I couldn't resist a return visit to brunch hotspot Roamer's on a recent weekend trip to Berlin. The brunch there on my last trip was simply fantastic- full of unexpected flavour combinations and presented beautifully and thank god Roamer's did not disappoint on those fronts this time either! Yes, of course more people now know of it's greatness meaning that we had to wait a good hour (!) which considering it was a beautiful crisp winter day wasn't too painful but goes way beyond the time I am usually prepared to wait for food, no matter how amazing what is served at the end is (especially as it is in the end of the day 'just' brunch).
Anyway once sat down in this tiny yet wonderfully eclectically decorated space our waiting woes were quickly forgotten. With a mainly vegetarian menu ( with bacon and salmon for those that require it) there was almost too much to pick from. After a good ten minutes of deliberation we settled on a savoury option each, rather boringly going for the same dish of sourdough topped with melted Gorgonzola, apples and rocket as well as a sweet dish to share- in this case a wonderful flavour marriage of sourdough topped with peanut butter, bananas, yogurt, honey and granola. Our eyes lit up as the dishes arrived, clearly a lot of care and attention given to every plate that leaves the tiny kitchen in the back of the cafe with flavours to back it up. It was fresh, tasty and had a genuinely wholesome feel that made us leave slightly stuffed but fully satisfied. Yes, it will be on every "to try" Berlin list and was pretty much filled with only Americans, Brits and Australians of varying hipster degree but despite it's undeniable coolness this place still serves a pretty damn fine brunch that is (kinda) worth waiting for...
BURGERS AT SHISO BURGER
Shiso Burger was the other must try place for food on my Berlin list this time, after several of my friends sang it's praises and called it the best burger joint in town. Now if there is one thing we don't have a shortage of in London it's burger bars but Shiso got me interested with its Asian twist on this classic fast food dish. Browsing the menu beforehand, their selection of fish burgers ( salmon, tuna and prawn) and more than one veggie burger option got me rather excited, usually banished to picking the one none meat option at most burger places and saw me squeezing in a last minute visit en route to the airport on our last day to see what all the fuss is about. And boy was it good. Undoubtedly in fact one of the best burgers I've ever had. In the end I went for the Ebi prawn burger, a huge juicy tiger prawn lightly battered and served with chili mayo and honey-ginger mustard sauce. This was a pescatarian's heaven and hands down a must try if you go. That is not to say I wouldn't have happily tried any of the other none meat burgers, each one sounding absolutely delicious and completely unique.
Sides were equally good, crunchy sweet potato and normal potato fries (we had to get both) with not an inch of greasiness, served with that classic German mayo and ketchup dip combo, and in a nod to their Asian inspiration a side of crunchy and spicy Kimchi adding a refreshing punchiness. With the most expensive burger around the six euro mark Shiso easily gives some of London's best burger joints a run for their money and offers a creative and new take on junk food classics that makes me wish they had an outpost a little closer than Berlin to me!
HONEY & CO BBQ AUBERGINE
As everyone knows from numerous reviews and mentions on here I bloody love Honey & Co, one of my top 5 restaurants in London and a place that dishes up some of the most amazing Middle Eastern cuisine you'll ever find! They now also have a cookbook out as well as weekly column in the Financial Times where I found this gem of a recipe. I did in fact sample this exact dish in the restaurant and fell in love, it in fact being the best aubergine I had ever sampled. A little apprehensive that I could recreate this amazingness at home I nonetheless wanted to give it a go and once some of the more obscure ingredients where found, date molasses not something I had in my kitchen cupboard, it was actually surprisingly easy to prep and even better it tasted as good as the one enjoyed at the restaurant! Even if you don't usually like aubergine this will blow your mind. Go and make it now!
WHITE CHOCOLATE REEESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUP COOKIES
I cannot resist a Reese's peanut butter cup ( I mean who can?!) and even less so when it's a white chocolate one. They aren't easy to find ( I spotted a bag of these miniature white choc ones in the duty free lounge at Berlin Schönefeldt airport out of all places) but the marriage of sweet and creamy white chocolate and salty peanut butter in each cup make them worth the hunt! Having acquired a rather larger bag and with a love of cookies I wanted to test my hand at using the cups to make some cookies. I did a lot of recipe research and in the end adapted the below recipe, originally for macademia nut and white choc cookies (which I want to make soon too!). It was super easy to make and the result was simply amazing- gooey, sweet and a little salty for that wow factor. Fresh out of the oven or shared with my office the day later these were heavenly...plus for those that have no patience the cookie dough was almost better than the finished product. Cookies don't get much better.
Middle Eastern food has very quickly become one of my favourite kinds of food all round. It is versatile, veggie friendly and built on the principle of sharing a wide range of small dishes (my favourite way of eating) through the traditional medium of mezze and of course happens to also be bloody tasty. I've had my far share of of Middle Eastern food in London by now, from a Brooklyn leaning modern take on it at Berber & Q to a sophisticated Israeli-Eastern European hybrid version at the fantastic Honey & Co and of course the elements of it that feature in the oh so fantastic Ottolenghi salad boxes. These are ultimately not strictly traditional versions and vary very much in the inspiration they take from particular Middle Eastern countries which is why I was so intrigued and excited to go down a more traditional route with the Moroccan fare offered at Zizou Tagine. In fact I had never even tried the tagine dish or ventured to a restaurant solely dedicated to Moroccan food. Yes, with it's location in Balham it isn't exactly in the East London sphere of things that I find myself in usually but oh boy the journey (which was surprisingly bearable on the Northern Line) was 100 percent worth it! Food here isn't fancy and hasn't got a snazzy concept like the likes of Ottolenghi and Berber but it doesn't need it be.
Step inside Zizou Tagine, just of Balham's High Street, and you will instantly be transported to feeling like you have just sat down in a vibrant souq in the middle of Marrakesh, not a little restaurant in zone 3 a few doors up from the local Nando's. It's BYOB which makes it super good value and allowed me and my friend to indulge in our love for cheap and cheerful Rosé. The menu is equally enticing, with an excellent mix of veggie, fish and meat dishes. For starters we couldn't help but order the mixed vegetarian mezze- fresh hummus, slow cooked aubergine dip (our favourite) and fragrant chunks of beetroot, flavoured with a hint of rosewater that were served with warm, fluffy bread. the ideal vehicle for soaking up all juices. There is no better way in my eyes to start to a meal and get your taste buds going/ For mains we had to of course try the tagine offering and went for a fish version- prawns, white fish and potatoes cooked to perfection in a rich tomato sauce and served in a beautiful traditional clay tagine pot. Spiced to perfection, this was comfort food that wasn't stodgy but incredibly satisfying and warming. The other main we shared was a roast aubergine topped with peppers, tomato sauce and gooey goats cheese. It was earthy, satisfying and once again real food for the soul. Sides were nothing to exciting, green beans crunchy and with a good amount of spice, potatoes lacking exactly that and despertately in need of a sauce to make them less dry . But these were minor criticism- Zizou gets the important things right. Yes, desserts of creme brûlée, poached pear and Moroccan sweets may not have rocked my world (though they were perfectly pleasant) but this place isn't about desserts or poncy, modern interpretations of Middle Eastern food, no it is about traditional Moroccan food which is surprisingly light, delicious and full of amazing flavours. It is as close to a home cooked Middle Eastern meal at excellent value as you are going to get in London and it will at an instant make you forget the cold and miserable winter waiting for you outside.
Go, enjoy the sunshine food and get to know what traditional Middle Eastern food is all about. I will be back to do the same.