Browsing Tag

sweet potato chips

London, Restaurants

Naamyaa Cafe – Angel, London

Since trying kanom jin noodles at Thai Vanduke, I’ve been looking forward to trying more authentic Thai dishes at Naamyaa Cafe, Alan Yau’s new all day dining modern Bangkok cafe in Angel.  It was a chance passing on a cold night that led me to Naamyaa on its second night open and the soft opening discount of 50% off food was a welcome surprise.

Designed by David Archer, Naamyaa Cafe is colourful, bright and expansive with three separate open-plan dining areas and a central bar with high seats.  The concept is a more accessible, day-focused sister restaurant to Busaba Eatthai, offering traditional Bangkok specialities alongside a few Western dishes.

The menu is full of tempting dishes such as their signature Naamyaa Goong, stir-fry chicken with asparagus and rice, red beef curry, prawn kanom jin noodles, Tom Yam prawn soup, green papaya salads, Thai chive cakes and some tasty-looking burgers.

I ordered the Chicken Laksa (£8.50), which arrived at the table within five minutes or so.  The spicy soup was rich, fragrant and comforting, with plenty of crushed peanut and dried shrimp.  It came served in a big bowl with medium-thick rice noodles, large pieces of grilled chicken, bubbly tofu, half a soft boiled egg, sweet potato crisps, fresh beansprouts, crunchy pickled vegetables and lots of fresh coriander.

It was authentic, delicious and very, very hot – perfect for keeping away winter colds.  I particularly liked that the noodles were on the firmer side and the chicken was high quality and plentiful.  My only criticism was that I found a small chicken bone in the laksa, but understandably this was during the soft opening period and I was told that my feedback would be passed on to the chefs, to avoid in the future.

If I hadn’t already started with a few canapes at an event earlier, I would have grazed on a few side dishes and brought a dining partner to try more of the menu.  My solo visit was completely unplanned, but I felt comfortable enough in Naamyaa on my own with my magazine and even had a chat with the staff and two businessmen sat next to me.

I was sat directly in front of the cakes, so of course I treated myself to a slice of Pandan Chiffon Cake (£3).  I discovered this light, heavenly cake in Singapore and brought a big box of it back home – luckily the airport has a very good, affordable cake shop before check-in.  Naamyaa’s Pandan Chiffon Cake is authentic and a real treat, as I haven’t come across it in many London restaurants.  My Singaporean chiffon cake was impossibly light and silky, making it hard to replicate, but Naamyaa’s was excellent and well-balanced.

Other desserts include pandan and coconut jelly and coconut and pomegranate tapioca pudding, to be matched with some interesting and well-priced teas.

Naamyaa Cafe is a great addition to Islington and has all the makings of a popular boutique chain.  The food is excellent and reasonably priced, staff are warm and friendly and the atmosphere is buzzing yet unpretentious.  I will definitely be back when I’m feeling nostalgic for Pandan Chiffon Cake.

For more info, visit:

Photos by Naamyaa Cafe and Chérie City

Naamyaa Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cafes, London, Restaurants

The Giraffe Cafe, Hampstead

Hampstead was the destination of the first Giraffe restaurant 13 years ago, but as the company has grown, the original outpost needed a fresh new look, so welcome to the neighbourhood, The Giraffe Cafe.

Unlike the usually expansive Giraffe restaurants, The Giraffe Cafe is petite and cosy with just a handful of individual tables, two communal tables and a counter at the window.  It still has a focus on a global cuisine and the design reflects the brand’s travel concept.

We dined a bit earlier than usual, as the plan was to time our visit to The Giraffe Cafe after Steven finished work at his studio in north London.  I’m so glad we did this, as we got to see two different sides to The Giraffe Cafe – the earlier sitting being a haven for families, later turning into a more cosmopolitan, buzzing local eaterie.

If writers are looking for inspiration for posh, eccentric families, The Giraffe Cafe is the place to come and eavesdrop.

The kids (unknowingly) entertained us – one little darling, intrigued by a wall feature covered in logs, told the other, authoritatively, “this is where they cut down all the trees”.  Yep, The Giraffe Cafe in leafy Hampstead is the sole extinguisher of the rainforest…let’s just hope they can find time to make my chicken sticks!

Another precious little thing, let’s call him Felix, was running around dressed as Batman and his mother declared to the table, while sipping on a cocktail, that his unbridled creativity (filling a colouring in book) means that he will be a great artist one day.  So there you have it, future geniuses right there dining among us, and without being snarky, it really was fun.

Service is chirpy and informal – expect the staff to ask how your day was and to sit down beside you to take your order.  Our waiter made reference to the prix-fixe menu and I liked it that we were instantly offered free tap water, rather than the usual ‘still or sparkling’ option.  You feel like they’re not trying to up-sell or rip you off with hidden extras, which is a nice approach, especially for families.

We ordered two appetisers to share  - African spiced chicken sticks with zim zim buffalo sauce (£4.95) and Cheesy ‘Santa Fe’ style crisps (£4.95).

The chunky pieces of chicken on skewers were lightly spiced and succulent and the sauce had a smoky tomato barbecue taste and a real kick to it.  Afterwards, my mouth felt like it was on fire (thank goodness for the refills of tap water), although this didn’t put me off saving some to put on my next dish.  The waiter kindly offered to bring me a new pot of sauce when I told him about my plan.

The ‘Santa Fe’ crisps were large tortilla chips, topped with paprika, served with pots of raclette fondue cheese sauce, guacamole and tomato salsa.  The cheese sauce was scrumptious and had a slightly grainy texture, which complimented the fresh, zingy guacamole.

Steven ordered the Grilled Marrakesh sea bass fillet with crushed spiced potatoes and rocket with grilled lemon (£12.95).  The fish was incredibly fresh and well-marinated with piquant spices.  It went well with the soft crushed spiced new potatoes and the portion size was generous.

Based on the memory of the delicious Duck Noodles I once had a Giraffe Spitalfields, I ordered Mee Goreng (£7.95) – Malaysian street style food noodles with tofu, green beans, coconut milk, light soy, bean sprouts, Asian cabbage and crisp fried shallots.

The noodles were cooked perfectly with chunky pieces of fried tofu and had a subtle, sweet coconut and soy flavour.  They could have done with a kick of chilli and some lemon juice to reduce the sweetness, so I pinched a squeeze of Steven’s grilled lemon and they were instantly improved.

We also ordered a bowl of Sweet Potato Fries (£3.95) to share and they were out of this world!  The crispy, golden slices of sweet potato were packed full of flavour and a little bit addictive – an absolute must for any main course!

The Giraffe Cafe might as well have just put one dessert on the menu, as for us the choice was clear…Banana Waffle Split – a Belgian waffle with roast banana, vanilla ice cream, chocolate and butterscotch sauce (£5.25).  As far as I’m concerned, no other dessert could rival this, although the Organic Fair Trade Chocolate Fudge Cake was a close runner-up.

It was as decadent, sticky and delicious as expected and I loved the soft, caramelised, cinnamon-coated banana.

The Giraffe Cafe is a very different concept to Giraffe restaurants and we loved the relaxed local atmosphere.  It’s an equally enjoyable experience for families and the after-work crowd who want to relax with good food and a cocktail – just pick your visiting times accordingly.

Chérie City was a guest of Giraffe Cafe Hampstead.

All photos by Chérie City.

Bars, London, Restaurants

Dinner At The Cuckoo Club

I’ve always been tempted by The Cuckoo Club with its rock ‘n’ roll guestlist of Rolling Stones and their kids, Kate Moss’ crew, Sienna Miller and assorted royals.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in the majority of the central London private members’ clubs for events and parties, but rarely have I been there on a regular night out.

The Cuckoo Club is super exclusive and as far as I know, it’s near impossible to get into unless you’re a guest of a member or ridiculously well-connected.

The exception to the rule however, is that if you book a table for dinner you’re in there – no need to prove your worth to eagle-eyed door staff.

I think it’s fair to say that The Cuckoo Club hasn’t previously been on the London foodie map, but this year, the club recruited new Head Chef Chris Cooper – previously at Michelin-starred restaurant, Texture.

The seasonal menu changes each month and focuses on light, healthy dishes that won’t weigh you down in the club.  None of the starters or mains include butter or cream, so you can indulge and stay energised for the evening.

When we arrived at The Cuckoo Club at just after 8pm, we were the first people in the restaurant and had the full attention of all of the staff.  The tables quickly filled and were all full within an hour or so.

We were greeted by our lovely, charming Spanish waitress and were swiftly brought a stack on menus and a bowl of marinated olives to keep us going. She suggested a cocktail from the specials menu as an aperitif while we decided what to order.

This select range of cocktails are ideal for before dinner and are simply named by the spirit.  I chose ‘Rum’ with a mix of blueberries, blackberries, red wine and plum jam and Steven went for ‘Tequila’, mixed with orange bitters (£9 each).

After ordering, we were brought slices of chunky fresh bread served on black slates, a mound of butter and rock salt and a dish of olive oil with balsamic vinegar reduction.

The bread was soft and springy with a crystal crisp crust and the accompaniments were top quality and made the bread course more interesting.  Some side plates would have been nice, to avoid table crumbs and olive oil spillage, but then again, it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll to be concerned with the table cloth (note to self).

The soundtrack at The Cuckoo Club is quite unique – all 70s rock and indie classics.  It felt strange at first, as most posh dining venues subscribe to the generic ‘funky lounge music’, but it was a welcome change.

To start, I ordered the Asparagus with Bacon Powder, Crouton & Slow Cooked Egg (£12).  It looked like an exotic paradise with lilac pansies, lettuce spears and a deep green puree artistically smeared across the side of the plate.

It tasted as good as it looked and the portion size was substantial.  The asparagus was tender and lightly doused in oil and the slow-cooked egg was runny and melted across the dish.  It came with a paper-thin bread crisp and flavoursome bacon powder than stuck to the lightly dressed leaves – absolutely delicious!

Steven went for the Cured Tuna Marinated in Lemon & Basil, Mixed Onions in a Pine Dressing (£12).  The tuna was very fresh and had a pickled flavour and was garnished with tiny white flowers.  It’s the kind of fashionable dish you might find at Le Chateaubriand in Paris.

For my main dish, I went for the Duck Breast on Buttered Hispi Cabbage, St George & King Oyster Mushroom with a Duck Broth (£19.50).

What a wonderful combination!  The succulent duck was cooked medium with a thin layer of crispy fat and sat atop nicely wilted hispi cabbage, chunky cashew nuts and sprinkles of coriander.  The broth was light and meaty and there was just the right amount to make the dish fluid without completely submerging it.

Steven ordered the Best End of Limousin Lamb, Confit Potatoes, Piquillo Peppers, Roasted Red Pepper Puree, Aubergine Crisps & Lamb Jus (£23.00).

The lamb was tender and the vegetables were coated in a herby Mediterranean tomato and red pepper sauce and finished with thin golden aubergine crisps.

We couldn’t resist picking a side order of Cauliflower Puree (£5.50) and Sweet Potato Wedges with Spicy Mayo, as recommended by our waitress.  The Cauliflower Puree was silky smooth and thick with a tiny touch of cheese and cream (just a small amount for flavour).

The Sweet Potato Chips (£5.50) were an absolute delight and a nice alternative to chips.  The long golden wedges came with cajun seasoning and a light mayo dip which didn’t overpower the flavour.

As all of our courses had come in reasonably quick succession, we had become slow with the cocktails and took the chance before dessert to try another.  Our waitress was keen for us to work out way through the cocktail menu and didn’t want us ‘to go dry’.  I liked her way of thinking and was happy to oblige!

I ordered a Teen Spirit (all cocktails £13) - Hangar 1 Spiced pear vodka, Martini Extra Dry, lemon juice, homemade vanilla sugar, cardamoms and apple juice.  It was a refreshing, sweet and sour long drink with plenty of crushed ice.

Steven went for a Rocket Queen - Johnny Walker Black Label, Xante, lemon juice, apple juice, maple syrup and Nashi pear.  Also a tall drink, it was very similar to my cocktail but a bit sweeter, due to the maple syrup.  They were both strong but not overpowering and they would a perfect choice in the club later, if you don’t want your drink to last.

For dessert, I’d been recommended the Chocolate, made with 70% Valrhona Ganache, Sea Salt Crumble, Malt Ice Cream & Coffee Essence (£8).  I had to see what the fuss was about and its reputation is well-deserved – a real plate of heaven.

A large black slate was filled with a chocolate landscape – a large chocolate brandy snap, a scoop of creamy malt ice cream sitting on tumbling sea salt chocolate crumble with thick chocolate ganache and finished with a drizzle of coffee essence.  Everything worked exceptionally well together and there was a good mix of textures – crunchy, powdery, creamy, velvety and bitter.

Steven went for the lighter choice of Strawberry – Gariguette Strawberries, Fennel, French Meringue, Crème Fraiche Sorbet (£8).

The strawberries were stewed with the fennel the meringues were soft and chewy.  The dessert was like a more interesting, herbal Eton Mess.

To wash down the glorious desserts, our waitress persuaded us to try an Espresso Martini shot – a deliciously sweet, nicely roasted digestif.

There was one last cocktail on the agenda and we both went for Golden Touch - Jameson’s Gold Reserve, lemon juice, Port wine, apricot brandy, honey, apple juice and pineapple juice. The fact that it was served in a goblet was a deciding factor and it did look impressive and tasted just as good!

From 11pm, the staff go into overdrive to transform the restaurant into a club and lounge.  The dinner tables became ‘drink stations’ covered with glasses, Champagne buckets and mixers – like a ridiculously well-organised house party.

For anyone who is as clueless as me about the West End club, guests reserve a table, buy a bottle of Champagne or vodka and everything else is set up on the table.

The club soon filled with an international crowd of impossibly leggy and gorgeous blonde twentysomethings and ever so slightly older bankers and business types.  The music changed from rock ‘n’ roll to really good electro and Detroit house.

There were no celeb sightings, but as we arrived at 8pm, we didn’t stay into the early hours when the raucous rock ‘n’ roll crowd arrive.

Service at The Cuckoo Club is warm and attentive – not in the slightest bit snooty. The modest menu and small cover makes it easier for the kitchen to concentrate on the quality of each dish and to get them to the tables without delay.

Prices are the same as any high end London restaurant, but the portion sizes, excellent quality and getting guaranteed free entry to a super exclusive club for the rest of the night gives it a real edge over the rest.  No wonder the tables were fully booked!

It’s easy to be tempted by all the cocktails and side orders, so splash out and make it a night to remember.

For more info and upcoming events, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of The Cuckoo Club.

Cuckoo Club on Urbanspoon