Pho – Farringdon

Reviewed on August 31st, 2015 by Dina

There is only one thing that had to be tried when visiting Pho and it had to be the Vietnamese national dish of the noodle soup, Pho. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of other items on the menu that sounded just as tasty such as the vermicelli noodles Bun, broken rice Com Tam and the various starters.

The Pho Nam Rom was made of enoki, shitake and button mushrooms in a vegetable broth. It was a superb fresh tasting soup with a light flavour and there was a real depth to the mushrooms. So many mushrooms, spring onions and rice noodles made this wholesome soup. It was a bonus that it had my favourite of enoki mushrooms too. A side plate of fresh herbs, lime, chilli and beansprouts came with the Pho. Extra condiments of fish sauce, garlic vinegar and chilli paste were on the table.

Even though there was enough flavour with the Pho Nam Rom, it was great that you were able to add the herbs and sauces to your liking. A much needed wooden spoon together with the chopsticks was the only way to delve into the big steaming bowl of Pho.

Pho is quite a small restaurant with wooden tables and red chairs. There is a big illuminated “Pho” sign at one end of the restaurant. All of the food was made fresh and it seemed that the kitchen was on the lower level. There was fairly loud music playing in the background mostly from the 80s and 90s. The staff explained the menu really well and they were friendly and gave service with a smile.

Having a hearty bowl of Pho at Pho was really satisfying. The portions are big so definitely go there on an empty stomach.

Pho, 86 St John Street, London, EC1M 4EH

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Hiltl – Zurich, Switzerland

Reviewed on August 23rd, 2015 by Dina

Hiltl is known for being the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe and has been run by the Hiltl family since 1898. The restaurant is deceiving in size; it is a lot bigger than it looks. There is a huge buffet area with over 100 different varieties of food with flavours and cuisines from all over the world. In addition to this, Hiltl provides an A La Carte menu.

The clean and tidy restaurant area is spread over two levels. Plush cushions and patterned seating make it a comfortable dining area. There are also wooden tables and chairs. The lighting is quite striking and there are chandeliers on the upper level. The staff are really polite, attentive and give great service.

The A La Carte menu provides a refreshing take on vegetarian food with so many intriguing items. The menu is categorized by Starters, Salad Platters, Fresh Vegetables, Traditional, Hiltl Classics, Pasta and Asia. There is also a list of allergens for all of the dishes. It was too difficult to choose what to have so we went with the staff’s recommendations for a couple of things from the Traditional section of the menu.

The Hiltl Burger was made to a secret recipe and was in a sunflower and pumpkin seeded bun. The tasty burger had so much flavour. It came with Swiss herbal quark, coleslaw and a tomato based cocktail sauce. These sauces were ideal for the fresh country fries. The burger and all of the accompaniments were served on a wooden board.

It was nice to try something different by having the Cordon Bleu. This was made of seitan, smoked tofu and Appenzeller cheese all wrapped in a crispy coating. The smokiness of the tofu went well with the nuttiness of the Appenzeller cheese. Appenzeller cheese is a speciality cheese produced in the northeast region of Switzerland. The Cordon Bleu was made complete the vegetables of yellow and orange carrots and courgettes. The vegetables were all chunky and not overcooked.

Hiltl has tempting desserts on offer and it is a shame that they could not be tried on this particular occasion due to the restaurant closing for the evening. There are also a range of juices and different teas such as peppermint combined with thyme.

All of the food at Hiltl was delicious and very enjoyable. The combination of the flavours for the dishes work so well together. Even if you are not vegetarian, Hiltl is a fantastic and worthwhile restaurant to try.

Hiltl, Sihlstrasse 28, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland

Rating: ★★★★★

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Yumchaa – Goodge Street

Reviewed on August 16th, 2015 by Dina

For those of you who enjoy tea, you will be spoilt for choice at Yumchaa. At Yumchaa, it is all about the loose tea with signs saying “No tea bags, no tea baggage and no tea bagging” and “Drink loose leaf tea”.

The variety of teas are displayed in little labelled milk jugs. Take your pick from the black, green, red and white teas. All the teas are listed with the ingredients, the type of tea, the caffeine level and also whether it is available hot or iced.

As there is so much choice, be warned it may take a while to decide. After narrowing it down to have a caffeine free tea, the Raspberry Vanilla Rooibos tea was chosen. The components of this red tea were raspberry, vanilla pods, rose petals and rooibos. The tea was fragrant and fruity with a hint of vanilla. It was pleasant together with some hot soya milk.

The counter is adorned with sweet and savoury scones, thick slices of cake and a tower of brownies. It is a shame that it is an open display of the food and items are not covered. But Yumchaa did inform us that this is going to change by September and all of the food will be displayed behind a glass counter. If you want something for lunch, then there are also wraps, sandwiches and salads.

The cheese and chive scone was of a good size. It came toasted with butter on the side. The scone was dense with cheesy pieces and was filling.

The staff at Yumchaa are friendly and don’t rush you to order your tea. They make sure that the tables remain clean and come round frequently to clear up anything that you have finished with. It’s great that they also don’t mind refilling your teapot with more hot water.

Different wallpapers with different themes decorate the walls. There is a cuteness about Yumchaa with its displays. A big wooden table and chairs make up the window seating. The rest of the cafe is brought together by cosy sofas and smaller tables. It feels fairly spacious.

Even though Yumchaa is a popular cafe and tearoom, it is not overly noisy. Maybe this has something to do with the calming effect that tea has on people! There is a nice buzz about the place.

Yumchaa sure has got things right with going back to serving loose teas in a relaxed environment. It is easy for the hours to pass by at this wonderful cafe. All of the loose teas are available to buy so once you discover your favourite, you can enjoy it at home.

Yumchaa, 9/11 Tottenham Street, London, W1T 2AQ

Rating: ★★★★☆

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