A London Life… in Stoke Newington

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Stoke Newington | East London | Nearest Tube: Dalston Kingsland Overground

As I prepare to say goodbye to the part of London that I’ve spent the 3 years in, I decided to take one last long photo walk around Dalston and Stoke Newington. I will still be living in East London, but I’m moving on to greener pastures (or something like that). I’ll miss this part of London, but I’m excited to start a new adventure and see even more of this amazing city.
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A London Life… in Dalston

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L’atelier Dalston | East London | Nearest Tube: Dalston Kingsland/Dalston Junction

As I prepare to say goodbye to the part of London that I’ve spent the last 3 years in, I decided to take one last long photo walk around Dalston and Stoke Newington (the Stoke Newington post will be up later this week). I will still be living in East London, but I’m moving on to greener pastures (or something like that). I’ll miss this part of London, but I’m excited to start a new adventure and see even more of this amazing city.

View more of the  ‘A London Life…’ series

A London Life… in Tokyo?

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Eat Tokyo, Hillgate Street, Notting Hill, London

One of the best things about London is being able to find authentic food from pretty much any country or region. That isn’t to say though that there aren’t imitations. Unfortunately for every Asakusa, there are ten Wagamamas. Still, part of the fun of discovering new places to eat is in whether or not they will be true to form. One place I had heard about through the grapevine was Eat Tokyo. I’d heard several people say “this is the real deal” or “it’s the best Japanese food in London”. However I’m pretty critical of cuisines I know well, and I’d also heard some not-so-great reviews, so I decided to take these opinions with a pinch of salt. In fact I’d resigned myself to never visiting the restaurant “chain” (they currently have 6 locations in London). Yet last week V.A and I found ourselves unsure of where to go for dinner after our SHOW DRY salon visit. Low and behold, there was Eat Tokyo on our Zomato app with a 4.6 rating. So we decided to give it a go.

First off, let me say, the Notting Hill location is small. VERY small. In fact we were lucky enough to get the last table, right next to the front door. The layout of the kitchen and seats – this location features seats where you can watch the sushi chefs at work – reminded me very much of a typical izakaya. Even though the restaurant was full, the staff were efficient. We were given the ginormous menu (really guys, it’s too much) and took our time looking through it. I took charge and ordered a whole selection of my favourite dishes for the both of us, as V.A wanted to try something new. This included: Natto (fermented soy bean – Japan’s marmite), Unagi Don (grilled eel on rice), Wakame-su (pickled cucumber and seaweed), Agedashi Tofu (fried tofu in a tentsuyu broth), Salmon Sushi Rolls and Karaage (fried chicken). The chef also accidentally made us some natto sushi, which we were given for free.

As for the food, was it authentic? Everything apart from the wakame-su (it should have been sunomono) tasted exactly as I remembered it from Japan. The flavours and textures were all there, but something was lacking. Unfortunately whereas Eat Tokyo excels in bringing authentic Japanese dishes to London, it did not excel at bringing good quality ingredients and well cooked food to our table. The karaage wasn’t bad and neither was the age-dofu. However the unagi was overcooked and chewy, the sushi was cold, the natto didn’t come with a side of tare or mustard, and the wakame-su wasn’t pickled, and had ginger on top?! Overall not a great experience, but not one that I regret. I won’t be heading back anytime soon, but if I had nowhere to go I’d probably give them another chance.

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.

Afternoon Tea at The Mandeville Hotel

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Vintage Afternoon Tea at The Mandeville Hotel – Reform Social and Grill

Afternoon tea symbolises everything great about English food; cake, sandwiches, scones and tea. It’s also the perfect introduction for anyone visiting or moving to the country. It truly is a relaxing and indulgent treat. That’s why I decided to treat my mum to afternoon tea at The Mandevlille Hotel in Marylebone, when she visited for her birthday.

We started with a mango bellini, which we were served as we were seated. The menu mentions being able to choose from a selection of seasonal bellinis, but this wasn’t the case for us. Though we were offered a choice of which tea to accompany our food with – I chose the refreshing organic mint melange, which was clearly a quality tea. Next up were the sandwiches, which were light and flavourful. The cucumber and cream cheese was my favourite of the selection. I know cucumber sandwiches sound incredibly boring, but they’re one English tradition that I dearly hope will never fade.

One of the most integral parts of afternoon tea are the scones, of course. These ones looked as good as they tasted – rustic (there’s something just not right with a smooth scone) and slightly sweetened. The jam was store bought, but was sweet and not overly sugary. However the pièce de résistance was the clotted cream – something I’m always very critical of – which was rich and sweet. And before you ask, I always put cream on first, then jam.

The apple and custard pots were by far the best sweet offering on the table. The soft, tart apple contrasted perfectly against the sweet custard, and the crunchy, sugary crumble. Both me and my mum agreed that we would quite happily eat a plateful of them. However the rest of the sweets on the table were a bit of a let-down, the raspberry meringues and battenburg cake were good, but nothing to write home about. However the biggest upset of the afternoon was the cake, and as we all know, cake is an important part of afternoon tea. So to be served up dry coffee and walnut cake/chocolate fudge cake (that tasted a day old) was quite upsetting for me. Luckily my mum had left hers until last, by which point she was quite full, so she wasn’t upset. Though if I had been taking anyone else here, I would have complained.

The hotel itself is a comfortable setting, and the afternoon tea area is quite intimate (around 6 tables), making for a lovely experience. However whilst I felt that we ate and drank plenty, I felt that the quality of the food was lacking slightly. It’s not one of the best afternoon tea’s I’ve had, and I probably wouldn’t go back, but for the price it isn’t bad. Afternoon Tea at The Mandeville Hotel is £26.50 each with a free bellini (minus service charge).

You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.

Kuriya Keiko: A Masterclass in Sushi

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I love re-creating my favourite dishes at home, but some of them are more intricate than others. Sushi is one of those dishes. The California roll may not be authentic Japanese sushi (not surprisingly) but it is a great lunch staple, especially in the hotter months. In fact in the Summer you’ll find me rolling sushi most evenings, as it’s as healthy as it is tasty. So when Zomato invited me to a sushi-making masterclass at Kuriya Keiko – a Japanese restaurant-come-cookery workshop space in Islington – I was eager to learn more.

We started the evening with a plum wine cocktail (heavenly) and an introduction by Keiko, who told us all about her background as a chef, and her love for sushi. She proceeded to teach us all the best way to prepare sushi rice (1.15 cup of water to 1 rice), before giving us an in-depth tutorial of how to make a California Roll, and an Inside Out Roll – the latter being the more technical of the two. Keiko was vibrant and energetic, offering us words of advice and encouragement as we battled with our rice (key tip: keep your hands wet!). We were given ingredients to place inside the rolls, such as smoked salmon, avocado and ham. Yes, ham! Keiko told us how she loves experimenting with flavours, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that one of her favourites is Italian ham and olives – certainly not your usual Japanese flavour combo.

After we were all finished with our creations, we were told to tuck in. They always say something tastes better if it’s made by your own hands, and I would have to agree. My sushi tasted so much more tangy and refreshing than any I had made before. It reignited my love for the simple California Roll, and I made a pact that from here on out I would always make it this scrumptious. As we ate, Keiko gave us a presentation on how to make another Japanese favourite – gyoza. Afterwards we were given some freshly made gyoza to try, accompanied by a traditional sake from Kyoto. I love gyoza so much that I actually burnt my mouth as I shovelled in one of the delectable dumplings. The moral of the story? Wait for your food to cool down before you eat it!

Kuriya Keiko often holds cookery workshops and you can get involved at a great price! I would highly recommend it for food lovers, and fans of sushi. Doing it with a friend or group is even more fun too.

We also enjoyed a lovely meal after our masterclass, but that’s another story for another post.
You can read more of my restaurant reviews on Zomato.