30.11.16

TASTE LONDON, CHRISTMAS

I'm a big fan of Taste. Bringing together some of the UK's top food producers, restaurants and chefs, there's nothing else quite like it. The summer version takes over Hyde Park, while the winter one is at Tobacco Dock, where you weave through maze like corridors and floors of deliciousness. I headed down just before flying out to Provence for the press night, and we filled ourselves with so much good food and drinks, and good times. It really felt like the beginning of Christmas.

First off we headed to Hix for goat curry and a whipped squash with goat's curd and toasted hazelnuts dish. The whole premise of Taste is that restaurants serve up some of their top dishes, at a fraction of the price and size, so that you can sample as much food as possible. I love Hix's food so wasn't disappointed with our starting choice.



Then it was upstairs to Tredwell's where we had burrata, romesco and basil, and smoked and slow cooked rump cap, caramelised celeriac, truffle and beef sauce, which was probably my favourite dish at the show.



Finally, after a bit of shopping and a drink or three we headed to Action against Hunger's 5 star burger restaurant to sample burgers created by Pascal Aussignac, Sophie Michell, Atul Kochhar, Peter Gordon and Tom Hunt, with sides of delicious sweet potato fries with alioli and padron peppers. 



Huge thanks to AEG for having me at Taste again. It's such a fun night out, and I only wish I could've gone back again over the weekend, but I was off to Provence, more of which will follow on here soon. 

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30.11.16

CHAI WU, HARRODS

Afternoon tea's never really appealed to me. I don't really drink tea, not a fan of cake and try not to eat too much bread. But make it a Chinese afternoon tea with champagne and it's a different story! I was invited to try the offering at Chai Wu in Harrods and having read the menu that includes dim sum, savoury pastries and bubbles, it seemed worth checking out.

Chai Wu is the only restaurant in Harrods that's not part of the food hall, so we headed up to the fourth floor, where the restaurant is located. At Chai Wu afternoon tea is much more about the savoury than the sweet, so kicked things off with a glass of bubbly and soup watercress soup, before plates of fried dim sum were brought to our table. We sampled wagyu puff with gold leaves, sesame prawn, lobster wanton, prawn dumpling, chicken gyoza with foie fras and lots of other delicious mouthfuls, as well as a plate of their signature steamed dim sum, and some coconut prawns, and chicken satay. 






Afternoon tea is £59, or £69 with a glass of fizz, which isn't bad value for the quality and amount of food you get. 

Chai Wu also do lunch and dinner so I took Bron back with me to try more of their offerings. The smoking sushi plate was delicious - excellent fish, expertly sliced and served. 


The Harrods special roll and smoked BBQ eel were both top notch - perfectly balanced flavours and texture. 



As was the huge scallop and wagyu beef.



Chai Wu isn't an everyday restaurant. Our bill would've been astronomically high for the main dinner we had there, and as it closes at 9pm, I do think it's better as an option for one or two dishes to break up a long day's shopping in Harrods, than a destination restaurant. Though having said that it was busy both times I went with lots of people eating their way through the menu, so each to their own!!
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16.11.16

ACTION AGAINST HUNGER PIZZAS

If you like pizza (who doesn't) then I know just the place you need to go before the end of November to try seven exclusive pizzas created by some of the UK's top chefs, while also helping raise money for Action Against Hunger.

Pizzicotto on Kensington High Street are hosting a month long event where chefs from some of my favourite restaurants are going up against each other in the Gourmet Pizza Challenge 2016, and you can decide who the winner will be. The chefs taking part are Jun Tanaka (The Ninth), Pascal Aussignac (Club Gascon), Robin Gill (The Manor, The Dairy, Paradise Garage and Counter Culture), Vivek Singh (The Cinnamon Club), Anna Hansen (The Modern Pantry), Steve Groves (Roux at Parliament Square) and Adam Handling (The Frog E1). They've each created a unique pizza, and you can sample each and all of them at Pizzicotto, who've also created a pizza for the competition.


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14.11.16

ORMER, MAYFAIR (II)

Earlier this year I visited a new restaurant in Mayfair called Ormer. Sister restaurant to Jersey's Ormer, it's Shaun Rankin's first restaurant to open in London, and it was love at first bite for me. I ate the best thing I've eaten all year and was very happy to have found this gem. A few weeks later when I was invited to go and check out some of the new winter dishes that would be added to the menu, along with the English wines sourced by the in house sommelier, I cleared my diary and headed to Ormer with a lovely group of PRs and bloggers. 

We were welcomed back in to the beautiful restaurant, and directed through to the bar area which I hadn't seen the first time I was there. It's a stunning yet cosy space and somewhere I can see myself wanting to go for pre/post dinner drinks, whether I'm eating at Ormer or other restaurants in the area. We moved through to the restaurant for food, and chose our dishes from a special menu for the night. I started with the heritage beetroot, goat's cheese and kalamata sorbet dish, as I'd already tried the lobster ravioli first time round. The beetroot dish was wonderful - punchy flavours and dreamy textures meant I had to regrets going for the veggie starter. 




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9.11.16

LE BUN, DALSTON

I'm a big fan of Le Bun. I discovered their burgers a couple of years ago and they're one of the few places I'll go for a burger in London. They kept my sustenance levels up at Wilderness, and now they've got a residency at Birthdays in Dalston, so obviously I had to go and check that their food is still as good as I remember it being (it's been a few months). I'm happy to say it is, and not only is it as good, it's actually better - there's more on the menu (Le Mac, chicken burgers, vegan "burgers", ridiculously good chicken wings) AND you can get upgrades to any of these by asking for L'Animal style. 

To really test out the L'Animal upgrade I had the regular truffle cheeseburger L'Animal style, which means more of everything. More cheese, more of that heavenly truffle mayo, more onions = more deliciousness. The same goes for the fries, but they don't photograph so well so you'll just have to imagine them doused in truffly mayo and melty cheese. 




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6.11.16

MEAT UP, WANDSWORTH

When good food comes to South West London it makes me very happy, especially when this good food is a nice walk along the river from where I live, and the restaurant in question does an epic Sunday lunch (and apparently pretty good brunch too according to their Instagram - go with a few mates and get the Social Sharer Mixed Grill - sausage, bacon, steak, lamb chop, bone marrow, eggs, mushrooms, black pudding, potato rosti served with a carafe of Gentlemans Baristas coffee). Meat Up have brought an inside BBQ in the form of a josper grill to Wandsworth Town so we headed down a few weekends ago to fill our hungry tummies with their Sunday roast.

We kicked things off with some of the best calamari I've had in a long time - perfectly cooked delicate squid in a light, crunchy batter made with house smoked salt and pink peppercorns, served with a tangy caper mayo.


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15.10.16

THE STONEMASON'S ARMS, HAMMERSMITH

Last week something weird happened. Two weird things actually. I discovered somewhere to eat in Hammersmith that is a) better than good and b) I hadn't previously discovered (I've lived near Hammersmith for more than five years now). This makes me happy, but also sad that I've only just discovered it now. The Stonemasons Arms is a five minute walk from Hammersmith station, towards Ravenscourt Park and is part of the Fullers group. It's a cosy pub - a real pub with uneven wooden floorboards, a big bar, local and guest beers, a ridiculously good wine list, and the food is phenomenal. Having spotted pictures of their food on Gary's Instagram I followed up on an invite from Fullers to review one of their pubs and headed to The Stonemasons Arms with Julie for a Wednesday evening catch up over some serious food and wine.

There's an evening set menu (£23 for courses or £29 for three - you'll want three) with wine suggestions for each dish, or a la carte. We mixed it up between the two menus, choosing carefully so we could sample as much as possible. Before our chosen starters we were presented with an "amuse bouche" of charred sweetcorn, cylinders of confit potato, paprika popcorn and tarragon, all brought together by a delicious homemade mayo. With a pouch of warm bread and caramel butter things were off to a very good start, and we hadn't even properly started.


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14.10.16

CHICK N SOURS, COVENT GDN

I'm the first to admit I'm not a natural photographer, but I can normally get an ok shot of dishes I want to tell you about. With some exceptions. Including these. Normally I wouldn't bother writing up a review when my photos are so terrible, but I can't not tell you about Chick n Sours new site in Covent Garden. So bear with me and my dark and dingy photos! I reckon you should go to the restaurant and see (and taste) the food for yourself!

I've been a fan of Carl Clarke's food for a good few years now, and have reviewed pop ups he's done before, and interviewed the man himself, so I'm not quite sure how I've never made it to his first Chick n Sours site in Stoke Newington (maybe it's the fact it's about 90 minutes away from where I live). Anyway, he's now opened a second site in Covent Garden, and I headed there with Lucy to right the wrongs of not having tried this ridiculously good food yet.

Cocktails are a very good place to start in the basement room that is Chick n Sours new site. The "Sours" part of the name refers not only to the vinegar laced marinades and pickles in the dishes, but also to the sour cocktails, which we tried most of. The winner for me was the Earlham Zombie, made with white, dark and overproof rums, absinthe, orange, grapefruit, passion fruit and citrus. I'd say you probably don't want more than one of these if you want to walk home in a straight line, but that's no fun, so you might as well get stuck in! And you'll eat so much food that it should absorb some of the booze anyway.

So, food. Lucy and I like to sample as much as humanly possible so ate waaaay more than we should! But it's all so good I can't really say there's any dishes worth missing. Just go hungry and wear your stretchy trousers. And start with the sticky disco wings, which are coated in a tangy, spicy sauce that clings to the wings and is lip lickingly good. 


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13.10.16

GREAT BRITISH CHEFS at CORDON BLEU

Sometimes this little old blog of mine throws some super exciting opportunities my way - activities I wouldn't do normally end up being evenings so well spent. Like a couple of Mondays ago when I headed to Le Cordon Bleu cookery school for an evening masterclass with Michelin starred chef Pascal Aussignac, the Norwegian Seafood Council and Great British Chefs. Pascal is of Gascon fame and has several restaurants across London including his Michelin starred original site, Club Gascon. 

After being welcomed with a glass of bubbly and some nibbles it was straight in to the state of the art teaching kitchen to get cooking. We started with the "basics" - Pascal's crunchy grapes. A quick and easy showstopping canape idea, we made caramel from sugar before adding crushed seeds and nuts then rolling our grapes in the sticky crunchy mixture. A really fun idea for a pre dinner snack to impress your guests.




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5.10.16

MANGO TREE, HARRODS

I'm going through a bit of a dim sum phase at the moment. These delicate, flavour packed mouthfuls, steamed to perfection are becoming a favourite (again). I ate a dozen of them at Chai Wu where I went for afternoon tea in Harrods (more on that soon) and another dozen or so at Mango Tree when I visited to check out their menu in Harrods the week before. 

Harrods has various restaurants, most of which are located within the ground floor food hall and are counter top dining. I've previously written about my visit to Pan Chai there, which is next to Mango Tree. I'd been to the Victoria branch of Mango Tree but was yet to go to the Harrods one, so ate all the things when we did go so I could tell you what to order if you visit.

Polly and I headed to Mango Tree Harrods on a Thursday evening. They don't take reservations and it was full when we went, so I suggest going early, or for lunch, if you don't want to have to wait. Once you are seated though service is swift. 

We started off with a portion of lobster popcorn - deep fried pieces of lobster topped with a spicy mayo dressing. It was good, but there was better to come. 


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27.9.16

THE LIVING ROOM, RESTAURANT OURS

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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22.9.16

TUSCAN RAGU - RECIPE

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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