Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Katsu. Katsu. Katsu.

What did I ever do without you?

I must confess that having not been to Japan, I wasn't aware of it until Wagamama came along, and rather ignorantly, associated the two as synonymous. How wrong I was!

My good friend who is a phile of all things Japanese told me that it's a hugely popular dish over there - often with chicken but just as often with pork (tonkatsu). Always panko-breaded and fried, not always served with curry sauce or even rice. Curious indeed!

As an Englishman (or pig) I admire it for being both breaded, and curried. Tick tick! But as a boozer, I thoroughly enjoy its rather unique status as a meal to nicely line the stomach - not as heavy as Indian which can debilitate, and not as starchy or gloopy as Chinese, which (more temporarily) can also stop you in your tracks. It manages to provide the curry goodness, but also seems wholesome enough to bounce out of there, and onwards into the night. Or the Wagamama portions do anyway...

katsu with some sort of omelette
Misato's portions are a different story altogether. This is an unassuming joint on Wardour Street, but intriguingly with queues out the door most time I've been past. The clientele are a mix of hipsters and Japanese kids (and plenty of both combined) and the premise is a fast service canteen of sorts. It's cheap and rather cheerful. A veritable trough!

They serve sushi and a few other tidbits here, but really people are here for the behemoth katsu and teriyaki plates. We have some delicious, piping hot fresh tori kara-age (about £4), which are also breaded, fried and chicken. Probably a bit too similar to katsu for my starter but there you go! We wash it down with warm sake, around £3 a serving, in nifty individual porcelain jugs. Beers are dirt cheap too.

The katsu plates come out and they're true to form. Enormous. Fresh. Hot. The right side of claggy and incredibly satisfying. There are many varieties - with rice or noodles, or in noodle soup, chicken, pork, fish.... but they're much of a muchness with that quantity of curry sauce. There are teriyaki dishes equally drenched in sweetness... all around £5. A steal. The final bill was about £13 a head, and we were well lubricated and stuffed to burst.
teriyaki something
However, you might not be fighting fit for a night out after finishing one of these bad boys. With no chance of dessert (and a bit of over-indulgence for one of my dining pals) we roll out of the door into the mayhem of the West End. Sometimes I get the occasional craving for a katsu which nothing but Waga's can fix - now I know better, but certainly won't be anticipating many beers afterwards...

Food – 8/10
Drink – 8/10
Service – 6/10 (busy so some service waits, food very quick though)
Value – 9/10
Tap water tales – 3/10 (requested, lukewarm plastic cups)
Staff Hotness – 7/10 (groovy, fun Japanese kids - in my own little world, I 'd prefer them zanier!)

Misato on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 May 2011

Nordic Bakery (Marylebone)

Relatively hot off the press, and located right behind the heart of Marylebone High Street, is the second branch of Scandi coffee and cafe offering Nordic Bakery.

Marylebone is one of London's more interesting quarters, and has several good eateries and a few decent pubs, but for me has never had that many enticing coffee places. The Providores knock out a decent flattie, but you wouldn't pop in just for a coffee, and it's not that comfortable or relaxing to hang out in. I love the brunch, and the buzz is part of that, but it's a bit too cramped and once fed, I'm always happy to be on my way.

Quite surprisingly, Nordic Bakery feels extremely spacious, and less surprisngly, it's a very well designed space. The tables are huge, long communal ones with matching teak-y wooden benches - more dinner hall than cutesey 'pass the shared oversized jar of marmalade' nonsense. Moody grey floors and walls mix with wooden wall panels, red tiles and huge windows to create quite a towering effect.

We only stopped for coffee (standard filter, decent) and a quick snack. I had a slice of orange and poppy seed cake, and Piglet had some sort of eggy baked pancake with jam- both of a good standard too. My cake was a touch dry perhaps. Good crockery too, which is to be expected from a Scandi place in London.

I'd return with more of an appetite to try some of the dark rye smorrebrod open sarnies or the impressive pile of gleaming cinnamon rolls at the counter. Service was Scandi too; politely aloof and no worse for it. I liked it here, it's definitely the most chilled spot to refuel and rest the bones away from the madding Marylebone crowds.

Food – 6/10
Drink – 7/10
Service – 6/10
Value – 9/10 (can't remember exact prices, but coffee and cakes were around £2 each)
Tap water tales – N/A, not really expected for such a casual place 
Staff Hotness – 7/10 (bona fide brooding Scandinavians)

Nordic Bakery Marylebone
37b New Cavendish Street, W1

Nordic Bakery on Urbanspoon - Golden Square branch (new one not yet on Urbanspoon)