London- Joe’s

SS.

What?

Sorry. I meant Sloane Street. Ah yes, and the first place we visited for some grub in London. Not that it was expected though. It’s not even a stand-alone cafe or restaurant with a holy reputation. Just some three-dimensional block pop out letters next to mannequins. Just an innocent little hideaway in a posh suburb, under a blanc floor of expensive and shiny ladies clothing. Shiny because for some funny reason, that’s how I remember it to be. And I always believed there was some correlation between shininess and drawing attention.

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I adored the vintage black and white portraits hung in a neat row alongside the arrangement of little square tables, as if the people in the portraits were determined to ensure  smooth-sailing flow of emotion and conversation throughout a romantic meal just by looking over them. My cousins and I babbled away, probably much to the annoyance of the waiters who might as well have been French and snooty with curly, rigid moustaches. We were downright lucky to be in the presence of fine-mannered gentlemen who even offered my younger sister a starter of lemon 7-up. Too kind, really.

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fresh white crab with diced mango and avocado
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smoked salmon, mango, avocado and cornish crab salad with grapefruit dressing
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pasta of the day- tomato sauce ravioli

The fare was quite splendid, though I struggled to find the avocado in my crab dish.Turns out some slices were sneakily lurking under the little bed of greens. Looks are really quite deceiving, for the dishes are about a thousand times bigger than how it looks. Splitting things made business easier, and the enjoyment factor was pushed up because of this too. Every ingredient was fresh and ripe, which was what made the whole experience almost a rejuvenating one. However, nothing particularly stood out to me like a cat’s eyes at night. Nothing dazzlingly brilliant, though their slices of rye at the start were indeed impressive.

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No justice done without at least a little starch. Now, every time I look at ketchup, which by the way is a marvellous accompaniment to a myriad other things in life, I can’t help but cringe at how some bakeries (*cough PAUL) don’t allow such condiments in house. Whilst having lunch with a friend today, I was astounded by the polite ‘I’m sorry, but we don’t provide ketchup here’. I was having eggs so, that statement was more appropriate as a joke. The fries were good, the bread, excellent, but the price… I’d rather not mention. Then again, it too comprised of quality service and fresh produce. Oh right, and the dizzying shopping ambience above and across the street. Gosh, the shopping itself deserves a whole post on its own. I felt like a sliver of plankton thrown amongst the gushing waves of human scents and faces and skin.

Joe’s was a good start for more great things to come.

Rating: 4.0/5

Joe’s

16 Sloane Street, London

London Restaurant Festival 2013

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At the top: Red ripple whippy on a red velvet cone. A laughable attempt at the classic whippy, for despite it’s fantastical Alice-in-Wonderland loopiness, the thing’s still a McDonald’s vanilla cone at heart. And apologies for the ghastly red nail.

Regent’s Street was full to brimming, even when the clouds above were hovering and pregnant with imminent rain. My uncle, grandmother and I fought to share one poor, battered black umbrella.

That man was staring at me in the eye, thinking, ‘oh these Asians nowadays, can’t do anything but take pictures. Always pictures, pictures, pictures’. Embarrassedly, I walked on into the frigid arena, crowded with long-legged socialites, dedicated foodies and yes, more cameras. This is the real life, people. You can’t walk anywhere in the 21st century and not document every precious, london-lit second. I was walking around starry-eyed, and believe it or not, the rain soon stopped. I swear.

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An innocent take on lamb rendang. It was superb, I must say, though a little too sweet for my liking and perhaps not spicy enough. Not one of the special highlights, but a calm starter.

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pulled pork shoulder with pickled red cabbage and a slice of cornbread

It’s around 11pm now and my mouth is watering at the sheer sight and memory of that gracious, sacrificed piece of meat. Good heavens it was good. The pulled pork was just, once again, perhaps a tad too sweet, but on the whole I couldn’t care less for it went so wonderfully with the soft bite of cabbage and buttery cornbread. The first forkful (which was not to mention, incredibly fork-tender) sent me to porky heaven. Dripping with marinade, slightly chewy, soft and sharp. How ridiculous.

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roasted apple ‘burger’ with caramelised onions, mayonnaise and pickles

How unusual! I exclaimed. I inched closer and closer to the little counter, and delicately asked for what they labelled as a roasted apple burger. Of course I didn’t expect much meat in it. I respected the fragility of a good roasted apple. The man at the front immediately placed a plate in front of my uncle and I, said ‘thank you miss’ and rushed away to attend to the bottomless mosh pit, armed with hunger and fuelled by the new London heat. The apple itself was soft, though not sappy and sloppy, with the perfect amount of filling. I loved the whole idea of an apple burger, and the size was so becoming.

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1. Pork and chilli dumplings. Altogether, really nothing outstanding, but I appreciated the insertion of Chinese cuisine amongst the oodles of burgers and Middle Eastern get-ups.

2. Oxtail doughnut with apricot jam. Yes, this was a glorious, fried, doughnut. A prying open of the crisp and battered surface, like golden, compressed crumbs, revealed a tender oxtail stew, coupled with a lightly sweet jam. What genius, what spectacular cruelty.

3. Lamb and yoghurt. You see a trend happening here?

4. And lastly, the best ice cream I have ever tasted in my life. Pictured is the banoffee flavour. We also tried the fresh berries and clotted cream, which was more subtle, less sickly sweet but just as magnificent. I never thought anything could beat the luxury of Haagen Dazs, but I guess I was wrong. Purbeck Ice Cream nourished my heart and soul for a good 5 days after my first bite. As creamy as a molten white river having just turned solid on a sudden snowy night, blessed with the richest virginal quality and orgasmic aftertaste.

One of the best days of my life, to put it lightly.

London- La Fromagerie

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You look out of the window one day and suddenly say to yourself:

Good God I need cheese.

Well then, I welcome you to La Fromagerie, nestled in the heart of Marylebone, London. I’m telling you, it was wholly unexpected. A tiny tornado which swooped me up into its cheesy little arms and made me forever regret the day I ever left London and all of its stunning side cafes and restaurants. Especially those with good cheese. On the way to Madame Tussauds, we hopped into this little tasting cafe on Moxton Street.

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And the smell was intoxicating. Oh, the smell.

Wheels and wheels and stacks and stacks of gold, yellow, ochre, some streaked with blue crannies or creamy ivory. the water could have dripped directly from my slacked jaws. I love the combination of fresh-produce market and small, cosy restaurant. There was only one large wooden table, and about four or five other smaller ones. Light enhanced the rustic grandeur of the area, and the cheeses were dying to be savoured with the perfect wine pairing. Cheese with egon-muller, cheese with figs, cheese with truffle honey, oh me oh my.

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To start, some escargots and asparagus soup drizzled with truffle oil and coupled with some good sourdough. The escargots were great with garlic and crushed basil, so each spooned mouthful was a one-job, not excessively oily hit. Soft and squidgy, but not wonderful. The soup on the other hand, was one of the highlights of this impromptu walk-in. The sort you can see yourself having again and again without ever tiring. They make the spindly asparagus a vegetable God, lifting it out of the depths of green despair with the perfect amount of seasoning, beautiful truffle oil and a not too-thick consistency. Buttery, nourishing, luxe.

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And this was like magic. Sardine rillette, or a pâté-like paste with crusty, freshly baked German rye and caper berries. I realised that all the bread there was excellent, so all the accessories and couplings were assured good quality enhancement. I slathered on some rillette on the hard rye, squeezed a little lemon and popped a bite. The flavours worked so wonderfully. I felt the satiny texture of the rillette mingle with the earthy warmth of dark rye, dancing in loops and swirls with the lemon. So crusty was the bread it was almost like a toasted crostini. The caper berries were there to make sure that anyone who felt the combination of lemon and rillette was not salty enough could munch on those instead. And I learnt my lesson when I bit on one alone.

Now I really do miss London.

La Fromagerie

2-6 Moxton Street, Marylebone, London

London- Le Pain Quotidien

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The London cafe culture is just enchanting.

I can’t seem to step into another period building without losing myself in the oozing warmth and quaint comfort. With a good cappuccino, I’m snug as a bug in a rug. Please don’t laugh now. I’m currently still in a daze; an emotional and slightly hopeless one, nothing to do with jet lag, which I discovered has almost zero effect on me. Nostalgia is coursing through my system as I write this, after my family’s flight back from London. I’m already missing the nooks, cobblestones, wooden supports, the oddballs, the outlandish, the wonderful camaraderie.

I stepped into Le Pain (which means bread) twice during my stay, as the charm and popularity of the place was irresistible.

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mochaccino and buttermilk scone with clotted cream and jam

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The mochaccino had the perfect amount of sweetness from the mocha, though it gave me a weird albeit slight wave of queasiness afterward. The sweetness intensity slowly creeped up as I sipped through the crema. The caffeine didn’t hit hard on the palate either. The scone was a decent little thing with enough give to retain a hold but without exploding into a mound of brittle flakes. That jam was divine, too. The only bad thing is that you might just be on the verge of becoming morbidly obese if you have the entire 10-pound scone to yourself.

Le Pain Quotidien

18 Great Marlborough St, London

London- The Belvedere

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Please take a second to admire the lovely man on the right, massaging his temples in an attempt to save what’s left of his sanity. The bottom right blur of a ponytail would be my mother, if any are interested.

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I love how in London, there are about a million and one fantabulous places to eat at, all looking fairly humble on the outside, though displaying clear prestige or popularity once you venture inside. Be it little hole in the walls or grand golden signs beaming at you once you step out of a cab (or the tube, which is way, way more fun). But when we’re talking The Belvedere in London, we’re talking real food. Food which might stuff and then blow you up, but great food nonetheless, presented superbly and elegantly.

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3 courses for 27.50 quid! Not bad considering the quality, service, ambience and taste. I looked around at the swanky, small groups of people clustered around divine plates which exuded deluxe comfort. I grew more curious by the minute. I first chose the crisp smoked duck salad, which had a surprising oriental twist. The duck was drizzled with a sweet and tangy red sauce, which went wonderfully with the cold and crisp seasonal vegetables.

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Presenting to you: Smoked haddock on a bed of Jersey Royals with a poached egg and Sauce Nantaise.

Might be too salty, you know, my dad softly warned.

But…fish. Haddock. Soft flakes oozing good oils and fragrance and goodness of the sea. And of course, that runny, perfectly cooked egg had to be the icing on the cake. It wasn’t too salty, mind you, and the gooey mealiness of the egg yolk and sauce complemented the soft-spoken white fish, which drunk everything up like a sponge. The Jersey Royals were nothing brilliant to speak of (plain potatoes in general I’m no fan of), but they did make a pretty brown resting bed.

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And finally, chocolate mousse topped with blood orange sorbet, and might I say it was bloody darn good. I mean, of course it couldn’t be stand-alone mousse, or the whole masterpiece would collapse on its knees. No, this was coupled with thin layers of dark chocolate brownie, giving it stability and textural edge. It was all set off by the burst of sweet tang contained within that perfect sphere of sorbet. Bloody good blood orange. It was even the perfect temperature to dig into!

These meals really are the unforgettable sort. The service was impeccable, and there was even a neat old man twiddling away at the piano the whole time. Talk about stamina.

The Belvedere

Holland Park, London