With so many food places, how do you choose where to go?
Food apps and sites have proved very useful and I was lucky enough to meet Alexandra Kalinowski last year. Alexandra is the Community Engagement Lead for Zomato in the UK and after we met I have been able to meet and learn from many other bloggers.
As a community lead Alexandra has organised many, many #ZomatoMeetUps, where bloggers come together to try new food. After a recent meet up at Pizza Pilgrims, where we chose the guest Pizza for October, I thought Alexandra would be the best person to interview as she is the food pulse of London at the moment.
So please read below, a few words about Alexandra, from Alexandra and answers to some questions.
ABOUT - in her own words (or as third person)
Alexandra is your ultimate American stereotype as her favourite meal would be a burger and fries followed by NY-style cheesecake. This is post her nutritious consumption of peanut butter and Nutella on a spoon. To add to her bundle-of-nerves personality, her accent now has British notes that make her sound so pretentious she's contemplating voice coaching lessons. When she's not in the Zomato office, she's having a love affair with Suits (ATM), dying at 1Rebel, hiding, or moodily skyping her parents at 10pm on a Friday.
Thank you so much Alexandra. I am sure the growth of Zomato has been purely down to you and all your hard work. I will also now need to go to The Black Cat and try that cheesecake.
Who has been your biggest influence in food?
My Oma. My German grandma would cook up an impeccable storm and unlike my Mom, she would always serve family style. This may or may not have led to my chubby years. I was such a picky eater that Mom would typically have to cook a separate meal for me. But, when I would visit other peoples' homes, I'd have to shove the food down my throat just to be polite. As I grew older, so did my Oma. Her pain through ageing took a toll on our family, one I held against her for a long time. But when I moved to NYC and began trying cuisines from all over the world, finding a love for the hunt reminded me of all of the good years with Oma, whom I later realised instilled this love in me.
What is the first thing you look for at a restaurant?
If I can eat there alone. I'm surrounded by people all the time which is great, but also incredibly exhausting for an introvert like me. Being able to enjoy a meal, really taste the food and textures without any distractions is relaxing. I also hit up loads of places to blog so good food and reliable wi-fi are musts.
When did you decide to come to the UK?
It all happened right before the Olympics took place when my best friend and I visited for 2 days in 40 degree sunny weather. I dragged her everywhere and with that good sore foot feeling, I ditched the NYC plan and decided because London had that little extra energy, when graduation day came, I'd pack my bags and jump ship. I say energy, but in hindsight the serene canals and never-ending market stalls were what fascinated me. The idea that you can build up and take down a business daily (and successfully), is something we've lost in America, albeit a large majority of immigrants in the past establishing themselves with push-carts.
Where is your favourite place to go for dinner in London?
Right now it's The Black Cat in Clapton. A vegan cafe which serves up the best cheesecake. Ironic. I know.
What got me here: Let's just say a Brazilian guy, a love for food, German citizenship and someone taking a chance on me.
Why I'm still here: I adore our product. When I first arrived last year May the app was, in British terms, "rubbish." Imagine being 22 and within three months of starting seeing two product changes that were your idea in a company of 800 people. It's incredible that Zomato is so global, yet so personal, something I've been a key driver in achieving. I've met 250+ Zomato users and bloggers who champion what we are trying to achieve: a platform where a community of food lovers can come together to share their stories in writing and in person, but also a 1-stop shop for discovering hidden gems, booking a table, and accessing transportation to and fro. Also, I've got a mouth and they put up with it.
Which #ZomatoMeetUp has been your most favourite and which the most memorable?
Favourite and most memorable come as a package I'm afraid. Pulia. It's this beautiful Italian delicatessen in London Bridge that serves simple but flavoursome Puglian imported cuisine. The owners, Georges and Sarah have carefully handpicked everything, from the decor to food to plating and their hospitality is like none-other. I had to open the back of my dress just to let my stomach expand, which simultaneously brought back memories of Oma's stellar hosting abilities, and that at-home feeling restaurants so rarely achieve.
Rice and Beans with Stewed Chicken. Week two sounds good and add to this some Plantain and already my mind has wondered to sunny beaches and hot weather.
I really should start to learn what flavours work well and what doesn't. In my mind this was going to be fluffy rice served with some lovely Jerk style chicken. I was in control and could have done this but I decided to follow the online recipes I had found when researching Belizean cuisine.
The ingredients for Belizean Rice and Beans with chicken Stew are below:
Please choose The list of ingredients was plentiful. Something I'm finding out in this global cooking challenge, is the variety of herbs and spices used. This is great as my fridge is getting packed full of vibrant ingredients and my pantry (???) stocked with ingredients from across the globe.
The picture looks bad. I did try to make it look good, I even wiped the plate slightly for good presentation, it just didn't work.
Overall the flavours were missing something. With a stew and pouring in the water there seemed to be something missing. If I made it again it would be with Jerk chicken, this dish needed a kick and punch to elevate it.
Two countries down- many more to go.
Please choose which country is next: C
A Pizza Pie is what they call it in the states and this is what came to mind for me in my first visit to NY Fold in Soho. It really is all about the base; at NY Fold they take a different route from the popular Homeslice. The big slice served has a robust and thick base which is tasty and a positive change. This strong sturdy pie manages just about to hold all the toppings and size of the slice I was given.
I was given an offer for my first visit via TimeOut of three slices of Pizza and a drink. This was very appealing and I thought I could do this mini challenge all by msyelf over lunch. During my second slice I soon found out that it was a lot pf Pizza. Thankfully I was able to take the third slice away and enjoy it later.
The Pizza slices i chose were the Butchers Shoppe (lots of meat), The Fabio and the Hot Italian. All were very good and tasty but had a lot of meat, which was fine, but in terms of three slice together I would probably go for different mix next time - I will be back.
Not much text needed, but definitely a positive edition to the London Food and Pizza scene. The meal deal of two slices and a drink for under £10 is good. Welcome to NY Fold.
North, South, East, West. There is not one place that the curry club will not venture. That is actually incorrect as we have not been south London yet. This adventure took us to the end of the Jubilee line in Stanmore and a visit to Raw Lasan.
An old converted pub which has now become an Indian restaurant, Raw Lasan brings the local west Londoners or more accurately Harrow dwellers Indian food with a hint of fusion.
Plentiful is word one I would use to describe this evening. We definitely ordered too many dishes for starters. We had a mixed grill (lamb chops, sheekh kebab, chicken tikka, chicken wings and fish tandoori), Chilli Paneer, Mogo and Fried Chilli Chicken. With hindsight, it was probably a bit much but at the time I just sat there and happily ate all the food. All were very tasty and if I had to say which dish took it over the edge it would be a tie between the Mogo and Fried chicken. Not that they were not good, it is just that we did not really need that much extra.
Even for the main courses, we did not let up and ordered a lot of food. But it was near the end when the realisation hit that we had ordered too much. We had to take some away, we were defeated by Raw Lasan. A sign of a good Curry Club though.
The dishes ordered were Chana Masala, Lamb Kheema and Chicken Methi. All were quite similar in texture which had a sense of deja-vu and a bit of the same same but the herbs and flavours were rich and fragrant enough to help us distinguish between the three. A curry with rice and naan
I have been to Raw Lasan before and I will go again. Not too far away from home and with good food. Thank you Stanmore for housing this venue, see you soon.
Local and Local. British produce and a stones throw away from home, is a win win. Heirloom has been open for a while now, but it was only recently that I visited. This was for Sunday Roast special, which as good as it was means that I have to return to try out the rest of the menu.
The restaurant is nice and welcoming. Airy enough to not be disturbed by anyone and nice surroundings that invite you to a casual and pleasant meal. Heirloom focuses its USP on being a British restaurant with British food and goods. From the beef and pork to the ales from across England. In this instance I went for the beer from Bristol whilst the others went for the Camden Pale Ale.
To me, local means fresh and fresh tends to lend itself to tastier food. The roasts eaten on our visit were two times Beef, One Pork and One Duck. All roasts came with a huge Yorkshire Pudding as can be seen in the pictures, veg (Courgettes, Potatoes, Cabbage plus more) and a generous amount of meat.
The food was tasty and filling. I initially wanted the Lamb, but due to our late lunch they had run out. The pork was nice and tender and was cooked really well. They had placed the crackling on the side of my plate to the delight of my fiance. The different textures of the meat, crackling, veg and pudding worked very well together.
Usually after a Sunday roast you have to have some dessert. There was not much space left in my belly but it had to be done. The Chocolate mouse with salted caramel Ice-Cream was sweet and soft with a smooth texture accompanying it. The raspberry's added on the plate, I felt were needed and elevated the dish and gave it extra depth. Contrasting the acidic bite of the fruit with the smooth cream.
A good visit and a return will be coming. One reason why my initial visit took a while and why my return will also be slightly delayed is because of the cost. It is not overly expensive or not worth it, but it is a pricey meal. £60 for two doesn't sound too bad, but for some reason, as a local food venue, I expect less. Strange logic.
Thank you Heirloom. See you soon and welcome to Crouch End.