Month: December 2011

Crazy Homies – Notting Hill

Crazy Homies is crazy, no doubt about it. Whatever you think about the name and/or the decor though, I can’t fault the cuisine. The place is routinely lauded as some of the city’s best Mexican, and for this American food blogger abroad, I’d have to agree. In fact, the only  negative part about my experience was realising that I lived about 15 minute walk away from the place for 3 years, and it took me having an American visitor/new UK transplant who was desperately missing black beans, to finally go.

I had told my compatriot the harsh truth –  that Mexican food in London is largely hit and miss. A sea of takeaway street food lunch burritos (of which there are some gems), Wahaca, a smattering of unremarkable chain restaurants and the obligatory lone nacho starter that so many dreary pubs and bars tend to have on the menu. Not the best state of affairs.

Luckily for us, Crazy Homies breaks the mould. It’s a fresh, and authentic approach that includes all the staple goods like the oh-so-tender slow cooked Pork Picadillo Taquitos (£6.95) and appropriately goopy Spiced Chicken Nachos (£7.95)  we shared as starters.

For mains, I wanted nothing more than the Beef Carnitas Enchiladas (£11.75), which – if I’m honest – was a rip off for the size of it, but was still very tasty – the black beans especially. (Side note: WHY aren’t black beans more popular here? They’re so lovely and versatile!)

The burritos on the table got similar reviews, though I can’t confess to having had a taste. This was the part of the meal where the only sounds you could hear at the table were those of belt buckles expanding.

It was a fantastic evening with fantastic food and fantastic friends. I feel slightly guilty for complaining about the fantastic price tag, considering (it ended up being about £40/head with nibbles, wine and beer), but if you go, you can certainly dine for less.

Crazy Homies on Urbanspoon

Banana Tree – Soho

At first I thought Banana Tree was an Alan Yau restaurant. It had to be. The style of the menu, the atmosphere, the overfilled dining room so loud you can barely hear your boyfriend even on a Tuesday night at 8:45pm. It had to be. But nope, despite all the similarities, Banana Tree is a chain of Malaysian/Thai/Vietnamese-style canteen style restaurants headed by chef William Chow (which coincidentally rhymes with Yau. Scary…)

I had a £60 voucher to spend given to me by their in-house team – and trust me, £60 will get you VERY far in this restaurant. Three starters, two mains, rice and a bottle of wine to be exact.

Despite a couple misses, the food I’m happy to say was actually really good. The only thing I could fault is the presentation, which is why I’m not going to post many pictures. I don’t know if my camera was acting up or what, but the photographic evidence of our meal was not pretty. However, if you’re curious and don’t judge books by their covers, head to my set on Flickr.

Here’s the one that came out alright – Tamarind Crispy Fish with Thai Basil Glaze (£8.45):
banana tree

Tasty, it was, too. So many cheaper East Asian restaurants rely on gelatinous gloop that serves as ‘glaze’. This was light and accented the fish perfectly, which incidentally, did stay crispy throughout the meal.

We also really liked the Char Grilled Blackened Chili Pork (£8.25). It was an incredible deal considering the amount of meat on the plate. It was blackened, but not burned, something I’ve never been able to achieve at home.

The Spiced Lamb Lettuce Wraps (£5.85) were quite lovely and aromatic. If there’s one thing Banana Tree isn’t afraid of, it’s spice. Not so much hot spice, but full and flavourful accents of clove and star anise that this style of food is built upon.

The only misses of the night were on the starter/nibble side. I found the Sweet Corn Cakes (£3.25) and the Vietnamese Spring Rolls (£4.25) way too oily – like they’d been sitting in the fryer for the length of the bible.

Overall, though, a great experience. Service was pleasant and snappy. Most of the staff looked like they were actually having a good time, which always bodes well. Happy staff = happy service = happy customers. I’ll be back.

Banana Tree on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: As above, I was given a £60 voucher to try out Banana Tree. I had a completely anonymous dining experience, typical of any off-the street patron. Again, I can’t say how glad I am that PRs and restaurants are finally offering bloggers anonymity. It’s fantastic.