Brunch in the east

Mr Buckleys has been very much talked about amongst my foodie friends. Located along Hackney Road, I have been there once prior to my return visit today. They serve brunch all day and have cocktails for day time drinking if you fancy it. The space itself is very simple and is a fantastic place to catch up with friends over breakfast.

Having been disappointed with my breakfast choice on my previous visit, I decided to go for a crowd favourite today. I ordered their potato & courgette rosti, bacon, avocado & poached eggs. My friends decided to go with the minute steak with poached eggs, spinach and béarnaise on sourdough and they thoroughly enjoyed it. As for me, I preferred my eggs a little bit more well done and the whole breakfast ended up being a little too dry for me. The potato and courgette rosti was not crispy on the surface and fell apart when I cut through it. It was not as seasoned as I wish it was but the bacon did the job.

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On this occasion, the service was a little slow with only three people servicing the floor. It came up to about £15 for my breakfast with a coffee and tea. Given that this was my second shot, I am not quite sure I will be back again anytime soon.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 6/10

Mr Buckley's on Urbanspoon

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Novikov

Novikov is located in Green Park, right in the heart of classy Mayfair. I recalled walking past many times whilst heading to the shops and have always wondered what it is like in there. Novikov serves both Italian and Asian cuisine in two separate rooms and underneath these restaurants is their fashionable lounge bar.

On this occasion, I had the opportunity to check out their aperitivo drinks menu at their lounge bar. From one of my conversations with Federica (The Daily Out), aperitivo originated from Milan. It is the pre-dinner drinks which comes along with some complimentary nibbles. Similar to the complimentary tapas served when you have a drink in Andalucia but perhaps the Italians might dispute this.

There was a good selection of drinks including Negroni and Aperol Spritz but I went with a prosecco to kick the night off. We were then served little bites (cichetti) which came in large platters. There was a good selection which included mushroom and truffle bruschetta, marinated olives and mortadella. This was followed by cold cut meats and a delicious board of cheese. Out of the lot, I was addicted to the crispy bread which I was told was Sardinian crispy bread. There were lovely rosemary sprinkled on top and it was so thin and crunchy to the bite, I couldn’t stop reaching for it!

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If you are in Green Park and seeking a trendy lounge bar to head to, Novikov is a good option. Their aperitivo menu is served Monday through to Friday, from 5.30pm until 7.30pm. Like the Milanese, you could pop by for a pre-dinner drink and get served some complimentary cichetti!

Novikov Restaurant & Bar
50 Berkeley Street
London W1J 8HA

*I was a guest of Jori White PR & Novikov but all views here are my own.

A taste of surprise – Viajante

Birthdays are days on which I like to be spoiled. It is one of my few excuses to dine at nice restaurants and treat myself. For the dude’s birthday, I often plan a full day of surprise. He doesn’t have any idea what the day involves and this year, I took him to Viajante, a Michelin Star restaurant by Nuno Mendes (El Bulli graduate).

Nestled in the former Bethnal Green Town Hall building, we were welcomed into the restaurant by the host and even though we were 20 minutes late (!!!), they were still accommodating and friendly. We were shown our tables and I took to the setting immediately. Gorgeous scandinavian designed tables and chairs gave the restaurant a friendly designer feel. The open kitchen added to the atmosphere and overall, a beautiful, simple and laid back setting, allowing diners to ease into.

We were there for Saturday lunch and the menu gave only a few selections i.e. 3, 6 or 9 courses. We decided quickly upon the three course with beverage pairing, without knowing what it was going to be. A series of amuse-bouche got us started and the dude and I wondered for a long time when the first course was served / going to be served. This guessing game and not knowing what to expect was quite exciting to begin with but also rather nerve wrecking for the first-timers.

Our adventure started off with:

Thai explosion II

Amaranth with sorrel – The crunchy popping was quite exciting though half the time we were guessing what it was.

Squid with monk’s beard – The squid was tender but there wasn’t much of it.

Potato with yeast and black olive – The potato was cooked perfectly and the combination really came together in the mouth.

Bread and butter – my favourite, out of the lot. We were served warm crusty potato baguette and olive focaccia together with in-house made yellow butter and brown butter. The warmth of the bread and the softness of the salted butter were a match made in heaven. Little did we know our first course was about to start…

Nuno Mendes, the very man himself served our first course – Zander with cured yolk, chervil root and fennel. The sommelier introduced us to Quinta da Muradella Gorvia Blanco 2006, Monterrei to go with the fish, as the beverage pairing. The fish was cooked well but the dish didn’t wow me. Personally, the cured yolk and fish didn’t taste too good together. (side note: I do not like uncooked eggs and partly why I didn’t quite take to the dish)

Our second course was duck with cabbage, oysters and barley which was matched with Domaine Jean Tardy et Fils Fixin ‘La Place’ 2007. There was duck heart and duck tongue in the mix of it all, according to our waiter. It was good not to know which was which, as the dude and I had a guessing game whilst we ventured into our duck meat and organs. The duck meat was cooked to perfection, tender and slightly red and it went well with the oysters, weirdly enough. The tongue and heart were really delicate and tender to the bite. I thought it finished off the dish really well. Got a thumbs up from me and the dude.

Funnily enough, the table next to us which sat six ladies weren’t too pleased when they heard heart and tongue in the mix. They started questioning the waiter and asked him to point out the odd bits but he declined. I suppose it was the excitement of what lies within the plate for us though I didn’t think the ladies took too well to the internal organs and one was seen running off her seat towards the toilet, whilst we watched in amusement. On that note, for the non-adventurous diners, this might not be your cup of tea.

Pear with pecan and cider were served next to cleanse our palate before our third and final course came. The freshness of the pear granita was really well paired with the pecan puree and cider, subtle and refreshing. It was so delicious that we were nearly licking our bowls!

We finished our final course with salsify and mellow with chocolate which was matched with Chateu de Jau Muscat de Rivesaltes 2010, a delicious dessert wine. The salsify was a tad too thick and chewy for my liking and we couldn’t quite figure out what it was till the very end.

We headed to the bar (right next to the restaurant) after to have a cleansing ale and were served our petit fours (more food!!!). I could remember the olive oil bites we had and they were simply amazing.

Just before we left, we were given a printed menu of what we had earlier in the afternoon. It gave an ending to the meal and allowed us to recall our earlier dining experience. A nice touch.
The service throughout the afternoon was exceptional although the food was a little hit and miss. I do think it’s a nice restaurant to check out, though I have heard that the more affordable Corner Room also run by Nuno Mendes is actually better.

Meal for two, with beverage pairing, two beers and service came to about £140.

Dishpiglets’ rating: 7/10

Patriot Square,
Bethnal Green,
London E2
Tel: 020 7871 0461.

Viajante on Urbanspoon

That brown sourdough loaf of bread…

Growing up in Asia, I never quite got into the idea of bread. Our staple is rice and our consumption of bread is usually limited to breakfast or tea time. Afterall, when you could have wanton noodles, why would you want to have bread? On the other hand, one of my fond memories of growing up in Singapore in the 80s is the extremely soft white bread spreads with Planta butter and kaya by the local old man in white tee and a push bike with a box at the back. This bread is soft, light and fluffy, nothing dense like the breads in Australia nor London.

Having lived in Australia for a good ten years and being a poor student, I have done quite a few sandwiches for lunch with the usual ham and cheese. The dryness of bread usually gets me gagging and it isn’t the tastiest thing around when I am dreaming of prawn noodles. Of course, when you get a chance to have a sumptuous breakfast with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, the good ole’ toasted bread with butter is the perfect accompaniment.

The day of revelation came when I first tried Irrewarra Sourdough in Australia.
Have you ever had bread and thought that it is the BEST bread you ever had in your life? Irrewarra sourdough was it. Priced at AUD$6 a loaf, it does not come cheap as compared to your usual loaf of $3 wholemeal sliced bread from the supermarket. I do assure you that it makes your sandwiches more delicious than ever. It is wholesome and tastes perfect.

Having moved to London Jun 2011, I have been trying all sorts of breads but haven’t come across anything that good. Just three weekends ago, I was catching up on twitter and saw a photo of St John’s Bakery baked goods and boy, I was intrigued. Within an hour, I was on my way to St John’s Bakery somewhere in SE1, Arch 72. My main aim was to try and see if I could get my hands on some hot cross buns, given that it was just a week before Easter.

When I got there, there was a small crowd and though there weren’t any hot cross buns in sight, I dived straight into the custard buns (recommended by The Skinny Bib) and as the baked goods looked way too good, I couldn’t resist getting a brown sourdough loaf as well.

The custard bun was coated with sugar and when I bit into it, the vanilla bean custard was light and absolutely delicious. The bun was perfect and the custard oozed out when I took the first bite. I spent a good time licking the delicious creamy custard. My recommendation is if you ever get yourself out to St John’s bakery on a Saturday, be sure to get your hands on one. I hear they go pretty fast!

As for the brown sourdough loaf, I didn’t try it until the next day when we prepared poached eggs on toast. When the dude (my other half) was cutting the slices, he was quite impressed with the density of the bread. In fact, we were pretty sure that we found an equivalent to our favourite bread in Australia. The dense brown sourdough tasted perfect with a good dollop of butter and poached eggs. We felt like we could do quality breakfast at home instead of out at a good brunch place. For £4 a loaf, it went the distance and we couldn’t quite get enough of this bread!

St John’s Bakery (Open Saturdays only!)
Archway 72
Druid Street
London
SE1 2DU