So this month, I desperately want to catch up with friends, but every call or email contains at least one if not all participants complaining that they’re too fat / skint and can we do something healthy /cheap (this won’t last long I assure you).
I am one of them, and therefore this month you will see less restaurant reviews, less burgers and coffee, more active stuff and culture. And all cheap as chips. I’m so proud of my friends – having never seen one of them in a pair of “proper” trainers, we have now booked in yoga classes on Saturday mornings (and paid for, can’t feign hangovers), dance classes at Frame (followed by wine – well it’s a Friday), bike rides and meeting up for a run (seriously hope this is not going to happen). But in the meantime I had a fairly healthy and cheap night out in Soho last night that I thought I’d share if you’re short on ideas:
1. Dinner at Koya, 49 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4SG
Food bloggers and twitterites have been loving Koya for months but it was my first time. Which is not the first time I’ve discovered a trend 6 months after everyone else. It is a Japanese restaurant specialising in udon noodle soups - y’know those big fat noodles. If I’m honest I have never been a massive fan of those big noodles – finding them too slurpy and dense. And I haven’t got a clue about sake. So it was a bit of a learning curve for me but thanks to the lovely people of twitter I got some recommendations of things to try (I turned up with them written on a post-it note FFS).
Anyway sake is a revelation (see above). It’s bloody nice. And healthy. Well not really because it’s booze, but healthier than wine and beer. Its 18% roughly and we ordered the dewasanan (£13.30) (going by the “pick the second cheapest” school of wine ordering) which was perfect for the meal and tasted delicious, like a warm sweet sherry. I have memories of necking sake when I was younger that was rough as hell but maybe this is just the good stuff. Anyway try it.
We ordered a few small plates as starters (1 each is plenty, we were piglets) and then udon soup as a main. The onsen tamago (poached egg) in a miso broth was delicious as was the kaiso (seaweed) salad - both tasted ridiculously healthy, and the cod tempura and lotus root chips was perfect – really light and delicate (want to try the prawn and veg tempura next). Finally the pork belly which was deep and rich and fatty, so not massively healthy, but a little guilty-pleasure and delicious.
So for the mains, we had the hot beef broth with cold udon (served separately – something about texture) and the hot mushroom broth with hot udon and walnut miso. The soups were lovely – the beef one really deep and rich and the mushroom one was really light and delicious with the nutty walnut miso. They are also sooooo filling so actually I couldn’t finish mine – it’s a meal and a half in itself. I’m still (sorry) not 100% in love with the thick globby udon which reminded me of the droopy snakes you get in pick n mix sweets, so I’d probably order the cold udon again so I could just have them as and when I wanted. Anyway it was wonderful – simple, delicious, great value, quick. All that grub and sake was only £30 each so that’s where the cheap bit comes in. There’s no reservations so just rock up and grab a table.
2. Prince Charles cinema, 7 Leicester Place, Soho, WC2H 7BY
After a pavement-side coffee (see no booze, well done us) to watch the crazy world of Soho go by, we headed to the Prince Charles cinema. And let’s start with a slight correction – the Prince Charles cinema advertises the fact that it has cinema tickets from £1.50. But let’s be clear – this applies to students and I think members only. And to weekday matinees. And the first matinee only. But the beauty of this place is that you can see films after they’ve stopped being shown in mainstream cinemas – y’know you reeeeally want to see that film and you talk about it all the time and then by the time you’ve got your diary out and found a date and convinced your friend to join and been in the mood to go… then they’ve stopped bloody showing it argh! You literally have a 2-week window in most cinemas and that’s not enough if you’re busy or lazy or disorganised or all three.
And so we went along to see The Social Network last night (FANTASTIC film - highly recommended – and Justin Timbersnake a great actor, who’d have thought) which isn’t playing at my local cinema anymore. But as it’s a new release we paid £10 each so it wasn’t cheap. But they also play tons of classics like old Martin Scorcese films which will set you back only £6.50. And they do sing-along-a-Sound-Of-Music - hurrah! ALMOST failed health kick by eating popcorn but luckily The Chef has appalling taste and ordered sweet so managed to avoid another hurdle. Off to Soho Theatre tonight to watch Bea with Emmissima (told you I’m culture-ing it up) - am aiming to avoid post-play dissection of erm symbolism n’ stuff over copious amounts of red wine…