Cha Cha Moon

I've been struggling with whether or not I should include Cha Cha Moon on the blog - mainly because the places I do put on here are places I want to recommend going to rather than to avoid.

Don't get me wrong, the food at Cha Cha Moon is fine, but in general the good points don't seem to outweigh the bad enough. I'm on the fence with this one, and here's why:

Good Points:

  • From outside to the interior, the decor looks as though you've stepped into a high-end fine dining restaurant, but luckily you've entered a place which doesn't cost the earth.
  • Alan Yau - the man behind Wagamama - opened this Chinese noodle bar alternative in 2008, and to many people's surprise with an astonishingly cheap menu. On average £3.50 per dish, result!

  • The produce they cook with is good quality, especially the poultry and prawns. My chilli prawn lao mian had some of the juiciest king prawns I've eaten in ages.

Bad Points:

  • The prices haven't stayed that low and the dishes average to about £7. This isn't extortionate but then the quality of the food hasn't gone up with the prices. So rather than a cheap eat which leaves you well fed and feeling smug for saving pennies, you get an average meal for an average price.

  • For a noodle bar, the quality of them aren't particularly appetizing. The noddles are served in big clumps which are difficult to separate and eat...

  • Unless you're going for lunch, expect to wait in a long, snail's pace queue tailing outside the restaurant.

So, three good points, three bad...and I'm still on the fence.

Maybe if you've been (either to the Soho or Queesway branch), you can help me out and decide for me as to whether Cha Cha Moon is remarkable enough.


Giraffe: Marylebone

Love Eat Live
This is Giraffe's tagline, which is sprawled on the walls in the restaurant and on their website to hammer home that the idea of eating out is to enjoy your meal experience rather than rush through the standard arrive -> order -> eat -> pay -> leave. It's been a while since I've been somewhere where the waiters/waitresses quite happily chat and interact with you, (I don't mean in a tacky TGI Fridays sort of way), and make you feel welcome.

I booked a table at the Marylebone branch for my Dad's birthday. Now, when the family all head out for a meal (usually 7 of us) there's been many an occasion where the timing's not gone right and the food doesn't arrive at the same time, or someone's has gone slightly cold because it's been left to sit too long. But rather pleasingly, Giraffe got it right and for each course the food arrived altogether and in tact. It was also refreshing to not feel rushed while we were there, though we also didn't have to wait too long for our food to be served. This could be because we'd booked at a less busy time of 5:30pm - little tip for you there, you can have that for free!

Munchings and Crunchings
So what did we eat then? There was a good balance of food for meat lovers and the veggie crew on the menu and the combination of different cuisine means you can cater for ooh, say 7 people with different tastes. You can choose from Greek to Thai to Mexican to American, as well as separate breakfast and brunch menus.

To start I shared the Mezze with warm naan, which was a nice twist on the usual accompanying bread being pitta. I think it's meant for one person, but it was plenty to share between two if you're planning on a 3 course meal.

Next up I had one of the monthly specials - the Black Jack Quesadilla, with black bean chilli, red onions, cheddar & montery jack cheese and mushrooms, served with salsa, sour cream, raw slaw and a sort of balsamic/pesto dressing. It was warm, melty, crispy, tangy goodness and was split into about 6 slices and certainly filled a whole for a modest £6.95!

We obviously didn't all order the same thing, so here's a few photos of what the others ate.

Japanese King Prawns

Chicken Tikka Skewers

Farmer's Market Vegetable Burrito

"The Big Greek" Lamb Burger

Grilled Half Chicken Portuguese Style

BBQ Ribs with Chips

Special: Jungle Fish Curry

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the dessert! Most of the selection is quite chocolate based. Not a problem for me of course, but if you're not a fan (pff) I guess your main option is the crumble with apple and passionfruit, or sorbets.

But if you're not shy of a chocolatey end to your meal you're spoilt for choice. I passed on the brownie and the milk bubble chocolate cheesecake and went for the Belgian waffle with roasted banana, chocolate and butterscotch sauce.

The waffle was what it should be - big, filling and scrummy but I have to say I instantly got food envy over the milk bubble chocolate cheesecake. A much lighter and still devilishly chocolatey way to round off a good dinner. It actually had Aero Bubbles in it!

The tea and coffee menu was also quite exciting with Teapigs infusions or normal tea which come in a cute cast-iron teapot.

The latte's have different flavoured syrups, like hazlenut, vanilla or mint choc, if you're that way inclined. Or if you don't like your coffee meddled with, they do a good flat white.

Oh and...
One other thing which ticked a box for me was that it's clearly a restaurant which appeals to a variety of clientèle. You've got the friends who want a good catch up over a good value bite to eat; with the range of food styles to choose from it'd be a good place to take someone on an afternoon date; and families. We were a bit jealous that we didn't get the crayons and picture mats to colour in, but in the end my Dad got to leave with a balloon!


Nutberry's Clusters

Just a quick post to confess that I'm slightly addicted to these snackable bitesize goodies!

The yoghurt muesli clusters to be precise - there are other varieties but these are my vice.

You can get them in Tesco and Asda, with around a dozen clusters in the pack, and the good thing about them is that they're quite filling so you don't scoff them all at once. (I didn't scoff this whole pack...I promise!)

I'm very tempted to make my own at some point, so I'll let you know when I do.


The Breakfast Club - Angel

Brunch. Good weather. Sunday...all three in their own right are pleasant. But together they're a pleasure!

I went for a spot of brunch with a friend (on their recommendation) at the branch of The Breakfast Club in Angel. The chain of little yellow cafes serving breakfast, brunch, light snacks, milkshakes and cocktails are worth a visit if you like the following:
  • bizarre decorative interiors (think posters of 80s pop stars, furniture that doesn't match, massive cardboard cut-out of Elvis etc)
  • friendly staff who wear false eyelashes, just cos they feel like it
  • well made breakfasts, brunch and light snacks

Although the service was a bit slow - it was a Sunday at midday, their busiest time - the staff were helpful and infectiously happy. This may have been helped by the good weather, but I shan't complain.

I ordered the Eggs Florentine (£6.80) and a pot of Earl Grey tea, which was a treat! The salad garnish that accompanied it had a tangy dressing and the Hollandaise sauce was one of the nicest I've tasted. Not too strong to overpower the subtle flavours of the poached eggs and spinach. Yummy!

My friend Clara ordered the Scrambled Egg with Smoked Salmon on toast. This looked like a decent portion for £6.20 and well cooked. I'm not a fan of gooey scrambled eggs.

The only thing I regret was the food envy that kicked in when someone on the table next to us ordered a banana milkshake and the pancakes with fresh strawberries and blueberries. AND came with a separate pot of maple syrup to add however much you want! Why did I not order these?

This can only mean one thing...to go back and sample said pancakes and milkshakes. (There's a Cadbury's Caramel one!) Considering it was quite cramped inside, when I do go again I think it'll be to the branch in Old Street which is more spacious.

NB: You can check TheBrekkyClub on Twitter too.


Pork Meatballs

Simple pork meatballs with rice...here's the recipe if it takes your fancy:

3 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 spring onions, chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
handful of coriander, chopped
500g pork mince
50g pancetta cubes (or chopped bacon)
1/2 cube of chicken stock in 200ml boiled water

How to make:
Mix together the spring onions, chili, coriander and garlic. Then add to the minced pork and pancetta. Mix together well with a fork, and season with salt and pepper. Then pop some cling film over the bowl and leave in the fridge for 30minutes.

Make little patties (about 12) and slightly flatten. Sprinkle a little flour over the patties as this will give them a little extra cripsness to the outside. Heat a drizzle of ground nut oil or butter in a frying pan on a high heat. Add the patties and sear each side of them in the pan until golden. Turn down to a low heat and cook for a further 5-8 minutes. Add small amounts of the stock a couple of minutes at a time until it absorbs into the meatballs and becomes slightly sticky.

Serve with rice, and you're done!

Emni - Upper Street

Angel is a great spot for places to eat out, mainly for somewhere to fill your stomach from a range of cuisine at a decent price. Examples? Well, if you're after Indonesian/Vietnamese there's Bannana Tree Canteen on St John's Street, (the 5-spice chicken and chicken in sweet and sour lime sauce dishes are particularly yummy); or you could venture along Upper Street to stumble across independent restaurants like the quaint Le Mercury with their classic French menu.

But in between these two venues is where we make our stop, at Emni for a modern Indian delectable dinner.

I went for the Pasliyen Chops to start and Chicken Chattinad for the main. The lamb chops were incredibly tender and packed a punch from being marinated in ginger and star annis. They left my mouth tingling (in a good way) until my main arrived.

The Chicken Chattinad was milder but still full of flavour with cumin seeds, tamarind and cinnamon. The accompaniments like the lemon rice and Peshwari Naan were enough to share between two people and surprisingly not too heavy.

Other dishes my friends ordered were also tasty and equally good to look at!

King Prawn Cutlet

Malai Scallop

Doora Kebab

Tandoori Duck

This was a particularly pleasing visit as Emni participates in the Taste London offer of 50% off the final bill (of up to 4 people).

There were a few bad points, however, which I'd like to get out of the way.
  • I didn't like the knives I'm afraid. A good knife should be balanced when holding it and these ones are bottom heavy with a bizarre twisty bit where you're meant to put your index finger. No need to favour design over practicality when it comes to cutlery!
  • One of the main course dishes came late and was cold when it arrived.
  • The waiter added a service charge for the original price of the bill rather than the discounted bill with the Taste London offer - so look out for that!
Despite these slightly irritating points, it was a lovely meal and one of the best Indian restaurants in the Islington area for quality and for value.