With the interest in crafts and everything homemade reaching a fever pitch in the UK, there are about a zillion new magazines cropping up.Read More
New chain offers a green & healthy option for lunch. Chop'd is a relatively new fast food chain, with five branches in London. They are, apparently, "on a mercy mission to bring delicious food into real working lives". They serve breakfasts (porridge, yogurt, muesli and fresh juices), soups, and salads. Everything, they say, is freshly assembled each morning in-store. You have a choice of pre-assembled salads - tuna nicoise, jerk chicken, superfoods (edamame beans, avocado, beetroot, carrot, broccolis, spinach, seeds and sprouts), parma ham & mozzarella, smoked mackerel, and the particularly frightening (to me, at least) powerfoods (broccoli, green beans, carrot spaghetti, beetroot spaghetti, more seeds).
The more exciting option, however, is the "create your own salad" challenge, where for £5 you can choose a base (leaves, pasta, rice noodles, couscous, potato or any combination thereof) plus 3 "house" ingredients (vegetables and fruit, plus the scary beetroot or carrot spaghettis), add 1 "deli" ingredient (cheeses, fish, meat, avocado or pine kernels), 1 "garnish" (fresh herbs and seeds) and a dressing (they offer 14 choices, from the naughty blue cheese to the low fat miso or no fat thai dressing). You can add extra ingredients for 25p to £1.
Chop'd get green points for offering you an extra house ingredient if you leave without a carrier bag for your salad, and also for offering free water if you bring your own bottle (not sure if they just fill it up at the tap though as we didn't have a bottle with us). Also the bins they provide in store allow customers to sort the waste for later recycling.
The staff were all friendly enough on arrival, though when it came to serving us one staffer came to the counter and asked if we needed help, and then turned around and admonished a co-worker for ignoring us, walked off and made the co-worker serve us! Said co-worker looked a bit sour about that. Apart from this they were all charming enough.
I went for leaves (which considered of iceberg, cos and/or romaine, which was just started to get a tired edge to it -- surprising considering it was 11am), chickpeas, carrots, fresh peppers (I forgot to claim my free fourth ingredient, and they didn't offer!), chicken plus avocado (an extra £1), fresh basil, and sesame soy dressing. We sat in to eat. The portions were certainly generous, all of the ingredients bar the leaves were very fresh, and the dressing very tasty. I'd say good value in general, though I was not happy to have paid an extra quid for some seriously under-ripe avocado. I did manage to spend £8 with my extras (which also included a brownie and sparkling mineral water). The brownie was good and moist and chewy, but nothing particularly special.
Seating at this branch was limited inside, but includes plenty of extra tables outside on the station concourse.
I think a few improvements could be made but will definitely visit Chop'd again if I'm in their neighbourhood.
I visited the St Pancras branch at about 11am today.
Chop'd Unit 34, St Pancras International Pancras Rd, London, NW1 2QL 020 7837 1603
There is a burrito war waging on Upper Street in Islington. It seems that after years of being forced to endure oppressive Tex-Mex "restaurants", several London entrepreneurshave woken up to the business opportunity I have been fantasing about since I moved to London 20 years ago: the taco stand. (Okay, they are actually burrito stands, but taco stand has more resonance.)
First there was Beach Burrito on Berwick Street in Soho. They really hit the right notes : Californian-style mega burritos stuffed with carne asada, chicken, pork, etc. Then they closed down.
Now we have two entries on Upper Street:
Mucho Mas: I think their ingredients had been sitting in the warmers a bit too long, (they did not look particuarly appetizing) and I choked at paying 75p for a spoonful of guac. Their hot sauce was incendiary, so be warned if you don't like them SUPER hot. Only Corona was offered on the beer front. Staff were neither friendly or surly.
Tortilla: More choices (white rice vs spanish rice, pinto vs black beans, etc) and a more reasonable 50p for guac. Their medium sauce was bland and their hot sauce wasn't (hot). Three or four beers (Negra Modelo, Dos Equis and Corona, plus maybe one other) and margaritas on offer. Staff were more open and friendly. Seemed to be populated entirely by American customers.
Neither burrito was particularly flavourful. For me they tick all the boxes on ingredients but they just don't have any oomph. If I go back, it will be to Tortilla because of the wider choice when building your burrito, and better beers.
Both are good for a quick fix but I'd still prefer to make my burritos at home where I know they will have some FLAVOUR.
Meanwhile, here's a nice photo of a burrito bar in the Mission in San Francisco, the place that I first acquired my habit.
Photo credit: by Jonathan Fuchs on Flickr