La Brocca – West Hampstead

Reviewed on September 22nd, 2014 by Dina

It had been many years ago that I had been to La Brocca and I remember it to have been a lovely restaurant. It was going to be interesting to see if it would still be just as good this time round. The hope was that it would be especially as it was a belated birthday meal for my friend.

La Brocca is split into the bar and the restaurant, with the bar on the street level and the restaurant on the lower level. The restaurant entrance is separate and it is down the steep stairs. The bar was heaving the evening we went and we had to squeeze past the customers to get to the restaurant entrance.

The staff welcomed us into the restaurant and we were given a table towards the back of La Brocca. The restaurant was fairly dimly lit and it looked that the outside area had been decorated with lots of greenery and plants.

La Brocca Pumpkin RavioliLa BroccaLa Brocca PizzaLa Brocca InteriorLa Brocca Mint TeaLa Brocca Interior 2

Pizza and pasta was our meal for the evening and it was all freshly cooked. The staff were really friendly and let us customise the San Remo pizza into a vegetarian one. Originally, the San Remo pizza had toppings of baby spinach, mushrooms, egg and Parma ham. The ham and the egg were replaced with roasted red peppers and onion. A crisp base, an intense flavoursome tomato sauce, lots of vegetables, all topped with fresh baby spinach made this a perfect pizza.

Big pillows of the fresh pasta ravioli were stuffed with the orange pumpkin and served steaming hot. The sauce was made of plenty of juicy cherry tomatoes and was fairly spicy. The sweet soft pumpkin was a great contrast to the spicy heat of the sauce.

Fresh mint leaves steeped in hot water made the mint tea. It was served with slices of lemon.

La Brocca was just as good as it had been many years ago and it seems like this restaurant is a timeless place. It does simple no fuss Italian cuisine with big bold flavours and great freshness.

La Brocca, 273 West End Lane, West Hampstead, London, NW6 1QS

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Maroush Bakehouse – Earls Court

Reviewed on September 12th, 2014 by Dina

A full Lebanese breakfast was on the cards when seeing the menu at Maroush Bakehouse. It seemed like it would make for a nice savoury brunch. It was slightly surprising that when the breakfast was served, it was mainly bread based. On the menu, the items were described as baked pastry. Nonetheless, it was still all cooked fresh and was tasty.

A mini Zaatar Manakeesh was soft bread topped with thyme and sesame seeds. Similar to this was the vegetarian Lahem B’agine with the same bread base but with a cheese topping. Both of the breads were freshly baked. The grilled halloumi was cooked perfectly and it went well with the Zaatar Manakeesh. To make the breakfast a little lighter, there was the strained yogurt dip of Labneh. A small pot of olives and a bit of salad made the selection complete. A basket was warm Lebanese Khobez flatbreads was also served.

Maroush CoffeeMaroush BakehouseMaroush BreakfastMaroush KhobezMaroush Hot ChocolateMaroush Bread DisplayMaroush InteriorMaroush Interior 2Maroush Cake Display

The decaffeinated Americano was really smooth coffee. To end the brunch, it had to be something sweet. Even though there were lots of cakes and pastries, the hot chocolate was chosen. The hot chocolate was not too rich but creamy enough. It was nice that the staff were able to make it with soya milk.

Maroush Bakehouse provides a really relaxing atmosphere. The staff let you sit and enjoy your food. They don’t make you feel pressurised into ordering more food or drink. The staff had the balance just right of being attentive and good service yet leaving you alone to enjoy your time. The dining area felt clean and tidy as the staff made sure everything was spic and span once diners had left.

Displays of a variety of breads, cakes and biscuits adorn one side of Maroush Bakehouse. It was nice that the bread loaves that were on open display were on the higher shelves and all the cakes at the lower levels were in covered boxes. It made the place feel hygienic. The dining area is clean and spacious and there are not too many tables. Behind the cushioned seating area, there is the glass wall decorated with orange strip lighting. Not only did it make for great decor but looking closer at it, it revealed the actual bakery area.

As it had got to lunch time, there were people ordering lunch items. The aromas and the sights of the lunch items looked delicious. Tempted by other people’s orders and realising that Maroush Bakehouse do takeaway, it felt right to take some food home for later.

Firstly, all the food was cooked fresh to order and the portion size was big even of the mezza items. The Lentil Soup was creamy and delicately flavoured with cumin. Batata Harara consisted of potato cubes cooked with garlic, sweet pepper and chilli.

A couple of favourites, even though everything was delicious, were the Moussaka and Shish Taouk. Aubergine, tomato, chickpeas, onions and peppers baked together made the Moussaka. It was more like a stew and it made a change for it not to be a cheese or cream based moussaka. Succulent charcoal grilled chicken cubes made the ever so moreish Shish Taouk. All of the takeaway food was wonderful. So many great fresh flavours made for a tasty evening meal.

Maroush Bakehouse specialises in its freshly baked goods and cakes but also does some of the tastiest Lebanese food. It is a perfect place for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Maroush Bakehouse, 131-133 Earls Court Road, London, SW5 9RQ

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Zupperia – Bergen, Norway

Reviewed on September 5th, 2014 by Dina

Bergen is a beautiful and charming city and is known as “The Gateway to the Fjords of Norway”! The old wharf of Bergen called Bryggen has a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Opposite the well known fish market on the harbour, is where Zupperia is located.

On the evening that we went to dine at Zupperia, the outdoor seating area was jam packed with diners. We assumed that the restaurant was probably just as busy inside and weren’t sure if there would be availability. Our plan B was to venture to another one of the four branches of Zupperia if this one was full.

Luck was on our side and we only waited for a few minutes in the bar area before we were taken to a table towards the back of the restaurant. This area was like an alcove with the red brick exposed and soft lighting. It gave a really nice ambiance.

ZupperiaZupperia BreadZupperia InteriorZupperia Herb Baked MonkfishZupperia TeriyakiZupperia Woket ScampiFjords of NorwayBryggenBergen Sunset

As its name suggests, Zupperia is known for its traditional and international soups. But we opted to go straight for the main course. Whilst deciding on what to have, the waitress brought us a basket of seeded brown baguettes and butter. The bread was fresh and it filled our hunger holes.

There were a few vegetarian dishes but the ones that took my interest were stated as spicy. The staff were really helpful and accommodating when I asked if one of the fish main dishes could be made as a vegetarian meal.

The Teriyaki Laks was the one that was chosen. This was supposed to be a salmon teriyaki with rice. Instead, the salmon was omitted and a plate full of vegetables in the teriyaki sauce was served. The portion was huge and all of us with our mains in front of us had wished that we had saved our appetites and not munched away on the bread. As an afterthought, we could have shared a couple of dishes but at least this way, we all got to try different things.

A good selection of vegetables including carrots, courgettes, peppers, mange tout, red onion and mushroom were coated in the dark sauce and garnished with sesame seeds and coriander. The teriyaki sauce had a sweet yet not too salty flavour and the rice soaked up the flavours well.

Both of the seafood dishes that the friends had were equally tasty and went down a treat. The Herb Baked Monkfish was local monkfish in a mussel and white wine sauce. This came with new potatoes and vegetables. The other dish was Woket Scampi made with chilli and garlic langoustine in a creamy sauce. This was served with rice and even though it had chilli, it was not spicy.

On another day, after a day trip exploring the Norwegian Fjords, we did try the branch of Zupperia by the train station. The food was just as good but the restaurant was lacking the atmosphere of the Torget restaurant.

After the wonderful meal at the original Zupperia and with our tummies all full, it had become quite late into the evening. The sun was only just setting as we walked along the harbourside by the Hanseatic wharf. A beautiful end to a wonderful day in Bergen.

Zupperia, Torget 13, 5014 Bergen, Norway

Rating: ★★★★★

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