I haven’t died or anything. I’ve just been trying to meet everyone before I leave. When I say I’m busy I don’t mean that I’m sitting around buffing my nails at home. I mean it in the sense that I haven’t done a piece of work in god only knows how long - and I don’t think you can count the 1h48mins I spent crapping out an essay for Jupru. I hardly sleep, I get home too late and leave the house too early, and haven’t been replying to texts as promptly as usual. While we’re at it, I also haven’t changed my lightbulbs, or put new batteries into my chirping smoke detector, nor have I fixed my freezer. I just haven’t got my act together lately.
But I must apologize to all of you who check this space faithfully everyday, hoping for a new post, and who text/inbox me wondering why I haven’t written anything lately. You see, there should always be time for food, and also, there should definitely always be time to do a post for those of you who have been so sweetly supportive even though things have been a bit quiet around here.
Much love to all!!! <3 :)
H has been raving about this Szechuan place for ages, and has visited quite a few times ever since she was first brought here by a friend from China. (Yes, there is a difference between being Chinese and being from China, so stop asking me how things are in China, especially if I already told you about 30sec ago that I’m from Singapore, because I really wouldn’t know.) So some weeks back we finally paid it a visit, accompanied by K, whom I haven’t seen in what must be a year?!?!
Given how cold and wet it was that afternoon, it turned out to be the perfect occasion for some spicy Szechuan cuisine, which really will warm you up from the inside.
I might as well put it out there at this point that I really do not know how to pronounce ‘Szechuan’. I don’t say it in the popular Westernised way, ‘Sez-shwan’, nor do I say it in the (technically correct) Mandarin way, ‘Si-Chuan’. I think most of us in Singapore/Malaysia pronounce it as ‘See-chuan’ really but you do what you want.
Red & Hot is along Charing Cross Road, in the general neighborhood of China Town. You will probably walk right by it if you aren’t actually looking for it, since there is no boisterous, obnoxiously red signage beckoning you to enter. The inside is just as no-frills. It’s furnished pretty much like every other Chinese restaurant – minimalist, and I don’t mean in a chic way. Because that is how Chinese people do things. They know that so long as their food is good, people will come, and that they don’t need to care about the ambience.
And I mean it. They were playing the strangest mix of music, starting with Whitney Houston and ending with Enrique Iglesias.
Also, if you go with good friends who make you laugh non-stop, so much so that you almost forget about that awful crick in your neck that you got from sleeping on the sofa, you sort of create your own ambience.
Only a few other tables were occupied when we went in for lunch on a Thursday, which normally doesn’t bode well for a restaurant, but I absolutely trust H’s tastes! And of course I was right to do so.
We did get quite a lot of food for 3 people but that’s the funny thing about spicy food: it is so appetizing, it makes you even hungrier than you ever thought possible. I think I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it’s another secret to improving your eating stamina!
Hot & Sour Vermicelli (£4.80)
This is a noodle dish made with ‘glass noodles’ (a noodle made of starch), which is a favorite of both K and myself. It’s super tasty, nicely spicy and slightly sour, and the noodles are slippery and springy. I know you can see the vast amount of oil pooling at the top of the intensely red sauce but pay it no mind. (Insulation for the winter.)
Chengdu Dan Dan Noodles (£3.80)
For those of you who do not understand the delights of glass noodles – in which case I cannot deny that I do not understand you – the texture of these noodles will be a bit more familiar to you. They come with a topping made of minced meat and spicy bean paste that you have to mix up so that it coats every strand. These were really good as well.
Dry Fried Green Beans with Minced Pork (£7.80)
This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes of all time. The beans are usually deep-fried beforehand so they have a good crunch, and they are nicely slicked with oil and super tasty from being fried with minced meat and chilli. The one done here is really quite good. If you know of anyone who has problems eating vegetables, you probably just need to cook them in more oil. (I never pretended to be healthy.) If you know of anyone who has problems eating pork… assassinate them. (Unless it’s for religious beliefs of course!)
Twice Cooked Pork (Chef’s specialty) (£7.80)
Fatty, oily slices of pork, stir-fried with leek, one of my favorite vegetables, and of course, more chilli. I think it’s great that they used leek in place of the usual stir-fry staple of sliced onion here because I quite hate it when you have too much raw onion in a dish.
Dry Fried Frog Legs with Chilli Peppers (£12)
This dish was definitely my favorite. We wanted to order some seafood but the fish and prawn dishes didn’t particularly appeal to us, so we settled for frog. (Which we weren’t entirely sure could be considered ‘seafood’ since they technically don’t live in the sea.) The frogs were deepfried before hand so they had a slight crust and the meat was tender but not dry. And while I love spring onions and chilli, there’s only so much spring onion and chilli 3 people can eat.
This is what our plate looked like when we had finished off all the frog legs. I am having a pretty bad sorethroat now and just the sight of all that oil and chilli makes my throat itch.
K and I had our eye on some dumplings, so we ordered them. They look almost 20minutes to come, so we were super happy to be presented with…
A grand total of SIX dumplings. I would like to be understanding here and say that maybe the long wait and rather exorbitant price was justified because these were handmade. But we had to wait ages for this, and to be given only 6?!?! Nevertheless, they were still pretty good. Tasty from soaking up all the chilli sauce, the dough was on the slightly thick side but thankfully, not raw.
If you are a fan of spicy food, I definitely recommend coming here. If you’re not, you could still come here but ask them to make it less spicy. Good food that doesn’t make you feel bloated or ill no matter how much you eat. (Unless you can’t stomach spicy food, in which case you may get the runs for the next few days.) I certainly see myself returning sometime in the cold wintry months ahead.
On our way back to H’s - soldiering on in the pouring rain – we attempted to stop by St John’s for their famous donuts but were told on the phone that they had long sold out. However, determined for some sweets, we stopped by Look Mum No Hands to pick up some cake and coffee.
Look Mum No Hands is yet another of those Shoreditch cafes frequented by the hipster types. They also have a workshop with mechanics who will fix your bikes. It’s a great place for studying, if you are so inclined. I am not so inclined, and so I have cake.
They had great cakes on display. We got the lemon rosemary olive oil cake and the carrot cardamom cake. I really wanted to try the lemon lavender polenta one as well, and the coconut one, and the chocolate beetroot… but that will have to wait for another day.
Carrot Cardamom Cake
This was moist and soft. The topping wasn’t the usual cream cheese frosting but a buttercream, which tasted rather like it had salted butter in it, so that was nice. You could taste the cardamom in it but I doubt anyone who didn’t know there was cardamom in it would be able to detect it.
I don’t typically like raisins but I can overlook them in carrot cake and cinnamon raisin bagels hahaha. I liked that the carrot was left rather stringy and not completely mushy, which can make carrot cake almost too wet.
In general, not the best carrot cake, but good nonetheless.
Lemon Rosemary Olive Oil Cake
You can smell the rosemary quite strongly, which is wonderful. This sounds weird but I had to struggle a bit to dispel the images of roast lamb from my mind, because rosemary, to me, is so, so evocative of lamb. As you can see, the cake had a dense and squidgy texture and was rather damp. I love olive oil in baked goods (like macarons omgggggg) so I wish the taste of the olive oil was stronger here. Still, it gave the cake quite a bit of moistness. Almost too much I would say, as the cake was a bit wet.
I wouldn’t say the service here is the best but then I have come to expect less and less of service in indie cafes.
Later that night, after discovering that Salvation Jane didn’t serve dinner, H and I decided to explore Shoreditch. Tramshed was out of the question and the Hoxton Grill was packed, so after making mental notes to return to several places in the future, we finally settled on Hache.
The first time I went to Hache was when Ls brought us to the Chelsea branch after our brave journey to the West to visit the Kew Gardens (on a dreary rainy day, unfortunately).
We went in after 7PM, and it was quite empty so we didn’t have trouble getting a table, but it filled up pretty fast and by 8PM it was mostly full. For a burger joint, its decor is a lot more classy than you would expect. From what I remember, the service wasn’t great, but the food is really quite, quite tasty.
Roast Pulled Pork (on brioche) (£9.95)
(slow roasted BBQ pulled pork with crispy pancetta,
topped with an onion ring and coleslaw)
H got the pulled pork burger because she is a huge sucker for anything swine-affiliated. This was good and I was more than happy to help her mop up her leftovers.
A lamb burger is my default order when I have burgers but seeing as I had tried the lamb burger before – also good – I decided to go for the special.
Triomphe de Truffes (on brioche) (£12.50)
(beef burger topped with home-made truffled gruyere cheese
and a balsamic truffle glaze)
No prizes for guessing why I chose this one. I think I was ever so slightly disappointed by this. Mostly because I could barely detect any truffle. While I do love a balsamic glaze, I felt its acidity and tang was a bit too overpowering here. And PLEASE, can I have my burger smothered in cheese next time? This burger was also slightly… flat. Which is something of a problem for me as I personally like solid, juicy, tall burgers. Having said all that, it was still well-cooked and tender, just that it didn’t taste particularly unique.
What I really like here are the sweet potato fries, which Ls had raved about when she first brought us here.
Potato wedges (with garlic mayo and salsa) (£3.50), Sweet potato frites (£3.50)
The sides come in little frying baskets. The sweet potato fries really are some of the better ones I’ve had. The wedges were good too, but paled in comparison to the sweet potato fries. Please note that, should you require any more dips, they charge you £1.25 for it, so either go easy on the dunking, or settle for some ketchup or mustard hahaha.
In general, there are way too many burger places in London at the moment, each place touting their burgers as the best in the city, and I think we should all just end our quest to find the perfect burger joint, because we all have our own favorites (mine being Luckychip and Meatliquor) and tastes are so subjective anyway. I will always enjoy a good burger whatever its pedigree and right now I just want to go home and have a Double-McSpicy-extra-mayo-extra-cheese-meal-upsized-green-tea-no-ice.
It is bedtime now, uncharacteristically early for me, but I am unfortunately quite dreadfully ill at the moment. Hope you enjoyed reading this post and I hope to do another one again soon!
*there are apparently also branches in Manch and Birmingham – see website for more details
Monday to Thursday & Sunday: 12PM to 11PM
Friday & Saturday: 12PM to 12 AM
Mon-Fri: 730AM to 10PM
Sat: 9AM to 10PM
Sun: 930AM to 10PM
329-331 Fulham Road
London SW10 9QL
147-149 Curtain Road
London EC2A 3QE
*there are 2 more branches in Camden and Clapham – see website for more details
Mon-Thurs: 12PM to 1030PM
Fri & Sat: 12PM to 11PM
Sun: 12PM to 10PM