Archive for April, 2009

Mezé at The Real Greek

April 30th, 2009

This afternoon one of the clients that I’ve been technical lead for over the past year and a half took us out to celebrate the success of the project, and sharing is caring, so our project manager booked us in at The Real Greek in Spitalfields Market.

I’ve been tempted by The Real Greek in the past, but to be honest the pricing always scared me and my colleagues away from going in, that and I was worried that the portions wouldn’t exactly be on the generous side.

The atmosphere inside it pretty nice, it’s all very modern and swanky, doesn’t feel too crowded (though maybe that’s because there was hardly anybody in there), and the waiters are pretty quick at serving you.

The mezé menu is great with lots of choices, the mains menu however is severely lacking in variety. We opted to just order a load of mezé and share it between us, my memory is a bit vague of exactly what we ordered, but this is what I can remember:

  • Flatbread (with Koliosalata, Spiced Hummus, Htipiti and Santorinian?)
  • Skewers of lamb (lots of them)
  • Grilled octopus
  • Bifteki with Yoghurt
  • Chicken Souvlaki
  • Greek Salad

Overall the food was pretty tasty, not exactly amazing, but still nice. Between six of us, what we ordered wasn’t really enough, but that’s probably our own fault for not ordering enough. Portions were pretty small for the mezé dishes, especially for the prices charged, ordering more could lead to severe wallet suffering.

I probably won’t be going back to The Real Greek until the next client decides to take us to lunch there ;)

Fender Classic 72 Telecaster Deluxe

April 27th, 2009

Fender Classic 72 Telecaster Deluxe

It’s been six months since I started learning to play acoustic guitar with my trusty Yamaha FS720S. I’ve mostly been led by my guitar teacher towards the blues and funk orientated music from the likes of the Chili’s, so when it came to buying an electric guitar I wanted to get something that had that character and versatility of tone that could cover those styles.

With my sensible hat on, I set myself a budget (cue laughter here) of around £300 for an electric guitar, and popped down to the local guitar shop with my teacher. First of all I tried out a crimson red Tokai ES60 335 Semi-Acoustic, then a Squier Standard Telecaster, a Vintage VSA 575, and probably a handful of others as well, including a Stratocaster (you just have to).

My favorite of the bunch was the Tokai, a Gibson reproduction with a fairly unique sound that had a lot more depth than the other guitars, also some good flexibility, unlike the Vintage which had very strong jazz tones.

Then everything got thrown to the fire, as my guitar teacher pulled an axe off of the racks that didn’t have a price tag on it, the Fender Classic 72 Telecaster Deluxe. It has two wide-range humbucker pick-ups which give an amazing blues tone, a body made of alder, neck made of maple with a stratocaster style head, 3 bolt with micro adjustment for the neck, bullet style truss rod, and in Sunburst Maple it looks as beautiful as it sounds.

So gave it a run through with the same old songs I’d played on the other guitars and basically that was that, it blew all of the other guitars away, I walked out paying £625 including a Line 6 Microspider amp, and a cable to get me started.

I seriously have barely put it down since I got it home. I’m new to electric so I can’t preach about all the different tones, but just playing switching between the pick-ups, and adding a little reverb on the amp has given me days of fun so far and I can see this being a long term companion on my musical exploration!

Bulgogi at Corean Chilli

April 19th, 2009

Sometimes there are those restaurants that you walk past time and time again and promise yourself that you’ll go into one day, but you never quite take the leap and go in. Corean Chilli was definately one of those restaurants, it had against it that it’s too close to Leicester Square, has too many gimicky lights on the outside, and probably confuses most with the Corean spelling rather than Korean.

If you stop to look through the window though, you notice that the majority of customers are Korean or oriental, and the food looks amazing. I don’t know how most people gauge quality of food, but if the natives are eating it usually it’s a safe bet! Gary and I finally took the leap a few months ago and it’s become our new favorite.

First things first, it can get very busy in there on some nights, and the staff don’t all have a great grasp of English so if you want good service then it’s worth making their lives easier by pointing out on the menu what you want as well as saying it to them. Second, it’s a Korean restaurant and that is their speciality, but they also serve other oriental food and don’t clearly mark which is which on the menu. We’ve always been quite good at picking out the Korean dishes but some friends of ours were not so lucky and ended up with a rather bland dish of noodles.

Personally, my favorite combination so far was what I tucked into last night:

  • Osam bulgogi (Strips of fried pork belly and sweet and spicy squid)
  • Fried spicy tofu
  • Plain boiled rice
  • Cucumber kimchee
  • Korean tea

All of the bulgogi (literal translation: “fire meat”) dishes arrive in front of you in their dishes sizzling away with the gorgeous smells wafting up, so you definately can’t go wrong there, the combination of the soy, garlic, sesame oil, scallions and chilli give you a really flavoursome but not too spicy sauce that I shamelessly mop up with the boiled rice when I’ve run out of meat.

The fried spicy tofu won’t appeal to everyone, but if you can stand tofu at all then I’d give it a go, I was so amused by how crispy they’d managed to get the tofu on the outside and yet how soft it was on the inside, that and the kick of chilli sauce finishing it off perfectly.

Wash it all down with some lovely Korean tea which seems to have hints of ginger, and you’re all set.

If you’ve seen any negative reviews about the staff or service at Corean Chilli, it’s worth mentioning that when I dined with a group of friends from work, we were sat next to the owner of the restaurant who speaks barely any English, and whilst eating his own dinner he stopped Ben from tucking into his vegetarian Bibimbap to tell him to put some chilli sauce to put in, and also to pour in some miso soup first then mix it all up before eating. If that’s considered rude, then there are some seriously skewed perspectives out there!

No more coffee at Lido

April 13th, 2009

Sometimes when you’re wandering around London you want to stop for a coffee somewhere tucked away from the hussle & bussle where you can unwind before stepping back into the crowd, and places like Costa and Starbucks just don’t cut it for a number of reasons.

It’s down to the family run or small chains to offer up those unique little experiences with beans that weren’t made in some sort of cloning machine, cakes that don’t roll off of a production line, and service that didn’t come from a three day training course.

I was first introduced to Cafe Lido on Dean Street by Laurie many years ago before his departure to San Francisco; it was one of those unique venues, tucked just off Old Compton Street avoiding most of the mainstream customers who tend to crowd around Costa or Nero. Okay so it wasn’t exactly a work of art inside, with a gigantic fish tank, a toilet that really did not encourage long stays, but you got friendly service, a good and inexpensive coffee / drink, and teased by the choice of cakes.

Unfortuantely walking past Cafe Lido last week it seems that yet another venue has the now common place letter from the leaseholder pasted to the entrance stating notice of foreclosure. Time to start looking for another secret hideaway, if there are even many left.

European at Boulevard Dining Room

April 8th, 2009

My wallet has been stung fairly badly by restaurants recently, so last night whilst catching up with a friend we opted for one of the special offers that many restaurants have been floating around since the credit crunch kicked in.

The promise? A 3 course meal and a Kir (which I had to look up on Wikipedia, blackcurrent liquor and wine) for £15, which is a pretty good deal in the grand scheme of things. I’ve walked past the Boulevard Dining Room on Old Compton Street many times but never really paid much attention to it, and probably won’t in future either.

Picking a starter and a main was difficult, because neither seemed particularly suited to the other, I think a lot more attention could be spent on producing a menu that flows rather only really permitting some really awkward combinations. After much deliberation I ended up having:

  • Chilli with nachos
  • Minute streak with fries
  • Vanilla cheesecake

I have to say I wasn’t greatly impressed with the food, it was okay, but not fantastic. I realise that you get what you pay for in most places, so I really shouldn’t expect more for £15, but if the quality of the food on offer is bad, what does that say about the quality of the food on the standard menu?

In terms of atmosphere, the music was very “Soho”, and not really my thing. It felt more like a bar trying to be a restaurant trying to be a bar. It’s all a bit confusing what it’s actually meant to be.

If you’re desperately hungry and you’re short on cash, then you probably wouldn’t regret giving it a shot, but I wouldn’t bother going out of your way to dine there.