When I was contacted recently by the lovely ladies from Cakes by Robin to see if I wanted to receive one of their bespoke cakes to try out it didn't take me long to answer with a resounding yes! I love cooking, in all its forms - whether it's making a 4 course meal for a pop up, whipping up a quick dinner for 2 or playing around with canapés for special events. But when it comes to baking I feel my skills are a little lacking. Yes, I can make a cake that tastes good, but I still haven't quite mastered the art of decoration.... At work we have an annual bake off for Halloween and although I came 2nd last year, it definitely wasn't because of my presentation (see below - and no, I have no idea what I was doing, it was meant to be ghosts, but apparently looked more like Stay Puff from Ghostbusters?!?!) It was definitely the taste that won me a prize!

So not only was I excited to receive a delicious sounding chocolate and salted caramel creation, but I thought I could pick up some tips on the decorating front as well. I was promised an Autumn inspired cake, and this is the beauty that was delivered to me.


The cake was stunning! And the attention to detail just beautiful - little painted icing acorns and mushrooms surrounded the cake, as well as the gorgeous hand painted icing leaves. Inside moist chocolate sponge squidged the layer of oozing salted caramel and the whole thing was covered with a salted caramel buttercream - absolute decadence.

Cakes by Robin is run by Robin Green from Wimbledon. She set up the bespoke cake company is 2008 and has had great success with it since then. Robin and her team create these edible masterpieces for every occasion you could need a cake for, whether it's weddings, birthday, christenings or just afternoon tea - I had my cake delivered to where I work and shared it with my team - so there were over 30 resounding "yes"s when I asked if it was good! These cakes really do taste as good as they look. Robin's website is beautiful and is full of photos of cakes she's made for previous clients, including these unbelievable creations:


Robin not only makes such stunning cakes, but also offers classes so you can learn some of her skills - I think I need to sign myself up for a class or two though I fear it may be too late for Halloween this year (I'm making a cat cake.... will report back on that one!!)

Robin's website is here and you can find lots more inspiration as well as all of her contact details in case you need a cake for a special occasion, or in case you just need cake!

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I'm sure by now you all know how much I love Grub Club - here and here, for example! For those of you who don't know, Grub Club is a year-and-a-half old company that assists cooks who want to put on pop up restaurants, and guests who want to eat at them, in doing so. It is co-run by a good friend of mine, Liv, who has been an absolute rock of support to me while I've launched and worked out my own pop up restaurant, which I've now been doing for a year. I literally couldn't have got to where I am without Grub Club.

In 18 months Grub Club have fed more than 20,000 diners (!) at over 1,000 events. They have more than 200 chefs on their books and the events so far have taken place at 200 different venues. This isn't just supper clubs in people's houses, like mine. Grub Club have facilitated dinners in disused tube carriages, clock towers, boats, gardens and every type of venue you can possibly imagine.

So why I am telling you how great Grub Club are (again!)? Well now you have the chance to own a part of this incredible company. Grub Club are crowd funding via CrowdCube. They aim to raise a minimum of £250,000 (of which they've already raised over £100,000) and by investing in Grub Club you can own a piece of their company. If you invest, whether it's £10 or £10,000, you will get a proportionate amount of shares of their lovely, wonderful company!! I think that's a pretty good deal for a company that is only going to grow and grow over the next few years. Grub Club plan on using this investment to roll out pop up opportunities across the globe. Imagine going to Spain on holiday, and wanting to eat authentic home cooked food with locals - well with your investment in Grub Club that could happen.

And it's not just home cooks who are part of the Grub Club "chef" community - there are real, proper chefs cooking their amazing food too. They've got chefs from Michelin star restaurants already doing pop ups, there are Grub Club chefs who've now gone on to open their own restaurants, and there are food 'experience' events too. The other really exciting thing about the pop ups you can book through Grub Club is the experience itself. For example, at my pop ups, 20 people are seated around 1 table, a complete mix of people who've mostly never met each other before. I've had members of famous bands, prolific food writers, artisan food producers, pilots, teachers, mums, kids, local community heroes and so many more. The opportunity this offers for meeting locals and networking with people from all over the world is unrivalled. I've even had a couple from America book a pop up for a date they just happened to be passing through London on.  And this can only grow as Grub Club does!

If you have money to invest, I really recommend you think about investing in Grub Club. I've seen how fast they've grown already, with the 2 founders working so hard to get to where they are now. I can only imagine how far it could go with this much needed investment. There are 33 days left to invest, so have a look at the full details here and please invest anything you can!!

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I've got something a bit different for you on the blog today. Nothing to do with food, but a recommendation for a film you should all go and see.

We received an invite to a preview showing of Northern Soul, which is out in cinemas this Friday 17th October, as a friend of ours is one of the film's stars. We were invited along to a private cinema to watch him in action, and I enjoyed the film so much that I need to tell you all about it, in the hope that you'll go and see it too.

Northern Soul is a film about the music scene in the 70s in the North of England, directed by Elaine Constantine. It follows a teenager from a struggling working class family, John, who finds an escape in the much sought after soul music that came over from the States at that time. John meets Matt, played by our friend Josh Whitehouse, and together they immerse themselves in the secret music scene that was popping up across the North of England, and plot a trip to America to get their hands on these rare soul records they hear in youth clubs and discos they frequent. I won't go into the story as you have to see it for yourselves but the film is a real treasure and was 10 years in the making.

Elaine Constantine is the film's director and she herself was directly influenced by the Northern Soul scene when she was growing up. She wrote, directed and funded the film herself, by re-mortgaging her house and gathering all her savings to raise the funds needed to make the film. She gave us a passionate talk before the film preview started and you could tell how much it meant to her; that it was a vision of what she had seen growing up. Music in the 70s wasn't like it is now. You couldn't download something you'd heard or play a 10 second clip into a machine for it to tell you the name of the song - in fact most of the characters in the film probably couldn't even play or listen to music on speakers at home. This provides a fascinating storyline but also created a problem for Elaine when choosing her cast. She needed the authenticity of the characters, she needed them to live and breathe this music as they did in the 70s. And at first they didn't get it. So Elaine set up a weekly club night in Islington, soon followed by a similar club night in Bolton, where week by week, over a 3 year period, she built up a following of people who came for the music and learnt how to dance to these amazing soul tunes. Finally she had her cast, and once she had raised the funds to make it, the film came to life.

We were treated to a performance by some of the dancers from the film before we watched it, who were all fantastic and gave their absolute everything, despite having to do those tricky dance moves on a harsh carpet. The soul dancing powder used in the 70s to ease the feet on the floor, and given to each of us at the preview, was useless on the carpeted floor!


Originally the film was only going to be shown in a handful of cinemas but there's been such a demand for it that it will now be showing at over 100 screens across the UK. Go and see it - I was wiggling away, chair dancing in my seat all the way through and came out grinning from ear to ear, having been transported straight to the 70s for an hour and a half, but surrounded by our mates. And we couldn't be prouder of Josh's magnificent performance in his first ever acting role.

You can find all the details of when and where the film is showing HERE - but book quickly, as I know it's going to be hugely popular, so make sure you don't miss out.
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I made this delicious meal for dinner last night. The boy's been ill at home all week and I wanted to make something healthy, quick and tasty to feed us both (before we collapsed on the sofa to watch How to Train your Dragon 2 - perfect film for a 31 and 37 year old to watch!)

This recipe uses tuna as the main protein but you could make it veggie by omitting the tuna, or top it with some grilled chicken or beef if you want something meaty.

Serves 2

1 large tuna steak
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 broccoli
1 red pepper

3 cloves of garlic
Bunch of spring onions
2 nests of dry egg noodles
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 chilli (for mine only, the boy's allergic so I added this last)

Fill the kettle and put it on.

Rub the tuna steak with olive oil, a grind of pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Chop the broccoli heads off and slice into small pieces. Slice the pepper into rings. Crush the garlic and finely chop the spring onions.

Put the noodles in a bowl and pour over the boiled water. These will need to sit for 5 minutes while you cook the tuna and the veg.

Heat a small frying pan over a high heat. Once hot put the tuna in the pan and leave it to sear for 1-2 minutes, depending how thick the fillet is.

Heat the sesame oil over a high heat in a wok or large frying pan. Add the broccoli and pepper and toss continuously. Add the soy sauce, garlic and most of the spring onions.

Turn the tuna over and sear for another 1-2 minutes, remove from the pan and leave to rest.

Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Turn the heat off.

Halve the noodle/veg mix into each bowl, slice the tuna into 1cm thick slices and put on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining spring onions, some sesame seeds, a splash of soy sauce, a few coriander leaves and chilli (if using) and serve.

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I've spent more than my fair share of time in Gordon Ramsey restaurants this week. Wednesday night was an amazing 6-course meal at the very formal Petrus restaurant in Knightsbridge that I was treated to by a friend who I do a lot of cooking for. It was such a lovely evening, and we were absolutely full of incredible food by the time we left. I may blog about it if I can work some magic on the very dark photos I took! But last night was an altogether different kind of affair - I went along to the launch of the #breadstreetsessions at Ramsey's much more modern restaurant, Bread Street Kitchen near Bank, in the City. Throughout October Bread Street Kitchen are hosting a weekly pop up on Saturdays from 4pm with the Street Feast favourite, Bussan BBQ, who are serving up their incredible Korean cocktails and BBQ food. They invited us along last night to sample these delights.

We started off, as all good nights do, with some cocktails. They've got 4 specially created cocktails that they'll be serving on Saturdays, 3 of which are made from Soju, which is a Korean rice wine, not dissimilar to Sake, but a lot less strong, with an average alcohol content of around 25% rather than the 40% that Sake is. First up was the Soju Royale - a sweet and sparkly mix of Soju, Asian pear juice, sugar and champagne. It was really good, and I thought would've been my favourite, until I tried the next one - Kimbap Martini. Now the list of ingredients almost put me off this one before I'd tried it as it was Bombay Sapphire Gin, avocado, lime, sugar syrup and aloe vera juice. I really don't like aloe vera juice, but gave it a go, and my gosh - it was like eating a fizzy lemon sweet, super refreshing and mouthwateringly delicious! Definitely the drink of the night for me.

And then we moved on to the food. I've been to Street Feast a few times but had always missed the Bussan BBQ van so I didn't know what they had in store for us. Turns out it's some the juiciest, tastiest food I've had in a while. Trays and trays of food came round and I managed sample one of nearly everything! There were 3 types of slider to start - sweet and spicy pork belly topped with yoghurt and mooli slaw; slow cooked spicy chicken topped with a tangy apple and cabbage slaw; and 28 day aged beef patty, dunked in bulgogi (a Korean marinade) sauce, topped with mustard pickled onions and ssamjang (a Korean version of miso that is fermented naturally) mayo. It's hard to pick which was my favourite as they were all just brilliant and each had their own unique flavour with the pork being quite sweet, and the chicken with a lovely tang, but you won't have to pick either as they're doing all 3 for £15 at the Bread Street Sessions.

Next was the K-fries, which although a little tricky to eat just with fingers, disappeared from their bowl in seconds. I could eat those punchy cheese, meat, kimchi and chilli topped chips everyday, though shouldn't and sadly I won't!

The last dish I tried was my favourite of the night. Gochujang Ribs. Look at them!


Sticky, spicy ribs thick with Gochujang sauce, which is a Korean paste made of fermented red chilli, rice, soy beans and salt. They were just the right amount of fiery and the meat underneath was tender and soft.

I really recommend that you get down to Bread Street Kitchen on a Saturday soon so you can try all this food. It's a brilliant selection, and the bar is a really buzzing, fun place to go, especially with those cocktails on offer. I'm so happy I got to try the amazing Bussan BBQ food, and will definitely be going back for more before they move on!


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How time flies - I've just posted full details for my final public pop up of 2014! My October date has now all but sold out (there is still 1 ticket available!) so I've put up my final date for this year, on Saturday 6th December, as I'm skipping November in favour of sunning myself on a beach many miles away! So Saturday 6th December will be my last event this year (although I am going to be doing a Christmas fair, with food and drinks, at W7 Emporium in West Ealing on 13th December so look out for details of that one coming soon).

The menu for 6th December is as follows:

Winter cocktail, made with bubbles and cranberries
Gooey smoked salmon kedgeree 'arancini' balls with soft quail's eggs, curry mayonnaise and crispy toasts
Cider pot roast guinea fowl with leek gratin, pomegranate roasted carrots, salt baked celeriac & parsnip puree, and Yorkshire puddings
Passion fruit posset with winter spiced butter biscuits
Montgomery cheeseboard, apple and quince chutney, seeded crackers
COFFEE and HERBAL TEAS served with homemade "mince pie" chocolates
The event is £30 per ticket, and is bring you own booze so you can bring a bottle (or two!) of your favourite. If beer is more you thing, then you can come empty handed, as Peroni are sponsoring the evening by providing bottles of their new Alta beer.
If you'd like to come along and are a vegetarian, or don't like certain elements of the menu, that is no problem - while booking there is a comments section and you can just leave notes there as to what you can/can't eat and I will make an alternative meal for you. I don't think that I've done a pop up so far when I haven't cooked an alternative/veggie/vegan/gluten free main course, starter or pudding!

You can come on your own, bring a date, grab some friends, or book out a whole table for however many of you there are!

Tickets for my past few events have sold out crazily fast, so I do recommend getting in there early if you want to come along! I'm notoriously bad at taking photos at my pop ups (something to do with cooking 4 courses for nearly 20 people!) so I'll leave you with a photo of the table all ready and laid ready for guests to arrive:

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On Sunday 12th October there's a food festival happening in Wells, Somerset and I'm going to be there to give a talk about food blogging and pop ups!

Wells Food Festival launched last year and had over 3,500 people come along on the day. This year they're back - bigger and even better. The day focuses around showcasing local produce with a food market, lunches, talks, street food stalls and more. The day runs from 10.30-4.30 and everyone is welcome to this free event.

So, what can you expect from the day? Well first of all there's the artisan market, with over 50 stalls selling locally produced food from within 25 miles of Wells. There's locally produced organic wines, loads of Somerset cheese, flour, apples and cider, chocolates, pies, breads and sausage rolls, chillies, honey and loads more - I can't wait to roam around and buy one of everything to take back to London with me!

As well as all the stalls selling produce there'll be 13 street food vans on site selling hot food, ready to eat so you can pick up a wood fired oven pizza, a buffalo burger, veggie samosas or a plate full of Greek meze delights. But if you fancy something a bit more substantial for your Sunday lunch there are a few sit down banquets happening on the day as well.

Chef Valentina Harris is doing The Great Italian Sunday Lunch, using Somerset ingredients to cook up an Italian style feast. Tickets are £40 a head for this 5 course lunch which is sure to be an absolutely scrumptious feast.

Another option for lunch is Tom Hunt's Forgotten Feast Autumn Banquet that he's making using vegetables rejected by supermarkets for not being pretty enough, and a whole pig, fed purely on these same 'waste' vegetables. His starter of hot smoked pigeon breast with blackberry sorbet served with sourdough and truffle butter has already got my tummy rumbling! Tom Hunt's cooking is right up my street, and if you want to know why, then book a ticket for £30 each and go along and find out for yourselves. Tom is cooking his feast for 200 people, so there's plenty of tickets to go around.

If it's tea and cake you'd prefer there's afternoon tea at the banqueting room in the town hall, running from 2.45-5pm where you can pop in for hot drinks, finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. You'll also find Pearl Lowe and Trine Hahnemann signing copies of their newly released books.

The afternoon will offer the opportunity for learning as well - there's various talks and walks going on, covering subjects like foraging, truffles and how to grow great veg - full details of which can be found HERE. And from 3pm you can find me, along with 2 great bloggers - Anita, from A Lover of Creating Flavours and Vanesther of Bangers and Mash, - at the Parkes room in the town hall, doing a food bloggers workshop to talk you through starting your own blog, keeping it going and what to do with it from there. We will be there to answer all your questions and help you with anything you need blog-wise. Spaces are limited though so if you'd like to come along, then do send an email to the team.

If you are coming along, do leave me a comment below, and please do come and find me and introduce yourself - I'd love to meet you and learn your blog and/or foodie ideas!!

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A couple of weekends ago the boy and I were invited to France for a night. Deciding that we'd rather stay 3 nights instead of 1 our extremely generous hosts extended their invite to us for 3 nights in their hotel. The hotel is about 30 minutes south of Paris and 15 minutes cab ride (if the cabbie knows where he's going - ours didn't and it cost us 60 euros!) from Orly airport. The owners of the hotel, friends of the boy's ma's, were having a party there to celebrate their 75th birthdays on the Saturday night.

We arrived at Le Relais des Chartreux late on Thursday night and dumped our bags in our newly refurbed room, before gobbling down a very late dinner of lobster then scallops, and wandering the hotel's grounds for an hour or two, whilst being eaten alive by mozzies, before collapsing in bed. We'd made the decision that we weren't going to actually go into Paris while we were there, as having come from London we both wanted to make the most of some chill out time with just the 2 of us in the French countryside. This didn't stop me wanting to find the best possible place for food near the hotel so I spent hours on Tripadvisor, Google, blogs etc before we went trying to narrow down the endless and confusing choices to a place where we'd have dinner on the Friday. It's really weird searching online for somewhere to eat in a place you've never been, that's not the trendiest of areas to start with, but I struck absolute gold and found somewhere with over 95% either good or very good reviews. 

We lazed around on Friday during the day, wandered into the local town to pick up some amazing skincare items from the French pharmacy, that airport security then tried confiscate on our way back, and got ready for our night out in Villemoisson-sur-Orge (!) The hotel kindly arranged a car to pick us up and take us there (not even our driver knew where this mysterious place was until we whipped out the trusty iPhones and found it in the maps). But we got there in the end, and I'm so glad we did. Villemoisson-sur-Orge is beautiful little village/town set on winding hilly roads, with picturesque French houses lining the streets, covered in vines. The light was fading so my photos aren't great, but you get the idea.

Le Patisson is a small restaurant in the middle of Villemoisson-sur-Orge, seating 24 people at a time. It's been going for 4 years, and is run by a guy who used to work in 2 and 3 star Michelin places in Paris. They do one seating for lunch, and one for dinner so there's no rush to get you off your table in time for the next guests to arrive. We had a little table for 2 by the window, and all the other tables were French diners, most of whom seemed to be celebrating birthdays, judging by the number of candles in puddings we saw later. It felt a bit like being at a pop up, due to the limited number of seats and familiar style of service. It also scared me to think that my own pop ups cater for nearly the same number of people that this restaurant with 5 chefs in the kitchen and 2 front of house were serving!

We were brought the drinks we'd requested - a gorgeous cherry and champagne cocktail for me, and a blonde beer for the boy - along with some mini cheese straws to snack on while we looked at the menu (cheese straws are SO much better than bread - incredibly moreish but much less filling). They only have 2 menus in the restaurant, written on blackboards, that are moved round from table to table as guests arrive. I really like this idea - they change their menu regularly so reprinting it daily/weekly would not only be a hassle but really a waste of paper as well. This way they can just write up the courses as and when they change.


Everyone eating in the restaurant, and most of the staff, looked on in bemusement as I clambered on the chair to take photos of everything, whilst the boy tried and failed to pretend he wasn't with me! But the more French wine I drank the less I cared!

I don't speak French. I understand a little, but even that's limited, so the maître d' was on hand to help with working out what was on offer. And after changing my mind a few times, food was served. But not before a little amuse bouche of chilled fennel soup which had the perfect balance of creaminess and aniseed, and little lines of paprika, something I can't remember, and dried olive on the side to dip your spoon in before the soup.

I started with something that a lot of people object to, but I find delicious (these are rough translations, not actual translations of what the menu says) - foie gras, with foie gras crème brulee, onion chutney and bread. I'm not lying when I say it was one of the best starters I've ever had. The crème brulee was light and fluffy with a beautiful caramelised top, and the pate so smooth and creamy, both working perfectly with the onion jam. I think I ate it in about 2 minutes flat...

The boy went for the slightly more ethically conscious choice (he wouldn't even try my foie gras) of scallops and avocado with citrus marinade, served with lambs lettuce and orange. The complete opposite of my dish this was light and tangy, with the delicate taste of the scallop still shining through.

The pace of the food was ideal, allowing us time to digest, chat, and drink more wine between each course. We shared a bottle of Chablis after our cocktail/beer welcome drinks, and at 38 euros for the bottle, it was extremely good value for such good wine.

For main course we chose the same. Piece of beef, dauphinoise potatoes, mushrooms and bacon. That sounds so un-glam, but that's the literal translation from their menu, and of course, never how it would be written in English, but that's what it was! Perfectly cooked (we both like it almost still moo-ing), tender, delicious beef with incredible creamy potatoes, cooked in a way that I've never seen before - like it had been cooked in a muffin tin (you can't really see in the photo) - served with crispy bacon lardons, garlicky mushrooms and a creamy mushroom sauce. Simple is SO good sometimes.  

The menu at Le Patisson is fixed, so if you go there for dinner it's 3 courses for 38 euros. Therefore we had pudding, although were already pretty full by this point! I had a scrumptious fig tart with sherry and raising ice cream (plus obligatory candle for my birthday)!

And the boy had a berry, cream concoction, that despite him declaring his inability to eat anything else that day, got polished off pretty quickly, and left him with a big smile on his face. Note the Chablis induced blurriness of the photos as we got towards the end of the meal....

Finally coffee, before trying to get home. Coffee served with delicious little coffee flavoured and coffee bean shaped dark chocolates.

We paid the very reasonable bill and asked for them to call us a cab home.

And then we waited.... and waited. And ordered another drink to pass the time. And then the owner came over to tell us he'd never had to call a cab for guests before (I guess they all just drink and drive in France or no one from outside the village visits this restaurant - I think it's the first!) so was struggling to get one to tiny little Villemoisson-sur-Orge... but finally he did!! We were whisked back to the hotel, with happy tummies and even happier faces after a truly unforgettable meal. I really do recommend going to Le Patisson if you can - I know it's a bit of a random one, but so, so worth it if you're near-ish by.

We struggled through the next day with slightly groggy heads, but perked up again ready for the real party in the evening, for drinks, dinner and dancing. The party was at the hotel, where the food is also really good. I love the French style of serving good food, no fuss, using top ingredients. I could definitely get used to that. Thank you so much Annie and Christian for looking after us! We had a perfect weekend.
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After a little break over August I can't wait to get stuck in to doing pop up restaurants again! My next date, 20th September, has already sold out, but there's good news - I've got another date now booked in for Saturday 25th October. But if you want to come you'll have to be quick, as half of the tickets for the October have already gone (I really can't believe it - thank you SO much to everyone who's booked this and all my other dates).

As normal the event will take place on Saturday evening at our home in Acton Town, where I will feed you 4 courses of homemade, seasonal food. I'm really excited by the menu I've chosen for October's pop up, and for starters I'm serving an old favourite - steak tartare with my secret mix - that has received rave reviews from past pop ups. Main course is a truly decadent game pie, full of meat that's in its prime season. And pudding is a crunchy, nutty crumble made with fruits straight from Somerset hedgerows, and served with my now almost-famous salted caramel crème fraiche. Here's the full menu in all its glory:

Blackberry cocktail, made with bubbles and something stronger
Steak tartare, quail's egg yolk, cauliflower puree & pickled cauliflower,
served with homemade bread
Rich game pie, creamy potato & celeriac truffle mash, buttered greens,
wild mushroom and shallot game gravy
Apple and blackberry nutty crumble with salted caramel crème fraiche
Montgomery cheeseboard, apple and quince chutney, seeded crackers
Coffee and herbal teas served with homemade chocolates

It’s bring your own booze on the evening so do feel free to bring a bottle (or two!). I provide soft drinks for anyone that prefers them. And you can put any drinks that need chilling in the fridge when you arrive.

And if you want to come along but you're veggie/GF/don't like something on the menu, then you can still come - if you book a ticket and mention in the comments section of the booking what it is you don't like/can't eat, then I can make something that you do like instead!

Tickets for 25th October are available here and cost £30, but do get in quick as they're selling really fast.

At my last pop up in July the food critic from the Chiswick Herald came for the evening and has amazingly given me 10/10 for the evening!! You can read the full review here.

One last thing to mention, if you're interested in all things pop up, is that Grub Club, the wonderful people who not only deal with all the admin and tickets sales for mine and many others' pop ups, but who encouraged me to start doing pop ups in the first place and have guided me all the way, are crowd funding. So if you want to be part of this huge food movement, and own your very own piece of Grub Club then follow this link and read all about what they're doing, where they're going and how your investment can help. So far, over 20,000 people have eaten at a Grub Club pop up and by investing a tiny amount you can help Grub Club grow and spread all over the world - !!

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I've blogged about The Bollo before - it was one of the first reviews I ever wrote on my blog. Since then we've been more times than I can remember, for food, drinks, Sunday lunches, last minute dinners, meetings, cocktails.... It's our regular so we end up there for many reasons or no reason at all. Then you can imagine my horror when I called to book earlier this Summer only for the phone to ring and ring with no answer. They'd closed! During Summer!! But a bit of further investigation led me to find out that it was only temporary as they were undergoing a full front and back of house refurb, and they'd be open again soon. So the night after they reopened we were there like a shot to try out their new range of drinks and updated food menu.

The Bollo changed hands pre-refurb and is now run the by the same group who own The City Barge in Chiswick, which is another new favourite of ours, so I was excited to see what they'd done to improve this place we call our second home! A lot is the answer!! I'm so happy that all has changed for the better. The inside of the pub has been given a lick of paint, the slightly odd seating arrangements are gone (it used to be a bit of higgledy mix of bench seating, large tables, sofas and various types of chair) replaced with more tables, creating a restaurant feel in the main dining area, but without having lost any of the pub feel in the bar area. And talking of the bar area, their drinks selection is awesome now. There's about 10 different craft beers, a lot of which are brewed in London, on tap - one of which is a new favourite - 3 Weiss Monkeys - a wheat beer brewed in London Fields which is light and refreshing with a delicious lemony taste to it. We sunk 5 of these between us before we'd even ordered  food - oops! If you like wheat beer or are interested in trying it, go for this, it's the best wheat beer I've ever tried.

But the main event for me was the food - we loved the old, seasonally changing menu that had our favourite dishes on it which we ate over and over again. I was nervous about the change, but I needn't have been - it is SO good! The menu has been spruced up - bread to nibble that used to be served with oil and balsamic has been upgraded to delicious slices of a seeded loaf, now served with oil and dukkah. Salt and pepper squid is now calamari with merguez sausage - traditional has been replaced by modern with a twist.

We started our meal with the chargrilled squid, Calabrian spiced sausage and lemon, and goats cheese and tarragon croquettes, beetroot, orange and shoots. Both were excellent. The squid was punchy, soft, melt in the mouth, and the croquettes were gooey flavour bombs complimented so well by their accompaniments.


Another thing I love that they've done at The Bollo is use old magazines to encase their new menus.... As a big cat obsessive I thought mine was quite apt!

On to mains and the boy went for the burger. He's had good and bad burgers recently - in fact, he's just had good burgers not necessarily well cooked. He likes it pink, and I think if you are asked how you'd like something cooked then it should come as requested. The Bollo certainly did this, with an oozy, juicy, pink burger in a perfect bun, with a generous slice of smoked cheese on top. I know you can't see the inside in this photo but you'll just have to trust me that it was amazing!

I had the braised rabbit leg with haricot beans, pancetta, summer greens and tarragon which was just as good. The rabbit was still juicy and full of flavour (so often rabbit meat is dry and tough but none of that here) and I love haricot beans so it was the perfect combination for me.

We couldn't manage pudding but will definitely try some of them out in the not so distant future, I really can't wait to go back and eat my way through the entire menu!

The Bollo is definitely new and improved and I'm so glad they're back with a bang - they are definitely still in my top 5 Chiswick food destinations.
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There's not much we like more for a slap up dinner than a fajita or taco night, especially when we've got friends coming round. It's such a fun way to eat, with everyone grabbing their own ingredients and creating a unique plate made up of their favourite components from everything on the table - it allows the boy to steer clear of spice, but me to load up my plate with jalapenos and hot salsa, so everyone gets what they want. So when I was invited up to the Old El Paso HQ in West London to try their new range I was intrigued to find out more.

Old El Paso have launched their newest product (after 8 years in the making) - the Stand N Stuff soft taco. Think soft flour tortilla made into a flat-bottomed boat shape that you can fill with whatever you fancy without having to worry about it all spilling out. My bug bear with normal tortillas is that lump of folded flour wrap you get at the bottom that's stodgy and excessive, and the messy leakage of delicious juices that normally spill out of the tortilla when you eat it. There's none of this with the Stand n Stuff - just an open sided pouch that I find much easier to fill and eat that the standard tortilla.

We were given a little talk about Old El Paso, who've been trading for nearly 80 years and started life as a tinned tomato distributor before becoming the Old El Paso we all know today. After tasting the new range and then cooking up our own versions in their test kitchens we were sent on our way with goody bags stuffed full of the new products - we got one of each of their Stand n Stuff kits, in each of the 3 flavours - Smokey BBQ, chipotle and honey, and extra mild, which come with the tortilla boats, a spice mix and a salsa pack, as well as some of the tortillas on their own, and a nice big jar of jalapenos.

I was super keen to get in the kitchen at home and rustle up my own version of the tortilla, and so made these really delicious spicy tuna tortilla boats - which you can easily make too.

Serves 2

4 Stand n Stuff tortilla boats
1 large tuna steak
1 avocado, sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 small tub sour cream
1 tsp wasabi paste
Handful spinach
Radishes, sliced thinly
Cucumber, sliced thinly

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Start with your tuna. Rub the fillet of tuna with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a few chilli flakes. Put a frying pan on to heat up and once hot, cook the tuna steak over a medium-high heat for one and a half minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and put to one side to rest.

In a bowl, mix the sliced avocado, add a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper, chilli flakes, chopped coriander and a dash of olive oil. Mix together.

In another bowl mix the sour cream and wasabi paste, tasting until you have a good balance of sharp and heat.

Put the spinach leaves, radish slices, jalapenos and cucumber slices into individual bowls and put these on the table with the avocado and wasabi sour cream that you've made.

Separate the tortilla boats and put them in the oven to warm through. While they are warming up slice the tuna steak into 1cm thick slices and put in a bowl on the table.

Get the tortillas out of the oven, add them to the spread, and start filling your boats with a mixture of all the above, or whichever combination takes your fancy. I went for everything and it was delicious!

It's Mexican Independence Day on Tuesday 16th September so why not grab yourself some Old El Paso kits and get cooking!
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Last year while we had our house refurbed we stayed with friends just off Uxbridge Road and I found what is now one of my favourite pubs for food. However there was another place on Uxbridge Road that I walked past quite often that looked really good, and that was Bush Hall Dining Rooms which had only opened a couple of months before, and is part of the iconic music venue, Bush Hall, next door. Fast forward nearly a year and I finally got round to going there. Now I've discovered it I've actually booked it for my birthday meal next month as that's how much we liked it.

We went to Bush Hall Dining Rooms on the first day of the football season, on the way to drop the boy off at Loftus Road. The extra 18,000 people in the area meant that Bush Hall was pretty busy, but this didn't detract from quality of food or service.

It was a hot day and we sat right in the window with the sun streaming in, people watching and catching up on Saturday papers until the food arrived. Bush Hall does "all-day modern dining, traditional values and good living", serving wicked cocktails and modernised classic dishes in a relaxed and comfy environment. We kicked things off as all Saturday lunchtimes should with some delicious cocktails. Extra strong Bloody Mary for me, and a secret surprise, whose contents we never did find out, for the boy. It was something with ginger, and lots of booze, and was really good!

More intent on drinking that eating to start off with (to numb the pain that QPR were about to inflict) we shared a starter before a main course each. We went for a favourite starter of ours - calamari, in the form of salt and pepper squid with red pepper sauce. Crunchy, perfectly seasoned outsides and tender squid inside, it worked so well with the red pepper dip.

For mains I had Bloody Mary mussels with chips, which was delicious. The fresh tomato sauce with the kick of the Bloody Mary spices was so good, and the chips excellently cooked, crispy outsides and soft insides.

The boy went for one of his go tos - cheeseburger and chips. He had asked for it medium rare, which it sadly wasn't but it was delicious all the same (you know when you're too hungry to send something back for being not quite right - that!) 

I'm now a huge fan of Bush Hall Dining Rooms and can see us going there for lots of meals in the future - their breakfast and brunch menu also looks pretty tempting. Not only was all the food great, the service was seamless and the atmosphere was so lovely. Relaxed without lacking in quality and really good value - we paid less than £20 each for all the above. They also do great deals for pre-gig menus, and have specials on cocktails at the weekends.

Bush Hall Dining Rooms is a 5 minute walk from Shepherd's Bush and you can find more info about their food on their website here.
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