1. New Post: TCé meets: Chef Rainer Becker, founder of Oblix

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/tce-meets-chef-rainer-becker-founder-of-oblix/

    TCé meets: Chef Rainer Becker, founder of Oblix

    It’s been just over a year since chef Rainer Becker opened OBLIX in the European Union’s tallest building, but he admits the mission is not quite accomplished.

    “It takes time for a restaurant to be there, where I have it in my head,” Becker said, sitting in a corner of the 32nd floor restaurant in the Shard – the London skyscraper that looks a bit like a castle from the “Lord of the Rings” films.

    “I think the first step, we achieved. It’s busy and successful but there’s a lot of detail work to be done that most people don’t see, but I see.”

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    The award-winning, German-born chef opened OBLIX in May 2013 in a departure from the Japanese tradition of the iconic Zuma and renowned Roka restaurants that made him famous at the turn of the new millennium.

    After training in Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany, his love for Japanese food was established when he lived in Tokyo for six years working at the Park Hyatt hotel. He moved to London in 2002 to open Zuma in Knightsbridge with business partner Arjun Waney.

    The launch of OBLIX came after 11 years of rapidly expanding the Zuma and Roka brands across the globe, so the plan was to venture into New York-style urban dining that would offer Becker a lunchtime alternative.

    “I eat too much Japanese food every day,” he said. “Japanese food is my passion because I lived in Japan. But I didn’t want to do a Japanese concept. I like simple food and New York is one of my favorite cities.”

    “They have great restaurants and they’re very multicultural, like London. We said, ‘Let’s do something where you can’t pinpoint what we’re doing’, so it’s not American cuisine. Like London, there’s not really a London cuisine. It’s multicultural.”

    On a weekday, the stylish restaurant, with its stunning views over the British capital, is buzzing with businessmen, tourists and young couples, including a famous footballer and his TV presenter girlfriend. It is a mixed clientele that Becker believes is one of the advantages of being based in the Shard.

    “It’s a tourist attraction and a destination, so we have a very broad audience,” he said.

    MENU TWEAKS

    The menu has gone through a number of tweaks since the opening, although the flavorsome duck with mango chutney has become a signature dish. Another big draw is an interactive sommelier station which allows guests to try new and vintage wines and match it with their meals. Wine-tasting classes may become a larger part of the dining experience.

    Pic: Touchfood

    Pic: Touchfood

    Becker says he has learned a few lessons since OBLIX opened, which have inspired the changes. This includes ironing out the teething problems before the critics experience the venue.

    “Every restaurant opening is tough but a lesson is, ‘Don’t let the critics come in the first week’. How can you deliver a product in the first week to the best possible standard? We’re not machines, it’s all human beings,” he said.

    “Guests come at the same time and then they wait half an hour for starter. That’s the way it is. But three or four weeks down the road, everything is much smoother.”

    Despite the restaurant’s popularity, he said it’s too early to plan another one.

    “I think it’s very unique to the Shard,” Becker said. “If there’s another building in a European city where you have similar aspects coming together, maybe there’s an opportunity.”

    In the meantime, he’s working on planting another Roka in Aldwych in central London in September after opening one in February in the up-market Mayfair district.

    He is also taking Zuma to New York and Abu Dhabi as he enjoys launching new venues, which he compares to the adrenaline rush he gets from car racing, one of his favourite pastimes.

    “Besides cooking, I always love the aspect of understanding how (business) all functions and works together,” he said.

    “When you expand you cannot do everything yourself anymore and naturally you have to look after the business aspect, probably more than the other aspects if you have the right people doing the other things. Then you grow more into that field. But the balance has to be right.”

    With 14 restaurants under his belt by the end of year, he is also determined to keep the quality and experience of his restaurants as high as possible.

    “The bottom line is, when you go to a restaurant you want to have a good time.”

    This interview was first featured in Reuters on 17th June 2014. 

     

  2. New Post: What we’ve been up to… Hai Street Kitchen, Leadenhall Market

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/what-weve-been-up-to-hai-street-kitchen-leadenhall-market/

    What we’ve been up to… Hai Street Kitchen, Leadenhall Market

    Sushi burritos anyone? Yea, we never heard of ‘em either until an e-mail pinged into TCE’s inbox with news of a Japanese casual bar that’s attempting to revolutionise everything we ever knew about sushi (well maybe they’re not pitching their ambitions that high, but they’re certainly daring to be different). Hai Street Kitchen and Co is what we’d call Japanese-Mexican fusion with a light and quirky touch; tasty sushi rolls are prepped at a counter alá Chipotle and rolled in the style of a burrito – or served in a bowl – with an emphasis on fresh, Japanese and Mexican ingredients and speedy Gonzales service.

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    Clearly pitched at a city crowd who would appreciate both of those things at lunch time, it’s still worth a pop-in if you’re in the Leadenhall Market area, just for the chance to get your paws on these colossal rolls which might be a bit tricky to chow down at first bite – they’re really that big! – but it’s nothing a spoon, chopsticks and a few napkins can’t handle. We recommend the flank steak roll with asparagus, wasabi guacamole – and if you’re on the move, grab a bag of the super moreish yucca chips to snack on for later.

    For more info about Hai Street Kitchen, visit: www.haistreetkitchen.com

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  3. New Post: TCé picks: A selection of things to do and places to go – October 2013

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/featured/tce-picks-a-selection-of-things-to-do-and-places-to-go-october-2013/

    TCé picks: A selection of things to do and places to go – October 2013 

    October, October, October – the month where we’re not only reminded of how close we are to the end of the year, but which also offers the last of the worthy happenings around town before everything starts to take a certain red and green tinge (with a whiff mixed spice). So here’s your chance to join forces with fellow bike enthusiasts, catch a flick at the LFF or salute Nelson Mandela, amongst other top things we’ve picked out. Enjoy!

    Alternative

    London Bicycle Film Festival at Barbican, October 3-6th – It’s officially a decade since the Bicycle Film Festival was created to celebrate urban cycling around the world, so this year’s events are quite the milestone. The London leg kicks off with a party at Hackney Downs Studio followed by a symposium and a selection of  insightful short film screenings at the Barbican – all worth checking out, especially if you’re a lover of bike culture.

    Arts & Culture

    Mandela and De Klerk 2011 by Richard Chauke

    We Love Mandela: Art Inspired by Madiba exhibition, October 3rd – 16th – The touring exhibition of paintings, photographs, sculptures and  artefacts were created to celebrate the milestone birthdays of the South African leader and comes to London following a stint at Johannesburg’s Peacemakers museum.  It makes a brief visit, so catch it if you can.

    Arts & Culture 

    BFI London Film Festival, October 9-20th  - After a run-of-the-mill summer movie season, autumn really needs to start with a bang. Thankfully, the 57th BFI London Film Festival is more than up to the task. The LFF has assembled its strongest line-up in years and  there is something for every film lover in this twelve days celebration of the magic of cinema.

    Music

    Bilal at Islington Assembly Hall, October 24th – This Philly soul singer has collaborated with some of the best in the biz (Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Robert Glasper), but has always put on a heck of a show when rolling solo.  We’re looking forward to seeing him in action when he hits North London at the end of the month.

    Eat & Drink

    PipsDish, 15 Exeter Street Covent Garden - The Islington pop-up makes a permanent home on Exeter Street in Covent Garden this month,  promising to bring something new to the table. They’ll be serving brekkie for starters, and will continue their “no-menu” tradition of offering a variety of seasonal dishes made with quality, locally-sourced ingredients.

    Best bits from last month

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  4. New Post: What we’ve been up to… Butler’s Wharf Blackout

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/what-weve-up-to-butlers-wharf-blackout/

    What we’ve been up to… Butler’s Wharf Blackout

    If you ever wanted to experience a candelit dinner with stunning views of the Thames – with a twist, of course – then Butler’s Wharf Blackout could be the answer until September 15th. As a new addition to the capital’s annual hoorah (the Thames Festival), BWB is a collaboration with riverside restaurants Le Pont de La Tour, Cantina del Ponte, Blueprint Café and Butler’s Wharf Chophouse where they’ve all agreed to cut the lights after 8:30pm in honour of the history of the Thames (which is said to take its name from an ancient word meaning “dark water” ). But that’s not the twist; the pop-up 40-metre, 140-seat banqueting table is where we could be found on Saturday night, enjoying “swim & tonics” (G&T’s in a fishbowl bag), a delicious Crayfish & cherry tomato with basil starter from Cantina del Ponte, blackened pork with baby radish and black potato from the Blueprint Café (see what they did there?), and a kentish bramble syllabub with shortbread we could have eaten twice over from the Butler’s Wharf Chophouse. After the meal, we headed over to the pop-up bar Neon Noir to dance in the dark at the silent disco and get a load of more creative cocktails. It was the loveliest of evenings and a clever way to celebrate the river – so check out our pics below!

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  5. New Post: What we’ve been up to… Shake Shack

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/what-weve-been-up-to-shake-shack/

    What we’ve been up to… Shake Shack

    For all the fanfare that surrounded the launch of this US import last month, we wanted the dust to settle before we got a whiff of the burgers, dogs and fries at Shake Shack, which has seen endless queues since opening on July 5th. So what’s the fuss?

    Well, it’s legendary status in New York has understandably peaked the interest of ex-pats and burger lovers, despite coming into an arena already heaving with every kind of burger outlet you can think of. So if you’re after a meal that will trump some of the finest in town and absolutely blow your mind, you won’t quite get that here. However, what you will get is pretty darn good meal that prides itself on freshness, in fanciful surroundings (gotta love Covent Garden!) and presented with a neatness that adds to the novelty of a fast food-cum-bougie burger bar.

    Shake Shack Covent Garden

    The Shack Burger is a simple, compact sandwich that can come as a double and is served with the softest bun we’ve ever tasted – so a definite  thumbs up for that. But we preferred the super tasty Shack-cago dog, and it’s lavish dressing of relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt and mustard.

    Shake Shack Covent Garden

    Add to that a side of awesome crinkle fries washed down with a shake-made lemonade and you can see why Shake Shack’s quite a fun visit as they do what they do well. But If the mains don’t woo you, the frozen custards probably will, coming plain and simple or in a range of creative flavours that change every month.

     

    Shake Shack Covent Garden

    Much has been said about the pricing at Shake Shack (which is a tad steepish for what you get), but the trade-off is a uniquely American experience with a pretty cool menu that’ll save you the plane ticket abroad.

    For more info, visit: www.shakeshack.co.uk

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  6. New Post: Somewhere you should eat… Shutterbug, Rivington Place

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/somewhere-you-should-go-shutterbug-rivington-place/

    Somewhere you should eat… Shutterbug, Rivington Place

    Within a year, this hip and cosy creperie has made such an indelible mark in the area, you wonder how Shoreditch managed before without it. But one things for certain – they (and we) can’t get enough of it.   Shutterbug is the bar-slash-pancake house that doesn’t just offer your standard crepe with the fillings to match.  Here, we’re talking savoury buckwheat varieties with the finest ingredients (asparagus, truffle oil and fig relish just to name a few), while their red velvet crepe will no doubt be award-winning one day.  Prices are fab too (starting from £4 for a lemon and sugar) so head over this weekend for a pre or post party bite.  Check out our pics from our recent visit just below, but for more info, visit http://www.shutterbug-london.com 

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  7. New Post: Wha we’ve been up to… The Rookery, Clapham

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/wha-weve-been-up-to-the-rookery-clapham/

    Wha we’ve been up to… The Rookery, Clapham

    Now that the summer is on the horizon and the days are longer, life seems to be for living again. So, a trip to south London for a north London girl sounded like an exciting opportunity, rather than a daunting task. On the Southside of Clapham Common (whose size never ceases to amaze me) stands The Rookery: a relaxed spot,  exuding a kind of New York style (exposed brick, hanging cables and lightbulbs, dim lighting… you know the formula), that could be the injection of independent cool that Claphamites are looking for.

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    We started with delicious, seasonal cocktails of Rubarb and ginger prosecco cocktail, a harmonious balance of spice and tang and our helpful waiter advised on his favourites. We sampled the coronation chicken, rare beef salad and pea and mint arancini. The starters are reasonably priced at between £5-£7, and their size makes them almost suitable as a main. The rare beef salad is fresh and echoes the start of spring with its shaved raw asparagus. But it misses a kick of flavour to lift it further. The retro serving of Coronation Chicken was huge, large pieces of chicken in delicious homemade curry spiced mayonnaise; we devoured it whole-heartedly. The arancini wouldn’t fool an Italian but the mini size was fun for sharing.

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    Our mains were a Pork belly with BBQ sauce and macaroni cheese with wild garlic and Jerusalem artichokes. Both again are large dishes and slightly overwhelming. The pork belly is well-cooked, and the fat crunchy and rich. It is drenched in BBQ sauce, which isn’t for all tastes, but comes with sweet potato fries and homemade slaw. The mains range from £13.50 – £23.50, which sounds steep but the size won’t leave you feeling short-changed. The wild garlic, which is always a pleasure to spy on a menu, lifted the macaroni cheese to the next level.
    My only gripe with the experience was the slow service. The restaurant was surprisingly busy for a weekday and this seems to have taken the staff by surprise too. I was left wondering if they had enough manpower to support the obvious demand from the hungry locals. We finished on a plate of chocolate desserts, which was a great sharing option. And, considering the size of the portions, that’s all you will be able to squeeze in! The menu is eclectic and includes French, Mediterranean, Modern British and a bit of New York eatery. The dishes change by season, which should keep their regulars interested too. There is also a large seating area out front, which will no doubt be a hit when that summer does finally arrive. (Words: Laura Thornley)

    For more info, visit: www.therookeryclapham.co.uk

     

  8. New Post: What we’ve been up to… Loco Moco at The Diner

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/what-weve-been-up-to-the-loco-moco-at-the-diner/

    What we’ve been up to… Loco Moco at The Diner

    I’m usually guilty of going for a traditional short stack with all the trimmings whenever I hit up The Diner (they do culinary Americana so well), but did you know they offer a famous Hawaiian brekkie/lunch called the Loco Moco?  Me neither, until a pal and I were invited to try this unusual dish that’s big in the Aloha state, and just one of the many all-day breakfast offerings you can get at The D.

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    It’s quite a  full-on meal for 9am, as you get dirty rice topped with a generous burger patty (cooked to your liking), cheese, jalapeño peppers before it’s all doused in gravy, but it’s pretty darn good – and curbed the hunger pangs for a good part of the day. You’ll find Loco Moco under “The Blue Plates” on The Diner menu, but for more info about its history, visit www.whatscookingamerica.net/History/LocoMocoHistory

     Check out more of our pics from The Diner on our Tumblr

     

  9. New Post: What we’ve been up to… Street Kitchen

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/what-weve-been-up-to-street-kitchen/

    What we’ve been up to… Street Kitchen

    Food trucks have certainly stepped up their game in recent years –  but we imagine only a few can match the style and sophistication of Street Kitchen, a striking silver outlet which has been serving takeaway gourmet food to suits in the city for the past two years.

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    For less than a tenner, you can get stuck into soft poached eggs with grilled mushrooms, hot-smoked salmon, crispy chicken or slow-braised lamb (which was our lunch choice of the day and tasted incredible!) – and with all ingredients being seasonal and organic, you know you’re only eating the good stuff.   Plus, we discovered service is super-quick too, with customers waiting less than five minutes to get their order.

    The truck currently offers a lunch service in Broadgate circle (11:30-2:30pm) Monday to Friday, but will be soon be serving burgers and cocktails in Shoreditch for lunches and dinner.  For more info, visit www.streetkitchen.co.uk

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  10. New Post: What we’ve been up to… MEATMission

    http://www.theculturalexpose.co.uk/eat-drink/what-weve-been-up-to-meatmission/

    What we’ve been up to… MEATMission

    First, there was the truck (MeatWagon), followed by the pop-up (MeatEasy), then came the boozy diner (MEATLiquor),  the trendy outlet in Covent Garden (MEATMarket) and now a mission to convert anyone else who’s yet to experience the indulgent joy of a dirty MEAT burger. Kudos to food proprietor Yianni Papoutsis for his ability to re-conceptualise the humble American burger restaurant  over the last few years, and attempting to go one better with each creative iteration. With MEATMission, it’d seem the team are keen to push the boundaries on the cultural dining experience, presenting his acclaimed burgers in an East End venue for foodies and coolhunters who are as much about the trendiness of the locale as they are about the hype over the grub – so TCé were invited to find out what burger-lovers can expect from this new kid on the block.

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    Sticking up a middle finger to its former tenants ( a Christian mission), the venue’s subversive  theme goes in hard from the jump; the lighting’s incredibly low,  the “inbread” part of the menu is pitched at “sinners”, skeletons are depicted in the stained-glass ceiling breaking bread Last-Supper style – and of course, there’s an all-seeing eye thrown in. It’s a bold statement as even the menu offers a few gags (Bingo Wings, badoom-ching! And you may not want to know the colloquial meaning of “Monkey Fingers“), but it was hard to laugh off the bright red cocktail called, er, Time Of The Month (!?). Still, the Donkey Punch cocktail (ahem) made with  lime juice, ginger beer and absinthe and the fruity Tipping The Velvet (double-ahem), were thankfully, quality Plan Bs, even if their names leave much to be desired.

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    First impressions aside, the food itself had some impressive highlights. For starters, those monkey fingers and chilli cheese fries are an absolute-must – and while we were less wooed by the fried pickles (tempura-style, nothing remarkable), the currywurst served over fries was also a great choice.  As for mains, the red chilli burger and cheeseburger  were cool and just what you’d expect  (although a friend was slightly overwhelmed by the spiciness of the green chilli burger), but my hat goes off to the delicious brilliance that is the roast beef sundae.  It looks deceptively sweet, but this creation is simply garlic mash and gravy with roast beef, horseradish cream, topped with a cherry tomato.

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    Considering there are other burger outlets that are more notorious for their food (Patty & Bun, Lucky Chip and Honest Burgers),  time will tell if MEATMission‘s restaurant credentials can match the hipness of their brand. But it seems like the sort of venue that’ll make a killing on the weekends as it’s near the heart of most of the Shoreditch action, it’s not too pricey, the music’s good, there’s yummy cocktails and it  has the right kind of starters for grazing – what more could a food-loving coolhunter ask for?

    For more info, visit: www.meatmission.com

     

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