Dinner at Xu

Considering my obsession with all things food, you won’t be surprised to hear that recently, I fell down a bit of an Ugly Delicious rabbit hole.

Recently launched on Netflix, the series is all about the interactions between food and culture, and it truly is fascinating. Each episode is better than the next, and it’s probably the best programme about food I’ve watched since Masterchef Australia (back end of April, I’m so excited)!

One particularly interesting episode is the one where David Chang and friends look into the stereotypes around Asian cuisine, often considered unrefined and ‘cheap’ by Westerners.

And though some of the assumptions are offensive on both sides of the board, the premise still rings true, and that despite the fact that China, India and the like actually are masters at matching complex flavours and textures.

Proof (if there ever needed one) can be found at Xu, the latest venture from the incredible successful Bao London team.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + WhiskyDinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Set out in wood-panelled rooms inspired by 1930s Taipei tea rooms, Xu brings the refined flavours of Taiwan to the heart of London.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

The menu isn’t especially long but is of the intriguing variety through and through.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

From the Xiao Tsui section, we started with the Beef pancakes.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + WhiskyDinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Melt-in-the-mouth shortrib, bone marrow, pickles, spring onion and potato crumbs to be wrapped up in a pancake and devoured.

A DIY, deeply umami affair and a very good one at that.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Xian Bing – pipping hot pan-fried aged pork pancakes served with vinegar & chilli oil.

Very porky, with a touch of ginger, the filling reminded me of my favourite pork dumpling recipe, but wrapped up in the crispest, most delicately folded pastry.

A little dangerous to eat but well worth taking the risk!

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

But the incontested winner of the small plates section were those little Sweet potato & miso taro dumpling beauties.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Served in the most vibrant kow choi chilli dressing, there are a masterpiece of balance and depth of flavour.

So sort of dish you want to order doubles of so you don’t have to share!

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

The other highlight of our dinner at Xu was the signature Shou Pa chicken dish.

A beautiful plate of marinated chicken with drippings, ginger and spring onion with white pepper and chicken skin topping, it’s the epitome of roast chicken dishes.

The perfectly cooked meat and the sticky jus took me back to Sunday lunch with my parents, but with added layers of flavours thanks to the Asian aromatics.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

Delicious in its own right, but even better atop some lardo fried rice.

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

The Mapo tofu was nice and spicy, but paled in comparison.

(It might also have been a classic case of over-ordering, as we enjoyed it much more re-heated the next day…)

Dinner at Xu, London / Taiwanese restaurant review / Cake + Whisky

We finished things off with almond ice cream and black sesame sauce – a combination both delicate and funky!

And the ultimate proof that Far East cuisine is far more complex and elegant that it’s usually given credit for.

It might not be the ultimate ‘grammable restaurant, but it’s a good one when it comes to substance over style. There are no flower walls, but some truly spectacular dishes to be found and I urge try their chicken ASAP. It’s a game changer.

Ugly? Possibly. Delicious? Absolutely!

Xu, 30 Rupert St, London W1D 6DL

(Xu accepts bookings (miracle!) and when we visited (post-theatre on a weekday) there were plenty of tables available for walk-ins)

Other great restaurants near Xu:

The Palomar

Hot Pot Chinatown

Jen Café

Dinner at Xu

Madame D

My boyfriend has been wishing for Indo-Chinese food to make its way to London for as long as I’ve known him.

And, I don’t know if he finally found the magic lamp or something, but it looks like his wish has finally come true.

Madame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + Whisky

Hidden away behind the Old Spitafields market, you’ll find Gunpowder‘s new baby sister – Madame D – serving up a modern interpretation of the food prepared by Chinese-Tibetan immigrants in India.

To be honest, Madame D is a bit of a hipster child wonder.

Brick, plants, candles, creative cocktails, short but sweet menu of small plates designed to share, it has it all.

And it’s all very, very good indeed!

Madame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + WhiskyMadame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + Whisky

Starting with the naga chilli beef puffs.

Crispy on the outside & steamy on the inside, delightful spiced and utterly addictive beef morsels.

So addictive I easily could have eaten a buffet-sized plate of those all by myself. Sadly, that wasn’t on the menu.

Madame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + Whisky

Hakka chilli paneer – an irresistible take on the BF’s usual order at his favourite Delhi restaurant.

Madame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + Whisky

Sweet, sour, spicy and all in all spectacular, we fought over the last pieces and vowed to order it again on our next visit.

Madame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + Whisky

Ginger-scented stuffed aubergine with mushrooms.

Thanksfully not as spicy as the deep-red sauce would have you believe, but every inch as delicious!

Madame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + Whisky

Light and fragrant Kathmandu curry with bamboo shoots and sweet potato served over mountains of steamed rice.

Madame D • London Restaurant Review • Cake + Whisky

Himalayan fried chicken, served Chinese-style with sliced spring onion, chilli and vinegar dipping sauce.

Much like the rest of the food at Madame D – absolutely faultless and just ridiculously tasty – all paired with super cosy atmosphere (the flip side of that one smallish-room, no reservation situation) and swift yet attentive service.

Unsurprisingly, getting a table is already near-impossible. But when the food’s that good, you’ll forget about the inconvenience the second the food hits the table and start making plans to go back to before you’ve even left.

Madame D, 76 Commercial Street, E1 6LY

Madame D

Spicy Pork Dumplings

I’ve been on a dumplings roll lately.

Har gau, siu mai, gyoza and then sum… I just can’t get enough!

Spicy Pork Dumplings • Recipe • Cake + Whisky

So just 2 days after gorging myself with some of London’s best at the Chinese Food Festival, I found myself roaming the aisles of See Woo in Chinatown for some dumpling wrappers…

… and the rest, as they say, is dim-story!

Spicy Pork Dumplings • Recipe • Cake + Whisky

More seriously though, homemade dumplings are easier to make than you think (I should have listened to my friend Vivian on that point! and so much healthier than their take-away counterparts!

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Spicy Pork Dumplings • Recipe • Cake + Whisky

Carby, meaty, fragrant, sweet, salty and spicy all at once – these spicy pork dumplings are the ultimate comfort food and then sum!

More recipes

Miso ramen with prawns and scallops

Satay chicken salad (GF)

Spicy Xi’an style noodles (VG)

Spicy Pork Dumplings

Satay Chicken Salad (GF)

My obsession with everything peanut isn’t anything new.

To be honest, it sort of runs in the family. My parents are the kind of people buying roasted peanuts by the kilo and eating handfuls of the stuff as a snack.

Satay Chicken Salad • Recipe • Cake + Whisky

Though I’m not that into roasted peanuts, one thing I definitely am VERY into is Satay chicken.

Satay Chicken Salad • Recipe • Cake + Whisky

There rarely is a week without some sort of Satay-ish chicken concoction in my house.

In winter, it’s usually some variation on Rosie’s skinny Satay recipe, atop vegetable stir-fry or with some actual noodles added in if I’m especially peckish.

But in summer, I’m all about this Satay chicken salad.

Satay Chicken Salad • Recipe • Cake + Whisky

High in protein, big on flavour, super fresh and just SO DAMN SATISFYING, it’s an absolute winner of a chicken dinner!

Or lunch, because once you try it, you won’t be able to satay away!

Satay Chicken Salad • Recipe • Cake + Whisky

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More super-satisfying salad recipes

Vegan Buddha bowl with Green Tahini (Vegan, GF)

Spring Potato Salad (Vegan, GF)

Kale & Rice Salad with Avocado & Salmon (GF)

Satay Chicken Salad (GF)

Kiln, Soho

With so many new restaurants popping up in London every month week, coming across something that’s not already been de- and re-constructed 25 times over is a rare thing.

And yet it’s just what super-popular, Thai-inspired Kiln does.

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

With a succession of 5* reviews under their belt, as well original Thai-inspired small plates cooked with first-class British ingredients and very keen pricing to top it all, scoring one of the few bar stools overlooking the open kitchen is no easy thing.

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Which is why when you finally do, you better make the most of it and order up a storm!

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Starting with a couple of drinks…

A green peppercorn daiquiri for him…

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

And a tall glass of super-refreshing lemongrass iced tea for me!

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Aged lamb & cumin skewers.

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Crispy, intense, fatty in the best sort of way.

Was I not so curious and set on trying as many dishes as could possible handle, I could happily have eaten a plateful of those and left a very happy customer!

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Smoked sausage with turmeric.

Spicy, complex and not unlike top-quality BBQ-ed merguez sausages…

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyKiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Beautifully plump, sweet langoustines, kaffir lime and sweet mint.

Summer supper perfection.

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Clay pot baked glass noodles with five spice ducks and offal with aged soy.

Warming, comforting and interesting all at once!

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

Last but not least – Wild ginger and short rib curry from Burma.

A beautiful, delicate curry, with melt-in-the-mouth beef rib slices, lifted by the fresh flavour of anise-sweet Thai basil.

Kiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + WhiskyKiln, Soho ● Restaurant review ● Cake + Whisky

With stir fried Cornish greens & soybrown and brown jasmine rice on the side, because wasting any of that curry sauce would be a crime.

Much like not serving dessert is usually one in my book. But with Crosstown and Gelupo nearby and open ’til late(ish), I suppose in Kiln’s case, it’s not that much of a big deal!

Soooo, get there early and get queuing!

(or if you can get a few people together, they also take bookings for 6+ people… #just saying)

Kiln Soho58 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 9TL

Kiln, Soho

Tang London Noodle Bar

It looks like my optimistic salad phase will be on hold for a little while.

For which I blame the freezing-cold wind and my recent discovery of Tang London in equal measure.

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Located minutes away from Tottenham Court Road’s hustle and bustle, Tang London is the very definition of a hidden gem.

And not only because it is indeed rather tricky to find (it’s just before the massive, flashy VQ terrace, in case you get lost).

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

It has a cozy room, dotted with small tables and many a perching stool.

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

A passionate team of chefs.

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

And a short menu filled with dishes of the inventive, hearty, Asian-inspired kind that are perfect for those weeks days when the weather goes from nice and sunny to pouring rain in the blink of an eye!

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Signature, super-crispy fried chicken served with a side of fiery hot sauce for dipping.

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant ReviewTang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Black & White aka. crispy home-made black soy bean tofu served with the most addictive white miso sauce.

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant ReviewTang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Double dipping absolutely compulsory!

The noodle soup (‘tang’) selection is rather un-traditional but excellent all the same.

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Chicken Tang – an excellent option if you’re feeling a bit under the weather (do swap the flat rice noodles for glass noodles though, as the former aren’t quite as good as we’d hoped)

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Spicy Prawn Tang – fiery hot and a brilliant way to warm one’s cockles up!

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant ReviewTang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Dig in & slurp to your heart’s content!

And if you can manage it, definitely get a few of the steamed buns on the side (we couldn’t quite, but the beef one looks amazing!).

Tang London Noodle Bar / Restaurant Review

Either way, make sure you finish with a scoop of Tang London’s signature sugarcane & shiso sorbet.

You might love it, you might hate it, but udon know until you try it!

Tang London, 111 Great Russell St (just before VQ), Fitzrovia, London WC1B 3NP
Tang London Noodle Bar

Asian Small Plates at Tootoomoo

It’s only been about a month since my last holiday.

Until last Monday, all was going well. Then the travel bug struck again and before I knew it I was browsing Pinterest and day-dreaming of road trips across Asia.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen any time soon, so instead of plane-hoping, I went for the ‘travel with your taste buds’ alternative.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

Serving an ‘Asian tapas’ menu inspired by the street market flavours of Japan, China and Southeast Asia, Tootoomoo brings the tastes and atmosphere of an Asian shophouse to London, and was therefore the perfect destination to satiate my hunger (both literally and figuratively).

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

The restaurant itself feels like something you could discover on holiday.

Colourful furniture, filament lightbulbs, cracked-paint effect, low lighting… it has that charming beach-shack-at-sunset vibe that’ll make cocktails an absolute necessity.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

Of course we obliged with a couple of Cinderella mocktails (because, well, Monday).

Absolutely no regret whatsoever though, as the combination of orange, pinneaple, cranberry, grenadine & soda water was absolutely spot on!

Quickly followed by a smorgasboard of small plates crafted to invoke a tour of the best of Asia.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

We started our journey in China with a steaming bowl of Wanton Soup.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

Our culinary journey then took use to Japan for a plateful of plump & crispy Chicken Gyoza with black rice vinaigrette.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

Followed by the most succulent Tiger Prawn Tempura. Sprinkled with nori dust & served with fiery spicy mayo on the side, it was a refreshing twist on the classic and a really good one indeed!

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

We liked it so much we decided to stay around for a little longer… Just enough time for a taste of the sashimi-inspired Salmon salad with yuzu vinaigrette & Kizami wasabi!

Then, back to China for a modern take on the traditional aromatic duck.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

Tootoomoo does serve the original, complete with hoisin sauce and pancakes, but we went for the salad version instead. Served with watermelon, cashew & hoisin.

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

It was definitely quite different from the original, but really ducking good!

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

Last stop: Thailand for Pad Thai (of course).

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

If you didn’t see that one coming, you udon know me very well! #PastaLover

Pan Asian tapas at Tootoomoo | Cake + Whisky

There’s much more on the menu to discover, including sushi, Thai curries, noodles, Rendang… So book a table here and go on your own little foodie adventure!

And no matter what you’ll choose, I think you’ll agree: Tootoomoo is tootoogood!

Tootoomoo Islington, 278 St Paul’s Rd, Islington N1 2LH

*I dined at Tootoomoo as a guest, but all opinions, pictures and wanderlust my own.

Asian Small Plates at Tootoomoo