Apulia

50 Long Lane, Farringdon, London EC1A 9EJ

Food: 3.5/5

Service: 4/5

Price: £30 per person (drinks excluded)

I was actually initiated to this nice little Italian place by my friend Emma. Sharing the love for good food, I was very happy to give it a go, and I was not disappointed. 

“Apulia” stays for “Puglia”, a gorgeous region in the very South of Italy, it is the heel of the Italian boot. The cuisine is therefore very regional and pleasantly fresh. It is not easy in my opinion to find a Good restaurant in the City, especially around Farringdon where aggressive American-burger-grill places have taken over a bit. Apulia is small and cosy, a good option for a relaxing post-work mid-week dinner.

You can order both a la carte and from a set menu. We started with a couple of very fresh options: octopus carpaccio and burrata. The carpaccio was a very abundant portion, served with courgettes, sun-dried cherry tomatoes and crispy flat bread. The burrata was excellent! Absolutely as it should be. Served whole here and not in a bowl as you might find it in other occasions (both equally good). If you have been following my posts, you will already know I am a big burrata fan so finding good fresh examples in London make me ecstatic.

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We ended up ordering the same main as it sounded too good to let it go. Scialatielli with pesto, prawns and pistachios. Wow! (Note: be ware of the difference between scialatiellitagliatelle and linguine and be ware of restaurants that mix them up! Linguine is a long, flat but narrow pasta. Tagliatelle are long, flat and wide. Scialatielli are long, kind of flat but pretty thick.) The dish was nice and essential, made with good ingredients.

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We closed the meal with a chocolate mousse that although was delicious, it was way too rich for the light and fresh meal we had enjoyed hence we were not able to finish it, even if we were just sharing one! All in all a very good experience anyway, worth adding it to our Italian collection in the exciting British capital.

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Sufi

70 Askew Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12 9BJ

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Price: £20 per person (excluding drinks)

This is an example of how London hides its little culinary gems in the most disparate places and how you can encounter special and authentic flavours behind every corner. Sufi is a gem of real Persian cuisine. And I say real because I found no difference from the amazing flavours I recall from Tehran and Esfahan.

The menu is pretty full, but I strongly suggest to always look at the specials on the table. For example, zereshk polo, which is my favourite dish in Persian cuisine is not part of the a la carte menu and is only served when among the specials. Persians have a great passion for grilled meat that is always shared during special occasions. For this reason the menu covers a great deal of different grill options. But I recommend to always try one or two of their amazing stews. These are the flavours that actually make Persian cuisine stand out and above all other Middle Eastern cuisines. They use local ingredients that are unique to Iran and have great creativity when it comes to association of flavours. Therefore in your stew and in your rice you can find a lot of different varianti: barberries, walnuts, pomegranate, sour black cherries, oranges and dried lemons. And of course a mix of all the herbs The Caspian and Mediterranean seas can offer.

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Zereshk Polo and Ghormeh Sabzi

I had the pleasure to have zereshk polo here (chicken with barberries rice) and I can easily say it is one of the best I had in London. We also had a beautiful lamb shank with dill rice where the lamb was as tender as a flower. All their stew are absolutely amazing, especially their Khoresht Fesenjan (walnut and pomegranate stew). But if you are in a daring mood, I suggest you give Ghormeh Sabzi a go, I can assure you that the herb mix of this peculiar green stew will be an absolute novelty.
And of course the restaurant is not short of a clay oven for you to have fresh bread and a myriad of different starters and dips to entice the appetite. Suggestion: try Tah Digg, among the starters. This is a particular crispy rice that in Iranian households is the result of the cooking o rice on high heat. It is a special treat always served to special guests.

The place does not fall short of ambience either. The unique flavours of herbs and delicate spices, the colours of the berries, aubergines and dill and dim lights glued by the gentle warmth of the clay oven make for an almost inebriating experience. You could be having dinner there with Wordsworth or Eliot…or Omar Khayyam.

“Kanada-ya!” …yay!

Locations:

SW1Y 4DL Haymarket (London)
WC2H 8LE Covent Garden (London)
Yukuhashi (Japan)
Tang Lung St (Hong Kong)

Price: £15-20£
Service: 4/5
Food: 5/5

This is the perfect Japanese….winter warmer! If you had a long day and need a quick recharge, if that business meeting has drained you to the bones, if you have tried to have a walk around Westminster and you had to wrestle with rushing businessmen and lost tourists, if outside is cold and unfriendly…..this is the right place to be.

Small and discrete, and why not, potentially pretty cheap (£10.50 a bowl) among the majority of overrated choices the town has to offer.

This is a ramen bar, hence do not walk in expecting sushi. No sushi! Only ramen. But what a ramen! To those who had the privilege to travel to that amazing country that is Japan, I am sure this warm, plentiful bowl of noodles will bring up nice memories.

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Tonkotsu X Ramen

There are around ten specialities of ramen but tonkontsu is definitely the winner. Choose whether you want chicken or pork broth, add an egg (go for it! remember, you need that energy back!) and pick the texture of noodles you prefer. Ask and you shall be given…an amazing hot ramen bowl with handmade noodles and fresh veggies. Trust me, as soon as you smell the freshness from the bowl, your muscles will relax, your mind will halt the spinning and your day will start smiling at you.

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Salmon flake onigiri

For the gluttons like me, the menu also offer a small choice of rice combinations: onigiri – Yes, those little rice triangles Japanese manga characters always seem to have in their lunch box at school. They are basically like a little cute rice sandwich (available in fish and vegetarian options). Furthermore, for those who love to accompany their food with a little bit of an alcoholic kick, the place also offer a good variety of Japanese sake and whisky.

Bottom line is, you can choose the experience you want: a quick, cheap meal for less than £15 or a longer and fuller exploration of the menu, picking different ramen, onigiri and sake.

Whichever way you decide to go, you will not be disappointed.