Listen to a Londoner: Luiz Hara

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Luiz Hara

Luiz’s London Foodie blog is a well known resource for Londoners looking for a range of delicious meal options, light snacks or unbeatable cocktails. He shares some of his favourites for different occasions for this week’s Listen to a Londoner.

LLO: How long have you lived in London? 
LH:
Since 1992, so 18 very happy years!

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog – The London Foodie. 
LH:
I started ‘The London Foodie’ in 2009 as a platform to express my gastronomic creativity (much suppressed in my current investment banking role) and my opinions on the London restaurants I visit, but most importantly to get to know and meet other London foodies out there.

It’s been a most rewarding project. Through The London Foodie I learnt about some amazing restaurants and supper clubs I wouldn’t otherwise have visited, met some like-minded people, and started The London Cooking Club at my home.

I eat out a lot and write about these experiences at The London Foodie. Readers can find my reviews by the restaurant index, or by cuisine or location.

My aim is to find restaurants serving outstanding food that will not break the bank, exploiting the full range of nationalities and cooking styles on offer in London.

LLO: How did you become so obsessed with food? 
LH:
Food was always part of our family – my parents were restaurateurs for a while, and my mother had her own Italian restaurant for many years in Brazil after their divorce.

My dad was also an accomplished cook, and would rustle up some fine meals for my three siblings and me when he wasn’t taking us out to some of his favourite restaurants in Sao Paulo. Through my dad I learnt a great deal about Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Syrian and other cuisines from a very early age.

My Japanese grandmother was also a great influence – she lived with us and wound spend her whole day finding the best fish, meat and vegetables in the street markets of Sao Paulo, and cooking the most delicious Japanese-Brazilian meals. When I think of fusion style cuisines I always recall my grandmother.

LLO: You were born in Brazil to Japanese and Italian parents. Where can we find the best Brazilian, Japanese and Italian food in London?
LH: Italian cooking, like Japanese, is all about top quality ingredients and these do not come cheaply. It is impossible to replicate these cuisines in the UK on the cheap, apart from pizza and certain types of pasta. For the best and most affordable pizze in London I would recommend Franco Manca, Rosso Pomodoro and Pizza East. The Riverside Cafe is undoubtedly one of the best Italian restaurants in London but also one of the most expensive.

Other than outstanding Japanese fine dining joints like Nobu and Zuma, an affordable and very authentic Japanese restaurant I love is Asakusa in Mornington Crescent. For top quality sushi without the price tag, Atariya Fishmongers and their small sushi outlet on James Street by Selfridges is also a must.

I have yet to find a good Brazilian restaurant in London. I am however very excited to hear that Jose Barattino of Hotel Emiliano in Sao Paulo will be cooking at Skylon on the Southbank for the Brazilian Festival throughout the summer 2010. The well thought out menu and his cooking showcase the best that Brazil can offer.

LLO: If I only had one night in London and wanted to go off the beaten track, where would you send me to eat and drink?
LH:
There is nothing further from the beaten track than spending an evening eating at one of London’s supper clubs. The opportunity to go into someone’s home, share your table with some interesting Londoners for a fixed donation and bring your own wine is one not to be missed.

There are some amazing supper clubs I would very highly recommend like Fernandez and Leluu in Hackney for great atmosphere and food, Friday Food Club in Blackheath for the best British food in London, Cucina Cinzia in Fulham for really authentic and delicious Tuscan food outside Italy and LexEat! in Shoreditch for their sensational and no-fuss cooking.

LLO: I’m skint, but hungry for something tasty and don’t feel like cooking at home and don’t like chain restaurants. Where should I go?
LH:
There is a misconception that London restaurants are expensive, but due to intense competition and the multitude of cuisines found here, there are some great deals to be had.

I would head to Kingsland Road for some amazing and very affordable Vietnamese food, Song Que and Viet Grill being my favourites.

Along St Giles Street by Centre Point at a place now known as Little Seoul, there is a cluster of excellent value Korean restaurants that will not break the bank. Assa is one of these restaurants, and their lunch special with appetisers, main course and unlimited tea is priced at £5.

For European alternatives, Franco Manca, and its wonderful sourdough base pizza, is also very good value. Also worth a look are the many Turkish and Greek restaurants along Green Lanes with Antepliler being one of the best.

LLO: You just came back from a trip to Vietnam. Where can we get a taste of Vietnamese food in London?
LH:
Kingsland Road, also known as the Pho Mile, would be a good place to start. The best Vietnamese food in London however is not to be found at a restaurant – for a taste of authentic, fine dining Vietnamese cuisine, I would try and secure a space at Fernandez and Leluu for one of their Vietnamese evenings. At £35 for a six-course dinner and BYO, it is also excellent value.

LLO: Best restaurant for vegetarian options in London? 
LH:
My favourite vegetarian restaurant in London is Mildreds on Lexington Street. The quality of ingredients used is always high, it is reasonably priced and with a casual and cosy feel about it which I like very much.

LLO: My boyfriend and I want to go out for a romantic dinner followed by drinks. Where would you send us?
LH:
Skylon, on the first floor of The Royal Festival Hall, is one of the most romantic and glamorous restaurants in London. Chef Jose Barattino is serving 2 & 3 course menus priced at £22 & £25 respectively. The views of the Thames are fantastic and the cocktails second to none.

I would then go for a leisurely stroll along the Southbank towards the Oxo Tower, and up to the top floor for a glass of Champagne at the Oxo Tower Bar.

LLO: What’s the best restaurant in your postcode?
LH:
I live in Islington N1. My favourite restaurant in this neighbourhood is Ottolenghi on Upper Street. I love the style of cooking, a mix of Italian and Palestinian – it is packed with exotic flavours and made from the freshest, best quality ingredients. I also love the big, beautiful platters of food on display, the concept of sharing tables and the opportunity to eat and share many small dishes.

Thanks Luiz!

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Listen to a Londoner: Sasha

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview post with people who live (or have lived for a while) in London. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers. 

“Sasha”, early 30s

“Sasha” is in her early thirties and writes The Happiness Project London anonymously.  The HPL encourages Londoners to live their lives by a set of rules shown to improve happiness; including being active, connecting with family and friends, doing charitable acts and learning new things. 

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
Sasha:
About seven years with a brief sojourn to Prague in the middle.

LLO: Tell us a bit about The Happiness Project London.
Sasha: 
It started out as a “make the most of London” blog to inspire myself and my friends to try new restaurants, exhibitions, gigs.  I love giving recommendations and finding new things to do, so it allows me to express my interests and enthusiasm, and put all my suggestions in one place.  However, the thing most Londoners lack is free time so I try not to overload people with what’s on.  Even visiting a new restaurant or pub once a month would fit into the HPL rules.  Oh and I try not to blog about places I don’t like and only focus on the positive.  

The blog developed when I went to Turkey during Ramadan and spoke to a man who told me how fasting had made him feel closer to his family and friends, and charitable towards those who were hungry.  Even though it was hard, he felt happier for doing it.  I thought about London, and how we live a rather selfish life, and decided to add a charitable element to my blog – doing things for others to feel truly happy.  So, it became The Happiness Project London.

LLO: Have you found a place in London – other than your home – that always makes you happy?
Sasha:
The view from Waterloo bridge at any time of the day or night.  I try to stop there, take it all in, and have a “London moment”. 

LLO: You’re also a budding photographer. Share a photo with us?
Sasha:
My problem is I don’t take enough time over photos which is why they are all blurry.  But anyway here’s one of a bus thundering past outside Liverpool Street and my beloved but underplayed trombone.

LLO: One of your Happiness Project rules is to keep active. Do you have a favourite gym or park for workouts?
Sasha:
I hate the cold, so in winter, I either go to the gym, do yoga or play hockey in Battersea Park.  In summer, London’s best asset is its many parks – I love playing tennis in Brockwell Park with its views over the City, or cycling to somewhere like Richmond Park.  I have an old-fashioned ladies bike with wicker basket, which makes me sit up tall and take in the sights.

LLO: In another rule, you recommend taking classes or attending talks or exhibitions. Have you found any unique classes worth taking or know of any upcoming talks or exhibitions you could recommend?
Sasha: 
City Lit has great and cheap classes – everything from jewellery-making to history of art.  I’d like to do an arts and crafts course because I’m fidgety and it would occupy my mind better than TV. 

Otherwise, the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy is definitely worth visiting; the British Museum has some great free events and I’m hoping to watch some Mexican guitar there this month; and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum is always great – especially late night Fridays where you can drink wine under the dinosaur skeleton afterwards.

LLO: Are you still on a quest for the perfect burger in London? What’s the best you’ve found so far?
Sasha:
Hell yes.  I love burgers; have to have at least one a month.  I’ve tried about four or five since the quest started, mostly in pubs and once at McDos, but have not found anything great enough to write about yet.  My list of places to try is huge thanks to comments from people visiting the blog, worrying as I’ve put on half a stone since writing about food.  I’ve heard a lot about Byron and I’d also love to try a posh burger at the American Bar in the Stafford hotel in Mayfair.

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you tell me to eat dinner and then go for drinks?
Sasha: 
Great Queen Street or the Anchor & Hope serve wonderfully simple hearty British food like pheasant, duck or beef – it’s what I imagine people eating during a hunting weekend in the 19th century.  Or if you want to see London’s upmarket cooking at its best, I’d direct you to Chez Bruce, a Galvin restaurant, Pied A Terre or the Wolseley. 

Although I’m partial to the odd martini, my favourite places to drink are comfy old men’s pubs, so I’d suggest you try something like the Prince Regent in Herne Hill, the French House in Soho, or The Scolt Head in Dalston.

LLO: Will you share three of your favourite London blogs or websites?
Sasha:
The London Foodie (http://www.thelondonfoodie.co.uk/) has a wonderfully positive attitude to life and food and is a great supporter of my blog.  Urban Junkies and Le Cool are great for suggesting exciting things to try (although my main problem is finding free time in my diary). 

LLO: Describe a perfect day in London
Sasha: 
It’s a summer Sunday, about 30 degrees.  I start with coffee at Opus on Acre Lane or at Rosie’s in Brixton market.  I text my friends, none of whom are busy.  We arrange to meet at Brockwell Park or Clapham Common, someone brings a Frisbee and another a big blanket.  We sit and drink ciders and chat until later on when we go to a nice old man’s pub with a beer garden to eat burgers, chips and coleslaw – The Landor or The Coach and Horses.  Finally, we watch some live music – perhaps at The Windmill in Brixton or Cargo in Shoreditch. 

Thanks Sasha!

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