A table bent with the weight of food – Korean side dish culture

side-dishes-koreaAjumma, you didn’t need to prepare this much, you’ll break the table’s legs!” is a common expression one might overhear at restaurants or (minus the ajumma) at young couples’ housewarming parties when the chef has prepared so many side dishes that the table may break with the weight of food. Meant as a compliment and a sign of appreciation, ajummas will usually shrug it off with a smile as if it were nothing. Feasts of this kind are not rare in Korea although the amount of side dishes will vary according to price and specialization (in restaurants) or occasion (at home). (more…)

Traditional Korean food in a non-traditional setting: Soban in Krefeld, Germany

When my partner and I googled for a Korean restaurant in the vicinity of where we were staying in the new year, we were surprised to find one in Krefeld, a city with a little over 200,000 inhabitants in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Although only a train ride away from the larger city Düsseldorf, which boasts an 11,000-strong Japanese community and a smaller Korean one, the journey nonetheless takes almost an hour, making it less attractive for Koreans to venture out. The focus of this one-year old restaurant Soban on serving Korean cuisine to a primarily local clientele is certainly reflected in the kinds of foods offered there. (more…)

From tradition to tourism? – Afternoon teas in hotels in London


One Aldwych

If you’ve had a couple of afternoon teas in the UK’s capital, you might have noticed that these tend to take place in the lounges or restaurants of hotels. It will likely be a space which either has another function at the same time – for guests waiting, having a chat or enjoying a drink from the bar – or another function before and/or after the designated afternoon tea hours – breakfast, dinner, etc. Which is why you may find yourself being rushed out in some places such as The Langham, where tables have been reserved and need to be prepared for dinner. Due to the nature of afternoon tea being held, well, in the afternoon, from a business perspective this arrangement makes perfect sense. But was it always like this? Has the ceremony of tea always had to share a space in order to make it viable? (more…)

Le Rustic at Olivier’s Bakery – a balance between air and flavour

One day, almost two years ago now, I happened to be strolling through Borough Market. I wasn’t on the lookout for anything in particular, just taking in all the sights and smells of the surrounding foods, getting excited over so many new products to try (not that this was my first time at Borough Market, far from it, but it had been a while and there was so much more to discover). And suddenly there it was, Olivier’s Bakery. (more…)

Decent sushi in a decent city – Maruyasu in Düsseldorf, Germany

Düsseldorf, the capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is an international business and financial centre, renowned for its fashion and trade fairs and known for its academy of arts as well as its Japanese community, one of the largest in Europe and 11,000 strong. It comes as no surprise then that one would be able to find decent sushi – but to know where to find it, that is the key! (more…)

A whimsical Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory tea experience at One Aldwych

If you love Roald Dahl, Tim Burton or, in other words, something whimsical, then One Aldwych is the place to visit. The afternoon tea itself is a hybrid between its classic concept and its quirky execution, much like the space in which you take it is a hybrid between a formal hotel lounge and a relaxed place to enjoy a Willy Wonka bonkers afternoon tea. But the best thing about it is that it’s not all show, meaning substance (taste) isn’t sacrificed for appearance. (more…)

British afternoon tea with a Spanish twist at the COMO Halkin Hotel

Unless I feel in the mood for what one might imagine as a truly traditional British afternoon tea, I tend to seek out revamped, witty versions which adhere to the traditional concept, but play around with presentation and/or the food served. The Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-themed afternoon tea at One Aldwych comes to mind as a whimsical experience (read more about it here), while the Basque-inspired afternoon tea at the Halkin bar and lounge can be seen as a bit of a cultural trip, in fact showcasing more complexity in texture and flavour than many a ‘conventional’ British afternoon tea offered at other hotels in London. (more…)