Saturday, July 23, 2016

SHOTS FROM LONDON (Part 4): Gelato Festival at Old Spitalfields Market

The ending point of our East End London food walking tour (see previous post) was near the Old Spitalfields Market, so i decided to check it out further. It proved to be quite worthwhile, as this market has a good mix of stalls selling antiques, leather goods, books, vintage eyeglass frames (!), etc.; as well as funky shops (Montezuma's innovative British chocolate, in particular) and restaurants.

Lots of interesting food stalls here. And there was a huge lunch time crowd, composed mainly of white-collar office worker types. 

But the happiest 'stumble upon' of all was the ongoing Gelato Festival right in the middle of the market.  I really dug the old-style poster very much (below).

This event was apparently quite a big deal. Now on its 7th year, the Gelato Festival has nine stages (Florence, Parma, Rome, Naples, Turin, Milan, London, Berlin, Valencia), involving twenty two of Europe's master gelato makers. 

Check out the Gelato Laboratory! 

To start eating the gelato, all one needed to do was buy a Gelato Card. A bit pricey, and with the catch that the Gelato Card was valid only on the day of purchase. In short, if you buy a card for GBP18.00, you get to pig out on eat-all-you-can gelato for one day!

Fortunately, for folks like me who were conscious of their waistlines and calorie counts [*fit of coughing*], there was the option to buy a Gelato Card for one scoop at GBP5.00, or two scoops at GBP8.00.

I duly chose the two-scoop option. First flavor i tried was the Ricotta Cheese, which proved to be quite light and refreshing and full of goodness and light! I could have gone back for a 2nd and a 3rd and a 4th scoop for this flavour!

The guy behind the counter was a friendly sort of bloke as well, so i mentally reminded myself to get his name and introduce him to my friend cheeky Femme. ;-D

Next up was an array of flavours from maker Pernigotti.

After some deliberation, i chose the Peru 'Molto Intenso' flavour. It proved to be too intense (bordering on deep, bitter taste), and i could only finish half of the scoop. It wasn't bad, to be clear; just best eaten in small doses.

I already bookmarked the Gelato Festival website, and hope to 'accidentally' stumble upon it again next year, in another city maybe!

SHOTS FROM LONDON (Part 3): To the East End!

I joined an East London food walking tour organized by Free Tours by Foot. Unlike the usual food tours that charge a fixed fee, these guys have a 'pay-as-you-wish' business model: As their company name implies, the walk itself is free. 

As they lead you to the various stops of the food tour, you just purchase whatever food and drink you like. Then at the end of the tour, if you liked it, you give the guide a tip. Otherwise, otherwise. 

So on a hot morning, our group met up at the Liverpool Street underground station, one of London's most bustling, as it also connects trains to out-of-the-city destinations. Our guide was Jessica, a transplanted American who was taking her PhD, and rocking the biker look quite well with her arm tattoos; she proved to be quite voluble and full of interesting anecdotes.

The East end of London has been where waves of immigrants have settled over the centuries, from the Irish to the Jews and now, the Bangladeshis; and thus, the food scene was quite varied. 

First stop: Arzu Sweet Centre. This is a bit of a misnomer, as they have both sweet and savoury goodies in the store.

I tried the Lamb Samosa, which is best eaten when still piping hot. Great texture of the crust, and the filling was spicy. Very good!

Next up was Poppie's Fish & Chips, which has been around for more than 50 years. Jessica exclaimed effusively that this was not the best fish & chips in London, but the best fish & chips in the entire United Kingdom!! Strong words, i must say. 

She said this was because Poppie's used only peanut oil in frying their fish & chips. Apparently, peanut oil has a high smoke point, making it ideal for deep frying; and does not absorb the flavor of the foods cooked in the oil.

Here below is the price list of Poppie's:

So, without further ado, we ordered the 'kids' (yes, i kid you not ;-D) portion of their famous fish & chips. Here's how it looks:

The verdict? (drum roll, please) Pretty good, but i really wouldn't say it was out of this world, or something.

Moving on, we stopped by two bagels (they spell it as 'beigel') shops very close to each other, only separated by one other store between them.

On the way to the bagel shops, we had passed by this chocolate store Dark Sugars. I was pretty ecstatic that we retraced our steps and entered it.

Look, FREE samples! Yeyyyyy! [fist pump]

This is what all that dark, intense cocoa does to your brain. Hehe! 

Dark Sugars sources all its cocoa beans from the West African country of Ghana. As their website intones, "At Dark Sugars, we want to bring you quality chocolate without pretension and with all the passion of our rich and vibrant culture. Come on by and make yourself happy."

I entered the store, and savoured the rich aroma of all their chocolates on display.  So many different truffles and pearls! It was so hard to decide which variants to buy!  Fortunately, Dark Sugars sells their chocolate by weight (minimum 100 grams), so one can pick and choose at will. 

I don't know about you, but i was a happy (make that ecstatic) camper when i left their store! :-D

Last stop of the food tour was DumDums Doughnut store. As you can see from their window display, they ask the rhetorical question, "best doughnut in the world?"

Of course, yours truly willingly went in to try out their goods, all in pure, wholehearted service to you, dear readers! ;-D 

Look at these beauties! Their doughnuts are 'never fried, always baked', thanks to their proprietary, patented baking process.

 I eventually choose this chocolate glaze-topped doughnut, with cream filling. Flat out one of the best i've ever tasted - the cream was light and not cloyingly sweet; the bread was fresh; and the chocolate tasted just right.

If i could have brought home a box of 12, i would! 

Some photos of interesting food outlets i saw while our group was walking (below). So much places to check out, so little time.

The Smokey Locomotive. Choo choo!

Meat Porn. Just the name alone, panalo na

Pizza Purist. Look at that pile of wood!

Gandhi's. Hmmm, now i wonder what Mahatma and Indira and Rajiv have to say about this!

[Groan] *SMH* No, just no. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

SHOTS FROM LONDON (Part 2): Romulo Cafe@Kensington High Street

In the course of planning this trip to London, Newman and i joked about eating at Romulo Cafe. I guess both of us were a bit mind-blown that this restaurant, which originated from our native country, would go so far as to open a branch in London. And at such a location as Kensington High Street at that, known to be a posh part of this mega-city.

 Well, the thing with things said in jest is that sometimes they do  come true. So it was that, on a windy gray early evening, Newman and i alighted from the tube and started walking along Kensington High Street in search of Romulo Cafe. 

It turned out to be located at the farther, more commonplace side; looking like a converted shop house unit from the outside (see above). Right beside it was a store selling fresh fruits, and besides that was a casual Middle Eastern cafe. 

The interiors proved to be cozy and accommodating, and give off a smart casual vibe. Black and white photos of illustrious Gen. Carlos P. Romulo adorned the walls. (For those who are not familiar with who he was, check out his biography)

On to the menu! After much hew and hawwing, we placed our orders. First up was Chef Lorenzo’s Pork Sisig, described on the menu as "Chopped seared pork belly topped with fried egg with pickled apples and caramelized shallots". (GBP7.50)

On first glance, i thought they gave us the wrong order. This definitely looked worlds apart from the usual sisig found in various parts of the Philippines - sizzling on a plate, garnished with chopped onions, with calamansi (Philippine lime) on the side ready to be sprinkled. 

This dish looked like 'fried egg with feeble vegetables'. Turns out the pork belly (not the usual ears and cheeks, haha!) was found underneath. And despite my misgivings, we both found it to be a good appetizer.

Next was one of the new items on the menu - The General's Combo Platter, composed of "pork barbeque, chicken inasal [marinated in sauce], tinapa [smoked fish with red eggs and tomatoes] roll, camaron rebosado [fried buttered prawn with mayo dip], and patotim [duck in a steam bun with lettuce]with atchara [preserved papaya]." (GBP17.50)

Now, this was great value for money! The BBQ and chicken were on point, the fried prawns delicious, the smoked fish rolls flavourful.  Best eaten with a cup (or two) of plain rice, as real Pinoys do :-D Newman and i got pretty full. 

As for the duck, ah this was the one lowlight of our meal. The duck meat itself was pretty good (not dry), but the bread bun was mysteriously frozen. As in frozen rock solid. It was Newman who discovered it, and we both puzzled about it for some moments before deciding to bring to the staff's attention. 

They claimed it was not resto practice to freeze buns, then thaw and steam them  upon order. (So perhaps the buns are delivered by an outside supplier?) They took the bun (the evidence!) away. No satisfactory explanation was given.

Last was one of their new desserts - Maja Blanca, described as "coconut milk pudding with corn, topped with mangoes and parmesan chips, and served with cheese (queso) ice cream." (GBP7.00)

Looks pretty, no? It proved to be a refreshing dish, and not too heavy on the stomach.

For drinks, i ordered the Cha-jito ("Havana Anejo rum, sweet and spiced tea, mint, coriander, ginger & lime"), a bit steep at GBP8.50. Sourish taste at first, but it grows on you. 

After some questioning, we elicited from the friendly staff that one of Gen. Romulo's descendants resided in London; and this was how the idea of putting up a branch came about. So far, they have been open for around 4 months now; and judging from our visit, the response was pretty good. 

Cheers to Filipino food in London!

Romulo Cafe London

Romulo Café London, 343 Kensington High Street, London W8 6NW
020 3141 6390 |  |
Monday to Saturday: 12pm to 12am
Sunday: 12pm to 11:30pm
Between 3:00 to 5:30pm, we serve bar food/snacks, salads and desserts