Sosharu – Jason Atherton’s Japanese in EC1

Creative cuisine in Clerkenwell

An izakaya (Japanese gastropub), Sosharu serves innovative Japanese-inspired dishes, in a minka (traditional, wooden house) themed interior that is informal, intimate and calm.

We start our evening in the basement cocktail bar, 7 tales, where it’s 2-for-1 on cocktails and we are the only customers. We order Way of the Warriors and One Eye Dragons. I’m smitten with the Japanese toilets with all the gadgets and warm seats – great on a cold, winter evening. I’m already transported back to Japan and happy holidays…

Our table for two (reserved well in advance) is ready so we return upstairs. The lighting is very low and although the tables are a bit small and crammed together, there’s a feeling of privacy and spaciousness due to all the decorative wooden wall dividers.

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Tuna temaki (top left), sea bream sashimi (top right), assorted sashimi, crab salad (bottom)

We’re pretty excited as we’re celebrating our anniversary. Our waiter is equally excited and talks us through every item on the menu, twice over, before eventually leaving us to read it.

The menu is split into different sections – sashimi, chilled, temaco, tempura, bento boxes, hibachi grill, classics, and noodles, with chef’s seasonal favourites (cf) helpfully marked as such in each section. For ease, you can order a tasting menu of seven plates @ £45.00 per person.

With help from our waiter we order a cold saké (36 PeopleJunmai @ £48.00) and choose our own tiny cups from a lovely saké cup selection box. Saké might be strong, and it might seem expensive but the small cups really help slow you down! It seemed like a never-ending bottle, and being cold, crisp and clean went really well with the food, cutting through the oily fish flavours nicely.

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Sake, bream sashimi and grilled miso cod

We order something from most sections of the menu:

Assorted sashimi: 6 pieces of tuna, salmon and yellowtail @ £24.00

Chilled:
– bream sashimi salad with crispy potato (cf) @ £13.00
– cornish crab salad with fried blood orange and miso dressing @ £12.00

Temaco: 2 x open tuna temaki with scallion tobiko, sushi rice, avocado + fresh wasabi @ £9 each (cf)

Tempura – karaage: fried chicken with lemon + salt @ £8 (cf)

Hibachi grill: wagyu rib-eye beef with ginger + garlic crisps @ £30

Inspired by classics: miso grilled Cornish cod, sweet soy, cod gyoza, monks beard @ £19

The sea bream sashimi salad was so carefully composed, it was almost a shame to eat. And quite difficult to share. The assorted sashimi was a stand-out dish for me. As was the Cornish crab salad which had real novelty factor with its beautiful fried, crispy blood orange arrangement.

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Wagyu beef

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Fried chicken

The design of the tuna temaki was something else – art on a plate, while the wagyu beef wasn’t particularly special, nor was the fried chicken.

We’re pretty full but we’re celebrating and can squeeze in a dessert. And so we do: a coconut rice with mango for K and an apple kakigori (inspired by tarte tatin) made of fresh apple, caramelised compote, salty caramel ice-cream, shaved ice and Calvados foam for me (both @ £9).  K’s rice pudding was served in two dishes which looked spectacular but didn’t really go together and was well, just a bit odd.

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Coconut rice dessert

The serving of the apple kakigori was also theatrical with the Calvados foam being sprayed on last, at the table. It didn’t look very appealing but once the ice shavings started melting and all the flavours started blending together, it was absolutely divine.

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Apple kakigori

The verdict: The food is innovative, fancy and pricey (our meal for two came to £249.75). That’s all part of the experience. We felt very well looked after and really enjoyed the low-lit (dark), wooden interior style. I can’t imagine rushing back here any time soon when there are numerous other Japanese restaurants in London I’ve yet to try, but this was a thoroughly good, enjoyable dining experience.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 64 Turnmill St, London EC1M 5RR
– Nearest station: Farringdon
– Website + menus: Sosharu website
– Photos on flickr: images of Sosharu food
– Location: Sosharu map

Sosharu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Catford Snow Safari – a video poem of Catford’s “wildlife”

Come and join me admiring the parakeets and old oaks along Canadian Avenue, the tacky (but loveable) fibreglass Catford Cat at the Catford Centre, and the old dog racing track (now Catford Green) by the train stations 

 

Walking along the Canadian Oak-lined avenue that is Canadian Avenue in Catford, one cold winter morning a couple of years ago, I heard the wild parakeets screeching and got to thinking how surprising it is, that they don’t migrate. Even snow doesn’t seem to deter them which means London must be mild enough for them to survive through the winter months.

By the time I’d done my usual morning walk to Catford Bridge Station, where the platform was coated in a carpet of snow, I wondered what the building site that is Catford Green would’ve been like, back when it was a greyhound racing track.

I was in proper daydreaming mode by now (I’m quite good at daydreaming. And I do enjoy it). Already, words were jumping together and forming a poem in my mind. Not just about parakeets and greyhound dogs but the Catford Cat too…

Since scribbling Catford Snow Safari, I’ve been eager for it to snow again so I could capture some video footage of the endearing things around Catford, that feature in this tongue-in-cheek poem. Two years passed by. Waking up very early – freezing cold – at 5 a.m. yesterday morning, 28th February, I was beside myself with excitement to discover Catford covered in snow. Properly covered. iphone camera ready…


Come join the safari and see Catford’s “wildlife” in snow…

Ok, it may be pretty basic video clips taken on my iphone and put together in iMovie by an amateur, but don’t spoil the fun…

Monohon Ramen – Japanese noodle bar on Old Street, EC1

Keeping it traditional – the tiny ramen bars specialising in chashu or slow-cooked pork belly soups that you find in neighbourhoods in Japan are rare in London. Monohon is one.

Because this noodle bar opened up near work, because I love Japanese food, and because it was recommended to me, there was absolutely no excuse but to try Monohon’s ramen one lunch time. This was my first ramen bar tasting since Ginza Bonten in Tokyo, and I was eager.

 

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Abura soba – as served

My first visit was in July 2017. I don’t think it had been open very long but it always looked full at lunchtime, so three of us went early to try and get a seat (you can’t book ahead). The only seats available were at the counter. Fine by me, no chance of slurping and splashing the person opposite’s face! A queue formed shortly after we arrived.

I had abura soba (soupless ramen) – thick, bouncy ramen noodles on a sesame-oil based ‘tare’. Toppings include spring onions, beansprouts, crispy fried shallots, slow cooked pork shoulder, marinated bamboo shoots, soft poached egg, shredded toasted seaweed, and fine strings of cayenne pepper. It’s £10.00 for regular size (pictured) or £13.50 for large.

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Abura soba – mixed up and ready to eat

Sitting at the counter, we were able to watch the staff preparing the noodles (check out the chef’s story and inspiration for opening Monohon on their website)

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Shouyu Tonkotsu – Chashu (pork belly) ramen

On a more recent visit (a cold, snowy winter’s day) I had shouyu tonkatsu – umami-infused soy sauce seasoning ‘tare’ with creamy pork bone soup, served with thin cut hosomen noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, kikurage (Chinese mushrooms) and a slice of chashu (slow cooked pork belly) @ £11 for a regular serving or £12 large. I chose regular and had an extra slice of chashu. It was absolutely gorgeous and I’ll be hard pushed not to have this again next time. And the next.

Other optional extras to go with shouyu tonkotsu include ajitsuke tamago (soft boiled egg), beni-shoga (shredded, pickled ginger), yaki nori (toasted seaweed), etc.

 

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Monohon menu

 

 

The verdict: Monohon has all the feel of a neighbourhood ramen bar in Japan, without all the reliance on an app to translate and understand the menu. At first glance it might seem like the menu is limited with only five choices; it’s probably more fair to say they stick to offering ‘house specials’. What they do, they do well. And the lunchtime queues are testament to that.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese, ramen
– Address: 102 Old St, London EC1V 9AY
– Nearest station: Old Street
– Website + menus: Monohon Ramen website
– Photos on flickr: images of Monohon Ramen food
– Location: Monohon Ramen map

 

Beer and Buns – what’s not to like?

Japanese craft beer and steamed Hirata buns served up with table tennis and arcade games

Wondering how this restaurant-bar got its name? Didn’t think so…

Drawn by the simple, appealing name from the start (and being hooked by all things Japanese) I took my parents to this Izakaya (informal drinking place) when they were in town recently.

It’s situated above K10, a Japanese restaurant on Appold Street in the City of London, up a few flights of stairs. By the time I arrived – after work one Friday evening – my parents were already well settled in and on first name terms with the chatty, friendly doorman, Paul, who took me up to them.

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Beer. And Buns. What’s not to like?

Boasting the “UK’s largest selection of Japanese craft beer available” (from pale ales to amber ales to stouts) as well as wines, spirits and cocktails, the speciality here is Japanese steamed buns and Korean-style fried chicken wings.

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Hitachino Japanese beers – Espresso stout and classic Hitachino Nest

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Nest beer – IPA and pale ale

It’s all about sharing. Messily. We ordered:
– Sweet potato fries @ £3.50
– Edamame with black bean sauce @ £3.95
– Six wings @ £9.95 – two of each with these sauces: Tebasake soy garlic, sweet + spicy, Korean hot(most definitely hot!)

and these steamed Hirata buns:
– 2 x chicken karaage with slaw @ £7.90
– 2 x pork belly with braised red cabbage @ £7.90
– 2 x ebi katsu with lettuce @ £7.90
– 2 x bulgogi beef with kimchi @ £8.50

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Sweet potato fries, edamame and crispy chicken wings (triple fried)

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Steamed Hirata buns – Chashu pork belly with braised red cabbage + mustard mayo (left); ebi katsu with baby gem lettuce + spicy mayo (right); bulgogi beef with spicy Korean kimchi (top)

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Signature bun: chicken karaage with Japanese yuzu koshu slaw

My parents hadn’t tried Hirata buns before so the food had novelty factor and was really great.

Food over it was time to hit the table-tennis table. Mum was up first!

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Table tennis – working off some buns

Friendly Paul could’ve been a hard act to follow, but all of the bar staff were helpful and friendly in a nicely laid-back kind of way.

The verdict: There’s great craft beer. There’s gorgeous steamed buns. There’s triple-fried crispy chicken wings. And table tennis. What more could you want for a fun-filled evening? Great venue.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese steamed buns
– Address: 3 Appold Street, London
– Postcode: EC2A 2AF
– Nearest station: Liverpool Street
– Website + menus: Beer and Buns website
– Photos on flickr: Beer and Buns photos food
– Location: Beer & Buns map

Beer & Buns Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What do you get when a sunflower turns into a chilli plant – a silliflower?

A silly silliflower story

It’s three years this month since one of my sunflower plants started to change into a chilli plant (yep, you read that right).

As I’ve only just discovered the taste sensation that is gin and tonic with finely-sliced chilli, this three year anniversary may be worth celebrating…

But first, here’s the back story:

Back in 2014, we got given sunflower seeds for joining in Learning at Work Week events at work.

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Sunflower plant grown from a seed – as of Oct 2014

By August 2015, my last surviving sunflower was window height (not exactly thriving) alongside a dying chilli plant.

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Sunflower plant (in same pot) tall and straggly – August 2015

Err, and it had grown a chilli:
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Hybrid sunflower plant sprouts a chilli – August 2015

And continued growing chillis through 2015 and 2016:

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Sprouting chillis – Aug 2016

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Still growing chillis – Nov 2016

On to 2017:

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A bit chilli in here, my fingers are going green – August 2017

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Still reaching for the sun – October 2017

How unusual is a hybrid plant like this – should I register it?

And who logs new plant types anyway, maybe Kew Gardens?

So many questions.

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From the top: Once I was a sunflower; now I grow chillis; I go very well with gin + tonic

In the meantime, I’m happy to have found a new purpose for those lovely green and red chillis: at the recent Catford Gin Festival, I discovered that chilli goes really well in gin and tonic. For example:
Colonsay gin with sliced green chilli, or
Tom Cat Six with scotch bonnet).

Time for a LardButtyTestTaste…

Silliflower timeline:
– Photos on flickr: Silliflower photos

Catford Bridge Tavern SE6 – new in 2017

It’s pleasing to see the redeveloped CBT doing well again under new ownership, since re-opening Easter 2017 with a new roof terrace, refurbed dining room and a good range of drinks from craft beers to “gincident” gins

The former Catford Bridge Tavern run by Antic, closed back in November 2013 (Tesco bought the lease, then sold it to Solitaire after community campaigns to save the pub), it then caught fire and stood empty for about two years (see re-construction time-lapse). A disappointing saga.

With a happy ending?

Let’s take a look. Starting with skin-on chips that take some beating:

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Beer battered haddock + skin-on salted chips with tartar sauce

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Beer battered haddock: nice white ‘meaty’ fish

Food promos run on weekday evenings:

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Burger MondaysBurger + skin-on chips and a pint for £10.00 (the offer’s since changed to buy a burger, get a second for £1)

They’re good burgers. Every day of the week.

The menu changes fairly regularly, here’s a sample from April 2017:

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Sample menu 

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Sea bream @ £11.00

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Pano – cross-section restaurant and bar-side

Fancy a bar snack?

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Cumberland sausage rolls with mushroom ketchup – bar snack @ £4.00

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Craft beers

Saving the best ’til last, it’s got to be Sunday roasts:

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Sunday roast: pork belly + crackling @ £14.00

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Sunday roasts: pork belly with crackling (top @ £14) and topside of beef (bottom @ £14.75) with roast spuds and proper Yorkshire puddings

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Eton mess @ £4.00

Watch out for quirky events and themes, from music by a Granny DJ to “Gincidents” and dog shows.

The verdict: Catford has a great traditional-style pub again – good food, drinks, and service (bar and waiting staff are usually chatty and helpful) in a comfy, clean space that’s enjoyable to relax in.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Pub, British
– Address: Station Approach, Catford, London
– Postcode: SE6 4RE
– Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford
– Website + menus: Catford Bridge Tavern website
– Photos on flickr: images of Catford Bridge Tavern food
– Location: Catford Bridge Tavern map

Fayrooz – Lebanese in Catford SE6

Walking along Catford Broadway in the evening, it’s not unusual to be tormented by the enticing BBQ smells wafting from Fayrooz – a small café serving Lebanese meze and charcoal grilled dishes

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Falafel with tahini (sesame seed) sauce @ £4.45

Cold meze dishes range from humous and baba ganoush (aubergine dip) to stuffed vine leaves, salads and oven-baked aubergine moussaka. In the hot meze menu you’ll find grilled haloumi, spinach parcels, minced lamb meat balls, and falafel (pictured above – gorgeous).

The Fayrooz platter is a house special. A fave of K’s, this sharing platter for two contains kofte, taouk, lamb kebab cubes, mixed lamb + chicken shawarma. And, @ £22.00, it comes with salad, sauces and flat bread.

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Meze – Fayrooz platter pictured with rice, salad + flat bread

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Kofte, taouk, lamb kebab cubes, mixed lamb + chicken shawarma with sauces

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Baba ganoush (moutabal) – aubergine dip with fresh-baked flatbread @ £4.25
And grilled halloumi @ £4.45

There’s been a kebab shop in this unit for years but it’s been smartened up considerably since Fayrooz took it over earlier in 2017.

Most business seems to be take-away (you can arrange delivery through the likes of UberEats) and there are about eight tables for eat-in diners. Service is leisurely Lebanese/ Mediterranean in that it’s friendly, welcoming and not in any hurry (to the extent of being painfully slow on a couple of occasions, in our experience).

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Inside Fayrooz – cafe style

Takeaway:

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Chargrilled spiced sea bass with salad – takeaway @ £11.95

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Fayrooz takeaway menu

Delivery through UberEats:

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Meze delivery through UberEats:
Kibbeh mezze: Fried meat balls – bulgur shell with a filling of spiced finely-minced lamb @ £5.45 (gorgeous cinnamon flavours)
Grilled haloumi mezze @ £4.45
Aubergine moussaka mezze: oven-baked aubergine with tomatoes, onion + chickpeas (cold) @ £4.25
Tabbouleh salad: tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur, onion, + olive oil, lemon juice, + salt @ £4.25
Grilled corn-on-the-cob: two cobs @ £2.75
Baba ganoush mezze: Moutabal – smoked aubergine puree, sesame sauce + pomegranate seeds @ £4.25

 

The verdict: A good cafe option in Catford serving freshly prepared dishes (good quality chargrilled meats and fish) if you’re not in a hurry.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Lebanese
– Address: 4 Catford Broadway, London SE6 4SP
– Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford
– More info: Fayrooz website or on fb
– Photos on flickr: images of Fayrooz food
– Location: Fayrooz map