Cha Cha Moon – Soho, London

For our catch up date, Liz and I decided on Alan Yau’s Cha Cha Moons (he is also the man behind Wagamama’s, Busaba Eathai, Hakkasan and Yauatcha). Being a fan of all his other successes, I was very excited to try his regional Chinese street food style restaurant.

After a post work cocktail at a bar nearby, we walked in and were seated straight away on one of their many rows and rows of long, Wagamama-like tables and benches. After ordering a Tiger beer, we looked through the menu, which is a mixture of the hawker stalls and street stalls from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong – the menu basically made me feel like I was back in South East Asia.

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There were so many things I wanted to try, so Liz and I decided on sharing a bunch of things. The service was very quick and before we knew it we got our edamame beans, which were sprinkled with sea salt – you can’t really go wrong with them.

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And pan fried chicken dumplings called Guotie (£5.00), which are like a thicker version of a gyoza. This was Liz’s favourite thing that we ordered. It was slightly crisp at the bottom and the meat had a lovely flavour on the inside and it all went very well with the garlic chili sauce on the side.

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The Chinese basil calamari (£5.95) came next. It did have a hint of basil and was very crispy and fresh tasting – and very reminiscent of the calamari that I adore at Busaba.

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Singapore Char Kway Teow (£7.70) was my favourite. It was absolutely delicious and so authentic that it made me feel like I was sitting in a Hawker Store (street restaurant) in Singapore.

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Liz and I absolutely adore a good Chinese vegetable dish – so we went for the Pak Choi (£5.80), also very good with still a little bit of crunch, just the way it should be.

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We took our time finishing our food and drinking our beers, as we were yabbering away, as you do when two females have a catch up, and not once were not rushed at all by the waiters. Very well priced, good food, good vibe – Fabulous catch up as usual Liz 😉

http://www.chachamoon.com/

Hoxton Grill – At The Hoxton Hotel – Shoreditch, London

After a late night at work we decided to grab some dinner, so off we went to the Hoxton Hotel to fill our hungry bellies.

You walk through the hotel bar (known for their amazing cocktails) and into the restaurant at the back, which has an elegant diner-type feel to it. There is a large outdoor seating area as well, which is great for summer evenings.

As we sat in the booth after ordering our food and drinks, they came over with a basket of fresh bread and some butter for us to dig into while we waited. The bread was still hot from the oven and it was crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

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I decided on an 8oz sirloin steak (£17) with a side salad (you have the choice of a salad or fries) and a bernaise sauce (you have the choice of a number of sauces) – which I ordered medium rare.

The steak was cooked the way I like it and the sauce was lovely – very creamy and buttery.

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We decided to share a potato salad and grilled mushrooms (sides are all at £3.50 each), which were both every nice. The mushrooms had a great barbeque type flavour to them and were very juicy. The potato salad was made with a whole grain mustard, mayonnaise, and spring onions and made for a tasty combination.

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It is well priced for a good steak and no frills or fanciness. I definitely recommend if you are up for a nice burger or a steak and you are having a late night in the city.

http://www.hoxtonhotels.com/hoxton-grill/

Jom Makan – Westfields Stratford, London

One Saturday morning, Astrid and I decided on a girly day out shopping in Westfields, Stratford. As we live on the same street (amazing!), Astrid and I made our way there together on the train from Liverpool Street Station.

Mid-shopping/cat-walking/trying on clothes/contemplating buying things we never even knew we needed; we decided to give our little feet a break and get away from all the people.

The “Loft” is a good place to do this in Stratford’s Westfields manic weekend hustle and bustle. There are a handful of restaurants up there and its fairly quiet.

We stumbled upon Jom Makan, a Malaysian restaurant, and decided that we missed Asian food, so we went in and grabbed a seat. It was quite quiet so it was a good place for us to have a good old catch up away from the noisiness downstairs.

The food took quite a while to come, but we chatted away and had the whole day to ourselves, so we weren’t in a rush.

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We decided to share a roti canai (which is a type of bread, made in a pancake form) with a beef curry. The roti was nice and the curry had some great flavours, but was a little bit too oily for my liking, so I wouldn’t recommend this. In fact I felt a little bit sick after trying a bit of it and couldn’t really eat the rest.

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We also shared a chicken and prawn laksa (which is a spicy, coconut milk soup), which was absolutely delicious and we ended up dipping the roti canai into the soup (and eventually wiping the bowl clean).

Astrid had a cold fruit drink and I had a diet coke and the total bill came to about £25.

A much needed, fabulously girly day out!

Jose – Sherry & Tapas bar on Bermondsey Street, London

One of my childhood best friend’s, Rebecca, and I had a catch up / congratulatory lunch (she just got a new job!) one sunny Saturday afternoon at Jose Pizarro’s Sherry and Tapas Bar, Jose, on Bermondsey Street. Rebecca’s gorgeous housemate Jack is one of the managers there and we decided to go on a day that he was there too.

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The staff at Jose are like one big family, which makes the place very special and gives it a happy, cozy, community-like feel to it – “where everybody knows your name” (Cheers, TV Series 1982–1993).

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The menu is up on the chalk boards and Jack ran through it all with us. The staff are passionate about their food, wine and sherry, which I could definitely tell as soon as soon as Jack started speaking about the food on the menu and the freshness of their produce.

Rebecca and I decided on a glass of Petit Sios, Chardonnay/Sauvingnon Blanc/ Muscat, Coster Del Segre (£6.50 per glass). Jack recommended this after I explained what kind of wine I like – he obviously knows his wine as well as his food! It was lovely and went very well with our dishes.

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The padron peppers (£4), like everything else, was fresh in that day. They were cooked perfectly – simply grilled with sea salt sprinkled over it so I could really appreciate the natural taste of it.

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Some pan con tomate (£3.50), which were fresh tomatoes served on some ciabatta bread with sea salt sprinkled over. They were very refreshing and fresh tasting.

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And of course what is tapas without some acorn fed iberica ham, freshly, thinly sliced (£9), which went very well with the pan con tomate.

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Rebecca’s favourite is the pluma iberica (£9.50), which is a rare steak with only olive oil and sea salt sprinkled over it so you can really taste the quality of the meat and is delicious.

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The seabream and black olive tapenade (£7.50) was delicious. I wouldn’t have thought of this combination but it all went very well. The seabream was cooked to perfection, the fish melted in my mouth and the skin was crisp! The tapenade gave a great smokey flavour and it was topped with roasted red peppers – Great combination!

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Jack highly recommended the tomato salad (£6) because of the variety and quality of the fresh tomatoes that they had in that day. It was surprisingly really good for a salad just consisting of different types of tomatoes. The dressing was made up of a honey mustard and really complimented them.

We finished off our meal with a glass of sherry. I am not a sherry person, so Jack introduced me to the world of sherry, explaining the different types.

I explained that I dislike sweet drinks and I prefer something more dry so he recommended a Fino Clasico, Fernando de Castilla (£4 per glass), which took a couple sips to get into it, but it was quite a nice ending to my meal.

Rebecca is more of a sweet tooth so she went for a Oloroso East India Solera Lustau (£6 per glass), which to me was a little too syrupy, but I can see why it would be a good finishing touch to a meal.

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Overall it was a lovely afternoon. The food was all about the freshness of the produce and the natural flavours – Which I personally love!

Thank you, Jack, for a delicious experience!

http://www.josepizarro.com/restaurants/jose/

Hakkasan – Mayfair

I must say, hands down, Hakkasan make THE BEST dirty martini’s that I have ever tried. We walked into Hakkasan without a reservation on a Friday night and ended up at the bar while we waiting for a table.

The restaurant’s million pound interior has a very elegant and contemporary but still Chinese feel to it and was designed by Christian Liaigre (French Interior Designer). We were very comfortable drinking our cocktails at the bar, but before we knew it (only about 15 minutes later), a table was free!

Being half Chinese, from Hong Kong, where the Chinese food is out of this world, I really know and love the food. I was excited to go to Hakkasan as I had heard so much about Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee’s dishes. They were awarded a Michelin Star in 2003, so that was very promising too.

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We started our meal with the Dim Sum platter, as I had heard that the dumplings were fusion and made to perfection and I was not disappointed. The dim sum was perfect. Every little bite was heavenly and I could not fault it whatsoever.

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For our mains we decided on sharing some stir fried broccoli with crispy seaweed over it. The broccoli still had a crunch to it and was cooked with garlic and red chili so it had a freshness about it and the crispy seaweed on the top was a great addition to the flavours.

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The claypot chicken was divine! The chicken was still moist (not dry at all) and it was cooked with dried chilies and spring onions in a sweet sauce. The sweet and spice worked very well together.

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We also shared a black pepper sirloin steak stir fry. The meat was very tender and fell apart in my mouth. Again, absolutely delicious.

We had a bowl of boiled white rice between two and it was the perfect amount of food. We left very satisfied. My favourite parts of the meal were definitely my dirty martini and the dim sum.

Overall I believe it was the ingredients in the food that made it taste so good, there were not cheap fatty meats that you would usually get in a Chinese restaurant in London. The atmosphere was great and the service and cocktails were exceptional. A good treat if you are looking for high quality Chinese food.

http://hakkasan.com/mayfair/about/about