The flavours of Greece at The Hungry Donkey

Today we’re heading for East London. Home to Jack the Ripper, East Enders (real and fictional) and the London Olympics. And now to The Hungry Donkey. There’s a lot going on in the East End.

The menu at this contemporary little Greek restaurant is inspired by Greek street food with the emphasis  on simple dishes made using the best ingredients. Reading the menu transported me back to a sunny island somewhere. Well, almost. It was a particularly grey day and drizzly day in London Town which made me yearn for the sparkling blues and whites that only Greece captures so perfectly. At least I could tuck into some sunny food.

What’s on the menu

Dips are an integral part of Greek cuisine and I love them. This colourful plate of fava – yellow split pea puree was served topped with vibrant, juicy tomatoes, finely chopped onions and crunchy, salty capers.

The Hungry Donkey: Fava

A vibrant dip of split peas

And I can never resist the salty fishiness of a tasty taramas (as it was called on this menu) – made from cod roe and lemon juice. Served with the most perfectly soft, warm pitta bread for satisfying dipping. The greens in the blue dish – we could enjoy some of Greece’s blueness with their azure decorated crockery – were served fried and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

The Hungry Donkey: taramas

Taramas and little pillows of pitta

The Hungry Donkey: greens

Close up on the greens in blue

Also in the Mezedes and Salads section, the Greek sausage is a mix of wild boar, pork and leek. Delightfully meaty and herby, served simply fried with a dollop of mustard.

The Hungry Donkey: sausages

Meaty, herby sausages

Feta is another Greek staple and here the feta bougiourdi is oven baked with tomatoes and paprika and topped with oregano. A great mix of Greek flavours with the saltiness of the cheese combining perfectly with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the earthiness of the oregano.

The Hungry Donkey: feta and tomato

Creamy, salty feta and sweet tomatoes

As well as the smaller plates, the menu also offers full main-course  portions. In the Plate Me Up section there’s a choice of meat (lamb, chicken or pork) served with handcut chips, salad and tzatziki. I’ve sampled many a grilled skewer (souvlaki) both in Greece and outside and today’s lamb ones were up there with the best. Beautifully flavoured by the marinade and cooked to amazing tenderness. Served with crisp, piping hot chips and traditional yogurt dip, this is a wonderful plate of Greekness. Just looking at that lamb makes my mouth water.

The Hungry Donkey: Lamb

A plate of the tenderest of lamb

The menu also offered a section titled “Traditional Greek dishes just like Mama used to make” which includes classics like moussaka and beef stifado. But we’d already had quite a feast! Even dessert seemed a step too far until George offered us takeaways to enjoy later. I’m so pleased he did as the semolina, custard filo pie with cinnamon is now one of my favourite desserts.

The restaurant also prides itself on its all-Greek wine and spirits menu. I haven’t drunk much Greek wine but have always been impressed on the occasions I have. Today we enjoyed a lovely white – Spiropoulos – Mischofilero – Mantina.

The Hungry Donkey is a welcoming Greek oasis in the burgeoning Aldgate area where new complexes seem to be springing up on every corner. Lovely service, tasty food and great value – and a chance to feel like you’ve had a little Greek mini-break. Well, it will have to do me until I can head to those sunny isles again.

Today’s price point

Lunch for two cost £55 for three courses.

Wine starts from £17.50 a bottle

The Hungry Donkey is at 56 Wentworth Street, London E1 7AL.

South-East Asian tapas at Yuu Kitchen

Today we’re heading east to Yuu Kitchen in London’s Commercial Street. It’s the road that runs north to south from Shoreditch High Street to Whitechapel High Street though the East End district of Spitalfields.

Carved out of slums in the mid-19th century it was soon made notorious by Jack the Ripper and is home to The Ten Bells pub where The Ripper is thought to have partaken in a drink or two. At the other end of the spectrum you’ll find Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Baroque masterpiece.

Until pretty recently the street was mainly known for its street walkers, but that’s all changed. Now it’s emerging as a great place to eat and drink with its markets and plenty of bars, coffee bars and restaurants to choose from.

Yuu Kitchen opened late last year and serves food inspired by the flavours of South East Asia and the Pacific Rim. Some of my very favourite flavours! It’s a bright contemporary space with counter seating and walls decorated with vibrant pop art.

What’s on the menu?

The menu is divided into sections entitled: Bites, Crunch, Grill ‘n Wok, Fish and of course Bao. There’s a selection of small plates to share. We sat at the counter overlooking the happy busy-ness of the kitchen and munched on some edamame beans (Bites) while we pondered our choices.

Yuu Kitchen: edamame beans

The popping of edamame beans got us started

Some decisions are easy – I mean who can resist Bao? Described as Chinese steamed bread rolls, they can be filled with myriad stuffings. Today we tasted the special offer – Bao with baby back ribs and an Asian barbecue sauce. It’s hard to put the pleasure of eating Bao into words, the rich tastiness of the filling wrapped in a delicate cushion of deliciousness. Kind of like a really exotic sandwich – a taste and texture sensation.

Yuu Kitchen: Bao with baby back rib

The beautifully soft bao filled with baby back rib meat

Vietnamese vegetarian Ssam from the Crunch section offered a plate of spring rolls filled with corn, mushroom and noodles, wrapped in lettuce and served with herbs and a homemade sweet chilli sauce. The flavours of Vietnam exploded in my mouth, how I love this type of food.

Yuu Kitchen: Vietnamese spring rolls

The crunch of spring rolls with herbs, lettuce and chilli

Tuna tataki is one of my absolute favourite dishes. Today’s offering of seared, succulent sashimi-style tuna was served with pickled radish, spring onion and spicy mayonnaise – oh and pomegranate seeds to make it look even prettier. The best way to eat tuna – melt-in-the-mouth tasty.

Yuu Kitchen: Tuna tataki

Beautifully seared tuna with a delicate Asian dressing

Time for Bao number two –  soy and buttermilk crispy chicken served with carolina reaper chilli sauce and daikon pickle. Piping hot chicken in a crispy batter with a wonderful chilli bite from the sauce. I could eat a plate of these.

Yuu Kitchen: Chicken Bao

The best chicken sandwich ever? Very likely

Heading for the Grill ‘n Wok section we had to try the BBQ octopus as we’d seen the chef preparing several portions in front of us and it looked too good to resist. Braised with Sake, mirin and soya and served with a ginger and garlic sauce it was beautifully tender and absorbed the flavours perfectly.

Yuu Kitchen: BBQ octopus

Tender octopus in a lovely gingery garlic sauce

And now for dessert and time to dive into another Bao offering. This time the little beauty was deep fried and served with your choice of ice cream. We went for pistachio. A dessert to dream of with its mix of hot and cold, soft and crunchy, creamy and nutty. And doesn’t it look good!

Yuu Kitchen: Ice cream Bao

For dessert – an ice cream sandwich – so delicious

Yuu Kitchen: Interior

The modern funky look that is Yuu Kitchen

Today’s price point

Our lunch cost £53 including two glasses of wine. It was a feast of food for two.

There is a selection of beer, wine and sake on offer.

Yuu Kitchen is at 29 Commercial Street, London E1. Aldgate East is the closest tube station.

 

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