The newest and hottest food market on the scene has to be Mercato Metropolitano. Situated between Elephant & Castle and Borough, it’s perfect for those looking for the excellence of the Borough food market but without the hoards of tourists cramping your style as you try and scoff.
I headed down on a chilly October night ready to sample the Italian delights that lie within. First stop; Manuelina Focacceria. They provide beautiful flat focaccias, different in style to their fluffy cousins, much more in line with a cracking pizza base. There are loads of different variations – from salami and olive to cheese stuffed (the best). All are very, very, good.
Italy is known for one cheese above all others; Mozzarella. The Fiordilatte & Friends stall worship this beautiful cheese, even putting on live demos of buratta creation every Friday. I tried the fried mozzarella which was obviously great, but the real star was the Stracciatella. This is the glorious cheese that is mixed with cream – this is then stuffed into mozzarella to form burrata. Eye-rollingly good. The producers use British milk because of its exceptional high-quality to create this wonder cheese. This, then, is food fusion at its best.
When you think of Italian food you immediately think pasta, so it’s fitting that Tortellino & Co. serves up some of the tastiest I’ve ever had. Mini tortellini imported from Italy and stuffed with a whole host of delicious fillings from meat (pork, Parma ham, mortadella and parmesan) to pumpkin and all with gorgeous, rich, sauces. A large steaming plate of incredible pasta is certainly what you need in these cold winter months.
Now for dessert. Badiani is one of Florence’s oldest gelaterias and it has just emerged victorious at the London Gelato Festival with its La Dolcevita Icecream taking first prize. I headed straight for the prize winner and was blown away. Impossibly smooth, permeated with lashings of hazelnut and chocolate flavours. It certainly deserves its prize as the best ice cream in the UK.
There are loads of other stalls to try that feature the best of Italian cooking and even some others from around the world for that fussy friend who wants something different.
After feasting, I decided it was safe to go into the supermarket section and boy was I glad that I had already eaten. It is packed with the most gorgeous meats, cheeses, fresh ingredients and Italian deli you can find. If I had been hungry I really do fear that I would have spent all my money on such glories. If you are planning on cooking an Italian feast, which relies on simplicity and quality of ingredients, then this is the place for you.
An Italian meal wouldn’t be right if it wasn’t accompanied by good wine or beer. There’s a specialist Italian beer producer called The Italian Job serving up refreshing craft beers from the cutest little wine bar tucked away; just perfect for a romantic evening.
Overall, this is a fantastic market serving up some amazing authentic Italian food and produce in a very cool warehouse setting. It’s perfect for an evening with your mates or when out on a foodie date.
When looking for a restaurant or takeaway that serves Asian food I have a couple of requirements. Firstly, it needs to be authentic and not just serve bits of mystery meat covered in red goop. Secondly the menu needs to be focused, pick a particular region of Asia, stick to it and do it well. Now I was a little concerned when I saw the menu at Chi Kitchen. There was clearly going to be no gloop but since the menu has a vast array of dishes from sushi to dim sum and sambal prawns to Korean steak, I admit that alarm bells rang.
However, I was prepared to go in with an open mind and an empty stomach ready to prove myself wrong. Sitting down at a table big enough for four (to make sure there was plenty of room for food) I browsed the menu and decided to test my theory and chose a dish from pretty much every region on offer (yes, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it). Could it work?
Whilst waiting for the food I had a chance to notice the ambience of the place, and although it’s part of Debenhams it has a different entrance so feels separate enough. I wouldn’t describe it as particularly romantic but perhaps that was because of the building works happening outside.
Now to the food. First up came a tower of Seaweed Salad, Popcorn Shrimp and some Prawn and Chive Dumplings. The Seaweed Salad was refreshing and beautifully presented and worked very well as a palate cleanser. The Popcorn Shrimp contained 5 plump prawns, deep-fried and covered in a wasabi mayonnaise and served in the style of a prawn cocktail. That was obviously delicious! The Prawn and Chive dumplings were as nice as those found in China Town. So far, so good…
Next came the Spider Crab Sushi rolls and Smoked Chicken with chilli and salt with a spiced mayo and truffle oil. The sushi was seriously good, really well presented with succulent yet crisp bits of crab, I gleefully gobbled every mouthful. The Smoked Chicken came in three little bamboo pots which again looked beautiful on the table. Sadly, because of the presentation it went cold a little too quickly but the first few bites did not disappoint, especially when dipped in the chilli and truffle mayo.
The mains soon found their way to the table. Starting with Malaysian Sambal Prawns, a really great marriage of fresh crunchy vegetables, soft buttery prawns and a deliciously spicy sambal chilli sauce. The balance of heat was just right for me, not trying to please those who go for a Korma but not quite Vindaloo level either (different countries but good spice indication, right?). Next came two dishes which didn’t quite hit the mark but could have very easily done so with just the slightest of tweaks. The Korean Steak with Bulgogi sauce (similar to teriyaki) and chive mash and a side of Miso Aubergine. Both were delicious at first bite but quickly became too much because of the high level of sweetness. Changing that small little detail would transform them entirely and they’d be super dishes
Finally were the Thai Green Curry and Ping Coombes signature Nyonya Fried Rice. The Thai Green Curry was a marvelous thing; the balance was spot on. Normally I would never order one because of its predictability but this was exceptional, so much so I took it home for the next day! Ping Coombes is a MasterChef winner and executive chef for Chi Kitchen and develops signature specials every month for the restaurant. The fried rice did not disappoint, packed with prawns, chilli and spring onion and oodles of flavour. It’s a clever little dish that I will be trying when I cook too much rice (which always happens).
So, it turns out I was wrong to be hesitant about the vast array of choice at Chi Kitchen. Pretty much every dish was beautifully presented, packed full of flavour and on the whole executed very well. One or two minor tweaks are needed but overall it was a delicious experience. The prices range from £5-£9 for starters and small plates to £16-£21 for mains, which, considering it’s situated in Oxford Circus and the quality food is so high, is a steal. I’d particularly recommend it for a quick, quality lunch if you need an escape from work and the warm comforting embrace that good food gives!