Kansalaistori – Citizens’ park
An eclectic mix. That is the correct travel guide term, I think. That is the kind of crowds you’ll find at Kansalaistori. It is a great junction in the very middle of the city.
Let us imagine you only had one single afternoon (conference guests and biz people) to spend in Helsinki. Better than an Irish pub or Italian/Thai/Mexican/Nepalese restaurant, spend your afternoon people watching. You can grab a take-away of your liking nearby in a regular store.
People go to work through this area, some youngsters hang out there all day with their skateboards, MPs, Government officials and their assistants hurry by as the Parliament building is right there, as well as the Music House. Musicians going to their evening concert, art tourists from the Kiasma Museum, people on bikes – as “Baana”, the through-city bike lane ends there – and as a bonus you have a great vista to Töölönlahti and the Linnanmäki amusement park behind it on a hill (with lights on as the evening comes, it is beauuuutiful).
Maybe, if you are lucky, you’ll get to be part of a protest of some kind: More funds for early childhood education! Gay rights for adoption! Against the cuts the Government has proposed!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Copyrights Spotted by Locals Helsinki
Yes, Wagyu is back in Britain, but at what price and what sort of quality? Skepticism was the immediate instinct when I read about Engawa’s Kobe beef claims. A regular misnomer claimed by some restaurants to generally describe fatty beef of questionable provenance.
But this is apparently the real deal; Their entire menu fashioned around those famous Tajima black cattle from the South of Japan. They are so into their Kobe beef that they import the whole cattle and do the butchering in-house, which allows them to offer a wide variety of cuts from the animal.
The money behind this latest venture are Salt Group, who operate a dozen restaurants, cafes, bars (and a dog cafe) in Japan. Engawa appears to be their first overseas outing.
Engawa’s closest comparison is probably 511 in Tokyo – offering a kaiseki themed entirely around Kobe Beef. The name 511 comes from the grade of beef offered, which is a measure of the quality and density of marbling. More beef details later in the post.
I visited Engawa with my brother and we did back to back visits, starting off with Friday lunch. Lunch because their cheapest options interested me the most : a Beef Katsu set lunch for £35, and beautifully presented lunch bento boxes which start at £30. Decent katsu is a rare thing in London.
The restaurant can cater to 29 covers, but it is cramped inside a thin rectagular strip at the entrace to the swish Ham Yard Hotel. I suppose it is given its name because of its physical location at the doorstep to the Hotel. Who knows. The kitchen is completely exposed, with a kaiseiki-style kappo/counter. Decor is polished and smart, not unlike what you’d find in a fine Kyoto restaurant. Chefs are mindful that they’re on show, but appear to be rather shy and do not interact with diners. They leave the softly-softly to the excellent front of house who are well trained to handle explanations and are generally knowledgeable about their offerings.
Kobe Beef Katsu Gozen £35
So here we go. About 100 to 120g of fillet is breaded and deep fried, with katsu sauce. On the side, there is a large bowl of seasoned rice with barley and edamame. They also provided a tall cup of kobe beef stock, to enable a chazuke, or simply rice in hot water. Additionally, they also served a soup of kombu dashi. Shredded cabbage in the soup, and not on the side.
It’s a great lunch box. I love it.
Of course, katsu restaurants generally use pork, but really any tender meat (chicken thigh even), preferably something oily and tender, can be a candidate for katsu. And that’s why I think Engawa’s katsu is so good. It’s not meant to be fine obviously, this is simply fried meat and rice. And it is quality meat. You don’t really need the most marbled cut, but you do need a tender cut. I guess eating good katsu is analogous to good fish and chips. OK, I hear you, £35. But it’s good beef, so for me, this is worth it.
That katsu sauce is important as well, tart and sharp like plums and green apples. They could supply a small pestle and mortar for some grind it yourself sesame – like at Katsukara – and this dish would be complete.
Finally, that beef stock is just mouth watering. Kobe beef water. It imparts this incredibly potent expression of perfumed wagyu. The essence of kobe beef. The rice comes seasoned already, but a few spoonfuls of the stock sends it into appetising overdrive. Another bowl please.
I guess if I had to be picky, then this could do with crispier breadcrumbs, airier etc. You can totally geek out on this stuff obviously.
I have been to Maisen, it is decent, but I prefer Katsukara in Kyoto Station (also at Takashimaya Shinjuku). Over there, you get a wide choice of either ribeye, sirloin or tenderloin from those lovely Kurobuta black pigs (same as Berkshire breeds).
Why am I telling you this? Well, I think ramen fever is almost over, let Tonkatsu be the next. Juicy meat encased in crispy batter, you’ll love it too.
14 piece Bento Box, £40
Isn’t that pretty? It’s like a grid web design, ordered daintiness and pleasing to the eye.
This box gives you a preview of their dinner tasting menu, like an assortment of their craft. In this format, you get a feel for the breath of the kitchen’s abilities. Its just wonderful. Refreshing and perfectly designed for lunch.
Cooked items include their slow cooked wagyu, omelette, meatball, potato salad. There’s also sashimi, tuna with grated egg yolk, scallop, yellowtail. On the side, a bowl of seasoned rice and dashi. This is the 14 piece version for £40, though I think the 11 piece version at £30 is the more compelling option, especially for lunch.
It is an interesting and satisfying lunch idea, given the variety of the assortment and the lunch menu really does such present a great impression of Engawa.
We finished with a pudding, tea and had a couple of drinks and paid £137.50 for two. Not cheap, but we liked it so much that we booked a return visit for Saturday night to try their dinner menu.
Their dinner menus are three tasters of increasing prices (£60/£80/£100) and number of courses (3/5/8) and more focused around their prized kobe beef, than the lunch options.
It loosely resembles a kaiseki, except you finish on sushi, rather than rice or noodles. I have limited kaiseki experience, though this dinner immediately reminded me of my visit to Roan Kikunoi. Of course, I’d have to make obviously comparisons to my long-time favourite, The Shiori, when mentioning London Kaiseki.
At the start of the meal, they offered the ribeye and chuck during our service. We both selected the rib on the left.
Their claim to make up about 5% of annual Kobe beef exports doesn’t really add up. Given that they also claim only about 30 cattle leave the shores of Japan, so .. only 1.5 cows per year to Engawa? Is that all they would sell all year?
Questionable stats aside, their top taster only just about sneaks into the three digit range, which is fairly well priced considering the real deal. For reference, I paid about £100 for 100g at 511 in Tokyo.
Speaking of grades, things get a bit woolly, when I probed that department. Our waiter said it’s definitely A5, but wouldn’t commit the full grading. From the picture above, the marbling does mean it is wagyu, but I’ve seen denser ‘flower’ patterns. The actual grade is useful to know because the higher grades (A511 and A512) really are exponentially more expensive than the less fatty ones.
So just briefly then regarding grading. Japan’s meat grading system starts from C and goes upward to A5. This indicates yield and meat/fat quality. The digits 1 to 12 are then appended at the end of the grade to indicate the degree of marbling. We really are interested in the top end, from A5-9, A5-10, A5-11 (hence 511 restaurant above) to the maximum of A5-12.
(For more background on this, I wrote this blog post about Wagyu from two separate visits to Japan.)
To my eye, the meat looks about A5-8, A5-9. What do you reckon?
Kobe Beef Yukhoe
Served on a brick of ice.
So we start with a gorgeous wagyu tartare, little cubes of perfumed beef butter, covered in sticky, creamy grated yam. A fine, cold dashi is poured over it and garnished with chopped spring onions. The quality of the beef is apparent. Legit. Delicious.
Dashimaki with Kobe Beef Soup
Their take on egg & beef, with a thin slice of truffle as garnish. The ‘soup’ is made from Kobe beef stock & dashi and appears to be thickened. This soup is the most gorgeous aspect of the dish. Umami.
This dashimaki is like a rolled omelette, it’s good, but the chawan-mushi version is the superior version of the two. Same beef soup, but the chawan-mushi is a silkened savoury egg custard that gels with the thickened soup. Like Hedone’s umami flan. Gorgeous.
3. Age mono
Tempura of Prawn & Asparagus, with Kumquat.
Next up is their seasonal deep-fried appetiser. They served a piping hot tempura ‘ball’ of prawn and asparagus, with half a kumquat for a zesty jiz. Meticulous and carefully prepared. Very brief flashes of Kondo. Solid.
4. 7pc Sashimi
We have Spanish tuna and French uni. The rest are sea bass, yellowtail, squid, scallop and salmon. Basically it’s same quality to your favourite izakaya in London, which I suppose is unofficially the Atariya standard.
I will however say that the cuts are well selected and carefully prepped and sliced. Each slice is smooth and tendon-free. I do wonder if they attempt any light ageing, but I can’t be sure.
Overall, a decent sashimi spread, given what’s available (or importable) into Britain. The soya sauce is good here, sweet, maybe spiked with mirin. However, I do think French uni is just terrible. Too bitter. It’s nothing like Hokkaido uni, sweet and creamy, what it is supposed to taste like. Here, the bitternesss is tempered by the sweet ikura. I do wonder why do London restaurants even bother serving sub-standard uni. Just get some raw gambero rosso on the menu instead.
5. Beef Cooked dish
Kobe Beef Daikon
Mmm… the beef is very tender. Carefully boiled. That amazing beef stock makes another appearance, this time served hot. Just delicious, they could easily serve it just as a consomme, it would be so wonderful on its own.
6. Beef Main Dish
I chose Ribeye, medium.
And finally.. the show. Ta-da. Looks about 100g. Maybe 125g and cooked teppan-yaki style.
I asked for medium because I have found that wagyu requires longer heat melt its fat for this sensation of butteriness. At medium rare, you’re still chewing cool fat – not its most flattering temperature. My preference anyway.
The beef is very tender and this distinctive mellow flavour and fragrance, is unmistakably Kobe beef. It’s the same mellow sweetness that shows up in the beef stock, used in the previous dishes.
My past impressions of Kobe beef wasn’t so much butter-like textures but rather, like a sort of beef mousse. This wasn’t mousse-like and it didn’t have that sensation of oil bursting of the meat while chewing. Although, this is sort of a good thing because wagyu can very quickly become queasy when eaten as a grilled steak. Nothing’s definite obviously, but I doubt it is a A5-11, let alone A5-12.
Still, this is good beef and this serves as an excellent introduction to Kobe beef. A5-8 or A5-9 that’s my guess and I think it is clearly reflected in the pricing too. A5-12 would cost so much more. I wouldn’t expect Engawa to be able to get their hands on the best stuff anyway, it is hard enough trying to do that in Tokyo. If you’re to splurge on the best examples of wagyu, you still need to go to source. Anybody have a table booked at Kawamura?
If I had a choice, I’d swap this out completely. Get me another Kobe Beef Yukhoe. Those sushi platters are pre-prepare and left in a corner, until a table is ready for it. Some just sat there nearly 15 minutes before serving. For one, rice has gone completely cold and started to stick to the board. They appear to use rice and barley for shari, tuna doesn’t appear to be pre-soaked in soya sauce, rather just comes with a mere brush of soya – too dry for me. The kobe beef tartare maki was the best of the lot, but overall, I thought the sushi was just passable.
It is abundantly clear that Engawa aren’t keen on the sushi course, so why bother at all? Not all Japanese restaurants in London need to serve sushi. Either commit to producing three pieces of proper kobe beef nigiri, or drop the course entirely.
I think they should just end the meal properly with rice, soup and pickles. Or just offer beef-fat fried rice. With truffle shavings. Or foie gras. That stuff always hits the spot.
Deluxe Engawa Fondue
Thankfully the pudding is gorgeous, as a good meal would have been easily undone by that sushi course. A cheesecake without the crumble, almost like a sort of reconstituted ball of goats cheese. Fragile textured cheesecake, like snowflake, so delicate – minor work of art this is. What you can’t see is the red bean paste in the centre. Dunk into the hot green tea white chocolate fondue and yeah, that’s the stuff.
Oozing chocolate, red bean, matcha, sweet cheesecake. What’s not to like? This is worth the price of entry alone. What a pudding.
We also had this during the lunch visit (a tenner during lunch, yikes!) and you have to make sure the dipping sauce is hot. If isn’t, send it back. That hot sauce makes all the difference to experience.
Dinner bill – We paid £249.38 for 2x 8 course menus, 2x kirin beers and 2x green teas. Yes. Expensive.
So here’s the thing about Engawa, I think it’s good because of the supporting gastronomy the chefs have create around the beef is actually solid. The cooking is delicate, commendable and their kobe beef stock is like a sort of magic sauce. Instant umami.
However, like much of Japanese food outside of Japan (or any cuisine for that matter), the best is hardly exported. So if you’re looking for the ultimate Wagyu experience, you’ll only find that at source. You never find it in Britain. And why would you want to when we have such excellent examples of dry-aged British beef and equally excellent establishments who know how to draw out the best aspects of the produce. But that’s really just stating the obvious.
Those three or four appetisers were really redolent of Kyoto. I was surprised by the level of delicacy. It’s obviously not quite as fine, but it gave me the same impression, and for me, it’s those dishes that create value for the 8 course £100 menu. Otherwise, the other two cheaper taster menus actually look less compelling. I don’t know, it’s a tough one, if you could swap the sashimi out for the yukhoe+chawan-mushi, perhaps that would make £60 worth a pop.
Either way, the dinner menu is a one-off thing. If you choose to do it, go with the £100 option because their best dishes are on that menu.
In the mean time, I’m plotting my next visit for the lunch katsu, where the real value appears to be. I think that Engawa’s katsu dish is a great addition to London and something I’d consistently go back for. Like a Goodman lunch steak or a Smokehouse sunday roast. I love it.
Kobe Beef Specialists
£50pp Lunch , £120pp Dinner
2 Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT
+44 (0)20 7287 5724
THE BEST BLOW DRY BARS
This summer there is no excuse for walking around the capital with bad hair thanks to the hundreds of pop up blow dry bars that are now available. You’d better move quick though, as some of them are only here whilst the sun shines. Here are some of our faves…
French Connection – Blow Bar
For a quick fix whilst dabbling in some retail therapy, head to the pop up salon on the first floor of French Connection on Regent Street. Just £25 for 30 minutes, it’s a quick fix for your hair, and you can get your nails and make up done too so you’re all dolled up for the weekend. www.theblowbar.com
George Northwood’s Bob Bar
The trend for bobs and ‘lobs’ doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. If you’re not brave enough to take the plunge and cut your tresses, stop by George Northwood’s Well Street salon and try on the wigs to get a feel for this trendy new chop before getting yours lobbed off.
Aveda Pop Up
If your hair is in need of a boost after a long commute in rush hour, Aveda’s pop-up in Piccadilly Circus Tube station provides the ultimate salvation. With three DIY styling chairs and experts on hand, you can re-groom within minutes. No appointment necessary. Ideal for those times you emerage from the tube dripping in sweat. www.aveda.co.uk
Cheeky Hair by Josh Wood
The newly refurb Cheeky Parlour on Redchurch Street is the perfect place to hang for an afternoon of pampering. The blow dry bar (headed up by Josh Wood) offers customers 3 styles, from bed head beach ways to the full glam-works.
Hersheson’s Braid Bar
Braids are all the rage right now with festival season upon us, and the stylists at Hersheson’s are on-hand to teach you the basics. With an array of different styles at the pop-up in Topshop, Oxford Street, you’ll be a pro by the end of the summer – only £15 for 15 minutes.
Duck & Dry
If your out and about on the King’s Road and the heavens open, leaving you looking like a drowned rat – pop into Duck & Dry to get the va va voom back into your hair. The aim is to make you feel relaxed and pampered, and even with the speedy service they still offer you snacks and a glass of bubbles!
Brand new to Primrose Hill, and taking over shop from the famous hair salon Mac’s, NuYu London have launched and are offering their customers speedy blow drys alongside laser hair removal and microdermabrasion.
There you have it…now we expect to see you all sporting shiny locks very soon!
Woluwepark – Park life
The two of us are face to face. We’re having one of our staring contests again. More than three minutes have gone by. Maybe this time I’ll win? Oh no. Can’t help myself. I smile. I failed, once more. Fair is fair: you get the bread…
Parks in Brussels abound. It makes the city one of the greenest capitals of Europe. I love to go for a Sunday stroll in the park of Woluwe – one of four parks laced together by two car roads. Although I’m not particularly fond of car species in a park environment, these grounds have enough other interesting fauna and flora to make up for that.
This English style park was designed to please the turn of the 20th century bourgeoisie. One century later, the various slopes, grassy plains, big ponds, waterbirds and sequoia trees have not lost their appealing qualities. In winter, I closely inspect the most fascinating fungi. In summer, I play frisbee or kubb or I chill out in the wooden salon made out of tree-trunks. All over the park, dogs are chasing radio-controlled cars, other dogs’ behinds or their own. Beware though. The giant swans will come mighty close and stare at you. Don’t worry, they only want to be fed whatever you’ve got in your hands.
Oh, and there is one car that I don’t mind seeing in the Woluwepark: that waffle truck near the round pond.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Copyrights Spotted by Locals Brussels
CB on the Road
Edirne has more meat to offer beyond the glistening liver that bears its name. Deniz Börek Salonu has crowned the top of Saraçlar Caddesi since 1986. Every morning, lines of salivating citizens hurry to work with crunchy poğaças or sit down to enjoy steaming heaps of stuffed pastry. While there are many börek places in Edirne, few are able to produce the consistently delicious product that Deniz is known for. Imagine, if you will, savory labyrinthine baklava sheets of golden brown pastry, stuffed like sausages. The bready tubes are baked, set on a hot table in a window, then viciously chopped into strips with a knife that looks like it should belong to a 19th-century werewolf hunter. Common fare at börek places are kıymalı (minced meat), peynirli (salty white cheese), patatesli (potatoes) and ıspanaklı (spinach).
The insanity of the lunch hour at Deniz is like a controlled tornado. The thunk of the börek knife, steady splatter of the ayran frother and calls of waiters with orders create a song danced to by the patrons hunting tables and the staff hauling börek. One waiter showed us a scar running a length of his arm that he received when carrying a hot tray of börek from the ovens. Runners with carts full of freshly prepared börek tubes cross the busy thoroughfares of downtown Edirne to refill missing provisions. While the ovens are situated at Deniz Börek, the dough is roughed up several blocks away. Dough shaped like humped flying saucers is flattened to the thickness of tissue paper, tossed in the air like a massive pizza membrane and then buttered. Huge vats of the golden fat are literally on hand to slather the delicate dough as it is folded over and over again. After it is brought down to size, the filling is spread on top and the dough is rolled into a tube and gently placed on a baking tray. Deniz prides itself on having quality oil, flour and fillings, but perhaps its greatest strength is its kıyma.
Kıyma is minced meat that ranges from spicy and pungent to sweet and supple, depending on who makes it. It is not uncommon to bite through the crispy phyllo pastry that composes the outer shell of the börek to find little kıyma inside. While deceptive, this is understandable due to the price of meat in Turkey. The fluffy air pockets that should hold meat act in the same way as the French fries that always seem to end up inside döner kebap. They are filler. What makes Deniz different is that nearly every bite of börek is bursting with sweet, delicious meat. The secret: onions. They simply keep adding miniscule shavings of onion until the taste is right. Upon baking, the onions seemingly dissolve into the meat and caramelize, bringing out a sumptuous sweet and salty flavor that must have addictive properties. That being said, it is important to arrive at Deniz before 4pm, when things slow down. Kıymalı börek tends to go fast, but if you are lucky you will only have to wait ten minutes for a new batch to be delivered and baked.Address: Hürriyet Meydanı No:1, Çarşı, Edirne Merkez
Evita – Great coffee, delicious carrot cake
Evita at Teaterplassen is one of my favourite espresso bars in town. Why? A combination of great coffee, delicious cakes, nice food and fantastic smoothies! I also like the location, as Grønland is one of my favourite areas in town.
There are a lot of tables outside in summer and it’s usually not too difficult to find a place to sit down, even though there are always many people. I love my lazy Sundays when I can sleep in, take a nice walk along Akerselva, and then end my trip with a double latte with vanilla soymilk or a mango smoothie at Evita. They also have a good selection of cakes and sandwiches with several vegetarian options. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you try their homemade chocolate or carrot cake.
Evita has four branches, two of them situated in the Grønland area. The two other branches in this area are also nice; they are situated at Brugata 17 and Smalgangen 14B. They have the same choice of foods and drinks.
Rating: 5 out of 5
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Paris’ New Breed of Concept Coffee Shops
It’s no longer hard to find good coffee in Paris. Lomi, Ten Belles, CREAM, Holybelly—the list of places to drink impeccable joe happily goes on. For those who have hit up all the traditional cafés, a growing selection of “concept” cafés offer novel spaces in which to savor a cup of java.
Steel Cyclewear & Coffeeshop
The newest addition to the Paris café circuit is part caffeine pitstop, part bike gear showroom. Beans from Belleville Brûlerie deliver the kick, while homemade sandwiches, sweets, and granola provide the fuel at this concept store opened by lifestyle cycling magazine Steel. Racks of sleek biking gear and a pair of high-performance two-wheelers on the bare walls give the (rather severely) minimalist concrete-and-wood seating area a touch of color. The lovely tangle of sophisticated machines on the bike rack outside attests to the café’s popularity with Paris’ growing cycling scene.
Subdued lighting, low music, and unlimited snacks make this café a perfect base camp for all-day work sessions or rainy afternoons spent playing Risk (a shelf in the back is stacked with boardgames). The concept is simple: you pay for time, not espressos. Four euros get you an hour and unlimited coffee, tea, pound cake, pretzels, fruit—whatever’s on the smorgasbord that day. Large wooden tables and gentle lighting make it a great place to get work done; you’re as likely to run into a group of business students discussing their startup as you are to end up sitting next to a jeweler stringing beads. The eclectic atmosphere encourages exchange, but manages to foster concentration at the same time. The coffee itself is nothing to write home about, but the concept is worth trying.
Coffee or cocktails? At aveK, the answer is obvious: both. Opened just over a month ago, this café by day morphes into a cocktail bar come apéro hour. Its location, just a few strides from the Experimental Cocktail Club, could make for tough competition, but aveK is clearly doing their own laid-back thing, with minimalist Scandinavian-vintage decor and more daylight than boudoir glow. The coffee is from Lomi and a note on the menu begging customers not to order a mojito or caipirinha—the default in many Parisian bars—are signs that they intend to take both coffee and cocktails seriously. The alcoholic options are refreshingly affordable; a house speciality like the rose-petal-topped Gin Tea or spicy Little Mary is 8E, or 6E during Happy Hour.
English-Australian couple Angelle Boucher and Daniel Warburton opened this outdoor coffee cabin three months ago, after several years spent managing cafés in London. Located in a quiet courtyard off rue Faubourg Saint Honoré, the café’s simple black-and-white design is in keeping with the elegance of the neighborhood—the outdoor space is rented from Comme des Garçons. Lunch options include homemade quiches and sandwiches, while a Sicilian cookie or chocolate moelleux with coffee frosting are decadent sidekicks to a flat white or espresso. Coutume’s special-order seasonal blends are a welcome addition to this otherwise coffee-poor neighborhood.
Benoît Touche presides over his eclectic selection of home decor, stationary, and random delightful grown-up toys from behind a small counter where customers are welcome to pull up a stool and stay a while. “If they just want to sit and have a coffee, that’s fine. Or if they’re interested, we can talk about the stories behind the objects that interest them. Everything here has a story,” he says. Just as the coffee from Coutume is artisan roasted, so the quirky finds lining tables and shelves and livening up the walls are designed and made with quality and originality. His latest coup de coeur are hand-made letterpress cards from People I’ve Loved in San Francisco. You won’t spent a day camped out with a laptop and endless cups of coffee here, but you may wile away an afternoon picking out a pièce de résistance for your living room. More info here.
Steel Cyclewear & Coffeeshop – 58 Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, 75011. Tel: +33 (0)6 47 58 32 46
AntiCafé Paris Beaubourg – 79 rue de Quincampoix, 75003. Tel: +33 (0)1 73 73 10 74
AntiCafé Paris Louvre – 10 rue de Richelieu, 75001. Tel: +33 (0)1 73 71 72 86
Honor – 54 Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. Tel: +33 (0)7 82 52 93 63
Le Rocketship – 13 Rue Henry Monnier, 75009. Tel: +33 (0)1 48 78 23 66
[PARIS] Mori Yoshida (3)
Add: 65 avenue de Breteuil 75007 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 47 34 29 74
Hours: [Tue-Sun] 10am~7:15pm
Tasted on: Jun 2015
It’s been over two years since Japanese pastry chef Morihide Yoshida opened his shop in Paris, and it seems like he’s doing quite well. The pastry display is as good-looking as ever – his chaussons aux pommes are especially gorgeous – making it really hard not to leave this place with a little more than originally planned. Here are some recent tastings.
“Érable Caramélisé” (€5.80), a recent addition to Mori Yoshida’s pastry display, is a tart composed of maple syrup caramel cream, maple syrup chocolate mousse, hazelnut biscuit, and hazelnut nougatine. It’s a simple and elegant design perfectly assembled together, though the flavor isn’t an instant hit with me.
Gâteaux au chocolat (€4), chocolate cake topped with Chantilly cream, simple and delicious.
Baba Tropique (€5.60), baba with mango cream, Chantilly cream, fresh mangoes, and coconut syrup. Summery and tropical, like.
Paris-Brest Citron (€5.50), hazelnut-studded choux pastries sandwiching almond hazelnut cream flavored with lemon, and a thin layer of hazelnut praline. A lovely Paris-Brest, though I couldn’t really taste the lemon in the cream.
Tartelette a la Rhubarbe (€5.60), puff pastry tart shell filled with rhubarb cream and rhubarb compote. The rhubarb flavor from the compote is strong and acidic, not unpleasantly as it’s balanced by the soothing sweet cream underneath. The intensity of this will for sure delight rhubarb lovers.
Croissant Pudding (€3.80), like bread pudding, except with croissants. A delicious way to get rid of old croissants.
That’s it for now, though I’m sure it won’t be long before I visit this place again.
123 – Sunday squatter supper
Cities are defined by the emptinesses between contrasts they cannot hide.
Brussels is no exception to this. The city is a sour cocktail of expensive housing prices, many homeless people and an ironically high number of vacant buildings.
In 123 King’s Street – situated somewhere in-between the Royal Palace, big companies’ headquarters and several multinational hotels – a seven-storey office building was one of those unused spaces. Until in 2007 tens of people without housing occupied the building and quickly signed a temporary agreement with the state owner to let them live there.
This legal squat has become a temporary palace of ongoing protest against many of society’s aberrations. The non-profit collective Woningen 123 Logements has created an alternative world. Sometimes its doors are opened to let people peek in, participate and contribute!
Instead of wasting gigantic amounts of food, you can have a hot vegetarian meal made from non-sold food from nearby (super)markets during the Tâble d’hôtes (every Sunday from 19:00). Instead of blind consumerism, you can make or mend your own shoes, clothes or accessories at the Freeprix atelier. Instead of the rage of cars, you can assemble or repair your bike at 123Vélo (Tue and Thu 18:00-21:00). Instead of couch-potatoeing, you can visit or organize a concert, exposition or film screening at the Bokal Royal. Instead of lamenting Brussels’ sometimes hideous facades, you can revel in the intriguing graffiti and paintings on the 123’s inside.
Golden Rule of the House: you always decide for yourself how much you pay for everything…
Rating: 5 out of 5
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Mc Closkeys – Oldschool style
Dublin is famous for its pubs & pints of stout. Indeed, there is a social tradition of heading over to a pub with friends and colleagues right after a long day at the office to unwind. Thursdays and Fridays will find you battling the hoards of people loosening their neckties, unbuttoning their collars, and sharing a few drinks to relax and start their weekend.
If you’d rather live without the loudness, kitchiness and crowds of areas such as Temple Bar, I recommend that you take a walk South to Donnybrook (or take any of the buses heading South 10, 46, 145) and enter Mc Closkeys to explore the ridiculously laid back ambience of an old-fashioned local. This place exudes character and is a true gem. Now,
I’m not sharing this place with you so that you can bring the loudness and crowds of Temple Bar to this genuine old Donnybrook haunt. McKloskeys is for the traditional crowd and the typical patron tends to enjoy the comfortable, lived-in seating found here, with plenty of leg room, while chatting with friends, old and new, and savouring a well poured pint.
Don’t be shocked if you happen to see a baby carriage close by or a 4 year old studiously watching the match on the tele. This is a place where families go without spoiling the tranquility and adult character of the bar. If it’s nice out, don’t miss the outdoor patio in the back!
Rating: 5 out of 5
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