Gin on Monday night, followed by rum the following Monday - my "no drinking Sunday to Wednesday" has gone out the window in the last few weeks, but for good reason...!
It started with an invite to taste gin brand The King of Soho at Italian restaurant Mele e Pere in Soho. The gin is named after Paul Raymond, who was the King of Soho - an entertainment and property tycoon from the 1950s who ruled and transformed Soho, opening venues, running clubs and theatres and keeping the creative and artistic spirit of the area alive. Raymond's son Howard decided to take the unique qualities of Soho and create a drinks brand that paid homage to his father. The King of Soho gin is an authentic London dry gin distilled in small batches in a distillery in the centre of London using traditional methods, and 12 botanicals, including grapefruit peel, sweet orange, juniper, coriander, angelica and cassia bark (the other six botanicals are a secret) that give it its citrusy, smooth flavour.
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Some restaurants aim to impress. They're big and beautiful and you pretty much know from when you step inside that you're going to have an excellent experience there. M, near Bank station, is one of these. To start with it's vast, split into two by a staircase that seems to float down the middle of the room. The tables are nicely spread apart and there's a bar with cosy seating at the top of the stairs. I was invited to come and try the food a couple of weeks ago, so took Moosh with me for a feast.

We ate in the grill area of the restaurant - there's two areas - the raw and the grill, though dishes cross over between the two. We started with a cocktail, obviously - a passion chilli martini that was almost better than the version they do at Shoreditch House, which is one of my favourite drinks.

Then we had some nibbles.... puffed beef, caviar and goat's cheese, and venison salami. All absolutely delicious and clearly cooked/made from scratch on site. A particular highlight was the salami which was rich, and flavoured with juniper and pepper.

For starters we shared tuna with jalapeno and pickled ginger, which was so simple, but the most beautiful fresh fish, and delicious with the thin slices of jalapeno.

We also had grilled octopus, fennel, smoked tomato and seaweed. It was so good, the octopus had such depth of flavour from the smokiness and went excellently with the tomato and fennel. I could've eaten a mains portion of this.  

The third dish we shared was the least exciting. To be honest, it was a little bland and one I wouldn't order again. It was salmon with caviar, capers and cucumber in the form of a soup, which really didn't taste of much to me.

But M isn't about starters. It's about steak. They have six steak options, from six countries - USA, Argentina, France, South Africa, Japan and Australia - and each's steak is their top quality beef. The meat isn't cheap, but I think it's worth it. We tried the USDA prime steak from Creekstone Farms in Kansas (£49 for 250g). It was soft, meaty and probably one of the best steaks I've tried, especially with the chips and bone marrow sauce. We also tried a nibble of the Kobe beef grade 10* / A5 from Japan and the Blackmore Wagyu Grade 9** from Australia, both of which are considerably more than the USDA prime steak, but also even more tasty. And I'm not sure how many restaurants you can get this in, so if you do want to try it, then M is the place to do so. The sides of spinach, and baby gem, capers and buttermilk were excellent. I adore capers with anything and they went so well with the buttery baby gem.

For once we also had pudding. Moosh went for banana split with hot chocolate sauce which she loved, and I had the berry platter of blueberry meringue, strawberry puree and basil sorbet, which though not very seasonal, was all sorts of sweety goodness!

M is a real treat restaurant - take a date there and I'm sure they'll be impressed! Not only is the food wonderful, but the service was top notch - our waitress Magda was a superstar. They're also opening a new site in Victoria imminently which I can't wait to check out.
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Boozy brunches are one of my favourite things. In fact, I've got lots of favourite things, but boozy brunches are right up there with them. I think it's the feeling of indulging - both in eating much more and much richer food than I normally would for breakfast or lunch, and drinking before midday just feels like all kinds of naughty! Emily and I went to check out the new Ivy Café in Marylebone for a morning of mimosas, buttery pastries and decadent eggs and avocado.

The Ivy Café is the newest of the Ivy group (the original is in Covent Garden and a new Ivy Garden sprung up in Chelsea earlier this year), and is somewhat smaller than its predecessors. Tucked away on Marylebone Lane, it's cosy yet still retains that grandeur associated with the group's other offerings. The walls are covered in ornate mirrors, there's stunning tapestries stitched in around the mirrors and the floors are made up of beautiful coloured tiles.

However, we were there to check out brunch, starting with mimosas, followed shortly by a Red Snapper Bloody Mary, which was utterly delicious - made with gin and green tabasco.

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Goat's cheese is one of the most common "don't eat" ingredients people mention when they book my pop ups, even when it's not on the menu. It's a really divisive ingredient, which is sad as there are so many types of goat's cheese that I struggle to believe that those who say they don't like it have tried all the variants. The hard goat's cheeses are so mild and creamy, and nothing like the soft, pungent versions that are what I think turn people off this type of cheese. Personally, I eat almost everything (bar tripe and baked beans), and adore cheese, particularly goat's cheese. Not only is goat's cheese delicious and versatile but it's also better for you then cow's cheese is, as it's lower in fat and cholesterol, has more protein, higher amounts of vitamins A and B6, and it's easier for the body to digest, as although it has similar levels of lactose to cow's cheese, it has small fat particles, so is often eaten by those who can't eat cow's cheese.

I've come up with a couple of recipes using goat's cheese below, and if you want more inspiration on what to do with goat's cheese, and which type of goat's cheese is best for certain recipes, then you can get out a whole plethora of information on it here. My first idea isn't really a recipe that uses goat's cheese, but instead it's a delicious chutney which you can serve with goat's cheese and crackers. You can substitute the plums, apples and pears for whatever's in season - butternut squash would work well, as would rhubarb when that's back in season. In summer you could even make this with nectarines or peaches.


This will make quite a bit of chutney, but it will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to a month.

Slice 6 plums, 2 apples and 2 pears into small chunks. Add to a pan with 2 sliced shallots (I used purple shallots), a crushed cloves of garlic, some star anise, ginger powder, chilli flakes and about 150g golden caster sugar. Add 150ml white wine, red wine or cider vinegar (depending on the main fruit you're using) and let it bubble away on a medium heat, stirring occasionally to stop it catching at the bottom, until it's reduced down a chutney consistency. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and serve as part of your cheeseboard, or spread on bread before making a goat's cheese sandwich.

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Who doesn't love a bit of chocolate now and again? I'm personally only really a fan of dark chocolate, though will try others, especially if they're part of a luxurious dessert. But normally, the darker the better, and I've recently become a fan of raw chocolate, which is made by cold grinding beans, rather than roasting them, meaning they retain all of the goodness and antioxidants that are so prevalent in cacao beans. You can read all about how chocolate is actually made here in a previous post I wrote.

One brand I've become particularly fond of is Lovechock - a new-ish to market raw chocolate bar. It's 100% organic, sweetened with the dried nectar of coconut palm tree blossom (which is the most sustainable sugar available and is packed with nutrients and antioxidants), and is flavoured with superfoods, like nuts, goji berries and actual cacao nibs. It comes in various flavours including my favourites - almond and fig, pecan and maca, raw and nibs, and mulberry and vanilla.

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It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Japanese food - in fact, for a regular meal out, I'd probably choose Japanese over any other cuisine - I love the clean, fresh flavours and I like the prevalence of fish in the menus, as it makes for a satisfactory yet not overly heavy meal. So when a new Japanese restaurant opens in London I always try to get there to check it out. Wazen opened in Kings Cross in October and I went along to see what all the fuss was about - I'd read only good things about it from some of my favourite food writers in the few weeks it had been open.

The first surprise of the evening was the person to greet me when I arrived - the lovely Ken who used to work at Kanada-ya is now working at Wazen. Always smiling and so knowledgeable about food, Kanada-ya's loss is Wazen's gain. Wazen is in the old Prince Albert pub on Acton Street in Kings Cross, and due to still having the old pub exterior, with the sign still almost intact, I couldn't actually find the restaurant when I first got there. But when I did I was welcomed into the large dining room, full of wooden tables and stools and the old pub bar that's now serving as the restaurant's bar.

I was invited to review Wazen so we were given a tasting menu to try. Every dish was exquisite - beautifully presented and utterly delicious. Chelone, who's been working on photos for my book, came to review with me, hence the much better than normal photos in this post. He's an excellent food photographer, so drop him a line if you want any reasonably priced, top quality food pics done - I can't wait for you to see the photos he's taken for my book, though you'll have to wait a while longer for those!

First up, after a few edamame to snack on, was the agedashi tofu. What I love about tasting menus that the restaurant choose for you are the dishes that I'd never choose for myself. I would never pick tofu on a menu - I think of it as a bit bland and generally a waste of stomach space, but this was fantastic. Deep fried tofu wrapped in wonton skins, served in a mushroom based sauce that had such depth of flavour, with a dashi foam, which didn't really add anything to the dish. But it didn't need anything added. The mushroom sauce/soup was the kind of broth that felt like it had serious healing powers!

Second to the table was a dish I definitely would've chosen myself - salmon zuke - seared salmon with kimizu dressing, which was made from egg yolk and vinegar, a sort of Japanese mayonnaise - the tangy acidity of the dressing perfectly complemented the sweet salmon.

Having said that I like Japanese food for the fish led menus it was nice to try some meat dishes on Wazen's menu too. The first of two chicken dishes we tried rivals Kricket's KFC in terms of juicy fried chicken. The chicken kakinotane was sublime - chicken thigh coated in crumbled Japanese rice cracker, the chicken was so tasty and the deep fried cracker had a wonderful nuttiness to it.


The Wazen salad was a good dose of our five a day. I love beetroot anyway and this plate of roasted beetroot, golden beetroot, yuzu daikon, edamame, salmon roe, pomegranate, tonbruri kochia seeds (sometimes known as land caviar due to their texture and saltiness), shiso cress, cervil and chrysanthemum petals, with a yuzu dressing, was spot on. A refreshing vegetable interlude between the other plates.

Then we were on to sashimi. Beautifully cut pieces of tuna, salmon and butterfish were so, so fresh. We were given a lighter soy sauce to match the fish served on its own.

With our sashimi we had the isaribi sushi platter - three pieces of ngiri topped with the same fish as the sashimi platter, and the salmon and avocado roll. All perfectly made and a really good ratio of fish to rice. I don't like it when there's too much rice which then dominates the sushi pieces. The isaribi platter was served with a different soy sauce than that with the sashimi - it's the little touches like this that make Wazen a step above a lot of other Japanese restaurants in London.

Last but not least for savoury dishes was chicken namban. Pan fried baby chicken with a thick namban sauce and julienne vegetables. Again, the chicken was succulent and flavoursome, and the namban sauce was divine - it's a pickle type sauce that the chicken is marinated in, which is then reduced down to an unctuous, thick sauce for the dish. It was all topped with a Japanese style tartare sauce that kept it light and fresh.

Throughout the meal we had sake pairings to match each set of dishes - sohomare karakuchi (a 15% premium dry sake made with Yamadanishiki rice) for the first dishes, kawashin (15% with hints of chestnut and lychee water, with an almost salty taste) for the sushi and sashimi, and omachi (made with omachi rice, and again at 15% abv, it has a soft yet rich flavour) for the namban chicken. I really enjoyed the first two particularly, and could see why they'd been chosen to pair with the plates as they really complimented the food. It was great to sample sakes chosen by the restaurant as I'd have no idea where to even start when choosing sake with food.

Puddings were matcha tiramisu which really just tasted like a decadent tiramisu that had been dusted with matcha powder. I'm not a huge fan of puddings anyway, and by this stage was struggling to eat anymore after so much food, but I preferred the tiramisu to the other pudding which was a matcha chiffon cake - chiffon cake is a sponge made with oil rather than butter so is very light in texture, but it didn't really do it for me. My advice would be to fill up on the delicious starters and mains and maybe just skip dessert!

If you want excellent Japanese food in a relaxed environment, served by those with real knowledge of the food who are able to guide you through drinks to enjoy with each dish, then definitely check out Wazen. Full info, their address and menu can be found on their website. Dishes range from £3 for nibbles, to £17.50 for the black cod main, which is really reasonable compared to what other Japanese restaurants charge for their versions of that dish. I'm looking forward to trying the black cod, as well as the teriyaki cream soft shell crab and the spicy tuna roll next time I'm there.
 Wazen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tommy Tucker had to sing for his supper, and a couple of weeks ago I had to cycle for mine. I went to an event hosted by MoneySuperMarket, where we powered the chef's hob by cycling for five and a half minutes - the same amount of time it takes to switch energy tariff on their website.

I'm getting ahead of myself though... We arrived at Jenius Social to be greeted with glasses of bubbly (the perfect pre-cycling refresher!) and some delicious canapés made by chef Pratap Chahal, a fellow Grub Club chef, who's cooked at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, Chez Bruce, Cinnamon Club and Galvin Bistrot, amongst others. Pratap also has his own range of food products, making sauces, chutneys and pickles that you can buy direct from his website, or from Selfridges or various delis in London and the UK. We nibbled on Goan spiced pulled pork on toast with smoked yoghurt and coriander; smoked salmon and South Indian spiced cream cheese rolls wrapped in beetroot jelly; and spiced mushroom, spinach and feta fritters.

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When the words Chinese food and Michelin star ping into my inbox it doesn't take me long to clear my diary and say yes to the invite, which is what happened when Emily invited me to join her and Square Meal at HKK in Liverpool Street to sample their tasting menu and drinks flight. At £88 per head for food, plus £40 for the matching drinks it's not cheap but then again, it is Michelin starred, you'll leave very full and quite drunk, you can book a table in advance, and it's top notch Chinese food - probably the best I've ever tried. So as a treat, I think it's definitely worth it.
The restaurant is large, with tables nicely spread out so you have plenty of room, though we were sitting in the private dining room around a table for 12 people that has a window straight in to the kitchen so you can see all the food being prepped. We started with a glass of bubbly, followed by a glass of cold sake to accompany our first course, which turned out to be my favourite. Duke of Berkshire pork belly mantou - a steamed bun that had been deep fried to give it a crunchy texture on the outside, while it retained its soft, cloud like texture inside, and was filled with a slice of rich, sticky pork belly. Next was chrusanthemum supreme seafood soup - a delicate flavour and gelatneous texture, I really liked this, though others didn't care too much for it. It is a gentle dish, with a subtle seafood flavour, and was paired with a warm version of the sake we'd tried with the pork bun.
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Sometimes there's nothing better than a juicy, melty, big burger for dinner (or lunch). You know the ones - messy to eat, dripping everywhere and a struggle to fit in your mouth?! I've tried a lot of spots in London to find the ultimate burger but I really think you can't beat making your own at home. With the right bun, top quality mince meat and a killer burger sauce made with a couple of secret ingredients, you can't go wrong. Here's my favourite burger recipe, though of course you can change the type of cheese or bun you want to use, and the salad and sauces but try this one first and let me know what you think.
Makes 2 big burgers
400g organic beef mince
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
4 slices bacon
2 thick slices blue cheese
2 tsp tomato ketchup
2 tsp chipotle and smoky bourbon tabasco sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp mayonnaise
Splash Worcestershire sauce
2 brioche buns
2 gherkins, thinly sliced
2 iceberg lettuce leaves
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
Split the mince into two, season with plenty of salt and pepper and roll each half into a ball. Press down to make a patty that's about 3cm high. Leave to one side while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. When hot add the bacon rashers (you don't need oil as the fat will release from the bacon while it's cooking). Cook til the bacon is crispy. Remove and leave to one side. Brush or wipe oil over the burgers and put the burgers in the hot pan. Lightly press down with a spatula then leave to cook for 3 minutes.
While the burgers are cooking make your burger sauce using all of the ketchup, chipotle and bourbon tabasco, mustard, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Mix all of the sauces together.
Flip the burgers over, lightly press down again, brush the tops of the burgers with some of the burger sauce, and cook for 2 minutes. Put the cheese on top of the burgers, then place a heatproof bowl over the burgers and cook for 1 more minute. The cheese should just be starting to melt. Turn the heat off and leave the burgers as they are while you assemble the buns.
Split the brioche burger buns, and add a dollop of burger sauce to the base bun half. Top with sliced gherkins and tomatoes. Add a burger to each base bun, top with bacon, lettuce, avocado, more burger sauce then finish with the top half of the bun.

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I go to a lot of events where I get to eat delicious food and drink amazing drinks, but what I particularly love doing is meeting the people behind these brands. A couple of weeks ago I headed to Village East on Bermondsey Street for a private dinner with the family who own and run Venezuelan rum brand, Ron Diplomatico.

The evening started with one of the best cocktails I've had in a while. I don't know if it was that I wasn't expecting to actually like it as I'm not a fan of sweet cocktails (which I thought it would be), or that it was so unlike anything I've tried, but the almond daiquiri, made with Diplomatico Blanco rum, Orgeat (almond) syrup, fresh lime and Bob's Abbott's bitters was top notch. A little bit sweet from the almond but with a sour tang from the lime and bitters.

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Until a couple of weeks ago I had no idea that the second biggest carnival in the world takes place in Tenerife... ?! Tenerife is the largest of Spain's Canary Islands and is situated in the Atlantic, to the South West of Morocco. It has a population of around 900,000 and every February hosts a huge five-day carnival, attracting over quarter of a million people from all over the world. The streets of the capital city, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (which is actually twinned with Rio de Janeiro), transform into parties and there's music, colour, glitter and feathers everywhere you look.

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Normally the only time I'm awake at 5am on Saturday morning is when I haven't made it to bed yet, but a couple of weeks ago I tucked myself up in bed early(ish) on a Friday evening, ready for my alarm to go off at 5am the next day. Bleary eyed and not quite capable of anything involving make up or matching socks, I stumbled downstairs to a waiting taxi, to be whisked off to Billingsgate Market where I met a group of equally foggy food bloggers. We were there for a day with the ever flamboyant and way-too-lively-for-that-time-in-the-morning wine expert Douglas Blyde, who wanted us to go shopping for fish and seafood that we'd use to make a dish to eat with a glass or three of Muscadet later in the day. We stumbled into the market and found our way to Piggy's Café for some breakfast.
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