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.

IMG_3809

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.

IMG_3819

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

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.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Read More

Clucking great chicken at Absurd Bird…

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Crispy. Crunchy. Plump. Juicy. With personality traits like these, it’s hardly surprising that fried chicken is the current king of low-key London dining. Type ‘chicken restaurant London’ into Google and 38’900’000 hits appear. Remove every Chicken Kingdom-Palace-Village-Town from the list and you’re still left with an insane number of places to get your poultry fix from so when a new spot opens up that promises cold beer, hot birds & the sort of relaxed vibe that makes you wanna take up residency there like some sort of feathery freak, you know it’s got to be checked out.

First things first, we like a place that doesn’t have the same bare filament light-bulbs and beaten copper plates, mugs & tankards as the other 93 million new restaurants in town. I love the cosy booths for two that line the wall, I love the plaid-shirt-covered bench seating at the larger tables, I love the fluttering notes strung across from wall to wall and I love the birdcages that swing gently from the ceiling.

I also happen to be a big fan of polite, friendly and personable service which was delivered from each and every member of staff; when the people bringing your food have favourites that they wanna share with you, you better believe I’m gonna listen. Combining an earnest passion for the sort of street food currently circulating around London with a deep love of Southern states USA soul food, the menu slings one dribble-inducing dish after another at you. Some of them you know and some, well you definitely wanna get to them too.

Delivering trans-Atlantic sized portions at very reasonable prices means you need to come here hungry and with your big girl, extra stretchy pants on. A beautiful vintage skillet of Spinach & Artichoke Dip with snappy, deep fried tortilla chips was so comforting and delicious I could have cried with relief when J – generous to the end or maybe just fearful of losing a finger? – graciously allowed me to scrape the creamy dollopy dregs from the bottom of the pan onto the  last of the chips, my fork and yes, my fingers too.

Fried Pickles with Ranch Dressing were piping hot, juicy, crisp and battered to just the right point; fully coated, super gnarly, begging for a ranch bath and kicking ass alongside a frosty pale ale.

If it’s soul food on a plate that you’re looking for, it’s Fried Chicken & Waffles with maple syrup and a sweetly smoked gravy that you need. There might not be many things I share in common with everyone’s favourite Dogg, Snoop, but a love of the bird and the baked goods is it. Light & fluffy with syrup seeping from every golden pouch, in the humble waffle I can confirm that crunchy, spicy chicken has found its soulmate. Forget stuffing, forget avocado, forget pot pies, waffles my friends, waffles are what your chicken should be laying beside, sandwiched next to and standing proudly on.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

While there are commendably lighter options on the menu, the possibility of my going out for Friday night fried chicken and ordering the brown rice salad is, like sunshine on a Bank Holiday weekend, slim to none. Instead, a trio of baby sliders were chosen & devoured, each potato bun stuffed with bacon jam slathered chicken & chin adorning, creamy slicks of mayo.

Batting in at the last round was a portion of some of the biggest chicken wings I’ve ever seen; fresh but fiddly, they were spattered with a creamy garlic-lemon-Parmesan sauce which cut nicely through the richly delicious heaviness of some of the other dishes.

Try as I might – and with two buttons undone, I promise you I did – there was absolutely no room at the inn for dessert but in the interest of feeding back to you dear readers, a wedge of the Crack Pie was taken home for midnight grazing; butter, cream, two types of sugar and an oaty-cookie crust made this bounce-off-the-walls sweet but well worth sharing a forkful or two of.

You know it’s a good shout when you’ve already picked what you’re having on the next visit – FYI, that’d be Sweet Potato Pie topped with marshmallows, tear & share Dipsy Cake and Jalapeno Cheese Biscuits with Apple Butter. Yes the chicken is good here and yes, I would happily come back and eat it again if only to reassure you that it’s still delicious but this Bird boasts a menu of sides & starters I’d be delighted to eat my way through accompanied by some of the awesome sounding cocktails from the mixologist superstars, Soulshakers. Great for a mid-week date or bang on for a weekend group dinner, this is a brilliant little place to get down, get dirty and get soulful at.