Chilli Cool, ££

Cuisine: Sichuan (Chinese)

Location: 15 Leigh Street, King’s Cross, London WC1H 9EW (closest station Russell Square / Euston / King’s Cross)

Price per person: £14.20 for 3 mains and 2 bowls of rice between 2 people, no drinks, does not charge service

The Bill:

Item Price (£)
Griddle cooked pig’s intestines 8.80
Fried green beans with minced pork 7.50
Gong bao chilli chicken with peanuts 8.50
Steam rice x2 3.60
Service charge (10%) 2.84
Total Bill 31.24
Price per person 15.62

Service: 7/10 – Extremely quick service, helpful and friendly staff.

Atmosphere: 6/10 –  Quite a packed restaurant, don’t expect a lot of space or time for your meal!

Food: 9/10 – Words can’t express how much I love the food here. My absolute favorite dish here is the pig intestines, SO UNHEALTHY but SO GOOD!!! The fat just melts in your mouth. The fried beans and gung bao chicken are also two other dishes that I always end up getting (actually I just get the same dishes everytime I come because that’s how good they are).

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Fried green beans with minced pork

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Gong bao chilli chicken with peanuts

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Griddle cooked pig’s intestines

Overall: I used live around this area so ate at Chilli Cool a lot. Now that I’m a bit further away, I don’t eat there as much but still make the effort to go just because it’s THAT GOOD. In fact writing about it now and looking at the photos makes me want to go again. This is definitely one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in London. Would recommend booking in advance (on the day is fine) as it can get quite busy during dinner times!

Would I recommend?: YES YES YES

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Clutch Chicken, ££

Part of my Under £20 Challenge.

Cuisine: Fried Chicken

Location: 4 Ravenscroft Street, London E2 7QG (closest station Hoxton)

Price per person: £31 for 3 mains and 2 bottomless cocktails for 2 people, service included

The Bill:

Item Price (£)
Put a Wing on it – Sour & Spicy Chilli (12 wings) 12.00
Happy Hens – Sweet Soy Garlic (2 Legs & 2 Thighs) 13.00
Twice Fried Fries 4.50
Lime Leaf Salad 3.50
Total Bill 33.00
Price per person 16.50

Service: 7/10 – Great service, extremely friendly and helpful staff.

Atmosphere: 7/10 –  Really dark inside for some reason, but there are tables outside which would be perfect on a nice day.

Food: 7/10 – Absolutely loved the sweet soy garlic thighs. The chicken was SO juicy and the sauce was amazing. The wings were okay, didn’t really like the sour and spicy sauce. This is what it says on their menu:

“All our hens are picked from a free range farm, where they are free to roam and express their natural behaviour. They are the highest grade of Rare breed poultry. All our hens are prepared at our HQ daily and go through the Clutch thrice frying method. All our coatings are made with free range eggs and we fry in only the finest grade of Groundnut oil to bring you fried chicken free from cholesterol, carcinogenic & trans fats making us…”

Their twice fried fries was super crunchy. The lime leaf salad was also perfect between bites of the chicken given how refreshing it tasted. Apparently the dressing is supposed to help you digest the chicken!

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Put a Wing on it – Sour & Spicy Chilli (12 wings)

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Happy Hens – Sweet Soy Garlic (2 Legs & 2 Thighs)

Overall: Great find! Really want to go back again to try the other sauces. If it is as healthy as it claims it is, then this place is amazing. It feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere as there isn’t anything around it except for residential buildings.

Would I recommend?: Yes – if you like fried chicken

Website: http://www.clutchchicken.com/

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Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, ££

Cuisine: Cocktail Bar / Brunch

Location: 42 Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HU (closest station Angel/Farringdon/Barbican)

Price per person: £31 for 3 mains and 2 bottomless cocktails for 2 people, service included

The Bill:

Item Price (£)
Poached Eggs on English muffin Royale – smoked salmon, blood orange hollandaise sauce 9.00
Crispy potato hash served with poached hen’s egg and smoked salmon 9.00
Dropped scones served with clotted cream, berries and honey 6.00
Bottomless Seasonal Bellini 16.00
Bottomless Bloody Mary 15.00
Service (12.5%) 6.88
Total Bill 61.88
Price per person 31.00

Service: 7/10 – Service was good, extremely friendly staff (until it got to the end of our 1.5 hour window and had to half chase us out), could’ve been quicker with the cocktail refills though!

Atmosphere: 9/10 –  The venue is beautiful, everything is super pretty. The photo above says it all. Given that there were bottomless cocktails, it was surprisingly not too loud too! The place is quite busy though so make sure you get a booking!

Food: 7/10 – The Eggs Royale was great, I prefer it to the Modern Pantry one. The rest of the dishes were quite standard. The Bellini (it was apricot when I went) was super yummy, it wasn’t too sweet (one of the problems I tend to have with Bellinis).

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Bloody Mary

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Poached Eggs on English muffin Royale – smoked salmon, blood orange hollandaise sauce

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Dropped scones served with clotted cream, berries and honey

Overall: Loved this place, other than the fact that you only get 1.5 hours for lunch, everything else was great. And it’s actually a really good price given that you get bottomless cocktails! One of the best value for money bottomless boozy brunches I’ve had.

Would I recommend?: YES

Website: http://bandhbuildings.com/

OpenTable link: http://www.opentable.co.uk/bourne-and-hollingsworth-buildings

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Bibigo, ££

Part of my Under £20 Challenge.

Cuisine: Korean 

Location: 58-59 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JY (closest station Oxford Circus) 

Price per person: £16.90 for 3 courses and 2 sides each no drinks, service included

The Bill:

Item Price (£)
Dinner Set 13.00
Kimchi 1.00
Steamed rice 1.00
Service (12.5%) 1.88
Total Bill 16.90
Price per person 16.90

Service: 7/10 – Quite good, friendly staff. Usually quite quick but couple of times where waiter/waitresses have forgotten drinks orders. Nothing to majorly annoying though.

Atmosphere: 8/10 –  Amazing for the price! Modern design, quite quiet (I’m surprised it’s not as crowded as it should be given the great food and amazing price!) and spacious. There’s also a bar to sip on some cocktails before dinner!

Food: 8/10 – Can’t lie that the high rating is slightly swayed by the price! My favorite dish here is the Hot Stone Galbi (char-grilled thinly sliced beef ribs on the bone marinated in our barbecue sauce) which I LOVE, but it isn’t part of the dinner menu and it’s £12. The food on the dinner set is not as amazing but still good – I always go for the seafood pancake and flat bulgogi. There’s something about their marinade used in the beef that just makes it so delicious!


Korean Chopped Salad – Freshly chopped salad with crispy spring roll paper in oriental dressing


Pajeon (Seafood Pancake) – Crispy pancake with a mix of seafood


Flat Bulgogi – Char-grilled marinated beef topped with rocket and mushroom salad

Overall: Love this place. I’ve been so many times just because of how affordable it is plus good food. And such a good location too! Just off Oxford street! OH and it’s also bookable on OpenTable, and you can usually make bookings the night before or on the day. It’s a good place to have a nice long meal, quiet enough to catch up, good atmosphere etc. This place definitely deserves more attention!

Would I recommend?: YES – great value for money 

Website: http://bibigouk.com/index

OpenTable link: http://www.opentable.co.uk/bibigo-soho-bar-and-dining

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Nagoya, ££

Part of my Under £20 Challenge.

Cuisine: Japanese

Location: 110 George Street, Westminster, London W1U 8NX (closest station Marble Arch/Bond Street/Baker Street)

Price per person: £18.93 (3 starters, 2 mains between 2 people, no drinks, service included)

The Bill:

Item Price (£)
Chicken Gyoza 5.50
Surf Clam Nigri x 2 4.00
Eel Hand Roll 3.50
Chirashi (sashimi on rice) – served with miso soup 12.00
Karaage (deep fried chicken) Udon 8.50
Service (13%) 4.36
Total Bill 37.85
Price per person 18.93

Service: 6/10 – Okay service, waiter made us feel slightly awkward and didn’t seem to know his stuff but don’t have any major complaints.

Atmosphere: 6/10 – Found the place a bit dusty. Authentic decor.

Food: 6/10 – The sashimi at this place is REALLY GOOD. But everything else was just average. The meat in the Chicken Gyoza wasn’t juicy and was also too minced so there was no texture. The chicken in the Karaage Udon was way too tough. The Eel Hand Roll was so plain as there was no garnishing (maybe this is more authentic?).

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Eel Hand Roll

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Surf Clam Nigri

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Chicken Gyoza

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Chirashi

 

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Miso Soup

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Karaage Udon

 

Overall: In general, everything was OKAY. The sashimi is pretty fresh but everything else is just alright. I reckon if I only had sushi, I would rate the food a lot better. I think the dustiness also made the experience a bit depressing.

Would I recommend?: Wouldn’t put this on the top of your go-to list, but if you do end up going, go for the sushi.

Website: http://www.nagoya-london.com/

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Comptoir Gascon, ££

Part of my Under £20 Challenge.

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Background: Little brother of michelin star Club Gascon.

Cuisine: French

Location: 63 Charterhouse Street, Farringdon, London EC1M 6HJ (closest station Farringdon)

Price per person: £18.60 (2 mains and 1 side between 2 people, no drinks, service included)

The Bill

Item Price (£)
Duck burger deluxe x2 29.50
French fries cooked in duck fat & crazy salt 3.50
Service (12.5%) 4.13
Total Bill 37.20
Price per person 18.60

Service: 7/10 – Good service. Food was served quickly.

Atmosphere: 7/10 – Nice decor. We were the only ones at the restaurant (Saturday noon) so there wasn’t much of an atmosphere.

Food: 7/10

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French fries cooked in duck fat & crazy salt – Was a bit soggy, but that’s how I like my fries! I love duck fat fries so definitely loved this.

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Duck burger deluxe – I was amazed the first time I had this burger (around 1 year ago) so I think my high expectations got me slightly disappointed this time. It was still good but not as incredible compared to the first time I had it. This Duck burger deluxe is basically a burger with duck patty and foie gras. The meat in the patty wasn’t completely minced, it was still a bit stringy (the texture of duck), which was good. The foie gras was delicious too. If you’re not a fan of foie gras, the Duck burger classic is £5.25 cheaper.

Overall: This restaurant is easily bookable which is strange because I reckon it deserves to be those super popular places that are always booked out! Good price for what you’re getting and if you go for dinner, it should be quite a nice atmosphere. If you book through OpenTable, you also get 1,000 points for certain times!

Would I recommend?: Yep

Website: http://www.comptoirgascon.com/about.php

OpenTable Website: http://www.opentable.co.uk/comptoir-gascon

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Busaba Eathai, ££

Part of my Under £20 Challenge.

Background: Opened by Alan Yau, also known for being the man behind Wagamama, Yuatcha and Hakkasan.

Cuisine: Thai

Location: 35 Panton Street, London SW1Y 4AE (closest station Picadilly Circus) – There are plenty of other locations, click here to see them.

Price per person: £13 (2 mains and 1 starter between 2 people, no drinks, service included)

The Bill:

Item Price (£)
Chicken satay with peanut sauce 5.50
Green curry fried rice with char-grilled chicken (s) 9.90
Pad Thai – rice noodle, king prawn, dried shrimp, tofu, egg, peanut, beansprout, lime 8.50
Service (10%) 2.39
Total Bill 26.29
Price per person 13.20

Service: 7/10 – Good service.

Atmosphere: 7/10 – You share a big square table with strangers. So if you’re thinking of going somewhere for a nice private catch up, this is not the place.

Food: 8/10

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Chicken satay with peanut sauce – Chicken was tender, sauce was delicious. Would definitely recommend.

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Green curry fried rice with char-grilled chicken – I have two MUST ORDER dishes when I come to Busaba Eathai. This green curry friend rice, and the pad thai (below). The chicken is cooked perfectly and you really get the flavor of charcoal. I also love how the rice is already immersed in green curry sauce so I don’t feel like I have to save some of the sauce for the rice (if instead it was plain).

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Pad Thai, rice noodle, king prawn, dried shrimp, tofu, egg, peanut, beansprout, lime – Another MUST ORDER. I don’t know what they put into this dish but it’s SO GOOD. Add some Sriracha to spice it up.

Overall: My favorite Thai place in London, although not the most authentic. You can’t make bookings so be prepared to queue if you go at busy hours.

Would I recommend?: YES YES YES. Seriously love this place.

Website: http://www.busaba.com/

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Cocoro, ££

Part of my Under £20 Challenge.

Cuisine: Japanese

Location: 25 Coptic Street, London WC1A 1NT (closest station Tottenham Court Road) OR 31 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2NH (closest station Bond Street).

Price per person: £19 (2 starters and 2 mains between 2 people, no drinks, service included)

Service: 7/10 – Great service. I heard the waiter translate the ENTIRE tapas menu (which was in English and Japanese) to Chinese to the table next to us. Definitely friendly and helpful staff.

Atmosphere: 7/10 – Cosy.

Food: 8/10

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Takoyaki – Grilled Octopus dumplings (£6) – Super delicious. Would definitely recommend.

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Chicken Gyoza (£6.80) – Great but a bit too oily for me.

IMG_3053Tonkotsu ramen (£10.80) – So my all time favorite tonkotsu ramen in London is Shoryu (click here for my review). Compared to Shoryu:

Noodles: Cocoro > Shoryu (the noodles were less soft at Cocoro, which I like)
Soup base: Cocoro = Shoryu (soup in Cocoro is saltier but they’re equally flavorsome)
Pork: Cocoro < Shoryu (the pork was too dry at Cocoro)

The egg here was tea flavored which I loved too. So overall, DELICIOUS.

Overall: My current ramen ranking:

  1. Shoryu
  2. Bone Daddies / Cocoro
  3. Ippudo
  4. Tonkotsu (do not recommend)

This above ranking is based solely on the tonkotsu ramen. In terms of overall, I actually prefer Cocoro to Shoryu because it had more traditional Japanese snacks rather than fusion-type snacks. It felt more authentic too. Another plus for Cocoro is – BOOKINGS ARE AVAILABLE (unlike Shoryu and Bone Daddies). I didn’t book on a Saturday night and got seated within 10 minutes. So if you don’t want to queue AND want to have good ramen, this is the perfect place.

Would I recommend: Definitely!

Website: http://cocororestaurant.co.uk/en

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Cafe East, ££

So after my many trips recently, I’ve decided I REALLY need to stop spending so much money, especially on food. There’s no way I’m going to stop eating out so I had an idea:

Under £20 Challenge

I’m in search for 20 meals that are under £20 including service and drinks. And these are going to be PROPER sit down meals (not just grabbing a take out bagel/burger). So if you, like me, are a bit broke after all the Christmas spending, follow me to find cheap great meals in London!

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Location: Surrey Quays Leisure Park, 100 Redriff Road, London SE16 7LH (closest tube station Canada Water, closest overground station Surrey Quays)

Price per person: £16 (2 drinks, 1 starter, 2 mains between two people, no service is charged)

Service: 7/10 – This isn’t the type of place you come for the service but I have nothing to complain. Dishes came quickly, waiters/waitresses were helpful.

Atmosphere: 7/10 – Loud, lively, authentic. I would come here in my sweat pants, hoody and UGGS!

Food: 9/10 – Love love love love love the food here. Best Vietnamese food in London in my opinion. I come here quite a lot and try to order different things each time. I’ve yet to find a dish I don’t like. My favorites are the ones listed below.

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BAHN CUON – Famous Vietnamese steamed pudding pastry, topped with meatloaf and filled with mince pork and Chinese mushrooms. Served with Cafe East fish sauce (£6.80)

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PHO CHIN – Well done marbled beef with flat rice noodles in a delicate soup. Spicy option also available. (£8)

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BO KHO – Rich beef casserole, slow-cooked in it’s own dripping, served with baguette, boiled rice or moist flat noodles. (£8.50)

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COCONUT JUICE – Refreshing and cooling coconut juice with tender slices of coconut flesh. (£3.50)

Overall: Given that this place is only a 12 minute walk from where I live, it is on my list of favorite restaurants in London. It serves amazing and authentic Vietnamese food – best in London. Service is quick and there USUALLY isn’t a queue (except for weekend lunch). My only complaint is that they don’t serve tap water.

Would I recommend?: YES definitely

Website: http://www.cafeeastpho.co.uk/

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Kantjil & de Tijger, €€ – Amsterdam

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Cuisine: Indonesian

Price per person: €19 (1 starter and 1 main per person, no drinks, service included)

Location: Spuistraat 291/293, 1012 VS Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Service: 7/10 – Staff were friendly. Seated quickly. Food was served at a good speed.

Atmosphere: 7/10 – It was alright, nothing too special about the atmosphere.

Food: 3/10

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RENDANG BITTERBALLS – Indonesian version of the famous Dutch ‘Bitterballen’, made of beef in mild spicy coconut sauce (€7.00) – Tasted really strange, the filling just didn’t go well with the outer layer.

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LAMB – Three skewers lamb satay with soy dressing (9.50) – This was really delicious. The meat was cooked perfectly, so juicy and tender.

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MANGKOK – Bami Goreng, fried noodles / Paksoy Tahoe, stir fried bok choy and tofu / Saté Pan, stir fried chicken with peanut dressing Rendang (10.50) – This is the dish that dragged the food rating all the way down to a 3/10.  The description was “Choose one base dish, one vegetarian dish and one meat dish”. I picked the ones listed above and expected the dishes to come SEPARATELY – but instead, it was all put in the same bowl. Don’t want to be harsh but I have to say that they didn’t taste good separately and definitely worse when put together!

Overall: I went to Bali last summer and had lots of authentic delicious Indonesian. When I read Time Out’s Top 20 things to do in Amsterdam and saw that this restaurant was number 13, I was so excited. However, I was really really REALLY disappointed.

Would I recommend: Not if you want proper Indonesian food.

Website: http://www.kantjil.nl/en/