Friday, January 25, 2013

Merienda & Bubble Tea @ Lakwatsa

I decided to make a special trip to Portobello Road today to check out the new Filipino cafe - Lakwatsa. Upon entering, I immediately warmed up to the place, it has a clean and chic interior where swings and cargo boxes topped with cushions serve as seats and tables are low wooden ones with natural finish. Very clever touches! The neutral colours of the wood and the walls were accentuated by a burst of pinks and purples which gave the place a relaxed atmosphere. One wall has a rough brick finish which gave a rustic contrast to the modern touches.

I found a table next to the window and chose to sit on the swing. It was unusual sitting on a swing inside a cafe and being gently swayed every time I moved, but I got the hang of it after a few minutes of sitting down. I managed to command my butt to keep still and focused on what is to happen next.

A friendly waiting staff approached me and offered to introduce the menu. I asked for their warm milk bubble tea best seller which he told me was the taro flavour. I quickly added that I don't like my drink too sweet. He agreed saying, "taro bubble tea reduced sugar". The same waiter mixed my drink from behind the bar. It's great to know that the waiting staff are hands-on to their own products.

Whilst waiting for my bubble tea, I took the chance to look at their food menu, which was short, straight forward but very interesting! Their menu is a mixture of pan-Asian and mostly Filipino favourites with merienda (snack) sizes. I was feeling hungry but I reckoned that a portion of their adobo rice balls at £3.00 and a portion of pan de sal at £2 should be filling. I was going through the list and thought that the prices are very reasonable for snack portions. Looking at the menu got my appetite going and as if on cue, my bubble tea arrived! One sip of the lavender coloured warm taro bubble tea hit the spot! I absolutely loved it! It was the right amount of sweetness and the taro flavour was yummy! Can I also just say that I'm not so much of a sweet drink drinker, I drink my coffee black, with no sugar, same goes with my teas, no sugar please, but this bubble tea did it for me.

Ten minutes or so later, my merienda arrived. I sampled an adobo rice ball first which to my great delight I managed to gobble up in one go without the rice bursting all over my mouth. It was adobo indeed wrapped in a dumpling of rice! The creator of this is a genius! I proceeded to taste the home-made pan de sal. Wow, the warm temperature of the pan de sal brought me back to the days when I would be woken up to the sound of a street vendor shouting "HOT PAN DE SAL!" I chose ube spread to go with it. And my verdict of the pan de sal? It was divine!

Half-way through bites of adobo rice and pan de sal, I was convinced that I have been sold to the products of this cafe.

I'm very impressed with the overall concept and admire the entrepreneur's take on Filipino cuisine and bringing it together to create Lakwatsa.

To conclude my visit, I received my first stamp on my first loyalty card and pinned my card on their infamous loyalty card wall.

Hanggang sa uulitin! Until next time!

7 Blenheim Crescent
London W11 2

The cafe/lounge is off Portobello Road. Nearest tubes: Nottinghill Gate/ Ladbroke Grove

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Roux at The Landau (Lived up to my Expectations!)

My gourmet partner (aka Dave) and I had a fantastic dinner at Roux at The Landau recently. We went for their 3-course menu w/ a glass of champagne offer and our meal was a great start for a Friday night out. 

For starters, I had the broccoli soup with gnocci. Never a fan of gnocci but this did it for me. Followed by a main of spit-roast free-range chicken supreme w/ garlic confit, Aura potatoes and Suffolk cider sauce.  For some reason, this dinner made me choose dishes I wouldn't normally go for, but I thought if it was a Roux restaurant then this is where I should run the test of my sometimes discriminating palate. So this time I chose chicken over pork and oh wow the chicken was succulent, one bite after the other!  

My partner had the slow cooked collar of Lincolnshire with a ragout of arrocina beans and turnip tops and it was just as divine as the chicken although I thought my chicken tasted much better :-) 

Our meal was paired with Dave's choice of Cotes du Rhone which went very well with our meat choices. 

For our desserts, I had the caramelia mousse with bitter chocolate crunch and milk ice cream whilst Dave sampled four different types of cheeses from the cheese trolley.

My dessert was lip-smacking! Dave's cheeses were absolutely gorgeous. Our beautiful meal ended with our choice of coffee and petit fours. 

The staff were friendly and were very efficient as one would expect from a Roux restaurant. 

*** Roux at The Landau is at 1C Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Josephine's Filipino Restaurant, London

If you're looking for Filipino cuisine in central London, there is no better place to go but Josephine's Restaurant on Charlotte St.

With it's central location, just north of Soho, Charlotte St is a well known street in Fitzrovia, London with half of the street occupied by restaurants, cafes, bars and some night clubs.

Having this in mind, Josephine's has an interesting contrast of an unassuming facade compared to the other restaurants nearby with more modern touches. You can easily tell by Josephine's entrance and interior that the place has been here for quite some time. But knowing how long it existed and still managing to survive the times are good indications that it had withstood fluctuating economic situation which has badly affected a number of businesses in London in the recent times.

My favourite table is the one just by the window. It's the best table with good lighting during the day and cozy enough at night to enjoy your meal and a chance to indulge in people watching if you are whiling the time away.

For meat lovers, you will enjoy their lechon kawali, a Filipino version of crackling pork belly. It comes with gravy on the side and best had with rice. Though I am a little bit disappointed on their basmati rice as I would have preferred a Filipino restaurant to serve jasmine rice, the taste of the dish makes up for my rice fixation :-) And yes, the lechon kawali is easily my favourite at Josephine's!

I've also tried sinigang (traditional Filipino soup characterised by its sour taste), mixed vegetable dish, lumpia (spring rolls), and adobo among others which were all good. However, I know of some Filipinos in London who expressed disappointment with Josephine's adobo and I must admit to some extent that I too had reservations when I had it once. I seem to have not recognised the familiar taste of the traditional adobo, rather thought it tasted of braised pork in thick brown sauce. 

Adobo is the most common, if not the most famous Filipino dish of chicken or pork (or both) cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, pepper corn, bay leafs and lots of garlic. And depending on your region, adobo gets cooked in different ways. I cook mine with coconut milk which neutralises the tangy taste of soy sauce and vinegar. That said, Josephine's has their own style of cooking adobo and who am I to say how adobo should be :-)

The choice of desserts is a variety of traditional Filipino sweet treats like leche flan - Filipino version of creme caramel or caramel custard, maja blanca - a coconut flavoured pudding, and home-made ice cream. The avocado flavour home-made ice cream is my favourite! Having it was just like being back home in the sunny Philippines, eating the familiar local ice cream flavours in the streets! 

Do you have a favourite at Josephine's?


Josephine's is located at 4 Charlotte St, London.      

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Little Venice, London...

It was one of those lovely Sunday mornings when we woke up to a bright, sunny day and the summer morning was screaming for Dave and myself to get out of bed and do something in the sun.

So with the sun inspiring me to go out, I got hold of my London Walks guide book and flipped through the pages to where it says - Little Venice. A place I've heard so many good things about but I've never ever been to. So Little Venice it is.

Little Venice is specially famous to be explored during the summer or on a weekend as this is the time when the waterway - Regent's Canal is at its busiest.

We got off at the Warwick Avenue tube stop and walked towards Clifton Villas. The first order of the day was to find a good spot to sit and enjoy our cup of tea and bacon sarnies which we packed before heading out. Yes we love picnics!

Exploring Little Venice offers a gentle walk along Regent's Canal whilst admiring colourful narrowboats and white stucco-clad houses which line the canal. If you are happy to walk for a good 45 minutes to an hour, this would be a better choice than taking the tourist boats that ferry people from Little Venice to Camden. On the way keep an eye out for the hyenas at the London Zoo, people in canoes, the lovely restaurant on the bridge overlooking the canal and you may even have a quick peek of what's inside the many houseboats along the canal.

From Little Venice, we headed up to Camden where we sat by the Camden Lock and watched people go by. July 2011.

Friday, September 02, 2011

My Weekend in Zagreb

11 February 2011. As the plane was approaching Zagreb, the pilot announced that we were on the first Easyjet flight to Zagreb. And I thought, so that was why the flight was on time! Kidding aside, it was actually a blast! We were met by airport officials and mobbed by media on arrival. Cameras were clicking as passengers walked down the steps. My fellow passengers had this wide grin on their faces. We all seemed to have enjoyed the welcome! But I don't really want to talk about my flight :-) I want to say I had a great time in Zagreb! If there was one thing that made it really special, my friend Tina made all the difference, from picking me up at the airport, hosting me in her apartment, driving me around the city, tagging me along to this private party (wow that was fun!), preparing my breakfasts, cooking my dinners, taking me site seeing, to making sure I got on my flight back to London on time! The works! Tina, thank you so much for a wonderful weekend! Highlights: Mirogoj Cemetery; Stone Gate; Museum of Broken Relationships; Cathedral of Zagreb; Flea Market; Tina's mom's home-made baklavas and; Croatian wines (red:rich and bold, white: refreshing, love it!).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Split, Croatia

Spent a lovely holiday in Split from the 19th to the 24th of September 2010.

Split is a stunning city along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. A few paces from the city centre led us to Bacvice beach where we spent lots of swimming and watching locals play picigin - a game of passing a ball and keeping it in the air away from the water for as long as possible! Walked back towards the centre of the city and found ourselves inside a massive Roman palace known as Diocletian's Palace. It is so massive that inside the palace is a city on its own: shops, antiques, restaurants, hotels, and residents occupying every nook and cranny of this palace. One day, we got on our bikes and headed out to Marjan Hills where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the Dalmatian coast... headed down to the sea for more crystal clear beaches. On our last night, we dined at what is in the day a fish market converted to an open air restaurant at night where we feasted on fresh seafood grilled right in front of us!

Getting there: Easyjet (from London is a bargain)

Where to stay: Dream Split Apartments (50 Euros/night for a 2-bedroom apartment, great value for the location, cleanliness and amenities - it's fully furnished!)

Highlights: Diocletian's Palace, fresh seafood and other Croatian food! local wine (cheap and very good quality!), Marjan Hills, Dalmatian coast, jet skiing at Makarska

Season: September is a good month to visit (not too hot and the beaches are not packed with tourists!) you and your beach towel will have a good space on the shore