St John Bakery Room, London


It's like Marmite, there's something about St John which you either love or hate. After 20 years, Fergus Henderson is still going strong with his "nose to tail" cooking. It's a meal that will get "eeew" or  "yummmm" from the guests.

Home in Ropewalk at Maltby Street Market, a collection of stalls resembling a mini Borough Market without the tourists pushing around. St John Bakery Room is an extension to the successful bakery on Druid Street, a proper, sit-in space to enjoy fantastic bread and wine. Now extending its hours to offer good things midweek as well as weekends. With a daily changing menu, walking into St John Bakery Room not knowing what to expect but one thing for sure, you will walk away with their legendary doughnuts in hand.

Welsh Rarebit

Purple Sprouting Broccoli Vinaigrette

Smoked Mackerel, Potato and Dill

Crispy Duck Leg, Green Beans and Shallots

Beef Mince on Dripping Toast

Devilled Kidneys on Toast

Cauliflower, Leeks and Chickpeas

The daily changing menu is written on the blackboard, just as you expect from Bread & Wine and the Smithfield bar. Started off with the signature Welsh Rarebit, this is more of a complicated version of cheese on toast, a cheesy sauce made with additional of beer or ale, Worcestershire sauce and etc. then poured onto slices of toasted bread. I can eat couple more slices if I wanted to but more dishes was coming on its way. Broccoli was refreshing. The colour of the skin on the mackerel was of a immensely shiny golden colour, not edible as it was ridiculously chewy but the fish was smoked perfectly and flaked away easily. Duck leg is cooked well with a crispy skin. The beef mince tasted very homely, seems like something that I can cook easily. Lamb kidneys was delicious and the bread soaking up all the juice was even better. The cauliflower was served raw, for me this is the first time eating raw cauliflower and I found the texture weird just something that I was not used to.

Bread Pudding and Butterscotch Sauce

Rhubarb Eton Mess

Rhubarb Jam Doughnut

Plume Syrah Grenache

To round of the meal, we had to have desserts. Bread pudding is not what I thought it was, initially I thought it was going to be a bread and butter pudding type of dessert. My mistake when I realised bread pudding was something else (still similar to bread and butter pudding with the addition of dried fruit, spices and etc). This tasted like a fruit cake which is something that I don't really like, inevitably I didn't really enjoy this dessert. On the other hand, rhubarb eton mess was decent. A touch of sweetness, not overly smothered with cream, the meringue was still firm and crunchy and the rhubarb brought life into it. The triumph had to go to the doughnut. No doubt about the doughnut from St John Bakery, it's on the game to compete for the best doughnuts in London. The dough is light and fluffy, the jam is not overly sweet and can still taste the fruit. Indeed we bought extra to take home and it still tasted fantastic the next day.

I cheekily had a glass of St John Rouge before all the guests arrived. I'm not too keen on the wine glass that they used, a small glass and the wine was filled near to the brim so it takes longer for the wine to aerate. For the party, we had a bottle of Plume Syrah Grenache. Both wine was average and for the price I cannot complain about it.

St John is definitely not to everyone's taste (beside their excellent bakery), whether is the food at the restaurant (it's one Michelin star) or at bread and wine or at the bakery room. Their "nose to tail" eating concept is great, finding unusual offals or unusual cut of meat or games on the daring menu. It's like Marmite, you either enjoy it or hate it. My first experience was not enjoyable, I was not used to the taste of game. Now my second visit, I'm slowly starting to understand and enjoying St John's style of food.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: £10-20/head (50% soft launch, ~£60 for three people)

Click to add a blog post for St John Bakery Room on Zomato
Square Meal

The Woodstock Kushiyaki Bar, London


In Britain, you would go to the pub for causal after work drinks. In Japan, you go to Izakaya for a "pint and skewer" after work. "Izakaya" which literally translates to “stay, sake, shop” and there is definitely something appealing at The Woodstock. Located just near Bond Street station, the bar features a selection of Kushiyaki and Kushiyage skewers alongside speciality Japanese beers, sakes and whiskies. 


Welcomed with a complementary drink of plum wine and Bombay Sapphire, it tasted very refreshing but I still prefer plum wine on its own. I was excited to see Kirin Ichiban on the draught beers menu as it is rare to find it in UK, of course we had to ordered a pint of it. A bit disappointed of the selection of sakes, hopefully they will expand the variety of sakes.


Pimientos del Padrón 

Crispy Calamari with Japanese Mayo and Yuzu Salt

The menu is very short, consisted of some snacks, kushiyaki (grilled skewers) and kushiage (fried skewers). The food came in a mishmash of time, skewers came before the snacks not that it matters hugely. Somehow the salt came as a side with the edamame rather than being seasoned, you have to dunked the edamame into the salt but it doesn't really pick the salt up so it can be bland. The Padrón pepper lacked seasoning, did not hit the the spicy jackpot either. The calamari was very moreish, crispy light batter and no hindsight of chewiness.

Ginger Pork Belly

Chicken Hearts


Quail Eggs

Chicken Thighs

Enoki Mushroom and Bacon

Soft  Shell Crab with Wasabi Mayo

Between two people, we had 6 skewers each from the kushiyaki which we could have eaten more of. Ginger pork belly were tender but could not taste the ginger. Chicken hearts, mackerel, quail eggs and chicken thighs were all equally nice. The enoki mushroom and bacon stood out the most, the saltiness of of the bacon complemented the mushroom very well. I wished the skewers could be more charred so giving it a slight crispy crunch and more smokiness. Nevertheless, the soft shell crab was wonderful and not a sight of oiliness. Infact, the deep fried items seemed more outstanding than the grilled items.

Matcha Green Tea

My huge disappointment came through at the end of the meal, as a tea advocate I was shocked to be served tea in a replicate of cast iron teapot made with china and not loose tea but teabags. Especially in a Japanese establishment, I felt a bit offended by the poor quality of tea and teawears. The teabag was from Pukka, supreme matcha green. Although we managed to drink the whole pot, the tea was too weak for our liking.

The concept of The Woodstock is based on the pubs and bars found in Japan, acting as a ‘pit-stop’ for a ‘pint and skewer’ before heading home after work. It's a fun little place to have quick drinks and some nibbles but definitely not for a full meal as the amount of skewers that you would have to ordered to fill up can end up being costly.

Score Rating: 2.5/5
Price: £20-30/head (50% soft launch, £30 for 2 people)

Woodstock Kushiyaki Bar on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Vinoteca Kings Cross, London


Before entering Vinoteca, I wasn't aware of that it was a wine bar. Here at Kings Cross, Vinoteca latest newly open branch just behind the train station with a wine list so vast (over 270 wines) it's hard to resist not getting a glass.

It has never been my job picking a wine for dinner, I do know my red to white from pinot noir to barbera to sauvignon blanc to gewürztraminer. Having a companion who deemed himself to be a vivid wine drinker (not forgetting about whisky), Mr T was studying the folder of their drinks menu like a student. With wines from all over the world, the markups on wine seem perfectly reasonable and fair. Having eaten in many other places where the markup is often three times the retail price I find Vinoteca's approach to pricing far fairer. As you can buy all wine sold there at shop prices you have the ability to see what that wine would cost if bought to enjoy at home.

Brunch Menu

Breakfast Drinks

All Day A La Carte Menu

Bread & Olive Oil

I like how even on a breakfast/brunch menu, you can get wine tailored for breakfast. Interestingly we were here for lunch (yes, we did skipped breakfast), so it was only wise to go for the non breakfast menu. The menu is seasonal and each dish comes with a wine recommendation. Starting of with a nibble of bread and olive oil. The bread was served warm, it was fresh, soft and a crispy crust. Also very good olive oil.

Selection of Cured Meats (San Danielle, Finocchiona, Chorizo Magno)

Crispy Spiced Cornish Squid, Aïoli and Lemon

We went for the recommended wine pairings for all our food. The selection of cured meats was decent, the San Danielle being the tastiest. Paired with a glass of Amontillado Goyesco, Rodriguez La Cave. It is a type of sherry and went nicely with the cured meats. The squid looked unattractive but still satisfying, with a glass of Clare Valley Riesling 2014 (Rodney & The Horse, Australia). Too acidity at first, after some time it tasted a lot better but by that time the squid was gone.

Grilled Cornish Mackerel, Warm Pickled Vegetables, Capers and Pine Nuts

Chargrilled Marinated Bavette Steak, Wild Garlic Butter, Watercress and Chips

Mains wise, the mackerel was cooked perfectly, perhaps even better if it was filleted and didn't have that many bones. The pickled vegetables was refreshing and still maintained a crunch. Delightful with the Douro Branco 2013 (Lavradores De Feitoria, Portugal). I wasn't too keen seeing a slab of butter on top of the steak, as the temperature wasn't hot enough to melt over the steak I wasn't too sure to what to do with the butter (it was still there after the steak, chips and salad was all eaten) and I don't like horseradish either. The steak itself was tender and juicy cooked to medium rare and the chips were reasonable, crispy and fluffy. Can't complain with a glass of Malbec ‘Vista’ 2013 (Carmelita, Argentina).

Service was attentive and friendly, relaxed ambience and slightly rustic décor. My only criticism is to let the wine breathe first before serving, as it tasted its best towards end of the dish. At Vinoteca, you are spoilt by the wine choices but the food doesn't get the pulse racing. For some, they like matching food with wine and vice versa. For others, the plate is more interesting than what is in the glass. I enjoy good food and great wine together, but food will always play the most important part.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: £30-40/head (50% soft launch, £49 for 2 people)

Vinoteca on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Sake Tasting @ Chotto Matte, London


Before I start writing thousand of words, I need to declared that I don't really know anything about sake or should I say not encounter sake with many of my Japanese dinings. I had sake before, but did not put much thought into it. Just like all alcohols, it has a long history and heritage to it.

What is sake (pronounced "sah-keh")? It's an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin that is made from fermented rice, koji (often translated as rice malt or yeast made from rice) and water. The word "sake" also means alcoholic beverages in general. The process of making sake can be protracted but, explained simply, sake is made when rice is ground, washed and steamed. Then some of the steamed rice will be used to make koji, the yeast derived from rice. After that the koji and the remaining steamed rice and water are mixed and then allowed to ferment. More rice, koji and water is added to the mixture thereafter, at which point the drink is filtered and bottled.

This was an eye opening event for me, my first ever sake tasting. In association with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture bringing three sake breweries and a rice farmer from Japan explaining the importances of rice to the production of Sake. Not to forget, Chotto Matte was a prefect venue pairing with Nikkei cuisine (the combination of Japanese and Peruvian).

Sake Tasting

Speciality Brown Rice from Japan 

Oh-Em-Geee, being a rice eater of over 20 years I should be ashamed that I never got into brown rice but this was the best brown rice I have ever eaten or even one of the best rice (as in rice on its own). I am not exaggerating. It was sticky, fluffy and sweet. Usually with brown rice,  it can be chewier and hard with the bran. If I wasn't told, I would not known it was brown rice. The colour was lighter than the usual brown rice and when mixed with sushi vinegar it was even tastier. There was a period of time where I experimented with cooking brown rice and after many attempts still never liked it. The best method I found is to soak the brown rice in hot water for 1 hour prior to cooking or cold water overnight; and to cook it you use 1 part of rice to 2 part of water using a rice cooker or the absorption method on the stove (either way it takes over an hour to cook the rice). So, this speciality brown rice is organic from the Prefecture of Niigata, deep in the heart of Japan. Mr Hideo Ono, of Joint Farm (a small family run farm) explained how his rice is different, using animal free fertiliser and 100% original Koshihikari seed to grow the tastiest rice. I tried to nipped a small sample from Hideo-San, unfortunately he didn't have any on hand but did have grounded genmai powder (he said it gives him male power, if you know what I mean).

Tuna Nigiri seared with Butter and Soy

Houraisen Junmai Daiginjo Guin

How to taste sake? Take a noisy smell of it, have a sip, take a bite of the food and have another sip. Houraisen Junmai Daiginjo Guin, light body and very sweet, very easy to drink and definitely a good start to the learning of sake Tuna nigiri was nice, tuna melt in the mouth (would have preferred a fattier tuna) with a hint of buttery after taste. I thought the tuna nigiri over powered the sake.

Nikkei Sashimi

Hakutsuru Junmai Saiginjo Nishiki

Hakutsuru is one of Japan biggest sake brewery and accounts for third of Japan sales. Hakutsuru Junmai Saiginjo Nishiki, medium body and sweet paired with Nikkei sashimi. This was a complex dish, Yellowtail, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño, coriander and yuzu truffle soy. The various bold flavours exploded in the month upon with each chews.

Warm Beef Fillet Tataki

Urakasumi Junmai

We cheekily asked for another plate of the beef tataki (not that we received another plate), tender fillet with a sauce made from aji panca pepper and passion fruit seeds adding another dimension. Paired with Urakasumi Junmai, tasted similar to the last sake but with a bitter note. My newly met neighbour thought it smelt of freshly painted paint.

Nasu Miso

Houraisen Junmai Ginjo Wa

I can never get tired of eating aubergine or eggplant if you're American. Nasu miso is a popular vegetarian dish. Aubergine glazed with miso with apricot, puffed soba, and sesame seeds. It wasn't overly sweet and the garnishes gives it a crunch. To me, Houraisen Junmai Ginjo Wa was the most complex sake of the evening and tasted very differently to all the sake I tasted beforehand. There was more depth to it and full-bodied.

Green Tea and Lemon Macaroon

Hakutsuru Junmai Nigori Sayuri

Macaroon is a fashionable dessert, it's very east to get it wrong with the flavour and texture. These little dainty green tea and lemon macaroon had all the girls melting, the green tea flavour didn't come out for me but interestingly it had a taste of basil after a sip of Hakutsuru Junmai Nigori Sayuri. Sayuri has a cloudy appearance and I thought it was sparkling at first but it is not. It has a refreshing aroma, natural sweetness and smooth after taste. Prefect for dessert.

Selection of sake

Head Chef - Micheal Paul

I learnt so much about sake in one evening, not only that it got me very interested in sake now but the varieties of sake that are imported to the UK is not huge and can be very expensive. All the sake I had was served chilled, in general high quality sake is not served warm as this can harm the taste of it. The food that I tasted at Chotto Matte did not disappoint me either. I will definitely return for a proper meal. The only disappointment of the evening was we never got to sample the sake cocktails, other than that I enjoyed the evening and it was nice meeting new friends talking about food and alcohols.

Disclaimer: All the sakes that I tasted are not on sale in UK, neither is the rice. Hopefully one day, someone will import to UK.

Score Rating: 3.5/5
Price: ~£30-40/head 

I was invited by Zomato to attend the Sake Tasting.

Chotto Matte on Urbanspoon
Square Meal