Food Review: Master Wei. This sister restaurant of Wei Guirong’s famous Xi’an Impression tucked behind the Arsenal Football stadium is more centrally located in comparison, in the heart of Bloomsbury to be precise.
Given the foodie that I am, I have made it my hobby to explore the best of food that London has to offer and I have never come across some of the glorious dishes such as the ones on Master Wei’s menu. Right from street food to home cooked delicacies, it’s all under one roof.
I chose nearly all the vegetarian dishes on the menu except for the vegetable biang biang noodles as I’ve had them before at Xi’an impression (so incredibly flavourful and delicious). I also wanted to try everything else that the lovely Shaanxi region has to offer.
My favourites were the wood ear mushroom salad and the steamed vegetable dumplings. The former served cold and the latter served hot, both with a generous amount of chilli, soy and vinegar. The salad was very moreish and cleansed my tastebuds while the steamed dumplings tasted homemade and felt like a warming culinary hug. I was also curious about the egg drop tomato noodle soup- a dish that’s very basic in many households in Xi’an and is a bowl of hearty goodness from humble ingredients of hand pulled noodles, eggs, tomatoes, greens and spices. Dessert of sweet potato balls with vanilla ice cream was unusual. I loved that it was similar in texture to a beignet, yet it wasn’t overly sweet and had a great, airy texture.
The staff are true stars here who are very attentive, knowledgeable and friendly. A big thumbs up to Wayne, Aimee and Lee. Given how much I enjoyed the regional food here, once things return to normal after Covid-19, I am certainly going to indulge in more dumplings and hand pulled noodles!
Reservations in advance: Recommended for parties of four or more.
Price for food, drinks and service for two: £40
Food Review: Wild Food Café.
Wild Food Cafe in Islington is a branch of the Covent Garden original. Unlike its sister, this vegan restaurant is airy, brighter, bigger and takes reservations which is a boon in London’s dining scene. The original, right next to Neal’s Yard has been serving up plant-based and raw-food dishes, as well as championing foraged ingredients well before the popularity in vegan dining that's taken hold in the capital lately.
The design is quite chic with pastel shades on velvet chairs, an abundance of plants, marble counters and a large open-plan kitchen where we watched our smoothies and cocktails being made.
We thoroughly enjoyed our full vegan breakfast which consisted of kale, asparagus, avocado, chickpea omelette and another main dish of peas and olives on toast. My diet being mainly vegan, I found it refreshing to have many innovative dishes on the menu, including the raw cakes for desserts- free from any refined sugar. The chocolate and raspberry cake tasted as good as it looked. It was rich, yet combined well, thanks to the smooth chocolate and sharpness from the raspberries. The banoffee pie exhibited a strong coconut flavour and had a great texture. Having been here for brunch, I highly recommend starting your day here!
Reservations: Recommended for parties of three or more and if you are planning a weekend breakfast/brunch.
Price for food, drinks and service for two: £55-£60.
I may know my whisky better than any other drink, but I do have an obsession for vineyards. Acres of green vines, spreading over slopes as they grow heavy with ripe fruits are a common sight in Tuscany, but less so in the United Kingdom. When I spotted some vineyards in Surrey last year on a steam train ride, I wondered what British wine would taste like. It has come a long way in recent years, winning accolades, growing unique variety of grapes (Bacchus) and tempting even the most discerning of drinkers. My friends and I decided to take a trip away from London for a day to enjoy the English countryside and take a stroll through the vineyards.
Denbies wine estate in Surrey was the closest to us and a good start. The estate offers indoor and outdoor winery tours. The former explores the working winery along with a cellar tasting, while the latter takes you on a toy train tour of the vineyard, boasting panoramic views of the North Downs.
After our indoor food and wine tasting tour, we dined at the gallery restaurant which looks over their 265-acre vineyard. Narrowing down what to drink (as captured in my photos) are sharing a bottle of the Bacchus Sparkling wine and the Noble Harvest dessert wine which were our favourites.
Tickets: The price depends on the tour chosen. We opted for the basic indoor winery tour which was £14.50 each for over an hour.
Food Review: Chiringuito, Bethnal Green.
For years, I’ve been searching for a restaurant in London that does a decent Pan Con Tomate and ay carramba!! Chiringuito in Bethnal Green masters this dish to perfection, topping it with my favourite- manchego cheese which makes it an instant winner.
On a warm day, you can visit Chiringuito and sit on their rooftop terrace. Take in the serenity of the park and views of St John on Bethnal Green church. The contrast between the hustle and bustle of East London to the calm, leafy views of the church is simply incredible!
The food and cocktails are fantastic and you are certain to be welcomed with friendly service. The good news is, knowing the unpredictable weather in London where staying on the rooftop may not be feasible, there’s space indoors to have an equally good time!
I ordered the Pan Con Tomate (of course), roasted Aubergine with vegetables (vegan) and had the delectable cocktails- Il Capitano with Tequila and a surprise cocktail with a whisky base that was not featured on the menu and was a daily special. Absolute gem of a restaurant for the summer!
Food Review: Coal Office, London.
This is a collaboration between British designer Tom Dixon and Israeli chef Assaf Granit and I’ve visited the latter’s restaurants in London - The Palomar and The Barbary, both fantastic and unique in their own way. Given how much I love Israeli food, I had to try this. Coal Office is more design savvy (not surprised) and is larger in comparison to the sister restaurants, making it very fitting for its location in Kings Cross.
Let's focus on the food. What blew my mind was how simple and humble ingredients such as fresh oregano and aubergine created such magic. For starters, I had the Kubaneh - Kubala bread (so fresh, fragrant and delicious) to be torn and dipped in that labneh that’s dressed with tomato confit and oregano. Then the josperised (coal/oven) aubergine with a zing of green tahini which is similar in flavour to zhoug.
My favourite was the truffle polenta. Now, I’ve had this at the Palomar before but the dish at the Coal Office was a definite winner. There was also an inspiring dish of spinach and chard with sumac. Don’t worry, if you’re not sure if what to have, the amazing staff here will help you decide.
I got the best seat here, the counter tables where you watch the chefs at work and both chefs Nitai Sevach and Guy Winner are absolutely brilliant in their creations and what they brought to the table. I highly recommend Coal Office if you’re looking for an enlightening, entertaining (some of them do the occasional dance to the Middle Eastern music in the background) and healthy dining experience.
Due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Covid-19, Coal Office has closed its dine in space but you can still buy their freshly baked breads and delectable salads along with fresh produce from Natoora by emailing ToYou@CoalOffice.com.
My passion for food, particularly trying the vegetarian dishes from different cuisines stems from the advantage of living in London. The diversity here is remarkable. You can head to another part of town and try an authentic dish from a country that is 6000 miles away.