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!

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A gem off the beaten path: Coleman Coffee Roasters

Coleman Coffee Roasters frontWe came across this lovely café quite by accident.  We were exploring Lower Marsh and the rain started to come down quite heavily.  We were also looking for a place to have breakfast because our usual cheap eat favourite Marie’s on the same street was closed.

We took shelter and the smell of coffee  wafting from the beautifully gleaming vintage espresso machine was amazing!  We were greeted with a really welcome “Hello guys!” so we went further in and looked at the menu.  We were intending to be polite and just have coffee and possibly cake.  But they served Staffordshire oatcakes or “oaties” and there was quite a choice from sweet to savoury fillings for the oat pancakes.  We’d never had oaties before so our curiousity was piqued!  We chose to have bacon and stewed tomatoes.  The aroma of cooking bacon was amazing, and boy were the oaties oh-so-fabulously good!  It rated an “oh-my-God-this-is-amazing!” with my mouth full of oatie-bacon-tomato goodness!  The oaties were light but surprisingly filling.  I expected to feel full and bloated after, but I didn’t.  It was heaven on a plate.

oaties!Now. let’s get to the lovely brew!  I opted for drip coffee because it’s what I do when trying out a new coffee place (my better-safe-than-sorry coffee measure).  I was offered a choice between the Guatemalan and another blend (I think it was Costa Rican blend) and I chose the Guatemalan.  It was very nostalgic for me because it was served on a Duralex looking cup, which reminded me so much of the French coffee cups that my father favoured.  At first I was worried because the drip coffee looked light and watery.  But oh no, was I VERY wrong!  The coffee was rich, comforting and oh-so-flavourful.

Mmmm coffee!The staff are lovely, very friendly, so very helpful and they know their products.  They’re happy to explain what they sell, what you’re options are and they give you lovely recommendations.  They also love what they’re selling.  That’s key!

This isn’t quite on the main road from Waterloo Station, but this is definitely worth a visit.  The space is small and there are only a few seats, but that’s part of the charm.  If you have the opportunity to wander around Lower Marsh, pay the lovely folks at Coleman Coffee Roasters a visit.  It is DEFINITELY worth it!

Coffee and oaties!

Of passports and celebrity sightings

I am now officially eligible to apply for British citizenship…but I am a proud carrier of a Philippine passport.  I am planning on applying for UK citizenship though, if only for the ease that it presents when I do intend to travel to parts unknown because apparently you get visa-free access to 173 countries with a UK passport!  Not that I’m a traveler but it would be good to take be able to take advantage of travel deals, to have the convenience of going on a mini-break to almost anywhere, if and when I can.

But until then, I shall have to renew my Philippine passport every 5 years.

I went to London today to renew my Philippine passport because my passport expires in June this year.  I came armed with my tablet so that I could read my ebooks or work on work emails while I waited.  Because there would be a wait.  One thing that hasn’t changed much is the waiting in line in Philippine government institutions.  The Philippine embassy in London isn’t any different.  But as soon as I stepped through the double doors of the Philippine embassy in London on Suffolk Street it felt like being back home.  You could hear conversations in Filipino and for some reason there was an aroma of steamed rice wafting all over the embassy!

I like to come prepared and I like to make sure that I prepare for every possibility (or at least, I like to think so!).  Before I left for the embassy, I made sure I read and reread the instructions for passport renewal.  Also, if you are applying to renew your passport, if you can, I suggest you print a copy of the application forms because, whilst there are forms that you can fill out at the embassy, it makes things move along quicker if you have all your forms filled out, your money ready, and your passport and other supporting documents available and in order according to the numbering on the forms.

You get to the embassy and take a name from the number thingmebob and wait for your number to be called.  It was a bit of a wait because not everyone came with the right documents, or they didn’t have photos or they didn’t fill out the forms right, or they didn’t have the right forms.  I guess, after filling out forms for my UK residency (there were pages and pages) I learned to prepare and pay attention to detail.  Am not trying to say anything bad about my countrymen at all.  I’m sure anyone who worked in an environment where I worked would make sure all the boxes that needed ticking would be ticked and all the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed.

It took all of 5 minutes to submit my documents, get them inspected and me to make the payment.  Then I was sent upstairs to wait to get my photo taken.  They call you when your passport is ready for pick up so I had the rest of the day to spend in London.

I was horribly hungry so I went to my new favourite place to eat:  Tokyo Diner in Chinatown.  It’s a brilliant little space on the corner of Newport Street.  The food is tasty and authentic and you get a small serving of Japanese rice crackers and bottomless genmaicha (brown rice tea) on the house.  They don’t accept tips, by the way and prefer that you pay in cash.  (They also give you extra rice if you ask for it…as much rice as you can manage!).

Tokyo DinerI ordered a tamago don from the lunch specials menu and waited for my food to arrive.  And when it did, it was mmmm-mmmm good!

Tamago DonI did my usual people watching and noticed this beautiful and familiar blonde sitting in the corner of the restaurant.  I thought she looked like Myanna Buring from Ripper Street and Downton Abbey.  At one point, she moved to the table next to me.  I noticed her looking at my food and when she ordered, she placed an order for the tamago don lunch special as well!  I was certain she was Edna Braithwaite from Downton Abbey.  I even did the creepy thing of taking a sneaky snapshot!

Myanna BuringI sent her a message on Twitter to ask.  And she confirmed that she was indeed Myanna Buring and that I should’ve said hi.  Ah well!  I didn’t want to interrupt what seemed to be me-time.  One never knows whether you can interrupt celebrities these days.

TweetMyannaBuringAnd the celebrity sightings didn’t stop there.  After having my late lunch, I headed back to Liverpool Street.  I was early but all I had to do was hang around Liverpool Street Station for the direct to Harwich Town train that left 16:44.

London Liverpool StreetI went to WH Smith to get myself a free drink (thank you O2 Priority!) and as I was walking back to the main central area of the station I heard a girl giggle heartily and the sound made me smile so I turned to look at where the sound was coming from.  It was from a very pretty Filipina-looking girl in a black turtle neck paired with black palazzo trousers and chatting to someone animatedly on her phone.  My jaw dropped.  Two celebrity sightings in one day?  I had to say hello to a fellow Filipino and one of the prettiest faces in country.  So I turned on my heel and went to say hello to Dominique Cojuangco (Gretchen Barretto’s only child).  Then I started to doubt myself.  I may have just imagined that the girl was who she was.  Also, I didn’t really want to act all stalkerish.  Everyone deserves their alone time and I thought most celebrities enjoy time where they can be themselves and have time to their thoughts.

I did the usual and sent her a tweet and she did say that it her and I should’ve said hi.

TweetDBCojuangcoAh well!  Next time, maybe?

 

Pastry fear conquered

I love baking (I thought I’d put it out there, just in case you missed it!).  But there are still large gaps in my baking repertoire and there are projects which I’ve put off because of the fear that I won’t be able to produce the (baked) goods, so to speak.  My closet perfectionist comes out and becomes more critical than a certain Paul Hollywood could be.  I am always worried that what I bake isn’t good enough.

One of my stumbling blocks is puff pastry and rough puff pastry.  I’ve always relied on store-bought pastry for the pastry because I’ve tried to make rough puff and puff pastry but they never really “puff” up.  So instead of disappointing myself, I usually just go and buy puff pastry and use that instead in all the baking projects involving puff pastry.  It’s the coward’s way out, but I’m less disappointed in myself.  I usually say to myself that even Mary Berry and Jamie Oliver suggest using store bought pastry!

But last weekend, I was, very strangely, prepared to try again.  I was surprised to find myself only too willing to face my fears and try to make puff pastry again.  I knew that I had to at least try again because my short crust pastry was already good.  I needed to at least try to learn to make acceptable puff pastry!  It took me several weeks to work up the courage to make pastry.  In the end, I found a relatively straightforward recipe from the Pieminster cookbook (see Page 10 of the book).

pieminister-a-pie-for-all-seasons-coverSo I bought the ingredients, determined to make lovely, flaky cheese straws and bacon twists!

After reading and rereading the recipe, with a lot trepidation, I set out to follow the recipe properly.  Et voila!  I managed to make (really pretty, if I do say so myself) pastry that looked the part!

wp-1454857681421.jpegThere is something to be said about facing your fears…and doing a lot of research to prepare!  Thank you Pieminster for your glorious book and the recipes within it!

wp-1454857837239.jpeg

Beseder the Bell and Brisket!

When I was little, my father talked about salt beef and chicken soup all the time.  He always waxed poetic about how life was in kibbutz that he stayed in.  He studied in Israel and loved his time there, eventually converting to Judaism.  Most of the memories that I remember him sharing with us while we were growing up was about the food that he ate.

I am more partial to chicken, but will eat beef, occasionally.  But I do love salt beef.  Especially when it’s done right.  We met the lovely Bel Shapiro of The Bell and Brisket, oh maybe, three years ago, at the Brewer Street Market (I think it was in the Brewer Street parking building).  Her salt beef is beautiful and delicious and yummy and succulent and flavourful…I could go on.  I am such a fan.  But this fan hasn’t been able to have a salt beef fix in a very long time.  That salt beef desert ended last Friday though.

I got a “naked” Old Timer from The Bell and Brisket (sans any carbs) so I could enjoy the lovely salt beef in all its deliciousness, only adorned with horseradish and mustard and complimented by pickled gherkins and beets and it was beseder!  Well, not just good.  It was AMAZING!

Old Timer