Anyways, a stranger lends my friend, who has just flown in from the congo (yes the actual democratic republic of congo, in africa), his phone so she could call me. That is a nice thing to do in a big city. And they started talking. And he invited us (well her) to come to his BYOB restaurant in Hoxton. SCORE!
So it's Sahara Hoxton. Have you ever heard about it? Fine. Me neither. But I have walked past a few times and it always looks local. And local is usually good. So we go. And we get seats in the back and it's sort of nice with low tables and chairs and a couch that gives off a Marrakech-vibe even as it is overwhelmingly just a caf. So it's evening and they are super nice about opening our wine, which they then proceed to split 3 ways (that's right 1 bottle - 3 regular glasses filled to the brim - we are 5 people; we have 2 bottles!). But I forgive because it is Moroccan and its Ramadan and what do I even know about wine. It's fine. Then - luckily before we order - they bring olives and cheese. The olives are rank! Like actually they have gone off and tastes like old fridge. The cheese is I am guessing the cheap cheddar from the tesco local on shoreditch high street (but I could be wrong. But I am probably not wrong) So luckily my dinning partners are French and one of them spits out the olive and they then proceed to speak to each other rapidly in French (is there any other way?) and they tell me we will order and eat a plate of humus, and then leave. Because if your olives are bad well your meal must inevitably be bad - I defer to the French about what olives can tell us about kitchen skills.
Also I don't have a picture so I can't really show you. But the humus was actually beautifully served and while not particularly memorable it was just fine.
Sadly we shall never know about the tagine, because as soon as we finished the humus we obviously left. (as the french had decided). I did spot someone eating a sanwhich on the way out which made me think this place is probably ok.
The bottom line however is: don't go. It's not worth it. It is really not worth it.
So now there we are. In shoreditch on a hot July evening, craving ethnic food. So we were going to go to Cay Tre; but the line was ridiculously long. So we ended up at Basuba Etai. Which actually, as per when I normally come with my primary dinning partner on Sunday evenings, was exactly what you expect from Basuba. Perfectly ok Asian food.
And I did take a picture:
I have to say: their virgin cocktails are delicious, their salads are pretty good (green papaya anyone?), their medium rare rib-eye comes with a garlic sauce most chefs would be too considerate to prepare (but who doesnt love a little too much garlic?!) and the green chicken curry is just fine.
So it's not amazing. But it's not bad either. And it reminds me (thai food always reminds me) of when I was living in New York and me and my friends would meet every week in the east village and have Thai food. And it was these pretty average Thai restaurants, and my tofu was always far too chewy (what is this? Rubber?) but it didn't matter. It was not the meal. It was the company. (And that Thai restaurants tend to have a lot of vegetarian options). And the same could be said for tonight. It was an evening of average food, but great company.
Without being too moralising: that's what it's all about, right?! (Also this is probably why it took me this long to start a blog - because it's not actually about the food or the experience. It's about the awesome people you get to experience it with. So lets keep that in mind as we progress and I review other London stable chains!) It's about the people.