21 June 2021

A Marriage of Japanese and Italian Cuisine at Angelina, Dalston

While cycling through Fulham recently, I overheard a woman describing a restaurant as "a combination of my two favourite cuisines, Italian and Japanese." I knew exactly where she was talking about because I was going to the same place, Angelina in Dalston, a few days later for a belated birthday dinner with my brother.

I too love Italian food and Japanese food, but I wouldn't necessarily have thought to combine the two in a ten-course kaiseki tasting menu. But the chefs at Angelina have created a menu that surprises and delights, bringing out the best in both cuisines. And sitting at the counter, watching the chefs at work, was definitely the best place to enjoy it.

We started with a cocktail — a pink one, as usual, in my case, featuring gin, beetroot and chilli, among other things, and a cheese-centric one for my brother. Later, I tried the fruity and aromatic Riso e Rosmarino, while my brother switched to the paired wine menu. 

Before long, the first dishes arrived: brioche with tuna nduja, ricotta and furikake (a dried-fish seasoning), focaccia, and deep-fried artichoke (all pictured in the top photo), and chawanmushi (a silky smooth steamed egg custard) with sausage and salmon roe. These were all delicious, but the former was one of the best things I've eaten all year, the spiciness and saltiness of the tuna contrasting perfectly with the sweetness of the brioche.

Next up were the 'raw' dishes, featuring sea bream sashimi with wakame (kelp) and the perfect soy sauce; brown shrimp with sesame and hazelnut; impeccable tuna tataki with capers; and sea trout with pistachios and blood orange in a creamy green sauce. We also upgraded to get a Cornish oyster each, which came with yuzu granita.

We also took the optional upgrade in the 'fried' section, and the chicken karaage with wasabi mascarpone and caviar was a real treat. We had enjoyed watching the chefs preparing the pea and wasabi tempura, and enjoyed eating it just as much. Tongue wasn't something I'd have ordered outside of a tasting menu but served fried in spiced panko breadcrumbs, it was really good.

Much as I had loved all of the dishes on our menu, looking on at the large bowls of buttery rigatoni being created for diners on the four-course menu made me feel a little envious. There was only one pasta dish on the ten-course menu — a solo raviolo — but it was worth the wait. The raviolo had an egg yolk at its heart and was served with asparagus, seaweed and a whole lot of butter. It was soon followed by the excellent 'main' course: pork belly and a scallop.

I was starting to get full at this point, but still had room for the cheese course (a bite of melted piadina cheese with yuzu tofu) and the pudding, panna cotta with shiso (a herb in the mint family) and mandarin. It even came with a candle in honour of my birthday, which was more than six months ago, but the various lockdowns meant I was able to stretch out the celebrations.

Whenever I travel, I like to go on a culinary journey as well as a literal journey, and I've missed that over the past year and a quarter. But a tasting menu experience, like that at Angelina, is the next best thing. It always rains on my birthday — even when I celebrate in June, it seems — but I was transported out of the unseasonably wet Dalston night. The dishes were well thought out and beautifully executed and presented, and the chefs and wait staff all provided excellent service. I might also have to return soon to try the brunch menu.

Angelina. 56 Dalston Lane, London, E8 3AH (Dalston Junction Overground). Website. Instagram.

17 June 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Lantern Coffee

While working from home during the past year and a bit, I have sought solace in my lunch-break strolls around Bermondsey and Borough, often stopping for food or coffee. Bermondsey has an abundance of specialty coffee shops (I have an updated neighbourhood guide in the works; there's always my south-east London guide in the meantime), and two roasters — Monmouth and Watch House — are based here (Pact too, although you can't normally visit). One of my regular lunchtime haunts was Black Swan Yard, but upsettingly, it was recently shut down by the landlord with almost no notice. I hope they'll be back but in the meantime, I found myself on Mill Street, down by the Thames, where I happened upon Lantern Coffee.

14 June 2021

Lockdown Lit: Five Books for Your 2021 Summer Reading List

 1. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris*

I was looking forward to reading Zakiya Dalila Harris's debut novel for many weeks, and I raced through it in a couple of evenings. In the novel, Nella is a 26-year-old editorial assistant working at a New York publishing house. She works hard, gets on well with her editor and hopes she is on track for a promotion in the not-too-distant future. She is also the only Black employee...until Hazel starts as a new editorial assistant. At first, Nella is pleased; she feels that some of her efforts to encourage the company to take diversity, equity and inclusion more seriously are finally paying off. But when Hazel makes in-roads with the editor Nella works for, and then their CEO, Nella begins to wonder if she should in fact feel threatened by her fellow editorial assistant. 

8 June 2021

Five Speciality Coffee Shops To Try in Canterbury and Whitstable

I wrote last week about my recent long weekend trip to Canterbury, with several side trips to the Kent coast. I brought my Aeropress with me, as I wasn't sure how much the bank holiday and COVID would combine to affect coffee shop opening hours, but I found several great coffee spots in Canterbury and Whitstable, all but one of which roast their own coffee. Read on to find out more and for a handy map.


3 June 2021

A Long Weekend in Canterbury and the Kent Coast

Almost six months after my last mini-break, in Bath, I was craving R and R, and the call of the sea was particularly strong. This latter urge was not unique to me and a quick search for lodgings in a host of English seaside towns for the bank holiday weekend yielded very few options. But I was determined to get out of London for a few days, especially given the promising weather forecast, and I managed to book one of the last hotel rooms left in Canterbury, just seven miles from the Kent coast. With Canterbury as my base, I was able to explore the cathedral city and visit three seaside towns. Not bad going for a long weekend.

11 May 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: White Mulberries, London Bridge

The window seats at the original White Mulberries cafe may have one of the best views of all the coffee shops in London, especially when the yachts in the St Katharine Docks marina glint in the sunshine. London's speciality coffee scene has changed a lot since my 2014 write-up, but the coffee, all-day breakfast and sweet treats at White Mulberries are still great. White Mulberries' second location, in Hay's Galleria in London Bridge, is even closer to my Bermondsey home.

5 May 2021

The Caffeine Chronicles: Craving, Tottenham

Back in the summer of 2018, which now feels like a lifetime ago, I took the Tube up to Tottenham Hale for the launch party for Daniel's 'Succulent Lover' art exhibition at a coffee shop then called Craving Coffee. It was a great night for art, tacos and cocktails, but I arrived too late for coffee, and have been meaning to go back ever since. I finally made it last weekend, although it's now called Craving, and has recently moved across the road in the industrial estate where it's located.