Tuesday, 12 May 2015


I love my Mondays off work, especially when the weather is good, and my afternoon was made even better when Angie (@SilverSpoonLDN) asked me along for lunch Coya. The name coincidentally sounds very much similar to Koya (one of my favourite regular spots, as many of you may already know!), but is in fact very different. 
Coya is instead a modern Peruvian restaurant located in Mayfair, just off Piccadilly, with three open kitchens; the Ceviche Bar, the open charcoal grill, and the central kitchen.
It has been quite a while since I last had Peruvian food, and I have heard good things about Coya - one of those places that has also been on the to-do list for ages.

The staff were very friendly upon our arrival, as they kept our coats away in the cloakroom before showing us to our table by the window. 
I do like the interior of the place, with its vibrant colours and artistic decor.

We tried a couple of drinks from the Juice Menu, which was divided into four different categories: Smoothies, Cleanses, Boosters, and the last option where you could make your choice of up to five ingredients. I was initially slightly tempted to choose my own ingredients, but then reconsidered, avoiding the catastrophe of my avocado-blueberry-coconut-mango-peanut butter concoction...
I decided to play safe this time, and went for the Campo Verde (wheatgrass, kale, pineapple, avocado, apple), whilst Angie chose the Para Picchu (kale, cilantro, celery, cucumber, pineapple). Both very green and healthy-looking drinks, and I particularly liked the creaminess of the avocado.
We also tried one of their cocktails, the Cusco Wildberry Punch (Ketel One Vodka, blackberry, raspberry, lemon, agave nectar and prosecco), which was quite sweet and fruity.

We both went for the four course set lunch menu, and ordered different dishes for each course so that we had a wider selection to try.
For our first course, we ordered a salmon and sea bream ceviche. The Salmon Nikkei had celery juice, ginger, daikon and wasabi tobiko, which was very refreshing. I loved the sea bream which had a lovely and fresh aroma from the coriander and a slight spiciness from the aji amarillo. Both of them were very good starters.

Salmon Nikkei

Dorada Criolla

Next up were the chicken skewers and tuna tacos. The chicken skewers looked really tasty, but we did notice that they were slightly pink on the inside. We queried it with the staff, and were reassured that it was meant to be prepared that way. Nicely marinated with more aji amarillo and garlic, and I can safely confirm that all is still well the day after!
We both really enjoyed the tuna tacos which were finely chopped up and very dainty indeed, served in light and crispy mini tacos.

I ordered another chicken dish for my main course, loading up on plenty of protein today! It was a really generous portion of corn fed baby chicken breast, marinated in aji panca which had a delectable peppery and smokey taste, and a bit of fruitiness to it as well. It was served with some nicely grilled peppers and onions on the side.
The sea bream was undoubtedly delicious as well, served on a bed of luscious potatoes and a fennel salad on the side.

Pollo al Josper

Filete de Dorada

We were quite full afterwards, but our waiter kindly brought out a couple of desserts for us to try anyway. One was a trio of ice cream: chocolate, Arabica coffee, and lucuma (if I'm not mistaken!). The chocolate was quite interesting as it had a bit of a boozy taste to it.
I really liked the Parfait de Arabica, made with kiwicha, caramelised banana, and Zacapa 23 YO rum. I had to control myself so as not to devour it all on my own, conscious that I hadn't gone for ballet in the morning - I do hate wasting good desserts...

Overall it was a very pleasant and relaxing afternoon, and the staff were very attentive and friendly throughout. 
A word of thanks to Angie for inviting me along and being such great company as usual, and many thanks to Coya for all the good food and their generosity.

Looks like this will be another favourite Peruvian restaurant in London to add to my list.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Coya on Urbanspoon

Friday, 8 May 2015


For all fellow lovers of Koya out there, I'm sure you have been equally saddened by the news of Koya closing at the end of May and the return of the talented Chef Junya to his homeland in Japan. 
I was however excited to hear about the Thai Special Blackboard Takeover by @theskinnybib - "Izakaya bangcock" using a combination of Japanese techniques, fresh British and European produce and banging Thai inspired flavours.

We arrived just before noon, unaware that the opening time was pushed back to 12.30pm - good thing we arrived early though and stayed at the front as the queue was unsurprisingly building up as the time passed by...

 There were of course plenty of tables to seat almost everyone in the queue, but I already knew where I was going to head towards.
It has been a while since the last time when I was at my 'regular spot' at The BackBench - the last one was held in March, the 12th and last Backbench event. I was clearly sad when it ended, but glad that I was able to enjoy all but one of them - I was pretty chuffed with my record!

The kitchen was buzzing as usual, Perm looking rather focused at the front (and I'm sure very excited inside!) as his Blackboard Specials would be served to the first round of customers of the day.

| Brown Trout "Nare-Sushi" with Kaffir Lime Dressing |

The trout had a really smooth and melt-in-your-mouth soft texture. It was soaked in fermented rice which had a slight sweet and tangy flavour. I really enjoyed this with the combination of the heat from the chilli and the aroma of the kaffir dressing.

| Tempura of Young & Wild Spring Leaves with Chilli & Peanut Salt |

Tim who was sat next to us kindly let us have a little taste of his tempura dish. I have always loved the unique tempura dishes served at Koya, using freshly foraged ingredients and deep fried in that light and crisp batter. A really more-ish kind of dish that I could snack on all day.

| Koya Style "Som Tam" Salad with Pickled Blue Velvet Crab |

Som tam salad is one of my favourite Thai dishes, and this version had English asparagus, rhubarb and kohlrabi - the use of rhubarb gave it a bit more of a sharper taste. Quite a refreshing dish, although I personally would have liked it to have a bit more of a spicy kick to it - I blame my Asian taste buds.

| Herbal & Udon Stuffed Chicken Wing Gyoza |

 I really enjoyed this dish which was one of my favourites - deliciously well marinated chicken wings stuffed with herbs and udon. I have had a similar version stuffed with rice before back in Asia, and this tasted just as good, or even better. The stuffing was sealed really well in the wings and each mouthful was a burst of aromatic flavours.

| Thai Style Nettle Omelet in Dashi |

Another sneaky taste of Tim's dish that we did not order! Fried in hot oil resulting in a perfectly browned and fluffy omelette, and soaked in Koya's deliciously clean and comforting signature dashi.
Such a simple dish yet highly addictive and I wished that I had ordered one for myself! 
I believe that it was a favourite from the Blackboard Specials for many other diners.

| "English Jungle" Curry with Wild Rabbit, Burdock, Dandelion & Thistle |

 I do enjoy a good and rich curry, but I also like jungle curries, also known as kaeng pa, a variety of Thai curry originating from northern Thailand. It does not coconut milk and is more watery with a nice level of spiciness to it. The rabbit was tender and overall a really fragrant dish.

| Northern Thai "Hung Lay" Kakuni | 

Regular customers at Koya will most definitely have tried the much loved Buta Kakuni (braised pork belly with cider). This dish had a Northern Thai inspired twist to it, a rich yellow curry based pork belly, packed with fragrant herbs and spices. The pork was, as expected, amazingly soft and tender, paired with sweet pickled new season garlic.

| Junya's Seafood "Tom Yum" Udon |

After wiping clean all of the other small dishes, it was time for the finale - Junya's Seafood "Tom Yum" Udon! An udon dish like no other, brimming with a variety of fresh seafood, tomatoes and combined with my all-time favourite tom yum flavours.  
We did the sensible thing and ordered a bowl each, because a hearty bowl of udon was never meant to be shared...
The ultimate comfort food.

Our bellies were full to the brim with satisfaction by the time we slurped every single last drop of that udon dish. A really unique collaboration and overall great food experience.
Kudos to both Chef Junya and Perm for all their hard work!

I am definitely going to miss this place a lot when it closes, but at the same time excited to hear about the news that the more relaxed Koya Bar, headed by Chef Shuko Oda, will soon be expanding.
I will hopefully be making a few more trips back to Koya and savour each meal before it closes.
Thank you Chef Junya for all the good food and amazing BackBench experiences over the last year. I am sure that I like many others look forward to your return to the London scene soon!

The Cheekster, signing out x

Sunday, 3 May 2015


Some of you may already be familiar with the works of Dr. Owen Bain, the man behind Gourmet Focus
His most recent pop-up event was held at The Adam & Eve in Homerton, themed 'A Smart Meal', with food by Chef Michael Harrison and The Cornwall Project.

There was the option to have wine pairing to complement our tasting menu - a chance to sample some natural wines, exclusivesly supplied by The Fox's Knocker, at a bargain price of £17.50. It was not quite the weekend yet, but I'm sure a little bit of wine to wind down never hurt anyone...

Every meal should always start with some good bread and butter. I particularly loved that potato bread (The Flour Station's finest, so I've been told!) - really great taste and texture. This was served with deliciously smooth Cornish butter, and a sunflower seed butter. This was the first time that I've tasted sunflower seed butter - it was naturally sweet without the need for added sugar, and really addictive. It was a bit like peanut butter, but even better...I finished an entire bowl on my own.
Now besides the fact that they taste great as a spread (or on its own!), sunflower seeds also have many health benefits. For example, they are a great source of vitamin E, B-complex vitamins and many essential minerals that play vital roles in our bodily functions.

We were then served some nibbles, made using the remaining cauliflower stalks, dipped in a taramasalata puree. A smart way of making use of leftover ingredients, and the taramasalata was great with the bread as well.

The first course was braised cauliflower with turmeric and kale. A really healthy looking dish, and I particularly liked the turmeric sauce which was really creamy. Known to many as the main spice for curries, turmeric also has many medicinal benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used to help treat conditions such as arthritis, heartburn and colds. Curcumin, an extract from turmeric root, has also been studied for it's ability to improve ailments such as Alzheimer's disease.

Next up was the white fish soup, onion puree, asparagus and toasted rapeseeds. The soup was really warm and comforting, and I made sure to savour every single last drop from the little pot that it came served in.
I have heard of rapeseed oil, and have probably tried it at some point, but this is probably a first for me eating the actual seeds. 
Rapeseed oil is known to be a healthy choice cooking oil due to its low saturated fat content (50% less than olive oil) and high in beneficial unsaturated fats.

Another nibble that was served was made using the skin from the mackerel dish that was to follow - very light and crisp.

The next dish was rather unique - oyster baked in beef fat with raw vinegar, tarragon and cracked wheat. 
Oysters are high in protein, and loaded with minerals (zinc, iron, selenium - important for healthy cell function) and vitamins such as vitamin B12 which helps support nerve function.
I generally prefer my oysters fresh (which is strange as I never dared to eat oysters until about a couple of years ago...) but this actually tasted pretty good baked with that luscious beef fat, and I also liked the crunchy bits of wheat which gave it a bit of texture.

One of my favourite dishes was the seared mackerel served with fermented cabbage, smoked potato and green oil. 
The fish was really fresh and perfectly seared, and those Keveral Farm potatoes were just stunning.
Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and oily fish such as mackerel is known to have one of the highest contents of these essential nutrients that are known to improve brain function, enhance quality of life and lower the risk of premature death.
The fermented cabbage has a high content of good bacteria (lactobacillus sp. and bifidobacter) that can lead to an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
which stimulates the healthy development and production of your brain.

The last main course was the rib of beef with pickled walnuts, fresh curd, green pepper, carrot and rye. Chef Michael looked mighty please with that piece of beef (from Philip Warren Quality Butchers) and even brought it out for us to see it before it was cooked.
The longer grazing season in Cornwall enables their beef to be truly grass-fed naturally, which is healthier for the consumer as grass-fed beef is leaner and contains omega-3.
You may have to pay a higher price for it, but the long-term benefits are worth investing a bit more in yourself.

Somehow I managed to get one of the larger cuts of that beef - not that I ever complain about getting more food! Cooked medium rare with a lovely pink centre. I enjoyed the beef with the pickled walnut, but probably not together with the fresh curd on the side which I preferred eating separately. 
Good quality foods, better performance levels.

And to finish off, some yoghurt with seasonal fruit, aerated custard and thyme.
Commonly eaten during breakfast, yoghurt is a great source of protein, calcium, potassium , vitamin B12, as well as good bacteria which again holds the key to better brain health.

 Many of the health benefits of course do overlap with each other, and the list is by no means exhaustive. As the old saying goes, 'We are what we eat', and it is a scientifically proven fact that our food choices affect our overall health and well-being. 

Ending with the words of Dr. Owen Bain - Eat Smarter. Perform Smarter. Achieve More.

The Cheekster, signing out x