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. 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:

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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.

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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).

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

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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.

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

Watch it cook:

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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).

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

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Inside Abeno Too

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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).

Murakami – Japanese in West End, WC2

Creative. Stylish. Comfortable. Downright tasty.

If you want to get straight down to it, these are the words that describe Murakami appropriately.

I arrived early and was immediately excited by the Japanese themed cocktail menu. A Lost in Translation (a tiki of El Dorado rum, Kraken spiced rum, quiquiriqui mezcal, pineapple, elderflower, cardamon for a subtle spicy flavour and fresh lime) @ £9.00 slipped down far too easily. I ended up recommending it to the couple who sat down at the neighbouring table – the restaurant was empty and tables closely spaced (private conversation could be a downside here, if you’re after some privacy).

 

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Black cod – ‘stand out’ dish from the robata grill menu

J ordered a Japanese whisky sour (so good, made of Nikka from the barrel Japanese whiskey, shichimi spices, pineapple syrup, lemon juice and whites) and then we moved on to beer from the main drinks menu, which offers a load of sake, Japanese whisky and wine too.

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Cocktail – Lost in Translation

We chose a selection of food, from the varying menu sections with a little help from our waiter: salted edamame @ £4.00 from the starter menu; volcano roll @ £12.50 from the signature rolls menu; crispy baby squid @ £9.00 from the hot plates; grilled cauliflower @ £4.50 and black cod saikyo @ £25.00 both from the robata Japanese grill menu.

 

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Volcano roll – deep fried in tempura with salmon, tuna, yellowtail, tobiko, avocado and spring onion

 

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Grilled cauliflower – from the robata Japanese grill menu served with peanut and goma dressing (highly recommend this)

 

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Black cod saikyo – marinated black cod on saikyo lemongrass miso with mango salad (the two robata dishes stood out as the highlight of the meal)

 

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Crispy baby squid – large portion of baby squid with chilli, coriander and lime @ £9.00 (definitely for sharing)

 

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new Gyoza Bar next door – next time…

 

The verdict: Creative, interesting and very tasty Japanese food; the robata grilled dishes were the highlight for me. Comfy restaurant despite the tables being so close together. Service was a bit hit and miss. Our total bill for two came to £112.84 including service (and a cocktail and couple of beers each).

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 63-66 St Martin’s Lane, London
– Postcode: WC2N 4JS
– Nearest station: Leicester Square, Covent Garden
– Website + menus: Murakami website
– Photos on flickr: Murakami images
– Location: Murakami map

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

On the Bab – Covent Garden, WC2

This popular Korean street food restaurant doesn’t take reservations so allow some time for queuing on arrival.

On my visit earlier this week, H had arrived first, queued, and been seated at a small table for two by the time I arrived, meaning I skipped a substantial line at the door. Which was nice.

 

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Inside On the Bab – prepare to queue
 

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Rice poppers @ £3.50
 

It’s a small restaurant and tables were crammed in close together. It was busy, and although we ordered a bottle of Argentine Malbec @ £25.00 straight away, it was very slow to arrive. We pondered slowly over the food menu before ordering food, and chased the arrival of the bottle of red wine twice.

When our waitress brought our food a while later, we asked her to return it as we still wanted a drink first – the wine we’d ordered some time ago. The Malbec eventually arrived.

 

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Baek Ban – bulgogi beef with rice, salad and kimchi
 

I had baek ban – bulgogi beef (spicy, marinated, tender beef) with rice, salad and kimchi (spicy hot pickles) @ £11.90 (so good) while H had spicy pork bibimbab @ £9.50.

 
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Spicy pork bibimbab – as served

 

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Spicy pork bibimbab – mixed

 

The verdict: Not a restaurant to visit if you’re short on time (allow for queuing and slow service when busy). Well worth a visit for great Korean food though – the bulgogi beef was so good it’ll be a challenge to try something different next time. But I’ll try; the people next to us were eating bbang – steamed buns filled with meat (or mixed vegetables) and our waitress also recommended yangyum chicken – Korean style fried chicken in batter with crushed peanuts. Ready to return…

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Korean
~ Address: 36 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London
~ Postcode: WC2E 7BD
~ Nearest station: Covent Garden, Charing Cross
~ Website + menus: On the Bab website
~ Photos on flickr: On the Bab images
~ Location: On the Bab map

 
On The Bab Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pacata – burgers, curries, Asian fusion street-style

After a cultural Sunday outing in London – visiting the Soundscapes exhibition at the National Gallery followed by a coupla beers in a (fairly scuzzy) traditional pub – H, K and I wanted to eat out somewhere.

After much deliberation (over another beer of course) we decided on a Thai restaurant in Covent Garden that we’ve been going to for over 15 years. Initially disappointed that it was closed, we were – ultimately – delighted to stumble across Pacata while aimlessly wondering what to do.

Situated on New Row (a quaint, narrow side street just off St Martin’s Lane) Pacata’s shop-front is small and unimposing. A printed menu propped up in the window caught our eye – an Asian fusion menu serving dishes as diverse as burgers, Thai curries, steaks as well as ramen and pasta, all with an Asian twist and in the currently trendy ‘street’ style. Something for everyone, deliberations sorted.

The restaurant interior was appealing from the moment we stepped in, with its mish-mash of wood furnishings and eclectic lamp collection.

 
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Restaurant interior – downstairs space, creative lighting, wood wood wood
 

Ordering a bottle of Chenin Blanc, Stormy Cape 2013 (South Africa) @ 16.00, we chose these starters to share from the bar-snack menu:

~ Tod mun fishcakes – Thai fishcakes with chilli sauce @ £4.50 (slightly anaemic, under-flavoured and disappointing – the only weak link in the meal)
~ Popcorn chicken in larb powder – bite-size chicken snacks in a spicy coating @ £6.90
~ Beef skewers – with roast mushroom, spring onion and soy sauce @ £4.50 (yum!)

 

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Starters – Tod mun fishcakes, popcorn chicken in larb powder, beef skewers
 

For main course, H and I both chose grilled chicken breast served with mushrooms, green beans and Jasmine rice @ £12.95. There’s a choice of curry sauce (green Thai, Massaman or Japanese) – we both chose green Thai.

The presentation of the sauce was such that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience choosing how *you* want to eat this unconventional Thai green curry.

 
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Chicken green Thai curry – as served

 

So do you:

a) pour your green Thai curry sauce over the chicken first
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Sauce over whole chicken (H’s option)

 

or

b) cut up the chicken and remove bones before pouring your sauce (so more of the chicken is coated in curry)
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Chicken strips coated in curry sauce (L’s option)
 

Either way, it feels like a good and different experience, that engages you (the eater) to customise your Asian curry food in the way you want to eat it. Simple but effective.

K chose this tom yum chicken ramen with a twist: a complete chicken breast on the bone served in a tomato cream soup with egg and spring onions @ £12.95.

 
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Tom yum ramen – spicy tomato cream soup with egg and chicken

 

We were having such a relaxing, comfortable experience here we felt like lingering. And so ordered a round of digestifs (our waitress was unfamiliar with Courvoisier and took several attempts to serve it with “no ice” but at room temperature as it’s meant to be). Altogether, our bill for three people came to £127.00 including service.

I’ll be back. Probably for a ‘burger n beer’…

Restaurant info:
Sample menus:
~ Bar-snacks
~ Burger n’ beer @ £8.50 deal

~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Thai, Korean, Asian
~ Address: 4 New Row, Covent Garden, London
~ Postcode: WC2N 4LH
~ Nearest tube stations: , Leicester Square, Covent Garden
~ Website: Pacata website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Pacata food
~ Location: Pacata map

 

 
Click to add a blog post for Pacata on Zomato

Suda – Thai at Covent Garden

“The best chicken green curry outside of Thailand, guaranteed” claims Suda’s menu. A bold statement, no? I was sucked in, and had to put it to the test.

But first, S and I shared a starter of tod mun and prawn skewers (not ‘lollipops’) @ £5.95. The tod mun fishcake balls were perfectly squidgy and spicy, while the deep fried battered prawn balls were a pleasant enough texture contrast but not particularly exciting.


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Tod mun + prawn skewers


For main course, S had kao pad pak ruam @ £8.25 – mixed veggies stir-fried with brown rice (healthy and tasty) and I had the Gaeng kiew waan gai – “the best” green chicken curry @ £11.00, which has a 2-star spice rating (an “intermediate” spicy level, and was spicy-tasty, not spicy-fiery-hot).


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Kao pad pak ruam – brown rice packed with tofu, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers etc


At first glance the green curry looked very soupy and watery but the liquid was packed with flavours, particularly basil which I love. And the sticky rice @ £3.00 readily absorbed the juice.

Of all the green Thai curries I’ve eaten in the twenty years since I went to Thailand, I honestly can’t say if this was “the best” of them all (I can’t *remember* them all) but it was up there, ranking highly.


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Chicken green curry @ £11.50 – gorgeous basil + nicely spicy flavours


To drink, I had a couple of glasses of Monsoon Valley Chenin Blanc from Thailand’s Hua Hin Hills vineyard (my first wine from Thailand) @ £5.10 a 175ml glass – medium dry but with sweeter after notes than Chenin Blanc normally has, which made a perfect pairing with spicy food.

I was a bit of a sucker for these cute wooden carvings (table decorations) too, particularly the goat, with its tufty beard and tall horns:

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Table decorations – wood carved animals


The verdict: Spacious restaurant that felt comfortable and relaxing with its black patterned walls and dark decor and soft lighting; attentive and pleasant service and great Thai food, reasonably priced. If you’re in to puddings, the choice is limited.


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Inside Suda restaurant – dark decor, spacious


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Thai
~ Address: St Martin’s Courtyard, 23 Slingsby Place, Covent Garden, London
~ Postcode: WC2E 9AB
~ Tel: 020 7240 8010
~ Nearest station: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross
~ Website + menus: Suda website
~ Photos on flickr: Suda photos
~ Location: Suda map


Suda on Urbanspoon

Mishkin’s – Covent Garden

“A kind-of Jewish deli with cocktails”

A small, New York style deli at Covent Garden, Mishkin’s has a down-to-earth, cosy feel about it from the moment you step inside, with its exposed red brick walls, black and white diamond vinyl flooring and comfy seating by candlelight.


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Gin-centric cocktail menu


The cocktail menu is original, gin-centric and very good. J and I started with a gin sour (Hayman’s Old Tom, lemon juice, sugar, orange bitters + egg white @ £8.00) and a rosemary gimlet (Boodles, lime cordial, sugar + rosemary @ £8.50) respectively. Now it was time to find out: what’s “Jewish deli” food all about? Well, the menu offers a range of American classics from salt beef or pastrami sandwiches to meatloaf, burgers and dogs, and macaroni cheese. And some unusual salads besides – like curried cauliflower, chickpea and preserved lemon or fennel, almond and curly endive.


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Spicy chicken and lamb sliders with zucchini, parmesan + basil salad


I ordered a couple of sliders (supposedly ‘small’ burgers but they were quite big) – lamb, feta, pomegranate seeds and white bean hummus and spicy fried chicken with jalapenos @ £5.00 each, while J had a fish dog, sauce gribiche (similar to tartar sauce) and onions @ £9.00. While the fish dog went down well, and the lamb slider was interesting, the fried chicken slider was fairly uninspired. We shared a zucchini, parmesan + basil salad @ £5.00 (really good) and a portion of chunky chips @ £3.00 (pretty generous).


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Fish dog with sauce gribiche and onions


Specials (both cocktails and food) are displayed on the wall. The hot butter spiced rum cocktail @ £8.00 appealed so we both ordered one (spicy mulled wine style, but with a buttery rum taste – yum).


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Hot butter spiced rum cocktail, pumpkin pie, chocolate bounty


For dessert, J had chocolate bounty bites (dense chocolate squares packed with coconut) @ £3.00 and I had pumpkin pie (well it is almost Thanksgiving…) @ £6.00. Altogether, our meal for two – including service – came to £77.06. We paid promptly as our time limit (one hour and 45 minutes) was up on the table we’d reserved.


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Mishkin’s menu – as of November 2014


The verdict: Despite being a small, busy diner with a quick turnover of tables (I wasn’t a fan of the 1 hr 45mins table time-limit) Mishkin’s has a relaxing, cosy and easy feel about it. Service was distinctly average but those gin cocktails will draw me back…


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: American diner, Jewish deli
~ Address: 25 Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London
~ Postcode: WC2B 5JS
~ Tel: 020 7240 2078
~ Nearest station: Covent Garden
~ Website + menus: Mishkins website
~ Photos on flickr: Mishkins images
~ facebook page: Mishkins on fb
~ Location: Mishkins map



Mishkin's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sophie’s Steakhouse – Covent Garden

The other evening, S and I had been out for a drink after work at the newest branch of Craft Beer Co pubs in Holborn, and wanted to have dinner in the Covent Garden area.

We settled on Sophie’s Steakhouse. You can’t book tables there anyway, and as we were strolling passed we decided to pop in.


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Inside Sophie’s Steakhouse Covent Garden


Situated near Aldwych in the heart of theatre-land, Sophie’s Steakhouse is a large venue on the corner of Wellington Street and Tavistock Street, and there were several tables available on this particular Thursday evening.


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Complimentary salami nibbles at Sophie’s


Having munched on the seasoned salami nibbles that were brought to us while reading the menu, we both ordered a classic hamburger @ £11.00 – a 4oz patty made from cross rib and minced in house carpaccio style, served with dill pickle, iceberg lettuce + steak sauce mayo on a brioche bun, and a portion of courgette fritters @ £4.50 to share.


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Classic hamburger + courgette fries


The classic hamburger comes with a topping of either American cheese (I assumed that meant the orange plastic Kraft stuff?) or smoked bacon. I had my topping substituted with Cheddar cheese without a problem.


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Refrigerated cuts of meat on display


The verdict: Good burger restaurants (serving freshly prepared burger patties from carefully sourced beef) are fairly commonplace at the moment. That’s a good thing. And this is one such restaurant.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Steakhouse, burgers, British
~ Address: 29-31 Wellington St, The Opera Quarter, Covent Garden, London
~ Postcode: WC2E 7DB
~ Nearest station: Covent Garden, Charing Cross
~ Website + menus: Sophie’s Steakhouse + Bar website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Sophie’s Steakhouse + Bar food
~ facebook page: Sophie’s Steakhouse + Bar on fb
~ Location: Sophie’s Steakhouse + Bar map


RELATED LINKS
More nearby dining:
~ Brasserie Blanc
~ Canteen
~ Maxwells
~ Palm Court Brasserie


Sophie's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon