Monday, June 23, 2014

London Guide: Andina

I love Peruvian restaurants. It is hard to beat the combination of ceviche, grilled meat and one of the best cocktails ever. So I was very excited to try another of London's Peruvian offerings recently (twice in two weeks, actually). 

Andina opened at the end of last year on Shoreditch High Street and is the sister restaurant of Soho's Ceviche, created by chef Martin Morales.

First thing first, order a pisco sour. This lovely little concoction of pisco, lime juice, sugar syrup, egg white and Peruvian Chuncho bitters is magical and delicious. I think the classic ones are best, but I also tried Andina's pink pisco sour with sparking rose, and it is certainly fair to say that I wasn't disappointed

(Ceviche Andina)

Having been to Andina twice now, and with friends who love to eat, I have sampled a significant portion of the main menu and everything was amazing, very flavourful and perfectly presented. I would recommend getting three dishes per person, all to share, which should be a decent amount of food. For four quite hungry women, we ordered the following:

  • Mini pork chicharrones with salsa criolla and rocoto chilli (very well marinated);
  • Ceviche Andina;
  • Black Kingfish & fig tiradito;
  • Tiger's Milk trio;
  • Chicken & avocado causa;
  • Salmon tartare causa;
  • Corn cake & avocado with salsa criolla;
  • Tamalito;
  • Chicken thigh skewers with aji de gallina sauce;
  • Lamb skewers in pana chilli with corn and Uchucuta herb sauce;
  • Scallops & prawns in amarillo chilli with fennel and salsa;
  • Solterito salad; and
  • Sancha Inchi green beans with crunchy corn.

This is a good amount for four if you're hungry and determined to finish everything. If you're looking for a lighter meal, maybe have a few less dishes.

(Tiger's Milk Trio)

From the list above, my favourites would have to be the Ceviche Andina, Black Kingfish & fig tiradito and the corn cake, which was like cornbread but very moist and not at all dull. We may or may not have also ordered the picarones doughnuts (picture below), which were fresh and fantastic.

(Solterito Salad)

(Corn cake and avocado with salsa criolla)


(Lamb skewers in pana chilli with corn and Uchucuta herb sauce)

(Picarones doughnuts)

The service at Andina is pretty great, as well. I arrived earlier than my friends and was asked for my drink order by three different waiters, all eager to ensure that I was enjoying myself and looked after (but not at all in that annoying, hovering way). The various dishes we ordered were brought out and our table was cleared seamlessly throughout the meal and without much interruption.

Andina has a light and airy upstairs eating area, a moodier bar and table area downstairs and a music room, which can be hired for private dining.

Be sure to book yourself a table before going though - the restaurant was fully booked on both a Monday and a Wednesday when I went in May.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4) 

Food: 9
Atmosphere: 7 upstairs; 8 downstairs at the bar
Service: 10
Price: ££
Overall experience: 9

(All photographs above from the Andina website)

Monday, June 16, 2014

London Guide: KERB

On the third Saturday of every month through October, you can find a festival of food trucks circling Granary Square in King's Cross, thanks to KERB. I have been singing the praises of Granary Square quite a bit lately, as home of Grain Store and Caravan, but KERB takes this city square and turns it into a foodie festival.

When I went to the May Saturday, was a great mix of people (and their dogs!) sitting around the square, enjoying food and a few drinks in the early summer sun. There were also a lot of young families, with kids running through the fountains. It was one of those London moments that makes me feel so fortunate to live in this city.

The food at KERB is fantastic. This isn't your cheap and cheesy food truck fair (unfortunately, you do run into a few of those during the summer in London). All of the food looked amazing - it was so hard to choose what to have - and there was a huge variety, from salt beef to burgers to tapas to Greek. In the end, I went for an Indian wrap from Rola Wala with Goan pulled pork and a bunch of Indian veg wrapped in a big thick Naan. For £6.50, it was a lot of food and it was great, although I would recommend a healthy heap of napkins. I may or may not have also had donut holes from You Doughnut with salted caramel sauce, walnuts, sprinkles and marshmallows. It just had to be done.

The above two photos are of food from two of KERB's most notorious vendors, and I am pretty desperate to try both. Bleeker St Burger is supposed to have some of the best in London, done NYC-style, of course, and Kimchinary serves toasted Korean burritos and tacos (think bulgogi ox cheek and tail with braised kimchi and queso).

The next KERB Saturday at Granary Square is this coming weekend on 21 June. KERB will also be down on Southbank with 30 traders from 4-6 July. You should definitely go along. KERB has various other locations throughout London at various times, so also check their website.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4) 

Food: 9
Atmosphere: 9
Service: 9
Price: £
Overall experience: 9

(Photographs above from KERB)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Travel Notes: Two Days in Hong Kong - Day 1

I booked my recent trip to Bali through a travel agent, so I was easily able to extend my layover in Hong Kong to two days, so that we could explore the city a bit. K and I landed on a Sunday afternoon after an overnight flight from London. The best way to get from the airport to Hong Kong Island is by the express train - it takes only 24 minutes to get to Central Station and costs only HK $100 (just under £8 or US $13) each way.

First arriving in Central is somewhat disorienting - you find yourself surrounded by skyscrapers above, with thin double decker buses and trams cross the busy, colourful streets in front of you. I'm not sure what I expected Hong Kong to be, but I found it a surprising mix of Western financial centre and Chinese city - although, I must admit that this was my first time on the Asian continent.

This was also my first time trying out airbnb, which I would now absolutely use again! K and I rented this apartment in Soho, which was super well located, very cosy and the perfect little foothold in a great part of town. I would definitely recommend staying in Central or the Mid-levels when staying on Hong Kong Island, given that this allows you to be in close proximity to everything and there are a ton of bars and restaurants and markets. The reason why this part of town is called Mid-levels is immediately apparent once you arrive in the city - Hong Kong is built on a steep mountinside and this area is literally mid-level. Given the climb, from Central and into Mid-levels there is a really cool outdoor escalator system to save your legs that you can hop on and off at various points. The escalator also provides a great vantage point of the streets below.

By the time we got settled into the flat, it was already early evening, so we went for a few drinks at the Four Seasons pool terrace. That doesn't entirely sound glamorous, particularly when we weren't actually staying at the Four Seasons (when we first walked it, we were sure we would be rumbled and chucked out on the street), but the pool terrace overlooks Victoria Harbour and across to Kowloon, at the view is amazing. There was a fair amount of pollution that night, making the air quite smoggy and limiting the visibility, but we still had a great view of all of the buildings down the coast, the skyscrapers lining the Harbour on the Kowloon side and of the boats going by. I even saw my first junk boat! From 8pm, there's a light show on the Kowloon side, called the Symphony of Lights, with light displays on all of the tall buildings.

After a few somewhat overpriced cocktails (normal by London standards, but I was soon to find out the large price variance in Hong Kong), we were hungry. We ended up at a noodle bar, Tsim Chai Kee Noodle on Wellington Street, and ordered noodles with pork and prawn wontons and beef. It was delicious, but it took me roughly 20 minutes to get the hang of slurping up the very long and tangled noodles with my chopsticks. The restaurant was very communal, with shared tables, and a few people were hesitant to sit with two obvious Westerners - I hope that wasn't down to my awkwardness with chopsticks.

After dinner, we wandered back up through Soho to Staunton Street, where I had been told that all the expats would found.

That was absolutely accurate. With bars with names like Yorkshire Pudding, it was obvious that this was the Western expat neighbourhood. We had a few drinks at Staunton's wine bar and marvelled at the expat lifestyle through the increasing haze of our jet lag. It was a Sunday night, but everyone seemed to be drinking like it was a Friday and work was very far away from them. We came back up to this neighbourhood the next night, as it was really close to our apartment, and the story was the same on a Monday night.

I quickly learned that noodles are not a very hearty meal, but more of a snack, and I quickly went looking for some late night (OK, on jet lag, it was roughly 10pm) munchies. One of the things that I love to do while travelling is to look around grocery stores in other countries - I think it's fascinating. In Hong Kong, you can get almost anything in green tea flavour, including matcha  Oreos. I settled for a bag of Doritos.

That ends the first evening in Hong Kong - more on Day 2 coming soon.

(All photographs original to Something Pretty on the Side)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Work in Progress

I have been neglecting my blog a bit for a while, and I apologise. This has been a consequence of a bit of soul searching that I've been doing lately, particularly in relation to the person that I am and what I want to contribute to the world (and I don't mean in any grand way - I just mean the way in which we all contribute to the lives of those around us and our collective well-being).

In the coming weeks, I am not only going to make an effort to get back to regular posting, but I will be making some changes to content - trying to focus on those things that are important to me and that I want to share with you.

I am excited to finally share my experiences in Hong Kong, Bali and Amsterdam. I've also been doing a lot of dining and exploring in London, so there will also be plenty of London Guide posts upcoming. I hope you enjoy.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Excuse My Absence - I Absconded on Holiday

I mean to blog all about it before I left, but then I underestimated the amount of things that I needed to get done before leaving and my ability to procrastinate - so that didn't happen. I haven't been blogging for the last two weeks because I've been on holiday in Hong Kong and Indonesia! 

It was an amazing trip, and I am excited to share all of the details with you over the next week. I now also have a serious case of the wanderlust and have started brainstorming for my next excursions.

Have a great weekend, and I'll catch up with you next week with notes on what to do with two days in Hong Kong and tips on travel in Bali and the Gili Islands.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter in London

Happy Easter! I know that I'm a day late, but I took the weekend off, well and truly (part of that being forced by a spot of food poisoning, unfortunately).

The Brits do Easter way better than the Americans for one simple reason that clinches the win in any such debate - Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays, which means that, unless you work in retail or the service industry, pretty much everyone has a four-day weekend for Easter.  Most people take advantage of this gift and go away.  Last year was my first non-student Easter weekend, and K and I went to Croatia for the weekend.  With four days off, this is an ideal weekend to go to Europe and still feel like you've gotten in a pretty decent holiday.

I'm off on a very big vacation next weekend, so I stayed in London this year.  I must say, a four-day weekend is ideal. I'm thinking of advocating for a four days on/four days off kind of schedule. London also offers tons of things to do for Easter for both families and adults.

Given that Easter is a distinctly Christian holiday, one would expect that Easter traditions would be largely similar Western Christian countries, but there are slight differences that stick out for me.  In the UK, children (and generally adults) receive a big chocolate Easter egg and some ancillary chocolates instead of a big Easter basket, as they do in America, although these are still brought by the Easter bunny. These are normally filled with smaller chocolates.

Perhaps my favourite of the English Easter traditions (apart from Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday) is hot cross buns. These delightful little fruited and spiced buns are best cut in half, toasted and served with lemon curd. They are traditionally eaten between lent and Good Friday.

(Photograph by Kara Rosenlund)

I miss my family terribly on holidays like these, but I am very grateful for Skype and for my London family of friends. I hope that your Easter was great, and here's to another four-day work week!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Watch This: InRealLife

Last night, I went to a screening of the documentary InRealLife and a Q&A with the director. The documentary asks what the Internet is doing to children (largely teenagers) and tells the story of a number of teens representative of the types of issues faced by young users of the Internet.  I felt the documentary was slightly too broad in scope, although that is due to the large number of important issues that the director felt she should cover in the film, and it was not the best documentary that I've seen. However, it did create an impression and, coupled with discussions with the director following the film, it all certainly gave me a few things to think about. 

I thought I would share the trailer:

I think that I will certainly be examining more closely the type of content that I want to put on my blog and refocusing on quality over quantity.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

London Guide: Brunch at Caravan King's Cross

This week's London Guide regards another gem from King's Cross Granary Square (actually right next door to Grain Store) - Caravan. Sorry that I'm a day late.

Caravan King's Cross is an outpost of the restaurant, bar and coffee roastery in Exmouth Market. Caravan refers to its food as being well travelled, in that the restaurant sources seasonal ingredients to create dishes that draw influence from around the world.

The Granary Square location is decorated in an industrial style to befit its location in the old grain store. The large space still felt really cosy during brunch, although this may have been due to our party of ten, and the loud music playing gave the restaurant a very festive feel (although it was a bit too loud).

The brunch menu was very hard to choose from because I honestly wanted to try pretty much everything.  I ended up going for the courgette and corn fritters with feta, tomato jam and rocket.  The fritters were almost pancake-like in consistency, weren't too oily and were very tasty when combined with the jam and the pesto-coated feta. I definitely had some menu envy when looking around the table. The jalapeno corn bread with fried eggs, black beans and guindilla pepper and the kimchi pankcakes and pork belly both looked amazing. The coffee, which is roasted by Caravan, was also very good (strong and slightly bitter). My bellini was never going to disappoint by nature, but it could have used a tad more peach.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4) 

Food: 9
Atmosphere: 9
Service: 8
Price: ££
Overall experience: 9

(Image from

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Travel Wish List: Mama Shelter

With interiors designed by Philippe Starck and very reasonably priced rooms (double rooms from €89 in Paris), Mama Shelter hotels look like an amazing place to stay on a budget in some of France's greatest cities.  Mama Shelter has branches in Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon and even one in Istanbul (the one exception to an otherwise all-French brand). 

The interiors may not be the plushest as far as luxury hotels go, but their fun and creative. Each room has an iMac, free movies and free wifi (why this still isn't just a regular feature of hotels, I will never know), and a lot of the rooms appear to come with cartoon masks over the bedside light fixtures. These hotels just look like fun.






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