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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

I was aching for something cultural and Blair was restless in her painting studio, so we decided to meet up at the Tate Modern to see their permanent collection.

I love modern art museums, but any museum can be a serious marathon. Floor 3 with the surrealists is manageable, but by the time I’m at the Rothkos, I am shifting my weight from leg to leg and adjusting my typically massive bag from one shoulder to the next. This is when we decided we were in serious need of some caffeine and a snack if we were to continue. We headed to the 7th floor restaurant where the views were amazing and the atmosphere stylish.

Restaurant View

Blair, excited for her cake.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I could say about the restaurant that day. We had really been looking forward to the cake and coffee. The server brought the wrong coffee, and when we did get the right one, it used real milk instead of the soy we had ordered. It was delicious, but I was concerned for anyone lactose intolerant. Then the cake came out. The carrot cake was spicy with a nice cream cheese icing, but the coffee cake was not at all like I had imagined. The sugar was overly intense. I had to scrape all the icing off in order to enjoy any bit of it. Even then I had a hard time tasting the coffee flavours through the sugar. The worst disappoint was that the chocolate covered espresso bean on top wasn’t an espresso bean at all. It was overly sugared espresso bean shaped chocolate. I guess they assume their clientele REALLY like sugar.

The selection

Oh well, I guess everyone has an off day?

Don’t order the coffee cake.

The good thing was that we had the sudden boost of energy we needed to continue on with the museum. We managed to squeeze in the Diane Arbus room right before closing. That is something I can recommend.

The Tate Modern Restaurant is open Sunday – Thursday, 10.00–17.30 and Friday – Saturday, 10.00–21.30

ARTIST ROOMS: Diane Arbus runs until March 31, 2012

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It was Friday night and I wanted to check out somewhere new. I had just finished my first week of work and was eager to celebrate legal employment. I remember that Yelp had arranged half-priced drink specials at The Ebury. I was curious about the establishment as I have frequently passed by it. Also (if you believe the hype) Kate Middleton has been spotted there flipping through bridal magazines. I’m not actually a Kate chaser, but I figure when in London…

The Ebury is a classic yet modern restaurant and bar on Pimlico Road. It falls in suit with the other establishments in the area- slightly upmarket without the snootiness of Sloane Square.  If you are a casual person, you might feel out of your zone when you first arrive, but on closer inspection you notice the worn carpet on the stairway and the glitches in the service. In fact, it took some downright effort to get our first drink. We only intended on staying for one or two, but I sent a text message to Cary who had just finished teaching his yoga class and all of a sudden we had company and a great reason to stay. At this point, our 1 drink turned into 3 and the service went from nonexistent to pretty good. Yes, sometimes yoga teachers have cocktails too.

The cocktail menu is extensive and has a lot of area for exploration. The Marilyn  Monroe was a sweet strawberry and champagne mixture. The Strawberry Basil Martini was subtler on the sugar level yet still fruity. The Moulin Rouge was not too sweet with a tropical vibe. Husband had a glass of rose that he winged about at first but then ordered a second. I guess it grew on him.

Moulin Rouge and Marilyn Monroe

With all these cocktails going to my brain, I needed some food. Rather than booking into the restaurant, we shared a massive Mediterranean Meze that included hummus, grape leaf wraps, tzatziki, warm pita bread, olives and other goods. It was enough for 3-4 people and should be for £17.

You might not spot Kate, but if you come between 5 and 7 you might spot me. At £8 – £11 a cocktail, I designate this place strictly for happy hour and the next Yelp special.

The Ebury is located at 11 Pimlico Road, London SW1W 8NA. Happy hour is from 5-7 everyday and includes 2 for 1 priced drinks.

Ebury on Urbanspoon

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I don’t have a sweet tooth so I don’t crave more than the occasional cookie or candy. Even when I do indulge, I will usually only have one or two bites. I would say this is a good thing except I tend to crave the fatty savory foods instead. It is more likely for me to dive into a bag of crips (chips) than a bag of biscuits (cookies).

However, while Rachel was in town we developed the wonderful habit of topping off our meals with a treat. I was getting a welcomed crash course in London pastries and sweets. We just finished a meal in Soho when I remembered that Hummingbird Bakery was around the corner. It had been recommended to me so I suggested we go there.

Cakes and treats at Hummingbird Bakery

Hummingbird Bakery makes American style cakes, cupcakes, brownies and pies and even has a gluten free selection of treats. After much deliberation, Rachel chose a red velvet cupcake and I chose the tiramisu.

Tiramisu

All throughout Rachel’s visit we had been sharing food but we both drew the line here. The tiramisu, which is only available on Wednesdays, was so good that I might have involuntarily bitten off someone else’s fingers if they tried to come near it. That is a huge endorsement from a girl born without a sweet tooth. This may have been the best cupcake I have ever had.

Sorry, Mom.

Hummingbird Bakery has locations in South Kensington, Notting Hill and Soho with a Spitalfields location scheduled to open in May of 2011. Check their website for more location details and hours. http://hummingbirdbakery.com/

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Vantra.

11-13 Soho St

London W1D 3DJ

www.vantra.co.uk/

 

After our experience at Leon, Molly and I decided to add Vantra to our list of places to try.

Vantra is a casual restaurant in Soho that specializes in raw, vegan and gluten-free foods. The cafe is open and inviting with large wooden communal tables and an organic food bar.

“So how does this work?” I asked Molly.

“You can either pick from the foods behind the counter and pay per serving or you can get a takeout container and fill it up completely from another bar yourself and pay per box.” she explained.

“Kind of like Luby’s but healthy and minus the take-out option.” I reasoned.

The take-out self service option starts at £4 for a box and is available Tuesday through Friday. The food bar offers many selections for £1 to £2 per small bowl. In addition, you can grab crackers and dips, dim sum, kale chips and truffles for dessert.

Choices.

After struggling a bit with the process, getting the attention of the staff,  and making our choices, we finally settled down to a table in the back. Some of the items were better than the others, but most were tasty. At £1 or £2 per item, it’s OK if you get something that’s not your favorite. You load up with different curries, vegan stroganoff, vegetables, noodles and salads to try and go for it.

My choices

Molly's choices

mmm... Smoothie.

We decided to try some of the vegan raw truffles. I want to say they were great, but honestly they were just OK.

Raw vegan truffles

I love this concept and am grateful for this option. During my visit it was obvious that there were still some kinks to be worked out, particularly when it came to the staff. Vantra is still new and going through an adolescence phase. I will be back regularly to check on it’s progress.

11-13 Soho St
London W1D 3DJ
Area: Soho
Nearest Transit:

Tottenham Court Road (Central, Northern)

Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central, Victoria)

Hours:

Mon-Sat 12:00 – 23:00

Sun 12:00 – 21:00

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789 Wandsworth Rd
Lambeth SW8 3JQ

020 7498 5630

Has anybody noticed the glut of car repair shops over in Wandsworth? It seems there’s an entire row of them. I took the car to Wandsworth to have the oil changed. The man told me it would take an hour and a half. The hour and a half ended up being three and a half hours. I stopped into The Roastery in North Clapham to kill some time and manage the extreme appetite I had not initially planned for.

The sign outside promised brunch and coffee good enough for a Clapham coffee snob. The small cafe is fun and welcoming with free wifi and really great music. The barista was friendly as she let me down gently. Brunch is only served Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Panic, then acceptance. “Well, what is that girl in the corner eating?”

The barista pointed to the most lovely looking bagel sandwiches. She described what was in them but all I heard through my hunger was “deliciousness, deliciousness, deliciousness.” Context clues told me that one was vegetarian and one was smoked salmon.

“Great, I’ll take that one. And one of these baked goods? Afghan cookie made with cocoa and cornflakes? Yes, please. Oh and a Latte.” I was fully aware that my eyes were much bigger than my stomach but I was beyond any notions of self control.

I found a seat and relaxed into it. No telling how long the car was going to take at this point, but this was a place I could happily chill at for a while.

Afghan Biscuit

Interesting enough, Afghan biscuits are not from Afghanistan at all. They are a traditional New Zealand treat. The menu and condiments at the Roastery subtly incorporate  the owners’ Antipodean heritage.

 

Latte served with brownie treat

Bagel sandwich

The barista brought out sample Spirulina smoothies to try. The other patron looked at the glass of bright green with curiosity but I dove right in to the algae laced drink. The sweetness of banana overpowered any flavor that might be mistaken as slightly too healthy. I slurped up my tasty and refreshing smoothie while eyeing the price board. For more than £4 a smoothie I hope it is a large serving size.

Afghan biscuit + bagel sandwich + latte = £8. A little pricey for Clapham, but for a cozy place with wifi and friendly staff, I would definitely come back.

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For years I heard about the Wagamama chain. When we lived in the U.S., Husband told me this was a top choice for broke university student night out food in London. Wagamama is all over London, so it’s surprising that it took me this long to try it.

I understand why it’s an old standby. Wagamama is healthy and affordable. The atmosphere is casual and it is a comfortable spot for solo dining. Staff approach you at long benches or booths on the side of the restaurant.  It’s style is dining out for the masses, albeit well designed.

The dish was standard issue but the warm broth and noodles in my Saien Soba were comforting on a cold day. I left utterly stuffed.

Saien Soba: whole wheat noodles in a vegetable soup topped with fried tofu, bean sprouts, courgettes, asparagus, red onions, leeks, mushrooms, mangetout and garlic. Garnished with spring onions.

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

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Molly needed to pick up twelve antique picture frames. Where should we go? The first place that springs to mind for antiques is Notting Hill, but that sounds a bit pricey. I suggest Spitalfields market. That place is bound to have a random booth full of quirky old picture frames for cheap, right?

Wrong. We went on Thursday because that was antiques day, but we were unable to locate anything suitable in her price range. Most of the frames had things like hand drawn maps from the 1800’s inside and we weren’t about to purchase them at £40 a piece only to ditch the map.

So we gave up (or rather decided to rely on the internet for this purchase) and get some lunch instead.

We stopped into Leon. I was really excited to try this place. Their model is healthy, fresh and cheap. They’ve done so well that they even have their own cookbook!

I stepped up to the counter and ordered the sweet potato falafel with aioli hot box and passed over my £6. A few minutes later I was presented with a box on a tray. Molly ordered a salad and hummus.

When we sat down I opened my box and urm, was a little disappointed. Look at it, it just seems so squished and sad.

Sweet potato falafel hot box

 

Well I suppose presentation isn’t everything. The meal tasted fine but I’m a calorie snob who would prefer great. Visible in the box is brown rice, coleslaw, sweet potato made into falafel-like shapes that were warm and mushy, and a slight drizzle of aioli.

The hummus was really nice but the flatbread was dull. The flatbread would have been really nice if it were toasted or warm.

 

Molly tucking into the hummus.

Did I catch Leon on the wrong day? Did I order the wrong thing? The food was decent, but not great. Definitely not cookbook worthy. Still, I am grateful for affordable healthy options.

We stopped into Montezuma on our way out where we were greeted with samples of peppermint dark chocolate. I’m not really big on sweets but I love dark chocolate and this was really delicious. I contained myself (mostly) but left with a bar of Sea Dog, dark chocolate with juicy lime and sea salt. I am addicted. Which is OK because it’s gluten free and vegan, right?

Image courtesy of Montezuma

Bottom Line?

  • Antique Picture Frames – Ebay.
  • Leon – Maybe, but probably not.
  • Montezuma – Oh yes.

Leon on Urbanspoon

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