Monday, April 13, 2015

Travel Diary: Cologne

There were countless of reasons why I didn't like the idea of my parents moving away from Berlin. Sure, I live in London, so it shouldn't matter to me. But a move meant that I wouldn't go back to my hometown whenever I'm visiting. I was born in Berlin, I grew up in Berlin, it's where my friends are. Though, now that my family is full settled in their new place on the other side of Germany, it's actually quite nice. The new house is beautiful and situated directly on the town's shopping street. Plus, living in North Rhine-Westphalia means you can go to different cities easily, such as Cologne or Düsseldorf and even Amsterdam and Paris are not far. Now it's just the fact that I have to plan two separate trips, whenever I want to see my family and friends.

While my Mum was keen on going on a trip to Amsterdam for Easter, I actually just wanted to take it easy. Spent some quality time with my little sister, strolling through the town or playing her favourite games on the Wii. I helped my Mum with the cooking and my Dad with devouring all the delicious meals she prepared. Though, the sun was shining so cheerfully, it would have been a waste not to make the most of it. So we went to Cologne on Good Friday. We walked around Neumarkt, Cologne's main shopping street, and slowly made our way to the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral). Since it was Good Friday, it was much emptier than the last time I went. The closer we got to the Kölner Dom, the busier it got, with locals and tourists enjoying the sun. It was the first time I saw the Kölner Dom, truly breath-taking and much taller than I expected. But I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

German translation below.


Es gab unzaehlige Gruende, warum ich es gar nicht toll fand, dass meine Eltern von Berlin wegziehen wollten. Natuerlich wohne ich in London und es betrifft mich nicht direkt. Aber ein Umzug bedeutet halt, dass ich nicht zurueck in meine Heimatstadt mehr gehen wuerde, wenn ich meine Familie besuche. Ich bin in Berlin geboren worden und dort aufgewachsen, all meine Freunde wohnen dort! Doch mittlerweile finde ich es gar nicht mehr so schlimm, dass meine Familie jetzt auf der anderen Seite von Deutschland wohnt, eigentlich ist es sogar richtig schoen dort. Das neue Haus ist toll eingerichtet und direkt an der Einkaufspassage und neben dem Wochenmarkt. Ausserdem ist der Vorteil an Nordrheinwestfalen, dass man super leicht zu anderen Staedten kommt, wie zum Beispiel Köln oder Düsseldorf und sogar Amsterdam und Paris sind nicht weit entfernt. Der einzige Nachteil ist nun, dass ich jetzt 2 verschiedene Trips planen muss, wenn ich Familie und Freunde sehen moechte.

Ueber Ostern wollte meine Mutter unbedingt nach Amsterdam fahren, waehrend ich einfach nur entspannen wollte. Habe Zeit mit meiner kleinen Schwester verbracht, mit ihr die Stadt erkundet und ihre Lieblingsspiele auf der Wii gespielt. Habe meiner Mutter beim Kochen geholfen und meinen Vater beim Aufessen der leckeren Gerichte unterstuetzt. Doch das Wetter war so unglaublich gut, dass es eine Verschwendung gewesen waere, die ganze Zeit nur zu Hause zu hocken, also sind wir am Karfreitag nach Köln gefahren. Wir sind von Neumarkt, der Haupteinkaufsstrasse in Köln, Richtung Kölner Dom gelaufen. Es war so viel ruhiger als sonst, was ganz angenehm war. Je mehr wir uns dem Kölner Dom genaehert haben, desto voller wurde es. Es war das erste Mal, dass ich den Dom gesehen habe. Atemberaubend (und viel groesser als ich erwartet habe). Aber die Fotos sprechen fuer sich.

Friday, April 10, 2015

On The Bab Covent Garden

12 months ago, when I was casually stalking my instagram feed, I saw a photo of mouth-watering ramyun. It was the kind I only knew from Korean TV shows, served in a metal bowl and topped off with a slice of cheese. That was my first encounter with On The Bab, my favourite Korean restaurant in London. My friend Kim saw the exact same photo, so the next destination for our dinner date was quickly decided and fell in love with this little street food gem in the heart of Shoreditch (as you can read in this post: here). Unfortunately, now that I moved to South East London, going to Shoreditch is not the most convenient anymore. Otherwise, you would have probably seen me there once a week, munching on my favourite On The Buns. How jealous I was that Emma worked in the area! But with their second restaurant opening in Covent Garden today, I can easily stop by after work. Yay!

Emma and I already went this Tuesday to have a snoop around and try out their new dishes and drinks. The industrial interior is as warm and welcoming as the Shoreditch one with its marble surfaces, wooden bar counter and old school bar stools. Though, it's much larger than the original, which makes the whole eating experience much more relaxing as you don't have to cuddle with your seat neighbour. On The Bab has even intensified it's focus on anju - food usually eaten with alcohol - by offering quite a few more cocktails and drinks, with the option of going for a glass or even a carafe. Or if you are really hardcore, you can also get a 1.7l beer tower, which looked pretty intense but awesome at the same time. Emma and I went for the Cherry Blossom cocktail carafe, perfect for the season. So refreshing! It was a little tricky to drink from the tiny glasses, but made us concentrate more on the food. I was tempted to go for my usual spicy pork buns, but we focused on the new additions to the menu.

My favourite dish was the Fried Chicken with Spring Onions. The spring onions were marinated in this awesome sweet and tangy sauce that had a hint of spice due to the chilli flakes. The chicken itself was a little drier than the usual Soy Garlic Fried Chicken I get, but this texture actually blended incredibly well with the spring onions. Number 2 for me was the On The Roll with fried chicken, rice wrapped in seaweed in a roll with seasoned vegetables. It's basically gimbap, regardless of it's fancy name, though filled with fried chicken and topped off with fried shallots it was a mix of soft and crunchy and full of flavour. It was like a rice bowl in a bite.

We also had the Korimari, which is version of gimbap for those who like it a little more simple. Beautifully arranged, you get a platter with rice rolled up in seaweed next to your chosen meat, some kimchi, dried anchovies and mayo salad. The beauty of it is the fact that you can eat the rice roll together with all the sides or separately, however you like. The bulgogi we ordered with it was tender and well-marinated, while the anchovies were chewy and sweet (probably not something for everyone, but worth a try!). I was really impressed by the previous dishes, which kind of made the salads we ordered look a little weak in comparison. Nonetheless, the seaweed salad was refreshing, tangy and crunchy and went incredibly well with the fried chicken. I wasn't too impressed by the pumpkin & sweet potato salad, which was actually a mash. It was served cold and mild in flavour. I felt like you could have added a little kick to eat. Either way, what I liked about the salads was also the fact that they come in cute little glass jars. On The Bab has really nailed down presentation! After all these filling dishes, we nibbled on some authentic Korean rice poppers, which consisted of fried dumpling wrappers and fried rice chips. They were really crunchy, maybe a tad too crunchy, and came with their signature spicy sweet mayo. I quite liked them, but I'm not sure how I feel about the dust of sugar they had.

As expected, On The Bab did not disappoint and even impressed with their new dishes. Thanks for having us! There's a soft launch today with 50% off the food. Or if you can't make it tomorrow, you can also get vouchers for it when eating at On The Bab Shoreditch, Koba, Nizuni and Nizuni go during the opening period.

On The Bab Covent Garden
36 Wellington Street
London WC2E 7BD

You can read more restaurant reviews and see more photos on my Zomato profile.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tombo - Japanese Cafe, Deli & Restaurant

I don't exactly remember when I first fell for the distinct taste of matcha, Japanese green tea. Fact is, since then I've been trying to get my hands on anything with matcha, be it matcha bread, matcha chocolate or matcha candy. Unfortunately, it's not that easy to buy matcha products here, unless you go to the Japan Centre or the bi-annual Hyper Japan. So when Emma sent me a link to Tombo, I jumped out of joy. Their matcha desserts looked incredible!

Tombo is casual Japanese Cafe, Deli & Restaurant, serving fresh meals, gorgeous desserts and soothing teas. To avoid the queue on Saturdays, Emma and I went to South Kensington around 2pm. Luckily we were sat straightaway, while there was a queue forming behind us. Emma has studied the menu extensively beforehand, though, I took my time deciding between all the great offerings at Tombo. It wasn't easy, because there were so many different teas and dishes that I've never tried at any other Japanese restaurant before. In the end I decided on the Sakura green tea (cherry blossom kuki cha) and a Sashimi Bento. After having enjoyed the rich flavours of our teas, the food was served beautifully arranged. My bento included salmon sashimi, rice and a selection of Japanese vegetables. Especially the vegetables impressed me, as they were done to perfection. The steamed vegetables were crunchy, a big plus! Together they offered a range of flavours. My favourite was the nori salad, I wouldn't have minded a full bowl of it. I personally wouldn't have known, but Emma confirmed that these side dishes couldn't be more authentic, reminding her of her time in Japan. The great thing about this type of food is that it leaves you feeling filled, but not bloated.

After this satisfying meal, we ordered dessert, the main reason for visiting Tombo. Unlike other Japanese restaurants, their dessert menu is full of deliciousness, from different sundaes to a variety of cakes. There's even the option of afternoon tea! We both went for the matcha sundae that was filled with matcha ice cream, matcha gateau, azuki paste and oats. Oh my god, I loved it so much. How can something be so delicious? The way the soft matcha gateau mixed with the ice cream was indescribable. Just the thought of it is making me drool again.

Writing up this review, I feel like I have to plan my next visit to Tombo again. I'm quite lazy when it comes to travelling to West London, but Tombo is definitely worth the trip. Plus, considering we only paid £23, it's kind of a no-brainer, isn't it?

29 Thurloe Place
South Kensington
London SW7 2HQ

You can read more restaurant reviews on my Zomato profile.