Don’t believe the hype…..

With so many new restaurants opening in London, it can sometimes be hard to decide where to go.

Although review websites (yelp and urbanspoon) and blogs (pickyglutton, londoneater) can provide some reassurance, I find that many restaurants – particularly newly opened ones – can suffer from being overhyped. Even Jay Rayner thinks this!

I’m as guilty as the next person with relying on these information sources (as I’ll explain later on in this post), so I’m going to give my completely honest opinion on a few of the places I’ve eaten at recently.

The Breakfast Club:

I’ve always been reluctant to eat at the breakfast club. The menu is quite generic, the food over-priced and the crowds over-whelming.

And that is exactly what I got when I went to eat here at Thanksgiving.

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However, to be fair to the Breakfast Club, the portions were huge, the service was friendly and their pumpkin pie was silky smooth.

IMG_0183The “secret bar” was also quite fun, with a spin-the-wheel style game played every hour and cheeky graffiti decorating the walls.

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Would I go back? Yes, but only to go and party at the bar.

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Dishoom:

A firm favourite of mine! The creamy black daal, the wonderful rotis, the bacon naan (oh, the bacon naan!) are all must pick items. Everytime I eat here, I end up in a food-induced coma.

However, a recent outing to Dishoom resulted in a new favourite: Kala Khatta Gola Ice. Although very weird sounding (ice, blueberries, a savoury spice mix, salted lime), it was incredibly refreshing and surprisingly addictive.

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Would I go back? Yes. Dishoom represents extremely good value for money, serves up addictive food and all in a fun surrounding. They even take bookings!

 

Dark Sugars:

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Branded as one of the best hot chocolates in London (some claim it is better than the hot chocolate from Paul A Young). Why? Because they use a heap of three proper chocolates in their mix.

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So, when I ordered one, I was expecting a wave of silky, intense chocolate. What did I get? A cup of something that I could have made at home. Disappointment doesn’t even come close to describing it.

Their mango cups, however, are highly addictive and are best avoided if you are on a diet.

 

Would I go back? Yes. But only to get my hands on their mango cups. And also to get more free “tester” chocolates.

 

Shotgun BBQ:

Shotgun BBQ was one of the places I was looking forward to for a long long time. Ever since being mesmerised by the food at Pitt Cue, I have been hooked on southern-style US BBQ.

I’ve been to Red Dog, Big Easy, the Blues Kitchen, Duke’s, the Rib-Man, Smokestak – with only Smokestak being close to what I dream of (I have many BBQ related dreams). So when all the blogs, tweets and reviews branded Shotgun BBQ the best thing since sliced bread, I immediately booked a table.

We ordered the majority of the menu, but the general consensus was “meh”. One of my cousins rated it as a “3.5/10” whilst another complained about the portion sizes (they were on the smaller side, to be fair)

In my humble opinion, I thought that the pork belly had a nice bite to it and was delicately smoked. I also liked the infamous pigs ear (share it, as it is super rich!), but the banana pudding was nothing special (I could have whipped this up at home in 5 minutes).

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Would I go back? No. Pitt Cue is only a 3 minute walk down the road

 

Bao:

If you have been living in London in the past 6 months, you will be fully aware of this place. Situated in Soho next to the infamous John Snow pub, the queues for this place go on and on and on. A friend of mine recently tried to go at 2pm on a Tuesday, only to find a queue snaking round the corner!IMG_0235

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(I love this queuing post – it’s the best bus stop in the world!)

I managed to get a seat at 6pm on a Thursday and immediately set about ordering everything on the menu. The highlights? Everything (well, almost!).

The quince bay drink was surprisingly refreshing, the pickles helped to cut through the richness of the dishes, the pork bao was perfect in terms of texture and flavour and the blood pudding is (and probably will be) my dish of the year.

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Rich, velvety smooth and oh so addictive. I could eat this everyday (perhaps because it reminds me of 蘿蔔糕 – a childhood favourite).

The only disappointments were the daikon bao (it would have been better puffed) and the horlicks bao (too sweet and the ice cream probably needs frying to add some texture). However, given the pricing of the dishes (the bill came to £18 a head!) meant that I was happy to gloss over these minor points.

Would I go back? Yes. Everyday if I worked in the area! The service is good and the food is an absolute bargain (I’d still go even if they doubled the prices). Just try to avoid the queues!

 

Zucca

If you are reading this now, this is my tribute to the best Italian restaurant in London, which sadly closed last week (reportedly due to a big hike in rent by the landowner).

Why do I love this place? The cooking is very Italian – simple cooking using superior ingredients, the home made bread is near perfection (oh the focaccia) and the decor just makes it the perfect place for a lazy Saturday brunch.

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My favourite dishes include the burrata with onion squash and cumin, the venison ragu and the infamous veal chop. However, saying that, I would probably eat any dish on the constantly changing menu.

I’m very sad that Zucca is closing and I hope they find a new site soon!

 

 

Blacklock

I love the concept of Blacklock.

Chops cooked over charcoal with a little help from an old iron

As a meat lover, what more could you ask for?

As a group of three, we opted for the pork loin, the pork belly, the lamb cutlet, the lamb neck and the beef in sirloin in addition to beef-dripping chips and ash roasted potatoes. All of the meat was perfectly cooked – the meat had a nice char on the outside and was still juicy on the inside – and the sides acted as a great way to mop up the excess meat juices.

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Even the South African in the group accepted that this was on par with anything he had eaten in South Africa! High praise indeed!

The drinks at Blacklock hold their own: the Nettle gimlet was refreshingly different whilst the Blacklock 75 had me hooked (I ordered way too many of these over the course of the night!).

My only gripe with Blacklock is that we were given all of the starters for free (as we had to wait a long time for the mains), but were then subsequently charged for it. Talk about cheeky!

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(The “free” starters were actually really really good!)

Would I go back? Yes, especially since they started their Sunday lunches!

 

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