1.7.15

SHAKA ZULU, CAMDEN

I'm lucky enough to sometimes get invited to review restaurants for this blog (and Try This For - another site I write for). I only ever accept these invites if it's somewhere I want to go anyway, and I turn down invites to places that I don't think I'll like or that aren't of interest to me. After all, this blog is about recommending places for you to try. However, I will occasionally accept an invite to somewhere I've never heard of, because it looks like it will be interesting and something completely different, like Shaka Zulu in Camden, where I headed a couple of weeks ago with Hugo.
 
Shaka Zulu is located underneath Camden Market and I had no idea it was even there until we went. You take the escalator down to the restaurant, where a huge, sprawling space (27,000 sq feet!!) reveals itself. Every wall of the 2 floor space is covered in hand carved wooden panels, and there are life size animal and warrior statues everywhere you look. The restaurant opened nearly 5 years ago, and it took 3 years to carve all the panels and make all the interior decorations, and another 2 years to install them all!

 
 Press photo
 

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29.6.15

A JUNE CATCH UP

How is it possible that we're nearly in July?! I've been so busy recently time has flown by, and there's a whole load of drinking, eating and cooking in June that I've yet to tell you about, so here's little catch up on the last month.
 
Despite not doing a pop up in June I still managed to busy my time with cooking. I did a tex-mex feast for 50 people at a friend's birthday party (sticky chicken wings, spicy sweet potato wedges, blue cheese dipping sauce....) and I also made a whole load of nibbles for the Eat Chiswick festival to be displayed on the lovely platters they sell in cookware shop Zecca, on Turnham Green. I whipped up pea and broad bean mousse crostini with pecorino, rare beef in Yorkshires with blue cheese sauce, prawn, avocado and bean lettuce cups, and mini strawberry puff pastry tarts.
 
 
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26.6.15

CHABLIS AT THE CHANCERY

Every summer I seem to have a different drink of choice. Last year it was Prosecco, and this year it's Chablis. We went to Ealing Park Tavern a few Fridays ago and I perused the wine list but didn't see any Chablis on the menu. So I asked the barman which of their whites was most like Chablis, only to be told "the Chablis" - slightly embarrassing! So when an invite to an evening of Chablis and food pairing popped in to my inbox from Douglas Blyde it was always going to be a definite yes. Diary cleared, I patiently waited for the Wednesday when we would go to The Chancery for an evening in geology and geography, learning about Chablis and the food to eat with it. 
 
The Chancery is a smart restaurant just south of Chancery Lane. The main restaurant is on the ground floor, and is full of linen covered tables and lots of men in suits. It was downstairs in one their private rooms that chef Graham Long had created a unique, Spring themed menu for the evening to guide us through the various types of Chablis that we were tasting.
 
Chablis is a dry white wine that is produced in a small town in France, north west of Burgundy, and comes in 4 levels of quality - Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru - all of which we tried on the night, working our way up from Petit to Grand. Chablis is more acidic than many whites due to the cooler climate of the area and the soil that is rich in oyster fossils, from a time when France was the bottom of an ocean floor. It's this mineral taste found in Chablis that I really enjoy, and even though this taste was less present in the first Chablis we tried - the 2012 Dauvissat Petit Chablis, it worked wonderfully with the truffle arancini and crab beignet nibbles that we enjoyed before dinner was served.
 
 
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23.6.15

PRICELESS LONDON

There are some things in life that money can't buy. Experiences that are so special that you can't go out and get them. They come to you. So when this invite came to me, I couldn't say no....
 
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18.6.15

FU MANCHU, CLAPHAM

I think it's pretty obvious that I love my food, and I'm not a fussy eater, so will happily munch on Mexican, Japanese, Italian, African and all sorts of food, though I do have my preferences, and dim sum is pretty high up the list. I just love the little nuggets of fillings encased in their different "shells". Slow cooked pork puffs, light and airy buns, and steamed dumplings - there's so much to choose from at a good dim sum restaurant. So last week, off we went to try out Clapham's new dim sum spot, Fu Manchu. Set under a railway arch it's a cool space that's selling itself as not only a dim sum restaurant, but a cocktail bar that becomes more clubby at the weekends, and is open til 3am. We were definitely there for dim sum not dancing so rocked up at a reasonable hour on a Tuesday, and although it was pretty empty when we arrived it soon started to fill up with dim sum hungry diners.

Drinks for the evening were the Lin Tang's Szechuan Sling for me - a gorgeous cocktail that was Dr Fu Manchu's daughter's favourite tipple, made with homemade Szechuan pepper shrub, Finlandia mango vodka, yellow Chartreuse, mango juice and soda water - refreshing with a bit of a spicy kick, and a really good sized drink. The boy started with the Lucky Buddha beer, which came in such a brilliant bottle - a fat green glass Buddha. He then moved on to the organic jade sword tea, as he was driving, which was apparently delicious, and presented with a sugar timer to let you know when the brewing was done and it was ready to drink. I loved all the cute little touches like this that added to the great experience we had, along with the great service.


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15.6.15

SIPSMITH X JUDE'S = G&T ICE CREAM

With this glorious start to "official summer" (which is now hopefully here to stay....!) I wanted to let you know about a partnership between 2 of my favourite brands who've teamed up to create some of the yummiest ice cream I've tasted. Sipsmith, London dry gin producers based very near where I live in West London, and Jude's, family run ice cream makers based in Hampshire, have got together, putting their two amazing products together to make a Sipsmith gin and tonic Jude's ice cream. And wow, is it good! Creamy, smooth ice cream that's not too sweet thanks to the addition of the gin and tonic flavours, this really is an amazing summer treat. I spent a wonderful sunny evening on the roof terrace of Le Meridien in Piccadilly sampling both the gin and tonic ice cream and some delicious Sipsmith cocktails.

We started our evening off with a Sipsmith and Jude's gin float, using the G&T ice cream - heaven in a glass! And a very grown up version of a childhood favourite. Made by pouring 20ml of Sipsmith gin over a scoop of G&T ice cream and topping up with good quality, chilled tonic water, this is the perfect BBQ accompaniment for when the sun does finally come out.

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12.6.15

GET UP & GLOW SMOOTHIE

Sometimes we all need a bit of boost. Whether it's a green juice to detox, some nice face cream to encourage happy skin or a smoothie made of your favourite fruit and veg to give that extra bit of energy you need. I love the idea of smoothies as they're a kind of all in one, providing a great dose of vitamins and minerals to start your day as well as filling you up - a good smoothie for breakfast can keep me going til lunchtime. You can make smoothies with whatever you want, fruit and veg wise, but I would avoid using sugary, flavoured yoghurt and fruit juices, as they are both high in sugar so you may slump after the initial sugar rush. This is my current favourite, but you can make it with whatever you have at home. I add half a scoop of matcha powder per serving as well - a ground up green tea that's known for its health benefits, as it contains a high amount of flavonoids which have an antioxidant effect. Matcha is also known to increase energy levels and alertness, so perfect for first thing in the morning!

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9.6.15

CHOCOLATE AT THE PROVIDORES AND TAPA ROOM

I've got a really exciting event to tell you about! Throughout July one of my favourite restaurants is teaming up with my favourite chocolatier to serve a menu of chocolate inspired cocoktails, mains, desserts, brunches and petit fours. New Zealand born, fusion chef Peter Gordon of The Providores and Tapa Room is joining forces with Paul A Young to create a unique and exciting chocolate themed menu, and it's all kicking off with a very special event. On Wednesday 1st July, the pair are hosting a four course, wine matched dinner at The Providores for 40 lucky guests.
 
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5.6.15

BOOM BURGER, PORTOBELLO

Yes, this is the 4th restaurant review in a row on my blog, and no, I'm not really sorry! I've been eating out a LOT recently and I don't want you to miss out on any of the amazing places I've sampled. Today's offering is straightforward, affordable and unmissable.

Boom Burger is a tiny place on Portobello Road, under the flyover, that's a little piece of Jamaica in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Portobello. There are 2 tables inside, and a few more outside, and if there's a queue, get in it and wait because it's so worth it. Boom Burger combines the spicy flavours of the Caribbean with the best quality, British bred meat to create absolutely delicious burgers and sides. The menu is straight forward (ish) - you can choose from 7 types of burger, including veggie (sweet potato), Dutty Butty (bacon and egg), Fish Boom (pan fried fish of the day), and Shrimp Boom (Jamaican peppered shrimp). We went mainstream though, sharing the Boom Burger (their signature beef burger cooked medium rare with melted cheese and bacon jam) and the Jerk Boom (Jerk chicken thigh, fried plantain, rocket, mango and pawpaw sauce). Both were heavenly. And impossible to choose between - next time I go I'm having some of both, again!
 
 
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3.6.15

THE LONDON FOODIE SUPPER CLUB

As I'm sure you all know, I do pop up supper clubs at my home, and occasionally at other venues as well. I absolutely adore doing these events - I love cooking and it's so nice to meet my wonderful guests, some of whom have become friends having attended an A Little Lusciousness pop up. In November last year a couple came to a pop up who live close by, the husband supports the same football team as the boy, they stayed in touch, me and the wife went out for drinks and now they're friends of ours, so much so that I was invited to go to the London Foodie Supper Club with Robin a couple of weeks ago. She'd bought 2 tickets and wanted for me to have the chance to experience someone else's pop up supper club. I'd heard so many good things about The London Foodie so said a definite yes to the invite, and counted down the days til the event itself.

The London Foodie is Luiz, an investment banker turned chef and food/wine/travel writer, born in Brazil to Japanese and Italian parents, who's been running supper clubs in his house for the past 4 years. Luiz does two different styles of supper club - one is based on French cuisine and the other on Japanese. The night I went to was a slight deviation from the second of these as he introduced a Nikkei style of cooking to his pop up. Nikkei cooking is a mix up of Japanese and Peruvian styles and has now expanded to include influences from all over South America. Think sashimi with a tiger's milk dressing, as well as the use of corn and potatoes with more traditional Japanese style food. I first discovered Nikkei cuisine in Seville in Spain, of all places, and it's become a firm favourite since.
 
I dashed from work in West London to Islington on a Friday evening, desperate to arrive in time, and getting there literally as people were  moving from the living room area upstairs where we treated to a welcome gin and tonic and some wasabi popcorn, to the gorgeous downstairs area where long tables were set up and the doors to the beautiful garden were wide open, letting the last of the day's warmth stream in.
 
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27.5.15

STICKS N SUSHI, CANARY WHARF

The first time I went to Sticks n Sushi was a memorable one. I'd gone to Wimbledon to meet a girlfriend and her gorgeous new baby and we'd chosen to eat at Sticks n Sushi. The meal was great and everyone loved the food and cocktails, but it was the sticks part of the kitchen nearly catching fire and sending thick smoke through the restaurant that stuck in the memory!

Sticks n Sushi serves Japanese food and is one of the most successful restaurant groups in Denmark. They made their way to the UK in 2012 and added to their original site in Wimbledon by opening in Covent Garden in 2013. This year they've opened restaurants in Greenwich and Canary Wharf. I was invited to the Canary Wharf branch to check out the site and try some of the food, with the boy as my willing companion. We're both fans of Japanese food, and had a great time at Sticks n Sushi. Apart from the quality of the food and cooking one thing that really stands out for me is the sourcing of the fish and meat they serve - it's all responsibly sourced - they don't serve any fish on the endangered list and they ensure the fish they do serve is caught in the fairest way possible and not just hauled out of the ocean using indiscriminate, giant nets. The boy always grills waiting staff in restaurants on where they get their produce from and he was happy to hear how responsible Sticks n Sushi are.

With the knowledge that we could eat anything on the menu without endangering fish species we got stuck in with the ordering. We started with 2 delicious cocktails - a Rhuby Fizz for me, made from English rhubarb liquor, gin, bitters, citrus and soda; and a the Hotaru for the boy, a long drink of rum, passion fruit and apple. My drink was sharp and refreshing while the boy's was slightly sweeter - both were excellent.


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25.5.15

ASK FOR JANICE, CLERKENWELL

Fresh, foraged, seasonal food served alongside stunning cocktails - Ask For Janice is revelation. In an area of London that I more commonly associate with all-nighters at Fabric and dodgy burgers and milkshakes afterwards at the open 24/7 Tinseltown, I was delighted to find out more about this new to me restaurant serving an ever changing menu of seasonal produce with cocktails made from some of their 40+ gins.

Ask For Janice opened last August and is proving popular. Every table was full when I arrived at 6.30 on a Tuesday evening, which must be a good sign. Upstairs is a bright room with a large bar down one side and restaurant seating filling the rest of the space. Downstairs is the basement bar where you can also grab food and drinks, as well as hiring the whole room for private events.
We were there to sample a few new additions to the spring menu. The food menu centres on fresh, seasonal produce that’s cooked with a creative twist. I had to tear myself away from the bowl of deep fried wild garlic flowers which were unbelievably good – crunchy, light batter around the unmistakable allium flower, finished with a sprinkle of salt. I was literally hoovering these up all evening, and despite not being the healthiest thing to eat I justified it by the fact I was eating foraged herbs that had only had to travel from Hackney to Clerkenwell.

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