Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Service charge to charge or not to charge, they just charge it anyway!

I often dine out and I don't feel that you should tip if the quality of the food is bad, the food service was slow, the waiters are unhelpful or rude or if I didn't enjoy my dining out experience.

I won't name and shame places, that I have not paid service charge but you can imagine its a little awkward when you tell them that their restaurant sucked. If a customer does not want to pay service charge then they shouldn't challenge it in front of the eyes of all the diners in the restaurant. After the bill is paid and the diners are about to leave with their coats, then the restauranteur should ask is there anyway we could improve your meal? That's the polite way of getting feedback, if the person is grumpy general then they will complain, if there was a legitimate reason they will mention it. If they want to be stingy and save £18 then they will just say it was OK. Word of mouth goes a long way.

A restaurant faux par I have noticed when restaurants have a voucher deal they increase the service charge for all diners. One restaurant increased service charge from 12.5% to 20%. How do I know this I eat at the restaurant then I get my voucher deal email. Go on the website to see how good the set menu deal is. Read the terms and conditions, pedantic but you should know what you are buying these days. If there is no service charge included I look at the restaurant website and their menu. To see whether it's better to use the deal or go there normally. Or eat at a new restaurant I haven't tried. Yes these are my thought processes when I book a table.

I think that the service charge is now averaging 12.5% but in London you pay up to 25%. The big who ha about whether the waiters and waitress receive the tips, well I really hope they receive it for the level of service they give. But from a business perspective if you have lots of outgoing food wastage & no dinners then you are seriously in trouble. Skimming of tips so you can still run or you can make a better gross profit. You might think that is really cheeky. Same concept is happening in recruitment market some companies just pay staff the Bare minimum to keep afloat or cut staff down leave the people remaining to do 2 roles.

When I have eaten at amazing restaurants I use to be able to write the gratuity. One particular exceptional restaurant I left £50 tip dinner party of two meal was £80 plus my tip I think that works out as 62% tip. The oyster were fresh, the menu was inventive, the waiter was polite had good knowledge of menu, they did not hassle us , poured the wine correctly by twisting at the bottle so it doesn't drip, the wine had a cork not screw cap, the wine was reasonably price and tasted good with depth, they don't fill my glass until it is empty, or even better they leave me to pour the wine, the attention to detailed quality of food, the food is cooked with passion with every leaves you wanting more, a good cocktail as aperitif, the dessert has to rich and with lots of choice, the decor and ambience should be inviting, seating area should not be tightly packed n I hate sitting on a table near the toilet.

If a restaurant gets it right they really do get it right and they will override the recession, be busy and receive a good gratuity. I don't think that it should be automatically added to the bill. People should be able to pay the amount of gratuity they feel the service deserves. Being in a recession most people tend to not want to pay tips. If people are dining out they have the capacity to decide where to go and what their budget is. But shouldn't it be in the choice of the diners to pay gratuity based upon the emphasis of discretionary?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Neal's Yard Salad Bar - Alfresco, Jazz and Brazilian FeiJoada!

Neal's Salad bar is located in a Secluded area near Covent Garden. It makes a great escape for lunch or a break from walking around the shops. Sometimes the word Salad bar sounds like the restaurateur mission to create healthy eating, when the word bar is always associated with that alcoholic martini shaken not stirred.

So if your wondering what on earth Guarana is, its like a Brazilian fruit ice tea. I think the official Guarana website needs some help with the re-wording of their advert.
'Although we won't deny that taking guarana has some effects similar to those you can expect after taking caffeine, it is the exotic flavor that makes guarana sodas so interesting. The best brands deliver a fruity taste, aren't overloaded with sugar, and have a pleasant aftertaste...'


Why I love Neal's yard so much, when the sun is out and the Jazz is playing you feel slightly at ease and slip away into your own escapism.

I decided to try a very famous Feijoada, Beef, Pork, Black Bean & Sausage in thick gravy served with spring greens Fried banana, Farofa & White rice. The origin of the feijoada runs back to the sixteenth century with the introduction of slaves in Brazil. Slaves were used for many things, cotton production, cocoa production, rubber and with the gold rush boom for extraction of diamonds and mine digging. Peasant and rustic food always shows alot of character, from the modern bubble and squeak to hot pot stews.
The Brazilian Feijoada is the Brazil undisputed national dish. It is a recipe of bean stew with rice and pork. Different garniture is used in different parts of Brazil, but usually include “farofa” (mandioca, a root from the rain forest, mixed with maize flour and oil)

Originally feijoada was made using every part of the pig, such as ears, tails, and nose floating among the beans. I think I tried the tourist version instead of offal they used fine cuts of beef and pork. I really enjoyed eat the Feijoada, it tasted like a rich stew with thick savoury gravy sauce. The meat was tender and was seasoned with Paprika, Garlic and Pepper.The white Farofa side is not something I would eat again or cook for my guest at a dinner party it tasted like dry couscous without any flavour bordering white saw dust. Overall I thought the dish tasted amazing very unique but reminisces a hearty stew.

The venue:Neal's Salad Bar
Cuisine: Brazilian
Date visited: 17/08/11
The damage: £12 Lunch for one 
The food: 8 out 10, The food was authentic with a wide range of dishes whether your a carnivore or vegetarian, the place offers something for everyone... yes they even have an all day breakfast.
The service: 9 out 10

Will I recommend it: Yes
Will I return: Yes
Have I had better: No... There aren't many Brazilian restaurants in London.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Wedding Reception at China Boulevard

So it is Summer what do you normally associate with summer? Sun, Sea, Sand, Ice Cream... Weddings!
I think everyone in my family was worried that the weather wouldn't be sunny. It was lovely 29c and sunny but the Bride's Bentley broke down and she was late to the church by 2 hours. My cousin... nervous was not the word to describe him. It was such a beautiful ceremony and it took longer than an average wedding because it was translated to 3 languages; Vietnamese, Filipino and English. So after the beautiful ceremony, starving was not the word that to describe the urgency to eat. My Cousin decided to have the wedding reception at China Boulevard as was closely located on the River Thames near Wandsworth Bridge. It wouldn't really be traditional if there wasn't 7 courses and the wedding lasting the whole day. After having champagne, awaiting for the wedding bus of people to arrive, yes there were about 160 guest. The wedding made my parents broodie so the champagne and strawberries really helped me digest the lecture.

The first course was Suckling pig, quite ironic that the pig festival was on the 29th and 30th July. If I wasn't at the wedding I would of gone there. The crackling was very crispy , they removed the fat in between just keeping the tender roast pork glazed in honey and the crispy crackling. This was accompanied with a sesame and seaweed stir fry.

Because the wedding ceremony took ages, I think everyone was starving, there were 8 people at one table seating. Normally I love sharing tapas or sharing oriental style but when your at a wedding you have to show mannerism, even when your starving. Interesting how people will put food on to their plate but leave the last piece because you don't want to known to be the last person who took that juicy prawn! Sauteed King Prawns, Razor Clams and squid with vegetables. Sauteing uses a small amount of fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat, the seafood usually cut into pieces or thinly sliced and cooked very quickly to keep in the moisture.

Steam Turbot in Soya Sauce Ginger and Spring Onions, the turbot looked like plaice but tasted like bream. Normally the very traditional way to have Sea Bass is with Soya Sauce and spring onion, maybe it wasn't in season. I did see this enormous fish tank with live stock, inside it made me quite sad to see them all bunch up and ready to be cooked. The waitress kindly served the portions of the Turbot, the fish was very fresh I saw it in the tank 15 minutes before it was cooked. The oriental style of cooking is to leave the fish head on and serve it on a plate, most of the British guess opted out which I found a little funny. They do stay out of sight out of mind.

The Roasted Chicken was crispy and seasoned with 5 spices, I thought this was the most ordinary way to cook chicken. But at a wedding you try to cater for everyone's tastebuds, so I guess familiarity is the key with this dish.

Deep Fried Jumbo Crab Claw initially when it was served some of the guessed asked if it was a scorpion tail. I just laughed so hard and said "we are not in Vietnam," not that I have ever eaten scorpion but I am sure they don't serve it in a ball. The crab ball was filled with a picture of crab, flour and batter, very difficult to eat with chopsticks but had a good portion of crab meat and was Delicious.

One the left side of the platter you can see the lobster head this put most the guest of, authenticity is the key. So I ended up having about 7 portions, yes I didn't leave this wedding hungry, just needing to exercises for a good 4 hours after, China Boulevard certainly gave generous platter portions. Lobster with Ginger and Shallots, was not overly seasoned, it was cooked perfectly. The lobster meat was light and sweet, I put my hands up to China Boulevard, the lobster was better than Marbella Club.

Braised Abalone with Lettuce and Oyster Sauce. Your probably wondering what Abalone is, it's edible sea snails that taste like whelks, a slight rubbery texture with a light oyster sauce gravy on a bed of fresh broccoli. I told the other guest it was pork medallions so that I wouldn't have to eat 8 portions, I think once the guest tasted it, I confessed what it was, they got over the fact of trying new things. They actually really enjoyed the dish, it's not something you would order and cook at home everyday, but definitely suitable for special occasions.

Yeon Chow Fried Rice wrapped in lotus leaf, I don't speak any Chinese so Yeon Chow was a mixture of prawns, clams and scallops embedded in rice, encased in lotus leave and steamed. This is not an easy dish to cook, the rice was flavoured by the lotus leaf and it was very delicious the parcel just oozed of seafood. I was very impressed by this dish.

I have eaten shark fin soup before unfortunately this was a little let down, there wasn't much substance. The shark fin and crab soup was more crab than shark fin, a little bland maybe they should try using a better fish stock.

The Petit Four was a combination of Coconut Jelly and Mung Bean deep fried pastry with sesame seed. My plate only saw 2 not 4, but by this time we had been eating for 3 hours so I was very full. I really enjoyed my time at China Boulevard.

Yes there were more dessert, chocolate filled cupcakes with butterscotch icing. What a genius idea at a wedding. I just wanted to say a Big Thank You to China Boulevard for making this occasions special, decorations were beautiful, the stage allowed the dancers and singers to perform. Hats off to China Boulevard for catering 160 guest.

The venue: China Boulevard
Cuisine: Cantonese
Date visited: 30/07/11
The damage: £448 party of 10 excludes alcohol and service charge
The food: I think the food was brilliant 9 out of 10.
The service: 9 out 10

Will I recommend China Boulevard: Yes most definitely
Will I return: Yes just to eat the Lobster
Will I have my wedding here: Got to find the right man first.... definitely worth enquiring.
Have I had better: Yes but the standard of Chinese food here it very good. 
China Boulevard on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 August 2011

Turkish Food Festival - Belly dancing whilst Eating Baclava

I try to go to as many food festivals, to mainly eat the food and curiously to see if there is something new that I have never eaten.

The Turkish food festival 23-24th July 2011 was in London, filled with dancing, food and laughter. A buzzing atmosphere, the sounds of the drums, smokey grilled meat on the BBQ, the smell of spicy aromas and not forgetting the belly dancers, whilst a crowd eagly copying their moves whilst eating Baclava and Pitta bread with grilled Kebabs.
That's definately something you don't see every day!

The were a few stalls selling souvenirs, keeping my best to reassure myself I do not need anymore clutter. Shame the weren't selling tagine pots because I need a new one.
Being a little greedy curious food lover, me and my sister had to try as many different things until our belly was full.

Turkish beef roll I did try and google the Turkish name for the dishes however I couldn't find it. So you'll have to bare with my description. The pastry was wrapped in a sausage shape the filling was a herby beef and onion filling. Very Delicious, not something you would find in a restaurant.

Spinach and Feta cheese layered pancakes.
Spinach and feta cheese pastry

Lamb Turkish Samosa, not as spicy as the the Indian Samosa packed with suttle spiced flavours.


Assortment of Turkish Desserts Baclava (layers of Filo pastry soaked in honey and pastascio), Kadayif (baked vermecelli with sweetened pastacio filling) and Tumbula (bread soaked in Syrup).
Turkish desserts

Turkey is definatley re-known for their Kebabs, my highlight of the festival was purely eating the  Lamb and Chicken Shish Kebab £5. The Chicken was seasoned with Paprika and the lamb was very tender. There was limited salad and the pitta bread was not grilled, when you are eating from a stall, it's quick and easy so you can't expect to be like a restaurant.

I certainly had a wonderful time at the Turkish Food Festival there is one every year around July, I definately recommend spending the afternoon eating turkish authentic food, catching the sun and watching people belly dance whilst eating food. If only I could upload videos it would be a vision that would sell any event.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Kim Chee - Sweet Sour Spicy BBQ Meat!

I always had fond thoughts Of Korea. My TEFL supervisor  mentioned that being vegetarian 
is really not an option. 
On Saturday just before the wedding we had 2 hours to burn, before the church ceremony
so we thought we should try the Korean restaurant opposite Golders Green train station.
The menu was extensive and had lots of choice. We decided to go for the Set Lunch menu.
The Seaweed Soup was very tasty, the seaweed was cooked in a light prawn broth. A bit similar to Japanese Miso soup minus the Tofu and Miso paste.
From left to right kim chee, crunchy cabbage with chilli marinade. seasonal vegetables in pork oil drizzle and steamed bean sprouts.

The Beef Bulgogi, was barbecued beef cooked with onions and garlic. I really enjoyed eating this dish it was authentic and the beef was tender, tasted exactly how it does in Seoul.

Spicy barbecued pork with onions and spring onions. The pork definitely was flavorsome, with turmeric, cardamon, chilli and very delicious.

When you are ready to pay the bill you just push the button to get the waitress's attention.
Kim Chee even give you complimentary Melon whilst your waiting to pay the bill. I am a firm believer of paying for what you get. Not only was the cuisine authentic they did it well and it did not break the bank balance, I also left this redcurrant feeling satisfied.

The venue: Kim Chee
Cuisine: Korean
Date visited: 30/07/11
The damage: £18 party of 2 for lunch
The food: 9 out 10. I recommend you try this restaurant or there is also a Kim Chee in High Holborn.
The service: 8 out 10

Will I recommend Kim Chee: Yes the food was good and authentic, really relaxed dining experience.
Will I return:Yes most definately
Have I had better: Yes there is lots of good Korean Restaurants in New Malden.

Amadora - To adore the gift of love through food.

It always makes me happy to see new restaurants pop up in my local area. 
Living near Richmond has always been a great pleasure from escaping from 
the hustle and bustle of the center of London. The commute on a bad day makes 
me think differently however on a good day it gives me opportunity to write down 
my initial thoughts about work and restaurants.
Amadora was open 7 months ago just by the green down paved court. 
2 courses and a glass of Prosecco for £18.95 you can't go too wrong. The owner 
was friendly and started conversations with all the Diners. It is very important that 
the front of house is welcoming because the first impression is an everlasting
The wine prices varied from £20 - £50, we ordered a White Sauvignon Blanc, 
summer always feels great with the taste of  snappy, zesty grape, full of aromatic 
For starters I had the Calamari it was lightly fried wild garlic herbs on a bed of 
salad. The Calamari was really good the chunky slices was soft and was scrumptious 
I could it it twice. My dinner partner did mention that a little less salt would of been 
perfect. I think the chef use wild garlic and garlic powder which can sometimes be a 
bit salty, but also used as a substitute for salt. 
My dinner partner decided to go for the special of the day Asparagus linguine.  
Amadora had good portion sizes, however if they want to separate themselves 
from a chain restaurant they have to taste the food. The pasta was cooked Al Dente  
which is a bonus but the simplicity of pesto sauce and asparagus was not perfect. 
If I was to make at home, I could do it within 10 minutes not very imaginative for the 
dish of the day. If I had spent another 5 minutes putting attention and love into the food
it would surpass the chain restaurant faux par. 

Pan Fried Seabass in Cherry Tomato Sauce, with salad. I think they used the same
 salad from the calamari to garnish the Seabass. I guess the diners there probably did 
not order seafood for starters and mains. I would of accompanied the dish with some 
steam seasonal vegetables or mange tout. The sea bass was tasty the skin was crispy, 
the fish was filleted well and you can taste the fresh tomato sauce.
Is it about sourcing or saucing? 
For dessert we had Strawberry Cheese cake, I am not sure if it is because I am a 
perfectionist or I know what fresh homemade cheesecake taste like. I don't want 
to be horrible because I know how difficult it is to be a restauranteur. Unfortunately 
the meal got a little worse, the cheesecake base was soggy and it was not freshly 
made. It was like eating microwaved cream but paying £5 for it. I would 
pay £50 to watch Gordon Ramsay eat it, all hell would break loose. 

The dessert menu was very limited I decided to have Mango Sorbet and Chocolate 
ice cream. The ice cream was nice, very refreshing. The owner mentioned he 
sourced it from a local Richmond Ice Cream Parlour, Gelateria Danieli. Little did he 
know that this is my favourite place to eat ice cream in the summer. the dessert menu 
had 4 choices of flavor. If I owned an Italian restaurant I would of chosen to have the 
Strawberry Sorbet, Pastachio and Ferreror Rocher. I have tried all the flavours in 
Gelateria Danieli and these are the best ones.

The venue: Amadora
Cuisine: Italian
Date visited: 29/07/11
The damage: £80 party of 2
The food: 3 out 10, I think this could be a wonderful restaurant they just need time to be put Authenticity and LOVE into their cuisine.
The service: 7 out 10

Will I recommend Amadora: No not ATM
Will I return: No I only return if the food is really good.
Have I had better: Yes I have had alot better Italian Food in Richmond.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Inamo - Seeing is believing... projecting your food desires!


Inamo was an Innovation in a room, the vibrancy of the projector illuminated the dark decor. I love the concept of Inamo, cut out annoying waiters, seeing what are going to eat before you order, more choice to the diners and the element of fun dining.

I love technology I can't  imagine the world without my laptop, iPhone or the Internet. Social phobics would have to go outside and we all spend more- save less.  My previous manager mentioned that I was a must go to Inamo, that was also the night of her anniversary with her boyfriend, so it must be a good place to go, surely it is a man's job to dazzle a lady to maintain a healthy relationship! After reading reviews by other bloggers I thought, it's a must go if you live in London. I had my YSL sunglasses ready (one blogger complained that the projectors was intensively bright.  I am quite use to staring at computer screens at work, watching 3D films and watching T's foo fighter video several times and all of his handy gradient techniques.

It was T's birthday so where to go... someone who loves technology, breathes film techy passion and likes the experience of dining some wow factor and dazzle, the answer is Inamo.

It was Sunday 8:45 the restaurant was very busy with couples and groups of curious yuppies young professionals.  At the core of Inamo is the interactive ordering system. Diners place orders from an illustrated food and drinks menu projected on to their table surface.

 On the top you select Drink, Small Dishes, Large Dishes, Table Theme, Games or Watch the CHEF.

Project the Image of the food onto your plate....

If you get stuck you can actually grab the waiter's attention by using your mouse pad. I think that EVERY Japanese and Pan Asian Restaurant should have Warm Sake. The waiter did apologize because it was Sunday they had ran out of Warm Sake and some Ingredients. If your a busy restaurant you should always have extra supplies of alcohol especially Alcohol doesn't go out of date quickly. So we ordered the Red Sake, interestingly made from red rice and served cold. Due to the lighting in Inamo I have tried to photoshop pictures, but as you can gather the Purple Lotus Table theme did not make taking pictures very easy to take. I hope they are ok and visible!

Crunchy FiveSpiced Pork Belly8.50)
Served on ginger mirin, spring onions, fuji apple sauce and leek wool. The pork was very tasty, the rind was crispy in the middle was this sweet apple sauce that accompanied the pork fantastically. Apple and Pork goes really well together, maybe its to do with making the pork taste a lot leaner. I think Inamo should of added the sauce around the dish because people don't discover the scrumptious sauce till the end. The shredded leek and spring onion tasted very plain, if they caramelised or just added finely chopped Mizuna would of made this dish taste top notch. Ok I know it's Pan Asian so it's not going to be like Sake No Hana or So Restaurant.

There was alot of choice on the menu so we decided to share lots of dishes. Traditionally in Asian and Oriental cultures you often share dishes, I also like doing this because I get to taste everything.
Duck Temaki (£5.00) Shredded duck, spring onions and cucumber wrapped in rice and nori served with hoi sin sauce. This was one of my favourite dishes, the duck was brilliantly executed not dry, filled chives, spring onion and cucumber. The rice was fresh and sticky, it was rolled with passion.

 Citrus Mussels (£9.75) Served with a lemon and yuzu sauce. Inamo's take on a rare Chinese dish. This was my second favourite dish the mussell were cooked in a wonderful lemon sauce, the only dish that came in a good portion size. 
I noticed that the portion size Inamo was small, I believe you should always be left wanting more but not feeling hungry. I think there is a fine balance and unfornately for the price you are paying for Pan Asian Cuisine, Inamo is tipping to the hungry side you would expect more. Cicada and Eight Over Eight, is the same price better quality and you left feeling satisifed. Therefore it was inevitable we had to order lots of dishes.

Seafood Curry (£14.00) Creamy coconut curry, with shrimp, salmon, okra, potato, mussels, clams and tiger prawn. When I eat curries I want to taste all the herbs and flavours, not be burnt by the hot spiceness that I can't taste anything. Once again I have to mention maybe because it was Sunday they didn't have as many ingredients. This curry was tasteless, a real dissapointing, 3 small bits of salmon, 3 mussels, 2 Clams and 1 Tiger prawn head. So dissapointing, this was a big dish aswell, lots of mediocre yellow coconut fluid with minimal ingredients, they are really not making me happy. I ordered the rice to go with this and I really know how rice should be cooked, since I have eating rice since I was 3. One one to describe the rice overcooked.

Soft Shell Crab Maki Rolls (£6.75)
A round roll of sushi, formed with the help of a bamboo mat and cut into 5 pieces. Withavocado and chives, served with chilli mayonnaise. I think I could eat this dish twice over, the soft shell crab was lightly battered in Tempura, very crispy. I can't fault the Sushi chef in Inamo, really good Sushi..... Ok honestly there should be Sashimi on the Menu.

Seared Scallops (£6.75)
Thinly sliced with a yuzu & wasabi dressing (Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit). Ok please do not offend me or other seafood lovers by thinly dicing a scallop into four pieces horizontally and calling that a portion. Scallops are meant to be left wholesome and moist.

Baby Crispy Prawns £7.00
Lightly battered served with a Thai mango relish.
Sometimes people eat food without wondering how food is cooked. There are eaters and food obesessed lovers, I fit into the latter end of the scale. I am so obsessed with food, I often remember how I have tasted it before and how the chef has cooked it. The prawns were not baby prawns, they were prawns diced into three bits then dipped into batter. If I wanted to be on a Size Zero diet I know where to go.

Tuna benito maki (£8.00)
5 pieces of tuna and mango maki wrapped in smoky flavoured benito flakes. Once again the Sushi chef did a great job, the mango twist worked very well with the Tuna.

To cleanse our palate we ordered two cocktails, I saw the lady next to me order the Inamo cocktail, I thought I must have one.
Inamo6.50) This cocktail is spicy! Zesty mandarin puree muddled with spring onion and shaken with Smirnoff black and chilli syrup, decorated with a huge chilli. It definately had a kick but it was like drinking chilli in a glass. All the people at the Chilli Food Festival would love this.

Raspberry lemon cooler (£9.50) Muddled fresh lemongrass with raspberry puree, fresh lemon juice and Hendricks gin. Served in a tall glass with crushed ice and carbonated water. I recommend this cocktail as it was very refreshing.

When looking at the dessert menu, we weren't blown away. So I decided to settle the bill and go to Peche Patisserie. T mentioned he had a great time, but deep down I was very disappointed and going to take him to a second birthday dinner. You should go here to experience an unusual dining experience but do not go there expecting the food to be amazing.

The venue:Inamo
Cuisine: Pan Asian
Date visited: 24/07/11
The damage: £110 party of 2
The food: 5 out 10
The service: 8 out 10

Will I recommend Inamo: Yes just to experience a new wacky dining experience of ordering your own food and playing battle ships whilst waiting for dinner.
Will I return: No I only return if the food is really good.
Have I had better: Yes I had alot better Pan Asian Food and not as pricey.