Super quick review for a super quick brunch: Andina Shoreditch

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I had this place on my list of bars/restaurants to try for quite a bit and I don’t know why I didn’t stop there before, since I pass by it almost every day.

So, last Sunday I decided on a whim to grab a bite before deliberately losing myself in the craziness of the Christmas Shopping District: Oxford Street. After all, I have gifts to buy like everyone else.

Little sister of the famous Ceviche in Soho, Andina is a Peruvian Bar which concentrates its focus on Andean soul food with a modern touch, a necessity if you want to make it among the uncountable hip restaurants in Shoreditch and London in general.

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The first thing you notice as soon as you get in is the brightness of the place, thanks to the natural light coming from the big windows that surrounds the room. Then the quirky decor of the yellow tiles, the wicker basket chandeliers and the colored yarn hung on the walls add authenticity and modernity without weighing the interior down.

Unfortunately for us, G and I were seated downstairs in a very much different room with an aseptic bar, dim lights, furniture almost totally made of aged wood and a large mirror that covers completely a wall.

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I ordered simple poached eggs and avocado sourdough toast, just to play it safe after the flu I got during the week, while G got the Chicharron sandwich, which according to Andina’s menu should be the best bacon sandwich: chunks of confit pork belly with camote (sweet potato) ketchup, with red onions and tomato. Challenge accepted.

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The service was fairly quick, and in no time we had our plates. While mine was a bit bland in flavour and unfortunately cold, G’s sandwich was too much for me to handle, not really the best bacon sandwich as the menu claims. Excessively greasy with a strong pork flavour, that remained in my mouth for quite a bit that afternoon, even until dinner time.

My vote: I expected more from this place, to be honest. I cannot talk about their other specialities or their famous ceviche which I would like to try one day, but as a place for brunch I give Andina a 6. In my opinion there are far better places in Shoreditch and in London in general, to have a bite.

Andina,1 Redchurch St, London E2.

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November’s favourites: 5 sweet treats to enjoy in London

Here we go again, Monday. A gloomy cold Monday here in London, like Monday itself wasn’t enough to get bogged down as soon as I open my eyes. So what’s the best medicine to increase our serotonin levels, therefore have a moment of happiness? Chocolate. Or cake. Or just whatever you fancy as guilty pleasure.

Here 5 guilty pleasures I indulged in this November:

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Couldn’t resist…

Hot Chocolate and Curly Whirly Brownie from Konditor and Cook. First things first, I confess to be a bit fussy for hot chocolate, because too many times I have been given some cheap and bitter stuff that always made wonder about how managers care about the quality of a product and the satisfaction of customers. This little introduction just state how much I actually appreciated Konditor and Cook’s product: one sip of this luscious hot chocolate and you can taste the top quality of a rich bittersweet cocoa at the right temperature, thanks to the amazing barista staff. Then the Curly Whirly brownie, the most popular treat at Konditor and Cook: a dense chocolate chip goodness swirled with vanilla cheesecake, because we don’t want to choose, we want it all! After the first bite I understand why it’s the most famous choice: so fudgy and moist that it melts in my mouth. A silky texture balanced by crunchy chocolate chips and creamy cheesecake. These three types of texture also reflect a harmony of flavours: sweet and bitter married together by the delicate vanilla aroma of cheesecake.

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Couldn’t resist, again.

Baked Zebra Crodoughnuts from Dum Dum Donutterie. The founder and doughnut chef Paul Hurley opened Dum Dum with the mission of bringing on the market a baked doughnut which should have been as good as the fried one, or even better. Well, he’s having quite a success and I am one of Dum Dum’s loyal customers, especially after trying the Zebra crodoughnut. Layers of ring-shaped croissant dough filled with chocolate butter crème form another one of my favourite guilty pleasures of the month. This is the one I end up buying often, because chocolate, that’s why! Anyway, I also recommend the Strawberries & Cream and the Peter Andre Yum Yum Dum Dum, which despite the funny name is filled with dulce de leche crème. Or if you are a Nutella fan get the Chocolate and Hazelnut one (in the picture below).

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Black Bottom Cupcake from Hummingbird bakery. A classic one for me, because it’s been 4 years after my first and I always go back and have one. Moist and dense chocolate sponge with cheesecake and chocolate chips filling and cream cheese frosting (see a recurring pattern here?). A bomb, of calories and happiness.

Chocolate and banana streusel cake from Timber Yard café. I first tried this cake only a couple of days ago, but it is so good that I feel I need to share it with you guys – unfortunately only  by describing it. The perfect combination of spongy and crunchy textures with different levels of sweetness, from the streusel topping to the banana’s natural sugar and the bitterness of chocolate.

Matcha green tea dorayaki from Japan Centre. if you feel the options above are too much to handle and prefer a guilty pleasure that doesn’t include chocolate, why not getting a matcha green tea custard dorayaki from Japan Centre. Two featherlight soft pancakes that sandwich a delicate matcha custard filling. The overall taste is sweet but with a bitter note given by green tea. A satisfying treat for sure.

What about you guys, what are your guilty pleasures of the moment?

Have a good week!

P.S.: regarding my suspects of gluten intolerance I addressed in this post, I am still waiting to run the test, and in order not have a false positive result, I’m still eating foods that contain gluten (as for example the cakes listed in this article ). Will see how it goes.

Sunday Brunch at Lantana Shoreditch: my review.

It happens every Sunday. I roll out of bed with semi closed eyes uttering weird sounds and wander in the house before realising how late it is and regretting those two hours I overslept, because the bed couldn’t let me go. The routine continues like this: usually after drinking some coffee in slow motion, I call my mum to catch up with the latest family gossip, but every time I end up getting scolded. Why? Simple, because it’s almost lunchtime and I preferred sleeping rather than waking up and do the preps for Sunday sauce, as every good Italian woman should do according to my mother’s and gran’s thought. At this point I have two options: 1) Lie and tell her that the sauce is on the stove simmering since 7 am and if I am convincing enough I also can find a quick excuse for my sleepy voice. Unfortunately I am such a bad liar, so I go straight to number 2. 2)Tell her I’m going to have brunch.

Her reply is always immediate: “Why? You’re not American.” Then it becomes melodramatic: “Hearing you’re losing your national identity makes me so sad.” Seriously, mum? I should probably take her to brunch next time she visits to try to change her mind.

After a quick search, G. and I decided for Lantana in Shoreditch, a trendy Aussie style café renowned for their excellent coffee blend and their signature drink, the flat white. I had already tried their coffee and cakes at their original location in Fitzrovia during my MA year at SOAS, and I kept going back at the time just to reward myself with quality products after classes, exams, you name it. This time it was all about brunch.

We arrived around 12:15 and we joined the long queue, because the café was packed with customers. Good sign.

The place has nice aged wood interiors without frills, in line with the trendy simple but absolutely vintage style, which is common to many independent coffee shops in London. Not really bright I would say, as the room can only benefit from two windows, so in rainy days like yesterday, the artificial light becomes necessary even at midday.

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The very kind waitress asked us if it was ok to wait 20 minutes, and of course we were more than happy to do it, but 20 minutes soon became 40 when we finally got seated. Well, it can happen when the kitchen is particularly busy and orders keep piling up, right?

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Soon another waiter came to our table and when I was about to order, he informed us that the food would have taken another 15 minutes. Fair, our order needs to be cooked and plated. Plus, what could have we possibly done after queuing 40 minutes to get a table, stand up and walk away?

Too bad that 15 minutes became 30. At this point I was very hungry and, honestly, annoyed, but our food finally came.

Smashed avocado and streaky bacon on sourdough toast with a poached egg and rocket (£7.5) for me and slow braised beans with ham hock served on corn bread with grilled chorizo, a poached egg and spinach for G (£8.5).

Well, I have to say that the kitchen staff made up for the wait with their flavourful dishes.

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A matter of perspective: the portion was bigger than it looks here.

My choice celebrated the always winning union between bacon and eggs, with a fresh note added by a creamy mellow avocado and the final bitter touch given of rocket to complete the dish. Nice, without any doubt. However, I would have seasoned the avocado with some pepper, smoked paprika and sumac just give it a spicy kick.

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Same goes for G.’s choice.

G’s order as well had a nice harmony in the combination of ingredients. In fact, the hearty beans braised in tomato sauce and ham hock gave respectively acidity and texture to contrast with the distinctive sapidity of chorizo and extremely peppery corn bread.

I give Lantana 7.5 that could have been easily transformed in a higher score, but the long waiting at the entrance and then at table was a significant source of influence. I perfectly understand that Brunch can be a busy time, but more communication and coordination of the staff could significantly improve the customers’ experience.

Lantana Shoreditch, Unit 2, 1 Oliver’s Yard ,55 City Rd. EC1Y1HQ