Category Archives: Eating & Drinking

A Tale of Two Sushis: Yuzu vs Sushi Gen

The Japanese are, on the whole, a healthy lot. (Though I’m not sure I’d take diet tips from those Sumo fellas). It’s all down to a wonderful combination of fresh fruit and veg, and even fresher oily fish. Oh, and whale blubber.

Now, in pure numbers terms, we’re not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to sushi restaurants in NW6. But everyone knows that it’s not quantity that counts, but quality, and boy do we have that by the net-full. Both Yuzu and Sushi Gen will satisfy your desire for tasty raw fish, but they do provide rather differing dining experiences. With this in mind, I decided to pit them in a head-to-head battle across a range of categories. After a brief introduction, of course:

Yuzu, on Fortune Green Road, is a fusion restaurant serving up the best of contemporary Japanese cuisine with a Latin American twist. This basically just means that as well as an extensive sushi menu, they also serve beef. Beautiful, tender teriyaki beef (£9). Unusual and exotic sauces also feature.

Sushi Gen is an unassuming little canteen-style restaurant on West End Lane that can claim Japanese authenticity, but probably won’t win any interior design awards. The salmon and tuna salad freebie that they give you upon your arrival is a particularly nice touch.

Freebie taster bowl at Sushi Gen

The Food

Like almost every aspect of Sushi Gen, the food is no-nonsense, simple fare. Every dish that you might expect to find on a sushi restaurant’s menu is here, from the single pieces of nigiri to the salmon, tuna or crab-based rolls. The Salmon California Roll (6 pieces for £3.80) is a favourite, as is the Ume Kyu Roll (6 pieces for £2.50), a veggie option consisting of cucumber in a tongue-fizzlingly tangy plum sauce.

The first thing to note about Yuzu is that portion sizes tend to be slightly smaller – typically 4 rolls per portion to Sushi Gen’s 6 – though the individual rolls themselves are slightly bigger. The food itself is just as good, if not better than its rival, and certainly more adventurous. Try the Yellow Tail Tiradito with Ponza Sauce – thinly sliced raw fish, spiced up with jalapeno and coriander (5 pieces for £5.80). And the classic Salmon and Avocado Inside-out Roll is exquisite (4 pieces for £3.80).

The Atmosphere

Yuzu has a warm, intimate dining room, decorated in a tasteful and inoffensive manner. It seems to be popular with medium-sized groups – families and friends more than couples – but still lends itself well to a romantic meal. It can be quite busy on a Friday or Saturday night, so worth calling ahead.

The Yuzu dining room

Sushi Gen does not feel like the kind of place that you would book for a special occasion. Its tiled floor and bright lighting mean that it’s more the kind of place that you might pop into after work or to satisfy those impromptu sushi-cravings. I’ve never experienced it especially busy but, if anything, that’s a good thing as it means you’re generally guaranteed a table.

Sushi Gen even has its own bus stop

Value for Money

This is a tight call. With Sushi Gen you get larger portions for less money, but at Yuzu the food is probably slightly better, so worth the additional cost. They both represent good value – Sushi Gen more so for those with greedy guts and light wallets; Yuzu for those who want a proper restaurant experience and are prepared to pay for it.

The Verdict

They are both fantastic sushi restaurants, though very different in feel. In a truly courageous display of fence-sitting, I simply have to recommend that you try them both. If you like sushi, you won’t be disappointed. And if you don’t, then why on earth are you still reading?

Yuzu, 102 Fortune Green Road, NW6 1DS. 0207 431 6602

Sushi Gen, 243 West End Lane, NW6 1XN. 0207 431 4031

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Eating & Drinking

St. Patrick’s Day in County Kilburn

St. Patrick and crew

Kilburn, along with the surrounding areas of Cricklewood and Willesden, has long since been home to the largest Irish community in London, if not the entire country. Our trustworthy friends at Wikipedia reckon that as many as 13% of Kilburn’s population was actually born in Ireland. The area’s demographics are changing, and the many traditional Irish pubs that lined the High Road are slowly being replaced by trendy bars and music venues; for not much longer will it deserve the nicknames ‘Little Éire’ and ‘County Kilburn’. As such, the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are not now what they once were. Having said that, you can still expect the pubs to be full of revellers: Guinness-a-flowing, whiskey-a-spilling, and novelty hats-a-wearing.

The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade is a family-friendly affair, getting under way at 4:30pm from Willesden Green underground station. Costumed-dancers and pipers will accompany the floats as they take the short trip down to Willesden Green Library. The Library Centre is also playing host to a number of other events, including story-telling and an Irish market (4 – 7:30pm), and various performances of traditional music and dancing, from the likes of the McCarthy School of Irish Dancing, Irish Mist, and a comedy set from Deirdre O’Kane. The full programme is available here.

Less traditionally Irish music can be heard at Power’s, which is putting on its fortnightly acoustic session – free of charge, as per usual – or for a mere £4 you can catch Fit and the Conniptions at the Good Ship, with Stop.Motion.Trio and Can’t Swim! Won’t Swim! providing the support. Alternatively, it’s pub quiz time at the Westbury: 8pm start, £2 entry.

For proceedings of an even less sober nature, just stumble down to any of the pubs and bars on Kilburn High Road. Brondes Age is a solid bet if you want to celebrate St. Paddy’s day with plenty of people and a decent atmosphere. For a pint of Guinness with the regulars, head to the Coopers Arms, the Kingdom or the Old Bell. For an off-High Road tipple, the Alliance on Mill Lane is always good value, or Father Ted’s on Willesden Lane.

Whatever you get up to, may your craic be mighty.

Too much Guinness left Murphy feeling dog rough

1 Comment

Filed under Eating & Drinking, Out & About

Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast

Another Sunday afternoon, another empty stomach. Brunch time. This week my foodie companion and I ventured to well known territory – The Wet Fish Cafe on West End Lane – only this time I was wearing my Reviewer’s hat. (If you’re interested, you can pick one up at all good fashion retailers.)

The Wet Fish Cafe

My dining partner suffers from the rare and debilitating illness known commonly as ‘vegetarianism’. Clearly in an effort to stop the spread of this condition, the Wet Fish Cafe has cunningly made it very difficult for a herbivore to find something suitable on the menu. Certainly they have succeeded in removing that most decadent of luxuries – choice. It would seem that almost everything on the breakfast/brunch menu has bacon in it, and though one could obviously ask for a replacement item, I imagine these plague-carrying veggies would prefer to have a few specifically meat-free options. As it was, the sautéed wild mushrooms were opted for, which were served on toast with a side salad. To give it more of a breakfasty feel, a poached egg was ordered as an added extra. Total cost: £9.60. Whilst the food was delicious, and there were no complaints on the portion size front, that’s a spectacularly dear price for some fried mushrooms and an egg on toast.

Eggsquisite! just yolking...

With the full menu at my mercy, I opted for the Eggs Benedict; two beautifully poached eggs atop some crispy bacon and an English muffin, with a generous drizzling of hollandaise sauce. Again, the food was mouth-wateringly good, but the size of the bill left me with a bitter after-taste. Also, being the growing young man that I still claim to be, the portion size failed to satiate my hunger. But I should probably put that down to my own greed rather than a particularly stingy portion. Eggs Benedict: £7.50.

Inside the Wet Fish

If you haven’t been to the Wet Fish before, it’s a lovely little cafe, warm and comfortable, with super-friendly staff and a busy yet relaxed atmosphere. The tea & coffee are excellent and the food is consistently good, but personally I prefer – nay, expect – lower prices from a Cafe brunch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eating & Drinking, Reviews

Brekkie & Crepes, under review

It seems that you can’t open a magazine nowadays without some jumped-up nutritionist pressing upon you the need to embark on the latest fad diet. It’s all ‘carb-free’ this and ‘five-a-day’ that. Well, if we can’t even trust the Great British free press for dietary advice, then who can we trust? Worry not health-conscious, loyal reader, your answer is: me.

And I say there’s no better way to start your day than with a fried breakfast, followed by a pancake chaser. Of course. So on Saturday morning – OK, midday – I gathered some chums and went in search of local eateries which might satisfy my dietary needs. I present my findings below.

The Kitchen Table

The Kitchen Table

Kitchen @ Kitchen Table

The first stop on our culinary journey was The Kitchen Table, on Mill Lane. As the name suggests, the feel that Thomas – owner and life-long West Hampstead resident – was going for was that of a homey family kitchen. There is a large open kitchen overlooking the bright dining area, which has some cook book-bearing shelves, and a large wall proudly decorated with children’s drawings.

Bacon Sandwich

I went for the bacon (and tomato) sandwich (£4), which was sizeable and very tasty. My only criticism would be that the thick-sliced bread meant that the bacon-bread ratio wasn’t ideal. But the juicy bacony core was delicious. My companions all opted for the generously portioned scrambled eggs, which were cooked to perfection and served on toast with some mixed leaves. Optional extras included mushrooms, baked beans, bacon – the usual, basically. The downside this time was the price; though the basic egg dish itself was reasonable (but at £4, not cheap), by the time you added on the extras (£1-£1.50 each), it started getting a tad pricey. People seemed to get around this by ordering one add-on each, and then sharing.

Eggs & Shrooms

Over all, the food was great, if a little on the expensive side. The service was excellent: friendly, attentive and efficient. And the atmosphere was cosy, though it was very busy; it was full when we arrived (we had to wait ten minutes for a table), and still going strong when we left over an hour later. Next door at The Kitchen Stores you’ll find all sorts of cheeses, spreads and other organic/whole food yummies. I bought myself a pint of chocolate milk, in classic milkman-style glass bottle.

Love Food

Love Food

Deli @ Love Food

Having guzzled down the chocolate milk and walked off (a fraction of) my bacon sandwich, I was tempted into Love Food on West End Lane. As you enter you step into a deli-cum-coffee bar, again selling all sorts of delicious-looking organic groceries and the like. Stairs lead down into a restaurant, but we opted to sit in the cafe area at the back to eat our crepes.

Lemony Pancake's series of unfortunate events

One of our group was a crepe-obsessive: she used to be an addict, a one-a-day girl.  Unfortunately, her classic choice of lemon & sugar didn’t manage to meet her exacting standards. The pancake was drowned in a sickly-sweet syrup, and after a mouthful of crunchy sugar made her feel a little sick, she (uncharacteristically) complained to the staff. To their credit, they took it back in a flash, and brought her a perfectly cooked plain replacement, as requested.

ChocoNana

The chocolate and banana crepe, on the other hand, was quite sublime. They did not scrimp on the fillings, and once again the pancake itself was cooked beautifully. Popular opinion would suggest that our lemon & sugar experience was an anomaly rather than the norm, but take statements like “the best crepes in the area” with a pinch of salt, as this is West Hampstead after all, not Paris.

There were plenty of other food options on offer, but the crepes are the real draw for most people and, based on my recent visit, I can’t say with confidence that you are guaranteed to enjoy yours. The atmosphere was warm and comfortable, and the staff, though generally a little disinterested, were very helpful, friendly and accommodating when the complaint was made.

In a head to head, I’d have to give my backing to The Kitchen Table. This might not be entirely fair as I didn’t eat the same thing at each place, but I felt that they were both going for a similar vibe – unassuming neighbourhood healthy-food shop plus cosy cafe – and The Kitchen Table pulls off the whole package with a little more success.

3 Comments

Filed under Eating & Drinking

Calling all sports fans!

Back in the day, the weekend was a dreary affair for the football fan. You’d have to go to the ground, ticket in hand, with friends and family in tow, and have a supremely dull afternoon of cheering, chanting and bonding…  But thanks to the glory of TV, no longer! You can just sit at home, with no-one to listen to your moaning, whilst picking pringles crumbs off of last season’s (unwashed) shirt.

If you’re a bit old-fashioned though, and you still enjoy the company of other human beings whilst watching your team lose, again, but still crave the flickering images and tired commentary of trusty TV, then read on for a quick guide on where to watch live (televised) sports in NW6.

The Railway

The Railway on West End Lane is my top pick. It has a large bar and plenty of seating, though on a big game day it still gets packed out. This means long half-time queues, but good atmosphere throughout. It attracts a mixed crowd, and serves up solid pub food, with 2 main courses for £10. A projector in the sofa area complements 3 LCD screens dotted around the rest of the pub.

The Alliance

Still in West Hampstead (Mill Lane), but quieter and with more of a ‘local’ feel to it is The Alliance. Its central  bar splits the pub into two separate spaces,  plenty of seating and a large plasma screen on one side, a pool table, second plasma screen and projector on t’other.

The Golden Egg

The Golden Egg on Kilburn High Road is on the larger side, and has a few screens as well as a big projector at the back.  Though it isn’t one, it feels a bit like a Wetherspoon’s, but at least this is reflected in its prices. They also do a decent carvery on a Sunday for a mere £4.99. Note for the younger readers: it is over 21s only, though on a busy match day they might not notice/care…

The Prince of Wales

A little way down Willesden Lane, The Prince of Wales has a dartboard and pool table to go along with its big screen projector. On the down side, the clientèle has been described as being “a bit pikey”, but the pub has lovely old fashioned decor, and the big draw here is that they televise matches with a Saturday 3pm kick-off.

The Cricketers

Finally, another over 21s joint, The Cricketers is a mid-sized pub on the corner of Abbey and Belsize Roads, cramming in 3 screens, a projector, a pool table and one of those newfangled touch-screen jukeboxes. A decent option if you’re in the vicinity,  and only two doors down from Oscar’s Den, the best party shop in town!

4 Comments

Filed under Eating & Drinking, Sports