Andina Restaurant Review – Shoreditch, London

Andina is the new sister restaurant of my favourite restaurant in London: Ceviche. However, it seems she still has a way to go before she grows into her looks.

Andina Peruvian Restaurant Review Shoreditch London

The Vibe

Inside, the decor is clean and bright with pops of colour and the warmth of Peruvian textiles. Clearly a lot of love has gone into its understated design. It feels much more like a cafe than Ceviche does, which works better, I think, with its wider brunch and lunch menus. But if I’m honest, and I say this with a heavy heart, I feel it lacks the soul and seductive charms of Ceviche, where you are instantly transported to Lima upon entering.

Andina Peruvian Restaurant Upstairs Interior Shoreditch London

The crowd here is starchier and less worldly than that of Ceviche, with groups of business men in suits and rowdy girls dolled up for heavy sessions out on the town. And the Latin grooves that pulsate through Ceviche were nowhere to be found at our table on the basement level.

The Food

Instinctively, we ordered pisco sours to start with. These zesty little cocktails are made by blending egg whites with lime juice and pisco (a fruity brandy). They certainly didn’t disappoint, although they didn’t taste as good as they do at Ceviche, where the hypnotic music enhances the overall experience.

Pisco Sour at Andina Peruvian Restaurant London

To start with we ordered the mini pork chicharrones – although they didn’t arrive until after we’d finished our main dishes. These zingy little cubes of crunchy pork are served with a sweet criolla and rocoto salsa, fresh coriander and a mild chilli sauce – easily my favourite dish of the meal (if only you could buy a main course version).

Mini Pork Chicharrones: with salsa criolla and rocoto  chilli sauce

We ordered the weekday lunch set menu, which at £9 offers peerless value for money. The Ceviche Andina was equally as fresh and flavourful as the one they make at Ceviche, and the spicy, zesty tiger milk marinade was plate-licking good.

Ceviche Andina Shoreditch Peruvian Restaurant

The quinoa burger, which is quickly gathering legendary status, was rich and meaty in a nutty sort of way. Served with kiwi and a chilli mayonnaise, this tasty little veggie burger is enough to turn even the most diehard of meat fiends.

andina quinoa burger Shoreditch London

The Service

Similarly to Ceviche, Andina’s staff is young and informal, running around and shouting to each other in Spanish. We were served by two or three different people, all sincere and eager to please, although we did have a few glitches. Understandably, if you order the Ceviche Andina, they bring it to you as soon as possible, ensuring you get to enjoy it at its freshest. However, it came before our ‘nibbles’ and our drinks, and was long gone by the time we received the accompanying dishes. Nevertheless, the quality and depth of flavour still put a huge grin on my face.

Sacha Inchi Green Beans, Andina Restaurant Shoreditch London Thick-Cut Chips with  Huancaina Sauce Andina Peruvian Restaurant

The Verdict

For an authentic, out-of-this-world Peruvian dining experience, you won’t be disappointed at Andina. The food is unpretentious and expertly crafted with a healthy dash of Latin love. But for sheer culinary seduction and an electrifying atmoshphere, my vote still goes to the ol’ faithful Ceviche.

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9 Reasons You Need to Go on a Devour Barcelona Food Tour

I was lucky enough to be invited along on one of Devour Barcelona’s first food tours here in Barcelona. As the sister company of the wildly successful Madrid Food Tour, my hopes were high. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed… 

Devour Barcelona Food Tours Gracia

I’ve always thought that the best way to get acquainted with a new culture is to study its cuisine. And wandering through the enchanting streets of Gracia, Barcelona’s darling neighbourhood, eating and drinking … well, that’s the kind of studying you can do all day long!

Whether you’re visiting Barcelona for the first time and want to get off the beaten path, or you live here full-time and are looking for a fresh perspective, Devour Barcelona Food Tours are a delectable and intriguing way to do it. Read on to find out why!

1. Because Who Doesn’t Enjoy a Champagne Breakfast?

Catalan butifarra sausage sandwich and cava for breakfast in Gracia, Barcelona - Devour Barcelona Food Tours

OK, OK, in Spain it’s called cava and not champagne, but it’s actually the same decadent drink of your dreams. In fact, Catalunya produces the bulk of the world’s cava, and here in Barcelona, when it’s served with a few sliced butifarra (Catalan sausages) in an oven-warm baguette, it is pure and unadulterated pleasure. Continue reading

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La Vermutería del Tano (Gracia): Barcelona’s Classic Vermouth Bar

Tucked away on a sunny backstreet in the charming neighbourhood of Gracia, you’ll find La Vermutería del Tano: a time warp and one of Barcelona’s best vermouth bars. 

La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

At the bar in Barcelona's best Vermouth bar: La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

This living museum is a remnant of the good ol’ days and has been serving home-brewed vermouth since before the local hipsters who are leading the resurgence were even born!

The Vibe

Drinking at At the bar in Barcelona's best Vermouth bar: La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

The atmosphere is warm and familiar, with a mix of sun-soaked locals propped up at the bar and groups of friends sitting at heavy marble and iron tables. Antique clocks and wooden wine barrels grace the walls and vintage posters hang where they have hung since they were new. Everyone seems to know each other, shaking hands and adding to the jovial soundtrack with crescendos of “Hola guapo, que tal?!” and “Adeu! Fins demà!

The Vermouth at La Vermutería del Tano

La Vermuteria del Tano - Gràcia - Barcelona, Spain

Mariesel, the bubbly bartender on shift, explained humbly that: “Our vermouth is not like Martini, eh, it’s our own house brand.” And when she cranked open one of the small wooden doors of the giant fridge, which looks like a navy ship’s engine furnace, a row of industrial-looking canisters were revealed in all their glory. She hesitated, stopping for a moment to stroke her chin before making her considered selection and pouring us two small glasses.

It tastes sweet and slightly spicy, and as Mariesel so eloquently told us: “It goes down very well, but be careful with the second one!” Needless to say, at only €1.60 a glass, you’ll be needing all the advice as you can get by the end of your visit.

 Food

Catalan food and tapas at At the bar in Barcelona's best Vermouth bar: La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

The bar is stocked with a small selection of classic tapas dishes: olives with anchovies, cockles and muscles. Remember, this is a place to enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif, not a restaurant.

Make it Happen

Swing by for a pre-dinner aperitif at around 7pm. The bar starts to really pick up at around 8pm. Drink vermouth, eat tapas, and discuss your dinner plans in style.

La Vermutería del Tano is particularly lively on the weekends, when it fills with revellers who come to warm up for a day of serious drinking and eating. I believe this is what they call living the good life.

Address: Carrer Joan Blanques, 17, 08012, Barcelona
Nearest Metro: Joanic (L4)
Opening Times: Tues – Friday 09:00 to 21:00, Sat and Sun 12:00 to 16:00
More Info: www.facebook.com/VermuteriaTano

Words and photos by Ben Holbrook 

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The Roebuck Pub, Richmond, London: Get Some Satisfaction

Perched on what feels like the highest point in London (it’s not), Richmond’s Roebuck is a proper boozer that bestows its patrons with lofty views over the River Thames and the rolling green hills of Petersham.

The Roebuck Pub Richmond, London

But it’s not just the views. No, it’s the self-conviction and unwillingness to change that makes this 14th century watering hole so special. That and the boundless list of rock’n’roll royalty who frequent this antique anomaly, of course, but we’ll get to that in just a moment.

The Vibe

Inside, the ceilings are low and plastered in beige, floral wallpaper. The floorboards are softened with dark carpets, stained-wood tables and old leather-clad stools, whilst copper pots and pans hang over iron fire places from bare brick walls. But it’s the low lit nooks and crannies that create the private areas where rockstar locals such as Pete Townshend (The Who) and Mick Jagger (The Stones), come to get boozy.

The terrace out front is prime real estate, where you can sit on a bench, enjoy your pint and take in the sweeping views as they unfold before you.

The terrace outside of the Roebuck Pub, Richmond, London

The door frequently swings open as groups of beer-bellied cyclists wheel their high-performance bikes up to the bar. They order pints and peel their lycra shorts out of their nether regions. Water bowls attract little dogs, who lap it up whilst their owners say things like, “Believe me, dogs prefer Guinness to water!” and “Yes, especially this one –  he’s an Irish dog!”

Pete Townshend's house in Richmond Upon Thames, London (The Who guitarist)
Pete Townshend’s £16m mansion, just a few doors down from The Roebuck Pub (Previously owned by Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones)

Food & Drink

The menu is simple and unpretentious: it’s a real pub, this. There are six types of burgers, from the Big Ben Burger, which comes with crispy bacon and cheddar cheese, a fried egg and onion rings, to the Beetroot, Butternut & Goat’s Cheese Burger, which is served with chutney and sweet vegetables. There’s Scampi & Chips and The Ultimate Fish & Chips, and Bramley Apple Pie for dessert. And the Sunday roasts go down a storm. It’s no life-changing culinary experience, but it’s not trying to be, which is why it works.

Cask ales are available as well as a good selection of familiar draught beers, and there’s a respectable little wine list.

Roebuck Pub Food Richmond, London

The Main Attraction

Grab a pint, grab a bench and take your time. This is what it’s all about.

Views from the Roebuck Pub, Richmond, London
The Roebuck has arguably the best views of any pub in London…

Verdict

The Roebuck is a proper English pub which I consider to be a must-see for anyone visiting Richmond. The food and drink is good and simple, served efficiently in a warm and familiar manner. But really, what it comes down to is its exceptional setting and lively atmosphere, which is spiced up with the prospect of legendary clientele.

Pop in for lunch and a few jars after taking a stroll around Richmond Park, which is a five minute stroll up the road, or the river, which is a five minute stroll down the road, and you’re pretty much guaranteed smiles all-round.

Address: 72 Hampton Rd, Hampton Hill, Hampton, Middlesex TW12 1JN
Nearest Tube Stop: Richmond

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10 Best Things to Do in London: A Foodie’s Guide

After a dizzying three years of living in this vast and enigmatic city, I’ve finally managed to pin down and share a few of my absolute favourite things to do in London.

From the city’s best restaurants and craft beer pubs to riverside walks and tranquil oriental gardens, let me show you the London that I’ve slowly but surely fallen madly in love with.

1. Kick-Start Your Day with Brunch at Kopapa

Kopapa Brunch Seven Dials Covent Garden London

Situated on ultra hip Monmouth Street in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, this cafe-come-restaurant offers excellent coffee and an exceptionally special brunch menu. And with its Maori/New Zealand heritage, it really is a wonderful example of the variety that London has to offer.

Make It Happen
Be sure to book a table as this place is hugely popular. Order the avocado toast with chilli, goat’s cheese, mint & lemon oil (£8) and the hot-smoked salmon on toast with spinach, 2 poached eggs & yuzu hollandaise (£12) and as much coffee as you can handle. Their Bloody Mary cocktails are rather good, too! 

Book your table here (bottom left of page)

Address: Kopapa, 32-34 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HA
Nearest Tube Stop: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road

2. Roam the River Thames and Stop for Modern Art and a Foodie Fix

London River Thames Walk

This is a failsafe way to get orientated in the big city and it’s the first thing I do with visitors. It includes views of some of London’s most iconic architecture as well as my favourite London art gallery and the city’s most famous foodie market.

Make It Happen
Starting from Waterloo Station/Southbank, head towards London Bridge and follow the foot path that hugs the river and take in the iconic skyline of modern and classic architecture. Twenty minutes or so down this path and you’ll stumble upon the Tate Art Gallery, which is truly inspirational even for people who don’t usually enjoy galleries/museums. Spend an hour wandering about and getting lost in here and then continue down the footpath in the same direction.

Follow the signs and crowds of people to Borough Market, which is a delicious haven of artisan food stalls housed underneath an old railway bridge. Stop for a few nibbles and a cup of coffee/glass of wine and then cross the Millennium Bridge (you will have to double back on yourself a little bit) where you’ll discover the awesomeness of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Nearest Tube Stop: Waterloo

3. Eat Sushi Without Soy Sauce, at Yashin Sushi Restaurant

Yashin Sushi Restaurant Kensington London

I was never really into sushi, but then I discovered Yashin Sushi Restaurant and finally understood what it was all about.  This unassuming little sushi joint is tucked away on a side street just off Kensington High Street and attracts the kind of crowd that know and fully understand what quality sushi is all about. Their ‘Eat sushi without soy sauce’ slogan is their way of saying that the sushi is so fresh and delicious, you don’t need to season it – and it’s true. The welcome is warm and inviting, and the set menus offer outstanding value for money (around £15 pp).

Make It Happen
Swing by for lunch instead of dinner (same menu, better prices) and ask to be seated at the bar so you can watch the sushi artists create your masterpiece. Once you’ve eaten, stretch your legs in the tranquil grounds of the nearby Kyoto Gardens (more on this below).

Call 02079 381 536 to book your table and be sure to read my Yashin Sushin Restaurant Review for more info.

Address: Yashin Sushi Restaurant, 1A Argyll Road Kensington London W8 7DB
Nearest Tube Stop: High Street Kensington

4. Discover Purity and the Path of Devotion, at Kensington’s Kyoto Gardens

Kyoto Gardens Holland Park Chelsea London

I was terrified when I first moved to London. Terrified that I wouldn’t be able to hack it in the ‘Big City’. And so, my first days and months here were devoted to seeking out quiet sanctuaries where I could retreat and indulge in my introverted ways. That’s when I discovered the peaceful and beautifully balanced Kyoto Gardens, which is hidden away in the billionaire playground of Holland Park, Chelsea. It’s a park of peacocks, pale-pink blossom and wilting bluebells, of bonsai and placid ponds. It is perfection.

Make It Happen
Follow the signs through Holland Park to Kyoto Gardens, where I suggest taking a gentle stroll and some time to look within. Go slowly and deliberately.

Nearest Tube Stop: Holland Park or High Street Kensington

5. Drink Your Way to Craft Beer Heaven, at The Fox

The Fox Craft Beer House East London

To my absolute pleasure, the craft beer movement has now fully exploded in London, with micro breweries setting up shop all over town. For a monstrous selection of hoppy IPAs, Trappist beers and sultry dark stouts, visit The Fox Craft Beer House in the ultra hip East End. The bar is incredibly well stocked and run by craft beer hipsters who are genuinely keen to help you.

Make It Happen
From Dalston Junction station, stroll down Kingsland Road and take in the colourful street life of this multi-cultural melting pot. Reggae beats pump out of exotic grocery stalls and gospel singers groove away at the roadside. It’ll take about fifteen minutes to get to The Fox, by which time you’ll have worked up a thirst and a bit of an appetite. Ask for tasters of a few different beers that take your fancy and be sure to order half-pints so you can try a few different beers. The burgers, quite frankly, are the best I’ve ever had in London, so don’t hold back. 

Address: The Fox, 372 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4DA
Nearest Tube Stop:
Dalston Junction

A few more of my favourite London craft beer houses include: The Euston Tap, The Well & Bucket and The Pig’s Ears Craft Beer Cellar.

6. Eat Fish & Chips at The Britannia Pub in Kensington

Britannia Pub Kensington London

There’s nothing more British than indulging in a few pints of the good stuff in an old pub with an open fire and some proper pub grub. And in London you won’t have to go far to find it. But the problem is, old chap, there are far too many scoundrels out there serving below par quality fish and chips. But fear not, for the Britannia is a proper pub, albeit set in the heart of the the rich and leafy borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a short stroll from Kensington Palace.

Make It Happen
Stop by after a stroll around the Kyoto Gardens, grab a pint and a newspaper, turn off that damn phone and do what the British do so well: loiter. I can personally vouch for the Britannia’s generous and succulent fish and chips, served with a honky wedge of lemon and the tastiest mushy peas you could ever wish to shovel down your throat. Don’t forget the salt and vinegar, and do have one more drink for the road.

Address: The Britannia, 1 Allen St, London W8 6UX
Nearest Tube Stop: High Street Kensington

7. Go Wild in the Beauty of Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens London

When you think of London, you don’t think of wide open spaces and tropical plants, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at the awe-inspiring Kew Gardens. At 121 hectares, this vast green space is an official World Heritage Centre and home to the world’s largest collection of living plants.

Make It Happen
Strap on a pair of your most comfortable shoes and prepare for a day on foot (good food and drink available at reasonable prices). Explore the elegant glasshouses that transport you to desert and tropical climates. Get lost in the Mediterranean Gardens and run free through the canopied paths of pine and petal. And don’t leave before adventuring through the Treetop Walkway, which offers commanding views over the grounds and distant city skyline.

With my hand on my heart, Kew Gardens is one of my favourite places in all of London. Read my write up for more info. 

Tickets cost £15 per person – kids under 16 go free. Buy tickets on the gate or online.

Nearest Tube Stop: Kew Gardens

8. Take Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Mason London

Not only is Fortnum & Mason one of London’s most prestigious department stores – this is where the Queen and the staff of Buckingham Palace buy their groceries – but it’s also home to the famous Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. This bright open space on the fourth floor features timeless Art Deco style and the smooth tones of live piano. The vibe is relaxed and sophisticated, yet utterly unpretentious.

Make It Happen
Get your glad rags on and head here at around 4pm (don’t eat lunch before) for afternoon tea, which consists of finger sandwich classics such as salmon and cream cheese and ham and mustard, scones, cakes and a pot of tea (super-duper fancy tea, of course).

Prices start at around £40 per head, although you could quite easily double that if you were to be swayed by the Champagne Afternoon Tea. And be aware that a 12.5% service charge will also be added. You can book your table here.

Address: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
Nearest Tube Stop: Piccadilly Circus or Green Park

9. See and Be Seen, with Lavish Cocktails at the Ritz Hotel

The Rivoli Cocktail Bar at The Ritz Hotel London

The Rivoli Bar is the epitome of London luxe, the cocktail bar to which all others aspire to. But it is so much more than this; it is a symbol of the heritage, culture and prestige that sets this iconic city apart, it is a time warp, a glimpse into England’s colourful and momentous past.

Small in size but huge in style and personality, the Rivoli Bar is Art Deco. Think wooden walls with gold detailing and illuminated glass panels. Think chocolate browns and vintage yellows, gilded ceiling coves and moody lighting. Think white-coated bartenders and cocktails to die for. This is everything you ever dreamed of.

Make It Happen
Do as we did and visit The Ritz for cocktails after your afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason – it’s only a three-minute walk down the road. Enter the side door where you’ll be greeted and asked if you are “Joining us for drinks?” They will take care of the rest.

Order from the classic cocktail menu – prices range from £19 to £350 per drink – and listen to the colourful conversation that fills the room. On your way out, have a quick stroll through the Palm Court, which is a destination for glamorous guests from high society to ‘see and be seen’.”

Address: The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR
Nearest Tube Stop: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus

10. Do London the Latin Way with Peruvian Food at Ceviche Restaurant

Ceviche Peruvian Restaurant Soho London

For salsa rhythms and seductive Peruvian dishes, head to Ceviche, my absolute favourite restaurant in all of London. It’s warm and intimate with friendly staff and an electric atmosphere that makes it almost impossible to leave.

Make It Happen
Squeeze in at the bar at around 6/7pm and let the latin grooves wash over you whilst you sip on pisco sour cocktails (fruity brandy blended with zesty lime and egg whites and topped off with Angostura bitters). 

Move deeper into the restaurant area and order a selection of exciting little dishes to share. Order a bowl of yucas, which are chunky wedges of cassava root (think sweet potatoes or parsnips) that you dip in a creamy and spicy cheese sauce called huancaina.

And whatever you do, don’t miss out on the zingy, soulfully seductive house classic: Ceviche. It’s freshly cured seabass with amarillo tiger’s milk (think spicy limes), fresh red onions and crispy sweet potato. Wash it all down with ice-cold bottles of Cusqueña – a sweet Peruvian lager. Repeat as necessary. 

Call 020 7292 2040 to book at table. Read my review for more info.

Address: Ceviche, 17 Frith St, London W1D 4RG
Nearest Tube Stop: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road

For more of my insider tips on London, see my London posts category or talk to me directly on my Facebook page.

All photos by Ben Holbrook, apart from two of ‘The Fox’ photos

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