36. Mauritius (Le Chamarel, 27 Turnpike Lane, N8)

Our hopes for Le Chamarel to be a BYOB joint to enjoy a couple of cheap drinks on a cold Friday evening (as if often the case with places like this) were soon dashed when we found they had a strict no alcohol policy on site, but this didn’t stop us from enjoying some lovely food.

It was an odd place really, due to it being very very quiet in there, feeling like we almost had to whisper so as not to disturb the peace. The dishes, particularly the ‘traditional snacks’, were very cheap so we went for a selection of those knowing very little about what they actually were. They had run out of a couple of our first choices (not prepared for the Friday night rush perhaps!) but we ended up with a couple of rotis, dhal puri and channa puri. I’m not sure which were which so I’m afraid I can’t comment on them individually though they were all pleasant and came with a couple of sauces (including one particularly powerfully spicy chilli sauce!) For the main event we had chicken and spinach curry which was also on the hot side, and butter bean curry. The latter was tasty though the sauce tasted a bit fish & chip shop curry sauce-like. We washed it all down with cans of Pearona, a refreshing fizzy pear juice drink in a can.

A very good cafe to go for a casual dinner or lunch on a budget – would return!

Environment – 6, Food – 8, Service – 7

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35. Colombia (La Bodeguita, Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre)

One chilly Sunday morning we found ourselves wandering around the delightful Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre looking for some Colombian grub.

We didn’t have to search for too long before we came across La Bodeguita, a little cafe come deli in the middle of one of the arms of the centre. We ordered our food and settled down on a wooden picnic bench in the busy cordoned off area reserved for patrons of the cafe/deli/beauty store (they had a cabinet of nail varnishes just outside!)

The food came when it was ready, served in plastic wicker-esque bowls. There didn’t seem to be any mains on the menu so we opted for a few starters to share between us. We had Arepas de choclo con queso – sweet corn fritter with Colombian cheese (Ruth’s fave), Bunuelos – dough cheese fritter balls (pretty good), Arepas fritters de maiz con huevo – corn fritter bread with egg (a little on the bland side) and Padebono – oven cooked dough and cheese (basically a cheese doughnut!) These came with some salsa, which certainly added a kick and made a couple of the dishes. We also sampled some Colombian beer – Cafe Colombia – which was very pleasant.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the Colombian experience. The staff were friendly and the food was very good value. If we find ourselves in the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre in the future (quite unlikely) we will definitely pick ourselves up some Colombian snacks from La Bodeguita.

Food – 7, Service – 8, Environment – 6

Overall – 7/10

beer!

beer!

Padebono

Padebono

Bunuelos

Bunuelos

Arepas de choclo con queso

Arepas de choclo con queso

Arepas fritas de maiz con huevo

Arepas fritas de maiz con huevo

34. China (Silk Road, Camberwell)

We rocked up to Camberwell’s Silk Road on a freezing Sunday afternoon hoping for a warm place to eat some Chinese grub, but unfortunately they seemed to have forgotten to put their heating on! Though we’d heard it was a excellent place to go for Chinese food so we braved the cold.

The environment is very much ‘no frills’, and had an interesting decor, with rugs on the wall (with camels on, we think they got their countries confused.) The seating is all on benches, wagamamas style. We both went for noodle dishes, Jodi had mixed vegetable noodles, and I had something similar but with added lamb. They were both pretty spicy, warming and flavoursome (and brilliant value at £6.50 each) They were pretty slow at serving though and there was a bit of a wait when our food came at different times.

Overall the food was good enough to go back again, but we weren’t sure about the levels of their hygiene, as we noticed staff openly leaving big bowls of raw meat for preparation just behind us. On the way to the toilets it also distinctly smelt like cat piss, swings and roundabouts.

So:
Food – 9
Environment – 4
Service – 4

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33. Jamaica (Dub Jam, 20 Bedford Street, Covent Garden)

 

 

 

 

 

Dub Jam takes it’s inspiration from a Jamaican beach shack. The bar is a surfboard, the seats are barrels, the walls feature Bob Marley lyrics and the colourful walls are littered with interesting things.

We decided to go for the Jerk Rebel skewers. Ruth had Jammin’ Jerk Chicken and I opted for Veggie Bangarang (the halloumi version). The skewers came with 48hr marinated, 8hr slow cooked chicken (or halloumi) and smoked, BBQ’d peppers, served with slaw and can be served smokey or hot. We both went for hot.

To drink, Ruth had a Red Stripe, nice and refreshing, and I had a Marley coffee, strong and bottomless!

Overall we were pretty impressed with the decor in Dub Jam. However the food was standard, and the menu was limited. This is probably due to it’s prime customers – the tourists of Covent Garden.

Food 6/10, environment 8/10, service 7/10

Average 7/10

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32. Peru (Emanuel, 18 Amelia Street, Elephant & Castle)

We were looking forward to visiting this Peruvian restaurant as we’d seen that you could get a three course lunch for £7 – a bargain! Located in the not-so-glamourous area of Elephant & Castle, we had to make use of this offer from E manuel. Unfortunately upon arrival, we enquired about this offer and the waiter looked at us with a vacant expression and had no idea what we were talking about. Hey ho, we thought to ourselves, we still might be in for a culinary treat. We purchased a latino beer and perused the menu. I went for a chicken and rice concoction (I don’t know the exact name, and the menu isn’t online), and there was  little choice for vegetarians on offer (other than sides) so Jodi chose a dish which stated it could be made vegetarian by removing the meat. They brought the dishes over, along with a message that they didn’t make it vegetarian. A bit confused, Jodi chose a couple of vegetarian sides whilst I tucked into my meal (I was hungry). Mine was fairly disappointing –  it was lukewarm and there was approximately two olives. Jodi’s plantain sides and a massive peruvian style corn on the cob plates arrived, looking a bit genetically modified. Jodi ensures me that it was very filling but wasn’t sure how to attack it.

Overall, a bit of a shame that Peru didn’t deliver and we left feeling a bit underwhelmed. Maybe we caught them on a bad day, as there seemed to be a lot of Peruvian locals in there.

George Dawes, what are the scores?

Environment – 6, Food – 6, Service – 6

 

Beer nuts

Beer nuts

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31. Japan (Tonkotsu, Arch 334, 1a Dunston Street, Haggerston)

We’d been informed of Tonkotsu by the ‘Cheap Eats’ article in the previous week’s edition of Time Out, so thought we’d give it a whirl. It appears that all the other bargain hunters in London had done the same. The place was heaving. We got ourselves a Japanese beer, Asahi, and settled in for the wait. 

Tonkotsu is housed down a side street, in a railway arch, in Haggerston. Inside their are high arches and exposed brick work. Quite industrial, but decorated like an Ikea showroom which made it feel quite cosy (plus all the other customers!)

To our pleasant surprise we didn’t have to wait too long for a table. We were soon seated and deliberating over the menu. (I have to mentioned that we had a special guest appearance from our friend, Alice, who joined us in Japan). From our table we could see the chefs working away in the kitchen (always a plus), and at the back of the restaurant there was a room with a glass wall where we could see a guy doing something with a machine. We were totally baffled by what was going on and explained it to ourselves as performance art. We were in East London. 

The menu isn’t particularly extensive, which made decision making easier. Alice opted for a couple of starters – King Prawn Katsu and Salt & Sansho Pepper Squid – with a side of noodles. Ruth went for Tokyo Ramen (pork and chicken stock, medium thick noodles topped with soy marinated pork belly, boiled egg, menma and spring onions. There was only one vegetarian dish, Shimeji, Shitake & Miso Ramen, which I had. 

The all round verdict was that the food was enjoyable and tasty, and there was lots of it! However, Alice was slightly disappointed by her noodles. They were quite Supernoodle-y, served in a block. Rice noodles would have been a preferred option. Ruth was particularly impressed with the Tokyo Ramen, describing it as “delish”. As regular readers may remember, she isn’t a big fan of pork, but this was succulent and went down nicely. The Shimeji, Shitake & Miso Ramen was tasty, especially with the added chilli sauce. 

Overall we were impressed with Tonkotsu and would definitely visit again. 

Service 7/10, food 9/10, environment 8/10.

Average 8/10.

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30. Norway (The Scandinavian Kitchen, 61 Titchfield Street, W1)

After a brief lazy hiatus, I can ensure we’re back, alive and kicking. Our trip to Norway took place a couple of months ago now, so forgive me if my memory’s patchy (it ain’t what it used to be).

Scandinavian Kitchen serves a broad range of food from the Scandinavian area and we’ve decided to assign it to our Norway entry. Not because we ate anything particularly Norwegian whilst there, but because it is unlikely there’s a completely dedicated Norwegian eatery in London (soz Norway).

Scandinavian Kitchen is a cosy little cafe in Central London, and everything inside looks well designed and thought out, like a little IKEA. For example, our drinks were served in these below mugs, and I believe you could also buy them in the shop at the back
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After having a little look at the funny foreign drinks fridge that stocked weird brands we’d never heard of, we chose what to eat.

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I went for waffles with berries and Jodi decided to have rye bread with cream cheese and jam. There wasn’t all that much choice that appealed, but alas we were looking forward to our simple meals all the same. Unfortunately, the aforementioned waffles were soon revealed to be off the menu due to the waffle toaster breaking down, so I changed mine to a hot dog.
I was disappointed not to be having waffles, but the hot dog was very nice and pretty filling. Jodi’s rye bread with cream cheese and jam was satisfactory but the overall conclusion we came to was that rye bread is just a bit weird.

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After eating, we decided to peruse the shop in the back which was full of interesting looking food from Scandinavia. Everything was very tempting and we couldn’t help put purchase some kind of souvenir. I bought a strange concoction of some kind of mushroom pate and cheese in a tube, and Jodi bought some DIY gingerbread dough! I don’t know how hers tasted, but my squeeze cheese mushroom tube stuff was very nice on toast.

Service – 8, food – 8, environment – 8