We found Kitty! Amazing Thai food

This post title won’t make sense to most people. But if you’ve been following this blog for a few years, then you might remember that way-back in September 2012 we posted about our search for Kitty She was the front of house in the Thai kitchen that ran out of The Chequers when it was a market boozer, before it was refurbished into the gastro pub it is today.

Every change at The Chequers was an improvement except for the loss of the Thai kitchen. Among the standard pub grub of burgers, pies, chips and Sunday roasts, Kitty and her chef worked magic in the kitchen producing stunning Thai dishes at bargain prices and we were Saturday regulars.

We heard rumours they had moved to a restaurant in South Woodford, but never got around to going. Then last week a friend and I were out that way at lunchtime. Caught in a torrential downpour we parked up and dashed into the nearest restaurant. Thankfully that turned out to be Thai Street E18, and as we walked in we were greeted by a familiar face – we found Kitty!

The good news is the food is still amazing, and the decor’s a lot nicer than the old pub. We ate from the bargain £7.95 weekday lunch menu, served Tuesday to Friday 12 till 2.30pm.

From the choices of stir-fries, soups, salads and curries, we ordered the Pad Kaprow – fried pork with green beans,  Thai basil, chilli & garlic, with jasmine rice. It was delicious, but fiery hot! The Thai penang curry with chicken, peppers, lime leaves and coconut milk served with jasmine rice was dreamy delicious – everything a perfect Thai curry should be – creamy, hot, sour and tangy.

 

Next time, if its not cold and raining, the Yam Nua sounded tempting – a thinly sliced beef salad with chillies and coriander. Or the Pad Khee Mao (Drunken Noodles ) fried noodles with prawn, green bean, bamboo shoots and peppers. Or the veggie Tao Hu Pad Ma Kuar  – stir fried tofu and aubergine with egg fried rice. So many tempting choices. Lunch for 2 with Jasmine tea for less than £20.

There’s a full menu available which looks amazing, £7.50 cocktails, and delivery within 2 miles, which might just cover Walthamstow.

Thai Street E18, 17 Electric Parade, George Lane, South Woodford, E18 2LY (Near Waitrose, Zizzi, The George). Closed Mondays

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Top Takeaways in and around E17

 

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Always a contentious post – we’ve updated our Top Takeaways list again. These are our current favourites, some you’ll know, others might be new. Of course we had to start with…

PIZZA

 

Sodo Pizza Cafe, Hatherley Mews, E17 4QP
Fantastic pizza place off Hoe Street, eat-in or take-away. Daily, innovative and unusual meat and veggie specials. Usually a vegan and GF option. Sourdough pizza from the giant wood-burning oven. Great antipasti especially the burrata. Natural wines and craft beers too.

Yard Sale Pizza the Old Glass Factory, 15 Hoe Street, E17 4SD
Tables to seat about 24 and a bar with stool-counter seating at the front, plus more outdoor tables for sunny days. Online ordering, E17 delivery and take-away. Massive 18 inch pizza to share. Authentic and creative Italian toppings, thin, stone-baked. Gluten free, veggie and vegan options. Open 7 days a week, noon or 5pm – 10/11pm.

280g 88 High Street, E17 7LD
Small and overlooked pizza cafe down the High Street. Fabulous pizza – my favourite toppings the whole fresh burrata mozarella. No alcohol license. Lovely homemade ciabatta to buy.

Italian Bakery (Le Delice) 114 Hoe Street, E17 4QR
Small Sardinian bakery selling daily fresh baked Italian breads, focaccia, pizza and calzone (at the weekends). Open from 7.30am in the week, 10am at weekends.

Chinese/ Thai/ Sushi/ Vietnamese

 

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New Dragon Inn, 57 Hoe Street, E17 4SA
Next door to the Rose & Crown pub. Reliable Chinese takeaway including tofu, prawn and vegetable dishes. The roast duck with vegetables is a favourite. Dinner boxes are excellent value. Food tastes fresh and hot, cooked to order. Collection or delivery.

Woo Lot, 592 Lea Bridge Road, E10 7DN 
Well, yes technically it is just over the road into Leyton at Bakers Arms. Wide range of Chinese dishes, cheap, big portions, efficient service and friendly staff. Eat-in or takeaway. (Not to be confused with Woo on Forest Road)

O’Cha Thai, 60 Billet Road, E17 5DN
Thai takeaway, delivering fragrant, authentic dishes using good quality ingredients. Portions are on the small side, so order lots if you’re starving!

Etles Uyghur Restaurant, 235 Hoe Street, E17 9PP
Small and unique. One of only a couple of Uyghur restaurants in London. Reviewed by The Eater. Hand-pulled noodles a house speciality.

Sumo Fresh, 141 High Street, Wanstead, E11 2RL
Japanese restaurant serving handmade sushi and noodle dishes in Wanstead. Free delivery on orders over £20.

District Một, (used to be Little Siagon) 686 High Road, Leytonstone, E11 3AA
Large airy restaurant over in Leytonstone. Lovely Pho noodle soups and delicate Vietnamese pancakes. Good value rice and noodle dishes.

Turkish/ Lebanese

 

Teras, 117 Wood Street, E17 3LL
Family-run Turkish charcoal BBQ restaurant and takeaway. Lovely homemade food, cooked freshly to order including meze, pide, kebabs and oven-baked dishes. Friendly staff and beautiful decor. Open daily from 12.

Wood Oven, 328 Hoe Street, E17 9PX
Just down from Walthamstow Central – beautiful decor, good food, friendly staff. All the traditional Turkish BBQ grills and meze dishes. Open daily – 12 til late, plenty of table space but also takeaway.

Gokyuzu, 42D, Selborne Walk, The Mall, E17 7JR
New and very welcome addition to the High Street at The Mall shopping Centre. One of the finest Turkish restaurants in London. Focused on the fresh meat grills but good fish and veggie options too. Meze, pide (Turkish pizza), free dips, bread, salads and tea. Open daily  

Mannoush, 230 High Street, E17 7JH
Top of the High Street opposite the cinema. Lebanese kebabs, chicken and grills. It’s only a small place so mainly take-away. Cheap, fresh and tasty.

Fresh Nan Bakery, 143 High Street, E17 7DB (opposite Sainsbury’s)
The tiny, hole-in-the-wall nan bakery has extended into the next door shop and now has a charcoal grill, pizza oven and small seating area. Still so cheap – kebab rolls, falafel wraps, etc. Hot, loud and rammed with folk jostling for fresh 4 for £1 nan bread straight from the tandoor oven.

Fish & chips

 

Five Star Fish Bar, 442 Forest Road, E17 4PY
Friendly fish and chip shop opposite the William Morris Gallery – ideal for grabbing a bag of chips for a stroll round the park. They have haddock to order which as Northerners we appreciate, lunchtime specials and freshly cooked chips.

The Brothers Fish Bar, 122 Wood Street, E17 3HX
Frying fish and chips in Wood Street for 50+ years. Good quality and traditional – they peel and chip their own potatoes and serve fresh battered fish. Open Mon-Sat, 12-9pm.

Indian

The Tiffin Tin, 4 Station Parade, High Street, Wanstead, E11 1QF
Out of E17 but worth mentioning for the quality – they deliver to E17. Real Indian curries. Fresh, healthy, first-class takeaway.

Saffron Kitchen 300 Lea Bridge Road, E10 7LD
Always busy, often a queue for tables unless you go early/late. Mumbai-style street food and traditional Indian dishes. Fantastic desserts including the fried ice-cream. Peculiar opening hours so check before you go. No alcohol.

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Peruvian adventures in Seven Sisters

 

If this weather has you dreaming of hot sunshine and tropical beaches, instead of booking the first flight to Rio, jump on the tube to Seven Sisters at the weekend for a taste of Latino life.

Directly outside the station is Pueblito Paisa Cafe, housed in the Latin American market. If you’ve never visited go soon as it’s permanently under threat of closure and ‘regeneration’. Wandering around the market on a Saturday tests my nerves and my poor understanding of Spanish – it’s a noisy, lively jumble of hairdressers, grocery shops, butchers and food stalls. This is the place to get every imaginable type of dried chillis, PAN corn flour, chilli sauces, fresh juices, and dried beans. There always seems to be lots of music, shouting and laughter.

The Pueblito Paisa Cafe is open daily from 8am til 9pm serving excellent and cheap Colombian favourites such as meaty empanadas, arepas, sizzling churrasco steaks on a hot stone, cassava fries and of course good coffee. But at the weekend things go all Peruvian. We went on Sunday, entirely by chance, following a craving for empanadas and cold beer. We were transported to a back street in Lima, surrounded by locals and travellers, English and Spanish, all crowded round the Ceviche bar sipping on Cusquena beers and pisco sours. Latin disco hits were playing loudly and the Spanish league football was on the TV.

There’s an extensive Menu de Dia (daily menu). This week there was a choice of chicken soup or oxtail sancocho (another soup), then a list of mains including chicken, baked, fried or en salsa, BBQ ribs, or Beef. This comes with a glass of chilled Aguapanela, a sweet, lemony Colombian drink, all for only £9 .

We went for 1 x Menu and chose the chicken soup – including a whole chicken wing, potatoes, coriander and some scary but delicious chicken offal bits. Oh my, it was so delicious – like the chicken soup you should have when you’re ill to make you feel human again!

We fought over this until the ribs arrived – 3 sticky lumps of porky ribs in a lime infused BBQ sauce, served with long-stewed red beans, rice, grilled plantain and salad. It was fantastic value, all this for just less than a tenner.

But we couldn’t stop there – we had to try the Ceviche. There’s two choices, Classic (just haddock) or Mixed (haddock, octopus and prawn), and that’s what we went for. We ordered a large portion to share, with the classic accompaniments of popcorn and cold sweet potato. We were blown away by how delicious it was.  The fish was so fresh and light. The ‘tiger milk’ marinade was zingy with lime and fresh red chilli (we ordered ours spicy) and infused with red onion and celery slivers – only £9! You can add a side of Papa a la Huancaina, traditional Peruvian cold appetizer of boiled potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce for a couple of quid. It was as good as any ceviche I’ve had in posh places in town.

Next came the highlight – Polpo a la Brasa. The octopus was coated in smokey paprika (we ordered it spicy again) and perfectly charcoal grilled, served simply with boiled potato slices, salad and a slick dollop of mayo. I love octopus and this was as good as, or even better than, in the London restaurants Truyo or Tragallan where we’ve eaten it recently, but for half the price at only £6.50.

Finally, to wash all this down, drinks include South American and Spanish beers for £3.50 a bottle, and wine if you want it. But the most popular drinks are the fresh exotic fruit juices (in milk or water depending on your taste) such as Mora, Lulo, Guanabana or Guava. A true taste of sunshine! 

Pueblito Paisa Cafe: 235 High Rd, London N15 5JT

 

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Busy down at the Bakers Arms…

It’s been busy recently with new shops opening down at the Bakers Arms end of Hoe Street. The vegan Hornbeam cafe has just re-opened, and in contrast there’s a new Brazilian butchers with enticing products including tropical frozen fruit pulp, tons of steak and some scary-looking offal.

Another new addition is the lovely new veggie/vegan cafe Bodega 50. This Stoke Newington import occupies a tiny shop front and is easy to miss, sandwiched between a barbers and another cafe. But it’s worth seeking them out for the great Climpson & Son coffee and cheap lunches of wraps and homemade soup. They also stock tempting sourdough and rye breads, vegan snacks and cakes, and weirdly (but happily) a range of  sencha teas and Italian-made fruit smoothies that I can only usually find in a Japanese deli in Ealing. This is going to make my life easier – just please start selling the blueberry and apple flavour!

Bodega 50, 442 Hoe St, Walthamstow, E17 9AP

 

Only a few doors further along is the new Gnarly Vines wine shop. It’s the wine version of Clapton Craft beer shop. As expected, there’s a great range of interesting wines from less than a tenner upwards, and they have a fridge full of salami, pickles, charcuterie and cheeses to go with your wine. Only one person drinks in our house, when I open a bottle there’s a good chance of the last bit ending up in a stew so I begrudge spending too much. The guy in the shop was knowledgeable and patient, but also understanding of my first world dilemma and we chose a lovely bottle of red. They also stock a few ciders and plenty of spirits.

 

I also picked up a couple of recommended craft beers from Pressure Drop and Saizon that have been delicious. But I think the best and most surprising thing was the wide range of low or alcohol-free drinks. This included loads of new flavours from Square Root, botanical tonics, and a stunning 0.5% IPA beer from Pressure Drop that I’d happily drink. Now they just need to start stocking the French alcohol-free cider we once had in Lithuania and I will be sublimely happy…

 

When they get the licence sorted for drinks and nibbles in the shop, and maybe even a back garden Summer drinking den, this place will be perfect.

Gnarly Vines, 464 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 9AH

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A slice of Sardinia – the Italian Bakery at Le Delice

Summer may feel a long way off, but for a slice of Italian sunshine head to Hoe Street. It’s exciting times in January in the Stow with the opening of the new Lidl’s store and the Italian Bakery at Le Delice, and the imminent arrival of Gokyuzu. I went to check them out and instantly loved the Italian Bakery. It’s a magical place of warm bread and pizza smells – an amazing tiny shop at the back of Le Delice cafe on the junction of Hoe Street and Jewel Road (opposite the Rose & Crown pub). They’ve been working hard for the past few weeks, renovating, decorating and fitting 4 big pizza ovens, and thankfully they finally opened this week.

They specialise in fresh, daily baked Sardinian artisan goodies. The lovely Manola is serving up Foccacia – rosemary, or with cherry tomatoes; Pizza Al Taglio (pizza slices) with various toppings; Semolina potato bread; pistachio rolls and so much more. I went in with only £2.50 (it’s cash only at the moment) to pick up something to go with a bowl of soup for lunch. I came away with a beautiful slice of olive oil and rosemary foccacia and a new addiction to these crispy, salty crostini! (perfect beer snacks too)

In the next few weeks they’re planning to start baking Calzone al forno (folded and stuffed pizza) at the weekend for about £5. It’s a great place to pop in for a cheap snack – a slice or small pizza (hot or cold) for about £3. There’s a daily changing  range (depending on the whim of the baker apparently) of fresh bread, cakes, biscuits, rolls, and the beautiful and unusual ‘Su pani pintau’ celebration bread baskets!

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday – 7:30am to 6:30pm,  Weekends – 10am to 6pm

Italian Bakery at Le Delice, 114 Hoe Street, E17 4QR. 07743 508394

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Ferry Boat Inn – down at the Walthamstow Wetlands

I still find it hard to believe that just one bus stop beyond Blackhorse Road or Tottenham Hale station is the Walthamstow Wetlands – Europe’s largest urban wildlife and wetland area, an amazing ‘get away’ to nature right on our doorstep. So, if you fancy a pint after all your muddy wanderings around the Wetlands, just across the road is the Ferry Boat Inn. The old inn (think log fires and oak beams) has been trading for over 250 years at the crossing of the River Lea. These days it’s full of locals and Tottenham Hale students making the most of the cheap beer prices.

We were invited this week to review their time-limited ‘Try January’ menu. They’re offering a range of new dishes aiming at the vegan / dry / healthy / skint January trends, with low calorie / alcohol drinks to match. There’s a grilled seabass superfood salad, a quinoa chilli, and a sweet potato topped cottage pie – all for £6.99. There’s also mini puddings tempting you at only £1.49 each.

We ordered off both the ‘Try January’ and standard menu. Starters were panko-crumbed calamari and a ham & pea terrine, both less than a fiver. They were ok – kind of what you expect from pub food, but served promptly and presented well.

Off the ‘Try January’ menu we had the quinoa chilli – butternut squash, quinoa and black beans served with rice, nachos, salsa and guacamole. It was a very tasty veggie chilli, and a good sized portion for the price. Definitely worth a stroll over at lunchtime, they also do sandwiches (including the mighty-sounding Fish Finger Focaccia) for £5-6, which even with chips would be less than a tenner.

Our favourite dish was the 8oz rump steak, cooked just how we wanted it – rare. It was full of flavour, which is unusual to find at £10.99 (but the chips and mushrooms weren’t up to much). We also loved the beer-battered onion rings! Proper pub-grub. They offer all the classics including sausage & mash, burgers, pies and fish & chips.

Drinks include craft and real ales, a wine flight for £8, and soft and no/low alcohol drinks including Becks Blue, Fentimans, Bottlegreen, and Rekorderlig Cider. There are daily deals such as cheap real ale Mondays, burgers on Wednesdays, steak night on Thursdays, and of course Sunday roasts.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying the hot triple chocolate cake…

Ferry Boat Inn, Ferry Lane, London, N17 9NG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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St Gabriel Ethiopian Delicatessen, Finsbury Park

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It’s January – so you’re likely to be skint and promising yourself that you’ll be healthy, vegan, and off the booze for a month. So I’ll let you into a secret – our favourite Ethiopian cafe, not too far away, in Finsbury Park, it’s cheap, alcohol-free and easily vegetarian.

African cooking is being hailed as a food trend for 2018 – it needs a makeover and someone to make it more accessible. For years we’ve been eating Ethiopian or Eritrean food – first at Zigni House, then Addis in Kings Cross and venturing further up Caledonian Road to Merkato and Marathon, and then further afield Mosob in Maida Vale, Wolkite and Kokeb in Holloway, Adulis in Oval and Harar in Vauxhall. They’ve all been great in many ways.

But our favourite that we keep returning to is St Gabriel Ethiopian Delicatessen in Finsbury Park. It’s overlooked by Trip Advisor and Time Out, and missed by other foodies. But we love it. It remains below the radar, catering for the mainly Ethiopian clientele. St Gabriel’s is small, busy and basic. It’s not a restaurant, it doesn’t have tablecloths, waiters, or a website. The service is hit and miss. It has a one page laminated menu, but mainly it’s a see what you like in the counter. This is not the place for a romantic dinner and coffee ceremony.

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Most other people in the cafe are Ethiopian I think. Some are just there to drink coffee and chat, or to collect injera bread from the industrial-scale bakery at the back. But we are there for the food.

Forget trendy ‘sharing plates’, Ethiopian is real sharing food. All the dishes for the table are served on the giant injera flat bread which acts as the plate, cutlery and carb for the meal. Everyone tears strips off the bread to scoop up the various dishes. Traditionally you feed the person sitting next to you, but that’s getting way too friendly for me!

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Injera is a fermented, sourdough flatbread made from Teff flour, an East African grain. It’s made into a batter and cooked on a hot plate, resulting a slightly sour, bubbly, spongy texture like a crumpet. The menu includes the familiar Wots (spicy stews), Tibs (fried meat) and Kitfo (mince meat) dishes. But we go every time for the healthy Vegetarian Selection £8 for around 5-6 different lentil, bean and vegetable dishes with an injera and salad.

The difference here to other Ethiopian restaurants we’ve been to, is the price and the quality. Every vegetable dish has a wow factor – the flavouring of chillis and spices is complicated, delicate and experienced. Too many times we’ve had a dollop of spicy frozen mixed veg turned out onto a bland injera. This food is so far from that.  And the prices are amazing, it’s £30 for a sharing platter for 4 people and we have lunch for 2 for £10 including drinks and often a free slice of cake-like bread.  It’s so tasty, filling and cheap.

It’s open every day, 7am to 8pm. But remember, it’s Orthodox Ethiopian Christmas on 7th January so they might be closed this weekend.

St Gabriel Ethiopian Delicatessen, 12 Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London, N4 2DW

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E17 Cook Book Club: dates & themes for 2018

photos© www.goodwinphotography.co.uk

The concept for the E17 Cook Book Club is simple: it’s a foodie social evening, everyone brings some food to share and their cook book inspiration (plus a £3 contribution to cover costs). We eat, talk and have fun. The themes, chefs and recipe books change each time. We meet on the last Wednesday of every month in the back room at The Bell pub (Forest Road, E17). We had a great write up in the December 2016 E List magazine: e-list-december-16-cbc-2

The dates and themes for the first few ‘E17 Cook Book Clubs’ of 2018. Everyone is welcome to join us.

  • Wednesday 31 January 8.30pm at The Bell. Theme: Budget Dinners
  • Wednesday 28 February 8.30pm at The Bell. Theme: South America

We’re skipping March unless someone else wants to arrange and host

  • Wednesday 25 April 8.30pm at The Bell. Theme: Chocolate
  • Wednesday 30 May 8.30pm at The Bell. Theme: Cheese

Newbies, couples, singles, everyone is welcome – it’s informal, delicious and fun! The group each evening varies from 6-15 people. Bring a dish and maybe the recipe or cook book. You don’t have to be a masterchef, just share a love of cooking, eating and experimenting and meeting new people.

Sign up to the Facebook page so we can discuss in advance what everyone’s planning to cook.

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New Turkish restaurant: Wood Oven BBQ – Hoe Street, Walthamstow

The stretch of Hoe Street between Walthamstow Central station and Queen’s Road seems to be having a revival. First came the Chinese Uyghur noodles place; followed by coffee and waffle shop Bru, and then Indian teashop Chaiiwala. Finally last week the new Turkish restaurant, Wood Oven BBQ opened.

Wood Oven has a few local restaurants in South Woodford, Barking and Potters Bar. So when we were invited to try out their new Walthamstow venue, we quickly booked a table for Sunday lunch today.  I think this caused some nerves in the kitchen as it’s early days – they’ve only been open a week. But today the food, decor and service was pretty much faultless.

Complementary homemade Cacik (yogurt and cucumber dip), chilli sauce, garlic yogurt sauce and a basket of delicious hot bread arrived first and were quickly scooped up. There’s the typical choice of hot and cold meze for around £5, but missing lahmacun or my personal favourite, Albanian-style liver (great on a cold winter’s night). We loved our starters: thick slices of grilled Halloumi cheese – soft rather than squeaky, and king prawns pan-fried with tomato, garlic and peppers, a tasty, well-priced and generous portion.

After a bit of a wait, we tucked into Lamb chops – a portion of 4 chops, with rice and salad (about £15), perfectly seasoned and cooked on the grill, but we got plate envy when we saw spicy chips and chops served at the next table. However, the real star of the show was the whole charcoal grilled Sea bass, served with roast baby potatoes and veg including asparagus. This was a delicious memory-evoking fish dish – reminded me of eating fresh grilled fish at the seafront restaurants in Fethiye.

The dessert menu is non-existent, just a choice of ice cream or baklava. We went for the homemade baklava – sweet and sticky pastries stuffed with pistachios. Lunch ended with the obligatory Turkish tea and coffee served with delicious, little lumps of nutty Turkish delight.

The decor is beautiful – all lamps and arty mosaics, the seating is comfy, and it all feels light, bright and sunny. The staff were friendly and helpful. The extensive drinks list covers most requirements, including Turkish wine and beer, with wines from about £15 a bottle. All in all, this is going to be a great addition to the Walthamstow restaurants and take-aways and I can see us becoming regulars.

Wood Oven BBQ restaurant, 328 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 0PX

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Top 5 Favourites: Liverpool

We stayed in Liverpool for a few days recently and enjoyed exploring the foodie scene. Here’s our Top 5 Recommends:

1 – for Coffee: The whole Third Wave, designer coffee shop culture is hitting Liverpool right now, meaning better coffee and delicious breakfasts! From the many places we tried Bold Street Coffee made the best Americano coffees using Ethiopian beans; the best (and most enormous) Canadian-inspired breakfasts were at Moose Coffeeback on Bold Street, the most designer styling was at the East Avenue Bakehouse; and the best place for a relaxing pot of tea day or night was at Leaf; finally the best breads and cake we found was at the Baltic Bakehouse.

2 – Mowgli Street Food: Food writer Nisha Katona opened this restaurant on Bold Street in 2014. Now it’s quickly becoming a chain with two in Liverpool, one in Manchester and two new sites in Birmingham and Leeds later this year. It feels similar to Dishoom in decor style, no reservations policy and small plates menu. The focus at Mowgli is on Indian street food including tamarind chat bombs and tiffin tins, with some cheeky Indian twists on a chip butty and cheese on toast. Our favourite dish was the Bunny Chow, a South African – Indian chicken and potato curry served inside a bread loaf (£8.95). They offer a vegan, gluten free and kids menu. Service is swift and friendly. Great range of beers, wines, cocktails and softies. If you can’t get a table at either Mowgli, then another Indian worth a visit is Sanskruti for their all vegetarian and vegan menu of dosas, chaat and curries.

Mowgli Street Food: 69 Bold Street, Liverpool L1 4EZ & 3 Water Street, Liverpool L2 0RD

3 – Maray: Another Bold Street eatery – but this one’s won a place in the 2018 Good Food Guide. This cosy, 47 cover restaurant turns out some amazing small, seasonal sharing plates. It’s the kind of place you find in Dalston and Soho, distressed decor and eclectic Middle Eastern, Spanish and Skandi influenced dishes. Top dishes for us were Whipped goats cheese, honey, crisp and pickled beetroot; Mushrooms, celeriac and hazelnuts; Scallops, salt cod and fennel; Octopus, nduja and pickled courgette; Hake, kohlrabi and leeks. With dishes between £5 and £9, the lunchtime deal of 3 plates for £12.50 is a steal. There’s an emphasis on using local produce. All the dishes were cleverly put together and beautifully presented. Interesting wines by the glass and cocktails. Book a table well in advance, or they have a second, larger place in Allerton, Liverpool. If you can’t get in then on nearby Berry Street Neon Jamon serves fantastic Catalan tapas or  try Roja Pinchos for Basque pinchos. 

Maray: 91 Bold St, Liverpool L1 4HF

4 – Bakchich: Lebanese street food cafe, on Bold Street of course, first in a small independent chain – do you feel a theme developing here? Open from 8am to midnight, they offer everything from beans (foul) or eggs-based breakfasts, Lebanese mezze, grilled meat or veggie sharing platters, salads and wraps and grills, to a whole roast lamb (£240 and 24 hours notice!). It’s alcohol-free so they have a massive range of soft drinks including homemade lemonades, yogurt smoothies and fresh juices. Portions are big, so go with a good appetite.

Bakchich Lebanese Restaurant: 54 Bold St, Liverpool L1 4ER

5 – Petit Parle: Finally, away from the dominance of Bold Street, up near the docks and Liver Building is a tiny French bistro that could have fallen straight off the streets of Paris. It’s a dimly-lit ambiance so none of our photos worked out unfortunately. However, recommend it for the excellent fresh seafood – the Menai Strait oysters (3 for £5.40) were amazing served with a dash of rough French vodka, and Whole baked sea bream in garlic (£7.95) were fantastic value. The venison and red wine saucisson was meltingly soft and rich in flavours. The onglet steak and mini hache burgers were delicious. Wide range of wines and cocktails. The staff  made a special effort to invent a mocktail to meet our requirements – and that was delicious too!

Petit Parle: 44 Fenwick Street, Liverpool, L2 7NB

 

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Syrian Night – E17 Cook Book Club

Thanks to everyone who came along to the fantastic ‘E17 Cook Book Club’ in September at The Bell pub.  It was Syrian Night, with £100 raised for the Syrian Supper ClubHands Up Foundation.

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My really simple recipe from Syrian Night was Kibbeh al-hammam (Bulgar and tomato kibbeh). This is a Syrian Aleppo meze dish taken from the cook book:

‘Seductive flavours of the Levant – traditional home cooking from Lebanon, Syrian and Turkey’ by Nada Saleh

You need:
140g onion, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoons tomato puree
170g fine bulgar wheat (in any of the Turkish shops)
1/2 – 1 Teaspoons salt to taste
4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 Tablespoons pomegranate syrup (molasses) again look in the Turkish shops
Handful of parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
Seeds of 1/2 fresh pomegranate

Method:
Combine the onions, salt, olive oil, pomegranate syrup and tomato puree in a large bowl.
Add the bulgar to the bowl (but don’t stir). Sprinkle the bulgar with 3 tablespoons of cold water. Add the chopped tomatoes on top. Now the messy bit, get your hands in and knead until all the ingredients are fully mixed together. Transfer to a serving dish, smooth it out and decorate with the spring onions, parsley and pomegranate seeds. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Serve with lettuce leaves or bread to scoop it up.

It will last up to 3 days as a meze salad from the fridge, you can add crumbled feta or grilled halloumi if you like, or stir some through yoghurt to make a tomato dip.

 

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Hotel-Breakfast at the William Morris Gallery Tea room

 

 

The sunny William Morris Gallery Tea room is one of our favourite hide-away places. For anyone who’s not been before, it’s a lovely place to take visitors and family for tea and cakes overlooking the gardens, after an arty afternoon in the gallery.

But recently we went along to their ‘Hotel-Breakfast’ event. It seemed an unusual idea – getting out of bed for a 9am unlimited 1 hour breakfast, in the gallery cafe, on a Sunday morning. Would this really be popular in Walthamstow, especially at nearly £15 a head? Apparently so, the event was sold-out and the place was packed with eager, early-morning breakfasters.

 

The central table was beautifully laid-out with an array of tempting plates of pancakes, waffles, pastries, platters of cheeses and meats, bread baskets, cereals and fresh fruit. All this was served alongside freshly squeezed juices, Union coffee and a selection of teas.

 

And it works some how. I really felt like I had come down from my bedroom in a boutique hotel to a lovely breakfast buffet. The service was welcoming and efficient, making sure we had drinks throughout, and offering a bag to take goodies home with at the end. We loved the quality of the ingredients – especially noticeable in the meat and cheese platter, the excellent sourdough and the Union coffee. We enjoyed the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and the whole experience set us up for a lovely Sunday morning stroll around the park.

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The Tea room café is run by local company Larder, who started up in Wanstead in 2007, and have now expanded to Bethnal Green, the Butler’s Retreat in Epping Forest, the William Morris Gallery, and in the last few months – Central Park and Plashet Park in Newham and East Ham Library. They’ll also be running the café in the Walthamstow Wetlands Engine House visitor centre when it opens in Autumn 2017.

The Tea room café is open – Wednesday-Sunday 10am-4.30pm.

William Morris Gallery: Forest Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 4PP

https://www.facebook.com/WMGTearoom/

https://larderlondon.co.uk/

*We were invited as guests of Larder London.

 

 

 

 

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New opening: Tuyo, Broadway Market, Hackney

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Tuyo is a sunny, bright and airy Mediterranean restaurant with an Eastern slant. It opened in July just by the canal on Broadway Market in Hackney. We read the early reviews and excitedly booked a table, and after wandering the food stalls of Netil Market and Broadway Market, we made it inside just before a torrential downpour! For the next couple of hours we were happily held captive by the rain and the intriguing menu inspired by ingredients Spain, Turkey and the Middle East.

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The decor is Skandi-Med – white-washed walls, massive windows and numerous green hanging plants. There’s an open kitchen and grill, with Ricardo Pimental (ex Salt Yard chef) in charge. They offer an eggs-based breakfast menu from 10.30am during the week and from 8am at weekends. The main menu focuses on pinchos skewers (£6), small plates (£6.50-12.50) and sharing boards (£12-16). So, you could come for drinks, nibbles and tapas snacks, or while away an afternoon with a relaxed meze lunch or dinner.

We skipped the nibbles except for the bread board (olive, sultana fennel and pumpernickel) with a light homemade hummus and yoghurt dip.

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The choice of 2 types of croquetas (my favourite when in Spain) caused a bit of an ordering argument. The meaty, rich Oxtail croquetas with mushroom alioli and pickled cucumber won, but I’m going back for the Picos blue cheese and date croquetas.

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We hadn’t quite got our heads around the pinchos so then had plate envy when mini skewers arrived at a nearby table… next time! The Duck and figs on pearl barley looked great, as did the Italian and Spanish meat and cheese sharing boards.

The mains offer grander dishes in the familiar small-plate formula. From the fish options we were very happy with our choice of grilled Octopus with pepperonata and hummus. It tasted super fresh, was perfectly cooked – which is tricky, and worked surprisingly well with the hummus, mixing Middle Eastern ingredients with the smoky pepper flavours of Spain.

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We also enjoyed the Heritage tomato salad with squid and capers – it was delicate and tender. However, vegetarians would be limited to pimped-up falafel, grilled artichokes, or cheesy burrata or halloumi, with no real vegan options. 

We followed this with Duck breast served on bulgur with date chutney. It was a rich dish, enough to share and served pink. The meat was delicious and quickly gobbled up but the bright orange carrot puree presentation did make us laugh!

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Desserts included Ricotta dumplings, Baklava and Banana and pecan cake. They all sounded temptingly delicious but we decided to take a break before heading back into the feeding frenzy of Broadway Market.

The drinks list offers wines from across the Med including less typical finds from Turkey, Greece and Lebanon, by the glass starts from £5.50. There’s an impressive range of original cocktails and gin & tonic specials (£8-9) as well as a couple of mocktails (£5) and local Dalston soft drinks.

For something a bit different, Tuyo is a lovely new place not far from Walthamstow. Overall, from our samplings, the dishes combined some interesting and unusual Mediterranean ingredients in a thoughtful and well executed style. The service was lovely, and the menu and drinks are well priced for the Hackney area. Definitely worth a visit.

Tuyo: 129A Pritchard’s Road, Hackney, E2 9AP www.tuyo.london

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E17 Cook Book Club – new dates & themes

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© www.goodwinphotography.co.uk

The themes (there’s been some changes) for the next few dates:

  • Wednesday 28 June – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Your favourite chef’ 
  • Wednesday 26 July – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘ Scandinavian’
  • NEW DATE: Wednesday 23 Aug – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘South East Asian’
  • Wednesday 27 Sept – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Syrian’ with all proceeds to syriansupperclub.com
  • Wednesday 25 Oct – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Food in Movies’
  • Wednesday 29 Nov – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Eastern European’

The E17 Cook Book Club is a foodie social evening, everyone brings some food to share and their cook book inspiration (plus a £3 contribution to cover costs). We eat, talk and have fun. The themes, chefs and recipe books change each time. We meet on the last Wednesday of every month in the back room at The Bell pub (Forest Road, E17).

We had a great write up in the December 2016 E List magazine: e-list-december-16-cbc-2

Newbies, couples, singles, everyone is welcome – it’s informal, delicious and fun! The group each evening varies from 6-15 people. Bring a dish and maybe the recipe or cook book. You don’t have to be a masterchef, just share a love of cooking, eating and experimenting and meeting new people. Sign up to the Facebook page so we can discuss in advance what everyone’s planning to cook.

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Farang – get there quick!

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We stumbled across Farang during a weekend walk from Finsbury Park to Highbury, and after drooling over the menu we booked a table for Sunday lunch. This was a good move – they’re currently serving some of the best Thai food in London and it’s close to Walthamstow.

Farang has been cooking modern Thai food at pop-ups, supper clubs and street food markets across London since 2015. Now they have taken a 6 month residency at the former Italian restaurant San Daniele in Highbury with a view to opening a permanent restaurant in the future. Founder and head chef Seb Holmes has worked at modern Thai restaurants The Begging Bowl, Smoking Goat and Som Saa. At Farang he’s delivering a menu of small plates and curries to share, using fresh, seasonal ingredients.

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There’s no pretending that this is traditional Thai cuisine – ‘Farang’ is a common Thai word for white westerner. This is modern Thai cooking with passion and creativity. The fiery chilli, salty fishy sauces and sweet relishes blow your taste expectations – there’s no Pad Thai or prawn crackers on the menu here.

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We decided on the Sunday lunch Tasting Menu at £35 pp with the chance to try every dish on the menu – 3 small plates, 5 large plates and dessert. The first dish out was a bowl of  Cornish mussels in a fiery green curry sauce, swiftly followed by Prawn and pomegranate ‘Miang Bite’ wraps, Yellow bean & vegetable crispy wontons, Grilled onglet steak with a sweet chilli jaew relish, and the ‘Nham Prik Ong’ minced pork belly served with dipping vegetables. We instantly ran out of table space!

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The pork was our favourite dish, but not one that we would have probably ordered. The flavours were amazing. It’s a minced pork and tomato dish, like a Thai ragu, with coriander, garlic, ‘tau noa’ (fermented soya bean) and a homemade red curry paste, slow-cooked until sweet and rich. The vegetables and herbs are used to dunk and scoop the relish. 

 

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Wood St Coffee – and that bacon sarnie!

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Wood St Coffee started life a few years ago as a pop-up at Wood Street Market (hence the name). Now it’s a designer independent coffee shop in Walthamstow’s Blackhorse Workshop serving specialty coffee, cakes, breakfasts and lunches and a weekend brunch. Think sourdough toasties, smashed advocado on toast, seasonal soups, salads etc… We loved the cafe building. It was our first visit, so design-wise we thought it was great – beautiful designer lighting, bright and airy feel, bare skandi-style furniture. There’s free Wi-Fi, plenty of power sockets for sneaky working from home days, easy disabled and buggy access and loads of the outdoor space for dogs, bikes and sunny days.

The cafe remains a bit hidden and easy to miss. You have to be quite determined and certain you’re heading in the right direction, as you steer off down Sutherland Road Path off Blackhorse Road. But the owner, Gareth, promises that some extra signage is on the way, which should improve visibility. Coffees were good – we had black Americanos (£2.20) and enjoyed the blend, flavour and preparation. Full choice of drinks from skinny macchiato and mocha, to teas and hot chocolate.

We were surprised (in a good kind of way) how much of the menu is vegetarian. That being said, the Bacon & Fried Egg Sandwich (£6.50) was an instant win. Great toasted sourdough bread with rosemary butter, which works amazingly with the fried egg. The bacon was just the way I like it, American, crispy style and plenty of it. Served with a sweet, spiced tomato relish. The addition of rocket was a nod towards healthy greenery. All in all, it was worth the 20 minutes walk just for that bacon sarnie!

The Breakfast Stack (£8) – potato cake, halloumi, avocado, poached free-range egg, spinach and roasted vine tomatoes was lovely too. Presented beautifully and an obvious Instagam pic. The sumac, seeds and micro-herbs again are nice touches. The homemade Baked Beans with paprika, coriander & cumin on toast (£6) served to a nearby table led to severe plate envy, and the additional chorizo (£2) looked a great idea. Apart from the cakes and pastries on the counter, there was also a sweet brunch option of Brioche French Toast £7.50 with salted caramel pecans, Greek yogurt, red wine poached plums & maple syrup –  this changes seasonally dependent on fruit available and will be changing again very soon.

You may want to check it out over the long bank holiday weekend.

Wood St Coffee, Blackhorse Workshop, 1–2 Sutherland Rd Path, Walthamstow, E17 6BX


Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri 8:30 – 5:30
Sat 9:30 – 5:30
Sun 10 – 4

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A new food experience – Etles Uyghur Restaurant

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We’re always up for trying something new, and Etles Uyghur Restaurant is definitely that. Recently opened in the former Ming Chinese restaurant on Hoe Street, close to Walthamstow Central station, this is one of the first Uyghur (or Uighur) restaurants in London. For another taste of this cooking you’d have to go to Silk Road in Camberwell.

A few weeks ago we reviewed the new Taste of Sichuan restaurant; now another regional Chinese cuisine has arrived in Walthamstow. Chinese cooking in the UK is now exploring beyond the westernised versions of Cantonese food. This is not a typical Chinese restaurant, there’s no sweet and sour chicken being served here. China is a big country, and cuisines vary in different provinces.

According to a quick Google search, the Uyghurs are a Turkic speaking Muslim minority group living in the Xinjiang province, bordering countries including Mongolia, Russia, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. There’s complicated religious, cultural and political issues here that I can’t even begin to understand, so we’ll stick to what we know – food. Traditional Uyghur cooking is a mix of influences from the old Silk Road trading routes including Turkish, Mongolian, Persian and Chinese.

Etles is a fairly basic cafe place, warmed up with rugs on the walls, a painted ceiling and bright tablecloths. The menu offers pictures of the Uyghur specialities including some rather scary offal stuff like tongue salad.

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After a quick discussion with the waiter we ordered lamb skewers (£2 each) – grilled chunks of lamb marinated with chilli and cumin reminiscent of Turkish kebabs. These were meaty and juicy, although quite chewy. More adventurous were the kidney skewers (£4). I’m not really a fan of offal, but these were tasty, spicy and probably the best kidney dish I’ve been persuaded to try.

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Next we tucked into the recommended typical Uyghur dish ‘Ganbian Chaomian’ (£9) – hand pulled Lagman / Leghmen noodles, stir-fried with gently-spiced beef and peppers. It was a hearty version of the more familiar Chinese chowmein, and good as a sharing dish.

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But our favourite dish was the unpronounceable ‘Ququre’ (£8) – hand made wonton dumplings in a delicious, light meat stock soup. This was pure comfort food. Delicate, soft dumplings filled with lovely tender beef.

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Etles is a halal restaurant, with no pork dishes and no alcohol – we had coke and tea. Service is friendly, advice is given if you ask and the food was served quickly as we were the only diners mid-week. Next time I’m going to try the Polo which further research tells me is rice dish similar to a pilaf with carrots and slow cooked lamb. So, while it’s not a date night place, it is a chance to try a new Chinese food experience.

Etles Uyghur Restaurant, 235 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 9PP

Daily, 12 – 9pm, take away available
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Our Top Takeaways in Walthamstow – updated March 2017

Walthamstow has more eateries and takeaways than ever before – of course we don’t claim to have tried them all. There’s now rumours of a Chicken Town, a new Turkish restaurant and BoxPark! So we’ve updated our Top Takeaways list again: Top Takeaways

These are our current favourites (in no particular order), and you don’t have to agree, but they might inspire you to try out somewhere new on Friday night.

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The Big Pink Pizza Oven – a sneaky peek at Yard Sale Pizza, Walthamstow

 

 

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This week we were invited to the press preview night of Yard Sale Pizza’s new adventure in Walthamstow. Like nosy neighbours, we’ve been peeking in through the windows of the Old Glass Factory on Hoe Street for a few weeks now so it was good to finally get inside and snoop around. In a relatively small space they’ve squeezed in tables to seat about 24 and a bar with stool-counter seating at the front, plus a few outdoor tables for the over-spill in the warmer summer months. The decor has the feel of a pop-up restaurant; exposed brickwork, original factory windows, stacks of tomato and olives tins, orange plastic chairs and blue formica tables – but there’s nothing temporary or subtle about the big pink pizza oven dominating the kitchen!

We kicked off the evening with a cocktail then launched into a bowl of nutty, green Spanish Gordal olives. We’d been warned by the neighbouring table about over-ordering on the starters but the cheesy garlic bread was too hard to resist. I can’t wait for the weekend brunch idea of a Marmite and cheese pizza bread with dippy eggs!

We picked out two toppings for a massive 18 inch pizza to share. One half was a no-tomato pizza topped with the classic Italian combination of ‘Salsiccia e Friarelli’ – crumbled fennel sausage meat, wild sprouting brocolli and chilli flakes. The other half was a cheesy ‘Cour Blimey’ with fresh courgette ribbons and salty slices of pancetta bacon. We under-estimated how big this pizza would be – it would easily feed 3 people, but hey, there’s always the take-away pizza for breakfast option! The thin, stone baked pizzas are really tasty with generous toppings and plenty of oozy cheese heading towards an American style pizza. We tried the homemade Chimichurri dip – I don’t think I’ve come across the idea of pizza and dips before but it was delicious.

The handmade pizzas made with double fermented dough were flying out of the kitchen all night. They use some local ingredients including Cobble Lane pepperoni as well as boasting authentic Italian stuff like Fior di Latte Mozarella and Nduja sausage. Along with these meaty toppings there’s plenty of veggie options including the ‘TSB’ – tender stem brocolli with manchego and pesto, the garlic roasted ‘Aubergine’ or the ‘Kool Keith’ with kale, olives and artichokes. They offer a few weekly specials, and for a few quid extra do a gluten-free base and also a vegan cheese option which will be a  long-awaited hit in Walthamstow. I’ve already got jealous friends coming from as far as Watford for a vegan pizza. 

Finally, with half a pizza boxed up for take-away, we made room for desserts. The warm chocolate brownie with coconut and white chocolate pieces was a delicious chocolate treat. The brownies are home baked so they change the recipe every few weeks. We also tried mini tubs of Nonna’s Gelato ice cream all the way from Highbury and highly recommend both the Five Points Porter & Chocolate Ripple and the Salted Toffee Apple.

Drinks include cocktails, craft beers, Borough Wines and San Pellegrino lemon and pink grapefruit soft drinks. The restaurant officially launches next week, with online ordering, take-away, E17 delivery service, weekend brunch and an early morning pop-up coffee shop following in the next few weeks. If the Finsbury Park and Clapton shops are anything to go by they’ll be open 7 days a week, noon or 5pm – 10/11pm. Get you table booked soon!

Yard Sale Pizza: The Old Glass Factory, 15 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 4SD

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Happy Chinese New Year at Sheng High

 

Happy Chinese New Year – welcome to Year of the Rooster!

Have you tried Sheng High at the E17 Village Market? Felix Tse has been cooking outdoors every Saturday since October, and he’s still there braving the freezing January temperatures to warm up the folk of Walthamstow with his ‘Shengjian Baos’ Chicken Soup Buns.

Felix is an ex-Yauatcha and Hakkasan chef. After stints travelling and cooking in Hong Kong and China he returned home and started working on the London street food scene and in 2016 launched ‘Sheng High’, offering homemade Shengjian Baos.

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Shengjian Bao dumplings  are an authentic snack eaten for breakfast on the streets on Shanghai, washed down with warm soya milk. The handmade little buns are pan-fried to form a crispy base at the same time as being steamed so the rest of the dumpling is soft and light on top. The doughy dumplings are traditionally stuffed with pork mince and broth, but Felix is playing with flavours and offering a Chicken Soup and hopefully soon a veggie Tofu and Shiitake Mushroom version.

On a cold winter’s day these hot buns of slurpy, meaty deliciousness were very welcome. Felix serves a portion of 4 dumplings for £6, topped with black sesame seeds and sliced spring onions, a fiery homemade chilli dipping oil and dark, sweet Chinkiang rice vinegar. He’s also planning a regular pop-up evenings in the Froth & Rind cheese shop offering wonton noodle soup and pork or mushroom buns if you fancy a warm seat indoors!

If you’ve not been before visit the E17 Village Market, Saturdays from 10.30am-3.30pm at the Community Hub on Orford Road. It’s a fantastic little community market run by the traders and residents showcasing local artisan produce, street food and home ware including Cyprus Kitchen, Elderflower Cakes, Blomst Flowers, Smoking Salmon, the Greek Café, Flour and Spoon bakery and Perky Blenders coffee roasters.

Sheng High can be found every Saturday at The E17 Village Market, Waltham Forest Community Hub, 18a, Orford Road, London, E17 9LN. 10.30am – 3.30pm

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Taste of Sichuan, Walthamstow

Following various fiery experiences at London Sichuan restaurants including ‘My Old Place’ and ‘Sichuan Folk’ in Spitalfields, this peppery Chinese cooking was a cuisine I wanted to explore but was slightly scared of. A few months ago, Taste of Sichuan moved into Walthamstow High Street  and we’ve been fans ever since.

They offer the same kind of dishes as at sister restaurants The Sichuan in Old Street and Tian Fu in Shepherds Bush, but at more affordable east London prices. The cool thing is that leading the culinary team at The Sichuan and Tian Fu is an award winning, cook book writing Chinese chef – Zhang Xiao Zhong. He’s worked in Sichuan restaurants across London including Bar Shu in Soho and Hutong in the Shard. And I guess this explains the quality of the food at the Taste of Sichuan. I’m not saying he’s here in Walthamstow cooking in the back kitchen, but you can see the same influence in the dishes on offer.

Sichuan cuisine is based around dried red chillies (lots of them!) and the tongue numbing Sichuan peppercorns. The shiny red, laminated menus are the size of a book; full of helpful pictures and descriptions of every dish. Some of it I remain too afraid to try, such as the ‘Husband and Wife’ offal slices, pigs ears and feet, red braised eel or mouth-watering frog – and what is Bear Paw Bean Curd? This is authentic, provincial Chinese cooking. But don’t be scared off, there’s also some more familiar dishes including dim sum, crispy duck, king prawn with mixed veg, chicken in black bean sauce or beef with spring onions.

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From the starters we’ve sampled so far we love the fried salt and pepper squid which is fresh and light and served among a mountain of sliced red onion and  green chillies (no naff sweet-chilli dipping sauce here). More unusual, but equally addictive is the blanched spinach, served cold with a sesame sauce (both about £6.50). If you’re feeling really naughty go for the sweet and sour spare ribs which left us in a happy but sticky mess. There’s also a whole page of soups and Hot Pots and a ‘choose your own ingredients’ Chengdu Mao Cai which can be tailored to meat, fish or vegetarian tastes.

 

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The specialty dish, which easily feeds two people, is a crispy grilled whole fish (sea bream) served in an oven-roasting dish, sizzling in a fiery oil infused with dried red chillies, spring onions and Sichuan peppercorns. Included in the price, you can choose three additional items from a list of vegetables such as fungus, mushrooms, broccoli, sweet potato vermicelli, various types of tofu, bamboo shoots and lotus root, all for only £18.

Other recommends include the dry-fried green beans with or without a topping of salty, garlicky minced pork with three kinds of chilli – fiery and delicious (£7.80). The whole crab with ginger and spring onion is a bargain at £13.80 and the dry wok lamb ribs (£9.80) taste amazing. Also a delicate dish of sea bass steamed simply with chopped red chilli was so delicious I wanted to order it again straight away (£12.80).

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The lunch menu (also served at weekends) includes a range of dishes for less than £6. These seem to work out as half portions with rice or noodles included and make a fantastic quick lunch if you’re out market shopping. As the food is cooked to order, loads of the dishes can be tailored to vegetarian or spicy/non-spicy choices, though I’m not so sure about vegan options.

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The portions are generous, the quality of ingredients is good and MSG free. The young staff can be sometimes quiet and shy. With massive mains around £8-£13, go with family or friends and try a few plates to share. This also makes it easier to manage the staggered arrival times of the dishes. This place deserves to do amazingly well, go now before everyone else finds out – just don’t take my favourite Saturday lunch time table!

Taste Of Sichuan: 167  High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7BX
020 3583 8864. 10am-10pm.

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Behind the scenes at Yard Sale Pizza Walthamstow

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It’s probably quite well known that Clapton’s Yard Sale are bringing their artisan pizzas to Hoe Street, Walthamstow next month (February 2017). They already have two other branches and were the winner of Time Out’s ‘Most Loved Restaurant’ in the 2016 Love London Awards.

The restaurant will be housed in the ground floor of the Old Glass Factory on Hoe Street, Walthamstow (towards The Bell). The building is owned by a local, family stained-glass business which opened in Walthamstow in 1920; they used the workshop for 17 years until moving to bigger premises on Byron Road. The space is being interior designed to retain the original brickwork and windows. They have plans for a dining room with booths, stool-counter seating at the front, plus outdoor ‘yard’ tables for the summer. We live close by so we’ve been watching the building works take shape and Yard Sale shared a few very early behind the scenes shots…

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So if all goes to plan, in just a few weeks they should be ready. We’re hearing promises of handmade pizzas, double fermented dough, stone baked, and toppings like Cobble Lane pepperoni, Napoli piccante, n’duja, or veggie options like broccoli, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic, and a cheesy smoked cacetto, gorgonzola, mozzarella, ricotta with walnut pesto. They also plan to serve a weekend brunch including Marmite pizza bread with a dippy egg. Bring it on!

Yard Sale Pizza: The Old Glass Factory, 15 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 4SD

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A night of Mirth! (Marvel & Maud)

 

After a recent review in Time Out, and one year after their pop-up opening nights in December 2015, it’s time to post about Mirth, Marvel & Maud – for any non-locals, this is a renovated old 1930’s cinema in the heart of Walthamstow.

We first visited for the free New Year’s Eve party in 2015, and since then we’ve wandered in and out for the E17 Designers Markets, beer festivals, birthday parties, random drinks, meals, and finally the newly opened theatre venue.

‘Maud’ – Theatre: We really enjoyed the press night performance of Around the World on Christmas Day – “a brand new off-beat comedy celebrating Christmas tales and traditions from all over the globe”. The interactive show mixes comedy, theatre performance, lots of singing and live music with festive elves and bizarre Christmas traditions. It runs until Christmas Eve. The new theatre space has only been open for a few months, housed in one of the smaller old cinema screens. This is the next stage in the restoration and conversion of this grand old cinema into a multi-purpose venue. Plans are to host music, theatre, film and comedy nights, adding to the Hoe Street alternative theatre scene.

 

‘Mirth’ – Restaurant & Bar: On the recommend of a friend we decided to try the restaurant. Every time we’ve ventured in before the atmosphere has just seemed too dark and moody to fancy eating there. This time (maybe because it’s winter) the woolly carpets and chintzy decor seemed more appealing and cosy, with a pianist ‘tickling the ivories’ and the spicy smell of mulled wine drifting from the cocktail bar.

The food received mixed reviews. The Devilled Potted Shrimp was so overly-spiced we had to send it back (and we both love chilli); and although it was taken off the bill, I got the feeling that no one ever tasted it or dared to tell the chef. However the Mussels in Cider were excellent and well priced at c.£6 for a starter size portion or £11 for a main, served with sourdough toast from Today Bread Bakery just across the road.

The mains were more consistent. The Hanger Steak was tasty, cooked rare as requested, and good value at £14, served with horseradish, chips and a handful of watercress. However the real bargain dish was the veggie/vegan Lentil and Pumpkin Curry with rice and onion chutney for only £7.50. But we got plate envy when we spotted the enormous homemade fishcakes being served to a nearby table… next time!
The drinks choice is vast, including the ticket-booth cocktail bar list, a decent -priced wine list and a range of craft beers including Antic exclusive Volden beer and a couple of non-alcoholic beers too. We’re making plans to return for the Sunday ‘Roasts + Jazz’ very soon.
Mirth, Marvel & Maud – 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 4QH
Tel: 020 8520 8636
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Fame at last!

 

We are thrilled that the E17 Cook Book Club was featured this month in the December EList – special thanks to Silvana Gambini for writing the piece and also to The Bell who continue to be our wonderful hosts.

Hopefully it will encourage even more passionate foodies to join us each month. Check out the Facebook page: E17 Cook Book Club

The themes for the next few dates in 2017:

Wednesday 25 January – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Indian’

Wednesday 22 February  – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Valentines – Food of Love!’

Wednesday 29 March – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Regional British’

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Bombetta – a little flavour explosion in Snaresbrook

Newly opened in August 2016 right next to Snaresbrook tube station Bombetta is already popular with critics, locals and foodies. Their Puglian small plates are pretty special. We booked for a Saturday lunchtime and the restaurant was packed, with only the counter running alongside the kitchen left for walk-ins. 

We debated the menu for a long time, wanting to order far too many dishes, settling for starting off with the grilled watermelon, red onion & oregano (£4) and the Barolo carpaccio with Pecorino Toscano (£6). Both delicious dishes were quickly served by the friendly and well-informed staff. The Pecorino cheese was divine and ensured we had a quick detour to the Chef’s Deli next door on our way home.

Then it was time for the signature bombette, these are traditional Puglian street food, a peasant cheesy-meatball ‘bomb’. Of course here they’ve been upgraded significantly using speciality ingredients such as taleggio cheese, duck speck ham, prosciutto San Daniele, scamorza, spicy pancetta, ‘nduja, deer morcetta and even porcini and truffle pecorino. The meats wrapped around these tasty fillings include chicken, pork and lamb and range from £9 to £15, all served with grilled Breadstation bread and Organic Lea mixed leaves salad.

Along with the recommended Pork, prosciutto San Daniele, truffle pecorino & porcini bombette (£15) we ordered the grilled quail (£6) courgette fries (£4) and La Bombetta pepper chilli and garlic sauce (£4). It was all served on a sharing platter which makes good use of the small table space.

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The rich, strong flavours in the bombette are pretty heavy going, and the serving of three meatballs was definitely enough to share between the two of us. The quail was perfectly grilled and very more-ish. The courgette fries are fantastic and worth the trip alone, and the salad had a tangy dressing that complemented all the salty, strong flavours going on. 

At nearby tables the fennel sausage, steak and orecchiette pasta with chickpeas all seemed to be going down well with adults and kids alike. It’s a noisy, arty, trendy but family friendly kind of place.

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Dessert to share was a small but splendid slice of dark chocolate & hazelnut torte served with salted caramel gelato (£7) topped off with a couple of very dark Americano coffees.  For drinks during the meal we had a delicious Italian lemonade and a tasty but pricey glass of red wine.

In a nutshell, Bombetta is a small, local restaurant cooking up simple dishes, using high quality ingredients and making people happy. Open Mon- Fri from 7am for the early morning commuter coffee rush, weekend brunch from 9am, through lunch and on to dinner.

Bombetta, Units 1-5, Station Approach, Snaresbrook, London, E11 1QE
Tel: 0203 871 0890
Hello@bombettalondon.com 

Bombetta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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E17 Cook Book Club – dates & themes for 2017

The E17 Cook Book Club has been meeting up for two years in November… so many happy memories, so much cooking, and so much cake!

It’s been lovely meeting new people and making new friends. We meet at The Bell on the last Wednesday of every month at 8.30pm. So if you’d like to come along, here’s the first few dates and themes for 2017: E17 Cook Book Club

 

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and now for Vilnius, Lithuania…

After a week in Latvia we boarded the Lux Express coach in Riga for a 4 hour trip across miles of farming countryside to Vilnius, the diminutive capital city of Lithuania. It’s a beautiful city, with lots of historical quarters, monuments and parks to explore. But you can read all about that on Tripadvisor, let’s get to the food. Traditional Lithuanian cuisine is a hearty affair often involving potato and pork, but also berries, medicinal fruit teas, rye bread and beer.

First, the famous Cepelinai potato and meat dumplings – known as zeppelins because of their shape. They are served with a choice of creamy sauces and toppings of fried onion, bacon or mushroom. Food for cold days which didn’t quite match our August shorts and t-shirts, but we had to give them a try in a traditional ex-soviet style canteen. You can try these and other Lithuanian treats in the cafe and shop at Lituanica (29-31 High St, Walthamstow, E17 7AD).

For something completely different we set off in search of modern Lithuanian cooking. More by luck than planning, we booked a 7pm table at Dublis Restoranas in the Old Town (Traku gatve 14, Vilnius). As we entered the swish, modern but empty brasserie I began to think of bolting, but then the staff ushered us through a large wooden door and it was like entering a different, secret, hidden world. Every seat was taken and the theatrical presentation of the set dinner menu was about to begin, how we ever got a table at the right time I’ll never know.

Without too much prior knowledge we had managed to book in for the 50 Euro, Chef’s Tasting Menu. The service was excellent, efficient but not stuffy – more tattoos and hipster beards than silver service. We hadn’t really grasped that the whole ‘named chef’ thing was going on, so we were happily guided through a few courses before we realised each course was being personally explained to us by Deivydas Praspaliauskas a young, famous Lithuanian chef. Dublis offers exciting, innovative Nordic cooking without the Noma price-tag.

In total we counted about 10 dishes including a welcome fizz drink, appetizers served in a pine cone, miniature licorice loaves, 2 soups, 3 fish dishes including oyster tartare, 2 meat mains and 2 desserts! Each dish was a creative new experience of flavours, techniques, textures and ingredients. As a special night out this was an amazing Michelin standard foodie experience that in London would be at least double the cost. We spent only 135 Eur0 and would return to Vilnius just to eat like this again.

Or other recommended Vilnius places:

Jurgis ir Drakonas: Pylimo gatve 22D, Vilnius
O
n the edges of the Old Town this branch of the popular Lithuanian pizza chain is great for fresh pizza, pasta and salads. Excellent priced lunch menus and fantastically friendly, enthusiastic multi-lingual staff.

Kitchen: Didzhioji gatve 11, Vilnius

We booked on the basis of reviews for a mid week lunch. Walking in and seeing the smart, Skandi decor and design of the restaurant we were surprised by how cheap the ‘Business Lunch’was. Two courses – soup and tart, or salad, or beef stew or veggie pie was between 4 and 6.50 Euro. So with water, homemade bread and coffee included, with a few extra drinks we managed to run up a bill of only 20 Euro. It was such good value that went back for dinner on our last evening in Vilnius. Mackerel pate, bread, baked Camembert, rib eye steak, stuffed chicken breast, beer, coke, coffees – still only 37 Euro.

 

ZatarVokiechiu g. 9, Vilnius
Quick, cheap, healthy lunch in the old town. A nicely presented plate of 5 fresh and tasty falafel, hummus, 3 salads, sauce and pita bread for about 4 Euro. We added crispy carrots expecting some kind of fried carrot chips, but were happily surprised with the mini carrots to dip in the hummus! With drinks – lunch for 2 for 15 Euros.

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And finally cakes…

Sugamour: Vokiechiu gatve 11, Vilnius
For anyone with a sweet tooth this is heaven. A ‘ladies that lunch’ kind of place with a vast array of cakes, macaroons, etc and a whole menu of teas. 

 

 

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Latvian food experience – Riga restaurants & markets

When people asked “where are you going on holiday?” and we’ve replied “Latvia and Lithuania”, there’s invariably been a pause… then.. “oh… why?” and it wasn’t a simple question to answer. It all started with a TimeOut article about the world’s best undiscovered beaches and Jurmala in Latvia came high on the list promising 35km of unspoilt Blue Flag sandy beach, backed by sand dunes and pine forests. It sounded like heaven, plus the flights were cheap, and it’s a natural mineral spa resort. Why not?!

So, in August while London basked in a heatwave, we flew off to the Baltics. We only discovered later that during August in Latvia it typically rains – a lot! We had three spa days in a week avoiding the rain by soaking in a pool or baking in a sauna.

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Riga is a small city, easy to navigate and on the night we arrived it was the annual city festival with fireworks over the river. The Old Town is chocolate box pretty with numerous medieval churches and amazing Art Nouveau buildings for tourists to gawp at. But of course we were more into the food scene, looking for the taste of Latvia.

We loved the amazing Central Market in the old zeppelin hangers where locals jostle with tourists among the flowers, cheese, meat, fish and vegetable stalls and old ladies sell handfuls of homegrown and foraged fruit and mushrooms. Here you get closer to the typical Latvian products and flavours including hemp butter, kefir (used in the fantastic cold beetroot soup), sea buckthorn tea, rye bread, sauerkraut and pickles and mystery summer berries.

We were only in Riga for a couple of days, but in between dodging the rain showers we tried out these places:

Rocket Bean Brewery Kalēju ielu 21, Riga

Tiny coffee shop in Old Riga. Fresh coffee roasted in Riga, Aeropress and every other coffee-making gadget. Lovely looking cakes too. A coffee-geeks paradise.

Easy Wine: Audeju iela 4, Riga
O
n the main drinking and eating out street in Riga. Great for late night nibbles and wine. Unlike their website, the menu is available in English, as is the case in most places in Riga. This is a wine sampling bar, you help yourself from wine chillers by the glass on a credit card system. Good quality tapas and appetizers including oysters, beef carpaccio and a fantastic buttery, chicken liver pate. Open til 2am at weekends

Domini Canes: Skarnu iela 18/20, Riga
Tucked away in
Riga Old Town behind St Peter’s church. Although it’s a very touristy area this place serves up good quality Latvian dishes at a reasonable price. We dropped in early hoping for a spare table on a wet mid-week evening and they were fully booked so we reserved for lunch the next day. We were then treated to a large table in the window. Their cooking and presentation is good although the service can be a little bit formal. Expensive wine prices so we stuck to the local beers and homemade lemonades. Delicious fish soup and enormous servings of roast pork ribs.

Valtera Restorans Msnieku iela 8, Riga
Modern Latvian cuisine based on seasonal and local ingredients, all beautifully presented. Their daily Business Lunch for only 6.90
Euros was impressive – a delicious beetroot and chicken soup, homemade bread and hemp butter, a choice of mains including veal, herring or veggie option, carrot cake & ice cream, and a homemade fruit lemonade. We added a glass of wine, water and coffees which came with profiteroles and only ran up a total bill of about 30 Euros.

After a few days in Riga we left the city behind moved onto the beach resort Jurmala just 30 minutes train ride away. Jurmala is famous for its Art Nouveau wooden beach houses dating from the 19 and early 20th century. Through AirBnB we stayed in a lovely modern seaside house and felt like locals walking to the beach, restaurants, parks, river and shops everyday. It’s a leisurely place – like a giant Center Parks experience. It’s green, fresh and healthy.

We’d  recommend these places if you ever find yourself in Jurmala:

Cafe 53 Jomas street 53, Jurmala
Our favourite on the popular Jomas Street, this cafe serves throughout the day. Breakfast includes a variety of porridges, and curd, pumpkin or potato pancakes. Lunch and dinners include BBQ meat and fish, pizza, soups and salads – or just relax with a beer in terrace garden.

Dukats Baznicas 12-14, Dubulti, Jurmala
Bakery and bistro open daily 8-7 a short walk from the beach or train station in Dubulti. This is the place for inexpensive local food and takeaway cakes and pastries. Salads, soups and traditional Latvian hearty mains served canteen style for 5-10 Euros per person. Large summer terrace.

Coffee + Concept Dzintaru prospekts 4, Jūrmala
Close to the Dzintaru concert hall this modern coffee and Baltic homeware shop specialises in designer eclairs, wine and good coffee.

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Mora – a local Sardinian love affair

True love was declared on a Saturday afternoon in Leytonstone. The object of affection is the Sardinian restaurant Mora situated just past Leytonstone Overground and the fantastically good Thai restaurant Singburi. I was a little disappointed that this announcement of amour was directed to food on a plate, but can fully understand the sentiment. The food at Mora is amongst the best we’ve ever eaten and you don’t expect to find that on Leytonstone High Road. The first time we visited since it opened in March this year – was with an Italian friend who gave her seal of approval despite loyalty to her Sicilian regional roots. We had the antipasti, burrata and the crisp Sardinian Carasau bread.

This time I was sold on the four specials on the board, but then the black truffle menu caught my attention – risottos, carpaccio, pasta and steak all with the king of foresty fungus. This was a dining dilemma!

We opted in the end to share so we could sample as many dishes as possible, starting with the Octopus Salad – delicately boiled octopus teamed with cold potatoes, carrots and celery in a light vinagrette (£9). But then next was the dish that lead to the declarations of love – Beef Carpaccio with Black Truffle (£12). It’s a simple enough dish but only when done with passion, and a generosity of ingredients does it work this magic. The wafer thin slices of raw beef were presented to the table then the black truffle was shaved all over. Soft, sweet beef and crunchy fresh truffle is a marriage of taste and texture that I will keep remembering and talking about.The pictures can’t possibly do it justice.

Mora specialise in small batches of homemade tagliatelle, pappardelle, gnocchi and ravioli pasta with speciality sauces including Italian sausage, wild boar ragu or bottarga – air dried mullet roe. This week we  loved the Hake and Ricotta Ravioli in prawn and leek sauce (£12), and the fiery Fregola Artigianale – Sardinian couscous with courgette and prawns (£14).

 

This was accompanied by a glass of well recommended Italian Chardonnay from a small producer and a local Hackney lemonade.

The deserts include a panacotta with myrtle berry sauce (£5), tiramisu or Italian speciality cheeses. This time we only had room saved for a scoop of the dark chocolate sorbet (£2) from Stratford-based La Gelatiera and a couple of espressos.

Mora 487 High Road Leytonstone, London, E11 4PG

Mon – Fri 5–11pm, Sat 12–11pm, Sun 12–9.30pm

020 8539 1731

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Little Saigon – Leytonstone

At the Green Man end of Leytonstone High Road, amongst the delights of Matalan, Wetherspoons and McDonalds, there are some great new foodie places including the Wild Goose Bakery for a delicious brunch, All You Read is Love – Danish bookshop cafe, and the Red Lion pub for a pint and a Sunday roast. But our most recent find has been Little Saigon and now we can’t stay away. In mid 2015 a dubious looking ‘eat as much as you like’ Chinese buffet was transformed into this modern Vietnamese canteen. It’s colourful and bright with loads of space for groups and families.

So what do we love about Little Saigon?…

They serve a vast, imaginative range of soft drinks for the non-drinkers, wines and Vietnamese beers for the alcohol-inclined, plus quality teas and addictively strong slow drip Vietnamese coffee. Friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable staff who help with suggestions if you ask but never seem pushy or keen to make you over-order not that we need much encouragement! We are always compelled to order their amazing Vietnamese crispy pancake (Banh Xeo) – wafer thin pancake stuffed with pork, prawn and shredded veg, that you wrap into lettuce leaves, add fresh herbs, and dunk into the chilli dipping sauce. We fight over this as a shared starter.

For hungry days after a walk around Hollow Ponds, their large plates of rice, roast and grilled meats (duck, chicken, char sui pork, Vietnamese sausages) with salads for about £8-9 are just the ticket. Satisfying Pho noodle soups – for when only Pho will do are the perfect choice to chase away a sniffly cold. The beef Pho Bo is deep, rich and delicious and only £8.50. The crispy fried whole Sea Bream with shredded mango, spring onions and fresh red chilli is another dish worth fighting over.And finally the speciality ice-cream in enticing flavours including nutella, tiamisu and mojito are not to be missed.

Leytonstone is changing quickly, we now have a list of places and foods to try including Amurg Romanian/Moldovan – a new one for us both, a return to one of our favourites the Sardinian restaurant Mora, the pides at Oven East, and homemade noodles at Panda dim sum, and its been too long since we had the crab at Singburi and Keraspice is getting good reviews too. Leytonstone – we salute you!

Little Saigon, 686 High Road Leytonstone, London, E11 3AA

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Foodie Heroes – lunch with Claudia Roden & Jose Pizarro

One of the first cook books we ever bought was a battered, old copy from Oxfam of Claudia Roden’s, ‘A New Book of Middle Eastern Food’. Published in 1968, it changed the way we ate in Britain by introducing humous, pitta bread, couscous, falafel, taramasalata and baklava for the first time.

We lept at the opportunity to meet Claudia Roden at The Guardian Members Sunday Lunch series last week. Spanish chef Jose Pizarro is hosting lunches with guest chefs and food writers at his new restaurant near Liverpool Street. You get a close-up with the chefs, welcome drinks and a lovely lunch. Jose was a friendly and charming host, explaining the provinence of the Spanish recipes and ingredients. Claudia gracefully mingled around the tables signing cook books, having her photo taken and telling culinary tales while the food and wine flowed.

After starting with drinks and prawn fritters in the sunshine, the Spanish menu featured Inky, black Squid Croquetas and a delicious fresh tomato soup with Jamon Iberico and Manchego – Jose couldn’t get the smokey Idiazabal cheese promised on the menu.

Claudia’s Andalusian Gazpachuelo was a light, saffron-infused fish soup with prawns, potatoes, hake, clams and mussels. I could have eaten it twice, but we had to move on to the star of the show – Jose’s Presa Iberica with Padron peppers and roasted potatoes. The Iberico pork comes from gourmet free-range pigs that live on a diet of acorns. It’s simply grilled and sliced ‘medium rare’ but in reality served somewhere between pink and red. It was meltingly soft, juicy and full of flavour, but the meat is so dense and rich there was no way we could finish it. A happy hound in Tottenham had a very tasty doggy bag that night!

We finished off with Crema Catalana, fresh cherries and mint ice cream – a perfect sunny Sunday afternoon Spanish feast. It was a great foodie experience and good value for money. Next dates in the Sunday Lunch series are collaborations with Tim Anderson in July and Vivek Singh in October, bringing Japanese and Indian influences – worth checking out.

José Pizarro, 36 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 1QS

José Pizarro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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A whirlwind of restaurants

 

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Recently life has felt like being caught-up in a whirlwind – we’ve been battered and blown along, and in the process eaten out far too many times, breakfast, lunch and dinner. So here’s a quick snapshot from our tour of some local eateries.

A new favourite place for a weekend breakfast: Pivaz – 34 Chatsworth Road, Hackney, E5 0LP. Modern Turkish restaurant open 8am-11pm. A great stop-off if you’re visiting the Chatsworth Road Sunday Market. Fantastic range of breakfast dishes including Avocado Dream (£5.95) – crushed avocado and poached eggs on sourdough toast, extra £1.50 to add smoked salmon, chorizo, bacon, or parma ham. Or their very satisfying Menemen (£5) – a sizzling dish of tomatoes, scrambled eggs, peppers and onion served with fresh flatbread. There’s the more familiar Turkish meze and grills on the evening menu. Excitingly they’re opening a new place in Epping soon.

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Vegetarian Indian Dalston style: Gujarati Rasoi – 10A Bradbury Street, Dalston, N16 8JN. Unusual opening hours: Wed, Thur, Fri & Sat 6pm – 10:30pm; featured on Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation. A small but beautiful, weekly changing menu following seasonal vegetables and Hindu festivals. We are totally in love with their Papdi Chat (£7.50) a chickpea salad, street food dish. It’s the kind of menu where we end up saying ‘I want it all!’ Helpfully the mains come in half portions so we usually share a few dishes.  Just around the corner is the Vortex jazz bar or other uber-cool Dalston bars for late night drinks. White Rabbit across the street is another amazing restaurant with a great value tasting menu.

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Great burgers and a secret basement bar: Breakfast Club Cafe 12-16 Artillery Lane, Spitalfields, E1 7LS. We’re late in getting round to trying this place – tucked away opposite Liverpool St Station, the queue has always put us off. But recently we needed burgers and at £11 including 2 sides the Double Cheese Burger with all the toppings was a  jaw-stretching, finger-licking mess that met that need. The ‘soon to be world famous’ Beef Chilli needs some more chilli heat adding to meet up to that claim. All in all a fun diner-style night out. There’s a basement bar entered through a Smeg fridge door, funky staff, good music, pricey beer but great smoothies. Slight caveat, we felt a little old for this trendy youth club!

Vegan and alcohol-free salvation: Redemption  320 Old Street, London, EC1V 9DR. Probably London’s healthiest restaurant – fresh, super-healthy, vegan, sugar-free, wheat-free food including raw desserts, and an exciting alcohol-free drinks list! We love the Maki Rolls vegan sushi platter – filled with red and black quinoa, avocado and enoki mushrooms. But for me the real reason to go back is the raw cheesecake made from cashew nut cream on an almond and sprouted buckwheat base, topped with fruit – simply amazing. From the cocktail list the Espresso Remolacha, a twist on an ‘espresso martini’ – espresso, beetroot juice and date syrup shaken over ice is always a Walthamstowfoodies favourite. It’s not a cheap night out, but you come away buzzing and virtuous! We recommend this place to our vegan friends for a real treat!

 

 

 

Fried chicken with a conscienceChicken Town, The Old Fire Station, Town Hall Approach Road, Tottenham, N15 4RX. I’m not really a chicken and chips kind of girl so the other foodie had to make several attempts to convince me to venture off to Tottenham for junk food. But this isn’t just any old chicken shop. Chicken Town is surrounded (apparently) by 34 fast food places, but they’re offering a healthier steamed and flash-fried chicken version. It’s a non-profit social enterprise  so their profits go towards serving an affordable healthier chicken lunch to under 18s in the daytime for just £2.

The buttermilk free-range chicken comes classic southern style, smokey & spicy or rosemary & lemon crumb. There’s veggie options including seasonal vegetable stack, mac ‘n’ cheese, tofu in a spicy sauce with mushrooms and onions and a mushroom and blue cheese sandwich. I had a side of kale – so not just your average fried chicken shop! The setting is light, bright and airy. There are plenty of soft and alcohol drinks including craft beers. A great place for a kids birthday party or a lazy weekend lunch.

and finally… Bulgarian garden restaurantDeja Vu Garden, 52 High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7LD. Open daily from 10am to 11pm, part of the local Deja Vu chain of bakery, coffee shop and hairdressers. We’ve only been to Bulgaria once, but this place brings back Sunny Beach memories – loud euro pop, smokey air, good coffee, cheap beer, and a warm garden full of olive trees. They have an outdoor fire for spit-roasting lamb at the weekend. The food is similar to Turkish – meze, grilled meats, shopska salads, pasta and homemade burgers.The portions are generous and well-priced, the staff are lovely, the WiFi connection is fast –  well worth a visit and quicker than a flight to Sofia.

 

 

 

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Walthamstow Wild Garlic Pesto

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What’s this? Wild Garlic!… well, I say wild, it grows in pots in a shady corner of our little back garden in Walthamstow annually from March until about June. After a bit of googling to make sure I wasn’t poisoning us I have found there are two types of wild garlic and this is Allium Triquetrum also known as three-cornered leek or onion weed.

Wild garlic can be used when you want a delicate, fresh green onion and garlic flavour, similar to chives. The leaves and flowers make a pretty addition to salads, sandwiches and dips. It can also be cooked in sauces for pasta, curry or soup.

All of the wild garlic is usable – leaves, stems and flowers. The bulbs are also usable once the leaves have died down, but course, if you eat all the bulbs then you don’t get plants again next year. Wild garlic, especially the more common ransoms, can be foraged for in shady woodland areas and are easily identified by their pungent garlic smell.

This weekend I’ve cut back the leaves and flowers, and after washing them carefully, wizzed them with olive oil in my shiny new Kitchen Aid food processor into a fine bright green pesto sauce. This will sit happily in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Tonight it’s going to be roast sweet potatoes with wild garlic, rosemary and parmesan. Yum!

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Gökyüzü Chingford – Turkish restaurant

 

We love Turkish food, however on a cold, dreary Monday night as we pulled the car off the roaring North Circular into a dark, pot-holed carpark, one of the Walthamstowfoodies expressed concerns that we were going to be the only ones in Gökyüzü Chingford. But in the new, shiny, mammoth 300-seater restaurant sat at least 90 people wolfing down kebabs like it was a night out in Istanbul.

This is the latest branch of a long established Green Lanes Turkish restaurant. With its roadside views of the A406 this is not a scenic place, but we’ve been lured there once or even twice a week ever since by the food and atmosphere. It’s always loud and busy, and the music, service and food is authentically Turkish. Customers range from quiet couples to big groups of family and friends, and it always seems to be someone’s birthday celebrations.

As soon as you settle at your table, the generous free plates of food start to arrive; fresh chilli and garlic sauces, a big plate of mixed salad with pomegranate sauce, Cacik – a thick, rich yogurt and cucumber dip, and a basket of warm bread to mop it up.

Meze Starters (£3-4.50): the Lahmacun – thin, meat-topped Turkish pizza bread, and Yogurtlu Patlican Ezme – grilled aubergine, tahini & yogurt are delicious. The Calamari was a bit chewy but the light and fluffy Falafel and Humous is better and the cheesy Borek are dangerously addictive. There’s a few mixed meze and full grilled meat platter options for groups which work out about £10pp.

Mains (£8 or £14): All the kebabs we’ve tried have been excellent – the mixed platter for two (£23) including chicken shish and wings, chicken and lamb doner, lamb cubes, spicy minced adana skewer and ribs is easily enough for three; nearly everyone seems to leave with a take away box. The lamb ribs are amazingly juicy and the chicken shish has a great marinated flavour, and they’re all charcoal grilled to perfection.

The big surprise was the smoky Levrek – grilled sea bass, eating this reminded me of being back by the sea in Turkey. All mains are served with fresh salads, grilled chilli, onion and tomato, buttery rice, tomato-infused bulgur and more bread. There’s a good-looking veggie kebab option and we’ve not even started on the Pide Turkish pizzas, and Iskender and Beyti specials yet.

There’s desserts on the menu but we’ve never made it that far. We settle for a Turkish coffee, fresh mint tea or a free glass of Turkish tea. They’re open every day 12noon – 11pm and fully licensed with a range of wine (£4), beers (£3) and raki (£4) from Turkey and beyond. There’s even dinosaur crazy golf next door; so go and pretend for a few hours you’re on holiday by the beach, instead of a night out on the North Circular!

Gökyüzü Chingford, Southend Road, Chingford,London E4 8TA
Gokyuzu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Diwana Bhel Poori House, Euston

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The Diwana Bhel Poori House restaurant on Drummond Street in Euston is an Indian institution, loved by locals, tourists, vegetarians and bargain seeking students and cheap-eaters. It’s been years since I last visited, but a couple of weeks ago I was at a conference nearby. Surrounded by the station offerings of chain coffee shops and street food outlets I fancied something different.

It’s not changed. The lunchtime veggie buffet is still fantastic value, offering eat as much as you want for about £7. In the evening they’re known for the South Indian dosas.  The service varies between forgetful, chaotic and grumpy. The decor  is basic wooden furniture, and metal plates and water jugs. But it’s the food that everyone comes here for. It’s not clever or flashy, it won’t win any Michelin stars or impress a first date, but it will satisfy, fill and comfort you with a massive range of healthy hot and cold veggie dishes.

Taking my metal plate and a sharpened pair of elbows, I set off round the salads and snacks – plates of poppadoms, bhajis, little idlis, and chutneys then at least 7 or 8 different salads including lots of bean salads and red and white shredded cabbage salads. I could have happily stopped there, but next was the vast array of hot dishes to try.

There’s a feast of veggie curry favourites including lentil dhals, sag aloo (spinach & potato), paneer muttar (cheese & peas), pumpkin, cauliflower, channa (chickpeas), bhindi (okra), aubergine, Bombay potatoes plus some vegetables I couldn’t name, and of course rice and chapati breads. I just had to have a taste of it all.

Finally it was time for a clean plate and to hit the desserts. There was a range of sticky Indian sweets which I steered clear of, but I happily tucked into the massive fruit salad platter of 3 types of fresh melons, pineapple, apples and lychees and a little sweet dollop of kheer – Indian rice pudding. Delicious!

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So, three courses, eat as much as you want, loads of healthy choices and all for only £7. If you’re waiting for a train, bored of the chains in Euston at lunch time, or starving for a curry, Diwana remains a bargain cheap eat in Central London.

Diwana Bhel Poori House, 121-123 Drummond Street, Euston, London NW1 2HL

Diwana Bhel Poori House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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E17 Cook Book Club

 

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The E17 Cook Book Club is a foodie social evening, everyone brings some food to share and their cook book inspiration (plus a £3 contribution to cover costs). We eat, talk and have fun. The themes, chefs and recipe books change each time.

We’ve come a long way, our themes so far have been: Americana, Delia Smith, a Park Picnic, Seasonal Ingredients, Indian Summer, Holiday Memories, Bonfire Night and Mexican Christmas.

In January 2016 we kicked off the new year with ‘French Cooking’ to create a warming, wintry feast. We dined bistro style at the Vestry House Museum on classics including: Beef Bourguinon; Chicken with lentils; Toulouse sausage Cassoulet; Chicken liver pate; Roux brothers’ ‘Flan aux moules au perfume de thym’ (mussel and thyme flan); Chestnut soup; Caramelized garlic tart; Brousse homemade cheese; Tomato Fougasse bread; Duck confit; Tarte tatin; Macarons and Apricot & almond tart.

In February we welcomed more new members as we were exploring ‘Middle Eastern’ cooking. Think Ottolenghi, Honey & Co, Moro, Claudia Roden, Sally Butcher, Persia, Morocco, Algeria… It was a feast of meatballs, pitta breads, and pomegranate seeds.

The planned themes for the next few dates:

Wednesday 30 March – 8.30pm at The Bell, we’ll be celebrating a ‘Greek Easter’ Καλό Πάσχα (Kalo Pascha!). A menu of Meze, Greek salad, Olives, Dolmades if anyone’s brave enough, Spanakopita, Spring lamb dishes, Baklava, Tsourekia Easter bread and Easter biscuits…

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and  Wednesday 27 April – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Spring Time Vegetarian’. A chance to experiment with seasonal vegetarian or vegan dishes celebrating the end of the wintery comfort food months.

Newbies, couples, singles, everyone is welcome to join us – it’s informal, delicious and fun! The group each evening varies from 6-10 people. Bring a dish and maybe the recipe or cook book. You don’t have to be a masterchef, just share a love of cooking, eating and experimenting and meeting new people. Sign up to the Facebook page so we can discuss in advance what everyone’s planning to cook.

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Wok a week! A visit to Hoo Hing & new cookbook from Ching-He Huang

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TV chef and cookery writer, Ching-He Huang

It’s been a funny old week with a Chinese theme. It started with a Stow-at-home day on Tuesday when we decided to try out the restaurant in the Hoo Hing Chinese supermarket hidden on a trading estate in Leyton. Maybe not an obvious idea for lunch, but what a find! In this massive Chinese  supermarket that we never knew existed you can get every conceivable (and a few inconceivable) Oriental delicacy. We came away with fresh Thai holy basil, a variety of tofu, pickled seaweed, rice noodles and jasmine tea but there’s also tanks of live crab and lobsters, roast ducks, freezers full of frozen dim sum and seafood, and aisles of intriguing spices and sauces.

However tucked away upstairs is what we came for – the restaurant. The word ‘restaurant’ may be misleading, think more staff canteen with round decorative glass-topped tables and an industrial feel. It’s a one-woman show, you point at what you want on the laminated menu hung up by the till, she nods, writes it down and then cooks it and shouts ‘hello’ when it’s ready to collect. It’s not amazing food, but it’s cheap, fast, and fun. We had prawn toasts, 2 types of steamed dim sum (£1.99 each), ‘glutinous rice’ with chicken in banana leaf parcels (£2.25) which the other foodie declared to be “food for when the world ends”, a plate of roast duck and char sui pork on steamed rice (£3.95) and a pot of tea (50p each). With a total bill of just over £13 we were content and will be back on lazy weekend days when only dim sum will do but we can’t be bothered to go far. The supermarket is open every day except Xmas & Boxing day and the cafe serves food til 4pm.

Hoo Hing, 1 Dorma Trading Park, Staffa Road, Leyton, E10 7QX

The next Chinese event of the week was an invite to watch the TV chef Ching-He Huang launch her new Lotus Wok and cook up dishes from her ‘Eat Clean’ cook book. This is an East meets West book with easy and healthy soups, salads and stir-fries, and swapping processed, high-sugar foods for feel-good fresh veg flavours. So tonight I made my first dish inspired by this cook book. I had to tweak it to the ingredients I had in the fridge but it worked out well, so I’d recommend getting the book. It has to be one of the easiest and quickest dishes I’ve ever made.

Tofu & Kale stir fry

Ingredients:

3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
A massive handful of kale (I used a mix of Cavolo Nero and Red Kale), chopped roughly into 1 inch peices
100g mushrooms, sliced100g Tofu – (Chinese 5 spice marinated tofu is great, Ching recommends smoked tofu) chopped into cubes or slices
1 tsp mirin – sweet rice wine
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
juice of 1 lime or lemon

Method:

Get all the ingredients washed, chopped and prepared so you are ready to go, this is a quick dish.

Heat a large wok (there’s a lot of greens going in!) and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When it’s smoking hot add the garlic, ginger and chilli and fry for a few seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes.

Now throw in the kale and a small splash of cold water to help it steam and wilt, cook for another minute or two. Then add the  tofu and toss all the ingredients together, fry for a couple of minutes.

Add all the sauces – mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil and the lime juice and stir through. Take it off the heat and serve straight away on a bed of rice or noodle. Delicious, nutritious and so simple.

 

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Sodo Pizza Cafe E17

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We usually wait until a new restaurant has gone through their teething problems before we step over their newly polished door step. But we threw out the rule book when it came to Sodo Pizza Cafe who opened on Friday, just a couple of minutes walk from our home. They’ve refurbished an old warehouse building on Hatherley Mews behind the old Granada Cinema that used to be La Ruana Colombian restaurant, aka The Grove Cafe during the day. They’ve knocked down walls, created big windows to let in the light and got rid of the dodgy polystyrene ceiling tiles to create an industrial-styled 45 seater restaurant.

As expected it was still being finished; apparently it took four days to install the pizza oven, the heating needs sorting and the excellent Nude Americano (£2) arrived in a paper cup … but the pizzas are great. They brought their sourdough starter over from their other restaurant in Clapton, but it didn’t like the change so apparently it will be at optimium performance in a few weeks. The dough is fermented for 48 hours then baked at over 450°C. As a gluten free alternative they offer the pizza toppings on cannellini beans baked in the oven. Over the next few weeks they will hopefully also be serving brunch at weekends.

We went for the Winter Goat pizza (£8) and loved the combination of the goat’s and mozzarella cheeses with the toasted walnuts, caramelised onions and black olives. Our chosen meaty option was the surprisingly light Cured Meat pizza (£10) – salami Napoli, salami Calabressi and Parma ham with fresh green chilli. They promise to have their homemade chilli oil ready soon to add some extra heat. Drinks include a range of London craft beers and natural wines.

The choice of antipasti, salads, Nocellara olives and creamy Burratina mozarella make delicious starters or sides, but I hope they’ll start using E17 OrganicLea salad leaves rather than the Hackney Growing Communites salad soon.

Sodo Pizza Cafe, Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, E17 4QP
Opening times: Wednesday – Sunday, 12noon-10pm *taken from their website but subject to change at the moment.

 

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E17 Cook Book Club goes monthly!

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We have some very exciting news about this year’s E17 Cook Book Club. We are going monthly! The last Wednesday of every month to be precise – starting February – not the next one which remains on 20 January.

Last year was so much fun and so popular that we have decided to make it more frequent. We were really touched by the response that we have received and how it has been described as the highlight of people’s year and good for those new to the area. Everyone is welcome, whatever your cooking skills, as long as you like good food.

We will kick off the first E17 Cook Book Club of the new year at an absolutely fabulous venue in the village. We will be exploring French Cuisine in the beautiful setting of The Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, E17 9NH on Wednesday 20 Jan from 8.30pm to 10.30pm. It is BYOB and a French dish plus a minimum of £3.

Also we have planned the dates for the whole year – so get them in your diaries now!! We have a E17 Cook Book Club Facebook group where we chat as a group and plan our dishes there – please join the group!

Last Wednesday of the month (except the Jan one) from 8.30pm – 10.30pm

  • 20 Jan at The Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, Walthamstow, E17 9NH – theme is French cooking
  • 24 Feb at The Bell, 617 Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4NE – theme is Middle Eastern cooking
  • 30 March at the The Bell, 617 Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4NE – theme is Greek Easter
  • 27 April – venue: The Bell
  • 25 May – venue: The Bell
  • 29 June – venue: The Bell
  • 27 July – venue: The Bell
  • 31 August – venue: The Bell
  • 28 September – venue: The Bell
  • 26 October – venue: The Bell
  • 30 November – venue: The Bell
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And now the other end of the market – St James’ Street food stalls

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After writing all about the changes on Hoe Street, this week I took a walk down the market to St James’ street and discovered some exciting foodie stalls I can’t wait to check out.

It was too early for lunch and the stalls weren’t quite up and running, so I decided to take my morning coffee at Husvagn. From a little blue caravan they’re serving fantastic Yallah Coffee Roasters single origin, ethically sourced coffee from only £2. This week it was from Guatamala and was a fruity and slightly spicy caffine fix – not sure I got the fudge and almonds.

Along with the mighty fine coffees they also serve sausage rolls, cinnamon buns, chocolate brownies, marmite toast and homemade soup. Husvagn is on the market Wed-Fri 8am-4pm and Sat 9am-4pm.

There’s a whole load of other stalls also in the St James’ St area including Bobayumm bubble tea, an amazing-smelling jerk chicken BBQ, and a Polish bigos and hot dog van. Plus a sausage and burger stall and two Turkish street food stalls selling Gozleme (stuffed pancakes) and Lahmacun (a delicious salad-stuffed, rolled-up meaty pizza). Go try them all and let me know the verdict…