Cocktails and canapes on an autumn evening in a beautiful setting sounds like the dream, right?! Restaurant Ours is Tom Sellers (of Restaurant Story) not-so-new-but-I-still-hadn't-been-there spot in South Kensington. We visited one evening last week to check out The Living Room at Restaurant Ours, which is the mezzanine level bar and lounge area. It's a gorgeous spot, full of velvet furniture, a bar serving excellent cocktails and live plants in every corner, nook and cranny. 

There were three of The Living Room's signature cocktails to try, so I started with Straight Outta Brompton - a delicious concoction of gin, campari, lemon and triple sec, and I'm guessing some egg white too from the frothy top of the drink. It was a lovely cocktail, with the perfect balance for me of sharp, sweet and fruity. 

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When I think of Tuscany the first thing I think of is food. Rich meat dishes, coarse liver pate smothered on toast, unctuous bowls full of pasta, delicious olives and artichokes, glasses full of deep red wine and everything with a good dose of the best olive oil you can get - it's like the Autumn of Italy if that makes sense?! So when I was asked to come up with a recipe that was inspired by Tuscany I knew exactly what I wanted to make - a rich wild boar ragu made with liver for added flavour and served on homemade pasta with deep fried artichoke leaves to give texture, combining all my favourite Tuscan foods. 

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So many restaurants, so little time! I've eaten out a fair few times over the last month or so - places I've been to before and can't help myself going back to over and over again, new places I've been invited to review, and long leisurely dinners with girlfriends. Here's a quick round up of where I've been and what's good. Starting with my favourite....

Kricket, Brixton

I've been several times now, and will go again and again. The small plates of Indian inspired food are right up there with my idea of food heaven. I'd heard rumour of a new menu so headed to Brixton with Emily and Lou to eat one of everything on the menu, as we always do when we go to Kricket. And as always, not a single bad dish, but highlights included crab meen moiliee with bitter leaves, curry leaves, coconut and peanut; Lasooni scallop with green chilli, garlic, poha and seaweed, and Goan sausage fry with red onion, peanut, coriander and pickled fennel. Look out for their new site opening opposite Brasserie Zedel in Soho in November. 

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There's some restaurants I go to which I know I'm going to love before I've even been. Their menus read like a dream, and when I hear someone like Emily, who I have very similar tastes to (apart from the skinny bitch cali maki incident), raving about it then I know it's a sure fire thing. What I don't expect though is to end up eating the best dish I've tried all year, possibly even ever.... A bold statement, I know. But it's true.

Ormer Mayfair is the London version of Shaun Rankin's Michelin starred Jersey restaurant and it officially opens on Tuesday next week. I popped in to try their menu during soft launch, and am going to have to stop myself going back there weekly for the food. Ormer is in the Flemings Mayfair Hotel and has all the classic feels of an old school, luxury hotel restaurant, in a good way (apart from for food photos as you'll soon see). Service was attentive yet not overbearing, and the food.... Well the food was something else. 

I'm not sure if it's just for soft launch but I was welcomed with a glass of 2009 Nyetimber, which as the sommelier rightly said, has a creamy finish to it having been aged for five years in the bottle. This came with an amuse bouche of the poshest lobster roll I've tried - a great hunk of lobster encased in soft, sweet homemade brioche. 

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There's a few restaurants I've been to that I sort of forget about.... not because they were bad or I didn't like them, but I just get so swept up in all the new openings and going back to local favourites that they slip through the net. So when I woke up one morning at Wilderness Festival declaring that I needed raw fish for lunch, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. But it was all I wanted and what I was determined to have, so off we went in pursuit of sashimi. And we found it at Kurobuta's stall in the restaurant tent. And then I remembered really loving the food at Kurobuta proper in London, so I booked into their Marble Arch branch for dinner with Emily and off we went.

I'd only previously been to the Chelsea restaurant, so it was nice to check out their Marble Arch one. It's lighter and brighter and we nabbed an outside table before working our way through as much food as we could eat. We nibbled on sake, lemon, butter and salt flamed edamame while we read through the quite long menu and sipped on delicious Made in Provence rose, a bottle of which had come free with our meal as I'd booked a table for before 7pm through OpenTable. 

Then our real food started coming, and apart from the first and last dish we had, everything else was spot on. The first dish wasn't bad, there just wasn't enough of it to really tell if I liked it. Salmon gravadlax and avocado tartare, dill mayo, rice crunchies and fresh yuzu zest was light, but at about one forkful each I couldn't tell you much more than that. 

But things drastically improved here on in. I loved the miso grilled hot wings that were all umami and spicy and sticky and plentiful. 

We ordered the sticky miso grilled aubergine with candied walnuts as Emily is something of an aubergine fanatic, and it was a great choice. The twice cooked aubergine was indeed sticky and so full of flavour, with a nice texture added by the walnuts. 

Another dish I have to thank Emily for was the octopus doughnuts, which I wouldn't have ordered myself but were truly delicious. Big chunks of tender octopus were covered in the lightest, crunchiest batter and doused in creamy and miso dressings and chopped chives. 

The skinny bitch cali maki with snow crab, avocado omelette and yuzu mayo were fantastically fresh and light. Emily hated them though so I got the whole plate to myself. I loved the crunch of all the raw veg and the lack of rice, which is one thing I don't normally like about sushi as it fills me up too much which equals less stomach space for raw fish!

From the healthy to the less so, the black pepper soft shell crab tempura. I enjoyed this but would have done more so if it was served whole with a side of sauce rather than chopped up like it was. 

The last dish was the one we shouldn't have bothered with. Tea smoked lamb with smokey nasu and spicy Korean miso arrived a full hour after the rest of the food, didn't really do anything flavour wise, and cost £15.50 for two tiny cutlets.... The chicken wings we had earlier for £6 for a whole plate full. 

Our meal came to £60 each, and we had the free bottle of wine. It's not a cheap place to go but we did eat a lot of food and have a couple of other drinks. Despite a couple of duds, Kurobuta is definitely back on my restaurant list, and I will be back soon, particularly for more of their raw dish options. 
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Last weekend I headed West for a little adventure and to see my nephews, take my mum out for lunch and catch up with friends in Bristol. I booked River Station in Bristol for lunch with mum, hoping for summer sunshine and a lovely meal overlooking the river. Sadly British summertime had other plans and it absolutely bucketed it down, but we headed to River Station anyway and had a brilliant meal. I wasn't really planning on writing about it but it was so good that I need to tell you in case you're looking for a very reasonable and tasty lunch in Bristol.

River Station have a fixed price lunch menu where you can get two courses for £13.50, or three for £16.50 (or £14.75/£18.50 if you go in the evening). There are three options per course - one meat, one fish and one veggie. We went for the two course option and had a starter and main each, but not before I snuck in a Negroni and some delicious gordal olives while I waited for mum to arrive.

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Casita Andina is the newest offering from Martin Morales, who already has two Ceviche restaurants in London as well as the original Andina on Redchurch Street. Casita Andina is on Great Windmill Street in Soho and serves up Peruvian inspired sharing plates. I headed there with Lou to check it out and we loved most of what we tried. There's ceviche plates, salads, nibbles and hot food. Being one of the hottest days of the year we bagged a table on the upstairs terrace and got stuck in, starting with excellent pisco sours.

Food wise we ordered a couple of nibbles to munch on while we perused the menu - avocado fritters with panca chilli and anchovy salt were nuggets of deep fried avocado in the lightest of batters, doused in chilli and salt. Absolutely delicious. As were the cruditos - lightly pickled vegetables including baby carrots, asparagus and courgettes, on top of a wonderful broad bean puree. Such a tasty and healthy dish, I would order this just to have with drinks even if I wasn't eating there. 

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Cuisson are back! A sort of semi permanent pop up restaurant who've done various residency stints at venues across London, appearing for a few weeks or months, then disappearing again. You might remember I went to their last pop up at The Vaults in Waterloo and had a lovely meal there with Milly. Well, now they're back, in a building right in the heart of Borough Market, this time with an Asian inspired offering. 

Again, the menu changes regularly so the one I'd read online wasn't the one we had on the night, so do be careful to let them know of dietary requirements when you book if you have any! As it turned out, I actually preferred the menu on the night we went to the one I'd read. Tickets cost £45 and include a welcome cocktail and the five course meal. 

We kicked things off with oyster, wasabi roe and soy gel - a plump, juicy, raw oyster topped with green wasabi pearls for a kick and delicate soy gel that didn't over salt the taste as I worried it might. 

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A few weekends ago I went to Wilderness Festival with two of my favourite girlies. We had the most wonderful weekend - eating all the food, dancing til we couldn't stand up and laughing so much that our cheeks hurt. But four days in a field really took its toll on me! So when we got back it was time to plan some replenishing activities. And what better than a Thai massage and some super spicy, cleansing Thai food?!

We got back to London on Monday and after a quick turnaround at home headed in to Central London to Thai Square Spa near Embankment where we were both booked in for the Himalayan Ritual Massage. I'd been invited down to check it out, so had mine in their new Salt Room, while Bron had hers in one of their other treatment rooms. An hour of being massaged with beautiful essential oils on a bed in a room surrounded by salt, which draws out toxins and has healing and purifying properties, was incredible. I floated out of the room, my skin as soft as it gets, and had a tea lying on their relaxation beds in the beautiful surroundings while I waited for Bron to join me. We could barely string a sentence together to tell each other how much we'd enjoyed our treatment! At £105 for 60 minutes it's in line with most massages in London and was one of the best I've had. 

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Coconut oil has been a buzz word in food and health for a while now. It's good for your hair, teeth, skin, digestion, blood, brain, weight.... Just about everything really! I've been using coconut oil in my cooking for the last couple of years, but am quite selective about when and how I use it. I know lots of people who use it instead of oil or butter in nearly every recipe they make and claim that it doesn't alter the taste of food, but I personally do find it tastes of coconut (!!) so pick and choose what I use it in. Cakes and sweets - mostly yes, a fry up - definitely not. However it is great to use in Asian inspired dishes, and anything with a bit of savoury spice. Lucy came over for dinner on Monday and I wanted to cook us something light and healthy that was still super tasty, so I made a miso and chilli broth and then added chicken to poach, and as many vegetables as I could fit in there, having been vaguely inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Serves 2, with leftovers

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 finely chopped white onion
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tbsp hatcho miso paste
1 tsp sambal
2 tsp sriracha
Mixed rehydrated mushrooms (I got mine from France but you can use any dried mushrooms you like - morels, porcini, shiitake)
1 litre chicken stock (homemade if possible)
2 finely sliced skinless chicken breasts, or raw prawns would work well if you prefer
Half chopped savoy cabbage
Pack of finely sliced chestnut mushrooms
Pack of baby spinach
2 finely sliced spring onions
Pickles or kimchi to serve
Chilli oil to serve

Soak the dry mushrooms in boiling water for 15 minutes. 

Put the onion and coconut oil in a saucepan and fry over a medium heat for around five minutes, stirring to avoid the onion burning. Add the ginger, garlic, miso, sambal, sriracha, rehydrated mushrooms and their liquor and the chicken stock. Stir, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes. Add the chicken, cabbage and mushrooms to the broth and cook for a further 3-5 minutes depending on how thin you've sliced your chicken.

Layer the bottom of each serving bowl with a handful of raw baby spinach leaves then spoon the broth, chicken and vegetables over the top. Finish with a sprinkling of spring onions, a drizzle of chilli oil and anything pickled you have to hand! Kimchi would be excellent, though I had pickled radishes in the fridge so used these. If you want to bulk it out then quinoa, wild rice or noodles would do the job, but it's delicious just as it is.
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Ham Yard Hotel is nestled away in the middle of Soho and is one of my favourite places to pop in to and escape the hustle and bustle of the busy tourist filled streets surrounding it. Up until the end of last year their beautiful roof terrace was only open to hotel guests, but that all changed with their winter Sipsmith rooftop pop up, and their current Vermouth on the Roof pop up that's taking place til Sunday 4th September. 

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Restaurants open so regularly in London that it's hard to get to all the ones I want to try! However there was one that kept on popping up on Instagram accounts I follow, and having checked out the menu I was determined to get to Clipstone, little new sister restaurant of Portland, as soon as possible. Which was last Monday, when I headed there with Rhea to eat all the food! We totally over-ordered as usual, and whilst I really loved a lot of what we chose, if I go back I'll definitely order lighter dishes as I felt everything we had was very rich and heavy.

We started with fried leeks and sauce gribiche. I thought the leeks would be chopped and fried, rather than whole and battered, but the sauce gribiche was good and had a nice tang to it. This was was swiftly followed by one of my favourite dishes of the evening, though hardly a contender for the "light" dishes I referred to earlier - rillettes of rabbit, pork and foie gras were topped with mustard seeds and sat on top of buttery grilled bread. The rillettes were unctuous and very more-ish despite their richness. Perfectly seasoned and absolutely delicious.

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