ever ever had. A bit of a bust. But the foie gras was nice. Although the toast portion was paltry.
The Main: Crispy-skinned sea bass with crushed potatoes and minted pesto. It's all very nice. It would be even nicer if I were drinking French wine, but I'm not because I review their wine list and the wines by the glass all seem to come from someplace else. I find this a little bit odd, but it's fine.
The Verdict: Decent, well-priced food in a nice atmosphere. Too bad about the dates. And the wine.
Posted in French, London, N1, United Kingdom | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on November 6, 2008
201 Liverpool Road
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, November 1, 2008
The Victims: James, Kellie, Feathers, Matt, Julie
The Background: We've been to see the new James Bond. It was good. But just good. This was no Casino Royale. The teachers on sabbatical/lottery line was about the best one. For afterwards, I've made a booking at The Regent, the Islington pizza pub, based on the recomendations of many an Islingtonite.
The Entrance: We are early. And our table is ready! The Regent is nicely packed but not overly so. We are right in front of the jukebox and Matt takes over. We write down our orders on the back of our "Reserved" sign. That works well.
The Salads: The tomato and mozzerella salad is HUGE. And there actually is a lot of salad. I mean the green stuff. My mixed greens is fine, but I don't like the dressing at all. Hmmm.
The Pizzas: Spinach and egg for me. It looks GORGEOUS when it arrives, but I fear the egg has made it overly soggy. Either that, or it just really needed some more time in the wood-burning (nice) oven. It just wasn't very crispy. It was all so very wet. And maybe it was all the popcorn I ate at the cinema (cinema! hah!), but the pizza just wasn't salty enough for me. I am disappointed, so I order another beer.
The Verdict: Out for me. But so many people like the place that I'd give it another shot.
Posted in Italian, London, N1, United Kingdom | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on October 27, 2008
Coconut Grove Cafe
226 St. Pauls Rd
London N1 2LJ
Tel: 020 7226 6544
Date of Last Visit: Sunday, October 19th, 2008
The Victims: Matt, Carolyn, Gerry, Ben, and two others whose names, sadly, escape me.
The Background: After a big day out at the Lewes Apple Fest, it was time for some dinner. Our train came back into Victoria, which made Highbury & Islington one of the easier places to get to…a straight shot on the Victoria Line.
Some of us were total dorks and whipped out Google maps to see what the closest restaurants to Highbury & Islington might be. Thai Corner Cafe popped up as highly recommended on one of the London restaurant guides we consulted, but upon arrival, we were told that they were fully booked. (Interesting for a Sunday! And true by the looks of it.) But they led us around the corner to Coconut Grove Cafe, a restaurant they apparently own as well.
The Starters: We split an order of spring rolls and prawn crackers to start. The spring rolls were just deep-fried bits of deep-friedness. Filling and delicious only because of the amount of cider we had consumed earlier.
The Mains: I opted for my old stand-by. Pad Se Eu with Chicken. It was okay. Missing something. Maybe more fish sauce? It needed a little bit more saltiness to it. It looked nice though. All the dishes looked really nice. If anything, they get points for presentation.
The Decor: Kinda cute. Very Thai. And it looks like they have a nice little garden when they weather is nice.
The Loos: In need of a deep clean.
The Verdict: Eh.
Posted in London, N1, Thai, United Kingdom | 1 Comment