Barrafina - Simple Tapas that will blow your mind

Barrafina in Soho is one of those places I'd been to several times and then hadn't been for a good few years. It's still considered one of, if not THE BEST places to go to in London for tapas. Even today still has people queuing, sometimes for a good hour, from 12pm till late evening.

As Mr D isn't a lover of Tapas, I jumped at the chance of seeing my cousin, Mr H whom is a fan. Barrafina was one of our top choices and he arrived around 11:50am on a Friday, and was already third in line (they open at twelve). By the time I arrived at 12pm a small snake was forming. Tapas gets such a mixed reputation amongst my friends for varying reasons, many exclaiming being 'too selfish to share' - their words not mine! Personally, I love it for the sharing aspect, the talking point the food gets around the table and also as I never know what I want. So, several mouthfuls of different dishes suits me perfectly. In this case, and also most other times I'm with Mr H, I left it to my cuz to order for us both - he's pretty good at that!

The atmosphere at first opening is one of excitement and controlled chaos, staff are prepping, serving, seating and running along the bar style dining room tending to diners in arrival order - first come, first served. Drinks were taken approximately 15mins after being seated and the specials were read out - most are the catch of the day and some vegetable sides...

Followed by our food order, around 30mins after we sat down - warning if you're in a lunch break rush (like me) this is not the best place to come. I had to practically panic throw my food down my throat in order to get in and out within the hour... ok... I made it back 5 mins late, but still, pretty good! It's definitely a grazing place to spend hours slowing eating and quaffing delicious Spanish wines...ah... if only...

From the specials we had:

Baby artichokes with alioli (£6.80) - lightly fried to gain a crisp coating. Dipped in the alioli this was divine! N.B. not a diet dish as the alioli was eaten on its own spoon by spoon once the artichokes had vanished, it was so good!

Razor Clams (£7.80) - garlic rich, ever so slightly over cooked but still lovely.

The absolute highlight of all the dishes Scorpion fish with broccoli and squid ink (£23.80). The squid ink sauce was like no other we had tasted.. the deepest of blacks, sticky, salty, squiddy and a little bit mind blowing we spooned it up like soup. The fish was cooked perfectly with a deliciously crisp skin. We tucked in too fast to get a full photo worthy shot however these pics still look good enough to eat I'd say...

Off the menu we chose:

Octopus with capers, this was incredibly tender and more-ish another of the meals highlights

chickpeas, spinach and bacon delicious for a non protein rich dish.

Jamon senorio de Montanera, there is literally nothing I like more than a huge plate of cold posh ham...

Barrafina totally captured my heart, even after all these years. I loved the food, the buzzy bar style dining atmosphere and that I felt as if I had been transported to Spain. The staff are so enthusiastic and obviously love working there and the produce they serve. The fish in particular, was some of the freshest I have ever tasted. Lunch for the two of us was over £100 so not your average 'pop in' place...

It's a wonderful date place and I can only ever expect it to be even better at night.

Girls and boys, get queuing!! Friends, If you ever need a Barrafina buddy, I'm your girl!

Address: 54 Frith St, London W1D 4SL
Phone:020 7813 8016

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Quest for the best - Shoryu Ramen #2 - Kingly Court

My second visit to Shoryu Ramen was at the brand new Kingly Court branch in Soho/Carnaby Street. We arrived at 1pm on the opening day and had about a five minute wait before being seated. As soon as we sat down we ordered drinks and were given the menu’s – excellent for a lunch time 1 hr food slot!
Enjoying my Piri-piri so much last time I didn’t want to order any other… ok…  I lied, I’d totally forgotten this is the one that I had previously write up HERE so I won't go into detail. I just fancied a good chilli kick and this took my fancy (yet again).
Due to both of us being hungry and me wanting something a little extra, greedy piggy wig I am Mr E and I both had a hirata bun, pork for him, tempura prawn for moi. His pork looks delicious however lacked a little on sauce therefore making it a little bit dry and ‘claggy’ with the bun being steamed this can cause for tricky eating if there’s no sauce (the bun sticks to your teeth slightly – not attractive!)

My prawn hirata was light, fluffy and delicious. The tempura batter added a nice crunch and there was a decent amount of large prawns, sauce and fillings…  
Mr E went for the Dracula tonkotsu (VERY garlicky) N.B. - all tonkotsu ramen is made with a rich pork broth with bbq pork, egg, mushrooms, spring onion, sesame, ginger, nori and mayu (caramelised black garlic oil) unless stated. Dracula Tonkotsu has even more deep roasted caramelised black garlic mayu, balsamic vinegar and garlic chips – it smelt amazing!

My piri-piri tonkotsu gave the needed chilli kick and proved to be just as good as my last visit – it’s good to know that they may be expanding rather rapidly however their food isn’t being compromised. The bbq pork just as sweet and juicy, the broth just a flavoursome, silky and rich DE-LISH!

We were in an out in under an hour which was ideal for our 'quick break' and for less than £15 our tummies were extremely satisfied and taste buds very happy!

Shoryu Ramen you've excelled, once again!

A: G3-5 Kingly Court London W1B 5PJ

No reservations - expect a 10-15minute wait during busy times.

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Rosa's Thai Cafe - Soho

A Girl’s catch up was well overdue and therefore last Thursday five of us got together and did what we do best - eat, drink and natter. I did some research and knowing we all love a good Thai, booked Rosa’s Café in Soho. It is known to serve up some of the best and more authentic Thai bites in London so several of us perused the menu over, and over before we’d even left work…

Rosa’s is fantastically priced- starters are around £6-9 and mains £8-16. Settling down, we ordered a couple of bottles of white, crackers and went about deciding before our gossiping took over, you know how these girls catch ups go!!

Three of us knew instantly what we were having ‘soft shell crab’ with Thai herbs, shallots and fresh chilli sauce. A bowl of lightly battered crab, a smattering of chillis and a pot of tongue tingling sauce arrived. It may not be the prettiest of presentations however it makes up in flavour and technique. The batter was crisp, light and not a slither of grease to be found.  

Two others went for the fresh spring rolls which I didn’t photograph but found a good example online... luckily Miss E was feeling generous in her sharing and these were completely delicious!

Pic found here courtesy of one of my fave bloggers!

Onto mains which (again) proved a difficult decision, even though I had spent almost my entire lunch break and working day just staring at the menu and messaging Miss K. I decided upon chilli and holy basil stir fry ‘pad kra prow’ with garlic, onion and long beans. Labelled very spicy, served with prawns. Spicy it was, and plenty of juicy prawns were sat in a puddle of plate-lickable, flavour rich sauce. (FYI I didn't take pics of anyone else's dishes...We were too busy chatting and eating!)

What I loved about Rosa’s mains is that there was a full variation for meat, fish and vegetarian. Almost all curries and stir fry dishes are shown with a choice of several proteins for you to tailor make your dinner to suit you - perfect especially when one was going through a fish only time in my life - for no reason at all.

A seasoned Thai traveller amongst us saw the ‘pineapple rice’ and suggested this as a 'must have' as it is authentic and served all over Thailand. It’s effectively one of those ‘everything’ rice dishes and is utterly scrumptious! Called ‘khao pad pineapple’ fried Thai jasmine rice is mixed with seafood, raisins, cashew nuts and peppers then served in a whole hollowed out pineapple. It looks fantastic but tastes even better… between 3 of us (the other two were being health bunnies and had salads) we almost devoured the whole lot!

Rosa's is a fabulous little Thai find in Soho, what's even better is that they take bookings, which seems a rarity in Soho these days! If you love Thai as much as we do, I can assure you, you wont be disappointed.

Address: 48 Dean St, London W1D 5BF

Phone:020 7494 1638
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The Ladbroke Arms - A proper country pub in Notting Hill

Taken from the Ladbroke Arms website

Proper country style pubs are hard to come by in our big city. By 'country' I mean cosy, drinking and eating pubs. Not a gastro modern style pub which seem to have totally taken over almost every area of London by the dozen although one is not complaining! I want a fire, I want proper meals, a great wine list and a lovely homely, comfortable atmosphere, throw in a few wandering dogs and I'm back home in Derbyshire - bliss!

The Ladbroke Arms is one of these treasures. Don't get me wrong, it certainly has London prices however it also oozes charm. There's a lot of elbow touching around small rickety tables, a couple of meandering pooches and a wonderful hearty atmosphere that only happy locals bring.

Taken from the Ladbroke Arms website

We went one Friday, when heading home, and popped in for a feeding before the 3hr journey North. You must book as the dining room isn't enormous and the drinks/casual dining area gets full pretty swiftly from 12pm onwards.

This is about our 4th visit and so far it's never disappointed. Mr D still raves on about the meatball pasta dish he had there on a previous visit. But the menu does change regularly - possibly daily? and therefore don't always expect your 'faves' to be there on your return!

As we were in a slight hurry to get on our way, wanting to miss the traffic, we ordered pretty much as soon as we sat down.

A starter caught both our attention and so that was a definite choice... Onion bahji with raita and a spiced relish. A very clever litter starter idea and one I will definitely be trying out at home. It was delicious and totally outshone the rest of the meal (although all courses were fab, this totally pipped the post, and just got over the winners line!)

I had the lamb sweetbread and tongue salad, served with soft boiled egg, croutons and a mixed garden salad. Another fabulous starter; fresh, light and packed full of wonderful high quality ingredients. It was also full of vibrant colours which looked gorgeous!

Seabass, with saffron risotto, samphire and leeks was my choice for a main. The fish had nicely charred crisp skin and well cooked flesh which sat on top an enormous mound of golden, oozy, rich risotto rice - a wonderfully warming dish and such a great colour!!

Mr D stuck to his love of pasta dishes and ordered the duck ragu. The meat was by no means scrimped on and a good amount of diced veg and herbs ran through. Our only slight disappointment was that it was rather dry whereas we were expecting it to be a little more 'saucy'. However on the plus side, the seasoning was spot on and the duck, incredibly tender.

Wanting to hop on the road North we finished there and got on our merry way. The Ladbroke is a fabulous place whether you pop in for one or two courses, have a swift drink or make an evening of it. It's wonderfully homely, effortlessly charming and up there with some of my favourite 'pubby' pubs!

Address: 54 Ladbroke Rd, London W11 3NW
Phone:020 7727 6648

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Fittata... a healthy lunch alternative for all you Londoners!

I must let you into a little secret... I love my lunches out as much as anyone else however, I also crave healthy foods to gobble at my desk which are also convenient and delicious... hmmm...tricky!
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Mama Lan's Clapham

Hello new post code of SW4, hello new hotspots of foodie delicacies to try, hello new in-between home, home!!

Still SW, this time South of the river and so far I'm not finding it quite so hard/different as I thought I may do to SW6...In fact, I would go as far to say I am loving it!

Mama Lan's has been on my Brixton Village hit list however they've made my life much easier in that there's now a Mama Lan's within a ten minute walk away from my new palace in Clapham Common.

Mama Lan's is famed for their hand made dumplings and so these were definitely on my hit list to try. I went with two of my Uni lovelies and nestled in for a feast of food and gossip. The service is swift and friendly and we were seated in the 'no bookings' venue straight away around 6:45pm (the early bird(s) catches the free tables!!) - N.B. it's cash only at present however I am told this is soon to change.

The menu is small however there's something on there for everyone, a beef noodle soup, a cold chicken noodle salad, and tofu/veggie alternatives. There's around 4/5 different dumplings and another section of street foods which again has around 5 items on it. A great wine, beer and cocktail menu is available to wash away any work woes on a week night and these are very reasonably priced.

Two of us chose the spicy chicken ban mein (cold chicken noodle salad). The bowl was brim full of goodness. Beansprouts, cucumber, spring onion, chillies and plenty of succulent chicken atop a mound of cold well cooked noodles that had the perfect spring and bite to them as one would expect. A small amount of sesame spiced sauce coated the dish and it was really refreshing and tasty, full of flavour and had a wonderful mix of texture(S).

Beef noodle soup was also a table choice. The broth was meaty, rich and a real hearty hug in a bowl. Plenty of tender meat bobbed about and the noodles, again, made of perfect consistency.

We had to try some dumplings, and so the boiled king prawn and Chinese water chestnuts arrived. Five plump dumplings sat aside a lovely pickled vegetables. They were divine, filled generously with well seasoned prawns had a lovely crunch from the chestnuts and the dough cooked perfectly with the correct thickness.

Spicy chicken wings were crisp, succulent and well seasoned. Not too knock your head of spicy they could definitely take more heat. But thoroughly enjoyable and more than enough to share per portion.

Pulled pork buns were full to the brim with juicy sweet meat and the hirata buns steamed to utter perfection and then lightly fried giving a slight crisp edge to them.

Since opening the larger venue in Clapham I was told that everything is now cooked in this kitchen to keep with consistency and then delivered several times over the day to Brixton. Thus meaning slight imperfections have been well and truly ironed out and they can now create exceptional consistent food at fantastic prices. Our meal for 3 with alcoholic drinks came in just over £16pp! which in my eyes is a bargain! I'm looking forward to a second visit very soon!

N.B.Reading some mixed reviews on Mama Lan's I'm not entirely sure people get that this is traditional Beijing home cooking. Therefore expect rustic, homely hearty food which haven't been manufactured to look pretty. The  dumplings in particular are as traditional as you can get, forget the gyoza's you find in several London chains these are the real deal filled with delicious local produce.

A: 8 The Pavement, London SW4 0HZ

Hours: 12:00–3:30pm, 6:00–10:00pm

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Soif - Battersea deliciously fine french food and wine

10 of us decided it had been too long and a while back settled on a local SW London restaurant to celebrate a return, back on home soil, from the gorgeous Pariee! French inspired 'Soif' was the perfect choice.

Now, not wanting to be an overly boring blogger I kept my camera at bay as much as possible unless people insisted which (thank you) many did! A lot of Soif's delicious plates slipped through due to the menu being heavy on 'sharing is caring' and trying to keep five hungry boys' paws off a plate of food, just so you can take a snap, isn't exactly an easy task!!

Soif's décor is typically French. Random, old French posters and pictures adorn the walls. Gorgeous tiled tables and miss-matched furniture make this a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere, perfect in our case for larger groups!

We went 'all out' on both wine and food. Soif's wine list is impressive (and expensive) however their house white is perfectly qwaffable and the reds are a must try!

Whilst choosing we decided on all five of the charcuterie selection to put down the middle of the table pre ordering and dived in. Of these I managed one photograph of the terrine with cornichons which was a huge slice of coarse, rich pork meat, seasoned with herbs and dotted with pistachio's to give an occasional crunch, yummmm-my!

We also shared the duck rillets (which went down excellently) and three types of cold meats - capocollo, soppressa trentina and salame toscano. All thinly sliced and were eaten faster than you could ever imagine. I love the idea of ordering something right away and nibbling whilst reading the menu. It just seems to begin a meal in the right way... It's also a good social way of sitting down to a meal especially in a larger group such as ours.

Duck rillettes photo taken from Foodies on the Prowl

All the above and the rest of the meal was served with never ending bread (two types) and room temperature butter!

For starters the dishes are again set to encourage sharing and we were told for our sized group around 5/6 plates was suffice (we went for 7!). We had the following:

Goats curd, broad beans, radishes and bread crumbs. Refreshing, zingy and flavoursome!

Cod's roe, endive and soft boiled egg (a VERY posh and punchy taramasalata which pleased Mr Bruce greatly - thank you also for the hand modelling!)

Hand Sliced raw beef, Morels, Artichokes and pea shoots - this I didn't try however it was Mr D's favourite of the whole evening.

Smoked duck breast, radicchio, walnuts and blue cheese - quite a punchy dish and slightly bitter but thoroughly enjoyable and the duck was sliced like Parma ham which I hadn't had before and yet, had always wanted to try.

Lamb sweetbreads, rosemary aioli - delicately simple but ticked every box!

Buffalo Mozzarella, hass avocado, spring onion and chilli. This was originally out of stock however the waiter kindly found some due to seeing Miss HH's saddened face. The avocado had a great chilli kick and a great texture due to a mix between chopped and mashed avocado and a good glug of olive oil.

Finally we had a crisp and clean flavoured fennel, champignon de Paris, parmesan and olive oil salad. A nice addition to the slightly heavier and gutsy dishes above!

Mains are more personal and here I chose the Hake with chickpeas, chorizo and aioli. A really meaty fish, cooked perfectly. The dish as a whole was packed full of flavour, texture and colour. It stopped me from moaning about my hangover, from Friday's 30th, for a whole 30mins as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Others round the table had the steak haché and frites which looked insane. Mr D the pork chop which again was cooked to perfection and generous in size.

Puds were another sharing affair, Mr D ordered the rhubarb with crème Anglaise which had lots of mmmmm's and ahhhh's. Miss FF and I ordered two of the treacle tarts, of which went down an absolute storm! Many, exclaiming to have been 'the best treacle tart, EVER'! and I couldn't agree more! Even if you're full to bursting I demand you try this, it's life changing stuff, I promise!


Chocolate mousse was also sampled as was the cheese board. Again, all fantastic!

Terroirs (Soif's sister restaurant) is where Mr D and I enjoy so much we send as many people there as possible. Soif is up there, and may be even knocking it's sister off the top spot due to being right on our doorstep! These people know their stuff and especially how to get the most out of every ingredient on each and every plate - we sampled almost the whole menu between us and not a single one of us were disappointed.

A: 27 Battersea Rise, London SW11 1HG
P: 020 7223 1112

Time: 12pm-10:30pm

Soif on Urbanspoon

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