Pa Jeon at Cah Chi

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I’ll admit that I’d never heard of pa jeon, a kind of Korean pancake with spring onions in a puffy batter, and in this case strips of seafood. Bibimbap – I know well. Korean barbecue, I’m totally up on. Kimchee: I can smell a mile off. But I’d never come across this tasty street food before.

“an interesting addition to my understanding of… an underappreciated national cuisine”

I find it distinctly reminiscent of something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps the delicious potato latkes we’d make from a mix out of a packet at passover. There is definitely something potatoey about them, though Google suggests they are usually made from wheat and rice flours.

With a crisp and golden exterior, round but chopped in a rough grid pattern, it is soft and sticky, still slightly battery on the inside. They have generous additions so that you can be sure of multiple flavours in every bite. The portion is also pretty large, so you could happily share this amongst a variety of starters with friends.

Okay, so these aren’t super-special, and I can well imagine there’s huge variety of these snacks in a Korean market, but they’re new to me, and an interesting addition to my understanding of what I continue to think is an underappreciated national cuisine.

Wiener schnitzel at The Delauney

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The Delauney is fancy. Wood panelling, silver-rimmed plates, doormen and maître D’s create a dining experience that’s a cut above, and knows it. As soon as you walk into the place you notice two things: the history of feeding the top of society, and the cakes – rich, glorious-looking gateaux which sit, invitingly on a table in their own antechamber before the dining room.

“So big, in fact, that it needed oval plates so it fitted in a sensible place-setting”

We’re here to try the Wiener schnitzel, one of Time Out’s top 100 dishes, and at £19.50 for just the slab of meat, no sides included, we’re hoping it will be a cut above too. I must admit, I was slightly worried that this restaurant might be stuck in the century before last, with over-creamy, finickety, stale-French-inspired cooking. I was wrong, at least on the evidence of the relatively straightforward dish we ordered with sides of spinach and pickled cucumber salad.

First things first: the schnitzel was enormous. So big, in fact, that it needed oval plates so it fitted in a sensible place-setting. Oh, and so the slab of meat didn’t look too lonely on a round plate unaccompanied by anything but light juices and half a lemon. Of course, it wasn’t such a vast load of veal what with being hammered to a thin slice before being crumbed and fried to a perfect golden brown.

If I’m honest, this was perfect meat-heaven to my taste, with effortless succulence and a subtle, fresh, almost poultry flavour offset by the crunch of the crisped breadcrumbs and the sharp acidity of the lemon. Neither of the sides was much to write home about, but nor were they supposed to be vying for centre stage.

I should stress that there were substantially more economical options on the menu, particularly for those interested in more than a single course. I’ll have to come back – if only for a slice of those glorious cakes!

Goats’ cheese stuffed courgette flowers with lavender honey at Salt Yard

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This is a relatively straightforward dish, as the picture probably suggests. Courgette flowers are stuffed with tangy goats’ cheese, deep fried in the lightest of batters and drizzled (very generously) with aromatic lavender honey. Simple ingredients, but a really tasty result.

“They’re a bit of theatre and the chefs know how to play it”

Well, I say simple ingredients, but flowers rather than fruit bodies of courgette are no doubt pretty exotic. You couldn’t easily see these yellow beauties, and I was surprised (pleasantly it turns out) that they were cooked with quite a length of stalk which helped the dish stand up to the mellow but robust flavour of the oozing cheese, and gave a lovely crunchy bite to go with the crispy batter and flower.

The honey was sweet, obviously, but also almost spicy in its aromaticness. Together it amounted to an ethereal offering which is deservedly a signature dish for Salt Yard.

Courgette flowers are never going to fill you up, and I can’t honestly promise that the petals themselves add much to the dish, but they’re a bit of theatre and the chefs know how to play it. 

I’ve been told off for going on about other dishes not part of the Chowdown Showdown Londontown challenge, so here are some pictures to tantalise you of the other dishes on offer, with no additional commentary…

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24/100 best dishes in London