Turning Japanese in the heart of Soho…

Like the back end of the annual nativity donkey costume, the bottom end of Wardour St is not generally somewhere you want to find yourself. Littered with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets and thick with air that hangs ripe with the perfume of coloured sugar from nearby cultural landmark M&M’s World, it’s not a part of London I’d associate with cool, new food but recent opening Ichibuns may bring with it more fragrant winds of change.

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Despite having a name to make passing tourists snigger, if, like me, you’ve never been to Japan, then I imagine stepping inside here is like a sensory overloaded snapshot of what the centre of Tokyo might be if it had a brief, torrid, snogging-in-the-back-row affair with the heartland of Americana diner culture. It’s way cool, with an 80’s flavoured techno-pop soundtrack and it’s certainly not short of things to keep you entertained visually as you wait for food. Sat downstairs, we had walls of arcade games, plastic dollies behind metal mesh, the front half of a van surrounded by the oversized stereo speakers you had when you were 15 and a ceiling covered with black & white Japanese comic pages all vying for our attention.

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The menu offers a slightly curious mix of ramen, burgers, sushi & the sort of shakes that will slay a bride-to-be in her tracks as well as beers, whiskeys & juices. You’ll find the sour cherry with orange & lemon refreshingly sharp enough to cut through the richness of the meat & bread with ease. Read More

Paying homage to the King of Kebabs…

I love Le Bab. Literally, love it. If I could, I’d draw big, glittery pink, teenage girl hearts all over these words.

I love the fact that it’s small and pretty and full of beautifully tiled floors & walls like the offspring of a torrid Middle-Eastern-meets-Lisbon love affair.

I love that it’s on the top floor of Kingly Court and has windows that just beg to be flung open on a sunny evening so that you can enjoy a gentle breeze as passers-by weep with (righteous) envy.

I love that the staff are totally on the ball, that they’re sincerely but not sycophantically friendly, that they talk about the food with honest appreciation and that some of them wear shirts that match the tiles. Now I’m think this is a coincidence but equally I’m not gonna judge when they bring me plates of food I want to wrap my arms around & guard secretively while devouring the contents with a ferocity that would impress the Southern state champions of any July 4th pie eating contest.

I love that the length of the menu doesn’t require me to book in thirty minutes before I actually want to eat to work my way through it and I love that the only thing better than the way the food looks is the way it tastes with every single thing made in house.

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I’ve been trying to eat here for a while but until now, I’ve never managed to bag a walk-in that suited or got my act together enough to book in advance. Well my friends, all that has now changed. I got my booking and I ate like a queen and you can bet a portion of fondue fries, that I’ll be securing a return visit, off chance walk-in as soon I can.

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Le bab bhajis are made with braised lamb shoulder, beef shin & onion and come served with a smoky chilly mayonnaise. There are two in a portion which makes them perfect for sharing; make sure you come with someone you really like because frankly, if you didn’t try and eat them both yourself, I’d judge you a little bit for your lack of competitive spirit. These things are gorgeous. Crispy, lightly spiced and full of juicy meat packed with flavour, they’re the kind of thing that makes you sad to eat because like the start of year feast at Hogwarts, you just want the plate to magically keep refilling itself but we all know you’re a muggle and that’s not your destiny.

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London is a city in love with hummus and this version, topped with crunchy, sticky nuts and accompanied by softly deflated flatbreads is a cracker. Earthier in flavour rather than sharp from the addition of lemon, it comes in the sort of miniature cast iron skillet that you rather fancy would make everything taste better because it’s just. Too. Cool.

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Spiced cauliflower pastillas come looking not too dissimilar to long, crispy cylinders of baklava but are full of lovely crumbly texture and snuggle up perfectly with charred pineapple yoghurt. This, kids, is the sort of thing you eat out, reckon would taste good on everything and then try to recreate at home with varying degrees of success depending on how much wine you’ve consumed at the same time. Save yourself the hassle of coring pineapples, setting off your smoke alarm, spattering yourself with melted butter and just come back here.

The kebabs themselves are seasonal but, given the ambience of the place, I anticipate they’re probably done with a little bit more class than ‘hey it’s December, let’s throw a stuffing ball and some neon cranberry sauce at this one!’

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Lamb comes deliciously charred and adorned with gorgeously vibrant dollops of emerald chermoullah mayo while paneer – best cheese ever? Let’s just say I’d like to put it in the ring with a wedge of gorgonzola and see who wins – is BBQ’d and sits fatly on top of beetroot puree with curry mayo, pickled celery and a Miss. World worthy crown of crispy onions. All hail here please.

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I’m equally admiring and suspicious of anyone who could come here, see fondue fries on the menu and order the heirloom tomato salad. Those ripe round beauties have their place and it’s on a gloriously crisp summer tart with lashings of olive oil and sea salt. It is not here, usurping the rightful place at my table of something oozy, thick, cheesy & delicious.* **

*Insert Tom Hiddleston joke here please

**Actually, I love me some Hiddleston so that was said with love Tom, said with love.

I feel sure that more things would be made better in the world – Trump’s America, the films of Adam Sandler, crocs on adults – with the addition of a small saucepan full of melted cheese to pour over the top. These double cooked chips are golden, crispy and strong enough to withstand the cheese overload that’s so very right at this any point in time.

I started this article by laying my cards unashamedly on the table and declaring my love for Le Bab. I’ll end it by saying I have a job that I love, love, love however this places makes me wanna click on the ‘Work For Us’ button just to see if a P/T role as chief taster and all round fatty exists because, like my love for French Bulldogs, Keanu Reeves and the music of 80’s soft rock gods Chicago, this is a crush that ain’t fading anytime soon.

An incredible snapshot of India through the small plates of Kricket…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll be aware of the excitement levels that get cranked up to def-con 5 when I find somewhere that I really like…

…well hold onto something sturdy and batten down the freakin’ hatches because here comes one of those posts. Yep, we’re only three months into a new year and London is absolutely smashing it out of the park right now when it comes to eating out. So far, 2017 has seen me go loco for tacos at Corazon, fall head over heels for the Italian gnocchi in Palatino and flirt outrageously with that sexiest of breakfast dishes, porridge, at 26 Grains; now folks, the time has come to slobber all over the deliciousness that is Indian-small-plate-inspired Kricket.

Starting life in a pint sized shipping container in Brixton, Kricket is a love affair with Mumbai told through the fragrant flavours of India and the seasonal ingredients of Britain. In a world that’s growing alarmingly obsessed with borders and distinctions of origin, this is a perfect example of blurring the lines between what comes from where and focusing instead on what lovely outcomes there can be from the marrying together of two different cultures.

Weeks before Kricket opened, I had already lost a little piece of my heart to the blush pink stools which border a bar curving around gently in the window, each one monogrammed on the back with a delightfully curly K. The metallic mesh nets that encircle oversized bulbs, the brick walls and the muted metallic colour scheme all helped my crush spread its wings and take flight.

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