Here are my gluten-free restaurant reviews – mostly in London, but anywhere that I find absolutely delicious. Any meals that have been comp’ed have been specified – and I always give my honest opinion – there’s nothing worse than a shoddy meal!

Dim Sum at the Dorchester

A few weeks ago I got a severe craving for soup dumplings, or xiaolongbao. I was a woman possessed – those broth filled dumplings dominated my every thought and for a few days, I could talk about little else. Back in New York I used to go to New Green Bo, (now named Nice Green Bo) for a plate of those delicious, succulent parcels of heaven, but I had yet to find anywhere in London to get my fix. Mr A finally succumbed to my incessant whining his curiosity and decided he had to try them for himself. And so we ended up going for dim sum at the Dorchester (lucky me).photo 5photo 2Afternoon tea at the Dorchester might be the most quintessentially English thing you could ever do. Until Mr. A sent over the website I had no idea that they also offer Dim Sum at their restaurant, China Tang. Always one for dumplings over scones, I was giddy with excitement.

photo photo 5 copyOnce you pass through the rather grand lobby, you go downstairs to a gorgeous bar where the atmosphere is quite different altogether.

photo 4photo 4 copyphoto 2 copyphoto 1 copy 3photo 1 copyphoto 1 copy 2 photo 2 copy 2We settled in, ordered a bottle of South African red and asked for the Dim Sum menu. The room was beautiful, and the atmosphere lovely – perfect for a date. I can’t say I behaved particularly well though, as I interrupted mid-conversation to ask if we could order. I think with all the dim sum flying around I was a bit overly excited…

photo 1 copy 4We ordered our dishes in waves, starting with, of course, soup dumplings (or Shanghai pork dumplings on the menu). We really enjoyed most of the dishes – the Shanghai fried dumplings, Siu Mai, beef dumplings and roast pork buns perfectly made. One dish we didn’t enjoy was the BBQ Pork Cannelloni (not pictured) – it looked as grim as it tasted, and in hindsight it sounded horrible so what were we thinking!?

photo 5 copy 3photo 4 copy 3 photo 3 copyphoto 1 copy 5 photo 2 copy 5 photo 2 copy 3The xiaolongbao arrived, and as I opened the lid on the basket Mr. A seemed disappointed. After all my fuss I think he was expecting something spectacular – and to be honest so was I. In New York you could get an order of 8 massive soup dumplings for $4.25 – these dumplings were about a quarter of the size for twice the price. Although tasty, they had nothing on their New York equivalent!

Dim SumDespite this, I had such a lovely time at China Tang. The room is lovely, and the interesting paintings on the wall gave us so much to talk about. Dim Sum is always perfect for a date as sharing meals family style is always so much more fun! Be prepared to flash the cash though – although I was treated to this lovely meal I know it must have set Mr.A back a pretty penny.  And although the other dishes were delicious, my hunt for the perfect soup dumplings in London continues…

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China Tang at the Dorchester is located on 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA.

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Restaurant Review: Sushi Mania, Golders Green

I’ve found it close to impossible to find affordable, tasty and good quality sushi in London. Having grown up in New York and Tokyo, where it’s so easy to get nice sushi I’ve found that it’s one of the only downsides to living here (that, and the fact that the tube doesn’t run all night). I’m usually pretty open to fusion cuisines, but I can’t stomach the ‘Western’ twists places like Yo! Sushi or itsu do – sushi doesn’t need cream cheese or mayonnaise, and miso soup definitely doesn’t need sugar, in my opinion!

Which is why when a friend told me about Sushi Mania in Golders Green I was sceptical. All you can eat sushi for £15? Considering the only place I’d had nice sushi in London up until this point was Matsuri St. James, which is incredible, but not cheap, my guard was definitely up. But I love being proved wrong, and Sushi Mania definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s definitely worth booking ahead, and going early as this place gets pretty packed! sushi mania

We were one of the first customers at half six, but the place was fully packed by the time our first dishes arrived.

photo 2 Sushi Maniaphoto 3

When you book, you are given a timeframe – around an hour and forty five minutes for your table, so it’s good to arrive promptly. Sushi Mania offers an ‘all you can eat’ menu for £15.80. Usually, all you can eat places are buffet style, which I’m not a fan of. But at Sushi Mania you are given a menu, where you can mark off six dishes at a time. Once you’ve finished six dishes, you can order six more items off of the menu, as many times as you want. There are no restrictions on how many you can order, but some dishes do have supplementary charges. There is one catch though – any wasted or unfinished dishes are charged extra, and you can’t take any leftovers home, so it’s good to pace yourself!

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Mr. A and I usually make it three rounds before we are ready to explode. It is delicious though – all the fish is fresh, and the selection is great! You can get sushi, katsu curry, and even more traditional items like nasu dengaku, which Mr. A had here for the first time. It’s an aubergine dish roasted with miso sauce and they do it really well at Sushi Mania.Sushi maniaSalmon avocado temaki (handroll)

photo 2 copy 2Nasu dengaku

photo 3 copy 2Agedashi tofu (deep fried tofu)

photo 3 copySalmon and tuna avocado rolls
photo 4 copyGyoza

With service and soft drinks (I had a pot of green tea), the meal set us back £35 for the two of us. Considering the quality and the amount of food we had, I think it’s the best value f or money for sushi in London by far! Another ex-pat New Yorker also mentioned that this place having the best sushi in London – so between the two of us – the fussy New Yorker and the picky Japanese girl this place gets our seal of approval.

Sushi Mania is located at 130 Golders Green Road, London, NW11 8HB.

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Cocktails in the Shard

On Sunday evening, a few of us went down to the Aqua Shard bar on the 31st floor of the Shard to celebrate a birthday.

The Shard

I’m not the most confident with heights, but even I couldn’t resist going up and having a look for myself! As you can’t book ahead at the bar, we were taking a massive gamble by arriving with a group of 11. When I told my friend later on about the evening, he pictured the scene just like this:

Which was fairly accurate.

Luckily they were able to accommodate us all, (without queueing!) and we put a few little tables together. The floor to ceiling glass in the Aqua Shard bar reminded me of an apartment I used to live in when I was in New York.

photo 2 photo 3 Aqua shard

Still longing for Cambodia, I ordered a passionfruit filled drink, but they were out!  I ended up settling  for ‘No Money for Butter’, a champagne cocktail with lavender syrup. It was really lovely, and each cocktail cost around £12 a pop (London prices!). They also give you a little pot of salty, truffle-oil popcorn. It was delicious.

cocktails in the shard

The view really was breathtaking, and by ordering a cocktail you get to miss most of the tourists going up to see the View. By opting for the Aqua Bar over the View, you save around £17 (if you get one cocktail) as the tickets to go up to the view are £29. Definitely my kind of deal.

We were a bit awkwardly placed for food, and unfortunately the some of the reviews aren’t great so we headed further down river for the rest of our evening.

London

I’m definitely coming back for the Afternoon Tea though – it looks amazing!

Dining Out in Siem Reap

Siem Reap, like most of Cambodia, has a lot to offer in terms of cuisine. Thinking back on it, I didn’t have a single bad meal during my stay – I’ve been incredibly lucky. As our trip was short we only ate outside twice – our hotel offered a free foot massage or meal, and we opted for the latter (I’m very ticklish).

We’d been hearing a lot about the Sugar Palm, which is where we went on our first night. The restaurant is raised off of the ground, ‘Khmer-style’, and is very open. It had a great atmosphere and even better food!

The Sugar Palm

The Sugar Palm The Sugar Palm

We had a peruse of the menu while having melon and lychee martinis. It was all very exciting.

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The menu had a selection of Cambodian dishes – for a starter we had a pork and pomelo salad, chicken satay and fishcakes. Having made a similar banana blossom salad the day before I was eager to see how it would compare. The first two dishes were excellent – I didn’t care much for the fishcake, but Mr. A ate my portion so that might just be me.

The Sugar Palm The Sugar Palm

For those of you who don’t know what pomelo is, it’s like a large green grapefruit. The outer layer of each segment is bitter, but if you peel the layer away you get these delicious citrusy tangy sacs inside.

After our starters we both ordered a meat dish with basil – I had beef, Mr. A had chicken. It was topped off with ground peanuts, something I’ll definitely be incorporating into my dishes in the future. I especially love it in salad, and gives it extra protein.

The Sugar Palm The Sugar Palm

The Sugar Palm was a definite winner, and had a relaxed atmosphere. There were quite a few families with children in the restaurant, and gave the Sugar Palm a very different vibe from our next recommendation, Asana.

Asana

Asana was recommended to us by the hotel, and is right on Pub Street. Again, it’s another ‘khmer-style’ raised bar, but this time down a little alleyway.

Asana

It was fun going in, it felt rather like a clubhouse – the seats were made of bags of rice, and the decor was really fun.

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Mr A. and I split some delicious spring rolls and dumplings for our starter. In my opinion, that was the highlight of the meal, as they were really delicious. I washed mine down with a very gingery cocktail.

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I ordered the Khmer chicken curry. The flavours were a bit too strong for me – perhaps a bit too coconutty and too much anise. I stole a few bites of Mr. As Bo Bhun, a beef noodle dish with vegetables and spring rolls and it was absolutely incredible. I had serious food envy.

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Asana had an in-house pianist playing lounge music and had a really sophisticated vibe. I enjoyed both places – but I suggest the former for big family gatherings, or for a get together of friends. Asana is definitely more suited for something more romantic.

Restaurant Review: Public House, Phnom Penh

Last Thursday we went to the season 3 premiere of Loy9, a mass media campaign funded by the UNDP and Sweden and produced by BBC Media Action. The show aims at empowering the youth of Cambodia (under 30) – who make up 68% of the population. The premiere was a great success, and the quality of the cinematography and writing of the show was excellent – I really enjoyed the episode, even if some of the references were lost in translation!

After the premiere a few of us trotted on down to street 240, and down an unassuming alley where we came across Public House.

Public House, Phnom Penh

This dark alley is full of hidden treasures, including the Artillery Cafe which is a must if you are into organic, healthy food and green juices. From the outside Public House doesn’t look like much but the interior is decked out nicely with a nautical feel.

Public House, PPPublic House, PPPublic House, PP2014-03-20 20.51.05

I absolutely love the design and attention to detail seen at the Public House. The cocktail menu was extensive (always a good sign) and the menu full of eccentric twists on classic dishes. They even had scotch eggs on the menu, which Mr. A couldn’t resist. They serve afternoon tea, which is something I will definitely be returning for soon! After a day of running around in the heat, I skipped the cocktail menu and settled on a pot of Japanese sencha.

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Each dish was presented beautifully – just look at this duck on this bed of cous cous!

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I couldn’t resist the burger, especially as the menu said it would be served with ‘tom tom’ sauce which piqued my interest. I was slightly disappointed to discover that ‘tom tom’ sauce is, in fact, ketchup, but that didn’t take away too much from the delicious burger in front of me.

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We finished the meal by sharing a Bailey’s ice cream which was absolutely divine.

Public House, PPDefinitely one to check out when you’re in Phnom Penh!