Bites

Something about the Bird

So…I’m all for second chances.

Last year, we went to Bird in Shoreditch because I wanted to try the chicken.  I think I’ve written about my love of chicken so many times that this trip to try Bird’s chicken is completely self-explanatory.  I also had my Chicken Bucket List (I will be posting an update to that post in the next few weeks, so please watch this space!) to consider.  So off to Bird we went!

And needless to say, I was quite disappointed.  If you want to find out how dismal our dining experience was, read about it here.  The chicken was dry and overcooked, the service was a lackadaisical and a bit blasé and I said I was never coming back to any Bird branch ever again.

Until we saw a voucher for Bird on TimeOut London for a three-course offering (sides, a chicken burger and a dessert).  Alan said there was no harm in trying Bird again, especially at that price (I can’t remember exactly how much that voucher was for but it was something like £15 per person plus drinks).  So I reluctantly agreed to purchase the vouchers and off we went.

The two visits couldn’t have been any more different!  It was like coming into a different restaurant all together.  I mean, same name, same decor, same menu, same venue…BUT totally different dining experiences.

The staff were absolutely friendly, and wanted to talk about their food.  I know the word passionate is overused in the food business, but they were.  They were actually excited about their food!  They were completely happy that we had the vouchers and they explained how we could get the most out of our vouchers.  So order the food we did!

We both ordered wings as sides.  Alan ordered wings with the honey and ginger sauce.  The sauce was on the sweet side but had that lovely ginger hit that stopped the honey from being sickly sweet.  It was a lovely sauce for the perfectly cooked wings.

I ordered the buffalo wings.  I loved it because it wasn’t blow-your-head-off spicy.  I love spicy food but I like it when it’s not so spicy that you can’t taste what you’re eating because it was too hot!  It was just the right blend of spicy, tangy and the floral peppery notes.   Plus, the accompanying blue cheese sauce was yummyyyyy and was an absolute bonus.

Then we ordered the chicken burgers.  There are 6 burgers to choose from the menu.  Being the buffalo addict that I was, I ordered the buffalo blue chicken burger.  This burger is a battered boneless chicken thigh fillet served on a brioche bun with buffalo sauce and a blue cheese slaw.  I don’t think I got a chance to take a photo of Alan’s burger but he ordered a bacon cheese burger.

Then we ordered Bird’s doughnuts for dessert.  Alan ordered a doughnut ice cream sandwich which I thought was a dessert big enough to feed a family of four!

I ordered the daily glazed doughnut special – which was, on the day, a mint chocolate glazed donut.  I thought it wouldn’t be as formidable as Alan’s desert of choice, but when my dessert arrived, it was bigger than I thought!

It was such a HUGE MEAL and which came to about £20, including drinks and service charge, per person.  But it was such a different experience from our first Bird meal.  We were looked after, but it wasn’t saccharine-sweet sincerity.  It felt very genuine, and they really wanted us to have a really good Bird experience.  We didn’t feel smothered and I was quite impressed because they asked us if the food was okay before we took bites, which I thought was nice.  It’s never nice talking around a mouthful of food.

When they saw me taking pictures, one member of staff, a cheeky but charming French guy (I wish I’d taken his name), encouraged me to take photos and to tell people about Bird and to write a review on TripAdvisor!  I thought was brave because he hadn’t asked me yet whether we had a good time.  I think he knew that we ate well and that the food was good.  That confidence in their product speaks well.

And to be fair, we like it so much, we went back again for just the wings!

Advertisements
Bites

Telling my cooking story

I was a card carrying member of Del Monte Kitchenomics Club.  Now declaring this might be revealing my age, but I did join it whilst I was still in 6th grade (which is now probably equivalent to middle school in the States and Year 7 here in the UK).

Most of what I call my specialties were learned from the back of those Del Monte canned food labels.  My pineapple crumble was learned from a can of Del Monte pineapple chunks label, and this recipe started me on my baking and cooking journey.

I have a dish that I call skillet paella or arroz con chorizo which is a one-pot rice meal that is sort of like a short cut version of the popular Spanish rice dish.  This was also a recipe I got off the back of a Del Monte label, this time a tomato sauce can.  I’ve done and redone the dish and I probably can cook this by sight and still have it taste exactly how I want it.  I think it’s because I’ve been cooking this for more than half my life.

I wrote about the dish in an earlier blog entry and called it Arroz con Chorizo, because it, to be honest, it sounded fancy!

It was this dish that did on Instagram stories last week.  If you missed it, you can always look at the link above and try the recipe I’ve written down.

I’ll update this entry as soon as the tech cooperates with me and I can upload my photos properly!

I still have to resume the cookbook project that was put on hiatus because, well, life got really busy.  But the moment I allowed life to get busy, I lost my balance.  I think I need to get back to creating yummy things through baking!  I need to regain the equilibrium.

Bites

So I baked a cake!

I’ve always loved giving gifts.  I won’t usually settle for just a gift card (unless they ask for it specifically) because I like knowing that when the person rips open the wrapping paper and opens the box, the gift is something they know was made or purchased especially with them in mind.  I also love gift-wrapping presents.  I need to make the present look pretty, even if it’s just a present plonked into a gift bag – I have to have tissue wrapping in the gift bag!

Lately, I’ve taken to baking my gifts to friends.  I like to think my skill as a baker has moved forward and my bakes are delicious and decadent enough for people to feel special they received cake or pastry baked by me.

I baked a chocolate Guinness cake and cupcakes for a birthday celebration that we attended during the weekend.  It was a get-together we had planned with our Filipino friends ages ago to celebrate the July birthdays and the early August birthday.

I needed to test frosting colours to so I made extra cupcakes to try the colours out.  I was trying for a marbled effect but it didn’t quite work for the cupcakes so I’ll have to look at more YouTube videos and figure out a better technique for the particular effect I was going for.  It was a good thing my batch did 2 dozen cupcakes.  The leftover batter filled about 9 mini bundt pans but they stuck to the cake moulds so they stayed home.

Photo © Teddy Sardua

I iced 22 cupcakes (mostly because that was what fit in the box!).   With the disaster that were the rainbow marble cupcakes (they mostly looked very Rastafarian!) I tried for a fuschia-y pink shade but the first try turned out more lavender than pink (it kind of suited because some of the birthday celebrators went to Mayfield Lavender Fields on a day trip to take fabulous pictures).  I knew where I went wrong but daren’t add more food colouring because I didn’t want the frosting to taste too artificial!

Photo © Teddy Sardua

I was quite pleased with the way my large cake came out.  It was very detail-heavy because it had swirly roses, piping all around it and silver dragèe balls.  Once I finished icing the cake, I moved it to the box I was going to carry it in and OH MY GOODNESS!  It was quite a substantial weight.  I think I weighed over 2.5 kg!

Photo © @chic.wanders.in

I was pleased that my friends and Alan loved their cake.  They loved the flavours and the loved the cake enough to take photos and style the cake before they shot the photographs.   Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting your photos on Instagram.  I’m so…tickled pink (Sorry! It had to be said!)!

Photo © @chic.wanders.in

I might be on to a good thing!

*Thank you to @mutyyyaaa and @chic.wanders.in for letting me use their photos of the cakes on this blog post. Mucho appreciated guys! Love you!❤️

 

 

Bites

Best wings this side of the Atlantic!

This was first published as a review on Tripadvisor.

I love me a good chicken wing, so when the invite came to go to Randy’s Wing Bar, I said yes. I am partial to chicken well done. I think it has something to do with growing up on home cooked fried chicken with mash as a staple Sunday lunch. So I’m always on the look out for places that specialise in chicken (be it fried, southern fried, roasted, steamed…the list goes on and I will probably give it a go!).

We sort of wandered into Randy’s Wing Bar…virtually. After hearing about Randy’s, we looked at the reviews and for the most part, people were raving about the wings. Which was good, because,if you’re going to specialise in something, you might as well do them amazingly well, right?

We booked a table for a Monday evening. They have eat all you can wings on Mondays at the Here East location, but remember, you can’t eat all you can if you don’t book. You pay £14 for each person plus the price of drinks plus 12.5% service charge. One important thing to note, if you want to wing all you can, your choices are limited to 3 variants: buffalo, gangnam (Korean-inspired flavours) and Kansas wings. BUT it is TOTALLY worth it.

We arrived at 7, as booked, and we were efficiently showed to our seats. The place was already alive with the music cranked up and everyone laughing and chatting. It is a bar so expect a vibrant atmosphere. Because we said it was our first time there, our server explained the “mechanics” of the eat all you can wings promotion. You each ordered a wing flavour, and you must all finish your plates before your party can order the next round of wings. I think they just didn’t want people to waste wings.

I started with my favourite flavour, the Korean-inspired wings called Gangnam. The wings were succulent but I guess it depended on who was cooking the wings because mine were a bit to soy saucy. My idea of Korean style food is a good combination of soy, sesame, garlic, spring onion and ginger. I found that it wasn’t quite the balance that I expected. Don’t get me wrong, the wings were amazing. But the glaze didn’t blow me away, flavour-wise.

The next plate I tried was the Kansas wings. And they were VERY GOOD. I make a good Kansas dry rub so I was prepared to be disappointed. But as soon as I took a bit, I went OMG! The flavours were as authentic as I thought they could be. It was a good balance of spicy, tangy and a great kick of heat. Kansas would be proud.

The star of this particular show, though, were the buffalo wings. The reviews weren’t fudged…the wings were sooooooo good. My barometer for good buffalo wings are that they’re not too hot, just right to make your mouth feel this zing brought on by the chilli, but there is a flowery note that hits your mouth too. I know this sounds all too fanciful for just a bowl of wings, but that’s what I was expecting and I got all that in spades! A good bowl of buffalo wings come with an excellent blue cheese dip and Randy’s did not disappoint. i don’t know if they make their own blue cheese dip, but it was really good. The buffalo sauce and the blue cheese dip were amazing. I’d begged the server for an extra helping of blue cheese sauce because I was afraid I’d burn my mouth on the buffalo sauce (it has happened before that people made their buffalo sauce atomically hot). Our server didn’t forget. The buffalo sauce was amazing and the wings came already drizzled with the blue cheese dip, so really, I didn’t need the extra. But because the blue cheese sauce was so good, I didn’t mind finishing it anyway!

Like I said, the bar atmosphere was alive and the noise levels were slightly high. I wasn’t too bothered about this because it was a bar. The music was good though…it added to the experience. It was nice, if slightly dark. I kind of felt like someone was a little heavy-handed with the dimmer. But there was enough lights from the light fixtures overhead for you to see exactly what you were eating. I did like how they furnished the bar…I don’t know if they meant you to have an American bar feel, but it felt like it. Each table has rolls of kitchen roll because you will need them to wipe your fingers. There are a selection of the usual sauces as well. They bring you a bucket for your wing bones and tissues and several packs of lemon scented wipes, which are also handy. I love that they consider the little details like this – it shows that they thought of the entire customer experience!

There are other sauces/glazes available for the wings. They also have burgers and a selection of sides. They only have one dessert item, a dulce de leech brownie that looks amazing! But if it’s like their wings, it’s going to be absolutely amazing. I’ve seen the pictures and it looks amazing!

You can make your way to Randy’s Wing Bar by walking through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (if you’re feeling virtuous and want to make sure you deserve the meal), or you can get one of the shuttles from the Stratford Bus Station that go to Here East (we didn’t know you could get a shuttle when we were going!). If you look on the maps, it looks like it’s a short walk from the Hackney Wick station, but I can’t be sure.

To date, I can safely say, these are the best buffalo wings I’ve tasted in the UK. I am looking forward to going back because at £7.50 per serving of wings, it is great value for money because the bowls are sharing sized.

Bites

A meal in grand surroundings

This was a review I published on my TripAdvisor page.

The current structure of the Royal Exchange in London was designed by William Tite and it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844. It currently houses luxury shops and offices. I didn’t know that you could go in and look around it because I thought it was part of the Bank of England. I thought entry was restricted to people going there on official business.

I was recently told that there was a cafe inside and that it was open to the public. It was sign posted outside and we usually get on a bus that goes past the Royal Exchange. I don’t know how I missed the signs for a cafe and shopping outside! I guess when you don’t look for something, you completely miss it when you see it!

When you do go in, try to go in via the main entrance, where the portico and pediment are. Walk up the steps, walk past the gorgeous 8 Corinthian columns and go through the green iron-wrought gates. Once you are through the double glass doors, remember to look up. The interior of the Royal Exchange is breathtaking!

Right-smack-dab in the middle of the original Royal Exchange courtyard is the Royal Exchange Grand Cafe and Bar. When we went in May, the very chic oval bar was decorated with lovely cherry blossoms (I think the theme changes every season). I thought we would be underdressed because it was where the financiers of London worked (plus you had luxury shops like Boodle, Omega and Mont Blanc surrounding the courtyard) as we were dressed to be London tourists for the day. But we were greeted very warmly by the cafe staff and we were seated immediately (come early if you want to have a leisurely breakfast – I guarantee the surroundings will make you want to dawdle and gawp!).

The staff are very efficient but you don’t feel rushed. Our server was amazing, very friendly and I never felt scared to ask questions. The breakfast menu was quiet good: you had an option to go Continental and have toast and tea (or coffee) or your choice of an eggy breakfast (poached, scrambled, fried or in an omelette) with your choice of additions. If you preferred, you could have a pastry for breakfast or cake. It’s almost silver service but not formal enough for you not to enjoy your breakfast and stare at the sumptuous surroundings.

We chose to eat a light breakfast of toast and tea. I chose it because I loved sourdough bread and they served you that (you had the option of choosing the seeded bread too). When the toast came, I was pleasantly surprised because we got more than I expected to get. You get 2 types of jams (they came in individual-sized jam pots) per person and a large pat of French butter. The staff are solicitous and they do ask you if you need more jam or butter. I love to slather butter on my toast so I had to ask for more and they provide that with a smile and flourish. You get your tea served in a silver teapot but I do have to warn you, if you get the teapots with the metal handle, ask for an extra napkin to wrap around the handle because it is hot! The staff are very understanding though so they are happy to provide you with more napkins.

The Grand Cafe also does afternoon tea. They are currently running a Japanese-themed afternoon tea, which runs until 30 June. You may need to visit the Royal Exchange Grand Cafe website to see what their offerings are if you intend to visit after 30 June. You will be served a savoury course and then a sweet course. They aren’t stingy with the tea. I call it a tea-all-you-can service. You can change you tea choice mid-way if you choose. You can choose to start with a fruit infusion, or a mint tea and finish with a green or black tea option. If you don’t ask for more tea, the wait staff will ask you if you want more tea, and you don’t get charged for it. The teas are part of the set price that you pay. It is currently £20 for the classic afternoon tea and £28 for a cocktail afternoon tea. There is a 12.5% service charge.

Whilst they don’t do the traditional tiered cake stand type of presentation, I think it changes according to the afternoon themes. I might go back to find out!

It is good value for money, for where it’s situated. The service is wonderful and I can’t say it enough that I loved how friendly the staff were. They encourage you to have a wander around as well because there are gorgeous murals that can be viewed from the mezzanine level where the Gallery is situated.

It is an experience not to be missed, and not a lot of people know that you CAN have the experience!

Bites

Not-so-magic mushrooms

On Thursday night, we planned to have bacon and mushroom sandwiches for supper.  I was excited because it was going to be an easy supper, plus for those of you who know me, I absolutely love mushrooms.  Alan bought a huge box of mushrooms the night before in preparation.  At £1.40 for a large box, it was, I thought, a steal.  By Thursday afternoon, I was already smelling the mushrooms cooking in butter!

Little did I know that we had bought more than we bargained for.  There I was, happily slicing these lovely chestnut mushrooms, planning my meal prep and looking at the next mushroom I was going to slice when I spied something really strange in the box.  I took the mushrooms one at a time and was horrified to find a lightweight knife in the bottom of my mushroom box!

Knife in box

I’m in a conversation with Asda Customer Services via DM on Twitter at the moment.  One the one hand, I am glad that I was the one who found the knife and it wasn’t child who dipped their hand into the box whilst helping prepare their supper.  The possible accidents are too scary to consider!  Apart from the cutter found in my mushroom box, there seems to be a fragment of blue-coloured hard plastic in the bottom of the box as well!  Curiouser and curiouser eh?

I’ve been asked though to send the packaging and “foreign” object back to the Asda Product Quality Team in Leeds.  But I’m not too sure about that.  Are you actually allowed to send stuff like this in the post?  I’m also curious as to what happens after I send the item back to Asda.  Do I get a reply?  An update of what happens after they’ve investigated?  Will they recall all that batch of mushrooms?  I know it’s something I should worry about but it just makes you wonder if anyone else has found knives or cutters in their mushroom boxes or is this an isolated incident?

Bites

Amazing Billy and His Tasty Chicks

Originally published in my other blog Panasian Kitchen

We heard about Billy and Chicks via social media and wanted to try it.  We’d heard a lot of good things and as we love southern fried chicken we were very curious about how their chicken tasted.  We also found a Timeout voucher online that pretty much sweetened the deal for us (£5 for 2 pieces of chicken, chips and a drink – absolute steal!).  But if you find the voucher on Timeout, make sure you read the fine print because you can’t use the voucher on Fridays.

BATC mural front of house

So armed with our Timeout vouchers, on a rainy Thursday, we headed to Billy and the Chicks.  If you’re going to Soho Theatre, this is a convenient place for a pre- or post-theatre meal as it’s just around the corner.  But be warned that it is a very popular place for cocktails in the evenings so you have to expect a bit of a crush.  Lunchtimes are quieter as most of the punters tend to take their food away to go back to their offices.  Anyhow, we were seated as soon as we came in (we came at 12 noon and the place was virtually empty).  The staff are lovely and while they don’t hover over you, don’t hesitate to ask your questions because they’re really friendly and they know their food.  We presented our vouchers and were asked what we wanted to drink.  TOP TIP: If you get there early enough (just after 12 noon), you can choose what part of the chicken you want, i.e. breast, wing, thigh, or drumstick, because no one else has ordered and you can have your favourite chicken piece.

Fried chicken galore

The Timeout vouchers are an absolute deal because Billy and the Chicks are very generous with their chips (skin on potato fries that are almost chip shop like, crispy-crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside! YUM!).  I would think one serving of chips would be enough to share between 2 people or one very hungry (heavy on the very) person.

The pot of chips

The chicken was amazing.  The spice mix reminded me of how KFC tasted like when I was a kid.  It was very reminiscent of KFC in the late 80s.  The chicken is succulent and the flavour isn’t confined to just the breading and crunchy coating on the skin, it permeates through to the flesh.  When you cut into the chicken, you see how succulent it is because the liquid that comes out isn’t oil but juice…lots of it!  This is quite easily one of the best fried chicken I’ve had in the Big Smoke.

Timeout meal

We also tried the ribs which were okay.  The sweet-sour flavour of the ribs was interesting enough to make it stand out slightly from other pure ribs that you could get from fast food places.  The ribs aren’t mind-blowingly amazing, but they are okay and worth the try.  I loved the tangy-ness of the glaze.

Pressure fried pork ribs in a sweet sticky sauce

The menu is not huge but what they had on there was very complimentary to each other.  I was also quite pleased that they served gravy as a side.  I’m not quite sure why, but gravy doesn’t seem to feature in a lot of places that specialise in American-style fried chicken. I haven’t tried their gravy though.  But judging from the comments coming from the Australian group sitting at the next table, the gravy was really good.  They each ordered their own gravy sides.  They said they didn’t want to share!  That’s for next time…because I am going back. The chicken is really good and I am so looking forward to going back!

Juicy fried chicken

The restaurant space is interesting.  There are a lot of interesting photos everywhere – even a mural of Queen Victoria eating a drumstick!   I would have wanted it to be lit a bit brighter though.  We sat near the large front windows so we could see our food.

God feed the Queen!

I enjoyed my eating experience because apart from the food nostalgia, the music was, for lack of a better description, very cool.  All the music reminded me of the rap and hip hop music that I liked (mostly songs that were in the soundtrack of Save the Last Dance!) when I was growing up.  There is a large DJ booth in the corner which convinces me they take their music seriously!

The DJ and his booth

Most fast food places will want to turn their tables over quickly, but at Billy and the Chicks, we didn’t feel rushed.  It felt like we were allowed to enjoy and savour our food. The staff are friendly and very zen and I absolutely love the small touches like inserting the straw into the soda can tabs so the straw doesn’t float away.  To me that means that they think about the customer and what they can do to make the customer’s eating experience a little bit better.  It’s the little things that matter.

Straws and the soda can tab

If you want really good chicken, the finger-lickin good kind, visit Billy and his delicious chicks! Even without vouchers, I would pay for the food full price, because it is definitely worth it!

Billy and the Chicks, London