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.

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