Monday, 30 May 2011

Kulu Kulu Sushi

Continuing on the sushi theme, I recently lunched at Kulu Kulu on Brewer Street. I had to wait for a seat to free up for about 10 minutes, this conveyor belt style restaurant is very popular with Soho workers.

It is worth a wait though, fresh sushi is skillfully created in the centre of the belt before being sent on it's journey to the eagerly awaiting hands. I enjoyed the agedashi tofu, both the salmon sashimi and california rolls I sampled were delicious and the edamame were great, I'm of the opinion that you can't really go wrong with edamame though.

There are plenty of dishes that you won't find doing the rounds at your larger chain sushi joints such as soft shell crab and soba noodles (cooked to order). And unlike a certain larger chain, you won't have to pay £1.20 for tap water here. Kulu Kulu is also a chain with other restaurants in Covent Garden and South Ken.

It's very small and no nonsense but I loved it here and had my fill for a mere £17. Don't go expecting a long lingering graze, it's yet another trusted quick stop lunch venue in Soho.

Kulu Kulu Sushi
76 Brewer Street

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Wednesday, 25 May 2011


I'm in another sushi phase, come 1 o'clock nothing else will do. By far the best value selection I've found is at Nara on D'Arblay St. For £6 you can order a lunch special, they have a pretty vast selection of Korean hot dishes and a couple of sushi selections up for grabs.

I've tried the bibimbap - fine example of the dish but not as good as the sushi platter, prawn, salmon, tuna and octopus.

I've also tried the beef and pork dumplings which are seriously good but my favourite dish yet has to be the silken tofu in a hot and spicy broth topped with spring onion served with sticky rice.

As part of the lunch special, all main dishes are served with miso soup and salad and are all under £8. You also get a cleverly dissected orange for afters.
A bargain lunch just across the road from the office. Service is slightly vacant but sufficient. Watch your knees when you sit down, there's a cacophany of 'ow's' when newcomers are seated, the fittings for the grills are boxed under the tables for their Korean BBQ dishes, cooked at the table which I have yet to try.

9 D'Arblay Street

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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Pollen Street Social

Jason Atherton's new venture Pollen Street Social opened in April to mixed reviews. Reminiscent of my visit to Atherton's previous haunt, Gordon Ramsey's Maze, I went with something of an open mind having considered both the good and the so so reviews and, naturally, investigating in advance what the menu has to offer.

The room itself, as the name implies, is a buzzy, relaxed space with a large bar area and that famed dessert bar encouraging a more laid back approach to dining. Our table was in the left hand side of the building which I found to be a little chilly in temperature. The chef himself roamed the floor at various points throughout the evening, checking on how things were going out front which was nice to see.

We were presented with a choice of bread before we'd even been given a menu or a drink. Something to eat first, an unusual but very welcome order to proceedings! The bread was excellent, there was a choice of sliced wholemeal and sourdough with a salt cod spread as well as some unsalted butter. We ordered an Eastside, a pink lady and some tap water to get us started.

To start I had the cauliflower & squid in a clear roasted squid juice. A very pretty dish, the broth poured out at the table. The squid had an incredible softness and the broth was wonderfully rich. The whole dish was slightly colder than I'd expected, perhaps because the plate was cold, I don't recall.

Thomas' starter of smoked foie gras with black sesame and smoked golden raisins was less successful with the fruit overpowering the foie gras.

Onto the mains and my Cotswold lamb, braised belly and artichoke with sheep’s milk curd was an interesting plate. I found the lamb rack itself not as tender as I would have liked but I loved the curd and the belly had an excellent flavour. It was beautifully presented with a scattering of flowers.

The most memorable dish of the night was Thomas' roasted dingley dell pork belly with beetroot, hops, seeds and grains. Claims that this is the finest dish Thomas has ever had made me grin from ear to ear. It was indeed a tremendous combination of textures and flavours and look at that crackling, puffed up like popcorn!

Onto dessert and for me a traditional English rice pudding with hay ice cream and lime jelly. This was spectacular. I've never eaten hay so was unsure what to expect but there was a malty note to the ice cream. The lime was perfect with the rich creamy vanilla flecked rice pudding. My favourite course of the night.

The rhubarb, ginger and vanilla cheesecake with rhubarb sorbet and nut crumble was less memorable. We had wine by the glass, the pollen street social selection is lovely. The damage, for 3 courses and 3 drinks each, was £150, not bad at all and interesting to note we were both perfectly full, it's not necessary to order more than one starter per person as was the case in the first couple of weeks of opening. Though multiple starters can be ordered to create a tasting menu as the menu suggests, I'd love to come back and do just that.

Upon arrival each table is presented with a key which, when exiting, is exchanged for a gift. This was 'tea on us' comprising of a teabag and 2 friands. I enjoyed mine as soon as I got home, what a nice touch.

Pollen Street Social
8-10 Pollen Street

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Gilak, Archway

Foodie hot spot (pah!) Archway is just down the road from my digs so it warms my heart to see any venue based there reaping praise from the big guns for the quality and good value of their offerings. Late last year Time Out gave Gilak, a small Northern Iranian restaurant, the nod by way of inclusion in their Best Cheap Eats in North London and they've more recently followed up with a further glowing review

Many have raved about the starter dips, in particular the aubergine based ones so for our first course we opted for the boorani-e-aubergine (smoked and mixed with garlic and yogurt) and boorani-e-esfenaj (yogurt with spinach and garlic) with some flatbreads for scooping.

The aubergine was as good as expected though we didn't detect much spinach in the 2nd dip. The flatbreads were great, though we were less sure about the sir torshi, pickled garlic (pictured top of post). They're very bitter and something of an acquired taste.

Moving on to mains the menu is broken down into Persian stews and Persian grills. I opted for khoresht anarbij. The picture really doesn't do this dish justice, it was fantastic. A stew of lamb meatballs in a walnut, onion and sour pomegranate sauce, I've never tasted anything like it before and absolutely loved it. Very earthy and grainy, I've thought about this dish a lot since the meal and would struggle to return and order anything else. It was served alongside an enormous plateful of rice, plain and saffron, beautifully golden grains scattered atop the fluffy white pile.

I was pleased when my companion ordered chellow kabab momtaz from the grill section giving me a chance to sample the marinated chicken and minced lamb skewers. This dish was really pretty, the vibrant yellow marinade, from the saffron, giving the chicken that golden hue. Again the flavours here were quite unfamiliar to me and this was a really unusual dining experience, in a good way. The meat was all so succulent and the portion size very generous, the place was full with a varied and eclectic bunch of diners, families with children, couples, groups of friends, I see why Gilak's earned the reputation as a bit of a local gem.

I couldn't resist the bastani, Persian ice cream with saffron and pistachios. Once again my taste buds were completely unprepared for the flavours, the saffron is very strong, almost perfumed but quite savoury. The pistachios adding crunch to the creaminess, the dish was perfect with some Persian tea sweetened with plenty of sugar.

For all this we paid less than £40 and we left happy and very full. I would very much recommend visiting, even if it's slightly further than you would normally trek, it's really close to Archway tube station.

663 Holloway Rd,
N19 5SE


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