Mr Ji’s Restaurant Review

Buying just two items from a menu hardly seems to justify writing a review. However, I loved my experience at Mr Ji’s so much that an Instagram caption and post wouldn’t do it justice the way a mini blog post could, so here goes….

In short: I LOVED IT!

From the beginning though….

I had ventured out to Camden to try something different for lunch and to fuel future info for the blog – cue The Big Cheese chorizo raclette which was seriously yummy. Most people would probably go and curl up somewhere to hibernate whilst digesting that cheesy goodness, but it was at this point that I remembered Mr Ji’s was only a pop-up and is due to close soon so I had to go on a mission to find the chicken the size of your head!

Although not in the heart of Camden market, the location of this small pop-up suits it so well. Only a short walk from the tube station, down a street with local pubs and wholefood shops, from the outside it seems unassuming other than the vibrant and iconic image of Mr Ji in his sunglasses. Step inside, however, and the combination glowing of neon lights, what I believe to be Taiwanese typography art on the walls, and young professionals spread out across high benches, creates an inviting and unpretentious atmosphere.

Of course I had to order ‘The Big Ji’ and have a bit of a giggle with the servers to laugh at the pun which I assume is intended. I chose BBQ flavour which I was surprised to find actually had quite a quick when it turned up but it was delicious all the same. Ironically I had opted not to have cayenne as I thought it would be too spicy! Also on offer was ketchup but I thought this was too British, again ironically I still went for a western flavour. I found out afterwards it’s actually gluten free and healthier than fried chicken which is a bonus for those with coeliac disease or who are more health conscious than I am (most people!).

46605698-D9C2-4E39-BC27-B18C42B7CFEAI had seen plenty of blog posts about the sweet potato donuts but at this point I truly was stuffed so had to make do by lovingly inhaling the smell of them from the group next to me and asking the girls if they tasted as good as they smell. The answer was ‘better’.

What also impressed me besides the food was the service, it wasn’t just ‘service with a smile’ but was people who seemed to have a genuine passion for the food they were selling. A man came in with his partner and seemed intent on being an absolute pain who couldn’t make his mind up about what to eat, and then complaining loudly about how his drink tasted like mouthwash….luckily for him the guy at the counter changed it for water without batting an eyelid. Whilst the service impressed me….this incident also made me curious about this ‘mouthwash drink’ because I actually love minty stuff. When I asked about it, I was given the chance to taste the four different varieties of Taiwanese teas before settling on my favourite with jasmine and hibiscus (pictured below). I didn’t opt for the minty one in the end as it also had melons which I’m not a great fan of.

Overall I loved the food, enjoyed tasting drinks, the service was fanstastic. A simple and satisfying taste and I’m so disappointed that they are only there another week – I can’t wait to see where they will pop up next!

Check out their Website for more info and updates!

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Eat and Drink Festival

Head up the stairs in the Ideal Home Show Christmas, past all the toys and technology, and its the smell which hits you first. Spices. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the lovely lady at the entrance to the Eat and Drink festival but her stand with endless rows of curry sauces and plates piled high with freshly made samosas smelled incredible and looked so appetising, it took all of my strength not to just fill up on the aforementioned and head home. Luckily I made it through the entrance of the Eat and Drink festival though….

There was the usual combination of stalls which belong on TV. Marketing with knives, toastie makers, spiralizers and hoovers, but what of course excited me most were the stalls with SAMPLES! I’ll be lucky if I can remember everything I tasted but the list goes something like this:

  • sausages (chicken and pork from Heck!)
  • black pudding
  • cheese (chilli, smoked, herby, whisky, fruity)
  • Balsamic vinegar (various fruity flavours from Yorkshire Drizzle)
  • stroopfwaffels
  • chutneys
  • curds (wow to ginger, recommend passion fruit)
  • jam (strawberry champagne!)
  • brie (cheese again)
  • lemon cheesecake
  • chocolate fudge
  • pizza
  • garlic bread
  • Apple Cinnamon tea

On top of all of this was the alcohol sampling. I don’t often drink, but I had made sure I wasn’t driving that day because the combination of Rubis chocolate wine, prosecco, rosé , red wine, flavoured whiskey, flavoured vodka, flavoured gin, colour changing gin, and salted caramel tequila was lethal and had me giggling all the way to lunch!

I then got lunch in early and I couldn’t honestly say whether that’s because I needed to soak up the alcohol or because the smells were just so tempting, either way lunch was very enjoyable…… I tried both Chicken Korai with Dahl and an onion bhaji (Gupta’s Bombay Street Food) and Chilli with sweet potato fries (Louisiana chilli) and both were incredible and full of flavour.

E16A8AF4-48FE-43C6-8C85-E776DD461795At this point I thought it best to adventure downstairs to actually experience the ideal home show itself whilst I was there and I’m glad I did because I picked up a few cheap home trinkets. This is also provides the perfect opportunity to let your lunch settle and create room ready to head back upstairs ready for round 2 of samples, hoping that nobody recognised you going around again!

When I did venture back upstairs it was definitely time for more samples but also a good time to start the shopping frenzy. Then once you start you just can’t stop….in goes the coloured gin ‘as a present’, passionfruit and ginger curd comes next and ‘its got to be two because it’s on offer’, then clotted cream and rocky road flapjacks ‘enough to share so it doesn’t seem so self-indulgent’, sausages and black pudding with bacon thrown in ‘because then you get the cool bag free’. Oh and I totally forgot the chocolate kisses in a variety of flavours because ‘at least if I buy lots then there will be some left over at home to share’. I think this is where it ended, but I may be brave enough to open the bags later and realise that I slipped a whole lot more in too.

My heavy bags were my cue to leave at this point, but if my bags hadn’t been quite so heavy I would definitely have ventured back over to the street food stalls to get my fill of some other dishes – bao buns or philly cheese steak sandwiches with raclette cheese were calling my name.

Overall, it was a brilliant day full of food and fun, with lots of live shows going on with top tips for budding chefs and an endless supply of samples to fill you up. So my two pieces of advice would be:

1. Don’t stuff yourself on samples too much so you can enjoy the streetfood!

2. Go and explore the non-perishables whilst you digest to make room for more!

 

Are pancakes really worth it?

Ten minutes into the whole fiasco I’m thinking that pancakes are definitely not worth it. One moment of generosity first thing in the morning offering making them for my significant other has led to mayhem and serious regret. There are jugs and kitchen utensils surrounding me, pancake batter on every surface, and a crêpe pan with a congealing mess refusing to cook. At this point I had already decided that I didn’t need to use the ready mix in the cupboard…..I was following a mix of intuition and recipe and maybe that’s what was causing the lumps of flour which were adding insult to injury.

My stubbornness took hold at this point thankfully and after ditching the fancy crêpe-pan and ‘batter spreader’ I threw in some extra milk, grabbed a whisk and a regular frying pan and started again. As far as the first one always being the worst one…..this was proven true as every pancake I turned out after the congealed gloop turned out edible at least and ‘actually quite nice thank you’ at best.

Out of guilt for the amount of time wasted before actually putting anything edible on a plate, I insisted on the man eating the first three, by the time I came round to making one for myself the novelty of success had worn off and despite the fact it tasted nice, I was past the point of enjoyment and well into the boredom stage. I was just ready to curl up with a cuppa and enjoy watching Saturday kitchen.

So I return to my original question….are pancakes really worth it?

If you’re being served them – yes

if you’re making them – definitely not!

So if you’re thinking of making pancakes for yourself or anyone else this weekend here is my advice:

1. DONT

2. If you insist on ignoring stage one then follow the next 3 stages instead

3. Don’t use a crepe pan they are overrated and will create more stress than theatre

4. Use butter instead of oil to grease the frying pan – it tastes nicer

5. Don’t let the frying pan get too hot between pancakes or the butter will burn and smell/taste dreadful!

 

If you still haven’t been put off then here is the basic recipe I use….

Ingredients:

100g plain flour (self-raising if you want them fluffy rather than crispy)

2 large eggs

300ml milk

pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a jug then leave to stand for half an hour (if you don’t have the patience then go straight on to cooking).
  2. Heat frying pan and melt a knob of butter,  coating the pan.
  3. Pour a ladle worth of batter into the pan and tilt pan to spread mixture around (amount varies depending on size of pan and how thick you like your pancakes….judge it using the first one and adapt accordingly).
  4. Use a spatula to gently scrape edges in so that they don’t burn.
  5. Flip after a couple of minutes.
  6. Serve when lightly golden brown on both sides.
  7. Add all the toppings you like…..my personal favourite is classic sugar and lemon juice!

Busaba Birthday Visit

After a nice relaxed morning at Champneys and wandering through the St Albans weekly market, it was definitely time for lunch. Cue much peering in windows, checking out menus, and by-passing anywhere with queues because patience is NOT my middle name. Around the corner away from the main streets we stumbled across Busaba….a place I had heard of but never tried, so, feeling more adventurous than a delicious but generic pasta place, in we went.

It hadn’t been open long today but we were surprised to find it totally empty! Unfortunately for them I think that was mostly due to location because there was no passing trade to tempt in the casual shopper. We were greeted straight away, shown to our table, and given plenty of time to study the menu without being pressured but also without sitting around twiddling our thumbs.

Drinks arrived promptly (Pomegranate and Elderflower Pressé – lovely and refreshing), with starters not too far behind. We had decided to go for the “2-plate Bangkok fix” lunch menu as it gave us an opportunity to try new things without splashing out too much if we didn’t like it. Thankfully we loved all of it so here is a break down:

Starters: Chicken Satay // Por-Pia Jay 

The chicken satay was a reminder of what satay really can be with chunky pieces of nut and chilly and lightly grilled chicken, whilst the por-pia jay turned out to be mini spring rolls with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, emphasis on the chilli. The beauty of picking different things meant we could try more and it was worth it – portion sizes were perfect for a starter leaving you temporarily satisfied but ready for more.

Mains: Chicken pad Thai  // Duck noodles

These plates, as with the starters, were beautifully presented with stunning bright colours, an intense balance of sweet/salty/sour flavours, and still staying light yet filling. We didn’t feel the need to add any of condiments (eg soy sauce) as the flavours were incredible, and definitely not the siracha as there was already a kick of heat in the Duck dish.

Desserts: none

We opted out of dessert, although there was plenty on offer, because it was only meant to be a light lunch and there was birthday cake waiting for me at home!

Service: Brilliant

The gentleman who served us was friendly, not imposing, but always quick to respond to requests.

Overall, it was a lovely lunch with incredible food, and perfectly peaceful for us at that time of day. I would love to go back on a Friday night to experience the atmosphere when it gets busy as well.

 

Ruislip Duckpond Food Market

The Duckpond brand has definitely expanded over the past year with a combo of foodie and artisan markets popping up across London (Ruislip, Richmond, Chalfont, Highgate and Radlett), and some extra Christmas markets in the coming weeks as well. What I love is that although the brand is growing, the local feeling remains the same as you would hope in an artisan context where freshness and quality are paramount…drawing on local suppliers. 

I ventured out to the Ruislip food market at the weekend (1st Sunday of the month) with no knowledge of what I might find other than the promise of good food because, whilst I have been to the artisan market (3rd Sunday of the month), this was my first full-on foodie experience. Well what I did find definitely did not disappoint…

You’re greeted by a coffee cart with a sign stating “WILL TRADE COFFEE FOR GOSSIP” which of course left me disappointed in myself that I don’t like coffee. Talk about perfect pairings though because as soon as you then step foot in the barn you are greeted by tables laden with fresh pastries to go with aforementioned coffee as you wander around. Better drink up fast though because the rest of the barn has its walls lined with stalls proffering everything from curry spice mixes to caramel meringues, and jars of moonshine to juicy olives. Not forgetting the table where you can barely see the green-checked tablecloth for all of the cheese varieties (and samples) covering it.

Stepping out into the yard you’ll find an eclectic mix of stalls…some selling food to snack on like toasties and empanadas, whilst others are selling fresh honey, pet food, and vegetables so fresh they were picked at 5am that morning! I must clarify that these were from 3 different stalls, this is a market not a sell-all supermarket after all. To cut a long story short, there is something for everyone here even a table covered in lego for children (young and not so young alike!).

After tucking into a beef empanada it was time to head back inside to try numerous cheeses and tapenades (and those amazing pink onions), before finally settling on a chilli goats cheese and Jamaican tapenade and running out to go home before I was tempted by the moonshine.
The problem with amazing markets like this is that purchases seem completely logical at the time but by the time you get home you’re not entirely sure what to do with them. Keep an eye out for future posts where hopefully inspiration has struck before I have to sit and just gorge myself on them with just a spoon!

If you like the sound of a local market with fresh food to fill your boots…..go and check it out for yourself because I have barely scratched the surface…..if you want t make a day of it then try out the artisan market which still has great food bits but also a variety of other crafts and social space (and how did I forget the petting zoo?!) 

Check out their official website for the details: Duck Pond Market

Corfu Cuisine

Corfu – as a Greek island – has a reputation for being hot and beautiful with typical Greek cuisine. Did I experience this during my trip last month? Sort of.
Yes the weather was nice enough to get a tan, and there were stunning sunrises,  it my experience of the food was definitely a mixed bag. Some of the ‘not so good’ food experiences were definitely of my own doing……stuffing myself with countless freshly-baked croissants dipped in buckets of Nutella was always destined to end badly (especially considering I don’t have the greatest sweet tooth in the world).

Stuffing myself seemed to be a theme of this trip because I did the exact same at a beautiful restaurant in Paleokastritsa during a day trip. The restaurant itself was tucked into a bay with the stunningly blue water crashing against the wall, so of course whilst all of the other tourists around us tucked into your generic ‘tourist fare’ of burgers and chips, we ordered a seafood feast. Unbeknownst to us the ‘small calamari’ was an overflowing plate of goodness so on top of this we had ordered a seafood risotto and squid ink seafood pasta (not even mentioning the side order of chips which we barely made a dent in). I love seafood and all of these dishes far exceeded my high expectations….tender squid, light batter, perfectly seasoned, al dente pasta…..not a thing was over cooked and the freshness of the ingredients was the icing on the cake. I’m sorry to say that despite being brought up to clear my plate and giving this a damn good go….there were carbs left behind (come on though I couldn’t leave the seafood could I?!).

Besides this seafood indulgence, the rest of the week was spent living off fresh Greek salads and rather underwhelming international dishes which are to be expected of a bog standard all inclusive. As much as the food was barely average at best, what did excite at first thoug soon grew to frustrate me at mealtimes was observing dining habits of different cultures. I am not quick to judge, but my patience was wearing thin by the end of the week when I was bored of being shoulder barged for the rice, and being deafened by hollering at companions on the opposite side of the restaurant. I found myself craving the quiet intimacy of a Tuesday night in my local Indian with dimmed lights and hushed voices, or even just a home cooked meal in front of the tv.
The one other highlight for my tastebuds was the trip to a distillery producing local Kumquat liquor….although trying multiple spirits at 10am is not socially acceptable at home, for some reason on holiday it’s a bit more of an ‘anything goes’ attitude so I really took advantage. As well as trying the bright orange liquor there was also ouzo on offer (we were in Greece after all), and various alcohol infused fruits; my personal favourite was the Mavromatis which are best but very unjustly described as marmalade flavoured ‘Greek delights’ ..”although of course I had to buy the alcohol as well to add to my ever growing collection of spirits at home which sit on a shelf and barely get touched!

As I said, it was a mixed bag, but an experience I would definitely repeat (perhaps minus the mediocre hotel). My biggest lesson learned is not a new one…if you want high quality food you will probably have to venture out of your average quality hotel.

Confession #1: It’s just an excuse to eat more

I When asked why I wanted to start a food blog, I could wax lyrical about refining my palette, or exploring new cultures, or even about how I want to develop my technical understanding. Now, this is all true, but the more accurate answer is probably closer to “It gives me an excuse to eat more food”.

I don’t exactly need an excuse, food is sustenance needed for life after all, however, if I were to give one then writing about a passion seems as good an excuse as any. I mean, when you spend as much time researching food, photographing food, talking about food, and of course eating food, you start to feel as though you ought to have a good reason for it.

You only have to look at the picture to see how much I genuinely enjoy my food (and who doesn’t love a good artisan beer with gyros in the sunshine?!) so I thought why not share this passion with the blogging world, meet more likeminded people rather than constantly bugging my own friends and family with my one track mind, and continue challenging myself to try new things.

Hopefully this first post hasn’t put you off for life and you get plenty more enjoyment and inspiration from reading about my food adventures(…and confessions when I’ve eaten too much as often happens…)!