Monday, 15 April 2013

IKEA

I had never realized how much strategic planning goes into the layout of every IKEA megastore. When I was younger, my route simply headed straight up the escalators and into the ballpit-playground for about two hours, making friends and enemies within the mass of multi-coloured spheres, before coming out into reality and heading home in a car full of large cardboard boxes and plastic things.


The food bit didn't seem relevant to me until I sat down in the IKEA Resturant one day with my mum and had some poached salmon slathered with what I know now as hollandaise sauce, and it absolutely blew my mind and made me fall in love with salmon fillets. My mum also started to buy a seemingly never-ending supply of Swedish meatballs, as well as lingönberry jam and that creamy, brown, magical gravy. She'd pop them in the oven and I'd have about fifteen of them for dinner, with fries and hot gravy. Mmm.

About two weeks ago, my friend, Esther, and I, shared a few plates of food picked out from the various 'stations' in Wembley's IKEA restaurant which vaguely resembles an Oliver Twist-esque food queue, with the generic grey trays and all. However, the place had a lovely, large and homely interior with golden wood, and simple but chic lighting.

Esther is a queen.

Ten meatballs were £3.89, and they came with gravy, a free flow of jam, as well as mashed potatoes and steamed carrots. Some other customers had fries with their meatballs, but I'm guessing that they came with the larger quantities. The meatballs were bouncy and tasty -- flawless, and never failing to impress.

The salad bar had a small variety of beans, leafy greens, beetroot, giant couscous,coleslaw and cucumber. For a the size of a soup bowl, it was somewhere between £2-3. (There was a fixed price but I can't remember it now.)

The salmon and spinach lasagne was a generous portion, and tasted so good. Warm, browned lasagne layers encompassing fluffy salmon bits and fragrant spinach -- it was quite filling as well!

There is also a free flow of coffee, which one has to pay (If I remember correctly, it was about 95p per cup or something like that) for per possession of mug, unless you have IKEA FAMILY membership -- then you get free coffee on weekdays!



And of course, who can resist their desserts?

No, salad leaf, you are healthy, get out of the picture.



Filled with whipped cream and held by a yummy shortcrust pastry, this strawberry tart was simply heaven.


Their quality-control is really good as well. Every tart looks the same, and just by looking, you can tell that each one tastes absolutely yummy. I guess it is due to the fact that we are talking about IKEA, and they probably handle their food like their generic, please-all furniture.



The almond cake with chocolate and butterscotch pieces (£1.75) was too good-looking to resist. The layered, nutty sponge cake has a lovely caramel-like flavour, and when topped with butterscotch, whipped cream and chocolate, there is a rich blissfulness which is not overpowering due to the presence of the almond sponge layers. 


There is a lot of apple in this Swedish Apple Cake (£1.45), which is great. At a glance, one would think that the apple in encased in shortcrust pastry, similar to the likes of an apple pie, but upon closer inspection, the 'pastry' is actually a firm cake, which I guess is what makes it Swedish. Customers are promised vanilla sauce, but I guess they ran out, because we got a blob of whipped cream instead. I would have preferred the cake warm, rather than cold from being stored on the chilled shelves. It's alright, but I'm not a huge fan of this one.


The Chocolate Truffle Cake (95p) was what you'd expect from a truffle – rich, dense, and chocolatey. It might be a bit too rich for an entire bar, but it was alright when served with whipped cream and shared with a friend.

This pretty much sums up our IKEA trip.

After the long and tedious journey through the land of beds, tables, plates, potted plants, toys, and the final showdown of the ceiling-high shelves of brown boxes, we made it to the cashier, which felt as good as reaching the finish-line of a marathon track. All I checked out was a bottle of Dryck Bubbel Apple & Lingön, which is a sparkling drink made of apple juice and Lingönberries. (£1.89) It is a sweet and satisfying drink, and both flavours compliment each other well –neither overpowers the other.

My bottle is green, though.

Like a drink stall for the said marathon track, there is a bistro just beyond the cashiers which sells hot dogs for 60p along with soft drinks, soft-serve ice cream cones, cinnamon buns and doughnuts. Perfect for the exhausted shopper. Sneaky.

Next to the bistro is the Swedish Food Market, which sells Swedish food (no shit, Sherlock.), some featured in the IKEA restaurant earlier on, such as the apple cake and the almond-layered cake thing. Of course, there are frozen meatballs, packets of gravy mix, jars of lingönberry jam, and packets of vanilla sauce mix for the cakes. Other popular Swedish items such as herring roe, cod roe, salmon, and oat biscuits (I sampled some of these – really really nice.) were aplenty on the shelves.


Like Choccie Dodgers, Kakor Choklad (50p!) is a sandwich biscuit filled with chocolate ganache, with a portion of it peeking out through a heart-shaped hole in the top biscuit, which is a plain butter biscuit, while the bottom one is a chocolate biscuit.


Wow. The chocolate filling really is something. It is thick, creamy, and has a fragrant chocolate taste, without the sweet, milky, artificial THIS-IS-CHOCOLATE-DO-YOU-HEAR-ME flavouring you sometimes get in other cookies. 

See that map on my screen? I'm planning world domination at the moment.


Also sold at a great price of 50p, Kex Äpple looked interesting to me. I bought it thinking that it would contain an apple-flavoured filling, but the biscuit sandwich was filled with vanilla-flavoured filling, while an apple-flavoured candy occupies the heart-shaped hole. What?


Okay, the filling was good and the biscuits had a good, firm texture without being too crumbly.



The candy did have a lovely apple taste, but that little centre is the only instance during which you have any apple taste at all – the rest of the biscuit is a normal vanilla sandwich cookie. The apple taste didn't even spread. Furthermore, that candy was hard. Not hard like rock-hard, but more gooey-hard, like a licorice stick. Determined to prolong the lifespan of the apple flavour to last throughout the entire biscuit, I bit into half of the candy bit and had to wait a good 4 seconds wiggling the biscuit about, trying to rip apart that damned heart. IKEA could have been much smarter with this biscuit.

I can't wait to go back to IKEA to try the rest of their budget-priced foods!

IKEA - Wembley
2 Drury Way
North Circular Road
London
NW10 0TH
0845 355 1141

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday10:00 am – 10:00 pm
Saturday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday11:00 am – 5:00 pm
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