Tag Archives: squid

Rotorino, Dalston

I’ve always liked Stevie Parle’s face. He looks like one of the good guys; someone who enjoys life and isn’t afraid to show it. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this – even I am a bit – but I truly believe people’s personalities are reflected in their work. So, how could sunny, optimistic looking Stevie do any wrong?

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Because of Stevie’s face, The Dock Kitchen has been on my restaurant bucket list for the past few years. It’s still on there today, but at least I can now say I’ve eaten at his new, slightly cheaper restaurant Rotorino, which opened a couple of months ago on Kingsland Road.

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A diamond in the ‘no longer rough’ Dalston, Rotorino is made up of a large rectangular dining room that’s blue, brown and white all over, filled with wooden tables, black plastic chairs, a row of booths down one side and bright, loud patterns.

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I was right about the face; Stevie’s food is lovely. Inspired by gorgeous Italian cuisine, the menu is split into First, Second and Third courses, followed by the all important ‘Sweet’.

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We shared courses, which covered off refreshing Watermelon & Tomato Salad with chilli, mint and ricotta (£6), Buffalo Mozzarella with smashed broad beans, mint and a giant, claw like pod  (£6.50) and lightly battered Mixed Small Fish & Squid with Monk’s Beard and grease cutting fried lemon (£6). Nothing blew me away, but at the same time, not a crumb was left on the pretty, rustic plates.

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Second was a small bowl of Pistachio Casarecce (£7.50) and Sausage Gnochetti Sardi (£8). I often find restaurant pasta boring, but this was not the case here. The first creatively combined crushed pistachio, basil, garlic and olive oil (YUM), whilst the latter delightfully combined slow-cooked sausage, red wine, chilli and breadcrumbs.

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For Third, we shared Sasso Chicken (£14.50) and Pork & Veal Meatballs (£9.50) from the ‘stove’, with a side of Chickpeas topped with fried breadcrumbs (who could resist!).

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The meatballs were tasty enough and my favourite part of the bird was the juice drenched bread that sat beneath it. But it was the chickpeas that stole the show – so simple, they reminded me how satisfying vegetarian living can be.

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I must pause to tell you that there were three, not two of us at this dinner. I wouldn’t want you trying to tackle this much food, believing they’ll be room for pudding – something that should never be missed.

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It was L’s birthday, so a candle topped Chocolate Cake (£5) was quietly ordered on a trip to the bathroom. It was divine – chocolate, honeycomb, pistachio and soured cream should get engaged, married and live happily ever after.

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Stevie did me proud, just like I knew he would. I enjoyed each and every dish, although some stood out more than others. The restaurant was buzzing and will now be my little oasis of calm (and tasty food) in bustling Dalston. I’m giving Rotorino a LLE Rating of 8/10.

Rotorino, 434 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AA

Rotorino on Urbanspoon

Okan, Brixton Village

Each time Shrove Tuesday comes around, I stuff my face with pancakes wondering why I don’t make them more often. They are so easy and versatile – this year’s combinations ranged from cheese, ham & mushroom to salted caramel & banana…via traditional lemon & sugar and the odd Nutella.

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I guess I’m just lazy, or eat so many I can’t bear the thought of more. So, for an alternative pancake experience, I turn to Okan – a tiny Japanese restaurant in the heart of Brixton village.

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Okan specialises in okonomiyaki – a savoury pancake that’s commonplace on the streets of Osaka, Japan’s second largest city. It means ‘as you like it’ and typically combines fermented cabbage (kimchi) with batter and a range of toppings.

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After our Otumami (starters) of warm, salty edamame (£2.20) and wonderfully aromatic Onasu (fried aubergine with soy, honey, ginger & miso dressing – £3.25), we ordered the Okan Special with prawn, squid and corn (£8.25), as well as a Kimchi & Pork (£7.95). This was topped off with a bottle of white wine (they also have a great range of Japanese beers and sake).

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Cooked in on steaming grills beside us, the okonomiyaki were large, thick and piping hot. The kimchi made them quite salty, but not to the point of unpleasant, and the fillings were in generous supply. The flavour was unique and took some getting used to, but it was refreshing to try something so different.

Okan was one of the first Brixton Village eateries –  no frills, charming and serves original food that transports you miles from the bustling streets of Brixton. For that, I’ll give it a LLE Rating of 8/10. A very happy – albeit belated -Pancake Day to you all.

Okan, Unit 39, Brixton Village, SW9 8PS

*To avoid embarrassment, it’s worth noting that Okan is Cash Only

Okan on Urbanspoon

The Rum Kitchen, Notting Hill

We went to The Rum Kitchen to drink. But all that changed when we saw the Caribbean menu, so most of our pennies were spent on food. A typical day in the life of Little Lady Eats.

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Located on All Saints Road in Notting Hill, the large, open plan restaurant is bright and colourful with wooden floors, walls, tables and a long bar at one end. The staff are infectiously bubbly, eager to tell you about the food and cocktails so you too hold their enthusiasm.

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We were in between lunch and dinner, so stuck to starters. Saltfish Fritters with grilled lime ‘n’ chilli jam (£8.50) was a favourite, with each doughy, spicy ball as moreish than the last. The Jerk Chicken Wings (£6.50) were sticky, sweet and very hot – a house speciality that’s finger lickin’ good.

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Also devoured were Salt ‘n’ Chilli Squid with aioli (£7.50), which weren’t as memorable as the other two, but still tasty. A bowl of Plantain & Chilli Dip (£4) was ok – the plantain were their usual bland selves, jazzed up by a salty coating and spicy dip.

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The Rum Kitchen is a great place for birthdays – it’s lively, vibrant and serves soulful food and yummy cocktails. Just remember to invite friends that like a bit of spice – there’s a definite ‘chilli’ theme running through the menu.

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It’s hard to rate a restaurant when you’ve only had starters, one cocktail and a side dish, but for what I ate, along with the cheery staff, I will give The Rum Kitchen an upbeat LLE Rating of 7 / 10.

The Rum Kitchen, 6-8 All Saints Road, London, W11 1HH

The Rum Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Flesh & Buns, Covent Garden

On paper, Flesh & Buns is an Izakaya (a casual Japanese drinking joint). In reality, food is the focus, with its open kitchen and brilliantly original signature dish.

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The Bone Daddies crew opened Flesh & Buns a few weeks ago. It sounded like my kind of restaurant, so I popped along for lunch last Friday and was impressed from the start. Firstly, I could book, and secondly, the Manager took my friend’s nut allergy very seriously, even producing her own ‘nut free’ menu.

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Our waitress was equally helpful, enthusiastically taking us through the menu without making us feel harassed. She explained how most dishes should be shared, even the ‘flesh & buns’ we couldn’t wait to get our hands on.

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As sustenance, we munched on warm, salted Edaname (£3.50) and wonderful Fried Squid from the list of hot ‘small dishes’ (£6.50). The squid crunched in our mouths like popcorn, exposing tender, peppery meat, livened up with a squeeze of lime.

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The ‘flesh & buns’ came in four parts. Salmon Teriyaki (our choice of ‘flesh’ at £13), two buns each, a bowl of salad and a dish of sauce.

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We were shown how to flake the glistening salmon, before adding it to the fluffy bun with a strip of cucumber, lettuce and a drizzle of sauce.

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I could have eaten the lot, but might have felt differently if we’d ordered heavy Braised Pork Belly or Flat Iron Steak. Either way, it was a delightful sandwich of flavour, with sweet, tender meat and fresh salad bits.

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Our waitress was also a mind reader, producing two hot towels just as I noticed how fishy my hands smelt. Freshening up gave us time to decide on dessert – S’More to share (£8).

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The Flesh & Buns slogan should be ‘get your hands dirty’ (not that that’s a bad thing). We toasted our marshmallows over a naked flame, before making a biscuit sandwich, complete with bright green miso chocolate and our lovely, melted marshmallow.

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Flesh & Buns gets my vote and a LLE Rating of 8.5 / 10. I had to stop myself going again that evening (it seemed excessive), but I’ll be back soon to devour more of them flesh & buns.

Flesh & Buns, 41 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LX

Flesh and Buns on Urbanspoon

Beagle, Shoreditch

After a quick drink in Cottons Rum Shack, followed by an even quicker, forced conversation with Henry Holland outside his ice-cream van, we arrived at Beagle – the restaurant I’ve wanted to go to for months, partly because of reviews, partly because I like anything associated with dogs.

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Located just off Kingsland Road, Beagle is unsurprisingly filled with local hipsters and ‘creative’ types. The striking interior makes the most out of being an old railway tunnel, made up of exposed brick walls, wooden furniture and a view through to the kitchen. Outside there are a few ‘unbookable’ tables, allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Our smiley waitress took us through the mouth-watering menu, pointing out two dishes already sold out. This felt like a lot, but as it happened, neither dish would have made our order anyway.

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The ‘special’ Chargrilled Squid was also in short supply, so we quickly ordered one as a starter. To accompany this, we went for Meinda & Pink Ox Heart Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella & Basil (£7.50). The generous portion of squid had a lovely smokey finish, with each piece as tender as the last. Accompanying it was a mustardy sauce that we ate with relish.

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By contrast, the colourful salad was a little disappointing. With such a fancy name, the tomatoes didn’t sing like I expected. Nevertheless, the basil dressing was so deliciously garlicky, we insisted on more bread to mop the plate.

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For main, we went for Chargrilled Herdwick Lamb, Bobby Beans & Anchovy (£19.00) and Whole Lemon Sole, Kolhrabi, Radish & Chervil (£18.00). That, and sides of Duck Fat Chips (£4.50) and Grilled Sweetcorn (£3.50).

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The lamb was lovely and rare, but again, lacked the depth of flavour we’d hoped for (surprising, given the addition of anchovy). As for the Sole, the buttery, white meat melted in the mouth, brought to life by the crisp Kolhrabi salad – a vegetable I hadn’t eaten since my lunch at Dabbous.

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Grilled sweetcorn required no butter – always a good sign – but the chunky chips didn’t quite deliver on taste. Each crisp, golden finger was as good as any well-made chip, but lacked the meaty aroma expected from the duck fat.

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We shared Gooseberry Fool & Ginger Snap for dessert, which was creamy, light and filled with large chunks of fruit. It was even better spread on a ginger snap biscuit – a great end to the meal.

If I’m in the neighbourhood, I’ll probably go back to Beagle to chance a table outside. The atmosphere was great, the interior felt special and some of the dishes were fantastic. So, I will give this much hyped restaurant a LLE Rating of 7/10.

Beagle, 397-400 Geffrye Street, E2 8HZ

Beagle on Urbanspoon

Bibigo, Great Marlborough Street, Soho

The only thing putting me off Bibigo was its association with Psy (of Gangnam Style fame), who pops up like Where’s Wally all over its website. My friend had trusted me with last night’s restaurant booking and, for all I knew, we were about to dine in Psy’s gaudy dining room.

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As it turned out, we were met with elegant decor, helpful, well mannered staff and an intriguing South Korean menu put together by Kim Yong Hwan, who previously worked at Roka and Zuma, and Bibigo founder Hee Young Noh, who also happens to be the star of Masterchef Korea.

Bibigo, Soho, London

£12 got us a starter and main from the full menu. We decided to share, washing everything down with a refreshing glass of lychee juice (£2.50 each).

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Red Chicken was sticky and hot, infused with its sweet and spicy sauce and sprinkled with crispy, deep fried okra. The other starter – a traditional, crisp seafood pancake with leeks, squid, mussels and shrimp – was best enjoyed first due to its slightly more subtle, yet equally delicious, flavour that would have been drowned by the chicken.

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Mains were Traditional Bulgogi (chargrilled beef marinated in BBQ sauce with grilled shiitake mushroom, courgette and bean sprouts) and Bossam: Pork Belly (slow cooked pork belly with cucumber Kimchi, spicy mooli Kimchi and a soybean dip). The waiter suggested sides, but all that meat seemed enough for two little ladies.

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Bulgogi was delightful – the meat had a lovely sweet, slightly smoky flavour that permeated the juicy mushrooms and noodle-like bean sprouts. Bossam was equally good, with succulent pork belly pairing extremely well with the soybean dip and fermented cucumber. I wasn’t so keen on the mooli, but that’s probably down to personal taste.

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A Fig Creme Brûlée (£5.00) was the perfect dessert. Large enough for two, its snaptastic topping broke into a bath of rich and creamy vanilla custard that surrounded a juicy dried fig with a ball of delicious raspberry sorbet sitting pretty on top.

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I now know “Gangnam Style” refers to a lifestyle associated with the Gangnam District of Seoul, where people are ‘trendy, hip and exude a certain class’. This helps me understand Bibigo’s association with Psy – even though his song is awful (sorry), what he refers to can certainly be found in this restaurant, which gets a LLE Rating of 8 / 10.

Bibigo, 58-59 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JY

Bibigo on Urbanspoon

HK Diner, China Town

Ever wandered aimlessly around China Town unsure of where to eat? I certainly have, so on my last visit, I did my research and ended up in HK Diner on Wardour Street.

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I couldn’t book, but that didn’t worry me – HK Diner proudly stays open ’til 4am, so I knew we’d get a table eventually… As luck would have it, we were seated almost instantly in the buzzing restaurant and quickly ordered a drink.

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As with many Chinese restaurants, the lights were on full beam, so there was no problem reading the HUGE menu. Prawn crackers were a must, so we told the waiter to keep ’em coming. As for starters, it was crispy seaweed, soft shelled crab and sesame prawn toasts. Everything was delicious, well presented and – to back up what I’d heard – some of the best Chinese food I’d had in a long time.

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We also ordered half a crispy duck, which was quickly shredded in front of us and devoured in the same amount of time. The meat was tender, juicy and in no way greasy. We all – including my ‘vegetarian except for duck’ friend – approved.

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For mains it was popcorn prawns, super sweet crispy beef, squid and special fried rise. They didn’t blow me away like the starters, but were still pretty good.

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We were full to the brim when the bill arrived – around £25 per person, which included a couple of bottles of house white. I was impressed, my friends were impressed, so for that, HK Diner gets a LLE Rating of 7.5 / 10.

HK Diner, 22 Wardour Street, London W1D 6QQ