Polo Bar

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polobar

We have been here for a coffee before (see our London cafe section) and was pleasantly surprised by this small 24/7 cafe that caters for police, taxi drivers and those after grub after a long night partying. This place is being renovated and there are currently three floors (a basement, ground and first floor) with a second floor being opened any time now. This shows the popularity of this place. Despite all appearances – tightly squeezed in on the main street opposite Liverpool Street and serving all types of people at all different hours – this place has been going for over 50 years and prides itself on good English cafe food. At the front of the cafe is the small counter area with a host of delicious cakes, breads and biscuits.

Walking through the entrance the place is very narrow but they have made the best use of space and this place feels trendy and brand spanking new- not showing its true years. On the walls written in chalk are some breakfast options such as champagne breakfast, full English or just a healthy low carb option.

We arrived at breakfast time so it was quite busy but we managed to get a table upstairs. Again this room is very small but works well – feeling cosy rather than stuffy. We ordered a mint and English breakfast tea followed by a poached egg on toast and poached egg on a bed of spinach. I was on a strict one week ‘clean’ diet at the time so I did have some strange requirements but when the food came out these were met which was a refreshing change I must say!

The poached eggs were cooked to perfection, literally running into a golden river once touched with a knife. The eggs were of quality and the size and rich goldenness of the yolk really showed this. The spinach was well seasoned and still retained a bit of bite. The toast served was granary bread with a good helping of salted country butter. Our dishes were cleared away swiftly and we finished the last dregs of our tea before heading off for the working day.

Whether for a work breakfast meeting or a lazy weekend breakfast we would strongly recomedm this place if in the vicinity. It is simple but the quality stands out in everything it does.

Food                            Service                           Atmosphere

5 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Chicken Shop

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chicken shop

I am a protein lover, so the name of this restaurant was a clear win. The Chicken Shop is a Hoxton trendy restaurant based under the railway/tube in Whitechapel.

Don’t pick up the phone to book now based on my simple description as it has a no booking policy.  It does look a little grubby based in this tunnel but it really does work. We were served drinks while we waited outside – I would say not to visit on a rainy day as you literally do have to wait outside – the drinks took quite a long time to come out. Service is a little young (focused more on trendiness rather than the experienced so please be prepared for a slower, forgetful and overly friendly *shudder* service.

We managed to get a seat after 15-20 minutes of waiting and were seated on simple wooden benches. The restaurant is small but it allows you to get a glimpse of the open fire kitchen. The menu is simple – rotisserie chicken with simple sides or a few different hot dogs. We ordered a whole chicken to share with sweet corn, fries and avocado and butter lettuce salad.

They have their own branded sauce and spices which are actually quiet good I have to admit.

Food came out fairly quickly and we were served in sharing bowels. The chicken was cut up into pieces which were served on the bone. I really hate meat served on the bone; I know it’s more juicier etc but I do, sorry, despite my personal preferences it really was well cooked and seasoned. The salad was simple with blobs of avocado in it and the sweet corn cut into pieces making it easy to share.

I liked the simplicity and the obvious effort to try and make it a relaxed and sharing environment.

This place is a winner if you want a hipster Nando’s that tastes so much better and is a little more sophisticated but the service is a little slow and on the verge of trying too hard.

I would suggest giving it a try if you are in the area or a protein freak like me.

Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives The Chicken Shop:

Food                              Service                            Atmosphere

4 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

chcienshop2

Jackson and Rye

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We stumbled across this place looking for a place for brunch. Located in Wardour Street this place could be susceptible to becoming a tourist trap but currently only Londoners seem to have found this – may be because it looks so unassuming from the outside. This place is fairly new so allows for ‘walk ins’ as well as few group bookings. Jackson and Rye aims at American cuisine.

Although we were warned of the queues we were seated right down in the corner of the front room immediately. There is a small front cafe/restaurant area and then a much larger space at the back which is separated by a small bar serving American beer, wines and cocktails. There is also a downstairs restaurant which gets busy at weekends.

The tables are small with limited leg room; making more tables available. Their weekend menu is an all day menu, separated by pastries & pancakes, eggs, mains, grills and sandwiches. We ordered a breakfast sour cocktail and the ham, egg and spinach as well as the salmon and cream cheese bagel.

We waited a good while for our food to arrive and it eventually did. The waitress was  smiling but did not ask us if we needed anything else so we were left a little stranded as we wanted some sauces and water. The baked egg was delicious; with a nicely baked top with the yolks still soft in the middle and the spinach offsetting the rich mixture. My cousin’s bagel was rich with a cream cheese and fleshy salmon. We finished the lot and were satisfied.

Now I know there are often mistakes when starting a new restaurant for the first time but the clumsy service really did not bode well. The food was good and hearty. We really liked it as a change and it was well priced.

I do have to say I went back two weeks later with my mother and the service again was terrible. The food fantastic but there were three waitresses waiting on four tables – we were downstairs this time – and we were asked for our food orders three times and given the wrong dishes once. Again there were only four tables seated in this area. How hard can it be? Still I do want to say the staff were happy and friendly; just needed less of them and more training. With training will come confidence.

As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

Food                             Service                          Atmosphere

2 Stars4 Stars3 Stars

jacksonegg

Best All You Can Eats (and Drinks)

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Flesh & Buns
Flesh and Buns unlimited brunch provides you with a cocktail on arrival and a selection of delicious hot and cold plates, including sashimi, tempura and soft shell crab, all rounded off with a main course of hirata buns with your choice of filling. There is also unlimited fizz.
Flesh & Buns. Unlimited Sunday Brunch is available noon to 5pm. Two menus at £29 or £36 per person, both include Unlimited Prosecco, red or white wine. 2 hour time limit on all bookings.

Aqua Kyoto
Infinity Sundays include free flowing Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, an endless supply of Japanese appetisers (sushi, yakitori, noodles) accompanied with  views across the London. After filling up on the bubbles and snacks, there’s a charcoal-grilled main and, of course, desserts.
Aqua Kyoto. Infinity Sundays is £55, 12-7pm, 2 hour time limit on champagne.

Roka at Canary Wharf
 Brunch comprises a welcome bellini, wines throughout, sushi platters, sharing desserts and a self-serve counter, proper buffet style, before consuming a chosen main, such as buttery black cod, rib eye or lobster, if you’re feeling flush.
Roka at Canary Wharf. Brunch menus vary, priced at £42, £54 or £66, depending on mains and drink selection. Available Saturday and Sundays from 11.30am-4pm

Avenue
Avenue conducts a treat for the weekend with free-flowing fizz. Food is US style and there is also the option of a  ‘Build your own sundae’.
Avenue. Saturday brunch menu, £20/£25, unlimited Prosecco or Bloody Mary additional £10. Build your own sundae, £5.50.

Penkul & Banks
 Penkul & Banks is a refreshing addition to the foodie landscape. They offer tapas, with a European and Asian edge with unlimited prosecco or Bloody Mary’s.
Penkul & Banks. Weekend brunch offer is two brunch plates, plus unlimited Prosecco or Bloody Mary for £20 per person.

1 Lombard Street‏

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lombard

For a very special birthday celebration we decided to treat ourselves. 1 Lombard Street is based in the city – as the name infers and was previously a bank still with great original features and architecture inside and out.

Lombard Street is a huge restaurant that has a grand circular bar right in the centre of the restaurant. The stone walls have large imposing works of art that lightens and creates colour in the whole room which would be fairly bland without. The roof made out of a huge glass dome which brings even more light to the restaurant. We were seated near the entrance next to a huge bread cutting machine and could really appreciate the simplicity yet sophistication of the restaurant.

Water was served on the table and was consistently being topped up. We were served fresh bread with salted butter on a slate plate. We opted for the octopus salad, onion & gruyère cheese tart as well as the Lentil soup of the day. I choose the octopus salad and definitely choose well – this was served with colourful petals and looked absolutely beautiful! It was soft, delicious and perfectly cooked. The cheese tart was light, fluffy and creamy with a delicious crispy base. The soup was creamy and thick with a delicious spiciness. We loved all of this.

For our main course we ordered the steak tartare, scallops & prawns with a mango and chicory and the pear and manchego salad.

The steak tartare was served on the plate with grilled bread. It was spicy and had a little texture from the mince and peppercorn. The scallops were left with their coral on and all were well cooked – just seared and still opaque. However I felt there was too much mango which over powered the dish making it a little too sweet and sticky despite having the peppery chicory there which admittedly did help the dish. This I have to say was perfectly presented with the scallops and prawns lying over chicory. The the pear salad was served raw and was light and looked pleasing on the plate again.

The manager came over to check that we had enjoyed our main course as the dishes were swiftly swept away.

Food                             Service                          Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

lombard salad

Barcelona Tapas

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barcelona tapas

We met here for a working lunch one day and what a mistake this was. I mean whoever chose this place for our meeting really should have been put off immediately just by its name. I mean Barcelona Tapas, really? It might just as well been titled ‘Really Authentic Tapas…Honest’. This is a chain so it must be frequented by the public enough to make the place successful but trust me, I won’t ever cross the door again.

We met at the Barcelona Tapas in Aldgate East, situated behind the tube and bus station. The restaurant looks on to a rather run down and dubious street. The outside of the restaurant has a Gaudi inspired mosaic. The decor inside is colourful and aims to look fun – to me it just looked tacky.

We ordered a range of tapas including, potatas bravas, sliced meat, garlic prawns, chorizo in wine and tempura vegetables – basically the typical tapas dishes you see on the most uninspiring Spanish restaurants usually run by Brits. The prawns and meat were over cooked, the tempura had obviously not been cooked fresh as it had the texture of cardboard and the chorizo lacked any spice. As there was a few of us were ordered quite a few dishes that names escape me now but I just know they were unsatisfying, greasy and lacked quality and taste.

At lunch time this place was fairly empty but clearly had its regulars. The waitress (there was only one waitress due to the lack of diners) was friendly and talked us through the dishes with confidence. Unfortunaly this could not cover up the huge cracks in the uninspiring menu and food quality.

As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

Food                              Service                       Atmosphere

 Star3 Stars Star

tapas

Polpo

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polpo

Feeling slightly left out we decided to try out Polpo because of all the recent hype surrounded this restaurant. Instead of the more popular Covent Garden or Soho branches we took the short walk from work to the Farringdon establishment.

Polpo is a Venetian restaurant which is quite specific and is also well known for its meatballs. Upon arrival there was a queue outside – you cannot book in advance – but the other diners that were waiting were in groups so were seated immediately.

The restaurant is small and quite rustically Italian in design, but we have to say after all of the hype we were a little under whelmed by the decor.

We were seated and our drinks orders were taken by a vacant waitress who seemed keen to move on to the next table and left us worrying if she would actually remember to process our order.

The sharing menu looked good and since we wanted to see what the different dishes they had to offer, we opted for the tapas style dishes.

We ordered a cicheti plate for starter. This consisted of aranchi (a fried rice ball), a smoked salmon, beetroot and horseradish, anchovy and liver crostini. I obviously had to ask what aranchi was as I had no clue – call me ignorant but it would be nice to have seen descriptions on the menu. Anyway, the salmon and beetroot were fabulous, fresh salmon was rolled with the beetroot and horseradish paste in between. The pate was a little strong for my taste buds and the aranchi were nice.  A good start I’d say!

For main course we ordered Prosciutto, mozzarella & basil bruschetta, Mussels, clams & monk’s beard, lamb and mint meat balls, Fennel, almond & endive and octopus with borlotti beans. Phew that does sound a heck of a lot of food.

The mozzarella and brushetta were delicious however the mussels were tasteless, over cooked and had no real substance to make this dish filling (thank god we ordered plenty).

The fennel worked well with the nutty almonds and the sweet chicory. The meat balls were good; huge like cricket balls, juicy but was very forgettable which was a bit of a let down since this was their specialty dish.

We liked Polpo but think it is very over hyped and we would not go out of our way to visit again.

Maybe the Covent Garden and Soho establishments do have that wow factor but this one certainly doesn’t!

                  Food                          Service                       Atmosphere
3 Stars3 Stars2 Stars

 

meatballs

Albion Café

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albion

We went to the Boundary Hotel for lunch at the Albion Café, which is a British café / casual restaurant in the hotel. It is very retro in style with old fashioned bottles, tins and confectionery. As you walk in, there is a little deli with freshly made bread, cakes, jams, pickles as well as organic grocers from small businesses. There is always a queue especially at the weekend (when I came here a few years ago it was like a hidden gem – now it is well know with the trendy foreign visitors as well as the hip Hoxton set.

The wait was supposed to be 40 minutes but we were nicely surprised when the maître d’hotel found as a table after only a 15 – 20 minutes wait.

We ordered a bottle of French white wine along with a crab omelette, vegetable tart and the house omelette, which is served with a salad and a glass of wine. The service is very relaxed and at some times a little too slow but the waiters we had were French and very professional and thorough. The wine was sweet and strong; just how I like it and served in casual water glasses. Cutlery and napkins are served in reused golden syrup tins. We liked this idea a lot.

When the food came out we all agreed the dishes looked delicious. The omelette was plain but incredibly fluffy and tasty with the delicate side salad. The vegetable tart was full of Mediterranean vegetables and a golden top. My crab omelette again was fluffy but the crab meat gave a nice bite to this.

This place was much better before, without the hype and crowds, but it is a fabulously British café that is full of personality. Food is simple yet 100% tasty and full of flavour and thought. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

            Food                             Service                          Atmosphere

4 Stars3 Stars4 Stars

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Bones

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We were searching for a casual restaurant that was fairly new as we wanted to impress a friend – and we came across Bones in Hoxton. Bones aims to be a restaurant that focuses on good food, simply presented. We walked into the restaurant which is on one floor with small steps near the kitchen which creates another smaller dining area. We were seated in a small booth which was so small,; it was hard to get in and out – our knees were knocking together. The kitchen is at the far end of the restaurant on the higher level so you can see the chefs cooking – they have a great rotisserie area). The restaurant is simply decorated with bare bricks.

We ordered water while we looked at the wine list but this took a long time to come. When it arrived the waitress was about to rush off but we managed to get her to take our starter order of; pigeon salad, buratta salad and beetroot and vodka salmon. This took a while to come out, which was not a bad thing as we were still struggling to get someone to take our wine order. Waiters seemed not to be focused on certain tables and therefore the service was confused and messy (we had been offered other tables dishes twice).

When the food came out we were satisfied, my pigeon was served with hazelnut and vegetable crisps. This was rich, warming and delicious. The hazelnut cut through the richness of the meat and the vegetable crisps were light yet satisfying. The burrata was served simply with bail and chilli which worked as the cheese is so delicate it should speak for itself. The salmon was pickled in vodka and beetroot which gives it a bitter taste that worked well with the oily fish. We really enjoyed. Again it took a while to have our plates cleared but once done, our mains were served immediately.

We ordered the skate wing which was served with olive and hazelnuts, the steak with the garlic butter and the peasant stew which was served with beans and chicken. The skate was well cooked and the olive tappernade gave it some depth. The steak was thin and slightly over cooked but was juicy and well seasoned. The stew was the winner here; hearty, rich and dull of flavour delicious.

We finished on peach, apple and salted caramel sorbets and a raspberry and blackberry cheesecake. They had a great selection of ice cream and sorbets which was refreshing – excuse the pun. We are not sure if these were homemade but we hope so as it did not have the over sweet flavour normally accustomed with shop bought sorbet. The cheese cake was similar to a New York cheese cake which was heavy and creamy – very tasty.

We polished these off and headed home. The restaurant – by the time we left was – buzzing with young trendy types. We do think the food really did live up to its name but the service was really lacking and I have to take off points for the terribly tight booth area. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

                Food                       Service                      Atmosphere

4 Stars2 Stars3 Stars

bones-interior

Mama Pho

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surreyquays

Mama Pho is a small little Vietnamese restaurant based in Surrey Quays/Canada Water, which serves a good range of authentic Vietnamese food. This place is small with plan yellow walls and old fashioned wooden tables with benches. This place serves as both a takeaway and a restaurant but to get the most of the menu I would suggest eating in, as the take out dishes come slightly deconstructed.

 Although this place lacks atmosphere, the service is pleasant and efficient and the food is really satisfying – just what we want at the end of the day! We were seated after a ten minutes wait (this place gets quite busy), and we ordered the Vietnamese rolls and spring rolls for starter. The Vietnamese rolls are freshly made with thick juicy pieces of pork, chicken and prawns and lots of oriental vegetables bursting out. The spring rolls were piping hot, crispy and slightly spicy. Delicious.

 For main course we ordered the chicken curry which comes in a rich spicy tomato sauce served with potatoes and carrots. Its rich and very satisfying. We also ordered the pork bun cha gio nit thuong (vermicelli noodles with grilled lemongrass pork, spring rolls, salad and all) which was great value at £6. The dish was light, spicy and well cooked.

 Despite the simplicity of the décor and casual atmosphere, the value and quality of the food make this a great little place to come if in South East London when after quick, cheap, fresh and authentic food. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

             Food                           Service                      Atmosphere

3 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

MamaPhoinCanadaWater1

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