Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Free udon queue in Takamatsu!

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Kagawa prefecture in Japan is the home of the famous Sanuki udon. If you tell any Japanese person that you have been to Kagawa then 9 times out of 10 they will ask you not about Ritsurin Park, or the Kotohira Shrine, but about the udon.

The Japanese love their udon, and the Sanuki udon from Kagawa are considered to be the best. Japanese tourists travel to Kagawa just for the udon. You can even get a guide book listing the ‘101 best udon restaurants in Kagawa’ – that’s an indication as to how many udon places there are.

For the uninitiated udon are wheat noodles that can be served in a variety of ways; usually with fish sauce (dashi), and fish, meat, spring onions, eggs, or tofu toppings.

One day as I was walking past the big dome of the Marugamemachi I spotted this free udon queue.

free udon in kagawa takamatsu 1

A new udon restaurant was opening and they were giving away free udon to publicise it. Throughout the time I was watching there was a continuous stream of new people arriving to get their udon. Let’s take a closer look at the queue.

Men wearing yello jackets wave signs that tell the shoppers this is a queue for free udon. The shoppers eagerly join the queue and are given some promotional material for the restaurant.

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The shoppers patiently snake their way around the queue. One of the men in the yellow jackets kept on rearranging the barriers for the queuing system, probably so he could look busy!

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The shoppers reach the udon station. Here a production line of staff puts the udon in the bowls, adds some spring onion topping, and then hands the bowl of the udon to the next in line along with some wooden chopsticks.

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After getting their udon the shoppers quickly eat them up (lots of slurping is considered the polite way to eat them). It looked like they were enjoying the udon.

free udon in kagawa takamatsu 5

Then the shoppers could move a bit further along and get an orange or two, as well as having their photo taken with someone in a cartoon character costume.

free udon in kagawa takamatsu 6

What a lot of people then did was run around back to the start of the queue to get more udon! The staff seemed happy to let them do this as they had huge crates full of udon portions ready to serve. Here’s a video of some of the event.

And finally here a photo of what it looked like after the crowds had died down.

free udon in kagawa takamatsu 7

Conveyor belt sushi in Japan

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Conveyor belt sushi, known there as ‘kaiten-zushi’ (回転寿司) is a popular way of eating sushi in Japan. These photos are from one of the Hamazushi restaurants which you can find all over Japan.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 2

Above is one of the seating booths. There is a conveyor belt running by your table with many dishes rotating round. You can pick what you want off the conveyor belt.

Here is a closer view of what it looks like from your seat. Above the conveyor belt is a list of all the dishes, a touch screen for ordering items if you can’t get them off the belt, and cutlery.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 1

Below the conveyor belt are some condiments, and a hot water tap. With the hot water tap you can make yourself some free powdered tea. You need a small spoon of the green powder (it is very strong so don’t take too much), then you push your cup against the black button to get the hot water.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 5

When you enter you are given a card with your table number. You’ll need to give it back after your meal so they know which table you were sitting at.

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If you go at a busy time the dishes will be plentiful and fresh from the kitchen. If you go at a quite time there might not much much of a selection, and the food which is on the belt might be a bit old. It is not just sushi on the conveyor belt; you’ll also find cartons of soft drink and desserts.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 7

Don’t worry though if you can’t see what you want, as you can order anything on the menu from your own touch screen. All the dishes are numbered on the menu, so you can quickly flick through the touch screen system to select which dish you want, and how many of them you want. They will be freshly prepared for you and put onto the belt.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 4

They are put onto special ‘customer order’ plates, which have some kind of sensor in them. When the plate gets near your table, your screen will start beeping. It will even flash a photo of the dish on the touch screen in case you forgot what you ordered.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 6

It is therefore very important that when taking ‘non ordered’ food from the belt that you don’t take them off these ‘customer order’ plates. You’ll be stealing someone elses order if you do!

A quick note for vegetarians – there are some things you can eat but not very many. Most of the dishes are fish (obviously), but even some of the non-fish dishes have fish flakes, or fish dashi on them so you have to be very careful.

If you can speak some Japanese you can ask them what dishes might be safe (but don’t expect the staff to give you a quick answer). Asking whether a dish contains fish/fish sauce/dashi/sea food, etc, usually results in a confused look from the staff and them making a quick trip to the kitchen.

In a smaller sushi joint they’ll even be able to create custom orders for you if you can explain yourself. Vegetarian safe options at this restaurant included cucumber sushi, natto sushi, sweetcorn sushi, inari, and we were able to get them to custom make the aubergine sushi without the usual fish flakes.

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All the plates are colour coded according to their price. Most main dishes were ¥100, with deserts being ¥150-¥200. They are only small though so you may get though a stack of plates. Even so these conveyor belt sushi restaurants are a pretty cheap way to get full.

Best Vegetarian restaurants in London

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Here is a list of my favourite places in London to get Vegetarian food. The first group are actual vegetarian restaurants. The second group are restaurants that just happen to have good vegetarian options. They are presented in no particular order.

Vegetarian restaurants


Tibits is a vegetarian buffet restaurant that started in Switzerland and has now come over to London. They have both hot and cold food. The food is of very high quality. They have pastas, lasagnes, vegetables and salads.

When you go in you get a plate and fill it up with whatever you want. At the till they weigh the plate and you simply pay for the mass of food that you have bought. You get a bread roll with your food as well.

Price: About £10 for a plate depending on the weight of the food
Address: 12-14 Heddon Street, off Regent Street, London, W1B 4DA


Sagar Restaurant

Sagar is a restaurant serving vegetarian Indian food. There is one in Hammersmith and this one in central London. You can get food such as dosa and thalis. There is a range of deserts and drinks such as lassi.

The interior is clean and the food is tasty.

Price: Less than £10
Address: 17a Percy Street, London W1T 1DU

Red Veg – Sadly closed now :(

A lot of vegetarian restaurants can have a bit of a ‘hippy’ atmosphere with pan pipe music and many plants inside. It is nice to have something different in the form of Red Veg. It is a fast food outlet which serves burgers, hot dogs, wraps and chips. It is very tiny – there are a few seats but not enough to guarantee you a seat. This is more a place to buy fast food to take out.

Update: Since I originally wrote this Red Veg has closed. But check out their website for the location of their Brighton location.
Price: Less than £10
Address: 95 Dean Street, London, W1D 3TB

red veg


Maoz is a falafel restaurant. They’ll make your falafel to order and they have a wide range of salad to eat. They have side orders such as chips. You can either eat in or take out.

A good option if you want some quick vegetarian food.

Price: Less than £10
Address: 43 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HG

maoz vegetarian


Mildreds is a great vegetarian restaurant in Soho. You can get pasta, tofu, burgers and a tofu stir fry. On the day I went I had a mushroom and ale pie! They have a selection of deserts including a tofu cheese cake.

Mildreds also run a cake shop on the same road at number 53 called Mrs Marengo’s.

Price: £10-£15
Address: 45 Lexington Street, London, W1F 9AN

mildreds inside

Woodlands Restaurant

Woodlands is a smart looking vegetarian restaurant near to Leicester Square. They have the usual vegetarian options of dosa, thali, and rice dishes.

Price: £10
Address: 37 Panton Street, London, SW1Y 4EA

woodlands restaurant

Sakonis Vegetarian Restaurant

The restaurants above are all in the West end of London. Sakonis is a lot further out in Harrow, but if you want very cheap authentic vegetarian Indian food then it is worth a visit. At lunch times they do a great buffet with dosas, chill paneer, bhel poori, and a variety of curries. You can eat as much as you like. Plain and strawberry ice cream is included in the price.

Price: Less than £10
Address: 5-8 Dominion Parade, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2TR

Standard restaurants with good Vegetarian options

Pizza Express

Pizza Express is a big chain and is a safe bet if you want a tasy pizza or pasta. There is a good selection of meat free dishes here. The funghi, margarita and giardiniera pizzas are of course vegi, but if you want something different you can ask them to put whatever vegetable toppings you like onto your pizza. Just don’t let them put parmesan cheese on your pizza as this is made with animal rennet.

Price: £10-£15
Address: 7-9 Charlotte Street Marylebone, London, W1T 1RG

Thai Cottage

Thai Cottage is a small Thai restaurant in Soho with a family feel. They have many tasty and sometimes quite spicy Thai dishes. I particuarly like their stir fried tofu. A vegetarian green curry is also available.

Price: £10
Address: 34 D’arblay St, London, W1F 8EX

thai cottage


Nandos is a chain and their restaurants are all over London. They are known as being a chicken restaurant but don’t let this put you off. They have a number of very tasty vegetarian options (which can be as spicy or not depending on which marinade you order).

When you arrive you are allocated a table number, you then order from the till and sit down. Your food will be brought to you. Good vegi options include the veggie, bean or portobello bugers and the pittas which are especially tasty with the spicy marinade. On the side you can order peri peri chips, salad, rice and corn on the cob.

Price: £10 each
Address: 57-59 Goodge Street, London, W1T 1TH

Thai Square

There are many Thai Square restaurants around London but the best one is in Trafalgar Square.

If you are looking for a ‘posh’ looking restaurant with good vegetarian options you may find it difficult. There are countless expensive restaurants in London but most of the pricier ones have really bad vegetarian options. Often they have a token option such as spaghetti pomodoro – hardly very imaginative. The Thai Square in Trafalgar Square fills a niche here. The decor inside is nice enough to take a vegetarian on a special occasion, and there are many good vegetarian options.

Price: £20 each
Address: 21-24 Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, London, SW1Y 5BL


This is a map of all the central London restaurants (only Sakonis which is in Harrow is excluded!). Fully vegetarian restaurants are shown in green and other restaurants with good vegetarian options are shown in yellow.

View Best Vegetarian restaurants in London in a larger map

Other tips

If you are going to a Thai or Chineese restaurant watch out for restaurants putting fish or oyster sauce on your food. Ask for no oyster sauce but you can tell them that soy sauce is fine.

Realistically if you go to a restaurant that also serves meat there is a good chance that there may be a small amount of contamination from shared food utensils or shared grills. The situation here in London is much better than in other European cities. If the idea of any potential mixing of utensils is too much for you then you are better off sticking with pure vegetarian restaurants.