Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Back to Bincho...

I ate at Bincho during the Exmouth Market Graze event last week, and - impressed by the delicious chicken tasting-platter and the rather exciting sake-in-a-box - was keen to return as soon as I could. The opportunity arose sooner than expected, and just a few days later I ended up lunching there with my brother, my parents, and Archie the dog.

It was a lovely day - crisp and fresh, but just warm enough to brave the outdoors - and we decided to find somewhere to sit outside on Exmouth Market. An empty table outside Bincho, situated squarely in a patch of sun, seemed to be the perfect spot, and we quickly got stuck into the serious matter of ordering our lunch.

The best way to eat at Bincho (as I learnt from previous visits) is to start with a small amount of food and get 'top-ups' as the meal goes on. That way everything stays hot and you don't end up accidentally over-ordering (the temptation is to try everything, but the skewers are surprisingly filling, and it does add up: on our first visit my boyfriend and I ended up extremely full and considerably poorer after an excessively greedy round of skewers!).

On this occasion we decided to start with the "Seven Samurai" yakitori grill - a tasting selection of seven signature skewers (asparagus, salmon, chicken and spring onion, shitake mushroom, chicken wings, and pork belly) - alongside chicken and mushroom rice (my favourite), a bowl of edamame beans, two asparabacon skewers (OK I lied, these are my favourite - salty, smoky pancetta and asparagus threaded onto skewers and grilled...mmmm), and a dish of tasty yakitori tare sauce (perfect for dipping).

Eel skewers: unexpectedly appetising...

On the next round, we were a bit more adventurous in our choices. The boys insisted on trying the eel skewers, which were surprisingly good: tender rather than slimy, and coated in a tasty glossy sauce. In addition to the eel we ordered lamb skewers, crispy fried squid (the special of the day), spicy vegetable rice (a bit too much kimchi-esque pickled cabbage in this for me), and two old friends from the Graze menu: fragrant minced chicken meatballs and fried chicken.

Lots of squid

Of all these dishes, it was the fried chicken which stood out for me. Bincho's version is literally the best I have ever tasted: with succulent breast meat coated in an incredibly light batter and served alongside deliciously citrusy panzo sauce, it's as far as you could get from the usual greasy incarnation of this dish. I'm so glad it appeared on the Graze menu, as I would never have thought to try it otherwise.

Heavenly fried chicken

Extremely full after our piecemeal lunch (as I said before, it's deceptively filling!) we declined the offer of dessert, and headed further along the stretch for coffee. I'd never been to Brill before: located midway between Gail's and Caravan (which actually has a roastery in its basement!), we only stopped there because it had an outside table free, but I'm glad to have tried it.

The coffee was excellent, living up to the standard of its neighbours (despite the serving sizes being rather too small for my liking!). My cappuccino was deliciously frothy, while the lattes - served in oversized shot glasses - were pleasantly creamy. Alongside our drinks we ordered a peanut butter chocolate brownie to share: with bitter dark chocolate notes and a vein of salty peanut butter, this had a surprisingly 'grown-up' flavour - perfect for those with less of a sweet tooth.

Brill: Music, Coffee, Bagels

Brill was pretty cool inside, selling retro CDs alongside the usual cafe fare. And from the sign, it seems to specialise in bagels too, so perhaps I'll stop by and try one some other time!

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