Tag Archives: favourite restaurant

Wahaca – modern Mexican market food

I have this weird relationship with Mexican food. And when I say Mexican I refer to the Tex-Mex Americanised version….ooooh how I have fond memories of eating huge burritos with guacamole & tortilla chips while sipping from huge jugs of frozen margaritas in a rainy New York.

It’s sloppy comfort food and I like the idea of it more than the actual food (which often turns out to be pretty awful).

I have a similar thing with horror movies: the concept and anticipation of snuggling up on the sofa while eating popcorn and watching a horror flick is often so much better than actually doing it, as 9 out of 10 horror movies are crap.

But back to Mexican food – the problem is you don’t feel too hot after swallowing tons of melted cheese and refried beans.

So the next time you’re in the mood for an inexpensive, non-grease-dripping Mexican meal, I suggest you try the restaurant chain Wahaca, that specialises in modern Mexican market/street food.

They have restaurants all over London, but I’ve only been to the new(ish) one in Wardour Street in Soho.

You often have to wait a bit for a table, but that’s no problem as the friendly staff hand you a buzzer and send you downstairs, where you can kill time with a drink in the big colourful bar.

The food is lo-key and you can either go for one big plate or several smaller ones. You eat the smaller ones tapas style and order around three each.

If you can’t be bothered to browse the menu, just go for the Wahaca Selection; a selection of the restaurants most popular plates for two people to share (costs £20 for two).

That’s what we did, as we were a bit indecisive. Five minutes later the first dishes started to appear. We had everything from vegetable tacos….

to chicken taquitos.

And some pork pibli tacos (slow cooked pork in Yucatecan marinade).

The food is good, although it doesn’t blow your mind. But I’ll still recommend this place because of its friendly staff, upbeat atmosphere and very reasonable prices.

And the food is not too greasy or covered in 10 cm of processed cheese.

Wahaca, 80 Wardour Street, Soho
(See website for more locations)

Lennies Snack Bar – A very special place

My most memorable dining experience in London has nothing to do with Michelin stars, fancy wines & waiters…

Lennies Snack Bar in East London (just next to Shoreditch Church)  is like no other Thai restaurant I’ve ever been too. Its life and soul is owner Irene who is the most welcoming host anyone can imagine. Eating at her restaurant is like coming home or visiting your favourite eccentric aunt.

Irene does all the cooking herself and will often sit at her customer’s tables and chat for a while, ask you how you’ve been or tell about her jet lag, her long life in London or the next party she’s planning to attend, dressed like Dolly Parton.

There is a varied menu to choose from, but we normally let Irene decide for us. We just tell her what kind of food we’re interested in and she’ll conjure up a wonderful mix of Thai curries, noodle dishes, fish etc. A lot of the vegetables come from her own allotment.

This is a BYO place, meaning you have to bring your own drinks. You don’t even pay extra for that and you rarely end up paying more than £ 10 per person for the food.

I really can’t recommend this place enough, I just love everything about it: from the kitschy cosy interior with red checkered table cloths, string lights and paintings of naked women to the fresh and well-prepared food. Hell, I even love the dodgy toilets.

But mainly I love this place because of Irene and her knack for creating the warmest and most welcoming atmosphere in East London.

Lennies Snack Bar, 6 Calvert Avenue,  London E2 7JP.
Tel: 020 7739 3628 ‎ (it’s a good idea to book ahead)

Pho – cheap & modern Vietnamese street food

The cooler autumn weather is screaming for hot steaming soups. When travelling in Vietnam many years ago we fell in love with Pho, the clear soup with noodles and beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga), which is served with lime, fresh chili and Vietnamese greens.  In Vietnam they serve it at most street stalls, often for breakfast. Very delicious.

Back in Denmark we had to travel half-way through Copenhagen to find a Vietnamese restaurant. And the only modern one, Nhà Hàng, is ridiculously expensive as is has almost doubled its prices since it opened. That’s just not right.

Back to London, where there are quite a few Vietnamese restaurants, most of them in East London. We mainly eat out in Soho where Sam works and luckily Pho, a small chain of smart-looking restaurants serving cheap Vietnamese street food, decided to open another shop smack in the middle of Wardour Street.

We tried it a few days ago and their phos were just lovely. (Warning to purists: This IS a modernised version of Vietnamese, meaning trendy young waiters, cosy contemporary interior and not always 100% authentic food combinations.)

We both had the Pho Bo Dac Biet (with steak, brisket and meatballs). It was easily the best meatballs I’ve had in a pho soup; dark meaty and succulent and not chewy at all. I would have liked a bit more greens to garnish the soup and the stock was not mind-blowing, just very good. Pho also gets an extra point for putting a lot of sauces on the tables (two different chili sauces, fish sauce & hoisin sauce). That way you can mix your own perfect taste combination.

Prices are low: soups cost between 6.95 – 8.45 pounds. See the whole menu here.

Pho, 163-165 Wardour Street, London (plus 4 more locations)

Read about another of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, Song Que Café in East London.

Prix Fixe & Pierre Victoire – affordable and charming Soho brasseries

Oh la la. Fromage du chevre. Moulin Rouge. Vin rouge. Sometimes you feel the need to infuse your life with some yummy Frenchness, be it a quick Eurostar weekend trip to Paris or just some lovely bistro/brasserie style food & atmosphere in the British capital.

When that happens we head straight for either Pierre Victoire or its sister restaurant Prix Fixe, both in Dean Street in Soho. I prefer Prix Fixe as it is more spacious and cosier with its red walls, dimmed light and of course plenty of Frencher-than-French posters (also, there tends to be this guy hammering away on a piano by the entrance at Pierre Victoire – so annoying).

The menu is classic brasserie style food and not all of it is French. For a starter I had a goat’s cheese salad with watercress, beetroot and pecan nuts (5.80), Sam had the rock oysters (1.10 each).

As a main course I had one of my favourites: Roast breast of duck with dauphinoise potatoes, steamed pak choi and port jus (13.80). Sam had his favourite: Entrecote steak & frites (14.90).

Both restaurants also have a cheap 2 course lunch menu + dinner menu (before 7 pm). Read more about the restaurants and check out their menu here:

Prix Fixe Brasserie, 39 Dean Street. Map.

Pierre Victoire, 5 Dean Street. Map.

Ultra-cheap Thai food in Kilburn

Hvad jeg skulle have gjort i lørdags, da jeg lå katatonisk på sofaen med onde, onde tømmermænd var at hanke op i mig selv og trave en frisk tur op til Kilburn High Road. Her, midt i det temmeligt trøstesløste område ligger nemlig Spicy Basil, der godtnok har en af byens grimmeste facader, men til gengæld serverer noget af Londons billigste thaimad. Kokkene står klar-parat bag disken til at smide de på forhånd afmålte friske ingredienser på panden, så du lynhurtigt kan få serveret  klassikere som Pad Thai, røde og grønne karryer etc. Pris for en hovedret (inkl. ris): 4.50-5 pund.

Bestil ekstra chili og friskpresset appelsin/gulerods-juice, så bliver de værste tømmermænd med garanti blæst ud af hovedet og ud på den grå gade. Al mad fås selvfølgelig også som take-away.

Spicy Basil, 165 Kilburn High Road, London, tel: 020 7328 6646

What I should’ve done last Saturday when I was lying in a catatonic hung-over state on the sofa was to walk up to Kilburn High Road. This rather grim-looking street houses Spicy Basil – a brilliant Thai restaurant/take-away that serves up some of London’s cheapest Thai-food. Several cooks operate behind the counter in the cafeteria-style room and it rarely takes them more than 5 minutes to whip together a yummy meal, made from scratch from fresh ingredients. You can get all the classics: from Pad Thai to red and green curries. A main costs 4.50-5 pounds (incl. rice).

Order some extra fresh chilli and a freshly squeezed orange/carrot juice and your hangover will hopefully hop out of your head and onto the bleak rain-soaked street.

Spicy Basil, 165 Kilburn High Road, London, tel: 020 7328 6646

Byron Burgers – juicy, tasty and responsibly reared…numnumnumnum

Lørdag var Sam på arbejde, så jeg smækkede Ipod’en på og gik ind til Wardour Street for at hente ham. Efter et par fadøl på favoritpubben The Ship (fantastisk rockmusik og autentisk rå stemning) var vi klar til mad. Halv-bimmelim af øl på tom mave kunne jeg høre den rumle “BURGER” så vi smuttede over på den anden side af vejen til Byron burgerkæden. Normalt er jeg ikke til kæder, men Byron holder 100%.

Byrons speciale er, sjovt nok,  toplækre burgere og priserne er lave, mens kvaliteten er i top med hjemmebagte, luftige boller og super friske bøffer fra skotsk kvæg, der får lov at gå frit omkring. Menuen er enkel: et lille udvalg af burgere med forskelligt fyld og så vælger man selv tilbehør i form af skinny fries, håndskårne fritter, løgringe ect. (man kan endda bestille macaroni cheese). Burgere koster ca. 8 pund, fritter 3. Burgerne serveres røde i midten med mindre du bestiller andet, og fik jeg nævnt at de har Brooklyn Lager? Så blir det ikke meget bedre. Læs mere om Byron her.

Her er et par billeder…blandt andet af en halvspist burger. Vi var en anelse besofne, så det varede lidt før jeg huskede at knipse et par stykker med Sams Iphone.

Byron, 97-99 Wardour Street, London (i alt 10 restauranter i London)

Saturday Sam was working, so I put on my Ipod and headed towards Wardour Street to meet him. After a few pints at our favourite pub, The Ship (authentic vibe and great rock music) my stomach was not so subtly rumbling “BURGERS” to me. So we headed for the Byron Burger chain, conveniently situated on the opposite side. Normally I don’t like chains, but this one is seriously good.

Byron of course specialises in burgers and the menu is simple: a few different  burgers that you can order with or without side-orders like skinny fries, onion rings, hand cut fries and even macaroni cheese. The meat is very fresh and comes from “free range” cows, running around in the Scottish highland, the buns are homemade and they alway manage to cook your burger to perfection (red in the middle, thank you very much). Burgers around 8 pounds, fries 3. Oh, and did I mention: they serve Brooklyn Lager!

Here’s a few pictures, including one of a half-eaten burger. We were a bit tipsy so it took a while before I remembered to snap a few with Sam’s Iphone.

Byron, 97-99 Wardour Street, London (around 10 restaurants in London)

Hot as hell – Thai Cottage in D’Arblay Street

Photo: Mette Bassett

Jeg elsker stærk mad. Den nærmest masochistisk behagelige brændende fornemmelse af chili, der langsomt bygges op i indiske retter og får sveden til at pible frem i hovedbunden. Eller endnu bedre: den hurtige eksplosion af frisk chili i Thaimad.

Local restaurant on Koh Lanta. Photo: Mette Bassett

Da vi for nylig var på Koh Lanta i Thailand bestilte vi al vores mad “thai style”og “extra spicy”. Men det kunne vi godt glemme. Vi befandt os nemlig på en turistet strand, omgivet af svenskere, og der var no way at de turde servere stærk mad, for det havde de skam prøvet før, og få minutter senere var maden blevet sendt tilbage af en kampsvedende ildrød turist.

Dagen efter gik vi op på den mindre Skandinav-befolkede hovedvej og fandt et lillebitte sted, der også servicerede de lokale. Her spiste vi så resten af ugen.

Tilbage i London har det også været svært at overbevise Thai-restauranterne om, at vi mener det, når vi siger spicy. På Thai Cottage i D’Arblay Street midt i Soho, var de skeptiske første gang, men nu har vi bestået ildprøven, og den er hurtigt blevet vores London-favorit. Biksen styres med hård hånd af ejeren Sue, som har boet rigtig mange år i England, men som stadig laver noget af det mest autentiske Thaimad, jeg har fået uden for Thailand.

Thai Cottage. Photo: Mette Bassett

Mine to absolutte favoritter er: “kylling med basilikum, hvidløg, bønner og chili”  og “rød karry med and og grøntsager”. Men alle deres karryer er fremragende, og selvfølgelig laver de ikke retterne voldstærke, med mindre du beder om det.

Priserne er lave: ca. 7 pund for en hovedret (eksklusiv ris). Her er ingen fancy indretning og overpyntede retter, men maden, den fås altså næsten ikke bedre. Skal prøves.

Thai Cottage, 34 D’Arblay Street, London, Telephone: 020 7439 7099

I love spicy food. The almost masochistic pleasure of the burning sensation that slowly builds up in your mouth when you eat an Indian curry. Or the explosion of fresh chilies in Thai food making small droplets of sweat trickle from your scalp.

Recently we travelled to Koh Lanta in Thailand (an Island mainly populated by Swedish tourists apparently, SNUS anyone?) and on our first night there we went down to one of the many beach restaurants and ordered some food, extra spicy of course. But the waiter shook his head, he just couldn’t do it and explained that every time they served up something remotely spicy the tourists would send it back, complaining. We just couldn’t convince them that we could take the heat.

The next day we found a small street kitchen that mainly catered to the locals. We ate there the rest of the week.

Back in London we’ve had the same problem. The first time we had dinner at Thai Cottage in D’Arblay Street and asked for “thai style” they almost didn’t believe us either and stayed near our table to see how we reacted to the chili’ness. But now they do, and  this small and unpretentious restaurant (they don’t care about the decor, it’s all about the food) has quickly become our favourite Thai restaurant.

The owner Sue has spent many, many years in the UK but still manages to produce some of the most authentic and best tasting dishes I’ve had outside Thailand. Try the stir-fried chicken with onion, chilis, garlic and basil or my absolute favourite, the red duck curry. Best curry I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot. Prices are very low, around 7 pounds for a main (excl. rice).

Thai Cottage, 34 D’Arblay Street, London, Telephone: 020 7439 7099

Thai Cottage. Photo: Mette Bassett

Chinese anyone? – Gourmet San on Bethnal Green

Photo: Mette Bassett

Jeg går for det meste i en lang bue uden om kinesisk mad. Når det kinesiske køkken har været gennem Vestens hakkemaskine bliver det nemlig tit spyttet ud i den anden ende i form af publikums-pleasere som kinabokse, forårsruller, fedtede billigbuffeter, sursød sovs og chop suey i lange baner. Stillet over for det valg vil jeg til enhver tid foretrække japansk, vietnamesisk, thai eller koreansk.

Men kinesisk mad er så meget mere end det, og for nylig fik jeg lov til at prøve en af de mere interessante af slagsen. Gourmet San ligger på Bethnal Green Road og er lidt af en Østlondon institution. Så populær er den, at der tit snor sig en kø foran de ydmyge lokaler. Og med rette. Tag helst en håndfuld venner afsted, for så kan i bestille en masse forskellige retter og få max smagsindtryk.

Gourmet San er en Szechuan restaurant, dvs. den står på retter fra Szechuanprovinsen i det sydvestlige Kina, der er kendt for at proppe retterne med smagsindtryk via masser af hvidløg, chili og de berygtede Szechuan peberkorn, som får ens mund til at prikke og snurre. Dem var der i den dybstegte krabbe-ret vi fik serveret, som desuden var proppet med for os vesterlændinge uvante smagskombinationer i form af bl.a. chili og nelliker. Øvrige retter vi gik ombord i var: fisk i chilisauce, spinat og broccholi stegt i hvidløg, kinesisk kål, grillspyd med lam og rejer og en forfriskende agurke-hvidløgsret. På kortet er også mere usædvanlige kinesiske “lækkerier” i form af grisefødder, tunge, lammenyrer og den slags.

Priserne er rørende lave, grillspyd koster 1 pund stykket, grøntsagsretter omkring 5 pund, hovedretter 7-12. I’ll be back!

Gourmet San, 261 Bethnal Green Road, 020 7729 8388

Læs The Guardians anmeldelse af Gourmet San.

English: I tend to avoid Chinese food in its Westernized version because that normally equals greasy noodle take-aways, sweet and sour sauces, boring chop sueys and deep-fried spring rolls. But recently I got the chance to try something completely different: authentic and cheap Szechuan style food.

My friend who used to live in East London has spoken warmly about one of her favourite restaurants, Gourmet San on Bethnal Green Road. So we went, and I wasn’t disappointed. Food from the Szechuan province is famous for being packed with interesting flavours. That means a liberal use of garlic, chilis and the famous Szechuan peppercorns that make your mouth tingle. We had those in a deep-fried crab dish which was like a potpourri of unusual flavours.

We also sank our chopstick into broccoli and spinach fried with garlic, chinese fried cabbage, skewers with lamb and prawns, a whole fish with delicious chili sauce and an interesting and very refreshing dish, consisting of “battered” cucumbers mixed with a bit of garlic and vinegar. If you’re more adventurous than us you can also order pigs trotters, beef tongue and other “weird” Chinese delicacies.

Prices are cheap, around 1 pound for a skewer, 5 pounds for a vegetable dish and 7-12 for a main. It’s a good idea to bring a handful of friends so that you’re able to sample a lot of different dishes. I’ll definitely be back!

Gourmet San, 261 Bethnal Green Road, 020 7729 8388

Read The Guardians review of Gourmet San.

Photo: Mette Bassett

Photo: Mette Bassett

Vietnam nam – Song Que Cafe

Photo: Mette Bassett

Nogle af Londons bedste Vietnamesiske restauranter ligger klynget sammen i en radius af 500 meter i Shoreditch i Østlondon, nærmere bestemt området omkring Old Street og Kingsland Road. En af vores favoritter er Song Que Café, som er en autentisk udgave af den sindssygt over-priced Le Le Nha Hang i København.

Hos Song Que Café er der også altid kø udenfor, men det går hurtigt med at få plads i det højloftede, cafeteria-lignende lokale. Betjeningen er en smule fortravlet og ikke super venlig (men som dansker, der er vant til Københavns ubehøvlede tjenere, er dette det rene paradis).  Og maden er billig og lækker, plus de har alle klassikerne på kortet, inklusive nogle af mine favoritter: Pho (suppe), Ban Xeo (sprød pandekage med fyld), Bun Thit Nuong (kolde nudler med fx. grøntsager, forårsruller og grillet svinekød). En hovedret koster 7-8 pund.

Og så skader det heller ikke, at de har den vildeste kitsch, mintgrønne bar med et par giga plastic-hummere klasket på. Som min (designer)veninde sagde: “De kunne se rigtig cool ud på en hat.” Helt enig.

Song Que Cafe, 134 Kingsland Road, E2 8DY. Se kort.

English: A lot of London’s best and cheapest Vietnamese restaurant lie side by side in Shoreditch in East London and most are on Old Street and Kingsland Road. One of our favourites is Song Que Café. There’s always a queue of hungry customers waiting to be let into the big cafeteria-style room. You rarely have to wait more than five minutes though before you’re pushed towards your table by a rather stressed waiter

Rushed service aside, the food is cheap and yummy and the menu has all the Vietnamese classics such as Pho (soup), Ban Xeo (crispy pancake w. meat and veggies), Bun Thit Nuong (cold noodles w. spring rolls or grilled pork). A main costs around 7-8 pounds.

It doesn’t hurt either that they have the world’s coolest kitsch bar: mint green and inhabited by a couple of giant plastic lobsters. As my (designer)friend said: “They would look cool on a hat.” I couldn’t agree more…

Song Que Cafe, 134 Kingsland Road, E2 8DY. Map.

Photo: Mette Bassett