Sunday 27 November 2011

Cameroon: Maestro Bar and Restaurant

I freely admit, we'd been putting Cameroon off - slightly unfairly, merely a reluctance to spend an evening in Deptford. But given that we had Canada already in the diary, it meant squeezing this one in on a chilly November Wednesday evening. Straight from work, James and I trained it to Deptford, I'd managed to misread the map and we ended up at the wrong station, we should have actually headed for the DLR Deptford Bridge, but no matter, it wasn't more than a 5 minute scuttle along Deptford High Street to Maestro Bar and Restaurant.

We found it easy enough, although on first glance it looked shut. It might as well have been, really quite a sizeable place, but no sign of any other diners. Still, we'd made it here without incident, so headed inside. There were a couple of people propping up the bar, the waitress and a friend, chattering away in French. They turned and gave us some very puzzled looks but after asking for a table for two, were allowed to choose our seats. We sat where we would have a prime view of MTV Base, blaring out in poorly dubbed French.

No Cameroonian beer on the menu, unfortunately, so we settle for a couple of Kronenbourg 1664 and perused the menu.

This was the only Cameroonian restaurant I could find in London and admittedly, the menu was true to that claim. James chose pepper soup to start and I had a plate of Ntaba (grilled goat). Mine was a generous plate of chunks of meat, heavily spiced with little dishes of more spice to dip them in. James's soup.....hmm, well it definitely had pepper in it. But it also had a mountain of TONGUE. No mention of that on the menu. Although, he did say that it was perfectly edible, and better than the tongue we had tried back in Bulgaria.

For main course, I chose a traditional dish of Ndole (little bit like a spinach curry) with some very tasty alloko (fried plantain) and James had Soukouya de mouton (a very similar looking dish  of goat chunks as my starter).

After the mountain of meat and a couple more beers, there was no room for pudding (I can't actually remember being offered any). We settled up and scuttled back up the High Street to get a train back to James's.

Overall, it was a very odd evening. I think we completely confused the waitress as to why we were even there, almost felt we were a nuisance. It wasn't a particularly cheap meal either, for what were some very scraggy cuts of meat. Maybe on a weekend, the place is buzzing, but this isn't one we'll be hurrying back to.

Food: **
Value for money: **
Atmosphere: *

Maestro Bar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday 22 September 2011

Cambodia: Lemongrass

It's taken an age to get here, but at last we are onto a new letter "C". First up, Cambodia, and luckily we found a restaurant that had pretty good write ups on several sites and blogs. It's called Lemongrass (not to be confused with our favourite lunchtime haunt in Docklands of the same name). This one is in Camden Town.

After quite horrendous journeys on London Transport, we met up in Camden early on a Thursday evening, to try out some Cambodian tucker. The restaurant is a 5 minute walk from Camden tube, on Royal College Street, situated in a parade of slightly run down Georgian style townhouses.


Although empty when we arrived, we were there early and Lemongrass, being a bijou place, the tables soon filled up. The decor is plain but it did have a few strings of fairy lights to give a little atmosphere. What did stand out was the open access to the kitchen, with a "noodle of woks" on display (couldn't find a collective noun for woks!)

Lemongrass does suffer from being understaffed. One very busy chef appeared to be doing all the prep and all the cooking, one very busy waitress doubling up as table clearer and washer-upper. Although our beers and starters appeared in reasonable time, when we got to the main course, the restaurant was full and the staff were obviously struggling to cope.

There were a few dishes on the menu labelled specifically as Cambodian, so of course we had to try those. Mixed starters, including golden triangles, and some Cambodian Prawn Soup for first course.

This was by no means the best platter of Asian starters I've ever eaten. I felt they were somewhat bland and being a self confessed connoisseur of spring rolls, the pastry was a touch soggy and stingy on the filling. However, the soup was good, and enough for us all to have a couple of ladles full.

The mains were a step up, we had Phnom Penh chicken, Lok Luk steak, with some rice, noodles and the intriguingly named "Buddhist Cabbage". The steak was particularly tender, the chicken a bit too sweet for my taste buds.

I may stir up some alternative opinions from my friends and family with this post....I hate to admit it but I was slightly disappointed with Lemongrass. It wasn't bad....but it wasn't excellent either. Given the favourable reviews I'd read, my expectations were high, and Lemongrass just didn't cut it. Perhaps it's blasphemous to compare, but I have had significantly better meals at the tiny Thai restaurant at the end of my road. And given this purports to be the only Cambodian restaurant in the UK, I'm going to have to visit Cambodia to make an informed decision as to whether I like this cuisine or not. What a, where are those travel brochures?

To the scores. Middle of the road:
Food: ***
Value for money: ***
Atmosphere: ***

Lemongrass on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 6 September 2011

What a lot of "B"s

18 in all. 6 restaurants and 12 home cooked meals. It took us a while, but we're now at the end of B and raring to get onto C. Now for a look back over the B highlights and lowlights.

First the restaurants. We have a tie for first place with Brouge (Belgium) and Arda 2 (Bulgaria) both scoring 12 out of 15 points. Brouge scored consistently across all 3 categories. Another worthy mention for Reema Balti House (Bangladesh) just off Brick Lane, certainly the best value for money of our B venues. No real disasters for eating out in B countries.

Of the kitchen experiments, I particularly liked some of the early B fare - one pot chicken dish from Bahrain and a mushroom pork cutlet recipe for Belarus.

And the worst dish, one I won't be repeating - boring rice and beans from Belize.

I'm very much looking forward to the first of the C restaurants, we've picked out a restaurant in Camden called Lemongrass, representing Cambodia that gets some good write-ups. Might well take a trip up there Saturday evening if anyone fancies joining us.

Friday 2 September 2011

Burundi: lourobbo's kitchen

Woooo! Finally we're on to the last B and it's Burundi. I've been looking forward to this for a few weeks now, as there are a number of restaurants lined up for the start of C.

Burundi cuisine is heavy on the beans, but I did manage to find an appetising looking tuna recipe to go with them.

The tuna was marinaded for an hour in a red wine/garlic/herb mix and then grilled  and served with a mayonnaise aioli.

Black eyed peas, potatoes, dessicated coconut together with a variety of spices made a tasty accompaniment.

Not a bad way to finish up B for Burundi!

Thursday 11 August 2011

Burkina Faso: lourobbo's kitchen

On a roll again, merely days after getting back on the A to Z eating trail, I'm in the kitchen, cooking Burkinabe recipes.

Burkina Faso is a small land locked country in West Africa, once known as "The Republic of Upper Volta". I'd never heard of it until I started reading The Travel Book for this eating tour - James had, as it hosts one of the better known cycling events.

On the menu, we had a main course of Munyu Caf Couscous followed by afters of Banfora. The munyu is another recipe that has peanut butter as a core ingredient, so as I started to cook, had high hopes of it being a winner. Other key components  - MEAT (non-descript), tomato purée and cabbage.


I decided to try and counteract the vast quantities of peanut butter with at least some nod to healthiness, using turkey as the meat. I'm sure this would normally be lamb or beef, but the turkey worked well and it was reasonably tasty dish. The couscous was a bit bland, the recipe didn't call for any additional spices, but together with the saucy dish, it wasn't bad at all.


For a little sweet dish to follow, I made a batch of Banfora. These are a very similar to Welsh cakes, except with pineapple pieces rather than sultanas. Again , very simple to cook, the hot plate was perfect for frying them up. I think I made them a little thick, but they certainly tasted fine.

Overall conclusion on Burkina Faso - perfectly acceptable. But I can't see it taking off as the next big cuisine to hit London.

Friday 29 July 2011

Bulgaria: Arda 2

We're back on the trail! Sorry for the short delay in proceedings, not sure what happened other than time ran away with us, but we return with a trip to Bulgaria on the Seven Sisters Road.

There were 3 restaurants that came up on a search for Bulgarian delights in London - one quite near Sue in Willesden that had some dreadful reviews, a second place in Harringay and Arda 2, which we settled on based on a recommendation from Allison's Bulgarian neighbour.

Suzanne rang ahead for our Wednesday evening jaunt. The nice man who answered the phone was most apologetic, unfortunately there would be no live music tonight, but he was very much looking forward to seeing us!

Allison, Paul and Umbreen accompanied us to Finsbury Park, a short walk from the tube along the Seven Sisters Road to the garish orange of Arda 2. It proved to be a good indicator of the decor inside - the most glorious bright green illuminated bar, stage with stacked synthesisers, glitter ball, orange walls, the must have Bulgarian flag and TV tuned to Europap satellite channels. Marvellous.

Having been given a prime spot in the middle of a reasonably sized restaurant, thoughts turned to beer. Two Bulgarian varieties to choose from. But alas, none in stock. And no Bulgarian wine either, the guy who delivers to Arda 2 had apparently decided to stay in Bulgaria a couple of days extra and they were low on the authentic alcohol. So we reverted to type, ordering Peroni and Corona (and a couple of Perriers). The menu was extensive but with help from our waiter, we opted for a couple of large salads and a Pepper Burek to share.

The salad with eggs was the Ovcharska, and another plate very much the same without the egg and pieces of salami, was Shopska (or Shepherd's salad). The pepper burek was very tasty, a roasted red pepper, smothered in feta and then deep fried.

These starters would have been perfectly adequate for the 6 of us, but then the extras started to arrive, our waiter was keen to ensure that we had the full Bulgarian experience, bold claims of this is the best food in London. Ok, well, we'll give it a go. Two plates of fried cheese arrived of the yellow and the white variety, I'm guessing cheddar and feta. Very tasty, who can argue with melted cheese in batter?

And to finish off the course, a lovely plate of beef tongue.

It wasn't as revolting as it looks, but the only way I can describe it, shredded tender beef with a fuzzy coat. I don't think we discovered any life long fans of tongue amongst us that night.

By this stage,we were starting to feel full. Little did we know, the main course, the Arda special, would make sure of it. Again, we left it to the discretion of our host to bring us food. And boy did he deliver. Two ENORMOUS platters of meat arrived. Pork in a multitude of forms (burgers, kebabs, steaks, ribs) on a bed of beautifully sauteed potatoes. And a second dish of lamb meatballs, ribs, steaks etc with chicken (in case we were still hungry) with mountains of roasted vegetables. The true meaning of a meat feast, all nicely cooked, seasoned well and tasty. God knows how a vegetarian would cope in Bulgaria with this typical fare, fried cheese I suppose!


Think that's the end? Oh no. I didn't think we could actually fit any more in our stomachs, but our waiter then appeared with a platter of desserts. Homemade cake, which looked very much like wholemeal sandwiches but tasted good. Watermelon, berries, grapes and the familiar creme caramel which seems to be prevalent across Europe. Pleasant way to finish what had been a fantastic meal.

Bulgaria turned out to be a real surprise, more meat than we could possibly eat (please, no more, I don't want any steak for at least a week), great value for money (£18 a head including tip!) and a very attentive waiter. An excellent night all round!

Food ****
Atmosphere ***
Value for money *****

Arda 2 on Urbanspoon

Sunday 24 April 2011

Brunei: lourobbo's kitchen

A quick post for a quick meal. No restaurants that we could find for Brunei, so I cooked "Mee Goreng" for James and I on Saturday night. Brunei cuisine has a lot of Malaysian and Indonesian influences, lucky for us as we're both partial to noodles.

This recipe for Mee Goreng had chicken and shrimp as the main ingredients but there seemed to be several different ways of cooking it. I liked this one as it used spring onions and fried shallots for garnish.

A great success, speedy to make and clean plates all round.

Brazil: Comida

We've been looking forward to Brazil ever since starting this challenge. James's sister, Faith lived in Fortaleza for 5 years and was keen to see whether London could offer anything close to the real deal.

There were a couple of restaurants to choose from, but we settled on Comida, a Churrascaria restaurant in South Molton Street and booked ourselves a table for Friday night. It was an unseasonably warm evening for April, people were sitting outside, but we took our table inside. The decor was nothing to write home about, fairly basic with small formica tables for 4 and a buffet along one side.

But at the heart of the restaurant, what we'd really come to experience - the flaming grill, chock full of skewers of meat.

We started with a round of drinks - Brahma beers, Caipirinha cocktails and a fizzy Guarana drink, popular in Brazil:

We unanimously opted for the "all you can eat" buffet, the waiter took our order and then wandered off. It wasn't immediately obvious what to do next, but after a few minutes trying to work out where to get the plates from, caught sight of another table starting to help themselves to the BBQ accompaniments - various carbs: rice, beans, potatoes and some limp salad leaves. Faith warned us not to load up too much on the buffet sides. It turned out to be good the meat had started to arrive.

Let's start gently, with a couple of chicken legs and some chorizo style Brazilian sausage. So far, so good. Tasty with a very distinctive BBQ taste. Then our waiter started bringing out the big guns....large skewers with beef and lamb joints, which he sliced onto our plates at the table.


By this stage of the meal, the waiters had worked out that Faith can speak fluent Portuguese and this broke the ice for some high jinks. I'm sure he was joking with that knife....

You really can get your money's worth at a Churrascaria. The meat just kept coming until we couldn't face another morsel. Next time I go to one of these...I probably won't bother with any of the side dishes, and also make sure I'm ravenous. That steak was gooooooooood.

Now for some scoring:

Food: ****
Value for money:****
Atmosphere: ***

Comida on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Botswana: lourobbo's kitchen

James and I spent a lovely week in St Ives and I was all set to catch up on the Eating the A to Z of London project having some time on our hands, we'd been on a go slow recently. Botswana was next and no restaurants readily available to try their cuisine. Then James reminded me of one of the key points of the was supposed to be within the boundaries of the M25. Doh!

So I cooked a bolognese instead.

Home from holiday,  I wanted to crack on with Botswana. I had another scout around for restaurants, but to no avail, so then back to some favourite sites that I've been using so far to source the recipes.

On the menu, Botswanan Chicken Groundnut Stew. It sounded revolting - chicken casseroled in a sauce of peanut butter, tomato puree, ginger, sugar and chilli flakes. With some fried onion and peppers in the mix. Served on a bed of mashed rice, shaped into balls.

But how wrong could I be, it was scrumptious and definitely one for the recipe book. Here's the preparation and cooking:

The sauce can only be described as a salmony pink colour. The chicken was browned with the onions and green pepper and, and then covered with the sauce, brought up to a simmer and allowed to cook away for an hour. I served it with rice balls - rice "overcooked" mashed and shaped into balls.

The whole thing was really quite good. A rich sweet nutty sauce, warming comfort food.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: lourobbo's kitchen

Hello foodies...taken me a little while to get round to writing up Bosnia. It's a couple of weeks ago now, I've almost forgotten what I cooked.

Let's look back at the photos:


To put it simply, Bosnia is about pies! Filo pastry pies. I made two types - Burek (spiced mince meat) and Krompirusa (potato, carrot and onion) served with a simple feta salad. They were quite straightforward to make, although I think I might have overfilled the rolls and the filo can be a little temperamental to roll into the "snail" shapes. A tasty meal however, and I'd do this one again.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Bolivia: El Rincon Quiteno

This was actually our second attempt at a Bolivian night out. Last week, we took the 21 bus from London Bridge down the Old Kent Road to search out Parrilladas del Sur. We found it. It looks like it's still in business, but that rainy Tuesday night, it was most definitely shut.

There was a second restaurant choice coming up on search, El Rincon Quiteno, on the Holloway Road. We decided to give this place a try, handy for meeting up with Sara as it's North of the river (shudder). The plan was to meet early and then head to the cinema afterwards. One slight drawback, it's actually an Ecuadorian/South American restaurant, so we've already knocked this place out as an option for Ecuador (when we get there!)

A fairly unassuming place from the outside, El Rincon Quiteno is about 100 yards from Holloway Road tube, a stone's throw away from Arsenal's Emirates stadium. The lights were blazing when we got there, a fair few people standing outside smoking and it certainly had the feel of a greasy spoon.

But a warm welcome by the friendly maitre d', we sat down and ordered the obligatory beer. Ecuadorian beer, Biela, but at least we're in the right vicinity.

Using our trusty smartphones, we managed to pick out the Bolivian dishes from the menu. James had the one starter we could identify as definitely Bolivian, a South American take on the Cornish Pasty - Saltenas. This was a pastry, slighty sweet soft texture with a chicken and pea filling. It was served with a punchy tomato salsa.

Tasty and a generous portion for a starter. Sara had a sizeable slab of spanish omelette, Suzanne had delicious beef empanadas. And I had a cheese melted on bananas (ok, plantains). Surprisingly good.

Our host turned the lights down at this point, add to the dining atmosphere and turned up the tunes. I'd hazard a guess at Ecuadorian music and we did manage to pick out a cover of  "Don't mess with my Toot Toot". Marvellous. Complete with trumpets and maracas.

For main, three of us opted for silpancho. This was a beef escalope, fried in breadcrumbs, served with rice, salsa, saute potatoes and topped with two fried eggs. And banana. Sorry, plantain.

Hugely filling and although it looked an odd combination and heavy on the carbs, again it was good eating.

Finished up with some strong coffee and then staggered out of the restaurant, feeling very full. We binned the cinema, we would probably have missed the start of the film. But no loss, Bolivia a successful night out, second time round

Ooo, don't feel like I've done ratings for a while has there has been a spate of country cooking. But here are the scores on the doors for El Rincon Quiteno:

Food ***
Atmosphere ***
Value for money ***

El Rincon Quiteno on Urbanspoon