Duck and Waffle

I’ve been following Dan Doherty, the Executive Director of Duck and Waffle, for over 3 years now on Instagram. And every Instagram post had me craving the eye-pleasing dishes. And now, after over three years, I finally made my way to Duck and Waffle in Heron Tower.

After convincing everyone of the place I was nervous. Will the food be great or just average? Did I over-hype the place up to myself?

Standing in front of the Heron Tower another thought fluttered through my mind. I have no idea where Duck and Waffle is. Luckily the doorman at the entrance of the building helped us find the entrance. He, literally, pointed at the entrance. If I was him, I would’ve make us walk around the building. Once in the building, we took that nauseating lift up to the 40th floor. Clearly I’m not a semi-speed junkie.

After that adrenaline rush, the nervousness set in again. Would my guests appreciate the choice for dinner or had I been a bit too adventurous by introducing a new restaurant? However, after entering and seeing the bar. All nerves were gone. The beautiful bar area, with its lighting, definitely helped me feel better about my choice.

Once seated we were introduced to 2 waiters. This I didn’t understand. The first waiter (in a red shirt) explained the menu to us and the second waiter (in a black shirt) did the exact same thing. Except you couldn’t order from the waiter with the black shirt. It was odd. I’m assuming the waiter with the red shirt was for food and the waiter with the black shirt was for drinks.

Anyway, once wine was ordered we ordered a bunch of plates. One plate too many actually.

First to arrive was the ‘Nduja seared octopus. As expected the ‘nduja was spicy and added plenty of flavour to the perfectly cooked octopus. Then the fennel with the green sauce and yellow lentils added a cooling feel and some crunch. Definitely one of my favorites.

Then was the foie gras crème brûlée. When I looked at the menu I was most intrigued by this. Once the dish arrived, I couldn’t wait to knock the hard caramel lid. And it cracked perfectly. I must admit the foie gras was average but what was great was the caramel. It added depth to the foie gras – a sweet and crunchy depth. The marmalade brioche added more sweetness and fluffiness. I helped myself to 2 slices of the bread, it was that good.

A great debate emerged at the table over the smoked eel. My boyfriend was adamant no one would like it because, lets be honest, eel is an acquired taste. So when the debated dish arrived at the table Lee’s argument failed. The smoked eel was delicate, creamy, and had a bit of spice from the horseradish. Definitely a dish to try.

Next to try was the pork and apple corn dog. I’ve never tried a corn dog but if all corn dogs taste like Duck and Waffle’s version then I’m hooked. The outside was crunchy and the inside soft. The chipotle mayonnaise was fantastic and added piquancy to the dish.

Not pictured was the roasted brussel sprouts that we had. I enjoy roasted vegetables but  brussel sprouts aren’t a favourite. However, Duck and Waffle changed that. The vegetable was sweet, salty, and tender on the inside. It turned out to be a favourite dish.

The last of the “starters” to arrive was the lamb keema (soft minced lamb) with hara bhara sauce (a sauce made from spinach, peas, and potatoes). The bread smelled amazing and the bite that followed burst with flavour. But then came the kick from the chilli. That was quite unexpected but appreciated. The spiciness elevated the dish.

Our snack appeared next: BBQ-spiced crispy pig ears. I enjoy pork rinds because of the crispiness. So pig ears peaked my interest. The pig ears arrived in a paper bag with a duck and waffle seal. It was different and not expected. However, the pig ears were well coated with bbq spice and had an amazing crunch.

On a whim we ordered the pulled goat doughnut. The doughnut was soft and had a sweet and spicy taste from the jerk sugar. Inside the pulled goat was well cooked and tender. A delightful doughnut that hits all the spots.

Up next were the main dishes. The duck and waffle was a duck confit leg with half a waffle and maple syrup with mustard seeds. Once again the dish was delicious. The duck was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The waffle was perfectly cooked: crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Eating all the components together provided a crunchy, salty, and sweet experience.

The next dish was the miso glazed rabbit and was one dish too many for 4 people. Nonetheless, we soldiered on. The rabbit was tender and a bit salty (from the miso). And a rather large portion once you’ve eaten everything.

Accompanying the main dishes were the roast sweet potatoes, which were soft and spicy. I didn’t try the sweet potatoes with the duck and waffle. But I did try them with the the rabbit and it was a great accompaniment. And a delicious plate on its own.

After all that food you would think we would skip dessert. Nope! Dessert was ordered. I had the salted caramel choux bun and the others had ice-cream. I was surprised when the choux bun came within 5 minutes. Due to the quick arrival of the choux bun, I was expecting a stale dessert. I was wrong. The choux was light and fluffy. And the salted caramel provided a sweet and salty sensation. Something I’ve come to love in London. The smoked hazelnut cream was light and provided richness.

The food at Duck and Waffle was fantastic! It definitely is a place to enjoy different taste combinations. So you shouldn’t walk in with a fear of trying dishes. Every dish we tried was delicious and was bursting with flavour.

Being at the top of Heron Tower you have amazing views of London. And the atmosphere of the restaurant is vibey.

The service was also great, as the food arrived quickly and waiters were knowledgeable on the menu. However, there was a lull in the service as we tried to get the bill.

I definitely enjoyed my food experience at Duck and Waffle. And because of that, I give them 4.5 stars.

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Review guide:

Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Poor (read: shit)

Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Average (read: meh)

Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Good (read: above mediocrity)

Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

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Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba… Doesn’t the name just excite you? A fusion of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian cuisine to make your taste buds jump. Clearly I’m a fan.

After  living in London for a while, we were craving some mochi and decided to have lunch at the restaurant. After booking a few days in advance, I feel like you have to book at Sushi Samba not matter the time of day, we were riding the stupidly fast elevator up to the restaurant.

We arrived a few minutes early and decided to have some cocktails. I had the Kaffirinha and Lee the Plantain Punch and they were delicious. A great way to start lunch, as the cocktails arrived the table became ready.

I’ve been to Sushi Samba a few times, but this is the first time I had a table right next to a window with a view and it’s definitely something to enjoy on a Friday afternoon: great cocktails with a clear view of London.

While sipping on the cocktails, we ordered a few dishes to share: plantain chips; lobster taquitos; wagyu gyoza; lamb chops; and the Tokyo Sky Tree.

One of my favourite dishes from Sushi Samba is the plantain chips. It’s a crispy dish that’s enhanced with aji amarillo sauce. A sauce that’s spicy and creamy. In case you don’t know, aji amarillo is a pepper that’s found in Peru. It’s spicy but it also has a fruity flavour (which makes it a bit sweet). That’s why I enjoy the plantain chips. The dish provides crunchiness, spice, and sweetness. And I can easily go through a plate by myself.

Next the wagyu gyoza arrived. And that blew my mind. Combined with the kabocha (a Japanese squash), the gyoza was meaty and delicious. The sesame and su-shoyu sauce added saltiness. The dish definitely hit the umami and salt taste areas.

The lobster taquitos were disappointing. The taquitos were crunchy but the fried lobster was odd. I think the taquitos were saved by the aji amarillo. It’s definitely a dish I wouldn’t order again.

And then onto the biggest mistake I made: ordering the lamb chops. Zuma has ruined any other restaurant’s lamb chops, but these lamb chops were of poor quality. The chops were fatty and difficult to eat. And the portions that were edible were few and far between. Without a doubt, I would never order this again. Never! I should’ve complained but waiters were difficult to find.

The last dish was the Tokyo Sky Tree and it was delicious. I enjoyed the spicy and crunchy lotus root, the crunch of the fish, and the spiciness of the mayo. Overall a delicious sushi dish. And one that I’d happily order again and again. And it’s quite filling.

After the dishes were done, I ordered another cocktail (the Shiso Fine – excellent again) and we ordered two mochis for dessert. I’ll be honest, the only reason we came to Sushi Samba was for the mochi (soft Japanese rice cakes filled with ice-cream). The dessert came with three mochi flavours: pineapple and coconut, mango, and green tea. While the mochi was fresh and yummy, the white chocolate sauce was limited. I’ve been to Sushi Samba earlier this year and they weren’t so stingy with the white chocolate sauce.

I never noticed before but the dishes at Sushi Samba are either hit or miss. A dish is either done brilliantly or not. And for it’s reputation, it is a bit disappointing. But given the price point, I guess it’s not the crème de la crème of Asian Fusion restaurants in London.

What did annoy me was the service. From entering the restaurant to ordering and receiving the main dishes, the service was fantastic and fast. It was easy to get a waiter. But after the last main dish, service definitely slowed down. It took approximately 15 minutes to find a waiter to order dessert and another 15 minutes to find a waiter to ask for the bill.

After all of that, will I be back? Yes. While Sushi Samba does have it’s faults, some of its dishes are well-worth the hassle. And I’m well aware of the dishes that never disappoint. One top of the food, the cocktails are great and on most occasions, the service is great.

Sushi Samba is located in Herron Tower and gives you a fantastic view of London, if you’re lucky to get a table next to a window.

I give Sushi Samba 3 cupcakes

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

Chino Latino

In London you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to food, which makes it an adventure to try out as many Asian fusion restaurants as possible. One that I stumbled upon was Chino Latino, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant located in Embankment (in the Park Plaza Hotel, to be precise).

As the restaurant is located in a hotel we didn’t expect it to be bursting with colour. The hotel itself was quite vibrant inside, making it difficult to concentrate as you walked up the stairs. But the restaurant itself has a relaxed atmosphere, mostly due to the red lighting and decor. Being a Wednesday night, the restaurant was not busy but the music from the bar definitely set the tone.

After being seated with a view of the street (if you’re at the bar you can get a view of the river) we ordered cocktails and a few plates to share.

Cocktails were the Secret Geisha (a gin based drink) and Laced With Trace (a bourbon based drink). The Secret Geisha was sweet but enjoyable. The bourbon cocktail was a bit too strong for me (I’m not a bourbon type of girl) but my boyfriend starting enjoying it after a few sips. I thought it could put hair on any chest. Overall, the cocktails were great.

For the food, we ordered: wagyu beef taquitos; edamame, amarillo maki roll; duck breast; moqueca camarão; and calamari.

Surprisingly, the amarillo maki roll was the first to arrive at the table. Since we were starving, we dug right in (at least I remembered to take a photo). The sushi burst with flavour, due to the freshness of the fish and aji amariilo. I’m not a fan of tuna, of any kind, but I would happily eat more.

The edamame was also tasty and well-coated with salt. Many places don’t get this right and you have to dig for the salt at the bottom of the bowl.

I wasn’t too much of a fan of the calamari, that was coated in tamarind and served with tomato, red onion, and mint. I found the tamarind overwhelmed the calamari (which was cooked perfectly) and the tomato, red onion, and mint did not add flavour. I did, however, enjoy the crunchiness of the calamari.

My favourite dish was the wagyu beef taquitos. The taquitos were crunchy and were oozing with flavour. It definitely had enough spice and the beef was tender. I’d have this dish over and over again.

The duck main course consisted of an aji amarillo and marjorama. It was a tasty dish and the duck was tender, but I found it to be a bit too sweet for me.

The prawn main course (Moqueca camarão) on the other hand was divine and warmed you up. It was a simple coconut curry but the prawns were firm and plentiful. And the dish had a bit of heat.

Throughout the dinner, the service at the restaurant was great. Until we were done with the main dishes. At this point, it became difficult to find any waiters and we waited about 10-15 minutes before a waiter emerged. This was quite frustrating, as we had finished eating and were now just waiting. Once we had paid the bill, we had to look for the host to get my coat. Once at the front of the restaurant/bar, we couldn’t find anyone to assist us.

I would like to go back to Chino Latino because of those taquitos and the sushi. The service was also good until we were ready to order dessert/tea and pay the bill. But I think it may be best to go when the restaurant is a little bit more busy and more waiters are available.

Based on my experience, I’ve given Chino Latino 3 cupcakes:

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

Dishoom, London

I’ve recently moved to London and, as a foodie, I can’t wait to try every interesting restaurant that crosses my path. I have been to London a few times and have eaten at spectacular places, but those places do cost a pretty penny and can’t be eaten at every week (I’m not a crazy person and there are some amazing kitchen gadgets to procure) 😉 .

With the weather changing and the cold starting to set in, I started craving Indian food. And as luck would have it, some friends took us to one of their favourite restaurants: Dishoom.

Downstairs bar area
Dishoom is a popular Indian restaurant in King’s Cross. And how do I know it’s popular: there was a queue outside the restaurant of hungry customers. I’m told this is always the case, as the restaurant is busy and doesn’t take reservations. But they do serve chai tea as you wait. This I can live with. Especially once you’ve had their chai.

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Upstairs area
Luckily for us, we didn’t wait in the queue and there was a table ready for the 4 of us. We were escorted into the restaurant and were seated on a long table. Although this table was being shared by 2 other parties, it didn’t seem intrusive and there was enough space for everyone.

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Sauces to accompany the food
After deliberating over the menu, we placed our orders: okra fries, pau bhaji, vada pau, mattar paneer, and chicken ruby. It doesn’t sound like a lot of food but it was. I was stuffed just from the vada pau.

The food at Dishoom was fantastic and definitely felt homely. The pau was soft and tasty. The okra fries brought make childhood memories with the crispness and spiciness of the okra. The curries were also delicious but I thought they could be a bit spicier.

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Chicken ruby, roomali roti, naan, and mattar paneer
Dishoom also delivered on the drinks. The rose and cardamon lassi was sweet and aromatic. And the chai was just like my aunts used to make it: just a bit spicy, aromatic, and warms you up.

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Rose and cardamom lassi
I enjoyed Dishoom, as the food and drinks were amazing. I think I found a new favorite. Thank you Pooja and Suren 🙂 . However, the service was a bit slow and the waiter kept forgetting our order. Dishoom is a busy restaurant but I do think it’s important to still be able to ensure tables get served and the right dishes make it to the right table.

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Okra fries
For my first British restaurant review, I give Dishoom 4 cupcakes (order everything your heart wants –  it’s all delicious).

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

*** Cover image from We Heart

 

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

I’m on a roll with the corny titles 😀 .

As I mentioned in my previous blog, it’s been a busy time. Straight after my trip Greece I was in New York for 6 days. Well, more like 5 days. With the time difference, the jet lag knocked a day off my time in New York.

Once again I was in a new country and city. And top of my agenda for New York was a good ol’ fashion New York hot dog. My quest for the perfect New York hot dog involved checking reviews for hot dog stands (that don’t exist) and walking around checking the cleanliness of hot dog stands (majority of them are clean). Eventually, after all that checking and identifying a hot dog stand near my hotel, I got one from a random hot dog stand outside the Guggenheim Museum. A spicy Italian hot dog, that was mouth-watering.

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Another must is pizza from Brooklyn. A bike tour through Brooklyn led us to 2 amazing pizzerias: L’industrie Pizzeria and Roberta’s Garden and Tiki Bar. Aside, from the hot dog, Brooklyn pizza sure is amazing. I’ve had many a great pizza but Brooklyn’s pizza is the best I’ve ever had 😀 .

 

In terms of other restaurants, I was in New York for a short period of time and didn’t have much time to take in the many restaurants. I did, however, manage to try out Zuma, Indian Accent, and Boqueria.

Boqueria has a beautiful setting and definitely had a Spanish ambiance to it. The food and service was great as well.

Indian Accent was also amazing. The creativity of the dishes was fantastic. And every dish I tried was delicious.

 

I was surprised to find a Zuma in New York… I didn’t think there was one here. I’m accustomed to Zuma in London and so the New York restaurant had some high expectations. Unfortunately, the New York branch did not impress. The food and service was not of the quality we were used to. However, the ambiance was amazing. I definitely enjoyed the vibe in New York.

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Waffles from The Whitby Hotel

Throughout my time in New York I noticed one particular feature that was almost non-existent in many restaurants: quality service. In the restaurants we patroned, waiters easily forgot our orders or disappeared. If it was a fast-food place I could understand – New York is a busy city. But we frequented many high-end restaurants, including the restaurant at our hotel (The Whitby Hotel). Maybe it’s just a New York thing? But it was definitely off-putting and made me crave London.

 

My big fat Greek experience 

August was a crazy month for me: waiting for visas to come through, packing up my South African life, moving to the UK, and finally a vacation. My Greek vacation.

This past August and September, I spent 10 days touring Greece: a couple of days in Athens, a day in Sparta, and the a week in Santorini. And it was my first time in the European country. So based on everyone else’s experiences I had great expectations.

Touching down on Athens, I was excited to experience the history and the food. In terms of history, Athens never fails to disappoint. Unfortunately, I was only in Athens for 2 days and only managed to soak up the history of the Acropolis and the Temple of Poseidon. However, I did managed to get my fix of Athenian food: fresh seafood, beautiful Greek salad, and gyros. And how can I forget the best drink: Ursus (or red vodka).

 

Ah gyros… The perfect meal containing protein, greens, and a little bit of carbs (:-P). And let’s not forget how well a gyro goes with Fanta Lemonata… Or a Greek coffee.

 

In Sparta, we were treated to mouth-watering organic and fresh food. And the best Greek coffee I had in Greece. It also boasted the best orange juice. Or so I thought.

 

After a quick trip to Sparta, we departed for Santorini. The iconic Greek island, with its blue churches and white walls. A must see for any traveler. And for an food enthusiast. Every restaurant in Santorini offered delicious food, with equally divine cocktails.

Santorini also offered interesting Greek wines. While I’m not a fan on Santorini wines, as the white wines are too acidic and the red wines are not really red wines (more like pinot noirs), I can appreciate its vincanto (the island’s semi-sweet dessert wine). And the best orange juice ever – to be found at Cafe Emporio, in Emporio.

Wines aside, the seafood in Santorini is amazing. I stuffed myself with squid to the point of where I can’t eat squid at all. That and the fact that no other non-Greek restaurant has met the freshness and tenderness of a Greek-made squid.

 

After travelling through some of Greece, my favourite dishes and drinks were:

  • Greek salad (or village salad)
  • Feta wrapped in phyllo pastry, fried in olive oil and drizzled with sesame seeds and honey.
  • Grilled squid – a must!
  • Fresh orange juice
  • Anything with pork
  • Greek coffee
  • And the best lobster burger from Santorini

With all the amazing food in Greece, I must admit that the shellfish was not as great I thought it would be. And that Ursus (or red vodka) was unattainable in Santorini.

Greece was an amazing experience. But only travelling to 3 cities and 1 island, I think a trip back is much needed. Nonetheless, I left Greek feeling extremely Greeked out but craving a Greek salad and a Greek coffee wherever I went.

***  The title is corny, I know. But do you know another Greek title that can be manipulated 😝.

Momo Baohaus

Bao… You know that soft steamed Chinese bun filled with delicious ingredients. The bun is light and airy and oh so delicious. Yeah that good stuff. I’ve been having difficulty finding good bao in Pretoria so when Momo Baohaus caught my eye as I was passing Greenside in Joburg I knew that’s where I was having lunch.

Momo Baohaus serves Asian dishes and specialises in bao, bowls (rice, noodles, and wokked greens), and sushi. And every dish on the menu looks tasty.

Some treats before ordering

From the street the restaurant looked empty but as soon as we were standing outside my friends and I were shocked by how full the restaurant was. We got the last table! And we still had to turn it into a table for 3.

As soon as we were seated menus appeared and a couple minutes later (yes, two minutes) a waiter was ready to take our drinks order. A friend and I decided to be adventurous and tried the Turkish delight lemonade and the lemongrass yuzu ginger beer. Surprisingly, the lemonade wasn’t too sweet. And it was tasty. The ginger beer was also tasty and had a bit of a tart taste and a bit acidic. But both drinks were delicious and refreshing.

Lemongrass yuzu ginger beer and Turkish delight lemonande

For food we wanted to order everything or at least I wanted to order everything. We started off with tapas: Korean fried chicken wings (spicy, crispy and dripping with sauce. So yummy); stir fried greens spring rolls (bland but the sweet chili sauce made it enjoyable); and the szechuan prawn wontons (the best of the 3: spicy, tender, and mouth-watering). The wontons are a must.

After that tasty treat we ordered bowls and bao. The Kung Pow bao definitely has a kick, thanks to the  gochujang (a red chili paste that is sweet, savoury, and spicy). The beef was crunchy and the bao was tender and sweet. It was perfect.

For the bowls we ordered the szechuan (chicken with noodles); Bangkok (beef with jasmine rice); and Seoul (beef with noodles). The szechuan bowl was the best of out all 3. The chicken was tender and spicy and the sauce was delicious. Definitely a dish to try. The Bangkok was also delicious but it could’ve had just a bit of sauce. Nonetheless the beef was delicious. The Seoul dish was also tasty. Although I having more than one shiitake mushroom would’ve been great and the beef was a bit too crunchy for me. Still, all the bowls were cooked well and were unique and tasty.

The food at Momo Baohaus is delicious and flavourful. Many of the dishes leave you craving for more. And the dishes are huge so you have enough for later in the day or for the next morning (when the flavours will be even stronger).

The service is also great! There was almost no wait between the dishes, which created only one problem: we ran out of space on the table.

I give Momo Baohaus 3.5 cupcakes (and order the wontons):

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

Vegan Hippie Connection Market

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my first vegan post. Now I’m not vegan but I do respect the lifestyle choice. And I have been trying to be more healthy and eat less processed food. I also realise there isn’t much awareness about vegan restaurants or markets in Gauteng, although the lifestyle is growing. So I’m going to try to shed some light on the many markets or restaurants. Bear with me but you’ll start seeing more diversity.

To kick off this new mandate, I stopped by the Vegan Hippie Connection Market held at the Pirates Sports Club in Parkhurst, Joburg and on the last Sunday of every month. It’s not a stone’s throw away from my home but it is quite central if you’re in Joburg. And it’s close to all those trendy restaurants in Parkhurst (cc Craft, etc).

The Vegan Hippie Connection Market started almost a year ago and has since had 10 markets. The market boosts 60-62 vendors. So you’re spoilt for choice, with food, clothing, and other lifestyle goodies.

Some of the goodies that I enjoyed were:

  • Vegan ice-cream (so yummy)
  • Dog biscuits (Goliath loves them and the vendor tested the biscuits on her dogs)
  • Getting henna done
  • The delicious Persian olives
  • The tofu and avocado spread
  • The tasty vegan energy bars
  • Waffles
  • And I wanted to get my hands on all the jewelry on offer

Taking a walk around it’s difficult not to buy everything you see. The vendors are extremely friendly and happy to chat to you about their product(s) (and to give you a sample to try 🙂 ). And you don’t feel pressured to buy the product. The vendors actually don’t mind if you have a taste, take a business card, and order from them at a later stage.

The atmosphere is also fantastic and welcoming. I know a few people who are trying to adopt the vegan lifestyle and they are faced with plenty of judgement for not going all in. In this environment there’s nothing of the sort. There’s no judgement. In fact, I was only asked once if I was vegan. I must admit I panicked and said that I was vegetarian. A vegetarian who had a sausage and bacon for breakfast. Don’t judge!  see-no-evil-monkey

Talking to the owner Benita Coetzee you get a sense of what she wanted the market to be: a community where you could find all things vegan and be in a non-judgmental environment. And she’s achieved that.

The market is also dog-friendly and dogs of all sizes are welcome. There’s also plenty of parking. And live entertainment 🙂 .

Have a look at the photo gallery below to see what the market had to offer. I came away with kombucha (a drink I’ve started enjoying this year), buddha earrings (because how could you not), and some dog biscuits.

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Something’s Cooking by J

J’Something, the vocalist of Mi Casa, has moved into food. After spending some time with his own food TV show he’s expanded into a restaurant. Being a fan of Mi Casa, I couldn’t wait for his restaurant, Something’s Cooking by J, to open on the 1 April 2017.

I visited the restaurant a week after it had officially opened and was smart enough to make the reservation a few days in advance. When I got to the entrance of the restaurant, I overhead the hostess letting someone know that the restaurant was fully booked. A good sign if you’re J’Something.

After letting them know I made a reservation and finding out our table number, we were escorted to a table (that wasn’t the table we were told) that was outside the restaurant and, basically, outside. As it was cold, I went back to the hostess who escorted us to the table to ask if we could have the table that I had booked, which was inside the restaurant. She was a bit hesitant but after mentioning that I had booked in advance and I should get the tabled I booked she took us in to a table that was in the center of the restaurant. Our originally booked table was outside but in the restaurant. So I appreciate the hostess making a plan for our table. And then we found friends and moved over to their table.


While we were still sitting outside the restaurant, J’Something popped over to welcome us to the restaurant. That alone made my night and I may have fan-girled a little. Just a little.


As we sat down, starters were already on the table as our friends had been at the restaurant for a while. We tried the Korean dunked wings, a secret menu item, the deep fried mac ‘n cheese, and the trio of bao down.

I promise you get more than 3 chicken wings. I took the photo after everyone had dived in.

The Korean dunked wings were well covered and the sauce was sweet, spicy and a little spicy. The meat was also cooked well. However, friends were saying that they found the wings to burn and not actually be spicy. While I love spicy food, I like my spice to not be too hot, but I enjoyed the wings as they had a bit of bite.


Next I tried the deep fried Mac ‘n Cheese that is served with a spicy (spicier than the wings) pronto sauce and a fondue sauce. The mac ‘n cheese was fried perfectly and the pronto sauce added a much needed tastiness to the blandness of the mac ‘n cheese. The fondue sauce also elevated the mac n’ cheese. The dish is a perfect comfort dish but it is a heavy dish and I found it difficult to eat more than a square.


The trio of bao down consisted of chicken, pork and langoustine bao. Overall, the bao was a bit hard and not as tender as bao should be. It also felt like it was store bought. The pork was tender and was served with a cucumber pickle that added flavour to the pulled pork. The langoustine bao with served with a mango and tomato pickle and was also delicious. The pickle cut through the meatiness. However, the chicken bao was not as exciting. I liked the idea of deep frying the chicken but some parts were too hard to eat. The onion pickle and cream cheese didn’t add much to the dish either.

For the mains, the 3 dishes I could get my hands onto were the mom’s prawns, pork belly ramen, and the Bra Hugh burger.


The mom’s prawns had decent sized, fresh prawns. But that was the best part of the dish. The sauce wasn’t tasty and and the person who ordered the dish didn’t actually finish it. And she’s someone who always orders prawns.


I love pork belly ramen so I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to try it. The ramen broth was delicious and a bit salty. But was the sunny-side up egg, the seaweed with wasabi powder, the noodles, and kale it was delicious. A delicious dish. Until you get to the pork belly. With ramen, the pork belly needs to be tender so that you can break it with your chopsticks (a side note: pork belly should always be tender). For this dish I had to use a knife and fork to cut through the pork. It was not a fun sight. Luckily, with the hot broth, some of the small pieces of  became a bit more tender. Also, I didn’t get any of crackling that was in the dish description. The pork belly skin was hard but could hardly be called crackling, it wasn’t that crunchy.


Lastly, I got by hands on the Bra Hugh Burger. I had seen reviews about the burger and some weren’t positive. This burger was tasty but nothing special. The beef patty and burger was cooked well and the chutney was tasty. The chips were a bit too soft in the middle for me but a bit crunchy on the outside. I think the chips could have cooked a bit longer.


After all that food, I made some space for dessert. And I was the only one who ordered dessert. I think we all filled up on the starters. For dessert I had the Pastel de Nata Cronut, a dish the menu says is a MUST try. The Portuguese custard tart beneath the cronut was divine but a bit too sweet and lemony for me. I loved the caramel on the custard tart – it added a slight crunch to the dish. The cronut was soft, sweet, and delicious as well. The two elements worked well together and the coconut marshmallow added some more sweetness to the dish.

From a food perspective, there were hit or miss elements on most of the dishes. It seemed like it was difficult to get all the elements to come together for some of the dishes. Therefore, the food is just above average. It’s a great place to grab a hearty meal after or before some gambling or entertainment. And it is, after all, casual dining.

In terms of service, the waiters seemed to lack some training. It took a while to order more starters or mains. And the waiter completely forgot to pour me wine as he was going around the table – and we were only a table of 9. The waiter did also look flustered. I did at one point ask him to just to one thing at a time and top up everyone with wine and then come back and take the orders. That seemed to help a little. In addition, the waiters who served us kept dropping cutlery every time they brought a meal to the table. But it was only the first week of opening, so these kinks will get sorted out with time.

Also, in terms of service, the delivery of the food was fast. We must have waited, at most, 15 minutes for our main courses.

However, the best part of the restaurant and, what makes it a good restaurant, is J’Something himself. This was my first interaction with him but from the moment he greeted me I felt like I was a friend. He was constantly walking around the restaurant greeting patrons that had just sat down and checking up on tables. Even taking time to have conversations and take photos. I didn’t see him turn down a single photo request. He’s attention to his customers was an amazing. It made experience memorable.

Lastly, some advice, get a table inside the restaurant. The ambiance is casual, and energetic. It’s like being at a Mi Casa concert. If you’re sitting outside you won’t have the same experience as those sitting inside.

Based on my experience and feedback from friends at the table,  I give J’Something 3 cupcakes.

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Review guide:

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No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

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Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

 

 

Restaurant Mosiac at the Orient

In South Africa, we’re fortunate to have fantastic fine-dinning restaurants – restaurants that are innovative and keep us enthralled. One such restaurant is the Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient, in Pretoria. From Pretoria it’s about a 30 minute drive and an hour drive from Joburg. But it’s well worth it, especially as you arrive at the gates of the Orient Hotel.

The Restaurant Mosaic is run by head chef Chantel Dartnall. And if you’re in the restaurant, eating lunch or dinner, you’re bound to bump into her.

My boyfriend and I decided it was best to stay over for the night, than to drive home on dark roads after a few glasses of wine. Better safe than sorry!

Upon entering a security guard escorts you to a parking bay. He already knows that you’re a guest of the hotel and not a day visitor.

As you walk through the massive front doors, Zele is waiting for you. And you’re immediately taken to your room, where you’re handed a refreshing drink of pomegranate .

As it was our anniversary, a bottle of Pol Roger Rose 2004 was waiting for us in the room. Bottle popped and we were well settled in to our gorgeous Udaipur themed room.

After a while we got a bit hungry and asked for a light snack. We thought we’d get sandwiches or something similar. But no, Chantel had made a delicious and beautiful salmon salad. It was light, refreshing, crunchy, sweet and has a bit of bitterness. An excellent prelude to the main event.

Salmon and cream cheese salad

When dinner finally arrived, we made our way to the restaurant and were seated at a cosy booth. It was difficult to notice the people around us, with the way the restaurant was designed. Immediately I noticed champagne glasses. I didn’t order any champagne for dinner as I knew we’d still be feeling the effects of the Pol Roger. But as we were celebrating an important event the Restaurant provided glasses to start off the evening.

With our glasses charged a bread cart followed, stocked with a variety of bread. And the waiter insisted that you try more than one.

Then Chef Chantel popped by to take you through the menu and different wine pairings and help you decide between the 5 course and 9 course meal. We went with the 9 course menu and the enthusiast wine pairing. How could you not?

Still part of a bread, we were presented with a amuse bouche. It was delicious.And an inviting start to the evening.

Dark chocolate, macaroons, and cheddar cheese

And then the “prelude” continued. First was frogs legs served on a bed of mushroom jelly. I must admit, in all my travels I never ate frogs legs before and I did not prepare myself for it. But as the true foodie I am, I was not going to let the opportunity pass me by. Frogs legs taste like chicken and in this case it was a tasty fried chicken legs. The mushroom jelly added an earthy taste. It was delicious. The frogs legs were served with a Graham Beck Brut (2012) and it paired well. Nothing felt out of place.

Once the appetizing prelude concluded, the first course was served: a foie gras mousse in a light muscadel jelly with finely sliced muscat grapes. It was served with truffle brioche. It was gorgeous. The foie gras was rich and creamy, the grapes added freshness and the brioche added an earthy flavor. It was, without a doubt, the best foie gras dish I’ve had in the country. And it was paired with my favourite South African Gewurztraminer: the Paul Cluver 2014. The pairing was perfect as the wine added a freshness to the earthy dish.

The second course was the Celebration on Spring. A well-thought out garden salad. It was fresh and light. Everything you would want from a vegetable salad and although it looked beautiful, the flavours complimented each other well. And so did the Alvi’s Drift Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc (2012), that was fruity and creamy.

I got excited and forgot to take a photo when the dish arrived.

The third course was Genesis. Genesis was rainbow trout with a miso mousse and Pomelo. This dish was also tasty and had a subtle fish flavour. The miso had flavour and spiciness. And the Pomelo really did pop. Genesis was a beautifully designed dish but the only problem was that it was paired with the Iona Chardonnay (2014). The wine was still young and clashed with the spiciness of the miso.

The fourth course was the course I’ve seen everyone love: Mousse de Mer. And understandable so. The langoustine was cooked perfectly and the tomato froth was light and fluffy and infused with rooibos. And hidden beneath was delicious risotto which added meatiness to the dish. The seashell mousse had an intense tomato flavour. The tomato salt (the sand) added more intense tomato flavoring, so it was best to have as little as possible of this. The dish also contained seaweed which added more salty flavour sauce. Overall, it was an amazingly well-thought out and prepared dish. The flavours complimented the langoustine well and is a dish that has plenty of depth. It paired well with Hartenberg Weisser Riesling (2008), which was slightly acidic and very fruity.

The fifth course was, honestly, the course that caught my attention: Millionaire Nest Egg. A quail egg with black truffle paste, on a bed of truffle infused mushrooms. It was a gorgeous, subtle dish that was earthy and the yolk pierced through adding some sunshine. The earthy dish was paired with the Lismore Viognier 2011 (another favourite) that provided an acidity and freshness to the dish was the hints of peaches and apricots.

Finally the starters were done and a palate cleanser was brought to the table: The Garden Pea. The palate cleanser consisted of a matcha and lime with a pea puree. It was a refreshing palate cleanser and fitted in well with the menu. And the peas were from the garden, adding to the ambiance of the hotel.

And with that we were halfway, although quite stuffed, and onto the main course. For mains, we had the option of 3 courses: Bouillabaisse (Kabeljou), Prints in the Paddock (Beef), and Birds of a feather (Quail).

I love quail, so there was no way that I was going to say no to the Birds of a feather. The dish consisted of King Quail that was glazed with raw honey and Balsamic vinegar. Top that off with saffron scented petite tortellini that is stuffed with slow braised Goose and Capon meat and you’ve got a mouth-watering dish. Add to this sweet onions in a red wine sauce. The dish was sweet, slight acidic, and rich. I loved every bite. The birdy (that’s now a word) was paired with the Mont Destin Pasionne (2009). With the heavy dish, the wine added creaminess and further richness.

Lee had the Prints in a Paddock for mains, which consisted of a 36 days matured Angus beef with sumac and a red ivory fruit preserve.The red ivory fruit is from the Red Ivory tree that can be found all over the Francolin Conservancy. Another element from the surrounding areas. The beef was perfectly cooked to medium rate, and the fruits added sweetness. The sumac spices added a hint of tartness to balance out the sweetness. This well-designed dish was paired with the Nederburg Petit Verdot (2001), which added richness and a spiciness to the dish.

With out stomach’s bursting, we moved onto dessert. First up was a cheese selection that was paired with Quinta de crosta port. There’s every variety of cheese available but the highlighted choices were the Epoises de Bourgogne, Belnori Phantom Forest, and Dolcelatte Gorgonzola. Most of the cheese paired well with the port, but as I’m not a fan of port of depth and flavours of the port were wasted on me.

Next for dessert was the Chocolate Cherry. This dessert had a large cherry filled with chocolate on the plate and was surrounded with cherry infused elements. Again, a fantastic mixture of sweetness, sourness and crunch. And it was delightfully light. The dessert was paired with Chateau Septy Monbazillac (2009), which with its fruity bouquet, complimented the cherry and chocolate.

Finally, we were on the Mamelon de Venus. A delicious, light and cruchy choux pastry that  was surrounded by Jasmine. It was definitely a Spring dessert: floral and light. And the bright colours of the strawberry and jasmine made it inviting. It was a scrumptious dessert and one that I would travel all the way back to the Restaurant Mosaic for.

AND after all that food there was more: Petits Fours. They were too gorgeous to ignore and we may have finished most of it.

After stuffing ourselves, we made our way up to our room. A steep affair if you’ve drunk all the wine pairings.

Come the Sunday morning and we were still stuffed, but I couldn’t miss an opportunity to see what breakfast would entail. And breakfast was superb. After being seated, a slightly warm herbal, ginger and lemongrass tea was placed in front of you. It was a delicious tea at the right temperature on the warm morning. A pastry tier was also placed on the table.

But that’s not all, a quartet of intriguing dishes were placed in front of us: tropical fruit salad, oats with vanilla and star anise, fig with goats cheese and a herb vinaigrette, and a coconut pannacotta with granadilla jelly. A flavourful start to the day.

After this, our warm breakfast of salmon with scrambles eggs and hollandaise sauce was served. Another well-executed dish.

It’s difficult to find fault with the Restaurant Mosaic or the The Orient. Every detail is thought of and as a guest, of the hotel or the restaurant, you are well taken care of.  The service is impeccable. I was a great weekend away. And when the menu changes, I’d love to be back again.

A goodbye gift from the restaurant.

I give Restaurant Mosaic 5 cupcakes. I can forgive the unfortunate pairing with the Iona.

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Review guide:

Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector Cupcake-Outline-Vector

No rating (read: why have you even bothered to open)

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Poor (read: shit)

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Average (read: meh)

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Good (read: above mediocrity)

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Very Good (read: fling your money at them. It’s worth it)

Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour Cupcake-Outline-Vector colour

Extraordinary (read: if you have to make a sacrifice to be here, do it)

My food journey

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