Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Five Guys, Two Girls and a Sex Shop

It could be one or the other or a combination of all three- either I’ve gone senile, my lasered eyes are finally failing or London is changing faster than a quick change artist, but I swear that half the restaurants in the city are new since I was last home in February. Not that this is a bad thing at all, but it does make me feel that I am missing out on the smorgasbord of restaurants that has descended upon London. So it’s fortunate that on this three week break that I’ve taken, that my friends have been determined to fat feed me as much as possible.

One fine day last week, my friend S and I had the hilariously un-pc The Book of Mormon to look forward to at the theatre, but before we immersed ourselves in the world of Joseph Smith and the Church of Latter Day Saints, S took me to the artery-clogging Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Long Acre.

While you wait you can munch on monkey nuts at the door, or, like some people I spied, tut tut, take a whole bagful on the way out. You can have a normal hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger or bacon cheeseburger and then you can stuff as many free toppings as you like in between the buns. Clearly I went for the bacon cheeseburger and bit off more than I could chew haha as I asked for at least 6 toppings. You can go for the little burgers, but that just seemed like the wimpy option. They also serve hotdogs and sandwiches, but for us, it was burgers all the way. The American diner approach is also to have unlimited refills of your drink, which I can never take full advantage of  but we entertained ourselves by trying squirts of different Fanta flavours.

Inside Five Guys- sadly too busy thinking of toppings to take photo so this is from web again!

Inside Five Guys- sadly too busy thinking of toppings to take photo so this is from web!

Word of advice: order small fries. Do not think you can finish the regular fries between two people because you will be eating till the cows come home- ahh the puns. There were chips coming out of my ears by the end of the meal. But how was the burger? Monstrous. I loved the coarse grind of the juicy beef patty and although it was a messy affair, I enjoyed my Five Guys experience. Even if it took us nearly 45 minutes to get through it. The only trouble is the bun does get rather soggy from all the juices, especially if you have one too many toppings. But I would go back again. Perhaps I will share with someone next time- for my arteries’ sake.

Bacon cheeseburger

Bacon cheeseburger

20131016_131257IMG_7455After waddling to see The Book of Mormon, which was side-splittingly entertaining- thoroughly recommend it to everyone, we stopped for a sophisticated tea break and mini Austrian strudels at The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason. Love having tea out of their gorgeous silver teapots.

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon

Mini Austrian Strudel

Mini Austrian Strudel

Tea at The Parlour

Tea at The Parlour

And then we came to the slightly eyebrow raising part of the day- dinner at La Bodega Negra, near Leicester Square. S remarked to me, “This place is quite hard to find….because it doesn’t have a sign and it looks like a sex shop from the outside. So this could be potentially embarrassing.” I didn’t really know what to think. Were we going to end up wandering into some sort of bondage shop and end up eating off tied up patrons? We couldn’t look more clueless or lost when we got to Moor Street and shuffled nervously around the general vicinity of a sex shop- bright neon lights saying “Peep show”. When we realised that we were in fact at the right door- it says, “Private Dance Downstairs” and “COME” in red neon lights, (I confess I sniggered), we walked through and down some stairs, only to be greeted by a mannequin in a PVC gimp suit. Cue nervous hand twitching, until the helpful lady at the desk confirmed our booking for 7 people. Phew.

La Bodega Negro Entrance

La Bodega Negro Entrance

Fancy a peep?

Fancy a peep?

It’s dark inside. Very dark. Stone walls and arches evoke images of dungeons and handcuffs, though I suppose that is the point. The atmosphere is vibrant and palpable and there is a dark allure to the whole set-up that I enjoyed. Ushered into our seats, we squinted and nearly lost an eyeball trying to make out the menu until I blinded everyone with my phone torchlight. The food served is Mexican comfort, with tacos, ceviche, tostadita and salads, as well as main dishes such as slow roasted lamb and chicken mole. We decided to share a mixture of everything but skip the mains in favour of cocktails.

The starters were surprisingly good. Their guacamole with sesame tostadas was quite beautiful- rich, creamy and chunky and had the right amount of lime juice to give it a clean taste. The Quesadilla Rustica- a toasted flour tortilla with four cheeses and roasted tomato was delicious and had a lovely crispy edge.

Guacamole with sesame tostadas

Guacamole with sesame tostadas

Quesadilla Rustica

Quesadilla Rustica

We loved their quinoa salad with grilled courgette and the textured roasted corn salad, which had a light piquancy from the Serrano chili. We tried two Ceviche dishes- the mixed seafood (squid, prawn and octopus)- excellent dressing, and the Spicy yellow fin tuna which was gloriously chunky and had a wonderful citrus-fruity tang from the Guajillo chili.

Quinoa salad

Quinoa salad

One can’t go to a Mexican without having tacos, so we went full pelt and ordered the pork belly, lamb, soft shell crab and the char roasted mushroom (we had a vegetarian in our group who was immensely happy with the veggie options). The soft shell crab and the pork belly were the winners, though I am still questioning whether two tiny tacos for £8.50- crab and £6.50 for the rest, is strictly worth it.

Soft shell crab taco

Soft shell crab taco

Dessert was of course, churros, with thick chocolate dipping sauce which were light and delicately sugared.

Churros

Churros

Portions are a bit on the stingy side, the prices too high to make you feel you can be completely satisfied and the salads in no way feed 6 people, despite the waitress’ insistence when we were ordering, but, I don’t think people come here for the food. The cool, underground vibe is the attraction, the cocktails are excellent and the amusement of being next to a shop that sells adult videos and seeing grown men accidentally go to La Bodega Negra on the way out are definite pluses however, but I’m not sure I would go back other than to feel hip whilst sipping a Tijuana Whore. Another negative is that when S phoned to book, she was told that they do not normally allow same sex groups to dine and there usually needs to be a mix of males and females to secure a booking, which is the biggest load of BS that I have ever heard. Thankfully our friend’s husband turned up. Hmmm.

And so we left, walking past the mannequin dressed in PVC and lingered with wild abandon in front of the sex shop before trotting off home.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 1-3 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9LH.

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Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

La Bodega Negra, 16 Moor Street, London, W1D 5NH. Tel: 020 7758 4100 www.labodeganegra.com

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Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

Apologies for quality of La Bodega Negro photos- massive headache trying to take anything in pitch darkness at a tiny table crammed with dishes.

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Aberdeen Street Ascension

It doesn’t take a genius to work out where this latest restaurant is. It does however, take some sturdy thigh muscles to trek up this street to reach it, a street which usually induces a wrinkling of my nose whenever I need to walk up it. However, for the love of a pretty outdoor terrace, cool decor, (think gigantic bottles of tequila- fake unfortunately, and contemporary art) and a chance to eat away from the madding crowd, Aberdeen Street could become a few people’s new favourite haunt.

Aberdeen Street

Aberdeen Street

 By kind invitation, my friend and I went to check it out one evening a couple of weeks back and after sweating like a pig from our mini-hike, declined the offer to sit on the terrace for fear of ending up like a puddle, reminiscent of Senator Kelly in the first X-men film *geek moment*. After taking up a table near the front, we got a good look at the sweet, compact space decked out in sea blue and tan hues. A bar area and the giant tequila bottles are the decorative features and creates a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere.IMG_7347 IMG_7331 IMG_7333

The menu is quite extensive and has a good selection of starters, salads, meats and sharing plates. Croquettes are always so enticing, probably because they are so easy to eat and pop-in-your-mouth parcels of fun when done well, and their Vegetarian croquettes of rice balls with carrots and mushrooms were a tasty start. Up next were a dozen Australian oysters which were fresh, fleshy and filling but I would say go easy on the oysters and get a half dozen if you intend to eat more and there’s only two of you!

Vegetarian croquettes

Vegetarian croquettes

Australian oysters

Australian oysters

Aberdeen Street highly recommends their monster Soho salads which are all quaintly named after various streets in Soho. The Old Bailey Street salad intrigued us with its various ingredients- chilli prawn, red and green peppers, Feta cheese, cucumber, watermelon and lettuce. It was crisp, light and our chosen dressing, the ‘Aberdeen Street’ vinaigrette did not drown out the refreshing watermelon.

Old Bailey Street salad

Old Bailey Street salad

The Meat Touch was quite the show-stopper and definitely encourages parties to embrace the ‘Sharing Spirit’ that it is labelled under on the menu. Grilled back ribs, mini beef burgers made with grilled steak tartare, foie gras rècme brûlée, cornichons, pate de campagne, cold cuts and sauteed potatoes fill the eyes before the stomach. The ribs were disappointing, overly grilled and so were tough to pull apart from the bone. The mini burgers were rather nice, but I wasn’t sure about the patties being made from steak tartare specifically, as I couldn’t tell the difference between that and a normal patty. The foie gras creme brulee was smooth and delicious with cornichons and the extremely moreish potatoes.IMG_7358 IMG_7359

The Meat Touch

The Meat Touch

IMG_7357

To end we had their vanilla Crème brûlée which would have been good if it weren’t for the too charred caramelised sugar on top which left half of my mouthfuls with a burnt aftertaste. The custard itself was pleasantly sweet but this could have been executed far better.

Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée

Aberdeen Street has good service, the manager Morgan, is attentive and helpful and as mentioned, the ambience is laid-back and chilled. There is also a good brunch offering on the weekends with free-flow booze from 12pm to 3pm ($348), eggs done any way you like and ‘Total Recovery’ dishes for those hangovers. The food was a bit hit and miss, but I do think that with time this could become something worth making a visit to, even with that bloody steep climb.

 Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

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Aberdeen Street, UG/F King Ho Building, 41-49 Aberdeen Street, Hong Kong. Tel: +852 2546 5833. contact@aberdeenstreet.com.hk

This was by kind invitation- thank you Aberdeen Street for having us!


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Burgers and Milkshake Coma in Causeway Bay

Whilst burgers are nothing unique in this town, BLT Burger’s latest location in the basement of Time Square is an exciting addition to the area, not least because Causeway Bay folks now get to fully satisfy their burger and milkshake cravings with their hearty offerings. Both Chef Laurent Tourondel’s other restaurants in HK – the modern American steakhouse BLT Steak and its sister BLT Burger – are located in Tsim Sha Tsui’s Harbour City mall, so it’s good for the Island to get a bit of BLT action at last!blt-burger-causeway-bay-hk-dcg

The memory of what occupied its space in Times Square previously eludes me, but I can attest that BLT is the much better option. It’s a great spot for lunch and feels a tad more spacious than their Harbour City branch too – and who can resist their crowd-pleasing menu of Angus beef burgers, as well as other tasty alternatives such as the turkey breast, fried chicken and Atlantic salmon? There’s also a whole menu of wonderfully cheeky ‘spiked milkshakes’, which should be drunk strictly during their Happy Hour!Interior of BLT Burger

I was glad I skipped breakfast the day Rach and I went, because the aftermath was a big-time food coma. We began cautiously, each requesting a mini version of one of their (non-spiked!) milkshakes. I went for the Monkey Business – a lethally filling (even in its miniscule form) but gorgeously rich chocolate ice cream, peanut butter and banana concoction. I loved the blend of the peanut butter and the chocolate, which didn’t dilute the taste of the banana, but avoid the generous topping of cream if you want to walk and not roll out of BLT!

Monkey Business Milkshake is coma inducing!

Monkey Business Milkshake is coma inducing!

Next, I attacked my Roaring Forties Blue burger (a 7oz grilled CAB burger with blue cheese, bacon, caramelized onions and mushrooms) whilst Rach had the blackboard offering of ‘HK Side’ Shrimp burger. If one’s eyes could have an appetite, they would be full just from the sight of this burger! The beef patty was thick and juicy but didn’t have enough meaty flavour to it, but the bacon evened out the score, coupled with the great taste of blue cheese and the sweetness of the onions and mushrooms.

Roaring Forties Blue burger

Roaring Forties Blue burger

Rach’s shrimp burger topped with watercress and fried wonton was an interesting and light twist on the seafood burger, with the Sriracha honey mayo giving the patty a much-needed lift in flavour.

Shrimp Burger

Shrimp Burger

Aside from burgers, BLT have a good selection of sides too; we decided to try their Vidalia onion rings and the bacon chilli cheese fries from the all-day blackboard specials menu. The onion rings had too thick a coating of batter and were slightly over deep-fried for my taste, which was a shame; I had to fight through the wall of batter to really taste and get to the onion itself. But the chilli cheese fries did not disappoint! A meal in itself, the cheese was gorgeously gooey and creamy with a hint of piquancy, and the fried onions and bacon on top added an extra good dose of crispiness too.

Vidalia onion rings

Vidalia onion rings

Bacon chilli cheese fries

By the time we’d heroically chomped our way through the fries and burgers, it was time to squeeze in a bit of dessert. Rach’s penchant for chocolate meant that the Valrhona chocoate praline cake couldn’t be missed. The layered cake was rich and moist (a little too rich perhaps), the chocolate nuttiness pairing nicely with the vanilla ice cream. This is definitely the dessert for chocolate lovers.

Valrhona chocoate praline cake

Valrhona chocoate praline cake

Service is efficient and their premises are casual, convenient and comfortable for laid-back Happy Hour drinks and leisurely grazing over your burger feast. I’ll be back there soon to check out their spiked milkshakes!

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

BLT Burger, Shop B224A, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, 2506 1500; Shop 301, Level 3, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, 2730 2338

You can also see this review on Sassy.