Ceru, London


Is there a time you feel like escaping the bustling city without stepping outside the city? I certainly do, it is the laziness in myself that gets in the way. Look no further to river Thames. Step into the summer oasis that is London Riviera, bringing the ridiculousness of Miami and the sophistication of the French Riviera to the Southbank (outside City Hall). Sipping cocktails on the sun lounger, plastic flamingos under the scorching sun (if the weather permits) and the beautiful view of Tower Bridge.

Ceru, a pop up restaurant residing at the London Riviera from now until the end of summer brings the vibrate flavour of Levant to the sun. Before today, I would not have know what Levant was. Levantine cuisine, a merge of Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern so think hummus, flatbread, slow roasted lamb shoulder with shawarma spices and all sort of yummy colourful food. I heard rave reviews on Ceru when they were poping up at other places, I know it was time to make a intrigual visit.


During one lunch time, I decided to take the bus from one side of the city to crossing the river just to sample the Levantine food and it was worth every effort of it.


Crisp Apple, Pomegranate & Mint Salad

Lamb Wrap

Unbuttoning the top button of my trouser, releasing the extra inch of hidden waistline. Oh yes, I did indeed devoured the dips with pitta bread, salad and wrap all by myself. Freshly baked pitta bread with pancar (roast beetroot, yoghurt, garlic and pistachio nuts), the dip was not something I tasted before and the beetroot was not an overpowering flavour with the pitta bread, simply good. Crisp apple, pomegranate and mint salad (with green chilli, lemon and roasted pine nuts) was a winner salad for me. Who would have thought apple in a salad can be so tasty, so fresh and so additive? Shredded pieces of tender shawarma spiced lamb with wilted spinach and tahini wrapped in a flatbread was equally delicious, the depth of flavour was incredible. I wished these sort of work lunch was available to me everyday.

Homemade Still Lemonade

Watermelon Juice

Unwillingly to return to work, I felt like I was on holiday chilling out on homemade still lemonade and watermelon juice. The food was enjoyable and the vibrate colour suited the healthy vibe perfectly, colourful vegetables, mostly using olive oil rather dairy, halal meats, gluten free and many options for different diets requirement. Sad to know, I needed to return back to work after the greediness in me consuming so much deliciousness. Good to know, I took the leftover to munch on at work.

Score: 3/5
Price: £5-15/head

I was invited to review.

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Kitchen W8, London


Unlike other Michelin starred restaurants, Kitchen W8 main brief is to bring affordable priced food to the local community. The word "affordable" certainly ticked the box for us, being a relatively somewhat cheaper than most of the michelin starred restaurants that I have encountered. Kitchen W8 seems to be unknown to the public, located just off Kensington High Street. 

This would be a place that I know would not sort of take a massive whack on my bank account to treating Mr. T's birthday celebration. The restaurant is bright and modern, white table lining cloths that is not overly too posh but still filled with well-dressed manner clienteles, it was mainly couples on the night and also a large group of another birthday celebration. Perfect ambience for a intimate talk sharing the love of food and wine without the noise or trying too hard to impress.

Tasting Menu

Amuse Bouche - Cripsy Thins with Pea Purée and Mint Oil

Sourdough Bread

Let me start by stating a birthday tradition of ours, dining at a top notch restaurants for their tasting menu and not forget about the unassumptious amount of alcohol of wine pairing with the meal. Bread and amuse bouche was bought to the table, I do not know if I should count the crispy thins as a amuse bouche if so it was very uninventive. The sourdough bread, it smelt fantastic and it looked very well baked, airy, light and an excellent crust. I missed the opportunity to try it as I'm trying to cut down on my bread consumption, my companion enjoyed the bread every bit of it (obviously he did not eat the whole loaf).

New Season’s Norfolk Asparagus with Italian Egg Yolk, Hazelnuts and Organic Quinoa

Grüner Veltliner ‘Rosenberg’, Anton Bauer, Austria 2013

If you had to pick a vegetable to be a star of its own show, asparagus would be my first choice. Swapping it to green beans or broccoli, certianly that will not work. The first course is asparagus with Italian egg yolk, hazelnuts and organic quinoa. The egg yolk is made into sort of a dipping sauce, it has a thick consistency so it is probably cooked in a water bath for some time in low temperature. Topped with crispy hazelnuts and deep fried quinoa for extra texture. I do wish I get more than two stalks of asparagus as it was cooked to perfection. Personally for me this was the best executed dish of the night which was a shame when the first dish brings you to the high and exponentially declined for rest of the night. Paired brilliantly with the Grüner Veltliner 'Rosenberg' (RRP ~£10).

Thinly Sliced Rump of Veal with Hazelnut, Morels, Parmesan and Spring Peas

Maranoa Verdelho, David Traeger. Victoria, Australia 2010

Slices of tender meaty veal with hazelnuts, morels, Parmesan and spring peas. Not too sure where the hazelnuts and Parmesan comes through the dish. It is a well cooked dish but feel as though it lacks a sauce, it can seemed a bit dried. Paired with a lovely glass of Maranoa Verdelho (RRP £14.95), citrus aromas with ripe apricot and fine crispy acidity.

Confit Sea Trout with Smoked Eel, Watercress, New Potatoes and Pickled Beetroot

Chardonnay, Quartz Stone, Glen Carlou, Paarl, South Africa 2012

I've not had confit fish before, the confit sea trout it had the appearance of raw fish and inbetween the texture of a fish that is not fully cooked so it is still rather slimy but not like raw fish. I love raw fish (noticeably sashimi) but this dish did not work for me at all. The texture of the fish was just weird, with a bland watercress sauce and the new potatoes and beetroot was shadowed by the fish. Mr T. seemed to have liked this dish a lot and even demolished rest of my plate. I guessed this was down to personal taste. At least the wine was so much better than the dish, Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay (RRP £18.49), rich and luscious mouth feel of peach and tropical fruit flavours and a lingering of oak finish.

55 Day Aged Middle White Pork with Smoked Celeriac, and Charred Pear

Pinot Noir, Ma Maison, Leung Estate. Martinborough, New Zealand 2011

Last of the main, white pork with smoked celeriac and charred pear. Lovely pieces of pork but tending towards driedness and could have benefited with a bit more pinkness to it. The cooked lettuce bought sweetness into the dish along with the pear, it is a well balanced dish. Hitting on a high note with the Ma Maison Pinot Noir (RRP £22.74), black cherry aromas with hints of spicy oak, good balance of tannis and youthful acidity.

Vanilla Parfait with New Season’s Mango, White Chocolate and Lime

Muscat Saint Jean de Minervois, Domaine Simon, Languedoc, France 2012

Anything to do with mango and I am sold just like this brilliantly executed dessert. The parfait so airy and smooth balanced with sweetness of mango and a hint of lime from the cream. In contrast, the white chocolate set off a crunchy texture. The palate of the muscat is sweet and medium bodied, with a very pure fresh fruits flavour which went very well with the dessert.

Chocolate Pavé with Salt Caramel Ice Cream, Hazelnut Milk and Lime

Maury Red, Mas Amiel. Languedoc, France 2012

The second dessert was similar to the first dessert that was served which was a disppointment as you would expect something different. The texture and and the presentation was the same, the only differences are the colour and flavour. Chocolate pavé, essentially chocolate mousse in a rectangular form with salted caramel ice cream that was so divined and hazelnut milk (a flavoured cream?). It's good but I wouldn't want the same dessert twice in two different flavours. Maury Red is new to me, said to be rival of a good LBV Port. Mas Amiel Maury Red (RRP £13.95), deep ruby/purple colour with full riped fruits and Grenache's trademark black pepper to balance the sweetness.

Birthday gift - Dark Chocolate Truffle

Finishing the meal with a little gift from the restaurant, sinful dark chocolate truffle that melts in the mouth. There was no petit fours unless the truffle counts as it and tea/coffee was not offered, which could have have been a perfect finish to the meal.

There's something about this restaurant that's missing a star for me. The food is very skilled but not always to taste and perhaps can be more adventurous. The wine was paired brilliantly. I can see why the locals would love it, there's a casualness to it without the pretentious of high class. The service was right on spot most of the time, attentive and friendly. What it did not hit the spot was the failure of serving the food and wine while one was away from the table and not returning to for explanation to the other person. The lack of care to details can be a frustration. Kitchen W8 is a steal for affordable fine dining for a Michelin starred restaurant, especially for the set lunch which you will leave with a massive smile on the face.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: £25-100/head (~£220 for 2 people)

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Parts & Labour, London


I searched high and low for a place to celebrate Mr. T's birthday along with few friends that would not break our wallets. So when I saw a special offer for hot-dinners.com readers for the new quirky restaurant, Parts & Labour inside the contemporary Qbic Hotel in London's East end I know it could not be missed. A short walk from Aldgate East and Whitechaple station, the area is full of amazing curry houses but for a change the modern Biritsh cooking is bringing a different approach to the multicultural diversity of food.

The decor shouts Scandinavian simplicitic but bold primary colours retro elements. There was live music playing on the day, with people flooding the main lounge area and drinking, it was indeed going to be a noisy night which at a volume that was impossible to have a conversation during dining.

Squid, Chorizo, Chick Peas, Coriander

Pulled Lamb Shoulder Croquettes, Mint Mayonnaise

Hansen & Lyderson Smoked Salmon, Lemon, Buttered Brown Bread

The all day menu has a Jewish influences to it with items such as salt beef sandwich, chicken soup with dumplings and etc. Bread was served after the decision on food, it was a mistake to have the bread. It was awful, brown sliced bread left out too long thus it was dried and cold. What came with bread was a tasteless green dressing like a mayonnaise consistency which no one can work out what it was. One of the worst bread I have had in a restaurant.

I opted for the smoked salmon as my starter, the bright colour fish is smoked locally in Islington was indeed very good and was sliced thickly. I liked the idea of wrapping the half lemon in a muslin cloth so when you squeeze it the pips does not fall onto the food. Again the bread was disastrous, at least it buttered this time which is a slight improvement in taste. Mr. T happily munched away on his squid and chorizo, the squid was tender and the whole dish balanced well. Squid and chorizo are always a fantastic combination. Rest of the party had the croquettes which they all seemed to have enjoyed.

6oz Cheeseburger, Pickles, Caramelised Onions, Chips 

Glazed Beef Short Ribs, Fennel & Radish Slaw

Pork Belly, Fennel, Apple, Olive Oil Jus

It was just before 8pm, we were informed there was only two portions of the beef short ribs left which the party was fighting over it beside me. Evidently, Mr. T got a portion because it was his birthday. I thought the dish looked unappetising, the ribs looked dried and like it was lacking a sauce. Mr. T commented on it being an average dish. Others that lost the fight had the burger instead, it was not brilliant nor exciting. I dared to be adventurous and I had the pork belly. It was one of the most forgettable dish of the night, the meat was tender but dried and bland, the taste of olive oil did not come through (I don't know if it was supposed to be?).


Purple Sprouting Broccoli 

Whilst everyone else had chips as their sides, I wanted to feel healthier by having the sprouting broccoli and it was overcooked. There is nothing that I can fault on the chips, there are just chips after all and are perfectly edible. I was also the odd one out drinking cocktails and the rest had beers.

There was not one item of food that had been prefect or even just done well. It is such a shame since I read many praises on this new restaurant and I really liked the quirky decor. The service was appalling, I think it was because of the distraction from the live music and the crowds that was surrounding it. At the beginning they gave of impression that they did not know about our reservation and inattentive since we waited a long while before we got what was asked for. 

Score Rating: 2/5
Price: £10-30/head (50% discount, ~£100 for 5 people)

Top Dog, London


Burgers vs Hot Dogs? What will you pick? Burgers will always be everyone's firm favourite, it can also be a tough battle against pizza too. It is hard to imagine how hot dogs can be imaginative, serving American-style hot dogs made with premium British ingredients in the foodie hub of Soho is Top Dog. 

The menu is nothing short from the classic dogs to the more adventurous dogs with toppings like kimchi, pulled pork and even a vegan tofu dog option. Operate in a fast food model, you place your order at counter, get given a tracker that locates your table for the staff. It's a speedy process, in and out in less than 30 minutes.


A box of condiments placed on every wooden tables, tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, Frank's hot sauce, American mustard and English mustard to add to your fries or dogs.

Cheesy Fries and Sweet Potato Fries

Starting off with the fries, it's decent but it was lukewarm. Therefore the cheese did not melt, it was just cheese and fries with some kind of white sauce on it which could have been mayonnaise. The sweet potato fries were a bit better, the portions are on on the small size and it looked rather lifeless.

Pulled Pork N' Slaw

Chilli N' Cheddar

The dogs are on the small size again, it is packed with flavour and the sausage has a snap to it. Perhaps they can be more genourous with the fillings, there was not much pulled pork or beef chilli although the meat was tender. There's improvement for the bun, it was slightly dry. The whole thing was demolished with just few bites along with a can of San Pellegrino Aranciata.

Gourmet hot dogs are indeed another fantastic choice against burgers, but it will never arrival it and it doesn't come cheap either for the fast food concept. I think there should be a greater freedom of customising the dogs rather than only able to choose the already customised dogs, give a bigger portion and serve the food hotter. Sorry hot dogs, I will always pick a quality burger over a gourmet hot dog.

Score Rating: 2.5/5
Price: £5-10/head (50% soft launch, £12.8 for 2 people)

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Sesame, London


Bringing the vibrant colours and flavours of a bustling Mediterranean market to the door step of Covent Garden, that is what Noam Bar (renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s business partner and ex-boyfriend) has set to do. Sesame is a celebration of the dedication and tradition intrinsic to the Middle Eastern food that Noam knew as a child growing up in Israel.

The use of middle eastern spices seems to be a fashionable thing right now. I only know a thing or two about middle eastern food (hummus, flatbread, kebabs and etc) and there are more to that than you would know. This is not your late night greasy fatty doner kebab corner shop. It is a notch posher and healthier kebab shop serving quality grilled meats (on its own or with pittas) and ready-to-go packaged salads in a fast food manner.

Cauliflower with Tahini and Pomegranate

Lemon and Za'atar Chicken with Chopped Salad, Hummus and Zhoug

Spiced Lamb Kebab with Chopped Salad, Tahini and Zhoug

This is a far cry out from the student time of drunken night eating dodgy kebabs from unknown vendor. Cauliflower cooked to soft but still has a bite to it, tahini adding a nuttiness to it and pomegranate giving a crunch texture. It works well for a salad. Now for me to replicate this salad at home somehow, I'm assuming turmeric was used to colour the cauliflower. The pitta bread is like on the next level, it has thickness and pillowy soft not like the supermarket bought ones which are like paper thin and dry. Oodles of deliciousness filled with subtly cooked zesty chichen or spiced lamb, salad, nutty tahini and zhoug.

If only I can get this joyful food at 3am and I can still remember all these tasty morsels if will definitely be a good end to a night out.

Score Rating: 3.5/5
Price: £5-10/head

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Leicester House, London


The property that was formerly the St John Hotel and One Leicester has reopened as Leicester House. Located handily behind the main stripe of Chinatown, East meets West is the concept for the restaurant with 50 cover (as well as being a 17 bedroom boutique hotel).


Food is described here as "Colonial Vietnamese", a fusion of French and Vietnamese. You will not find phởbánh cuốn nor bún chả here. But you can order a bánh mì, a Vietnamese style baguette sandwich (it's not on the photo of the menu that I took, the menu online does have bánh mì).

Prawn Crackers

A complementary nibble of spiced prawn crackers to start the meal overflowing the little bamboo steamer basket.

Venison, Muối Tiêu, Asparagus, Black Radish

Blackened Squid, Salt, Pepper, Lime,Chilli

From the small plates section, we had the venison and the squid. The venison dish is more like a salad, with venison cooked rare and sliced then mixed with asparagus and black radish and finished with a Muối Tiêu dressing. From a quick Google search, Muối Tiêu is a salt, white pepper and lime dressing with chillies. The pungent dressing brings the venison dish alive with saltiness, tartness and a hint of heat along with crunchy texture from the vegetables. The squid was tender with lots of samphire and the touch of lime brings a sour note at the back makes this dish equally as tasty as the venison. Vietnam is not fame for the use of chillies like its neighbour Thailand, so do not expect fearsomely heat from the food.

Proscuitto di Parma, Jesus du pays Basque, Saucisse seche, Salamella al fegato,


The charcuterie may seems a bit of a mismatch from a Vietnamese food prospective. It is a plate of French and Italian flair of cured meats. It was not particularly outstanding, if the white sourdough bread was not toasted and burnt it would have been much more enjoyable. The pickles that was served on the side was out of synced with the charcuterie but it was still tasty on its own.

Bone broth, Pork collar, Crab wonton

Green Papaya, Daikon & Cashew Slaw

The bone broth with the crab wonton was superb. The bone broth is packed with flavour, rich and dense with chunks of pulled pork. It could easily make a prefect broth base for a bowl of noodles. The wonton does not lack in the crabmeat filling, the only complain is only two wontons are served in the broth which does not justified the £12.50 price tag. On the side was a green papaya, daikon and cashew slaw. It is very similar to the Thai "som tam" green papaya salad minus the breathing fire bit. The sweetness to the slaw makes it unstoppable to munch on.

Salt Baked Pineapple, Kampot Green Peppercorns, Champagne Kaffir Lime Sorbet
Bitter Chocolate Pot, Hazelnut cha fee
Beignets Vanilla Cream, Nibbed Cocco, Coconut

When the meal was drawing to an end, the chef brought out complimentary desserts. It was not just one dessert, it was the whole dessert menu. The pineapple was refreshing with a very light lime sorbet bringing the sweet and sour balance together. The chocolate pot was presented like a cup of cappuccino, the top is filled with chocolate and hazelnut foam which until you dug into the bottom the chocolate appeared. The beignets was the firm favourite, very similar to doughnuts. In fact it was like a freshly made doughnuts as it was still warm when it was served. Along with the desserts, we had a flat white and a green tea (it was a sencha).

It was a hit and miss on the food, the quality varied wildly and perhaps they can upped the quantity of the wontons. It felt as though it was a contemporary approach to Vietnamese cuisine that went out of synced with the French. The service was friendly, casual and attentive. If the bone broth is turned into a bowl of noodles with the delicious crab wonton (with more than two), it is definitely worth returning for.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: ~£30/40/head (Soft launch, ~£58 for 2 people)

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