Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Make It Merry (Khocolate Style) - Part 2

Continuing on in our attempt at more paleo cooking in the face of roux-en-y and sleeving surgery over the next few months, I picked two more recipes this week to have a play with from the Merrymaker Sisters' Make It Merry healthy cookbook.

To start with, a (totally not funny but very true) joke. What do you get when you cross the world's most accurate gas oven and three trays of mushrooms, capsicum, carrot, eggplant, baby tomatoes and zucchini? Roast vegetable salad of awesome, that's what. I used to eat this sort of thing by itself in the midst of my Korea detox days but this one was paired with a recipe for a very basil-y dressing, so that is exactly what I tried. The Khocolateman does not like basil. I do. Fortunately, this means all the more pesto-like dressing for me on my roast vegetable salad - and he can have the approximation for balsamica that I made last week instead. The dressing was super easy to make and a little bit goes a long way on the roasted vegetables, so there is a bit left over that I can use on other veggies this week to make them really zing.

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It's easy eating green!

My rating: smokey vegetable flavour, and tender textures throughout without them degenerating into a soggy mess, paired with the ZING (yup, that's what happens when you make a zing super) of the basil dressing made it very, very moreish. 5/5.

Fritters. The Khocolateman must have internalised this word as he reported having a dream about someone checking his blood for them the following week. I'd never tried making them before, but the Merrymaker Sisters' pumpkin and bacon fritters were EASY and tasted AMAZING. They've also become a favourite of my photos on Instagram, so pretty is apparently another way to describe them, too. The veggies aren't quite overpowered by the smokey taste of bacon, but pretty close. The spring onion adds a nice kick, while the pumpkin and carrot make them a filling treat to satisfy your breakfast-food-all-the-time cravings. 5/5 - wouldn't change a thing about them.

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Frittering away my breakfast...

Stay tuned next week for another adventure from Merryland!

Have A Chat - And A Saccha Juice

There are a lot of options to choose from if you want to eat in the main food court at the Dandenong Markets. Drinks, though - that's a different story. Most outlets offer softdrink, but there are virtually no fresh places in that part of the shed.

Hello, Saccha - you sweet sweet thing you.

Saccha makes sugar cane juice. They crunch the big green sticks through a juicer while you wait, and mix it with different juices (there are about ten on the menu now, but I was assured that there are more experimental flavours in the works) to make a sweet and refreshing beverage perfect for sipping while you take a load off after shopping. My favourite is the almost mojito - minty and sweet, and sometimes - if I'm feeling it - adding a dash of ginger really gives it a certain je ne sais zing.

The guy that mans the stall most days is good value too. Awesome bloke to have a chat with about everything from market politics to bilingual education.

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A small selection of the available beverages. As you can see, I visit regularly.

Saccha is awesome value and there's no-one else quite like them at the markets. Go for the juice, but stay for the conversation, and return for your weekly hit of both next Saturday and Sunday.

Saccha Cane Juice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 22 February 2016

Shyun Ramen Bar

We have a friend - Jiena - who likes food almost as much as we do. She can spot a good dish at fifty paces (possibly a hundred) and LOVES to share her finds with her friends... fortunately that includes us!

Last month we organised to meet for lunch at Shyun Ramen Bar in Carnegie. Quick thing about Carnegie - if you find parking along the main drag, the parking gods love you. Abuse that power - park longer than you should in the city, brave Chadstone at 11am on a Saturday, do cheapie Tuesdays at Knox O-Zone. You're immune. However if, like me, you are a mere mortal, head around the back to your left and park near the fruit and veggie shop - you can walk through to the main street from there.

SO! Shyun is, as the name suggests, a ramen bar. They do ramen properly - choice of noodles, choice of broth, choice of other stuff. They have a pretty decent range of side dishes, too, as well as an interesting selection of macha soft-serve-based desserts.

I ordered the katsu udon (what can I say, I know it's a ramen bar but I'm more of an udon girl at heart). The noodles and broth were good proportions, and the katsu was not too soggy - only just put into the bowl before serving. Tasty, tasty stuff - nice and salty, with a hint of veggie soup with the addition of nori, shrooms and corn on top. The servings were typically huge, with a deceptively-manageable-looking bowl yielding more than I could eat.

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Mmmmmmuuuddoooonnnn...

This could also be because we also ordered the steamed gyoza (pretty good! Not fall-aparty or too glutinous, with generous amounts of dumpling stuffing in each little parcel) and the agadeshi tofu (tofu that melts in your mouth after you slice and dice your way past the lightly fried outside, served with spring onions and a tasty dashi-based sauce (I think)).

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We were denied our macha soft serve ice cream at the conclusion of the meal, but we had had a macha ice drink with our meal and that was enough - I don't think I could have managed much more food at that point!

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Shyun has a couple of places in Melbourne. If they're all just as good as this, I can understand how they've expanded so effectively!

Shyun Ramen Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Khob Khun - Surprisingly Good Suburban Thai

Travelling to see family in Sydney last month, I arrived quite late in the day (and quite unexpectedly, too) so rather than force ourselves to go shop, cook and clean up afterwards, we decided to visit Khob Khun for a Thai dinner.

To be truthful, I wasn't expecting much. Thai in the middle of Lindfield? Really? How authentic could it possibly be? Well, I was forced to eat my words. We ordered three dishes - the red duck curry, the papaya salad and stir fried fish, snow peas and mixed vegetables.

My pick? The red duck curry. While the other two still embodied the understanding Thai cooks have of the need to balance the four dimensions of flavour (hot, sweet, salty and sour), the curry really did show it best. The vegetables retained their crunch and flavour while also embedded with the sweet yet salty curry gravy. The duck was soft and came apart easily, but had enough substance to it to be filling. A very satisfying dish.

The papaya salad always surprises me. For some reason I always imagine it's going to be a soft, sweet and squishy dish, whereas it is almost always crunchy with more of a sour bent to it. It complimented the hot (temperature-wise) dishes well, and lent relief to those who didn't cope well with the heat (chili-wise). The stir fry was probably at the bottom of the list - not because it was lacking in any one thing in particular (the produce was fresh, the flavour strong (especially the salty side) and it was served steaming to the table), just because the other two were better. That's a pretty good reason to come third!

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Yummo. Fresh crunchy 4-flavour-dimensional Thai food.

A little gem in the middle of Lindfield - hit up Khob Khun if you want quick service, tasty and authentic Thai food and a bill that won't break the bank.

Khob Khun Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 15 February 2016

Denis Menaces My Arteries

I found myself at a market on Cubitt Street in Richmond at the end of last year, and the lunch options in the immediate vicinity were quite limited (unless you wanted cupcakes, in which case you were set. Remind me to tell you about that sometime). Someone wandered in with a coffee and when questioned where it had been magically procured from, we were told about Denis the Menace.

Upon further investigation, this was one of the few places off the main drag still open on weekends for breakfast, lunch, brunch - all the things we were after - and I was sent forth as an intrepid adventurer to hunt down some grub. It was easy enough to find - just follow the crowds (not really, but it was pretty busy) into a converted warehouse, deceptively small at the front and WIDELY SPACIOUS beyond the entryway.

I ordered a chai and a 'Putin' It There, Pal' aka a Reuben sandwich - dark rye piled high with corned beef, sauerkraut, cheddar cheese and Russian (?) dressing. It took about five minutes to make, and while idly waiting and watching the comings and goings going on it was nice to notice that the staff were happy and animated behind the counter.

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Do you see what I see? Awesome on rye, that's what I'm spying

The chai was a proper cup, not a frothy sugary confection but a brewed black tea with extra spice and cinnamon vim mixed with steamed milk. The sandwich was something else and did everything it needed to in order to satisfy my hunger for protein. The rye was crispy without being injurous to my soft palate, the sauerkraut tangy and substantial (not soggy at all, and not impacting on the bread's structure either) and the corned beef done right - not that mass produced rubbish from the deli counter at Woolies, but proper thick slices where you can SEE the 'grain' (you know - the lines in the meat - what's that called?). There was just enough mustard to complement the sauerkraut without overpowering it,

I was satisfied with the value of both, with the sandwich setting me back $15 and the chai latte $4.50. It's definitely on my list of places to revisit in the trendy part of town!

Denis The Menace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 13 February 2016

In The Limelight

At the end of the year, it's traditional to have a staff Christmas party (as well as the more traditional student Christmas party) to celebrate making it through another year at school. At my school, we had an exceptional social committee who scouted the eastern suburbs for somewhere that could cater for drinkers and non-acoholics, vegetarians and carnivores, gluten free people and lactose intolerant people, with enough space to fit forty of us plus several prams. A big ask. Add to that the necessity of being able to split bills, and you've got a mammoth task.

Enter Limelight.

Conveniently located in Doncaster, with oodles of parking, their open plan design makes it super easy to fit everyone in. They have a pretty decent list of wines, ciders, beers and cocktails, and a great menu - which they do not restrict groups from ordering! It's a case of get what you want, pay for what's yours, and everything will be well. I'd recommend them in a heartbeat.

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GIANT RICE BALLS

This year I indulged in both a shared entree and a main. The teacher next to me and I shared the arancini (three ENORMOUS ball-like concoctions of well-seasoned and appropriated glued together (without being totally gelatinous) rice) which we agreed was definitely a likely repeat. For my main I had lamb skewers with pita bread, salad and a dip - the lamb was succulent and slid off the prongs easily, the sign of well-done sheep meat. The salad and the dip really tied the meal together, making it possible to indulge in what effectively amounted to a really classy kebab (high praise from me as we all know how much I love me a good kebab).

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All the ingredients for a classy kebab

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Another random dish of calamari that I took photos of, because I like stalking other people's food as well as my own.

I've never heard a bad word from anyone about what they've chosen to order and the service has been exemplary every time we've visited (hence the multiple, multiple repeat visits with such a huge group). I haven't been there by myself but reason has it that if they're that great for a big group, they'd have to be just as good or better if you visited as an individual. Hit them up. You won't regret it.

Limelight Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Oh you Naughty Boy (cafe)...

Yeah so in the pursuit of trying everything I can before I have to not eat stupid stuff any more, Sally and I hit up Naughty Boy on Lygon Street to try the much-instagrammed freakshake. As a matter of fact, they've renamed them the instashakes - shakes so great they're famous on Instagram.

Being as it was that we rocked up around lunchtime and we were very, very hungry, we decided that lunch and a freakshake together would be a good idea. We were shown to a large table with stools and claimed a corner for our own. They have just a few instashakes at a time on the menu - two of the three had nuts on them but they were happy to swap them out for something made of spun sugar on the top for me.

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Check out these babies!

I also had the breakfast roll - thick cut bacon, a fried egg, cress, haloumi and a yummy relish for contrast. The brioche bun was soft but nicely toasted - I can't stand hard edges on my bread but this was just about perfect, and good value for money to boot.

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One bad boy breakie bun

Sally had this plate of rainbow amazing, aka pancakes in lurid shades with popping candy and a sorbet-type-think plus a meringue and BILLIONS OF BERRIES (well maybe just a few!).

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Ambience = +++1. The music demonstrated good taste and matched the demographic perfectly. The clientele were a mixed bunch with lots of school holiday makers, hospital visitors and locals taking a very indulgent break around heavy wooden tables. The waitstaff were quick to serve the tables, and patiently answered questions with a smile. The whole operation was just about seamless! I'd recommend them to just about anyone - who wouldn't love ACTUALLY EATING instariffic food!

Naughty Boy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Poffertjes - It's Dutch For Pancakes

When we have people over around breakfast time on Saturdays - as we did recently for a LAN party - I bail to the markets early. Not only does this mean I'm done with the shopping and have it put away before someone else wants ALL OF THE FRIDGE SPACE for soft drink, but it also means everyone gets breakfast. And breakfast means Dutch pancakes.

Poffertjes are the Dutch answer to takoyaki, except they're savoury, and don't have octopus in them. Okay, okay, it's a long stretch. But they LOOK kind of similar - little balls of dough frying in individual tiny little indents in a specially shaped frying pan. They take about five minutes to cook, and the lady who mans the stall has this quick stab-turn-flip movement she does to each one in about half second to make sure they cook all the way through and don't burn.

At the markets, the pancakes are served with icing sugar and butter and either honey, lemon, or maple syrup - my favourites are the lemon ones, but the maple syrup ones always go the fastest around the gaming tables. They're $7 per serving, and we get about three so everyone can have roughly six pancakes each. Good value for money, and a surefire crowd pleaser.

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Hot poffertjes, hot poffertjes, buy my pancakes crisp and light...

My only gripe is that even though Zomato says they open on Sundays - they don't. The market does, but I've been at least twice where they've shut up shop for the day which has made for sad people at home. I have ticketed this so hopefully it will be fixed soon.

Dutch Poffertjes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Merrymaker Sisters Cookbook - Making Life Merry, Khocolate Style Part 1

Last year, I was given a copy of the Merrymaker Sisters Cookbook in my EDB16 goodie bag. The end of the year was flat chat and we had functions on many nights, but over the holidays I wanted to give a few of their recipes a whack, and then the Khocolateman ended up on his veggies and shake diet before roux-en-y surgery, so it was a double-whammy and a no-brainer that veggies and paleo were the way to go for a bit.

The first recipe I tried was the Macadamia Encrusted Salmon. We both really like salmon but there's only so many times that I can have it pan fried in salt and olive oil or baked with lemon, so this was a good alternative. I got a giant salmon fillet from my favourite fish stall at the Dandenong Markets, deboned it (pesky little buggers, trying to wreck my Jamicure), sliced and diced into smaller portions and then got cracking on the crust. I discovered, much to my delight, that the cheapie bullet blender the Khocolateman bought me from Kogan works just as well as a food processor so I whizzed the ingredients together to make a crumbly/sticky mixture (which tasted rich and very more-ish on its own, let me tell you), applied it liberally, and then bunged it in the oven to bake. Their estimates were spot on for our 1980s gas oven and they came out LOOKING LIKE THE PICTURE IN THE BOOK. How often can you say that?

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OMEGA THREE, COME AT ME

My verdict: the citrusy/nutty crust was the perfect alternate taste to balance out the more muted, sort of smokey taste of the baked salmon - 5/5.
The Khocolateman's verdict: the taste was good, but it was a bit rich in the proportion it was presented in with the salmon (probably more my fault than the recipe's). 3/5.

The second recipe was thrown together, presented with the salmon and the Khocolateman liked it a whole lot more - the roast pumpkin and baby spinach salad with creamy macadamia dressing. The veggies were pretty straight forward - I peeled and steamed the pumpkin (a very nice piece of butternut I picked up from my favourite plant-based produce stall at the Dandenong Markets) until it was soft but not mooshy, and tossed it with fresh baby spinach leaves. The dressing was another Kogan bullet creation - I couldn't get the macadamias to break down as much as I would have liked but they added another more subtantial element of texture to the creaminess of blended garlic and lemon juice. There were a few other ingredients that rounded it out and when mixed through the veggies in the salad created a dish that disappeared with surprising rapidity.

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Iron-rich, taste-packed, texture-enriched salad.

My verdict: I love anything with roasted veggies and baby spinach and this was no exception. The dressing wasn't so strong that they lost their flavour and texture. All up, it was super easy to make and it'll definitely become a regular in the meal rotation over the next few months. 4/5
The Khocolateman's verdict: LOVED the dressing in the quantity I served the salad with, polished it off and came looking for more. This is a strong indicator of the salad's addictive properties (he is a confirmed carnivore, usually) so I'm going to guess this was a 5/5 for him.

The Merrymaker Sisters' website can be found here or you can hit them up on their Facebook page. If you want to purchase their cookbook, you can either get it as a hard copy or an e-book here. I'd totally recommend it (and so would the Khocolateman if he knew I was writing about it).

Deokkbokki Rowville Style

You may have noticed that a favourite cuisine/cooking subject of mine is Korean food. If you've ever paid the land of the morning calm a visit, you'll know that (one of) the best part(s) of living there is that life goes on past 2am. I'm not actually convinced that Seoul ever sleeps, to be honest - mainly because when the restaurants and bars in bricks-and-mortar establishments close, the pop-up tents of soju and street food emerge like magic on footpaths and side streets, and they disappear again into the ether when the more conventional businesses begin to open their doors and shutters in the morning.

A huge commodity in these places in the small hours of the morning is deokkbokki, or tubey-shaped rice noodles in a red gochujang (red pepper) sauce, often mixed with boiled eggs, cabbage, a sort of seafood extender known as odeng, or strips of sweet potato. They usually serve it in a plastic bag, and for a bit extra, sometimes you can wheedle a processed cheese slice out of them to put on top. It's thick, gooey, terrible as a hangover food (I can attest to this firsthand) but fantastic in winter when your hands have lost feeling and ALL YOU WANT IS TO FIND YOUR KEYS IN YOUR BAG AT 2AM BUT YOUR FINGERS HAVE FROZEN.

Occasionally, I get the urge to eat it here. It's not something most Korean restaurants make - like I said, it's a dodgy street food - but you can get the ingredients and make it yourself. Luckily for me, our local Asian grocery shop has everything I need to make it, and making it I decided would be a thing that needed to happen.

I got the recipe from Maangchi though I tweaked it a little to fit my taste and what I had on hand (not tubey noodles but I did have the sliced rice cake and it tastes the same so it worked for me; no fish cake or anchovies but I added some diced cabbage instead). It turned out pretty well!

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Seoul-sick cravings satisfied for another day.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Basilico for Monmon's Birthday

We went to Basilico for Mon's birthday. She's a chef, and she likes Italian food, so I guess the 'Italian' and 'restaurant' part make sense. What didn't make sense was how the food was good but the service abysmal.

To start with, they sat the twelve of us at one long table up against a railing. Every time someone wanted to get up, EVERYONE along one side had to get up. Hmm. Faux pas one, but forgivable, as they're a small-ish restaurant and I can understand our last-minute booking was probably hard to squeeze in.

Second, the waitress assigned to our table treated us with considerable disdain for the whole evening. Short answers, barely concealed annoyance at our questions, and a total failure to notice the five of us trying to get her attention every time we wanted to order something (and we would have ordered more if she'd been a bit quicker off the mark). The other staff there seemed lovely, especially one young lady and a gentleman I assume was the owner, but unfortunately we got the Debbie Downer.

ASIDE FROM THE SERVICE it was pretty good! We had haloumi and chips as shared entree. The haloumi was cheesey. That's about all I can say. The chips were chippy. They were served fresh and hot, fairly standard flavours and textures, but we were hungry and they disappeared fast.

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Haloumish haloumi being cheesy

We ordered separate mains. I got an involtini divitello (veal with pancetta, spinach, mozzarella and a creamy tomatoey sauce) which was served with chips and salad. The veal was well-cooked, not slathered in sauce so you could still taste a hint of the veal, and the stuffing was generous in all the right places (LOTS OF EVERYTHING but especially mozzarella). Mmmm. Rich and creamy all-round goodness. Sides were pretty standard - generous and fresh but not anything particularly special flavour-wise.

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Involtini Divitello

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The Khocolateman's selection

They also have a couple of cocktails on the menu, including a cosmopolitan and a long island iced tea, and a decent moscato rose.

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Evidence that I am cosmopolitan (well, I've consumed one - same thing!)

Happy birthday, Mon! It was lovely to celebrate with you =)

Basilico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Taiwan Cafe Dumplings - Now With Nuts

Ah, Glen Waverley - home to a million foodie paradises. How much do I love you - let me count the ways.

Taiwan Cafe has been around a while - long enough to become a staple, and rating fairly well on review sites, so when Xzander suggested there I acquiesced happily. I hadn't been there before but they had bao, so bingo, I was in.

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We kicked off with some fried spring rolls - pretty standard, but hot and crunchy, and a decent size for the price. I don't think they had meat in them - if they did it was only a little - but the veggies were more than enough to stuff it. We followed up with steamed dumplings (I like em steamed... so does Xzander... we have been known to demolish several plates at places in Box Hill) - one set showed up quite plain, and the other we ordered without peanuts on top, thinking I'd be safe without the garnish.

Ba bow. Wrong we were.

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Safe Dumplings

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Not so safe dumplings

Apparently there were peanuts in the sauce. This causes issues for me as it makes me quite sick and makes my lips feel funny. We sent them back, and I proceeded to drink about a litre of water over the next ten minutes to circumvent the BLERGH feeling I usually get - and then I was fine for the BAO EXPERIENCE (incidentally the safe steamed dumplings we had that were plain were very good - the riceflour outside achieved perfect adhesion to the meaty ball inside, not flopping off but easily enabling us to pick up, dunk and eat with chopsticks - a hard consistency to achieve. Kudos to them).

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Bao-chicka-wao-wao for the pork belly!

BAO. I ordered my pork one with no peanuts, and it was a total winner. The bao itself was slightly sweet, and sufficiently fluffy without being likely to fall apart the minute any sauce touched it. The pork (belly I think) was sliced finely, not too chunky and no 'extra' presents of gristle or fat to be seen, with a barbecue-type marinade that really gave it a sweet-but-salty kick. This was definitely the pick of the bunch.

On the whole - a good feed for a good price. I haven't really had another bao on Kingsway to compare, but I get the feeling their dumplings are cheaper and their baos competitive at least. Worth a try, as they do try to be as accommodating as possible for people with allergies.

Taiwan Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 1 February 2016

Nitro Lab Glen Waverley

Nitro Lab, aka science meets gastronomy in the best way possible - with ice cream/gelato.

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Close-up of yummy goodness...

When you enter Nitro Lab it feels quintessentially gimmicky - and everyone likes it that way. Giant canisters of liquid nitrogen behind the counter, staff dressed in lab coats and safety goggles, laboratory stools - it's a sciencey feel for those of us who aren't very sciencey about anything but food.

Their menu changes regularly (with the season, I think) but a favourite has always been the Golden Gaytime with its salted caramel and chocolate chips combined with nitrogenised sweetness and cream to make a tres sophisticated soft ice cream treat. I have been known to add a syringe of caramel sauce to it as a 'side' (? added extra? not really a topping as the syringe sticks out the side...) (because why not go into a sugar coma after eating dessert?) and declare it the world's most perfectly matched dessert. Honestly, I've never heard anyone say a bad word about the menu - certainly you won't hear any nastiness from me - and the service is always impeccable.

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Because why not caramel?

Be aware they do get very busy in the evenings in summer so you might be in for a smidgen of a wait, but you're guaranteed to be seen quickly when you do make it in the door.

Nitro Lab Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato