Feast and Mishti

My main plan for the reviews on this blog were always to go to the places that people weren’t going to and build a name, but I’ve realised that slowly but surely, I’ve fallen into the trap of eating at places often hyped up by social media. But, I really am going to start trying harder because I have the platform and need to start using it for the right reasons. And I will begin by telling you all about this gem of a Bangladeshi restaurant located in the heart of Whitechapel.

I’m not going to lie to you guys, this place doesn’t have much going for it in terms of looks/interiors/aesthetics, but what it lacks in looks, it definitely makes up for in food. Though my love for aesthetics knows no bounds, I am always a lot more drawn to the tastes and flavours (thankfully, I mean what kinda life would I be leading if my palette was devoid of any spices, ya know what I mean, folks?). All of the food served here is halal and comes from its roots in Bangladesh, and honestly, I love it so much.

Mum and I are always on the hunt for cheap and cheerful places which are filling, pack a punch in flavour, but don’t cost the earth and so this place just fits right in. Located central to the Whitechapel market, it is frequented by an assortment of people, students, families, and sometimes even small-scale party-goers. There are two options when it comes to eating here: a buffet priced at £7.99 (including a drink) or the regular meals/small plates from the menu. While I’ve tried the buffet on previous occasions, I soon realised that I was eating the same few things despite paying for the range and would probably be better off ordering directly from the menu instead of wasting time standing around the counters contemplating whether or not I should try certain things.

I tend to almost always order the kachi biryani with daal, aloo shingaras (because it’s so hot that my nose gets dripping), aloo tikkis (think spicy potato cakes), and pyazis (onion pakoras basically. Those are my absolute go-tos and most of the time, they cost less than a fiver each. Sometimes though, I do dabble in the curries and try the haleem (which is great but could probs benefit with more chicken in it), and the fried fish – which I LOVE – with fried onions. You can have a brief look at their old menu here – it’s not exactly the same anymore, but the core elements remain.

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As pictured above, they are not exclusively a lunch/dinner serving restaurant. Their opening hours which go from 8am to 11pm allow them to dabble in the much loved art of breakfast. I’m not going to beat around the bush with you guys, on the breakfast day I only tried the vegetarian options because I was on a short detox to purge my skin (and stomach), but I have heard great things about everything from both my mother and siblings. They thoroughly enjoyed the variety of curries and small plates available on offer at 10am (when we were there).

I know this is a very roughly written piece, but know that I say this from the bottom of my heart, I love my home foods here and I hope that they will always continue to make me feel like I’m in Bangladesh with their freshly cooked foods and adorable customer service that never arrives without a smile. I hope that you will all spare a moment to give this place a visit because it really is a nice gateway into the art that is the Bengal cuisine.

Here is the map for when you visit:

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Masala Chai Nashta

Okay so I need you all to know that this post has been in my drafts since the 31st January 2017. I started writing it and then got so distracted so much by who even knows what that I completely disregarded it and left it for what is now its third month. But, I am here now. And that is all that matters.

Chai Nashta is an absolutely ADORABLE place. Well, when I say adorable, I don’t mean by interior standards of other places I usually call adorable. I mean more in the sense that it’s a family-run business and the women kick ass in the kitchen and dish up all the good food in their super cute ‘Chai Nashta’ t-shirts while the men just wait on us – amazing, I know, this is my true aesthetic. In terms of the decor, it’s pretty simple and straightforward with nothing terribly fancy or gaudy to go with the cultural theme they promote – it’s simple and effective, but could definitely look cuter.

In terms of the food. Guys. I just, words fall short. The food was SO GOOD. Though the menu boasts a wide range of all-day breakfast options (all of which are halal!), the best friend and I opted for the classic ‘Desi Nashta’ priced at a humble £7.95. For this price, these are the things you get:

  • Masala egg – scrambled or an omelette
  • Side 1 – masala beans or fried masala potatoes
  • Side 2 – lamb or chicken keema
  • Bread – 2 rotis or 1 paratha or 5 puris
  • Drink – masala tea or masala coffee

Served on a thali (a metal platter), everything just looks so cute and handmade – which it is, obviously. Though the portion size looks colossal at first, it is actually a very doable amount of food to eat. The both of us chose to try the masala omelette, masala beans, lamb keema, 5 puris, and a masala tea. Sans the drink, I absolutely loved everything. Though I had to pace myself, I definitely went out of my way to eat everything. Coming back to the masala tea, I’m honestly not a big fan of masala tea so for me, it was just okay, but the best friend loved it. Apparently the flavours were well infused and had the right balance of tea and masala.

The service was extremely friendly and not at all in your faces like other places I may have spoken about before. It’s all a case of maintaining a physical distance enough to just give a quick thumbs up or a head nod to indicate all is well. The food also comes out piping hot. There’s a short wait of about 15 minutes between the time you order and the time you receive your food, but that was nothing considering how fresh everything tasted and looked.

This is definitely a place I intend to be visiting again, especially with the rest of the family. This is right up their street. I’ll put the map thingymajig down below so you can all check it out too. Let me know what you think – especially if you try something different on the menu from myself!

Nabrasa Express

For anyone who has seen the new Nabrasa sign postings go up in Brick Lane and got excited just like myself, I apologise in advance. If you’d really like to go and visit because the concept of a meat buffet enthrals you, I would highly suggest you stop reading now because I have a pretty biased opinion and I want you to be able to form your own.

So, for dinner last night, the four of us siblings decided to visit this new meat buffet place that has popped up on Brick Lane in the last month or so. We were all honestly so excited because a) we all love meat and b) it was a halal place! With high expectations, we all headed in for our 9pm reservation. Once seated, we were introduced to the ‘Nabrasa experience’ which is basically an unlimited bar of assorted hot and cold sides that you help yourself to, order drinks, and then are given a card which is green on one side and red on the other. When you’re ready to be served meat, you flip your card over from red to green and the servers come over to offer you meat – it’s literally a guy carrying a stick of meat and then carving it at your table.

There was supposed to be about 20 varieties that go round in rotation and you just take your pick of the lot but honestly, I lost track after I saw the cinnamon pineapple for the third time. I’ll give it to the staff, the customer service was very good. They took into account the fact that we had certain requirements in terms of cooking style etc. but I wish it was good enough for me to sideline how uncomfortable the whole rare/medium rare cooking style was. If the first meat serving I received wasn’t one that had blood dripping (or like the floor manager liked to call it, meat juice) down it, I probably wouldn’t have felt so queasy the entire time. Obviously, I didn’t want to be rude (which is so silly considering the food was actually being paid for with real money), I tried a few of the more ‘well-cooked’ meats. Personally, they all tasted the same. I feel like there was a lot of meats to choose from, but not a lot of flavours. It was either cooked so well done that it was chewy, or so rare that it was pink inside and honestly, the meat was practically begging for an in-between.

Having paid near £120 between the four of us, I am still so annoyed that our experience was as boring as the decor and the food was as uniform in flavour as the seating and that our poor stomachs had to endure this atrocity. I’m not going to bother telling you any more about this place and just stick in some pictures because I think this review might border on slander if I continue any more.

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Unlimited buffet bar of sides.
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Seriously, it looks like an aortic valve has just been punctured.
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Garlic bread saved the day as usual.
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Whatever this was, the ‘juice’ put us all off.
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Very well done something because I have no idea what it was.
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Chicken sausages that looked fab on the outside but was uncooked on the inside.

So, yeah. Overall, it’s a no from me but if you want to visit and make a judgement call for yourself, here’s the address:

The Basement Coffee Lounge

I can’t even sugarcoat how I discovered this space because the story in itself will make boy you and I wonder why I am like this. So the best friend and I just left the cinema having finished watching Star Wars: Rogue One (if you haven’t I suggest you do because hello, Riz and Diego!!!) and while we convinced each other that neither of us were desperate to use the loo, we got to the bus stop and I was just like “ok, dude, no, I really gotta go” and the first spot we spotted was just this single glass door that said ‘coffee’ on it in bold letters. That was it. One door and the word coffee. (there are no pictures because my bladder was too full to be lollygagging and taking pictures)

So we walk in and down the set of stairs we’re faced with and the entire time I’m praying that a) there is a toilet and b) they actually let me use it. Once at the bottom of the stairs, I have a super awkward conversation with the barista and he’s like “yeah, yeah, sure you can use the loo, it’s the door on the right at the end of the room” and after emptying my system return so the best friend can use it too.

As usual, I start snapping away at this basement because it is absolutely ADORABLE, and I cannot get enough of this place. Once the best friend was also done, we had a casual walk around each corner of the room and really got a feel for the place (there was a piano at the back too!!!). I would just like to point out that not once the entire time we were there did the guy behind the counter ask us to purchase anything – so nice, right?! But, I felt so bad that I’d used the loo and taken a million cute pictures I convinced myself to buy something – so glad I did! Since I was already very well caffeinated for the day, I opted for the hot chocolate to take away (hence the lack of cute pictures of its making). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t actual melted chocolate hot chocolate but more the mix, either way, for £2 it tasted really good and was the size of the medium Costa cup that would have cost me near £3 (I love you Costa but you make me poor so I must end this passionate love affair).

Honestly, the entire concept of having a coffee lounge in a basement is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard of and I can’t wait to hole up in here with my books and while my time away with the gentle music playing in the background.

Check it out and pick up a loyalty card while you’re at it because free food:

Grindhouse Cafe

What used to be a rundown little cinema on Mile End Road has grown to become one of the local community’s largest (and coolest!) hotspots. Having grown up in the East End of London, I have had the honour of watching the transformation of this place take place over the last 21 years.

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From a tattered building to a slick matte black backdrop with neon lighting

Upon entering through the double doors into the foyer, you are greeted by the warm barista and cute box office staff to the right and the cool vintage movie posters on an exposed brick wall to your left (as pictured above). This very nifty looking foyer houses the cafe I’m here to talk to you about today: the Grindhouse Cafe.

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The neon signs on exposed brick is a lot cuter than you’d expect

Using beans roasted at local roastery, Nude Espresso, the coffee offered at Grindhouse is strong in flavour with (very) slight undertones of hazelnut and milk chocolate. With prices ranging from £1.50 to £2.80, the beverages are extremely reasonably priced – especially when compared to some of the other independent coffee spaces on the same stretch of land. Not only do they offer hot and cold drinks, but also pastries, crodoughs, and paninis with prices not stretching over the £4 mark, making it an extremely affordable and student-friendly place.

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Super cute barista whose name I do not know, if you’re reading this, please start blogging again!
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The pop of red on what looks like a basic glass makes all the difference in the world to this latte

With free WiFi offered to all guests and the large seating area including tables and chairs and sofas, the Grindhouse is the perfect space to study, chill before/after a movie, or just spend some time with your friends.

Though not necessarily a part of the Grindhouse Cafe itself, the walkway leading into the viewing screens from the foyer is definitely noteworthy. It is cute, quirky, and boasts nothing but the artistic pride of the East End of London.

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This drop chandelier with its multi-coloured lights make me crave a heightened ceiling in my own home!
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The neon theme continues through the cinema with cute and quaint messages

The Genesis Cinema is an absolutely adorable place and an experience in itself. I hope you all get a chance to visit it – especially Studio 5, it is a movie watching experience that you will never forget.

Here it is on the map for you to visit:

Grounded Coffee Company

Okay, so I have to tell you a thing. This place is one of my favourite places to go to whether it’s just for a quick coffee to go, to study, or even a spot of socialisation. Upon walking in, you’ll almost always be greeted by an arsenal of students tapping away at their MacBooks furiously, small business meetings taking place, or even families enjoying a cute snack/meal with the kids. With seating ranging from booth seating to twin tables to shared bar style seating, there is most definitely space to eat in.

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Cute and eccentric decor with a wall of glass on the right-hand side

For my coffee buffs: Grounded uses the Exmouth Blend from local roasters, Exmouth Coffee Roasters. This expertly ground coffee ranges from being sourced from either Brazil, El Salvador, or Niagara depending on the season. With nutty chocolate undertones, this blend is definitely very naturally sweet and means that you don’t have to stick a million sugar cubes in it to balance the tastes out. There are also a variety of milks available at Grounded so upon request, the milk-based coffees can be adapted for those with specific dietary requirements.

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A soya latte which definitely did not feel like an afterthought to the regular latte

For my breakfast|brunch lovers: THIS IS A HALAL CAFE. LET ME REPEAT THAT. H-A-L-A-L. You can get your classic English breakfast (or the veggie version), huge buttermilk pancakes, omelettes, or be unnecessarily pretentious like me and order eggs royale because salmon, poached eggs, chives and hollandaise sauce on an English muffin, like seriously, it couldn’t be more perfect. (okay those are totally not the only things on the menu, just some of my favourites that I think you guys would like too)

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Eggs Royale with freshly squeezed orange juice and a complementary jug of water

For my dessert|pastry lovers: YOU MUST TRY THE HAZELNUT BANANA BREAD. IT IS THE BEST BANANA BREAD I HAVE EVER HAD. I’m serious. It was just the right level of moist and fluffy with the bite from the hazelnut and the smoothness from the banana. Honestly guys, I would LOVE a slice right now. Oh, and don’t worry. The portions are not small. In fact, they’re the furthest thing from small I have ever seen. Like seriously, when the guy brought it over, my eyes  definitely widened in delight. My love for this one dessert aside, there are a whole load of things to choose from and best thing, you don’t have to worry that it’s all been bulk-bought from Costco or something because Grounded pride themselves on their in-house cooking and baking.

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I mean, the Berry Crumble (right) was good too but the Hazelnut Banana Bread (left) won my heart

Though Grounded is relatively new in comparison to some of their counterparts on the same street, they have become a very well established brand name of sorts popular with a whole array of crowds. From families to students, everybody loves chilling here at Grounded with the cute and friendly staff who always make you feel at home. To visit a home away from home and eat good, wholesome foods, pop by! Let me know what you think of it when you do.

Here’s where you can find them:

The King of Falafel

Today in rainy London you will find many things, these will range from miserable commuters to amazed tourists and umbrella wars to the 107 different ways Londoners have of saying it’s raining. We’re a lovely bunch really, the rain just has us buggered a bit sometimes all the time. More importantly though, I hope you find the one thing me and my best friend just did, The King of Falafel standing in pride of place in the midst of all the hustle and bustle in central London.

We were originally looking to grab a coffee and a light bite to eat before heading to a lecture, so after a saunter around the Brunswick and a failed attempt to get a table at both the Bloomsbury Coffee House and Moreish Cafe Deli (okay we sabotaged ourselves here), we spotted The King of Falafel. This sister store of the 1920s Leather Lane branch opened in the heart of Bloomsbury in 2010 and has been a booming business since. With a menu ranging from the classic falafel to chicken and lamb kebabs, lamb kofta, halloumi, hummous, tabouleh, salads, fresh juices, and obviously a great coffee menu, The King of Falafel really does capture the essence of Middle Eastern food and all the flavours there are to boast. Keeping their customers at the very heart of their business, The King of Falafel is able to cater for a variety of diets, including a halal one, and veganism.

Predominantly built to be a takeaway, there are very few seats inside (exactly 14 to be precise), but as always, if the food and service is good, it is very easy to forget the spacing. Since there was just the two of us, we were able to slide into a small table and eat in – I truly do believe that flavours change dramatically once food leaves a restaurant – and experience the adorableness of the two guys behind the counter. They were both so friendly, warm, and welcoming. It didn’t feel like we were eating out somewhere, it had that kind of ‘cool cousin we love visiting’ vibe.

After much deliberation (more like staring at the menu), we both decided to order from the ‘House Specials’ menu. I went for the Mixed Kebab with rice and salad while she went for the Lamb Kofta with pasta and salad. Honestly, we were expecting very normal sized portions for the small prices we were paying (also from our previous experiences at other places), but what came out was HUGE. Not only were the portions big, but the food also came out super fast and piping hot – not the kind of buzzed in the microwave type of hot, but the freshly cooked type of piping – it was great.

It not only took us forever to eat, but by the end, we were positively stuffed. I was slightly worried that because the portions were so big, the flavours might have been skipped somewhere, but I was very wrong. Both platters of food were bursting with flavour and we couldn’t fault it at all. The guys (I wish I’d asked their names now) were great in checking every few minutes if everything was okay and if we’d enjoyed the food or if we’d needed anything else and it was all just a lovely experience.

I feel like a bit of an idiot for going to a falafel place and not eating any falafel – or any halloumi or hummus since I’ve been having cravings lately – but this means I definitely have to come back for more. Also to demolish this salad bar because LOOK AT IT.

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Entrance salad bar where you can pick your own fillings!

All in all folks, I bloody adored The King of Falafel and will be returning every time I’m in the Bloomsbury whether it’s to sit in and grab a bite or if it’s to grab takeaway and make the rest of the family enjoy this experience with me.

So, if you’re going to visit, let me know what you eat and if I should try it too. Here it is on a map so you can avoid getting lost like I do no matter where I go. Enjoy!

BOB Brick Lane

So, today ended up being eventful. What was supposed to be a day of focusing on university and starting the second semester’s assignments ended up being a day of soul searching and to some extent, spiritual exploration. One of the places I visited today with my mum and her best friend for lunch was the Band of Burgers (BOB).

Having opened about two months ago (November 2016), this place has most definitely reached similar popularity levels of its sister restaurant in cute and quirky Camden. While I’d previously heard raving reviews of Camden’s BOB, I’d never personally been, so this was a new experience for me. Upon walking in, I was immediately taken by the decor (as pictured above). I know it’s very typically ‘burger placey’ in terms of the recent rise in rustic decor, but there was something very homely about this place. From the revamped desk chairs to the faux wood tables and the swinging hammock to the upcycled denim stools, the sheer eccentricity of the place was precisely what married all the elements together into this cosy, homely burger joint.

Obviously decor is all well and good, but sometimes what lets a place down is its seating or more so, its capacity to seat more than 5 people at any one time. BOB however, did not have this problem at all. From single bar style stool seating to large tabled seating for approximately 15-16 people, the varied table sizes make it a place that can accommodate parties, family nights out, and even just a cute date for one.

Of course, I’ve bragged about the decor enough, now it’s probably time to talk about the most important bit, the food. Since I wasn’t really feeling anything heavy, we ordered a mix of sides (which I forgot to take pictures of like an idiot): peri peri wings of love, sweet potato fry o’mine (sweet potato fries), goldfingers with melted cheese (cheesy chips basically), and two cokes. With a total bill of £17.20, 3 of us were absolutely stuffed to the brim. Although we’d ordered only sides expecting to have a light snack as opposed to a whole meal, the portion sizes were so generous that there was even food left over!

The sweet potato fries were most definitely my favourite side of the day with its crispy outer shell and soft centre. The cheesy chips came a close second, but having tried Shake Shack’s cheesy chips beforehand, I couldn’t in all honesty say that they were my favourite thing. The peri peri wings however, I’m still a little torn over. While they were a real hit with my mum and her best friend, I found them a little too strong in flavour with a strong taste of tamarind – or maybe I was just sour that they didn’t order me the BBQ version, haha. Considering the price, the portion sizes were fab and if you want the best bang for your buck, I would most definitely recommend eating here.

On a final note, I would just like to say that the customer service provided during this visit was impeccable. The food was prompt and every single member of staff seemed friendly and approachable – as someone who gets a little awkward around strangers, I felt very oddly at ease here. I’m definitely hoping to go back soon with some friends so I can introduce them to this cute dining experience too! Here is the location of it on the map, let me know what you think of it if you pop by!

The Crepe Shop & Art Cafe

Opened in late 2013/early 2014, The Crepe Shop and Art Cafe is one of the few independent businesses in the local area of Whitechapel/Aldgate that I have always been a very firm supporter of. What it lacks in square size, it makes up for in impeccable customer service and student-friendly prices. I know I shouldn’t technically be admitting this so publicly, but whenever I’ve been skiving or on the run from something, my temporary haven has been this rustic little coffee shop. Its quiet and quaint nature is welcoming and comforting in times of noise and chaos.

For the coffee buffs: The Crepe Shop and Art Cafe uses only the finest blend of Moak’s ‘Special Bar’ coffee which apparently has special floral nuances and notes of vanilla, and a light and pleasant acidity which does wonders for its cocoa aftertaste. As someone who has always been a bit particular about the coffee I drink, I’ve found that this specific blend by Moak is absolutely perfect in terms of really appreciating the flavour of the coffee without needing to drown it in sugar. (I usually take 2 sugars in my tea/coffee, but with this blend, I don’t add in any at all because it tastes pretty perfect without it!) Also, they do some pretty amazing latte art at this place – try asking for a blue latte if you’re feeling a little adventurous (you can thank me later!).

For the Muslims: You’re in luck, kids. Finally a decent place that offers a plethora of both sweet and savoury halal options! Though my personal favourites are the smoked salmon and goat cheese savoury crepes, I have heard raving reviews from friends and family about the meatier/chicken ones. For the non-Muslims who are wondering why I’m getting so excited about a crepe place that serves some halal food and the answer is exactly in the question, A CREPE PLACE THAT SERVES HALAL FOOD – DO YOU KNOW HOW RARE IT IS TO BE ABLE TO FIND CUTE PLACES THAT SERVE HALAL FOOD??? (we gotta step up our game, y’all.) Also, for my guys and gals who feel uncomfortable in social settings, throw your fears out the window because the guys who work here are the right level of friendly – the kind where they’re really nice and you can have banter but at the same time, if you want space, you got it.

For the vegans: As a place that prides itself on appealing to its target audience in the best possible way, there are plenty of replacement options on the menu which allow you to personalise and create a vegan-friendly version of the ever-popular savoury and sweet crepes. Not only this, they also have a range of vegan milks, meaning that you won’t have to miss out on this amazing coffee blend! Though there is still a little work to be done in creating a fully functional menu that appeals to the vegan crowd, it’s definitely a work in progress and worth trying.

For the art buffs: Since this is an art cafe that boasts creativity and independence, you will most definitely be able to check out some beautiful work by predominantly self-taught artists. With a whole basement dedicated to being an exhibition space, this art cafe boasts flair and creativity. But most of all, friendliness. The staff are more than happy to help you in building an audience for your work and display it in this space for everyone to marvel at. At the moment, the entirety of this space is an exhibitive space for an up and coming self-taught artist who goes by the name of Musa Artistry – check out his instagram for more details on his work and exhibitions!

All in all, I bloody love this place. It is cute, quaint, but most of all, a friendly space. They offer free WiFi and discounted prices for students and NHS staff. During occasional weeks during the year, they also host charity events wherein profits go towards specific charities – like we needed another reason to love them!

If you’re ever in Whitechapel, I would definitely recommend visiting. It is located minutes from both Whitechapel and Aldgate East station and honestly, it’s an experience that will keep you coming back for more.