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  1. Sadly I too have just received a rejection letter from Luis. I tried both approaches in my request - being completely flexible while also providing 2 celebration dates to target. Once again, no joy. *sigh* ... perhaps one day we'll get there. best of luck to other eG folks!
  2. We've been too - I find Saf a welcome addition to the area and a place I intend to return to with curiosity to see how the menu changes with time. It's meant to be seasonal so I would hope there is enough diversity and seasonality in the menu to keep me interested. Unfortunately we'd just returned from a trip to Napa & Sonoma Valleys just before Saf opened so when we ventured to Saf in opening week, it paled in comparison to Ubuntu (which is a fabulous vegetarian restaurant in Napa town itself). Having said that, Saf is a breath of fresh air for East London and proof that vegan cuisine *can* be satisfying and interesting to carnivores like me. I too was a bit dubious about the nut cheese but found it quite tasty - like a ricotta in texture. It appeared on our cheese plate as well as my ravioli so I was a bit cheesed out by the end of the meal, but I'll blame that on my ordering skills rather than anything else The cocktails are reason enough to return, though don't overlook the food on that account! The wine list is interesting also, with a good selection by the glass. My only criticism is of them serving champagne in the flat bottomed cocktail glasses. I ran out of fizz in no time. Serves me right for moving away from the cocktail list....but no matter - I wound up rolling myself home, hiccuping all the way so it must have been a good night! Anyone been back and noticed menu changes?
  3. Their policy for seating has changed. Instead of making people wait in line, they now give you an estimated time of seating and if you are still interested, ask you to put your name and number down. You are then free to leave and wander until you are called. We arrived at 8.30pm last Saturday night, fervently hoping the hoards would have dined already and be more interested in drinking the night away. Not knowing the change in policy, we arrived to see a half empty restaurant and no queue, and cheered….only to be told by the man with the clipboard that we couldn't be seated until 10pm!!! Since we were in town already and I wasn't ravenous yet, I put my name down and went off to find a pint elsewhere. I never did get a phonecall as promised, but returned to Wahaca just before 10pm to find our table ready and was seated straight away. We had an incredibly friendly waitress who had a good knowledge of the menu and its ingredients. She recommended the tamarind margarita to us (mmmmmm) and delivered our pork scratchings and guacamole with a message that we could have as much of it as we wanted….not quite sure what this meant as we never got the second portion after all, as the other dishes arrived after she took the empty scratchings plate away. The scratchings are purported to be healthier than normal - and in fairness probably are. It seems to be the rind layer only, but deep fried or something similar until it puffs up (similar in appearance to the deep fried fish skin you can find in asian markets). The guacamole was lovely - very slightly chunky, well balanced. So easy to do well, yet so many fail so often. Definitely looks like they've had negative feedback on the pureed smooth shiny version they were serving earlier in the week, and tried to improve so thumbs up for that. There were 2 of us and we ordered 3 of the smaller street food dishes each, saving the main plates for next time. It was the right amount for 2 hungry people - we each ordered tacos (1 x pork pibil, 1 x market fish), tostadas (1 x mackerel & spicy slaw, 1 x black bean), quesadillas (1 x chorizo & potato, 1 x tinga). My favourites were both tostadas (the frijoles (beans kept whole for this) possibly edges out the mackerel, but not by much) and the pork pibil tacos, though I did think the quantity of filling in the tacos were a bit mean, and definitely unevenly distributed. Having said that, I've seen photos of tacos taken by bloggers where the tacos seemed to have more in them, so I'll put it down to teething problems and the time of night. I agree with some of the comments on seasoning, though I didn't mind so much as it gave me an excuse to put that scrumptious (and not overly hot at all) South Devon Chilli Company Habanero hot table sauce on everything. If I could have smuggled a bottle home in my handbag, I would have. I would also like to see other accompaniments brought to the table along with the salsas - perhaps some wedges of lime, some coriander sprigs, a blob of sour cream, more of the fantastic pickle that comes with the quesadillas.... These are not expensive things to provide, but can add a different level of flavour to each bite and adds that brilliant freshness to the smoky flavours if you want it. I also gave in to my sweet tooth and ordered the churros con chocolate - and am very glad that I did. They arrived piping hot and crunchy, light and not at all greasy, with an espresso cup of chocolate sauce on the side. I had to fight my other half off …. but then magnanimously let him have half so I could also order a mexican hot chocolate (wish I didn't bother - not overly spiced and nowhere near hot enough. It was incredibly sweet already, though was served with a full sugar shaker on the serving plate!). The interior design was airy and bright, using the mexican coastal colours of aqua blues and greens with the urban edges of concrete and tin - very spacious in feeling, and one wonders if they could have fit a couple more tables in here and there easily, reducing the time to wait for a table. Though I'm sure they tried and perhaps it's just not feasible given the floorplan. Would I go again? Definitely. Would go again if I had to I wait 45+ minutes for a table? No..…though I say this knowing that I have Green & Red up the road from where I live....
  4. I concur. We first went for our team xmas lunch last year and haven't stopped going back since - for lunch or dinner. I've even dragged the other half out here after work from west london so he could finally taste what I kept tantalisingly raving on about - the best affordable authentic (north) spanish cooking in London that I've come across yet (though to be fair I haven't worked my way through all of them yet!) Barrafina is great but El Faro is just as good if not better and you don't have to wait 45min to be seated (though not as well located). The steaks are amazing - aged, perfectly cooked and with large flakes of salt on top. I'll take that over the more expensive Gaucho Grill any day (the nearest place to work to get a decent steak) Had better navajas (razor clams) there than I have had in Spain - not gritty at all. Great service - the spanish waitress is always lovely and works hard to make sure you've ordering enough food (and suggests when you have ordered too much, as I always do) and that the meal is going smoothly. El Faro may not have the most convenient location for all - but all the better for me - keep the crowds away (though I hope not so far away that the restaurant suffers. They deserve to do well) Check it out on a weekend sometime. It could be a nice location to visit in the summer when it's nice outside. they have views over the water.
  5. hmmmm...i seem to remember there being a deli on Church St that sells them (not too far away from Alfie's Antique emporium - same side of the road but further west). There's one somewhere along the row of food shops that has a butchers counter in the front. I'm pretty sure they sell merguez. Haven't ever bought any myself though, so I can't vouch for their quality - but they looked good! let us know how you get on if you try them.
  6. Sounds yummy - I'll have to try it out soon! If you want an alternative, I strongly recommend that you get yourself to Green & Red, if you haven't already. It is a tequila bar and has a similarly impressive tequila menu (and yes, a lot of their cocktails are based on tequila, but their bar staff have a lot of years of experience in various high quality bars in London and will make almost anything you want, or didn't know that you wanted) But it's their food that I love. They specialise in dishes from Jalisco (where tequila is from) and it's all just divine. Their mains are delicious and far from the sub-standard tex-mex fare that passes for authentic mexican in this city. I love the birria, the meltingly tender and delicious carnitas, the corn fed chicken roasted with achiote, and the fried sea bream - all served with wonderful little white corn tortillas freshly steamed, and all the sides (salsa mexicana, frijoles, guacamole) and if i have room I try to sneak a bite of my partners Arroz de leche (rice pudding with fat raisins which are soaked in a tequila) Mestizo does a broader range of mexican dishes (eg. a decent molcajete and mole) , but I love the feel of Green & Red (plus it's my local - it helps!) - I have a couple of friends who are mexican who rate it. In their words, it's not a good as you can find in Mexico, but it's the best they've had here in London!
  7. I meant to bring some back with me from my recent trip home, but was too laden with heavy luggage However, I see that Lakeland have now started carrying them (or I didn't realise they always did) and you can find them there if you haven't already. The picture of the tin doesn't inspire me with confidence, but the picture of the friand does look right, and I buy from them quite often so I do trust they know what they're talking about!
  8. I don't know about the Finchley area but in Central London, the Ginger Pig sell veal and will cut to order. I haven't purchased it from them in ages but I recently had a beautiful thick veal sirloin (bone-in) at Hawksmoor and Ginger Pig supply them with their meat.
  9. I get it but I can see why it can become too much for some as a main. However, my favourite pick me up to the blandest of risotto's is to sprinkle loads of pangrattato on top (breadcrumbs whizzed in a food processor with oil and flavourings - my fave is with anchovies, their oil, garlic & dried chillis - then toasted in a frypan until crisp) While I do love the mildest of risotto's for their delicacy and texture, pangrattato on risotto puts me into a feeding frenzy that has to be ended before I burst from starch overload!
  10. My other half tried his luck last Saturday evening. Half the restaurant was open but they were serving buffet only. really not sure why they bothered?
  11. All great options - you'll be wishing you could stay in London for a few days! However, I will add one more. Anakana is a good option, and v local to the city. I find it's better than the Brick Lane bunch, and isn't as far away as Tayyabs. Anakana is on Moorgate itself, just up from the station near the City Road roundabout. It bills itself as a chai and cocktail bar but has a canteen of long tables out the back of the bar in v pleasant/hip surrounds and a selection of thali's and dosai on the menu. I had an excellent seafood thali for about £12 I think (prawns & scallops) but I definitely had order envy when ogling my friend massive delicate dosa filled with fragrant dry fried shredded lamb. The chef is australian and not indian, but he definitely has a good grasp of indian cooking/cuisine and has given them a fresh lift in line with modern eating.
  12. well, for what it's worth, I still think the broth of the pho at Cay Tre (on Old St) is the best of the lot in that area. As mentioned, they only have a pho ga (chicken) and a pho bo (beef) and don't have the range of other additions like tripe/tendons at Song Que, but I find the pho more enjoyable at Cay Tre. No, it's not quite as good as anything streetside in Hanoi but you take what you can get when thousands of miles away. Can't compare to NYC as I've not had pho there.
  13. Song Que has the best range of pho, hands down. I go there if I feel the need for a pho with tendon or tripe. However, I still tend to prefer the pho at Cay Tre on Old St. The servings are a bit smaller (as they should be so it's not all just filler of rice noodles) and the broth is better than Song Que. Their pho go uses corn fed chicken and it's a rather tasty dish. the pho bo tai is quite delicate as well. Both places do a Bun Bo Hue well enough, especially if you ask for it to be extra spicy Au Lac is also good, if I remember correctly. Haven't tried the new Viet Grill that's opened up further south towards Herbal. it's the sister to Cay Tre and my vietnamese friend gives it the thumbs up so I'm looking forward to visiting soon. btw - one of my favourite noodle dishes is Bun cha - rice vermicelli with grilled pork on top, with lettuce and julienned cucumber mixed throughm and a fish sauce soupy concoction poured over the top. it's not a soup but it's not dry either. IMO, Cay Tre does the best Bun Cha that I've found so far. The same dish in Hanoi (a streetside dish during the day only) also includes little grilled pork mince burgers as well, but I've yet to find a place here in London that has this. Can't give any advice on the turkish places in Stoke Newington as I never seem to get past the local place up the road from me, but I'll be keen to read suggestions from others in the know!
  14. First visit: a solitary lunch a couple of weeks ago. As I was by myself I thought I'd just have a bowl of noodles and some pickled vegetables. Ha. 1 bowl of dan dan mein at £4.50 could have fit in the palm of my hand. Not exactly value for money….the meat sauce was good but the noodles were a bit average. If I could have mixed the sauce from Bar Shu, with the noodles and portion sizing of Chinese Experience across the road, I would have been much happier. At least portion of pickled vegetables was satisfying for £6, and they were really quite good. Crispy, tart with a good balance of acidity and crunch. Still hungry, I decided to delve into the menu of bigger dishes while there, foresaking any chance of dinner. I chose the mapo dou fu (Mrs Chen's pock marked bean curd), and some rice, then proceeded to make a pig of myself by demolishing the lot. Total for the noodles, pickles, tofu, rice and tea was £23 including service. But I didn't need dinner…. The next visit was last weekend, strategically bringing my other half so I could try more dishes. Appetisers: Long-flat-wide-slithery dark green/brown buckwheat noodles with soft poached shredded chicken in a lovely light soy/vinegar dressing. Word from the kitchen came that they had run out of pickled vegetables, which is a shame as they're really good - but we didn't need them and passed on a substitute. The "mains": Double cooked yard beans with pork. Great and fantastically moreish, the beans were all cooked and the mince pork nicely crisped, but my one criticism was that it slightly over salted. Beef slices in a fiery sauce - delicious, but more oily and less "soupy" than the one we usually make from Fuschia's book. I have to say I prefer the one we make at home. Contributing factor was that the beef used at Bar Shu had obviously been tenderised and had that spongy texture from overuse of soda. Disappointing - and yet I ate every morsel (leaving behind as much of the oil as I could for the sake of my arteries..but damn it was tasty) Hot & sour crab - sweet crab meat locked inside a type of crab with slightly hairier legs than I'm used to getting, but no deterrent there. Every bit of its body was sucked, cracked and chewed to get the meat out and the sauce extracted from within. I loved the sauce it was cooked in: Stir fried with peanuts, dried chillies, garlic and bamboo, spring onions. Great combination of flavours. I loved this dish…and from the look on the waiters face when he came to retrieve the plate, it showed! Cost for food + 2 tiger beers, 1 glass chenin blanc (wine by the glass comes in 250ml measures only, at avg price of £4.50), chinese tea for 2 and copious amounts of rice to soak up all the flavours: just under £80 with service The service varied between perfunctory and friendly and sweet. Really depended on who was serving you - most of the staff were charming and lovely though. Overall judgement - will be going back when a huge flavour hit is desired. I'll also try to pick out a more balanced meal. The full effect of the menu above was just too oily, salty and rich. The upside was that I didn't have to eat until dinner the next day - so I guess I could complain about the high prices like a lot of other people, but it really seems like great value when you think about it! 3 meals for the price of 1 large one
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