This is a message for those who are tired of feeling sick on Saturday morning from getting over the night before. Do yourself a favour, get some exercise in instead so your metabolism kicks into gear for the weekend and have an early night. Yes it’s fun having a night on the tiles but sobriety is your friend for the weekend, your senses like smell and taste will be heightened (I’m not sure about you but things don’t taste so good when I’m hungover!), so you can enjoy the buzz giving qualities of Borough Market , Dinerama and Som Saa.
It’s 10am during the first Saturday of September, and there is a queue for Monmouth – there’s no denying that this is a good sign and my curiosity gets the better of me so I have to have one of their coffees.
From what I see it’s artisanal brewing at it’s finest with hand filtering for every single cup. Hot water is poured into makeshift bottomless coffee cups which hold paper filters containing ground coffee. The liquid then flows into the paper cups below.
My latte was silky smooth, light, tasted sweet without sugar (most say I’m sweet enough!) and had a wonderful aroma. I would say it was definitely worth the wait and was the perfect way to kick start the gastronomic tour.
Next up was a visit to Richard Haward’s Oysters. There’s nothing wrong with having mollusks for breakfast right?
I went for 2 Colchester Natives (larger variety) and 3 Wild Rocks which was £6.50 for the combo. Our oyster shucker informed us that the Wild Rock variety was from Essex too.
Here are the Colchester Natives – big boys indeed.
On the right you have the wild rocks.
Both oysters were faultless, briny, meaty and a joy to eat. There are a variety of condiments available by the tub such as your classic shallots with vinegar, tabasco, lemon, lime and from what I make of it an oriental dressing with coriander.
Next up and directly next door we have Porteña which has been trading since 2007 in Borough Market selling a variety of Argentinian goodies such as condiments, sweet pastries, Alfajores and Empanadas. The smell of the oven fresh goodies was enough to drive me insane – gorging was inevitable. I went for the classic beef which was very good but not a patch on the provolone and cheddar cheese one. You know it’s good when your mouth waters whilst typing!
After our delectable breakfasts at Borough Market we stroll through the City towards the East End in search for our ‘next’ hit. We arrive at Street Feast’s Dinerama 12pm when their doors open, we’re the first here. (19 Great Eastern Street EC2A 3EJ).
First up we hit-up the Cheeky Italian for some Beef Poutin on sweet potato fries, gravy and cheese sauce (£7.50). I’m not entirely convinced where the Italian influence is with this French Canadian classic but I didn’t really have a care in the world as it was everything you wanted from comfort food all in one dish. The rich beef topped with cheese sauce and gravy gives you so much eating pleasure in spades!
Smokestak was up next and we tried their Usda Beef rib £12 which was smokey, meaty, fatty and tasted so good mixed in with their home made bbq sauce.
Next it was time to get finger licking with cooked to order wings from BBQ Lab. They’re piping hot, tangy, dirty (in a good way!), slid off the bone tender and messy. No dignity eating at it’s finest.
Chipuffalo; buffalo, chipotle, truffled blue cheese dip, celery, herbs. £5.
Miso (horny); miso butter, balsamic, chilli, spring onion & nuts, pickles. £5.
Weapons grade hot; hotness, truffled cheese dip, pickles, herbs. £5. Not as hot as they sound and they turned out to be the my favourite.
Finally we picked up some shrimp buns Yum Bun. £4 each or 2 for £7. Crispy prawns, green chilli, coriander, lime, sambal, mayo, soft steamed bun. They were excellent – shrimps fried to order, their sweet flesh encased in a light crunchy batter smothered in green sambal sauce, all wrapped up in a sweet bun. I could have easily eaten more but resisted.
It’s time to move on and we venture further East towards Hackney/London Fields in pursuit of Som Saa at Climpsons Arch. We walk through Broadway Market which inevitably involves more street food, food stalls, independent cafes, restaurants and more. However, our bellies are set for Thai food!
Som Saa is a Thai pop-up restaurant and bar that delivers food from the Northern and North-Eastern provinces of Thailand. It’s not to be mistaken with ubiquitous high street fare, serving overly sweet dishes suited to a particular palate – for the record I’m not judging but taking a minute to point out some of my observations. When I found out that Ben Chapman of the Smoking Goat (I’ve been a few times now) was inspired by Andy Oliver of Som Saa I just had to go. Oliver works alongside Mark Dobbie and both met whilst working at the Michelin starred Nahm during 2009 in Bangkok under David Thompson so they both know their onions about Thai food. Going to the Smoking Goat really raised my expectations of Thai food and Som Saa really opens up the disparity with what I’m used on the high street vs well priced authenticity. Som Saa is a hidden gem nestled underneath a rail way arch rubbing shoulders with the most unlikely – I coffee roaster.
I love the fact that it’s off the eaten track and they capitalise their cooking on wood fired grills and ovens – it’s all to see as you walk in.
Roasted and skinned aubergines ready to go.
You can imagine this little shack rustling up authentic Thai cuisine in downtown Bangkok for the locals!
They have created a rather unique dining experience here, with a laid back warm atmosphere full of happy diners. The decor had a smattering of old school Thai movie memorabilia, cobbled together roof lining, bric-a-brac ornaments and the unmissable coffee roaster.
The menu focusses on British seasonal products cooked in an authentic Thai way. And yeah no pad thai, curries, ropey dumplings or chicken satay. Just saying!
The wine list doesn’t look too shabby either.
There’s only way to quench your thirst after a long walk and that’s to drink some BBNo. Saison Matouka & Lime. (£4.5). The flavour was crisp, refreshing and citrusy.
First up we have Pad Kra Pow Moo (£10) from their daily specials. In old money that would be stir fried pork belly with holy basil and crispy egg. It was comfort food in the bowl, the pork had a savoury chilli kick, the egg seasoned well, and beneath it all was a heap of steamed rice. It was a bit steep at £10 but tasted great nonetheless.
Next up we have the crown jewell in my opinion, a total sensory overload. Nam dtok pal thort (£14). (Deep fried sea bass with isaan herbs & roasted rice). I would have been deeply upset if they’d run out after walking for all those miles. It’s everything you want from a deep fried fish, texture wise, flavour and it had the perfect crispy exterior under a piled up hit foliage of herbs. You could really taste the fish sauce and lime in the dressing, check out the recipe here.
Nothing went to waste and even the bones in the belly were crispy enough to eat.
Som tam moo krob (£10.50). That would be spicy green papaya salad with crispy pork. Arguably, it’s dish that could be the new litmus test to see how much attitude the chef can create in a Thai kitchen. They deliver it by the bucket load here, it’s all you need in a salad, zingy, fresh notes a plenty – it’s the perfect interplay of Thai flavours. If you’re a meat eater too the combination is unrivalled.
I have a real soft spot for sticky rice (£2.50) and they nail it here, served in it’s own bamboo basket sealed in a plastic wrapper to stop it sticking!
Kluey thort ndb (£3.5). Salted palm sugar and toasted sesame ice cream. This desert was really top-drawer, texturally perfect and came with a rich caramel flavour – it was the prefect end to a perfect meal and a special day of culinary tourism.
The damage: Expect to pay £20-£30 per head with drinks
The good: For those who want to throw the towel in on Thai food they have experienced in the country – DON’T before coming here. Both the chefs are a very talented pair indeed, the food is really that good and they deserve all the credit they receive. It’s a unique place in many ways, street food atmosphere, friendly staff, coffee roastery/cafe rolled into one. It really deserves it’s cult status.
The bad: It’s a pop-up and with most there is a lifespan – Som Saa has been here for 10 months and who knows for how much longer. I sincerely hope it goes on forever continuing the Thai food gospel – get yourself down there before it’s too late!
Arch 374 Helmsley Place,
Hackney, London E8 3SB
currently hosting som saa
Dinner: 6pm-late Thurs – Sun
(last orders 1030pm)
Lunch: 12-3pm Sat / Sun only