Category Archives: Yndlingsrestaurant

Wahaca – modern Mexican market food

I have this weird relationship with Mexican food. And when I say Mexican I refer to the Tex-Mex Americanised version….ooooh how I have fond memories of eating huge burritos with guacamole & tortilla chips while sipping from huge jugs of frozen margaritas in a rainy New York.

It’s sloppy comfort food and I like the idea of it more than the actual food (which often turns out to be pretty awful).

I have a similar thing with horror movies: the concept and anticipation of snuggling up on the sofa while eating popcorn and watching a horror flick is often so much better than actually doing it, as 9 out of 10 horror movies are crap.

But back to Mexican food – the problem is you don’t feel too hot after swallowing tons of melted cheese and refried beans.

So the next time you’re in the mood for an inexpensive, non-grease-dripping Mexican meal, I suggest you try the restaurant chain Wahaca, that specialises in modern Mexican market/street food.

They have restaurants all over London, but I’ve only been to the new(ish) one in Wardour Street in Soho.

You often have to wait a bit for a table, but that’s no problem as the friendly staff hand you a buzzer and send you downstairs, where you can kill time with a drink in the big colourful bar.

The food is lo-key and you can either go for one big plate or several smaller ones. You eat the smaller ones tapas style and order around three each.

If you can’t be bothered to browse the menu, just go for the Wahaca Selection; a selection of the restaurants most popular plates for two people to share (costs £20 for two).

That’s what we did, as we were a bit indecisive. Five minutes later the first dishes started to appear. We had everything from vegetable tacos….

to chicken taquitos.

And some pork pibli tacos (slow cooked pork in Yucatecan marinade).

The food is good, although it doesn’t blow your mind. But I’ll still recommend this place because of its friendly staff, upbeat atmosphere and very reasonable prices.

And the food is not too greasy or covered in 10 cm of processed cheese.

Wahaca, 80 Wardour Street, Soho
(See website for more locations)

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Café Bang & Jensen in Copenhagen

Ok, I just have to introduce you to one more of my favourite cafés in Copenhagen: Café Bang & Jensen, which is situated in an old pharmacy in the nice end of Istedgade on Vesterbro. If you look closely at the picture below you can just make out the beautiful old Art Nouveau frieze/mural on the back wall.

This place is very special to me.

When I first moved to Copenhagen many years ago I shared a flat on a Vesterbrogade with a good friend. We were both single, so all weekends were spent partying, and on lazy late Saturdays and Sundays mornings we would drag our hung-over bodies down to Bang & Jensen to recuperate over brunch. You order brunch by filling out a slip, indicating how you want your egg, if you want plain or chocolate croissants etc.

And a few years later Sam and I went here on our first date. We had been to the cinema to watch The Sixth Sense and ended up having quite a few pints here, as you do when you’re a bit nervous on a first date.

So this is a place I’ll always return to and I often arrange to meet up with my friends here when I’m in Denmark. And I quite like the haphazard decor with red café tables in the front room and a sofa and armchair lounge in the back. In the summer you can sit outside.

The menu is just as unassuming with cheap and easy-to-prepare café fare (they don’t have a proper kitchen) such as baba ghanoush (see pics), chili con carne, burritos and sandwiches.

In the evening Bang & Jensen turns into a proper bar and is open until 2 in the morning.

Café Bang og Jensen
Istedgade 130
1650 København V
Website
Map

Kopapa – Kiwi coffee and brunch in Seven Dials

Fancy a cup of some of London’s best coffee plus a yummy brunch?

Then head straight for Kopapa. This new all-day diner/cafe/restaurant is co-owned by New Zealander Peter Gordon who is also the man behind the excellent The Providores and Tapa Room in Marylebone.

Kopapa is laid-back and buzzing and the location near Covent Garden couldn’t be better as you often struggle to find quality cafés in this all too touristy area.

If you can’t get a table straight away you can always enjoy your food by the big marble counter, just as we did, while you flick through the big selection of magazines and newspapers. I actually think this particular corner of the bar is a lot cosier than the tables if it’s just the two of you.

During the weekend Kopapa has an extensive brunch menu, similar to the one at Providores, which is made up of Kiwi-inspired lovelies such as Kopapa toasted oat & dried fruit granola with Greek yoghurt & NZ rata honey (£6). Or what about a Chorizo hash with a fried egg, rocket, salsa verde & crispy shallot (£7.40)?

I chose one of my favourites: Hot-smoked salmon on toasted sourdough with spinach, 2 poached eggs & yuzu hollandaise…..omnomnomnomnom (£10.50).

Sam had the bacon fry-up, that comes with slow-roasted tomatoes and 2 eggs of your choice on buttered sourdough or granary toast (£7.80).

And don’t forget to pair you choice of food with a splendid flat white. Those Antipodeans sure know how to make a good coffee! (And if you’re in the mood for even more sublime coffee after leaving the café, you can always head straight for Monmouth Coffee further down the street).

Kopapa Café and Restaurant
32-34 Monmouth Street
Seven Dials, Covent Garden
Website

Café Dyrehaven – Copenhagen

Another café I keep returning to when in Copenhagen is Café Dyrehaven, nestled on a quiet corner on outer Vesterbro.

This used to be an old værtshus/pub, but luckily the make-over has left behind some of the old features and it now oozes “hipster retro” with all its dark wood, bright orange lamps and antlers on the walls. Not to forget the trendy yet friendly staff behind the bar.

So retro and old pub-like is it that I know someone who went to explore this place when it first opened. After having spent half and hour or so  in a dingy smoke-filled old pub 50 metres from this one they finally realised they were in the wrong place.

And the food is great. They mainly do classic Danish food with a contemporary twist. For lunch you can get everything from salads to the famous smørrebrød/open sandwiches like the one shown below.

In the evening there’s always a handful of warm dishes to choose between. When I was there in December I had medisterpølse/Danish pork sausage with potatoes and red cabbage and it was really, really good. Prices are very reasonable.

Dyrehaven
Sdr. Boulevard 72
1720 København V
Website
Map

Kalaset – Mormor brunch in Copenhagen

A quick post about one of my favourite cafés in the centre of Copenhagen (a part from my beloved shawarma place of course, but that hardly counts as a café).

Kalaset lies on the corner of Vendersgade and Nansensgade. The interior is cosy and very laid-back with red walls and loads of old mis-matching furniture. It just has this friendly and relaxed vibe to it, which makes you want to use the café as your extended living-room.

Maybe it’s because it’s owned by Swedes, because the service is very friendly too. Not something you see often in Copenhagen.

And then there’s the food. Kalaset makes a helluva brunch. So good is it that it has been awarded the title “Copenhagen’s Best Brunch” by Danish newspaper Politiken.

The brunch comes in different versions: there’s the Mormor (grandmother) with bacon, eggs, sausages, potatoes, smoothie etc. (pictured) and if you don’t eat meat you should go for the vegetarian Tante (aunt).

Prices are very reasonable, considering you’re in one of the world’s most expensive cities: around 90 kroner (£10) for a brunch. You can also get traditional café food such as sandwiches, salads, burgers etc.

In the summer you can sit outside.

Kalaset, Vendersgade 16, 1363 Copenhagen K. Map.

Lennies Snack Bar – A very special place

My most memorable dining experience in London has nothing to do with Michelin stars, fancy wines & waiters…

Lennies Snack Bar in East London (just next to Shoreditch Church)  is like no other Thai restaurant I’ve ever been too. Its life and soul is owner Irene who is the most welcoming host anyone can imagine. Eating at her restaurant is like coming home or visiting your favourite eccentric aunt.

Irene does all the cooking herself and will often sit at her customer’s tables and chat for a while, ask you how you’ve been or tell about her jet lag, her long life in London or the next party she’s planning to attend, dressed like Dolly Parton.

There is a varied menu to choose from, but we normally let Irene decide for us. We just tell her what kind of food we’re interested in and she’ll conjure up a wonderful mix of Thai curries, noodle dishes, fish etc. A lot of the vegetables come from her own allotment.

This is a BYO place, meaning you have to bring your own drinks. You don’t even pay extra for that and you rarely end up paying more than £ 10 per person for the food.

I really can’t recommend this place enough, I just love everything about it: from the kitschy cosy interior with red checkered table cloths, string lights and paintings of naked women to the fresh and well-prepared food. Hell, I even love the dodgy toilets.

But mainly I love this place because of Irene and her knack for creating the warmest and most welcoming atmosphere in East London.

Lennies Snack Bar, 6 Calvert Avenue,  London E2 7JP.
Tel: 020 7739 3628 ‎ (it’s a good idea to book ahead)


Pho – cheap & modern Vietnamese street food

The cooler autumn weather is screaming for hot steaming soups. When travelling in Vietnam many years ago we fell in love with Pho, the clear soup with noodles and beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga), which is served with lime, fresh chili and Vietnamese greens.  In Vietnam they serve it at most street stalls, often for breakfast. Very delicious.

Back in Denmark we had to travel half-way through Copenhagen to find a Vietnamese restaurant. And the only modern one, Nhà Hàng, is ridiculously expensive as is has almost doubled its prices since it opened. That’s just not right.

Back to London, where there are quite a few Vietnamese restaurants, most of them in East London. We mainly eat out in Soho where Sam works and luckily Pho, a small chain of smart-looking restaurants serving cheap Vietnamese street food, decided to open another shop smack in the middle of Wardour Street.

We tried it a few days ago and their phos were just lovely. (Warning to purists: This IS a modernised version of Vietnamese, meaning trendy young waiters, cosy contemporary interior and not always 100% authentic food combinations.)

We both had the Pho Bo Dac Biet (with steak, brisket and meatballs). It was easily the best meatballs I’ve had in a pho soup; dark meaty and succulent and not chewy at all. I would have liked a bit more greens to garnish the soup and the stock was not mind-blowing, just very good. Pho also gets an extra point for putting a lot of sauces on the tables (two different chili sauces, fish sauce & hoisin sauce). That way you can mix your own perfect taste combination.

Prices are low: soups cost between 6.95 – 8.45 pounds. See the whole menu here.

Pho, 163-165 Wardour Street, London (plus 4 more locations)

Read about another of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, Song Que Café in East London.