Archive for January, 2011

Cafe 338 Review, Bethnal Green (Joe Brothwell)

Name: Café 338
Type: Greasy Spoon
Where: Bethnal Green Road
Nearest Tube: Um, Can’t you read, Bethnal Green
Price: Big breakfasts start at about £3.50, but with the option of create your own you could spend up to £6 – or more if you’re greedy.
Rating: ££££


Café 338 is a personal favourite of mine because of it’s convenient location (it’s near my house, but don’t bother trying to track me down as I’m a crazy who carries around mace – not a good combo for you), cheap prices, large portions and ridiculously cute owner. Don’t expect gourmet fodder here, but 338’s selection of fry-ups and traditional greasy spoon grub (think jacket potatoes, omelettes and paninis) is perfect for hungover Saturday afternoons, and lazy Sunday mornings.

As a pseudo-vegetarian (I only say that to maintain the illusion that I’m ethical and a little bit skinny) the set menus (which are much cheaper than creating your own) are more than adequate. I had  – if you can’t be bothered to read the next few words just look at the photo below – the ‘light breakfast’ (two poached eggs, brown toast, tomatoes, mushrooms and coffee) with extra hash browns. It came to £5.20 but fortunately for ol’ Joe a clumsy charity collector was a bit too swing happy with the collection bucket and unknowingly deposited 70p into the Joe Brothwell breakfast fund. If you are unwilling to go over your five pound limit intimidating young children, old people and people that look vulnerable is an excellent way to get enough for an extra bacon rasher or glass of orange juice.

Having traipsed around countless cafes and brunch-appropriate eateries in the East end, in my opinion Café 338 is the best value for money and the food is consistent. Unfortunately the café is also pretty small so going at peak times (think weekend mornings) can result in a bit of a wait. STOP READING THIS NOW, GET UP OFF YOUR ASS AND SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS S ABOUT.

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Ben and Jerry Review at Vue Cinemas Islington (Katy Balls)

Name: Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Counter

Type: Ice Cream

Where: Most Vue Cinemas, at the Islingtion branch for sure

Nearest tube: Angel

Price: £4.70 for a medium core sundae

Rating: £££

It turns out that it is quite hard to find a place in London where you can get two courses for a fiver. This might suggest that puddings are not an option for the thrifty eater. However, they very much are on the menu so long as you can find a dessert with so much sugar, gu and fat that a sick full feeling  takes you over after causing you to completely forget you didn’t have a main.

This Core Sundae from the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream counters for £4.70 has exactly this effect. Choose two types of ice cream from a range including Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Baked Alaska, Phish Food and Chunky Monkey. Then choose between hot chocolate fudge or toffee sauce which is heaped into the core of the sundae. A dashing of cream follows and you then face your final choice (the most important yet)- what animal shaped chocolate to choose?

In simple terms this isvery good. A combination of all things sweet, it is definitely doing sugar to the excess. Maybe be careful what film you watch it with (if you do). I chose to eat it during Black Swan- a tale of a Bulimic Ballerina– which made the slightly nauseous full feeling I had after devouring it a tad more uncomfortable than it needed to be.

Leon Review at Southwark- TAKE TWO (Katy Balls)

For those of you that don’t have either this blog, my twitter account or facebook profile as your homepage (if not, one question- why?), a few weeks ago I gave the London food chain Leon a pretty bad review and thanks to the power of multi platform social media the actual owner of Leon came across the post.

While this could have been the likely start of a crime watch story, the founder Henry Dimbleby handled the insults well and offered to take myself and a friend -who was also turned off Leon- for dinner to change our minds.

Now I am aware that the following food reviewed did not cost me a fiver (instead nothing) and would cost you more. So perhaps take this as

(a) a lesson that one way of getting value for money food is to complain when you’re not happy(start a blog).

(b)more simply pick something you like from below and hope for the best that that one item is under £5.

(c) tweet @Henry_Leon with your tragic tale and cross your fingers.

Back on that dark January day when I had my gross Leon experience of a gherkin and cabbage filled wrap with little chicken and what there was of it pink, I made a promise not to go back. However, like most promises I make I broke this and found myself spending wednesday evening being something of a sell out drinking free wine and sampling everything Leon has to offer.

Henry ordered a range of the food for us to sample and this included halloumi, chorizo, meatballs, chilli chicken, rice, brocoli, sweet potato mash, olives, houmous, pork wrap, chilli chicken and jambalaya. Most importantly, the wrap was MUCH IMPROVED-  no longer did I want to vomit as soon as it entered my mouth, I even approaching liked it. To ensure your wrap is always like wednesday night’s and not my previous disasters I say tell your server you’re reviewing them.

FOOD4A£0

In general everything we ate was of a good standard and I find it hard (though this pains me a tad) to come up with too many catty comments. All the food is healthy in the sense that it is low in salt and fats etc tough the calories itself varies which is a good approach to healthy eating. The meatballs are pretty nice and Henry reccomended these as a hangover food, I can see how this would work.

At one point I pointed out that the mackeral salad on the menu wouldn’t really act as a fulfilling meal and Henry then ordered me one. Now while it was good, it didn’t really prove me wrong as most times I have lunch it isn’t preceded by a meal consisting of over 8 courses.

Desserts too are lush and large portions.

In conclusion LEON is a worthy meal choice and though it has its off days the company is willing to accept this and try harder. Plus if you have a bad experience? A free meal could beckon*

* Note- Leon will see through thinly veiled attempts to get free meals (probs)

Pret a Manger Review at Southwark, Southwark Street

Name: Pret a Manger

Type: King of lunchtime food

Where: Southwark Street, Southwark, SE1 OSU

Nearest tube: Southwark/also near from London Bridge

Price: £4.95  for a can of juice, soup and bag of skinny popcorn (yes that does constitute a lunch- be it a pro-ana lunch)

Rating: £££

This lesser known one off cute cafe FOOD GIANTS Pret a Manger dominate the streets of London providing one of life’s few certainties- walk any direction for 5 minutes in the capital and you WILL reach a pret a manger.

stay skinny:go to places where you can't afford to eat

Feeding millions each week, Pret offer a range of typical lunch time food like baguettes, wraps, soup, salad and so on. It hasn’t gone un-noticed that this blog so far seems to promote less healthy eateries so since its January (the month of swearing to a diet that lasts five days) why not try out Pret where you have to only eat a little as you can’t afford to eat more.

The £3.99 wraps mean a £5 lunch is impossible unless you go drink free. Embracing this, it is possible to have a skinny person’s lunch for under £5 here.

Soup is £2.99 and there are three choices daily which are all usually of a good standard. Pictured above is the meatball soup which is reasonable tasty and warms you up in the freeze. Less successful is the classic tomato soup which reminded me of a jar of Dolmio in a paper bowl. Not so lush.

Unfortunately you can’t afford a sandwich if you get soup but you can get a bag of skinny popcorn which is moreish.

Note: eating popcorn in the light of day made me realise why it was an in the dark cinema food- not good for a date.

Overall this is an adequate feed so long as you have an afternoon snack and the food is all a ok if somewhat predictable (like the store itself).

Canton Review at Leicester Square, West End

Name: Canton Chinese Restaurant

Type: Chinese

Where: Canton Chinese Restaurant, 11 /Newport Place, London

Nearest Tube: A mere stones throw away from Leicester Square Underground.

Prices: Like most Chinese restaurants the prices vary quite substantially between dishes. However, whatever you say about Canton it s certainly cheaper than most; diners can comfortably get a main meal for a fiver – even if they have to wash it down with tap water.

Rating: ££

Crawling out of bed on Saturday morning – after a Friday night of one too many gins – the prospect of Chinese food made me want to chunder quicker than Kerry Katona before the filming of her new fitness DVD. However, a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do, so with images of greasy prawn crackers and fatty duck skin in our heads, Balls and I dragged our sorry asses to China Town in search of cheap eats.

Perusing the menu of Canton we thought we might be on to something: an array of rice and chicken/vegetable/duck/tofu dishes for a fiver.

The décor of the restaurant is unappealing, communal seating is not pulled off in a trendy Wagamama fashion, and the one-roomed eatery feels cramped with too many tables and chairs forced into the limited space. A stony-faced waiter looked unimpressed as we ordered two tap waters and browsed the menu further eventually deciding upon chicken with vegetables and rice (for myself) and duck with vegetables and crispy noodles (for Balls).

£5 to feel repulsed.

Despite the appearance of the interior, the restaurant looked clean – and as the waves of nausea became less frequent I was actually quite looking forward to my dish. The portions are certainly hearty, and the food arrived remarkable quickly – in actual fact we only spent about 45 minutes in Canton overall. My dish was bland and littered with anaemic looking strips of chicken and green shoots reminiscent of miniature celery sticks. It did the job, I was full at the end of it and felt that £5 was more than a reasonable price to pay considering the portion, however it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. Look below if you want to see some nice hands.

bland.com

Fine if you’re looking for a quick cheap bite – but look somewhere else if you’re hoping to impress a date/client/escort. Balls’ meal looked unappetising, but I fear that was more to do with a poor order choice than the general standard of food. Her noodles both managed to look burnt and be soggy and the sauce that covered her duck and medley of veggies (that included broccoli) looked too thick and gelatinous. I’m not sure if it was the ambience, waiting staff, the night before, the company (sorry Balls) or the food, but Canton didn’t leave me feeling satiated. Mediocre.

Gate Review at Newington Green, Hackney

Name: The Gate

Type: A wide selection of cafe food from traditional breakfasts to jacket potatoes to pasta to steak etc.

Where: The Gate, 11 Albion Rd, Newington Green

Nearest tube: Actually an overground- Canonbury. Quite near Angel so you an get a 73/341/476 bus from here straight to its door if you’re feeling lazy.

Price: All the breakfats are under £5, other menu items are also good value.

Rating: ££££

While most weekday mornings are filled with running for buses, getting squashed on tubes, eventually arriving late for work and then spending the next four hours working out what you’re going to have for lunch, weekends are suited to actually eating breakfast.

Stepping up to the plate is The Gate which offers a range of breakfasts for just below our favourite price (£5 btw) and the friendy waitresses are also happy to let you drink tap water without the frown that usually comes with such a request.

Choose from eggs benedict, the big breakfast, veggie breakfast, omelette etc.

While it isn’t a grand fine cuisine restaurant, it offers tasty quality food at prices you might expect in a builder filled greasy spoon. The interior is informal and comfy- the seats even have cushions. Newspapers are available too for you to mull over as you try and finish the large portions.

Most importantly, the waitresses are open to substitutions so you can actually swap any item for another item. I opted to replace my pet hate sluggy mushrooms for extra bacon, while others swapped a rather ordinary grilled tomato for grilled halloumi. This feature means you can pretty much create the perfect breakfast.

Quotes from breakfast companions include:

“the best damn breakfast this side of London'” Luke Strachan

Leon Review at Blue Fin Building, Southwark

Name: Leon

Type: Healthy Fast Food

Where: Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, Southwark, SE1 OSU

Nearest tube: Southwark

Price: £4.95  combo deal for a wrap of your choice and a lemonade or quencher drinker (you can make the cost up to £5 by (a) tipping (b) giving 5p to a friend (c) giving it to a homeless person (d) throwing 5p at someone)

RATING: ££

As a fast food lover, Leon was always going to be hard for me.

A restaurant that claims to improve fast food by making it healthy isn’t exactly my definition of an upgrade. The nationals however are big fans and it was recently crowned ‘Best Healthy Eating Chain‘ in the R150 Awards while Vogue describe the food as “really good”. Now I will listen to Vogue’s advice on clothes but when it comes to food it is a bit harder to trust the approaching pro-ana publication.

Nevertheless, on arrival at Leon it has attractive decor and a diverse menu. If we’re playing the £5 game only the menu soon becomes much less varied- the options are soup or a wrap. Wraps to choose from include Chilli Chicken, Chicken with Aioli and Shredded Pork.

I opt for the Chilli Chicken and a lemonade. First off, the lemonade is a good balance of bitter and sweet and a nice change to more ‘fast food’ soft drinks. I finish it quite quickly and should have probably have gone for the alternative option of a Quencher to quench my thirst more.

Back to the wrap- I bite it and don’t taste chicken. Instead I find white cabbage and gherkin in my mouth. This surprises me and gives me gag reflex.  I take another bite and the same thing happens. Eventually I find some chicken to take comfort from. However on closer inspection this chicken is a shade of pink.

LEON FAIL

Maybe that’s why Vogue are such fans- food poisoning would help you drop a dress size.

It is worth pointing out that everyone else in LEON seemed happy and I have friends who are avid fans so maybe I was unlucky/have an awful palette. I would of taken a close up of my salmonella chicken but a man asked me why I kept photographing rather than eating my food. Ezza. I’ve also not been ill from  the chicken I didnt eat.

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