28.7.16

TALLI JOE, COVENT GARDEN

Talli Joe is a new ish restaurant doing Indian half plates and full drinks on the Covent Garden side of Shaftesbury Avenue. I headed there recently to join their PR company and some of my favourite bloggers to test run their menu and learn about the spicing that head chef uses to create the different tapas style dishes. It was such a fun and filling evening and we learnt about the three ways the chef spices dishes - as a dry rub, in poaching liquids or through frying. We sampled as many cocktails as possible from the menu divided into regions that inspire each drink. My favourite was the Holy Basil - made with whisky, basil leaves, grapefruit syrup, tea and prosecco - which was just the right side of bitter whilst being really refreshing.
 
We also ate as much from the food menu as was humanly possible! My absolute favourite being the truffle ghee kulcha - a naan stuffed with cottage cheese and brushed with a very generous portion of truffle ghee. Other stars of the menu were the Chicken 21, aptly named after the number of attempts it apparently took chef to develop this delicious dish. The Devilled Quail Egg, a scotch egg made with crabmeat, quail's egg and served with tadka mayo, was sublime, as was the Talli Macchi - grilled and spiced red mullet which comes with half an orange that's been soaked in Old Monk rum that you squeeze over the fish. In fact, out of all the many dishes we sampled there wasn't one that I disliked. It's great to have a reliable "tapas" style Indian in the middle of town, where you can get cracking cocktails and really good food at great prices. You can find more info on Talli Joe here.
 

 
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26.7.16

HANGER SW6, FULHAM

If you're a fan of good steak then there's a new place in Fulham that you need to get yourself to immediately. Hanger SW6 keeps it pretty simple - a handful of starters, a few mains that include their signature hanger steak and apparently three puddings, though we didn't need those after our feast. They also do cocktails and have a pretty decent wine list.

I popped along after being invited to check out this new steak destination and was very impressed with what I tried. After a horrific journey, no thanks to TFL (as always seems to be the case at moment) I settled down with a negroni to wait for my lovely dinner date. The negroni hit all the spots, as did everything we ordered. When he arrived we wasted no time in getting to grips with the menu. The entire choice of starters was: salt beef croquette with chimichurri, salt and vinegar squid with lemon aioli, charred piquillo pepper with crumbled feta and cherry tomato salsa (his choice), and scallop ceviche with ponzu dressing (my choice). Both our starters were light yet bursting with flavour due to the excellent quality of ingredients used, and the perfect portion size considering the mains to follow. I've seen photos of the other two starters which look delicious, yet heavier than our choices because of their deep fried cooking.
 
 
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21.7.16

TRESCO FOOD & POP UPS

My posting this year is a bit all over the place - I still have Japan posts to go live, and a post on my trip to Zante in Greece where I've got lots of lovely places and restaurants to tell you about is still saved in my drafts. And this post today is a bit late too!! In Spring earlier this year I was invited down to Tresco on the Isles of Scilly to do three nights of A Little Lusciousness pop up restaurants. I headed down mid-May with Becca to take over one of their restaurants. We had such a lovely few days there, up early and in bed late, cooking, going for long walks, swimming and checking out the other food offerings on the island. I wanted to let you know about what goes on down there, as there's loads of stuff to do, places to eat, and at the end of September we're heading back there to another two nights of pop ups on 30th September and 1st October.

First things first.... Tresco is one of five inhabited islands that make up the Isles of Scilly. They're off the end of Cornwall and you can fly there from various places including Exeter, Newquay and Land's End. We took the overnight sleeper train from Paddington to Penzance, in the hope of catching the first flight over to St Mary's (the main island) the next morning but our plans were scuppered by bad weather, so we hopped on the ferry that goes to islands instead. Finally arriving where we needed to be it was a bit of a mad dash to get everything ready in time for that evening's pop up and we couldn't have done it without the help of the amazing chefs who work at the Flying Boat Club. They'd prepped a load of the food for us carefully following my not so clear instructions, so that when we walked into the kitchen at 2pm on day 1 of pop ups it wasn't as bonkers as we'd thought it would be.

 
The first three nights were pop up nights so we got our heads down and got cooking. We did manage to get out of the kitchen for a couple of hours at lunchtime each day and enjoy this amazing views from the garden of the house we were staying in.


The menu for each night's pop up was the same - canapés of Tresco beef steak tartare on rye bread, sweetcorn and ricotta mini fritters and cucumber pickled mackerel on a beetroot crisp.

 

The starter was local Bryher crab with a brown crab mayo and island tomatoes.


Mains were pulled lamb with island vegetables in a veal and artichoke broth, served with herb drenched island new potatoes.


And pudding was Cornish strawberries in many forms, basil ice cream and shortbread. And platters of Cornish cheese.




Once we'd done all the pop ups we had two days to roam the island (it's tiny - one mile wide and two miles long, and there are no cars), and to eat in the three restaurants that are there.

 
 
 

The three options for eating out are: the pub - The New Inn, the restaurant on the other side of the island which has a wood fired oven - The Ruin, and the restaurant that we took over - The Flying Boat Club. Being in need of a drink post pop ups we started our eating-in-all-the-options mission with Sunday lunch at the The New Inn. We shared started of tuna sashimi, fried whitebait and potted Tresco partridge but it was the mains that really shone. Becca had beautifully fresh and perfectly cooked Bryher lobster, which was probably plucked from the sea that very morning, while I had the Tresco beef ribeye steak. With chips. And an ale!

 
 

After a mosey round the north end of the island where we saw a rare owl which had got lost and shouldn't have been on the Scillys, a quick powernap and a drink or three with some friends who were on Tresco, we headed to my favourite restaurant on the island, The Ruin, for dinner. The Ruin has a beautiful decked outside area that looks over the beach on to the bay, though we sat inside for feast number two of the day. For starters we shared Cornish crab arancini which were gooey and delicious and so fresh, and wood fired Cornish scallops with garlic butter and charred corn. Cooked to perfection and so flavoursome, I couldn't choose between the two to pick my favourite.

 

Mains were a wood fired speck, Portobello mushroom and truffle infused mascarpone pizza on a garlic butter base, which Becca declared was the best white pizza she'd ever eaten. And whole wood fired sea bream with wood roasted baby leeks and gremolata, which wasn't far off the best whole roasted fish I've ever eaten!




With very full and happy tummies we wandered home, sad that this was our last night on the island. On our last day I headed over to the Tresco Island Spa for the most relaxing and indulgent Ila energising and detoxifying body renewal scrub. I normally only really treat myself to getting my nails done, so to be scrubbed and rubbed and massaged for a full hour was absolute bliss and something I'm very much planning on doing after my pop ups when I'm there again later this year.

 
Feeling utterly refreshed it was time for our last meal on the island, at The Flying Boat Club. They've upgraded the menu since we were there, so you can't get what we ate now, but we really enjoyed our curry battered fish with mango raita and beef shin (?) on toast for starters. As we shared everything throughout the trip we didn't stop with our mains of local mackerel with beetroot puree and chargrilled chicken sandwich. We may or may not have shared a chocolate brownie to bid farewell to a wonderful few days on the most amazing island I know.

 
 
 
Tresco is the most stunning place I've been, with so many fun activities and a plethora of locally sourced, delicious food. For info on holidays there check their website, and if you fancy a weekend away, why not come down at the end of September for a bit of A Little Lusciousness on Tresco.... see you there?!


 
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21.7.16

GIN MARE

It's a well known fact that I'm a gin fan. And also a fan of a good party on a beautiful rooftop setting in West London. So put the two together on a Friday evening and I'm one happy little food blogger. A couple of Fridays ago we headed to Gin Mare's rooftop soireé at Searcey's in Knightsbridge. We were greeted with a gin cocktail on arrival and headed up to the rooftop which was teaming with gin drinkers. We settled into a corner, snacked on nibbles by Mark Hix as they were whisked past by the waitresses desperately trying to get to the other side of the roof before all their canapés got eaten - we sampled delicious oysters, octopus and cannellini bean shots, various croquettes and mini scallops in their shells. And lots of wonderful cocktails made with Gin Mare.
 
I hadn't come across Gin Mare before, though it's not new to the market, having been created in 2007. It is however a gin that really pushed the boundaries of what we think of as being gin. Normally gin is made with botanicals including juniper, citrus peels, spices and roots. Gin Mare is made with botanicals including rosemary, thyme, olive and basil which together are very unusual in gin making. This creates a savoury essence to the drink, which pairs perfectly with a good tonic, slither of lemon peel and sprig of rosemary. It also works really well in Aperol based cocktails due to the herbal qualities in the gin.
 
If you're a gin fan and haven't come across Gin Mare I really recommend getting hold of some. It's such an interesting addition to the gin brands I know and like, and is wonderful in summer cocktails.

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20.7.16

SKY GARDEN'S SUMMER SOUNDS

Sometimes I accept an invitation to something that I know will take me out of my comfort zone. I say yes to a concept, an idea or an event without thinking through much more of the detail, and then find myself in The London Dungeons (somewhere I'm not particularly keen on but end up having one of the best Monday nights I've had in a while), or on the gazillionth floor of a building when one of my biggest fears is heights. But on all these occasions I try not to be completely pathetic and to get on with it, and actually have a really good time.

The most recent of these events was Sky Garden's Summer Sounds which is a great evening of live music.... 155 metres up in the air!! Ignoring that little nugget of info, I met Georgie downstairs where we were whisked up in to the sky to the stunning Sky Garden for some rose wine, delicious snacks and excellent live music. Every Thursday and Friday from 6pm, and every Saturday from 9pm, until 30th September you can go up to the Sky Garden for free to enjoy a mix of live bands and DJs courtesy of acclaimed ALR Music. It's not only one of the best views in London (if that's your thing) but the music when we went was really, really good. If you want to make an evening of it then book an exclusive sofa area for £450 for up to 9 people, or you can get a larger area for groups of 10+ for a minimum spend of £50pp, which is not tricky to rack up once you've had a few drinks and some food each. I don't think there's anywhere as high up, with such stunning views as this that's offering such a great deal, so highly recommend you check it out!

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19.7.16

COOKERY CLASSES in LONDON

I've been lucky enough to go on a few cookery classes and talks at cooking schools recently, which I've found absolutely fascinating. These have ranged from learning about French caviar production at Le Cordon Bleu, cooking up a Portuguese feast at L'Atelier des Chefs to celebrate Monarch Airline's new flight path to Lisbon, and learning how to make Japanese dumplings with Hashi Cookery at The Ivy. All very different, and all work checking out if you want to broaden your culinary repertoire.

Starting from the beginning was an evening learning about caviar production and what to eat with caviar at Le Cordon Bleu. I hadn't realised that Le Cordon Bleu offered such sessions, having always assumed it was just diplomas that you could do there. In fact, they do evening and day courses covering all sorts of topics including canapés and wine pairing, Discover Chocolate where you can learn to make bonbons and truffles, and nose to tail butchery demos, amongst others. It was such an interesting evening. I learnt so much about caviar, having not really known anything about it before. Each fish has to grow to 9 years old before the caviar can be extracted from them, and to at least 2 years old before they can even tell the gender of the fish, and therefore if it's going to produce caviar. The lady who gave the talk was from Caviar Perle Noire, a premium caviar house in South West France.


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14.7.16

CASA DI STEFANO, MAYFAIR

Casa di Stefano is a little slice of the Med in the middle of London. White washed walls and tables, and splashes of pale blue gingham make you forget you're in W1 and transport you off to warmer shores. And that's before you've even tried the food! Casa di Stefano, as you might imagine from the name, serves classic Italian food made with top produce direct from the country itself. I popped down with Emily a few weeks ago to share all the starters, mains of our choice and all the puddings with a group of lovely blogger types.
 
For somewhere I'd never heard of, I was surprised how big Casa di Stefano is. I mean it's not huge, I just expected it to be tiny as I hadn't noticed it there before. They have around 80 covers when it's sunny and they can put their outside tables out.

We settled into one of their long tables, with bench seating up one side, and sipped on delicious Negronis whilst admiring the surroundings and menu. Starters soon arrived, taking over most of the table space. My favourites were the artichoke salad with avocado and parmesan, aubergine parmigiana, beef carpaccio and the burrata topped with datterino tomato.
 
 
 
 
 
Mains are split into pasta and risotto dishes which we didn't try but sound heavenly (spaghetti with Devon crab, chilli peppers and Amalfi lemon, and risotto with saffron and chicken liver....) and the more traditional fish and meat choices. I had fillet of beef with spinach and peppercorn sauce which was the perfect size main following our feast of starters!

 
Puddings also follow the traditional route, with offerings like tiramisu, lemon tart and profiteroles.

 
Casa di Stefano is a cute neighbourhood restaurant in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Mayfair. With the sun out (if and when that ever happens this summer), sitting at the front or outside tables with a negroni in hand, it's the perfect place for watching the world go by while munching on delicious Italian food.
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13.7.16

MENORCAN HOLIDAY

Last week I was luckily enough to spend a long weekend in Menorca. I've travelled a lot this year (Japan, Paris, Greece and the Isles of Scilly) but they've all either been for work or felt like work. My lovely few days in Menorca were the most relaxing holiday I've had in a long time. Decisions revolved around swimming pool or beach, BBQing or eating out, and drinking beer, cocktails or wine! I didn't have to think, as my wonderful friend Lucy knows the island (and me) so well that anything she suggested we do ended up being the best option possible. It was absolute bliss.

We were staying in Son Rosas villa, which is on the edge of Es Migjorn Gran. It's a stunning villa which sleeps up to 8, has a pool (which became home to Fabio the inflatable Flamingo, who was promptly renamed Beaky by Lucy's mate's 3 year old), stunning gardens with all different types of fruit trees, and four different outside eating/chilling/drinking areas.


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28.6.16

PAN CHAI, HARRODS

Who knew there was a lovely little Japanese restaurant hiding inside Harrods?! I certainly didn't until I was invited to go and check out Pan Chai recently. I thought it was going to be a restaurant "proper" but it's more of a sushi bar on the ground floor, nestled behind the food court. You sit right up at the counter and watch the chefs slice and dice the fish with such great precision. I took Hana with me to try some of the dishes - I've mentioned Hana before as she's one of A Little Lusciousness team for cooking events and pop ups, and I wanted to treat her as she's supported me from nearly the beginning of my cooking ventures.

We wanted to try a range of the menu, which offers sashimi, sushi, salads, grill, tempura and ramen, so started off with some of the Pan Chai signature sushi rolls - the Black Dragon roll, made with tiger prawn tempura, cucumber and avocado, and topped with caviar and unagi sauce. The rolls were perfectly made with just the right amount of filling, sweet sticky sauce and salty caviar to balance them out. A great start....

 
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23.6.16

TASTE, TASTEOLOGY & AEG

Oysters, champagne, wet tables and muddy trainers was my Instagram post that really summer up mine and Lucy's evening at Taste London last Friday. It was all of the above - lots of fun, food and drinks but mud galore, though luckily no actual rain while we were there. I was invited to Taste, the bi-annual food festival, by their lovely sponsors AEG, who've recently made an excellent docu-series I also want to tell you about.

But let's start with Taste. We arrived on the wrong side of Regent's Park but eventually got to the entrance and headed straight to the AEG Take Taste Further cooking arena. I had the choice of a cookery class with Steve Brown or Jeremy Pang. I adore Jeremy, and in fact am hosting my own pop up supper club at his School of Wok in Covent Garden in October, but I've done a few of his classes so we decided to go with Daylesford's Steve Brown. We made a lemon sole with sauce vierge dish, which I basically did nothing for! Lovely Lucy volunteered to follow along with the instructions whilst I passed things and observed with a glass of prosecco - it's nice to have an evening off cooking once in a while! The class was great and the guy that hosts for AEG is so enthusiastic it's hard to not get wrapped up in it all.

 
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22.6.16

BRASSERIE GUSTAVE, CHELSEA

I love discovering a new-to-me restaurant doing classic French food. French food done right is one of my favourite luxurious meals to go out for so when an email popped into my inbox inviting me to check out Brasserie Gustave in Chelsea/South Kensington I was intrigued as I'd never even heard of it. But I had a sneaky peek at the menu online and it looked like it had a lot of potential so accepted said invite and headed there a couple of weeks ago. 

Arriving outside Brasserie Gustave you'd hardly even know it was there from the street, but then you go inside and the place is so light and bright and airy. There's a huge skylight window at the back the of the room, the walls are painted a pretty light yellow and there are (nice) fake plants everywhere. We took a corner seat excited for what was to come - I could smell the garlic and we'd already seen a crepe suzette trolley wheeled out for a family to have their pudding cooked in front of them.

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16.6.16

RECENT EATS

Sometimes I actually go out to a restaurant without my camera and writing head, and just to enjoy a meal and catch up with mates... That doesn't mean the places we go aren't worth writing about, just that I can't document every single thing I eat all the time. Having said that, I've eaten in some really excellent places recently, so feel I should share the love and tell you about them in case you want to try them out too. So excuse the phone snaps, but here's a few of my recent favourites.

6 Portland Road

I saw this hidden gem on Instagram and immediately knew I wanted to go. Everything about it seemed so similar to the wonderful Amarante that Lucy and I discovered in Paris earlier this year. A little French inspired restaurant in West London that does brilliant food and even better wine all with excellent service. It felt like a little secret we'd discovered though I worry that it might be less of a secret now that both Grace and Fay have given it such stellar reviews. I went with Lucy and we drank delicious wine and shared courses of ox tongue, terrine, calves liver and red mullet. I can really see myself spending many a lazy Sunday afternoon at 6 Portland Road. It's the perfect addition to West London.

 
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