Joe Allen – Covent Garden

Reviewed on May 9th, 2013 by Dina

If you didn’t know that Joe Allen was along this very small quiet side street, it would not be the obvious place to look for a restaurant. It is hidden away from the all the main restaurants in Covent Garden.

Joe Allen is on the lower ground floor and the red brick walls leading to the the restaurant are full of framed posters. The same style of wall decor is continued throughout the whole of the dining area. The restaurant area is quite big with round wooden tables and there are a couple of alcoves as well. The service was good and the staff were friendly and professional.

The menu was interesting and varied with seasonal daily specials. The quinoa and garden pea fritters were just that, as in they were not mixed with any potato. Hence, the fritters had a very crumbly texture to them when they were cut into. The sweetness of the peas was lovely.

Joe Allen InteriorJoe AllenJoe Allen EntranceJoe Allen Quinoa and Pea FrittersJoe Allen Minted New PotatoesJoe Allen Apple and Blackberry Crumble Cake

The heritage carrots and parsnips that made up some of this dish were roasted nicely. This meal was a vegetarian’s delight! The pea cress and the mint and coriander sauce completed the dish. The side of minted new potatoes were a nice accompaniment to the meal!

Our meal ended with some dessert! The combination of crumble and cake is a match made in heaven! The apple and blackberry crumble cake was a big portion. A thin layer of crumble topped the chunky fruit pieces. The cake portion was soft and light. It was served with vanilla cream.

The only thing that did bother me with Joe Allen was that the restaurant was too dimly lit. It may have just been to the particular place that we had been seated. It was to the point where it seemed that we were eating our meal with the aid of a single tealight. We couldn’t really see what was on our plates and what we were actually eating. So it was a kind of a hit and miss with each mouthful, wondering which vegetables were on my fork!

Apart from that, everything was nice at Joe Allen’s from the quality and freshness of the food, the ambiance and the friendly staff!

Joe Allen, 13 Exeter Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7DT

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Sagar – Covent Garden

Reviewed on January 22nd, 2013 by Dina

When a friend came over from Europe in December, I got to see her briefly for an early evening catch up. But it was so short as time was a real factor. So I was happy that the next day both of us and her friend were free to do a relaxed Indian lunch in Covent Garden.

Sagar is a south Indian vegetarian restaurant. It has always looked busy whenever I have been past it. It made me wonder whether this was because of its central tourist location or if it was due to its food. It was nice to discover that it was more the latter.

Even though it was late lunchtime, the restaurant was busy and it was good that we had booked a table. The dining area is quite small although I am not sure if there is also an upper level. Light wooden tables and chairs matched with the light walls and flooring. Some of the tables are just that little bit too close together. The alcoves on the walls contained small statues.

Sagar Special UpmaSagar DecorSagar IdliSagar Paper Masala Dosa InsideSagar Brinjal BhajeeSagar Paper Masala DosaSagar Dosa FillingsSagar InteriorSagar Masala Dosa

The staff were friendly and gave us quite attentive service. It was fairly easy to get their attention when we needed anything.

The Idli were steamed rice dumplings and came as a portion of two. They were a lot bigger than expected. The Idli were served with sambar and coconut chutney. The soft, pillow-like Idlis were delicious with the accompaniments.

The Special Upma was really moist and very moreish. It is usually made with semolina. Sagar’s Special Upma was made with the addition of fresh tomatoes, cashews, peas, coriander and this came with a spicy chutney.

Even though we had Idli for the starter, we still felt like dosas for the mains. My friend really wanted the Paper Masala Dosa as it is not readily available in her country of residence. The Paper Masala Dosa came as a huge crispy cone! It was lucky that we sat at a table for four people so that we had the space for it. The mashed potato, onion and carrot filling was served on the side together with sambar and chutney.

The other dosa that we had and it was easier to handle was the regular Masala Dosa. This was served as a folded triangle and came already filled with the potato, onions and carrots.

Both the dosas were made from rice and lentils. They were equally tasty and even though they were big, we managed to munch our way through them!

For a bit of variety, we also had some rice and curry. The Brinjal Bhajee was a great dish made with aubergine, red and green capsicums and tomatoes. The vegetables were chunky and the delicate spices brought the whole dish together. Instead of plain rice, we had the Lemon Rice. This rice was made with peas and lemon juice. Having yoghurt with curry always works well and it was good that we had Raita with the meal.

Sagar gave us good quality, fresh tasting food. They have some good lunchtime offers and also on their menu is classic Thalis which gives you a complete meal with all the different dishes!

Sagar, 31 Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5JS

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Mishkin’s – Covent Garden

Reviewed on January 10th, 2012 by Dina

A big thank you goes out to my friend who introduced me to Miskin’s just before the Christmas break! He suggested trying this new restaurant when we decided to have a festive catch up!

It made such a refreshing change to have some different types of food! Food that when we looked at the menu, there were no descriptions of each item. So the ones that we didn’t know what they were, had to be explained by the staff!

From the exterior, it looks like this place has been around for a while! It reminded me of an old sort of tavern. But Mishkin’s is a fairly recent addition to Covent Garden!

The sign on the outside is E.Mishkin and this is in reference to Ezra Mishkin who the restaurant is named after. Mishkin’s motto is an interesting one of “a kind-of Jewish deli with cocktails”!

Inside the restaurant, it is quite atmospheric with its dim lighting and a bar area with high stools just inside the entrance. When I was shown to our reserved table, I was pretty surprised! The waitress took me towards the back of the restaurant and there was what seemed to be like a doorway. I was expecting to be taken up to another level or down some sort of a hallway.

But this was not the case! The doorway was actually the entrance to a small cosy booth! It had a cute feature of where there was a light switch and the waitress told me that if we needed anything during the meal, then we just had to flick the switch. This would light up the sign outside the booth and we would be attended to!

When my friends arrived, they were both equally pleasantly surprised by the booth! It was the right size for the three of us! It was lit just by candlelight and a small tube light on one of the walls!

The staff were really great and so friendly! They suggested lots of things on the menu that we should try and explained to us thoroughly the items on the menu that we weren’t sure about!

As we had ordered a fair few dishes, the waitress asked if we wanted them brought out in two different sittings. This was a great idea and it meant that we weren’t overwhelmed with all the different dishes!

So to start with, we were given the cod cheek popcorn, macaroni and cheese, cauliflower and caraway slaw. The cod cheek popcorn were delightful light bites of fish in a lovely crispy batter!

Some things even though simple, when they are done well, they are perfect! This was the case with the macaroni and cheese. An iron skillet filled with piping hot creamy cheesy pasta with a crispy topping. A very moreish and addictive dish!

The cauliflower and caraway slaw was made up of shredded red cabbage and cauliflower. It was a great combination and had a good crunchiness to it!

Our second round of food consisted of the chickpea, ricotta and spinach meatballs, whitefish and spinach knish and another side dish!

The vegetarian chickpea, ricotta and spinach meatballs were a portion of three. They were in a tasty tomato sauce and the flavour of the meatballs was fairly strong but not overpowering. Even just one of the meatballs was filling.

The whitefish and spinach knish was a bit like a fish pie with a thin pastry casing. The knish had generous chunks of fish together with a potato style filling. It also came with a jug on the side filled with parsley liquor.

For the side dish, we had the half and half. This was half a portion of chips and half a portion of onion rings! The fried onion rings weren’t greasy and had a light batter. The chips were chunky with their skin on and just as chips should be!

All of the dishes were presented in a mish mash of bowls and plates. A bit like the sort that we had at home when we were growing up! The plates and bowls were decorated with paper doilies! It all felt quite retro and quirky! Even when my friends ordered their cocktail pitcher, instead of being given glasses, they were given a couple of jam jars!

To finish off our meal, we had the apple and honey blintz. This was a pancake filled with chunky apple pieces and raisins. We originally thought that it was topped with ice cream but after tasting the white topping, we realised that it was yoghurt. The pancake and yoghurt were drizzled with a generous amount of honey. It was a nice enough pancake but we all only managed a few mouthfuls, as we realised that we were all quite full by this point!

Mishkin’s was a great dining experience and the food was excellent! Mishkin’s is owned by the same group that have Polpo, da Polpo, Polpetto and Spuntino. Dining at Mishkin’s has made me want to go try the other restaurants in this family!

Mishkin’s, 25 Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5JS

Rating: ★★★★★

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