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.

20180315_Sosharu - sashimi_insta
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.

20180315_Soshura 001
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.

IMG_9091b
Wagyu beef

IMG_9089b
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.

IMG_9103b
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.

IMG_9101b
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

Advertisements

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.

 

IMG_5975
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.

IMG_5976
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)

IMG_8880b
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.

 

IMG_5974
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.

20170901_Beer and Buns
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.

IMG_6465
Hitachino Japanese beers – Espresso stout and classic Hitachino Nest

IMG_6458
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

IMG_6463
Sweet potato fries, edamame and crispy chicken wings (triple fried)

IMG_6461
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)

IMG_6462
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!

IMG_6459
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

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:

IMG_4521
Beer battered haddock + skin-on salted chips with tartar sauce

IMG_4522
Beer battered haddock: nice white ‘meaty’ fish

Food promos run on weekday evenings:

IMG_4829
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:

IMG_4514
Sample menu 

IMG_6176
Sea bream @ £11.00

IMG_4675
Pano – cross-section restaurant and bar-side

Fancy a bar snack?

IMG_4519
Cumberland sausage rolls with mushroom ketchup – bar snack @ £4.00

IMG_4676
Craft beers

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

IMG_6565
Sunday roast: pork belly + crackling @ £14.00

20170903_CBT Sunday roasts
Sunday roasts: pork belly with crackling (top @ £14) and topside of beef (bottom @ £14.75) with roast spuds and proper Yorkshire puddings

IMG_7398
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

Pizza Pilgrims Neopolitan pizza – BYOB at Shoreditch E1

Casual dining with ‘bring your own booze’

When Mary Berry says it’s the “best pizza” she’s ever had, that’s quite an accolade (Mary Berry Everyday March 2017). But then, she also admitted she’d never ordered a pizza delivery (and got some stick in social media – just how much of a pizza expert is she?). On the other hand, if you can get the Pizza Pilgrims duo to come and cook fresh Neopolitan pizza in their 3-wheeled pizza-oven-van in your own garden, that’s a pretty special kind of pizza delivery.

Is it really the best pizza ever? Time to stop wondering. And go and check out Pizza Pilgrims for myself. I’m heading to the Shoreditch branch where it’s bring your own booze (BYOB) – a bottle of chilled prosecco, Italian sparkling wine, seems appropriate for an Italian feast.

 

20170719_Pizza Pilgrims - aubergine and salsiccia
Sharing: Salsiccia + friarielli (left) and Aubergine parmigiana (right) with mozzarella in the middle

 

It’s £2.50 a head for corkage, which helps keep costs down if you’re after a cheap and cheerful pizza meal.

Here, the pizza is Naples-style – proved slow for 48 hours and cooked fast at 500°c.

For two, we order:
Aubergine parmigiana – margherita with roast aubergines, baby plum tomatoes, topped with parmesan + breadcrumbs @ £9.00
Salsiccia + friarielli – White pizza with fresh fennel sausage, chilli, wild broccoli, parmesan, basil + white truffle oil @ £10.00
Buffalo mozzarella with smoked tomatoes fresh from Italy every week @ £5.50 (so good!)

20170719_Pizza Pilgrims smoked tomatoes
Smoked tomatoes

 

Service is welcoming and friendly, the restaurant has a very casual feel, and all of the food arrives within minutes. The pizzas are absolutely gorgeous – the bread base looks quite dense, but it isn’t. The crust is airy and the actual base is relatively thin and light. The combinations of toppings are also interesting (it took some serious deliberating to narrow our choices down to two, eventually choosing one ‘white’ and one margherita) and fresh and tasty. Our side order of mozzarella and smoked tomatoes with rocket goes down well – the mozzarella is really soft and stringy when we cut into it, and the smokiness of the tomatoes is something else.

 

20170719_Pizza Pilgrims - Shoreditch interior
Casual dining at Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch 

 

The verdict: Seriously good pizzas served in a casual environment, and BYOB at the Shoreditch branch keeps costs down.

 

20170719_Pizza Pilgrims aubergine pizza
Aubergine parmigiana – roast aubergines, baby plum tomatoes, topped with parmesan + breadcrumbs

 

Read more about the Pizza Pilgrims duo and their  3-wheeled pizza-oven-van.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Pizza, Italian
– Address: 136 Shoreditch High St, London
– Postcode: E1 6JE
– Nearest station: Old Street tube, Shoreditch High Street train stn
– Website + menus: Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch website
– Photos on flickr: Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch photos
– Location: Pizza Pilgrims Shoreditch map

Pizza Pilgrims Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Okonomiyaki at Abeno Too – Covent Garden WC2

Turn away now if you’re tormented at the idea of having a big fat tasty Japanese pancake cooked right in front of you, ready to eat all steaming hot and covered in tuna flakes, kewpie mayo and Japanese trimmings…

We tried and loved okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) while on holiday in Japan last year (see Okonomiyaki in Japan blog). Somehow, I only recently heard about Abeno, okonomiyaki specialists in London, so was keen to visit.

At the original Abeno restaurant in Bloomsbury, you can book a table. Our visit last night was to Abeno Too on Great Newport Street (off Leicester Square) where there are no reservations. It’s a small restaurant and being a Saturday evening, we headed there early after a shopping spree.

Abeno Too in 43 seconds:

img_4191_crop - Okonomiyaki menu.jpg
Okonomiyaki menu at Abeno Too

We started with a couple of refreshing drinks: K had a kirin beer @ £4.75 while I had a summery miyako odori with berries @ £8.50.

IMG_4194.jpg
Kirin Ichiban , Miyako odori and kyo geiko

For starters we shared kyo geiko @ £8.50 (dried prune? not that exciting) and beef kara-age @ £13.80 – really tender (as in Granny’s-slow-cooked-beef-stew tender).

img_4198b.jpg
Beef kara-age – crispy nuggets of organic fillet beef, with a garlic, ginger + soy seasoning

IMG_4201.jpg
Mio sake – light + refreshing at only 5% alcohol but not cheap @ £14.00 for a small bottle

On to the exciting bit. This restaurant specialises in okonomiyakis, so that’s what we ordered.

Okonomi-yakis are Japanese pancakes, and the ingredients vary based on the region of Japan. However they vary, the basic ingredients are cabbage, egg and dough with spring onions, ginger and bits of tempura batter (in Hiroshima for example, they include soba noodles).

K ordered an Osaka mix – pork, kimchi and prawn, and I ordered a Tokyo mix – pork, squid and prawn. And we went for the deluxe (regular) size @ £14.25 rather than the super deluxe (large) @ £16.25.

IMG_4203.jpg
Two okonomiyaki pancakes in the making – Tokyo mix left, Osaka mix right

Watch it cook:

IMG_4206.jpg
Steaming and a-sizzling – time to add bacon

The pancake is flipped over when it’s done on the first side, and sprinkled with Katsuobushi or bonito tuna flakes (so light, they dance in the steam) and aonori (powdered seaweed).

IMG_4209.jpg
Nearly ready…  topped with Kewpie mayonnaise + okonomi sauce before serving

IMG_4193.jpg
Inside Abeno Too

img_4215b - Abeno Too queue.jpg
Queueing outside Abeno Too  – a line had formed by the time we left at 7.30pm

The bill for this fairly quick meal for two, which included a couple of drinks each, came to £94.75 before service.

The verdict: Authentic Japanese experience, it’s not cheap but it’s something a bit different in London. And very tasty too. What’s not to enjoy about having a pancake cooked in front of you, containing a load of ingredients of your choice?

Abeno Too restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Okonomiyaki, Japanese
– Address: Abeno Too, 17-18 Great Newport Street, London
– Postcode: WC2H 7JE
– Nearest station: Leicester Square
– Website + menus: Abeno Too website
– Abeno photos: photos on flickr
– Location: Abeno Too map

Abeno Too Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Check out this ‘sakura-yaki’ special at Abeno in Bloomsbury, London:

Petal-shaped pancakes, a cherry blossom season special at Abeno, May 2017 
(a 20 second timelapse)

The five mini-pancakes are: beef, bacon, squid, prawn + mushroom, around a central egg yolk (pistil), with a kewpie-mayo ‘blossom’ outline, dusted in powdered seaweed and sprinkled in tuna flakes @ £20.80 (shared between two).

Bocca di Lupo – classy Italian in Soho W1

From cheesy balls to Grandpa’s balls, Bocca di Lupo specialises in obscure, regional Italian cuisine and the menu changes twice a day. 

The first tip is to book well in advance. For our reservation for two this Friday evening, the only availability (having booked a couple of weeks beforehand) was at 7.15pm, perched on high stools at the counter.

On arrival, I was disappointed to see how little space there is for those dining at the bar overlooking the open-plan kitchen, with high stools close together.

IMG_4163
Sea bream carpaccio starter @ £9.00

J had an amaretto sour cocktail @ £10 and I had a glass of Malvasia Nera ‘falo’ San Marzano @ £6.60 (see the red wine list here) while reading the enticing menu. Some dishes needed an explanation from our waiter, whose descriptions made them all the more exciting. It’s not a traditional Italian menu by any means – there’s definitely no pizza but there are plenty of appealing seafood options (if you like seafood). And the Italian region is given for each dish, to show where it’s a speciality.

IMG_4165
Deep fried mozzarella bocconcino balls

We chose six small plates to share, tapas or cicchetti style:

Sea bream carpaccio with orange + rosemary @ £9.00
Buffalo mozzarella bocconcini deep fried in bread crumbs @ £2.50 each (tip: get two each!)
Ricotta ravioli with wild garlic, served with butter + hazelnuts @ £8.00
Octopus, roast tomato, celery + basil salad @ £9.00
Caponata – aubergines, celery + tomato in agrodolce (sweet and sour sauce) @ £7.00
Orechiette di gran arso (burnt grain pasta) with cime di rapa (a variety of sprouting broccoli) + pecorino (hard sheep’s cheese) @ £7.50

IMG_4167
Ricotta + wild garlic ravioli 

IMG_4166
Octopus, roast tomato, celery + basil salad

IMG_4169
Caponata – aubergine, celery, tomato in agrodolce (sweet and sour sauce)

IMG_4171
Orechiette di gran arso with cime di rapa + pecorino 

IMG_4161
Tonight’s menu – 24 March 2017

All of these dishes were stunning, and I’d happily have all of them again next time. Being seated at the end of the bar next to the serving station, it was a busy thoroughfare. But on the plus side, it was easy to get service and great for eyeing up other dishes to try in the future (the roast wild turbot with lentils and salsa verde @ £24.00 served whole, got my attention).

From the dessert menu, we shared a bonet – chocolate, coffee, amaretti, caramel + rum pudding @ £7.00 (I’m not a huge chocolate fan and I don’t like coffee flavouring in food but this was gorgeous – you could really taste the amaretti almond bits in it; it’s perfect for sharing and not as sickly as it looks) and le palle del nonno or Grandpa’s balls – ricotta with chocolate, deep-fried in a light batter and sprinkled with icing sugar @ £7.00 (so good; take a closer look inside here).

We both had a 70 ml glass of Moscato d’asti Adriano sparkling dessert wine @ £3.50 – sweeter than I normally like, but it went really well with these desserts. So well in fact, I had another when J had a coffee…

Check out the dessert wine and grappa menu.

IMG_4176
l: Le palle del nonno ‘grandpa’s balls’ – deep-fried ricotta
r: Bonet
– chocolate, coffee, amaretti, caramel + rum pudding

IMG_4178
Moscato d’asti Adriano sparkling dessert wine – cosy, perched on the counter by the serving station

IMG_4181
Bar seats at the counter – it’s a small space if you’re sharing a few plates

IMG_4174
Open plan kitchen

The verdict: The quality of the food and drinks compensated for the discomfort of the tiny bar space. While this place isn’t cheap (our bill for two was £126.90 including service) you do get what you pay for – it’s more of a place to go for a treat than every day dining (you need to book well in advance anyway).

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Italian
– Address: 12 Archer Street, Soho, London
– Postcode: W1D 7BB
– Nearest station: Piccadilly
– Website + menus: Bocca di Lupo website
– Bocca di Lupo photos: pics of Bocca di Lupo on flickr
– Location: Bocca di Lupo map

Bocca Di Lupo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato