March 19, 2012

Tapas Brindisa

Lately I've been in the mood for Spanish tapas which made me think I should finally blog about one of my favourite tapas bars in London (apart from the other great places mentioned in my London Spanish post).  Tapas Brindisa in Soho is part of the Brindisa group who import and sell Spanish food through their shops and restaurants, including a chorizo grill and shop at Borough Markets.
The Soho tapas bar is simple but lively and has a casual cafe feel to it.  It's always quite busy and because it doesn't take bookings and is not very big, it can often mean a bit of a wait for a table but the food is worth it.  Dave and I went there with our overseas friends, Jason and Eunice which meant we got to sample a few more dishes than if it were just two of us.

We had 7 different tapas which were all quite different but all tasty including classics such as huevos rotos with ham taquitos (broken eggs over fried potatos with ham pieces) and gambas al ajillo (chilli garlic prawns).  Of course we also had a plate of Brindisa's quality hams, opting for the regional charcuteria plate of chorizo, salchichon, lomo and Teruel ham, which was beautifully presented and served with bread and olive oil. 

Broken eggs on potatoes - grilled lamb cutlets - classic garlic prawns - goats cheese with honey & beetroot

We also tried the deep fried monte enebro - handmade goats cheese with orange blossom honey and crispy beetroot which was pretty to look at but punchy with lots of flavour from the sweetness of the honey to the creamy strong taste of the goats cheese.  Another flavour packed dish was the chuletillas de cordero, grilled lamb cutlets with alioli - the Spanish know how to grill lamb and the Brindisa kitchen lived up to this reputation.  

However the winner for me us definitely the pulpo a la gallega - Galician style octopus with potatoes and pimento.  I saw a picture of this on the Brindisa website before we went and knew it would be good.  The octopus was tender, and was matched perfectly with the combination of potatoes and pimento.  It was even better than the picture suggested and I could have ordered another plate of this as it's one of those dishes I can easily get addicted to.

Jamon - croquettes & octopus - crema Catalana - homemade sorbet

Everyone was impressed with the food and the overall dining experience.  Given the quality of all the dishes, we were keen to try some desserts; predictably I went for the crema catalana which tasted nice but was a tad runny.  Eunice went for homemade strawberry sorbet which was served in a jar and looked like it was going to escape but the only place it went was straight to our grateful tummies!

What:  Tapas Brindisa
Where:  46 Broadwick St, Soho, London W1F 7AF
How much:  dishes £3.75 - £12.75 (£21.50 for the Iberico Selection)

March 12, 2012

Jack Snacks!... Lava Bun at Din Tai Fung

If you've ever read my previous post on Din Tai Fung, you will know I really like the food there. Last Thursday night after having Korean for dinner, my tummy wanted dessert so it was off to Din Tai Fung. There was a poster proclaiming "Lava Bun" and so I had to try one (just one, cause one needs to save room for the tasty Golden Taro Bread with taro ice-cream).

It's daintily sized and contains a runny golden lava which I think is a salted egg custard, the saltiness coming from what tastes like salted duck egg yolk. It's definitely different and I can see myself trying this again, though I think I'd really like it if it was a bit sweeter. Luckily I had the golden taro bread and icecream to take care of that!

The oozy Lava Bun. Thank you to my hand model!
 What: Lava Bun at Din Tai Fung
Where: 644 George St, Sydney 2000
How much: Around $2/$2.20 for 1 or $6.00 for 3 (sorry, I forgot to write it down and can't remember exactly!)

March 10, 2012

Gelato Messina - The Creative Department (Laboratorio and Patiserie)

It seems lots of people are talking about Gelato Messina's "Creative Department" (Laboratorio and Patisserie). A friend had shown me a photo of a mushroom gelato dessert and I was intrigued! So too was the rest of our supper group and we went to check it out one friday night.

Located next to the Gelato Messina store in Darlinghurst, the Creative Department is a tiny shop - 2 tall glass cabinets filled with large gelato cakes - I'm already thinking in my mind, who's having a birthday soon? But for tonight, we've only got eyes for the small gelato desserts at the counter. There's 5 of us so we pick 5 out of the 9 different ones to share.

Big gelato cakes, cute gelato desserts, some of our selection!

"Samurai" consists of yuzu sorbet and salted caramel swirl encased in orange scented chocolate in the shape of a magnum ice-cream ($7.90). The yuzu sorbet is refreshing and overall it's not too sweet. "Bitty,,,,,,,,Bitty!!!" is salted caramel gelato, caramel and milk chocolate puffed rice crackle, vodka flavoured milk, coated in white chocolate ($8.90). It looks like a big gelato brick with 2 round domes on top. It's one of the ones that we eat last so by this time the insides have already started to melt and as a result we find it too sweet. If eaten at the right temperature it would most likely be lighter in sweetness. "Royale w' Cheese" is chocolate crackle gelato, financier bun, white chocolate gelato and apricot gele'e, compressed cucumber and white chocolate slice ($11.90). And yes it looks like an actual burger! So cute, but rather hard to divide between a group of 5 so we ended up eating the components separately.

"Samurai", "Bitty,,,,,,,,Bitty!!!", "Royal w' Cheese".

"Mini Me" is Dr. Evil chocolate gelato, dulce de leche jam, peanut butter cookie, vanilla gelato, popping candy and feuilletine ($9.90) and for me the cutest looking one of all being a mini red mushroom. None of the flavours in this are too outrageous but I'm never disappointed with chocolate gelato so it's quite pleasant to eat. Last photo but not least is "Ugly Balls" - manuka honey gelato, lemon and lime gele'e center, rolled in tonka bean and feuilletine ($9.90). It is a little bit ugly but manuka honey has me sold so this is my choice for our selection of 5. And probably one of my favourites - there are only a few flavours but they work well together without being too sweet.

"Mini Me" and..hehehe.. "Ugly Balls"!

The gelato desserts are very novel and cute so I can see myself eating them again. I'm definitely interested in trying the big cakes as soon as I get a chance! Just 3 days later I find myself at their "The Star Store" (at The Star, of course). A simple scoop of gelato simply is the best of all.

What: Gelato Messina - The Creative Department (Laboratorio and Patisserie)
Where: 234 Victoria St, Darlinghurst 2010
How much: Gelato desserts are around the $10 mark

March 5, 2012

A Surprise at the Surprise

It was Dave's birthday recently and I organised a simple surprise catch up with a few of Dave's mates at The Surprise, a lovely little pub tucked amongst the lovely houses of Chelsea.  Dave and I first stumbled across the Surprise during a walk through the back streets of Chelsea between King's Road and the Thames.  We loved the feel of the renovated pub:  the stained glass windows and partitions working wonderfully with the original bar and the lovely colours of the walls and the warm furniture.  Light in summer but also warm in winter, it was not surprising to find that it is part of the Geronimo Inns group of pubs, many of which we have enjoyed going to (the Northcote in Battersea, the Coat & Badge in Putney and the Fentiman Arms in Oval). 

Dave and I only had a drink last time but we got the chance to sample the food and more of the beers this time around.  With ten of us, we were seated upstairs in the dining area which was also very nice and comfortable.  The Surprise menu features lots of pub classics served as small plates from £2 to £6.95, with a few main sized meals on the specials board. 

Scotch Eggs & Cornish Squid - The Pub - Pork Belly

The warm Scotch egg with home made piccalilli was popular, as was the Cornish squid with lemon mayonnaise and crispy pork belly with apple sauce and sage.  Servings were small and when added up, can a bit pricey for a pub meal but this was offset by the quality and variety with everything very fresh and tasty.  Desserts were also yum including the espresso and honey crème brulee and the apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream.  The "prettiest" dessert was definitely the Eton 'tidy', a variation of Eton mess with blackberries, raspberries, vanilla cream and meringue. 

Inside the Pub - Eton "tidy" - Apple Tarte Tatin

The Surprise is definitely the kind of pub you can relax and spend a long time in given the lovely setting, the choice of food to snack or dine on, and a very good selection of beers and wines.  We spent a good six hours for Dave's birthday lunch and drinks, and even then we didn't tire of it.  We'll definitely be back to this local surprise.

What:  The Surprise
Where:  6 Christchurch Terrace, Chelsea, SW3 4AJ
How much:  plates from £2-£6.95, desserts £5.50 or £8 for the cheese board; pints average £3.50