Monday, 18 August 2014


And once again it's that time of the month that I have been waiting for - The BackBench at Koya. Held once a month, The BackBench is an opportunity for diners to enjoy a delightful tasting menu, created by the talented Chef Junya - dishes which go beyond the Specials blackboard which utilize the freshest ingredients in season.

We also went for the sake flights as usual to get the full experience.

| Namayasai Vege Plate |

A little lunchbox-inspired vegetable dish - pickled bitter-gourd, fresh edamame beans, turnip wrapped in egoma leaves, and a physalis.
A fresh and healthy start to our evening.

- paired with Sohomare, Karakuchi, Junmai -

| Roasted Cobnuts Hiya-Atsu Udon |

For once, we were able to participate in the preparation of our dishes! We were first served a pot of roasted cobnuts and some nut-crackers, which we were required to crack open to make the udon soup - and nibble on whilst in the process of doing so. After that we each handed our bowls back over the bench to be crushed and mixed into the udon soup. 
We still had quite a lot of cobnuts left in our pot, so whilst the others were still slurping away on udon, the both of us continued nibbling away on our cobnuts - can't let good nuts go to waste!

| Grilled Wild Salmon Sashimi, Salted Elderberry, Potato & Horseradish |

Delicious fresh sashimi, with a nice touch of saltiness from the elderberries, and a hint of heat from the horseradish - a nice combination of flavours.

- paired with Toko, Junmai -

| Tempura Steamed Carrot, Rowan Berries & Honey |

The carrots were cooked in tempura, which were then removed, leaving the carrots which were nicely steamed and non-greasy. On the side were some rowan berries, which had a slight bitter taste, but which was balanced out by the honey.

| Wild Scottish Mushrooms Chawanmushi |

My favourite dish of the evening. I absolutely love chawanmushi, and this was so smooth and silky, which literally melts in your mouth (actually, it melted in mine, sorry!). Topped with mushrooms, one of my favourite ingredients, and I was left feeling very contented.

- paired with Kamoizumi, Shusen "Three Dots" Junmai -

| Grilled Aubergine, Manganji pepper & Nuka Mackerel in Hojicha-dashi |

The mackerel was first fermented in Nuka, which is a versatile Japanese technique for fermenting using rice bran, and then grilled. I liked the dashi which was mixed with hojicha, made from late-summer bancha leaves which are roasted, giving it a slight nutty flavour. 

| Young Grouse, First Apple, Crab Apple & Sake Chutney & Thyme |

My first taste of grouse this season! The pink and tender meat of the young grouse was suitably matched with crab apple from his forages. And on the side, a nice sweet sake chutney and thyme.

- paired with Masumi Arabashiri, nama Genshu, Junmai Ginjo -

| Beetroot, Cherry, Elderberry & Sake-Kasu Ice Cream |

One of my favourite desserts - made from the lees left over from the sake production, giving it a bit of a boozy flavour. This time served with sweet cherries and beetroot.

| Caramel Sweet Corn |

Chef Junya's take on a simple, yet comforting snack - slathered in caramel and grilled.

My fifth BackBench, and still maintaining my BackBench-er record (if there ever was one).
Each and every experience so far has been especially unique and exciting, and I am definitely looking forward to more of Chef Junya's creations to come.
See you at the next BackBench in September.

For my previous BackBench posts, click on the links below:

The Cheekster, signing out x

Saturday, 16 August 2014


So, with another one of my lucky wins, I was able to experience the new gin and tonic menu at The Polo Bar at the Westbury Hotel - part of a "Botanical Brew Experience" collaboration between Tanqueray No. TEN gin and Fever-Tree tonic water.  


We were given a taste of the six different types of gin that were already pre-infused in bottles - holding the glass against the light to look at colour and swirling the gin around the glass to mix in some oxygen and gather the aromas around the rim...
We were also given a whiff of the dry ingredients used for the infusions.


After more sniffing, sipping, and swirling, tasting all six different infused gins, we were then each able to sample a couple of the drinks from the G&T menu. We were supplied with our mixing utensils and played around with infusing times and mixing ratios, depending on our taste preferences.

| Blue Lady tea and grapefruit peel served with Mediterranean tonic |
the exotic floral and citrus notes of Blue Lady Tea are lifted with zesty Grapefruit Peel, a refreshing thirst-quencher

| Rosebuds served with elderflower tonic |
reminiscent of an English garden on a summer’s day, the delicate notes of rose are given a rich, dry edge with the addition of elderflower essence


| Blackcurrant-hibiscus tea and lemon peel served with bitter lemon |
Cleopatra’s drink of choice, ruby red Hibiscus tea is paired with fruity blackberries for a divine blend of sweet and sour


| Cinnamon, clove and vanilla served with classic tonic |
warming and uplifting, the soft, creamy flavours of vanilla are spiced up with aromatic cloves and cinnamon


Overall a really relaxing and enjoyable experience.
And not forgetting to mention a word of thanks to Chris Osburn (aka tikichris) for organizing the competition. Don't forget to check out his website for interesting features and more exciting  competitions on offer.

The Cheekster, signing out x


Latin American street food purveyors, Tacu Tacu, have recently started their new 6-day a week residency at Casa Blue Bar on Brick Lane. 
Their menu offers an exciting selection of burgers, tacos, and sides. And for the sweet-toothed, a couple of shakes and a their decadent mojito cheesecake dessert.


For drinks, Casa Blue offers a selection of beers, ciders, wine and some killer cocktails, featuring specialities such as their Chocolate Malt Martini, and standard classics.


And for those of you intrigued about what will be on offer, here's a little sneak peak of some of the dishes that you will be able to feast on...

| Mexican Hummus |
- Smoked chilli flavoured black bean hummus with crispy , salted paprika-dusted plantain chips and sweet corn salsa -


| Copacabana Cheese |
- Rio de Janeiro style: 2 sticks of halloumi cheese grilled to perfection, encrusted in flakes of chilli and oregano with a warm garlic and honey sauce -


| Fries |
- dusted with paprika and served with their special burger sauce -

| Hot Havana |
- 28-day aged beef blended with Spanish chorizo, marinated in Worchester sauce and ketchup. Shredded lettuce, mature cheddar, sauteed onion, gherkins, chipotle garlic mayo -

| Mexican Baja Shrimp Burger |
- Their signature dish: sumptuous shrimp patty, roasted red pepper, shredded lettuce, avocado-garlic mayo, chipotle butter and lime juice -

| Toffee Popcorn |
- Milk, sweet popcorn, creamy dairy ice cream all whizzed together and topped with more popcorn -

| Mojito Cheescake |
- Made with cream cheese, real rum and fresh mint leaves on a buttery biscuit base and garnished with grated dark chocolate -


If I had to choose, my favourites would probably be the Mexican Baja Shrimp Burger, and the Mexican Hummus. 
Unfortunately I was not able to try the Tacos selection, which will be available from 19th August. Hence, for those of you who will be visiting soon, I will be looking forward to hearing good things about them (and seeing your photos as well, of course)!

Address: 228 Brick Lane, London E1 6SA
Opening times: 16:00-22:00 (Tue - Fri) ; 12:00-22:00 (Sat - Sun)

The Cheekster, signing out x

Saturday, 9 August 2014


So I made a visit to Market House Brixton last weekend for the Nanban pop-up - Southern Japanese cooking from Masterchef 2011 winner, Chef Tim Anderson. 
We were one of the first customers to arrive that day, and were strategically sat in front of the kitchen window.



| Pressure Drop Nanban Kanpai |
- Wheat IPA primed with yuzu, grapefruit, and orange juices -

| Karaage |
- Marinated deep-fried chicken thigh -

I love karaage, it's always a must-order dish for me at any Japanese restaurant - and this didn't disappoint me. Served in a cardboard takeaway box, the chicken was non-greasy and crispy on the outside, yet still tender and succulent inside. 
Deliciously moreish, and I would gladly have taken a couple of boxes home with me...

| Ackee and Saltfish Korokke |
- Croquettes of ackee, salt cod, and potatoes with katsu sauce -

| Yaki-Curry Meat Patty |
- Beef mince, pea, and sweet potato curry with cheese in a turmeric pastry case -

Lovely flavours, and reminded me of currypuffs that I so love...


| Cheese Pepper Bacon Kushiyaki |
- Padron peppers stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, skewered, grilled and seasoned with sichimi chilli powder -

| Shiitake Yuzu-Kosho Butter Kushiyaki |
- Grilled, skewered shiitake mushrooms basted in yuzu-chilli butter -

Both very tasty, especially the padron peppers which was my favourite amongst the dishes, alongside the karaage.


| Kumamoto Ramen |
- Tonkotsu broth, thin noodles, pork belly, tea-pickled egg, fried garlic chips, burnt garlic oil, fermented mustard greens, etc.

 To avoid over-stuffing ourselves, we ordered a bowl of ramen to share. Lovely warm broth and the noodles were somewhat different from the normal ramen that I have had - strangely kind of like the noodles used in Wan Tan Mee (wantan noodles!)
Not that I'm complaining...I do love all kinds of noodles after all.
A satisfying bowl of ramen.

| Japanese Mr. Whippy |

We tried both flavours that were available that day - green tea with melon, and white peach.
A nice Asian twist.


Want to know what else is on offer? 
Well then, here's the full menu...

The pop-up will be running throughout the month of August - walk-ins are accepted, but reservations are obviously recommended.

Address: Market House, 443 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LN
Tel. No.: 020 7095 9443

The Cheekster, signing out x