Brunch at Roka, Canary Wharf

Let’s face it, Japanese food is delicious and when you can combine it with unlimited flowing wine- what’s not to love? That’s why I decided to book Roka’s brunch whilst my dad’s in town.

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A bit of background story: My family is sort of obsessed with contemporary Asian restaurants. We’ve had our fair shares of Yellowtail with jalapeños and salmon tartares- it really is our go to treat, which is why I knew we all had to give it a whirl. Firstly, in terms of their package- I will say the price is actually pretty decent! Essentially it is either £49, £59, or £69 depending on what you pick as your main. Each menu has its own options. The price you go for will also establish what sort of wine you can have, but you can still pick between red or white. Most importantly, these are all free flowing for your two-hour slot. All menu choices include a Bellini (or champagne for the £69 menu), Green tea or a bloody Mary on arrival, as well as a selection of the starters in a buffet style by the kitchen.  To my surprise, there was actually quite an extensive array of options. In fact, by the time I had tried all the starters I wanted (which, let’s be real were most of them) I was already feeling a bit full… (oops we probably shouldn’t have ordered 5 MAINS THEN). All menu’s come with a tasty dessert platter for the table at the end as well. Those who opt for the £69 menu will also get a premium sashimi platter included, the option to have rosé, as well as choose exactly which desserts you want to try for the dessert platter. All in all, though, there is not much difference between the three.  I would suggest that if you are on a budget, you can still enjoy the brunch for the cheapest option as each person can separately opt for whatever menu price they desire.

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The Sashimi Platter: Salmon, Seabass, Tuna, Prawn and salmon tartare. The tartare was probably my favourite. 

My friends and I have done a lot of boozy brunches and I find that in London you usually have to compromise on alcohol or food quality. Luckily, at Roka, neither of these are sacrificed (praise the lord)! The service was prompt and polite, the alcohol kept being topped up so I kept believing my “one glass” remained the same – (obviously not but a great excuse in my eyes) and the food of high standard! In terms of starters, my favourites were the mushroom broth, the crispy chicken wings and the beef ginger and sesame dumplings pictured below!

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Certainly, there was a range of other tasty options, including udon, chicken karaage, sushi and sashimi amongst others. I was surprised to see a few tofu options and even more delighted that these were just as yummy. 

After feeling pleasantly satisfied, we each waited for our mains to be delivered.  As there were 5 of us in total (plus one child), we all got to share – (hello, my favourite! no food jealousy will happen under my watch!). We tried the:

  • Rice hot pot with crispy soy chicken and shiitake mushroom served with seasonal truffle (£69 menu)
  • Essentially a risotto style dish. Loved the taste but the truffle did come through a bit too strong and overpowered the other flavours. There were five of us and we couldn’t finish it.
  • 290-day grain fed black Angus rib eye served with wasabi ponzu (£69 menu)
  • YES, yes and yes. This was succulent and tender.
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  • grilled lobster with yuzukosho mayonnaise and fried shallots (£69 menu)
  • What’s not to love about lobster? I do wish that there was a sauce element with the dish rather than mayonnaise but that’s just my personal preference! DSC03823
  • Lamb cutlets with Korean spices (£59)
  • Juicy and flavourful! We were thankful for the smaller portion sizes as well. The waiter did advise us on portion sizes of each main so we purposely aimed to get some smaller than others.
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  • Black cod marinated in yuzu miso (£59)
  • Again, I can’t fault the black cod. The yuzu miso provided a tangy balance to the salty fish. Probably one of my favourite of the dishes!

Feeling stuffed and tipsy, I eagerly anticipated the infamous dessert platter (because scientifically we all have a second stomach for desserts, right?) As previously mentioned, because we had ordered a few dishes of the £69, we got to pick our desserts. We went for the almond crème brûlée with cherry blossom ice cream and a sesame biscuit, the chocolate to matcha pudding, as well as the banana ice cream with a salted cocoa crumble. Out of the three, my favourite was the latter! (although I must admit I also loved the chocolate pudding). It had little bits of sweet crunchy popcorn and the banana ice cream was fresh and creamy. The brûlée tasted a bit too much like marzipan for my liking but if marzipan is your thing, then hunni you’re gonna love it! The staff also kindly put in a cute birthday message for Mark….This was kinda awkward as he ended up leaving before it came out as he had an event to go to. Yes, Mark, we’re bringing up the guilt tripping yet again!

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Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Roka. It may be a bit more expensive than other brunches available in the capital, but if you’re looking for exceptionally delicious food and good free flowing wine- Roka is the place for you!

Tonkatsu Pop-up at Proud East, Haggerston

Mark and I decided to venture somewhere close last Sunday when the sun was shining- Ok seriously though it was hot AF. We sat on my roof for 30 minutes and decided, Nah, this ain’t for me. I kept envisioning a nice cold pool to jump into and then opened my eyes and realised I was still in London. I really need a holiday, can you tell?- MIAMI HERE I COME.

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Anyways- for lunch time we decided to head down to the Canal in Haggerston and realised that a Tonkatsu pop up was going on in Proud East for twelve weeks only.  Now if you haven’t been to Tonkatsu, you’ll know that their speciality is ramen. Now, don’t get me wrong- I love a bit of ramen. However, the thought of eating it in 30c is not my idea of a good time. However, we noticed that they were doing Ramen salads, as well as other side dishes, so we decided to give it a go.

We went for:

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Pork Gyoza with ginger and chilli

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‘Eat the bits chilli oil’ chicken wings

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King Prawn Katsu

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Chicken Hiyashi Ramen salad with poached and marinated chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, pea shoots and a seasoned egg. Drizzled with a ponzu dressing.

 

The verdict? The food is pretty damn delicious. I’d never had a Hiyashi Ramen salad before. This was essentially a dish made with classic homemade noodles which are cooked then chilled in cold water to retain the perfect bite and bounce, all topped with a tangy dressing. It made a light and refreshing alternative to a hearty ramen broth, whilst still being filling due to the noodles. Furthermore, the Pork Gyoza’s were flavourful and the Prawn Katsu perfectly crispy.

However, the winning dish for us was the chicken wings. Oh. My. God. Mark and I agreed that these were up there for our favourite wings ever- and TRUST ME, we’ve eaten a lot of chicken wings in our time. First, they were deep fried to achieve the perfect crunch and then, they were drenched in their homemade chilli oil sauce. They were just the right amount of spice and perfectly moreish. I’ve always said chicken wings are underrated and wings like this prove me right everytime.

Basically, you have to try these if you’re visiting.

It’s a perfect East London spot to catch a quick bite to eat and the bonus is the lovely terrace that faces the canal, where you can sit in the sun with a cold drink and people watch all day. Don’t tell me I’m the only person who does that….

 

 

 

A weekend away in Venice

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For my Birthday this year, Mark decided to pull out all the stops (cheers babe) and take me on a little weekend trip to the city of love. and carbs. and wine- Venice! This was a wonderful surprise and a great start to the month- aka the best month because I was born. Jokes. Sort of. Setting off on Saturday morning and smoothly arriving into Venice we were both excited for our lovely long weekend away from the hustle and bustle of London. Venice life is relaxing. Everyone drinks wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and leisurely strolls around the city soaking in the culture -sometimes underrated here in London where life always feels so rapid.

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On arrival, we walked the quick distance to our bed and breakfast. In a perfect location, just across the main bridge from the bus station and nestled in one of the alleyways of the city, (il Giardino di Giulia- translating literally into Giulia’s garden) was a true gem. Owned by a lovely man named Marco who prides himself in everything his b&b upholds, we had a lovely quaint room on the ground floor, decorated with old-fashioned furniture juxtaposed with modern art touches. It only has three rooms in total, making it lovely, cosy and intimate. For breakfast, which was served on the top floor, decorated with Marco’s vintage furniture, we were served Italian cakes, coffee, tea, toast as well as a list of other organic items made to order, whipped up by Marco himself as smooth jazz played in the background. He made delicious scrambled eggs with chives and porcini mushrooms, as well as fresh pancakes with tasty berries. By having 3 rooms, the breakfast table is essentially shared by all the guests, which means there’s always a chance to talk to Marco, as well as everyone else, discussing restaurants, where they’ve been around Venice, as well as getting to know people. If you don’t really like the idea of socialising- Breakfast is the only likely time you’ll ever see someone, as people spend most of the day out and about exploring.

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On our first day, we decided to do the whole of Venice. WHOLE? – I know what you’re thinking. Damn girl, that’s a bit ambitious. While that may sound like the case, if you look at the map, you can actually go from north to south of the islands in around 50 minutes. Our idea was to get all the main sights done as well as take the famous gondola down the tiny canals. We went to the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco and let ourselves be guided by the city, constantly wandering down little pathways. Note- this doesn’t always work because you end up walking down a path and hitting a dead end, or several in our case. Also- I’d just like to point out gondola ride is 80 euros for 30 minutes. A bit PRICEY IF YA ASK ME, but, nonetheless, I’d definitely recommend it- you truly see the beauty of Venice as you calmly float through the city.

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SATURDAY:

On our first night, we frustratedly walked around looking for a restaurant which would satisfy us and live up to our expectations. I am, the most– pickiest person when it comes to going to a restaurant when I’m on holiday. Especially in a city which attracts more tourists than locals- it is especially important to know you’re eating somewhere that isn’t a tourist trap. Actually, maybe that is just me and Mark, but we love to know that we’re in for a treat. Thankfully, this is exactly what we were in for when we stumbled upon Osteria Enoteca al Artisti. The wine was gorgeous, the food prepared with the freshest ingredients and the tiramisu was THE BOMB.

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Orchiette with Duck Ragu

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Stewed Lamb and Fried Corn Polenta with Veggies

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Tiramisu

 Sunday:

On Sunday, we were knackered having walked all over Venice. Marco suggested we head to Osteria Alba Nova Dalla Maria, tucked away on a small street, away from the main touristy spots. It was also a five-minute walk from the hotel and as I was feeling particularly lazy, this was great news. It is a family run restaurant that is cosy and authentic. If you’re looking for a small, quaint restaurant that serves traditional Venetian recipes then this is your place to go. Just be careful of an old grumpy Italian man that knows the owner, attending regularly for dinner and who ends up getting drunk and hurling abuse at people. I wish I was joking – he must have been about 85 pissed on half a bottle of red, telling mark how only women should wear shorts- bitch, please.

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Selections of meats

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Spaghetti al Vongole (clam spaghetti – MY FAV)

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Dark Chocolate Pasta – (sounds strange, but apparently an ancient recipe and definetly tasty) with cuttlefish

Monday:

DSC03571On Monday, we decided we would head off to the other surrounding Islands of Venice. If you haven’t been, there are no cars so everything is done by boat- imagine moving house and shifting ya furniture down small canals- nightmare! We decided to take the water boat to the north of the island, where you can access further water buses to Burano, Murano and other little islands. I will say, If you don’t want to spend 80 euros on a gondola then this is a cheap way to float through the city- you essentially get an inexpensive tour and can pay for a day pass for 20 euros and take it all around Venice. Burano is a cute little island, famous for knitting intricate lace and is dominated by pretty colourful houses that are fit for an Instagram account’s dream. For lunch, we decided to try Trattoria Da Romano.  As Burano is small and touristy, all the nice restaurants quickly get filled up. We were being consistently turned away or being told to “try our luck in 30 minutes”. Getting hungry and impatient, we were lucky to finally get a table as I had read good things. I’m glad this was the case because the food was worth it! Burano has lots of fresh seafood and I knew we had to take advantage of this.

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Vongole saltate in padella. Clams quickly tossed in a pan in a white wine sauce, with garlic and parsley. You may tell, I like clams. No, I LOVE CLAMS. In Italy, they are a must try dish- especially with a bit of lemon.

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Calamari with white polenta and deep fried vegetables – again, fresh and tender seafood- crucial for a good calamari dish.

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Gnochetti ala Grancevola (crab and tomato sauce)

Later, for dinner, we went to a lovely Venetian place called La Bitta. A restaurant choosing to focus solely on meats, we went for steak, chicken with red peppers, tomatoes and olives as well as a moreish plate of beef carpaccio. I must admit the pictures look a bit blurry and I think this was because I was slightly tipsy.- As Always. But, I did save you a picture of my favourite part of that meal – the dessert. The Panna Cotta was amazing. It had a perfect consistency and jiggled like me on a club night out- haha, seriously though, it was epic.

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TUESDAY:

Finally, our last food stop of the trip consisted of trying Chichetti (Venetian tapas) traditionally eaten standing up.  You can’t go to Venice and not experience it like a local and Chichetti is no exception! You essentially head to the bar and the food is all on display, as you select which different dishes you’d like. It’s all back to basics here- usually served on paper plates and plastic cups. This is even more enjoyable on a sunny day as revellers sit outside in the sun sipping on crisp, cold white wine. We tried Chichetti in both Cantinone Gia Schiavi and Osteria Al Squero, which are both down the road from each other. You must try the latter as it is always popular no matter what day you walk past and has become synonymous with eating like a venetian.

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I can’t honestly tell you everything we got because we asked for house favourites – I’d recommend doing this so you can try an array of different items rather than go for flavours you’re automatically drawn to

Venice was a lovely trip. I got to forget about work for a few days, eat yummy ice cream every day and justify it because we were “walking around”, practice my Italian and spend time with Mark as we basked in the sun.

A personal shout out to him for organising everything, you really are the best.