Monday, 17 March 2008

City of London: Fuzzy's Grub

Fuzzy's Grub with several locations in London offers lovers of roasts the best bang for your buck. You can get a sandwich from Fuzzy's or Grubbies as I prefer to call them (that's not a critique of their cleanliness it's just me) but why would you?

The real reason to come here is the Roast Lunch Boxes. You can choose from beef, chicken, pork or turkey. Personally I'm a fan of a good turkey roast. What will you get with your meat? Carrots, peas, Yorkshire pudding, roast potato (or mash), cranberry sauce and gravy. I've been told the mash potato is better and that's quite possible as the roast potatoes are usually dry but for me a roast just isn't a roast without roast potatoes. The gravy helps too, although the gravy tubs are a bit small.

The staff will generally add a bit more if you ask and all of this food gets crammed into these mid size boxes for the affordable price of £5.50. A bargain compared to the cost of many other take away boxes. The substantial weight of the boxes should allay any fears that you're not getting you moneys worth.

My coworkers and I will occasionally go to Grubbies and even the big eaters amongst us (myself included) find it a struggle to finish but finish we do and we are normally well satisfied. You could have Grubbies every day but I think it works best - like a good Sunday roast - as an occasional meal with anticipation heightening the experience.

Generally, you'll receive fast and efficient service as the staff bustle the line in and out of the store. None of the Fuzzy's I've been to have included seating so you'll have to make your way back to a park, canteen or at your desk. In the latter case the smell of a good roast may make your co-workers salivate and/or hate you!

Generally I've found the food to be reasonable, filling and very good value for money.

Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case, skip it.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Sydney: Rockefeller Bar & Grill

Rockefeller Bar & Grill café is in a bit of an odd spot. It is technically part of a half-empty soon to be refurbished shopping centre, has more passing cars than foot traffic, and competes with the more visible and busier MLC foodcourt just across the road. However, it is adjunct to the lobby of an office tower and I suspect that’s where their business comes from.

The surroundings are great – lovely high ceilings and industrial-like art installations in the office lobby to look at (or is that just the air-conditioning vents? industrial art installations are sometimes just bits of industrial junk that happen to look a bit funky). The red colours are vibrant and the bench cushioned seating is very comfortable. Despite being so close to an office tower lobby, I did not feel too rushed or exposed.

The menu is adequate – plenty of variety of salads, burgers and melts, typical lunchtime café fare. There were a few interesting items such as the Classic Club Wrap ($15.70) (“Traditional club sandwich, served in an untraditional way, wrapped in Turkish bread & accompanied with crisps”) and the mushroom risotto for $15.90 looked tempting.

However, it was the Chargrilled Steak Sandwich for $16.50 (“Served on toasted Turkish bread with grilled onions, tasty cheddar cheese, beer battered French fries & a garden salad”) which got my attention. A popular item, with another three diners at my table ordering it. We were not disappointed. Although the steak was not top notch quality, it was fine for a sandwich, and represented a fair product for the price paid. The fries were good, and the salad was substantial (not the usual garnish that lots of cafes try to call an accompanying salad).

The vegetarian at our table did not do so well. She tried to order a salad sandwich (i.e. “I’m vegetarian – so the chicken sandwich is fine, just leave out the chicken”). Waitress did not seem to understand. So, vegetarian said “get a piece of bread, put on some of the salad, and presto – salad sandwich”. Waitress says “you want the Caesar salad?” . Vegetarians says “No, I’m vegetarian, no meat please!”. When her order arrived, she got a plate with a bread roll (unsliced) and a massive salad in a bowl. It was quite amusing to watch as she tried to construct her own concoction. Who knew a salad sandwich could be so complex?

Table service was really the only downfall for this café. Not only did our vegetarian have a tough time relaying the order, we had a mix up with drinks (waitress misinterpreted the sparkling versus still water divide) and service was generally a bit slow. However, the service by the manager was great – booking a table was not a problem, he sent the menu in advance by email (handy for large groups), no problem with our large bill and he was really friendly. Unfortunately, he was let down by inexperienced floor staff… however, I think language difficulties were to blame, because everything was done with a smile in the end, and hey, everyone has to learn the trade somewhere! I would be willing to go back in the hope that the floor staff were new or just having an off day.

We did not stick around for coffees, but the expresso machine was in full swing and they also offer gelato. I think there is also a cabinet of sweet delicious things, but I was so full from my yummy steak sandwich that I was not even tempted.

I’d rate Rockefeller 3 out of 5 stars. On a return visit with better service, it would probably sneak in 3.5 stars.

Rockefeller Bar & Grill
135 King St Sydney
(02) 9221 9936

Posted on behalf of our Sydney correspondent. The wonderful Tam!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Manchester: Cake - "Pumpkin Cafe (Oxford Rd Station)"

In the sensible everyday world of food reviews it is highly unlikely that a station cafe would be highlighted for its singular excellence. I am glad not to be a serious food critic, but instead a veritable snack-aholic, because this means I can tell you about the joy that awaits you beyond the frankly shabby and depressing exterior of the Pumpkin Cafe at Oxford Road station.

If your main concern when choosing food on a break from work (or, as with myself, whilst commuting) is tastiness, sugar content and proximity to public transport then with the Pumpkin Cafe you cannot go wrong. This does come with a proviso, however: you can only have the muffins.

Pumpkin Cafe has the tastiest muffins I have encountered on this side of the globe. The blueberry or raspberry muffins are absolutely delightful. Little paper-wrapped clouds of sugary, buttery lightness with a slightly crispy top. Packed with large pieces of fruit - huge blueberries that burst with flavour and moist raspberries that melt with a velvety texture and a tartness that really cuts through the sugary muffin batter. For £1.55 the muffins aren't exactly the cheapest snack out there, but they have a quality rarely seen even in the most expensive of the city's cafes.

Don't bother with the sandwiches, though. And as for the coffee - blegh. Go to Java, just down the rise from the station (next to the Corner House) for proper coffee, made just how you like it by a cute young barista.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

City of London: Japanese - "ASTA"

Japanese in London isn't exactly hard to come by. Walking into any Pret will give you a ready made box of sushi. However, what Pret and its like can't give you is good quality and value for money Japanese food.

ASTA 3 at 5 Midlesex Street (near Petticoat Lane) may not have sushi but this is easily forgiven because of its wide range of ramen soups and bento boxes not to mention the well stocked drinks cabinet.

A big bowl of ramen with miso broth will set you back around £8 and it'll be brought out in about 5 minutes. With daily specials there's bound to be something here to intrigue and as the food is prepared to order ASTA 3 is a step above the standard pre-packaged lunchtime fare.

While the place looks nothing more than a glorified school canteen with plain walls and simple table and chairs it does have quite a lot of seating so you'll probably find a place. Otherwise wait until 2PM when things die down. On that note ASTA 3 is only open during the busy lunch time rush and closes at 3PM.

I've now been here a few times and always had friendly, prompt and patient service from the staff.

As for the food itself. In addition to a generous quantity to cost ratio (at least for London) you'll also get a reasonably good meal. The broth is hot and bracing, which is perfect even during this mild winter. In ramen I've found the egg and pork component can often be a bit hit and miss but thus far they've been pretty good. Finally, the noodles and vegetables are easy to pick up and wolf down or nurse depending on how much time you have.

For the city this is very good, to get significantly better you'll have to pay an equally proportionate amount.

Next time you have a craving for Japanese give ASTA 3 a try. If you've been please leave a comment.

I'll also endeavour to review ASTA 1 in an upcoming post.