Eating Around: Santi, Stratford, London

Based in Stratford’s up and coming East Village, Santi officially opened its doors in July 2016, offering lucky nearby residents an array of traditional Italian fodder, including thin-based pizza, seafood-drenched pasta, and more mozzarella than you can shake a stick at. When looking for a convenient and cosy restaurant to base a birthday meal with friends, Santi quickly cropped up as the ideal choice; in part because it is round the corner from my sister’s flat, partly because it’s on my way home back to Romford, and thirdly, because the food is absolutely delicious.

Santi is decorated very simply, letting its flamboyant food do all the talking. Stark white and dark wood form the majority of the colour theme, with the occasional flash of red to correspond with the restaurants logo dotted here and there. We were sat on a medium sized round table, ideal for nattering as a group, the table dressed with wine glasses and white linen napkins.

We ordered a couple of bottles of white wine to get the evening started, with my sister Jess taking the lead on the choice there. Our waiter presented us with a standard main menu each as well as a spring special menu, which boasted of being a whole three courses for a mere £20. We took a pick and mix approach, with some people sticking solely to the special menu – which did have a very impressive array of options for that style of menu – and some of us having two courses from the special menu and then one of the other courses from the main menu. Either way, this led to the food being very affordable all round, while still providing a pretty much entire menu to pick from. Win win if you ask me.

As we were reading the menu, a bread basket arrived at the table, alongside a dish of green and black olives, speared with cocktail sticks. Always a nice extra treat when table snacks arrive before you’ve even ordered, and so I tucked into the soft, thickly sliced bread with gusto, playing catch with the salty and small olives too.

While sipping the fresh and fruity wine, I ordered the scamorza impanata from the main menu for my starter. It sounded ideal for me, with breadcrumbed smoked mozzarella served with sautéed aubergines. This was probably one of my favourite starters that I have ever eaten to be honest with you. The mozzarella was stringy and soft, oozy out of the golden breadcrumbs when I cut the large discs on my plate. The cheese had a lovely creamy flavour that was accentuated by its sheer meltiness, the softness of the cheese working wonderfully with the crunchy breadcrumbs. The aubergines were cooked in a tomato style sauce to add a bit more variety to the texture of the dish, the squishy, earthy veg adding a hint of depth to the lighter cheese. The main components of the dish were sat on top of some decoratively scattered rocket, the edge of the plate drizzled in a balsamic glaze that I would have licked clean off the plate if manners would have permitted me to. I really loved this dish; everything worked together so well and you simply cannot go wrong with some form of melting cheese. The portion size was also more than generous with three large circles of cheese. This certainly whet the appetite healthily for what was to come.

For main course, I couldn’t resist my usual temptation treat food of Italian pizza, which I chose from the spring special menu. I went for the vesuvio, an interesting combo of salami, mozzarella and a fried egg on top. The pizza was a standard size with a generous scattering of salami spread across the circumference. The cheese on top looked a little sparing; however the wobbling fried egg on top was a thing of beauty. When I popped it’s golden yolk centre, it melted deliciously across my pizza, giving me extra to dunk my crispy yet doughy, wide crusts in. You really can’t go wrong with an Italian pizza in my view and this one was bellissimo.

I chose my dessert from the spring menu as well, opting for the cannoli siciliana to be brave and try something new. I’ve never had cannoli before, but I’ve heard the term tossed around plenty, so I was intrigued as to what it actually was and what it tasted like. I have to confess I was severely disappointed here, spending the duration of dessert jealously eyeing up Jess’s tiramisu. My cannoli featured a rolled up, thin biscuit, which had a similar taste to a brandy snap, yet it’s texture was very crisp and crunchy with real bite. It was meant to be filled with ricotta cheese, sugar and chocolate flakes, yet to me it tasted like sugar-sweet, liquid white icing sugar had just been poured inside, adding nothing to the flavour. The chocolate flakes could not be tasted in any way, shape or form. Although another decent portion size, I was really gutted by how bland and uninviting this dessert was. Next time, I’ll definitely go with my trusted dessert option.

Value for money is very apparent at Santi. There were five of us all together; we shared a couple of bottles of wine, and four of us had three courses, one person had two. Bearing in mind all that, we paid a puny £27 each. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was, considering both my starter and my main course were so tasty that I devoured them at warp speed. Our waiter was lovely as well, very polite yet chatty, efficiently serving our meal. We went on a Wednesday, so the restaurant as a whole was a bit quieter than I’m sure it would be on a weekend, however it had a very relaxed atmosphere and the food was lovely. I’d recommend a visit if you are passing by and need to put your feet up after hitting Westfields. Aperol spritz anyone?


Eating Around: The Fish House, Stratford, London

p1050709Although I am a tenacious carnivore through and through, dismissing vegetarian options with a blood-thirsty sneer, there are some occasions when I have to diversify my palate and be open-minded about new flavours and experiences. I love trying new food, but to be honest with you, fish is still a tentative one for me. With a very set and decided dislike of prawns and shellfish, I have in recent years attempted to be a ‘grown-up’ and see if there were any fish dishes that I actually liked, or even enjoyed. Toying with the boarders of salmon-based meals and grazing bravely on white fish, I was confronted with the chance to fully embrace seafood last Father’s Day, when my sister and I decided to take our fish-loving dad and slightly more reluctant mum out for dinner at Stratford East Village’s latest trend-setting eatery, The Fish House. Clue is most definitely in the title.

p1050711Fitting into the up-and-coming atmosphere of East Village was certainly easy for The Fish House, which offers both restaurant dining and a takeaway business. With a stark grey industrial vibe, the venue is warmed up by long, communal bench and stool style seating, as well as cosy black leather cushioned booths, encouraging clusters of friends and family to natter while they eat. There is also the laid back ‘help yourself’ feel by the silver buckets on each table, housing cutlery and napkins, while the randomly dotted around house plants give off a weirdly homely feel that is at odds with the office style lighting and echoing space of the restaurant.

p1050712My family and I were seated in a rectangular booth in the corner, which suited our needs perfectly. Once we begun looking at the menu, I must confess I was getting a little nervous. As a non-fish eater, I couldn’t spot a single starter that I wanted that wasn’t going to be too heavy before a main meal, for example the fish cakes that my dad chose were lovely but it was a large portion for a starter with two thick slabs of fish cake squashing a bed of salad leaves. The menu, which uses ethically sourced fish, is changed frequently depending on the time of year and what is able to be fished I suppose. The menu is quite small and to be honest, you do have to enjoy fish to visit as there are not really any other options to pick from.

p1050713When picking my main course, I decided to skip the obvious battered fish and chips option and try to be a bit healthier in my selection. With this in mind, I also chose the item most similar to a meat dish – tuna steak. Now, I’ve heard good things about tuna steak generally but I had yet to try one, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out without the faff of cooking one myself. My tune steak was a decent size, and a nice thickness too. It was tender to cut and was actually really tasty, with a juicy yet soft texture and an oddly meat-like flavour. Pleasantly surprised by the tuna, I also tucked into my sides with abandon; a lovely gloopy dollop of thick and creamy guacamole, paired with a chunky and zesty tomato salsa – the ideal dunking components for both my tuna and my mound of crispy sweet potato fries. I also ordered an extra side to share with the folks, buttered spirulina which was super tasty too with plenty of butter to pep up all that green. All in all, I really enjoyed the main course and I was glad that I had found another fish item that I could eat when out and about if the need arose!

p1050710Although the dessert choices were very limited, I opted for the chocolate torte, as generally you can’t go wrong with chocolate when you have a sweet tooth like myself. I asked whether I could swap the vanilla ice cream for a scoop of peanut butter ice cream instead, which ended in confusion – after numerous attempts at explaining what I wanted, getting the wrong ice cream and then explaining it again to our Spanish waitress, I finally got the chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream and a separate dish of peanut butter ice cream. You win some, you lose some. Either way, the torte itself was magic, with that slight brownie-like crunch on the top yet a dense and heavenly squash of dark chocolate underneath, which was lightened in flavour thanks to the creamy and quickly melting ice cream. It was a lovely, simple and classic dessert.

Although I had a nice meal at The Fish House, I’m not entirely sure if I would return. Our waitress was very polite and friendly, attempting to make small talk, however I think she was quite new to the UK as she did get a few bits of our order wrong and it sometimes took quite a bit of explaining to get what we wanted; for example, my mum, who is on a strict diet, asked for her fish to be plain and grilled with just a side salad however it arrived coated in a lavish amount of bubbling fried batter, which she then had to pick off to attempt to find the smaller portion of fish inside. And then the fiasco with swapping flavours of ice cream was made so much more complex than it actually was too. The quality of the food was delicious and the way it was cooked was wonderful, so for a quality meal with excellent ingredients, then by all means, give it a go. As a fish newbie, it maybe just wasn’t my scene.