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…

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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

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

Oklava – Turkish in Shoreditch EC2A

Great British menu dinner at Oklava 
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Psst! Come here + wibble the jelly, you know you want to…

K and I got sucked in to watching BBC’s Great British Menu (GBM) for the first time this year; already in its 12th series. We were supporting Selin Kiazim (“lovely hair”) Chef of Oklava, partly because we’re Londoners and partly because her chargrilled “modern Turkish” food looks so mouth-wateringly good. Oklava was first recommended to me well over a year ago and has been on the LardButty hitlist ever since. So when I saw this tweet announcing a special GBM Wimbledon dinner serving all four courses @ £60.00, it was time to act. Quickly. Booking made.

As seen on TV…
See the four courses with recipes on the BBC’s GBM website:
1. StarterQueue-cumber – Compressed cucumber + watermelon, spicy dukkah, pickled cucumber + shallots, borek
2. FishNadal Vs Federer – Barbecued octopus
3. MainGrand Slam Lamb – loads of smoky grilled BBQ lamb and spicy sausage
4. DessertHonouring Venus rosewater champions – all Turkish Delightish – a “Turkish panna cotta” (Muhallebi) with peach jelly, raspberries and rosewater sauce


As seen in Oklava…
But not for long. Nom nom.

Being located on a street corner with two walls of windows, it feels light and airy inside Oklava even though it’s a fairly small restaurant (about 50 covers). The kitchen is open-plan, with high stool seating at the counter so you can watch food being prepared and cooked in the stone oven or on the charcoal grill (mangal).

On arrival, we were seated at a regular table by an open window – ideal for a warm summer evening. And service was really good – nicely casual, professional, and chatty too.

First decision: we opted for the wine pairings with this special dinner, which meant we got to try three types of Turkish wine.

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Wimbledon dinner menu

Check out these photos, they pretty much do the talking themselves:Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Queue-cumber – flat bread, compressed cucumber, verjus dressing, cacik, crispy pancetta, served with Turkish fizz

K hates cucumber. He won’t eat it, he won’t go near it. He absolutely loved this dish – I think that says it all really.

The flavours of all the ingredients combined together was sensational. I dislike fresh coriander but ate and enjoyed it here, and the salty crispy pancetta finished it off royally. Yum.

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Nadal Vs Federer fish course – Grilled octopus with spiced potato rostis paired with a glass of Pasaeli Yapincak wine

Another treat to the tastebuds – the octopus didn’t quite live up to my expectations (I’d drooled watching the octopus being grilled on TV) but the rostis were crispy and just gorgeous. The Pasaeli Yapincak wine pairing was interesting too – a chilled white wine with a slightly musty taste when drunk on its own, but it sprang to life with this dish and went perfectly.

On to the highlight of this Wimbledon themed dinner: the Grand Slam Lamb main course, which really stood out. How it didn’t win the main course round on GBM is beyond my understanding.

Four types of lamb, all so different and all so, so special. The çemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder had dense, rich, smoky flavours (so strong I wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of it so… perfect in a meat selection) and the dutchee sausage with all its spices was something else. Unfortunately the onion purée didn’t like me (but we don’t need to talk about that here…).

Definitely worthy of a few photos:

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Grand Slam Lamb – three types of lamb (pictured) – lamb dutchee sausage, grilled lamb neck, grilled lamb chops + caramelised onion purée

Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Who knew lamb could taste this good? Four types of lamb: çemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder, lamb dutchee sausage, grilled lamb neck, grilled lamb chops + caramelised onion purée, served with Romaine lettuce salad, and freekeh salad with pomegranates

Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch - lamb shoulder
Cemen glazed slow cooked lamb shoulder – çemen glaze ingredients include cumin, paprika, sweet pepper paste

This Romaine lettuce salad with feta dressing, lamb ‘bacon’ and candied walnuts was divine, especially the feta dressing (a new and improved interpretation of a Caesar salad?)

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Romaine salad with feta dressing, lamb ‘bacon’ + candied walnuts – Freekeh salad with pomegranates and glass of Arcadia Cabernet Franc red wine in background (worth keeping a note of + saved to my pinterest drinks board for future reference)

Next up: peach and rose bellini, with dessert – vanilla muhallebi (Turkish panna cotta) with peach jelly, raspberry and rosewater sauce, and a caramelised almond wafer.

Great British Menu dinner - Oklava Shoreditch
Hairy armed bellinis

Great British Menu dinner Oklava Shoreditch_insta
Honouring Venus Rosewater Champions

The verdict: Great service from both of our servers. Staff looked as though they were all enjoying themselves working here, and working together as a team, which was nice (that’s not something that comes across very often in restaurants and was noticeable because of it). The interior’s really pleasing (patterned shadows from lamp shades cast on walls, light and airy with open windows) and the food we had for this GBM dinner was an absolute treat.

Having enjoyed the lamb selection so much, I’m keen to return to try the Sunday Feast.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Turkish
– Address: 74 Luke St, London
– Postcode: EC2A 4PY
– Nearest stations: Old Street, Liverpool Street, or Shoreditch (overground)
– Website + menus: Oklava website
– Photos on flickr: Oklava food photos
– Location: Oklava map

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

Chisou Mayfair – Japanese

Classy Japanese food without any pomp

The grand finale of our day out ‘west’ (taking in the Summer Exhibition 2017 and a few cocktails) was a meal at Chisou. The main reason for choosing this Mayfair restaurant was seeing the grilled unagi (eel) dish on their menu which I’ve only had once as a main course (rather than as a sushi/nigiri topping) in Japan a few months ago. I love eel done in the Japanese smoked style with a sticky sauce – it’s up there as one of my all-time favourite foods.

So I’ve really been looking forward to eating here – would it (could it) live up to my hopes?

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Small, appealing Japanese-style interior – main restaurant

Entering the main restaurant, it’s a small Japanese-style space with counter-seating and a few tables with Japanese wooden benches (the ones with lids so you can store your bags and coats inside, and keep the floor area tidy). But we were taken through to an even smaller backroom with closely arranged tables and no windows.

Befitting a hot, summer’s day we picked a chilled saké that goes really well with seafood, a Fisherman saké (more info here) @ £51.00 for a 720ml bottle. This went incredibly well with the food we ordered (mostly fish). Sipping from the small saké glasses, it seemed to last forever too.

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Wagyu steak skewers

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Crispy, fried gyoza

We ordered a few dishes to share, starting with edamame – young soy beans served with sea salt @ £4.50, wagyu kushi yaki – two wagyu steak skewers with teriyaki sauce @ £13.20 and gyoza – five crispy, fried chicken dumplings @ £7.90.

Next to arrive was the sashimi omakase selection – five kinds of chef’s choice ‘gohin sashimi’ @ £28.90. Totally divine and worth sharing two photos from different angles:

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Gohin sashimi – tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon and wasabi

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Gohin sashimi –  tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon

And then the much-anticipated grilled plates: saikyo yaki a ‘creamy’ black cod marinated in white miso paste @ £21.40 and unagi kabayaki – sea eel fillet in a sweet kaba yaki sauce @ £28.30.

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Grilled creamy black cod marinated in white miso paste

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Unagi kabayaki – smoked fillet of eel in a sticky sauce

Our waiter was charming – when I’d initially asked about the recommended amount of food for two to share (particularly sashimi portions) his advice was along the lines of ordering too much food is a shame but wanting more, we can easily fix. I liked that.

As an afterthought we ordered a portion of rice @ £3.40, to go with the grilled dishes. It arrived within moments.

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Nice bathroom

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Saké glasses and holders

For the sake of a thorough review (ahem) we ordered a bowl of ice-cream to share – the black sesame was particularly nice:

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Ice-cream – Madagascar vanilla, black sesame and green tea

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Partition between tables – fortunately, a cute little girl/toddler who “loved beans” (edamame soy beans) sat next to me; one even got flicked into my rice bowl which was amusing. But if you don’t like chatting to strangers over your dinner, this place may not be for you…

The verdict: Really high quality, excellent food and great menu options. The kind of ‘fine dining’ that doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I’ll be back for the unagi (eel) and black cod again. Hopefully soon. And I’ll request a table in the main restaurant.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 4 Princes Street, London
– Postcode: W1B 2LE
– Nearest station: Oxford Circus
– Website + menus: Chisou Mayfair website
– Photos on flickr: images of Chisou Mayfair
– Location: Chisou Mayfair map

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

Just Eat delivers

Pide delivery through Just Eat

We’re back ordering take-aways through Just Eat after a few weeks trying out Deliveroo (unsuccessfully).

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Peynir Pide – Feta cheese, hellim cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, fresh mint & fresh tomatoes

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Three pidesSucuk (beef pepperoni, chicken sausages, mushrooms + fresh tomatoes), Acili Sebze (mushrooms, red onions, peppers + green chillies) + Kusbasi (roasted lamb, spicy minced lamb, green chillies, crushed red chillies, red onions + peppers) and feta salad

Last night we ordered a delivery from old favourite, Pide the grandfather of pizza, through Just Eat. Easy to order, the Turkish pizzas and salad arrived promptly within the hour. The order was correct; pizza was fresh and hot, salad chilled, and all very tasty.

Check out LardButty’s review of Pide

 

Just Eat Vs Deliveroo

Just Eat
– easy to use website
– many restaurants to choose from
– reasonably priced
– fairly reliable in that food usually arrives within the hour and is usually hot (any issues are generally taken care of in time for your meal)
– a takeaway aggregator that lists menus for its users, Just Eat passes orders onto the restaurants for them to deliver the food to customers (Just Eat gets commission)

Deliveroo
– website has limited functionality (eg. you can’t ‘favourite’ your preferred restaurants) but does have really appealing food photography
– limited number of restaurants to choose from
– over-priced in that Deliveroo charges restaurant prices for ‘restaurant food’ but without the restaurant experience
– a delivery service that doesn’t take responsibility when there’s an issue with an order – the customer is left trapped somewhere in between the restaurant and Deliveroo’s (lack of) customer service
– food usually delivered by bicycle courier meaning food can be scrambled and cold
– the artful food photography on their website does not reflect what the food looks like in real life
– unreliable in that they use a pool of rider-couriers and can not always guarantee couriers in your area