27.5.16

SUGAR FREE RECIPES

You can’t open a newspaper or magazine without reading about the latest diet fad, which foods will give you a “bikini ready body” or what you must immediately cut out of your diet. Personally I believe that most things are fine as long as they’re in moderation, and whilst I try and eat very clean during the day – fruit for breakfast and vegetables and salad for lunch – I often eat out in the evenings so could easily end up consuming most of my daily calories in that one meal. I love nuts and avocado, both of which people avoid due to their high fat content (despite it being the “good” fat) but one thing I do try and avoid is sugar. There isn’t a “good” sugar. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to a whole host of horrible diseases and is hidden in many of the foods we eat, whilst also sprinkled liberally into hot drinks by many. I’ve never been one to add sugar to my coffee, and I don’t drink tea, but it still crops up in so many foods and drinks. And though I try to actively avoid sugar laden products, I do love a glass of bubbly which is full of the stuff. I’ve put together a little guide for you here about how you can cut down, or cut out sugar. I did it fully for a week, but even if you manage to reduce your intake you’ll be giving your mind, body and health a really good boost.

Drinks.

Drinks fall into three categories for me – soft drinks, hot drinks and alcoholic drinks. As far as soft drinks go, you need to stop drinking juice, cordials and fizzy drinks. They’re all packed with sugar, even breakfast fruit juices. Try drinking tap water instead, and if you need to add flavour, add a few ribbons of cucumber and some basil or mint leaves. If you drink lots of sugary drinks and replace them with water you’ll start to see almost immediate results as your skin will look clearer and brighter. For hot drinks, if you’re drinking tea or coffee and adding sugar then really try to stop. If you can’t go cold turkey then reduce the amount of sugar you’re adding to your drink little by little until you’re not adding any at all. Booze wise, your best bet is drinking clear spirits – vodka or gin – with soda water and cucumber and/or lots of fresh herbs. Red wine is also low in fructose, though avoid bubbly as that’s got the highest amount of sugars.

Food.

Sugar is hidden is so many food products, even ones in which you can’t taste it all, like soy sauce. So to cut out sugar, cut out processed foods. Starting from scratch with your ingredients means you can avoid hidden sugars. I bought some lovely asparagus from the local market recently which I used to make two sugar free dinners.

Green salad with avocado sauce

This is hardly a recipe but more of an inspiration, as you can mix it up with any veggies/herbs that you fancy.

Serves 2

4 asparagus
1 avocado
Juice of 1 lemon
Drizzle of olive oil
Tsp chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
Crumbled feta
Handful cherry tomatoes
Springs of dill and basil
6 large green olives
1 red chilli

Steam the asparagus for a couple of minutes, then chop the tops off and slice the other ends into 1cm chunks. Put the avocado in the blender with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, chilli flakes and salt and pepper and blend til smooth. Chop the rest of the ingredients, toss together with the asparagus tops and chunks and serve with the avocado sauce.

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25.5.16

CHOOKS, EALING

I love finding a restaurant in an area I know really well that I haven't found before. I used to pass through Ealing several times a week, bemoaning the lack of good eateries there. There's a few, but the majority of them I'd give a miss. Recently Chooks got in touch to see if I'd like to try out their new extended menu and I assumed they were a new addition to the area, but apparently they've been there a while - at least since I used to spend in Ealing. Intrigued to check it out I headed down there with Bron a few weeks ago for a chicken themed feast! Chooks is renowned for marinating and grilling buttermilk chicken, but they've added to their menu and now serve brunch and more healthy options (not that we necessarily went for all of those!)

We started with cocktails which were fine - too cold and not quite strong enough, I've had better (I'd stick to beer or wine if you go) then moved on to the main event. We were hungry and wanted to sample as much as possible...
 
Starting with Nachos to nibble on while we perused the rest of the menu. The nachos were great - a good amount of all the toppings and still nice and crunchy underneath.
 
 

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21.5.16

FRANCO'S, MAYFAIR

London has such a plethora of options for every cuisine you could imagine, that sometimes it's nice to be able to rely on an old school classic. Take Italian food.... in the last few weeks I've written about three or four brand new Italian joints in London. And yes, they were all good, but do you know which was the most authentic and despite being the most expensive, actually the best value for money.... the most classic of them all - Franco's in Mayfair. A place I went with my Dad when he worked in the area and it seemed the most obvious place to meet. Franco's is 70 years old and oozes the classicness of somewhere with that heritage, which in the London restaurant scene is few and far between. But that's also what makes it fun. And reliable. You know what you're getting. Good, classic, Italian food made with the finest, freshest produce available. Which is exactly what we had. Due to it's location it is more of a weekday destination than a weekend one, but we went on Friday night and it was still buzzing.

We cozied down in our table for two, facing the rest of the diners for added interest. We went for the traditional four courses - starter, pasta, fish and mains. And maybe snuck a pudding in there too cos when in Rome.....

The whole menu is based around what is flown in from Italy that day so regularly changes, but keeps the favourites for those who love them. We started with the special of the day - poached lobster claw, and one of the classics, beetroot puree with steak tartare and quail's egg yolk. Both were absolutely perfect and a very good sign of things to come....


 
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19.5.16

THE MEAT CO, WESTFIELD

When I went to review The Meat Co in Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, I had very high expectations. I'd read several other reviews saying it was the BEST steak in London. I think it's always a bit dangerous to try somewhere new having read things like that....!


The Meat Co is on the edge of the shopping centre and as soon as you're inside you forget where you are, in the best way possible! There's an elegant bar downstairs, then a sweeping staircase that takes you past floor to ceiling wine stores, into the restaurant upstairs, which is vast. There's at least 100 covers up there, but the long, thin room ensures you still feel like you're eating in a more exclusive place. Having taken our seats we perused the menu, trying to choose between the various steak options (chateaubriand, fillet with foie gras, bone marrow fillet, wagyu, rib-eye, T-bone, New Yorker, rump etc etc....) plus other meat options including hanging skewers, kangaroo, lamb loin, pork ribs, beefs ribs, burgers and more! We settled on a delicious bottle of wine that Hugo chose, Chocolate Box, and picked our meaty mains.

 

We wanted to try a few things so skipped the starter, though couldn't resist the mixed bread platter to nibble on til mains came. The three breads were chocolate and beetroot, cheesy garlic and potato and onion. Not a very "normal" bread selection but we were curious to try them, and actually they all worked. Even the chocolate, which was just a hint of a flavour after the beetroot.
 

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18.5.16

FLOWERS AT TOM'S KITCHEN, CHELSEA

Last week I popped in to Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea for a demo by the man himself, Tom Aikens, and to sample some of the special menu the restaurant are putting on for next weekend's RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We had a lovely evening learning how to cure and poach salmon, and make various sauces to go with it, culminating in trying the dish once Tom's had prepared it for us.

As all good evenings do, we started with a delicious and refreshing cocktail - the Chelsea Gardens, made from Hendrick's gin, elderflower, cucumber and apple juice, and topped with a flower.


If you visit Tom's Kitchen Chelsea between now and Sunday 29th May you'll get to see it in it's floral glory, as it's been dressed from head to toe in beautiful flower arrangements from Lavender Green. And from 23-29th May you can also taste the floral specials on the menu.





We sampled the marinated Loch Duart salmon with grapefruit and nasturtium, which was so good that it even converted Emily, who is normally not a salmon fan!




Other dishes on the floral menu are the poached chicken lemon risotto with lemon basil and marigolds, and for the sweet tooth there's sweetened ricotta with elderflower and rose poached rhubarb, as well as all the normal dishes from the a la carte menu. So if you're in the area for the flower or just fancy soaking in some floral vibes whilst eating delicious food, make sure you head to Tom's Kitchen
 
 
Tom's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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10.5.16

LOTS OF LOVELY BOXES

I've been sent a few things in boxes recently that I wanted to tell about.... bear with me, they're more exciting than they sound!

First up, a box of chocolates. Not just any chocolates though. These delicious chocolates from Pierre Hermé are part of a recent collaboration with the renowned French artist, Nicolas Buffe, who has created two imaginary characters from the kingdoms of the sun and the moon, and the story between them. The Pierre Hermé Paris chocolate boxes invite you to discover perfect chocolate bonbons, which have just the right contrast between their crisp coating and the soft ganache centre. There are five different boxes with unique characters, each of which reveals one of Pierre Hermé Paris signature flavours - Paineiras (pure origin Brazilian dark chocolate ganache enrobed in dark chocolate) takes the form of Helios; Infiniment Vanille (chocolate and vanilla ganache in dark chocolate) becomes Roxane; and under the Heart is the iconic Ispahan (chocolate and raspberry ganache, rose and litchi fruit paste and dark chocolate). The boxes start at around £24 and are not only beautiful but also packed full of delicious chocolates.
 
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9.5.16

SENOR CEVICHE, SOHO

Senor Ceviche is my kind of place for a fun night out with a girlfriend or three. It's in the perfect location for some post-shopping or pre-partying in Soho, it's fun, lively, they play great music, serve excellent cocktails and even better food that's made for sharing. I popped down with Bron a couple of weeks ago after being invited to review it and we made a pretty good dent on both the cocktail and food menu. There's something for everyone and you can have as much or as little as you like.

The food at Senor Ceviche is based around Peruvian BBQ and ceviche dishes and there's a good mix of the two on the menu. We started off with the "clasico" and the "senor ceviche" ceviches. Both are sea bream ceviche with aji limo tiger's milk, red onion, sweet potato puree and coriander, then the "senor ceviche" also has avocado, octopus and tempura baby squid. I love ceviche anyway but these were both excellent versions of it, with the tangy, fiery tiger's milk perfectly complementing the balance of fish and vegetables.

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28.4.16

SAKE NO HANA, MAYFAIR

When I went to Japan earlier this year I missed the cherry blossom season which is happening now. But it's fine, because Sake no Hana have brought the blossom to London. From now til the 18th of June their Mayfair based Japanese bar and restaurant has been transformed into a cherry blossom garden. You can sit under the intertwining cherry blossom branches, which are lit up by thousands of lights at night, and sample the specially created, limited edition Sakura menu. For £34 you can have a feast of really tasty Japanese food. The fixed menu consists of a welcome cocktail, bento box of soup, sushi and sashimi, main bento and pudding.

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22.4.16

MADE OF DOUGH, GOLDHAWK ROAD

Restaurant reviews are like buses for me (kind of, bear with me....!) They all seem to come at once. Autumn last year through to late winter seemed to be an influx of invites to review Japanese, or Japanese inspired restaurants, culminating in a food and sake trip to Japan in January. In November last year I went to Tuscany for all things olive oil, and the last couple of months have been filled with invites to Italian restaurants in London. It just so happens that I love both Japanese and Italian food (in fact, I love pretty much all food) so I'm certainly not complaining, I just think it's odd that they all come at once!

So a couple of Sundays ago I took Polly with me to bask in Spring sunshine at Made of Dough in Goldhawk Road, the pizza pop up that's happening on the We Feast site, next to the railway line. As 2015 London Pizza Festival champions I had high hopes for Made of Dough, who'll be moving a permanent site in south London once their residency at Market Yard is up on 15th May.

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21.4.16

THEO'S SIMPLE ITALIAN, EARL'S COURT

I love it when a good new restaurant opens in West London. Although there are some great places already, we're not as saturated with good eateries as Soho, or further East. And when that new restaurant (though it's not that new anymore as I'm a bit slow with my write up) is from one of my favourite chefs, then it's even better. Theo Randall's newest venture is Theo's Simple Italian, a casual dining restaurant at boutique hotel, Hotel Indigo, which is a couple of minutes walk from Earl's Court tube station. The restaurant is relaxed, yet chic, and has a deli that sells all of the produce used in their kitchens, plus homemade pastries in the morning and cakes, charcuterie and cheeses in the afternoon, so you can go home and (try to) recreate the delicious dinner you've had there. Theo's new book 'My Simple Italian' might help too! 
 
The food at Theo's Simple Italian focuses on using seasonal ingredients to create dishes that are vibrant and full of flavour. Everything is cooked "simply" - there are no twiddly bits or buffons of foam - just good, tasty plates of food that you'll want to go back for time and again. There's a lovely choice of Italian wines and lots of different craft beers to enjoy with as much or as little food as you fancy. The menu is divided up in to sections of plate size so you can pop in for a quick snack, or go all out and try a bit of everything, like we did! We started small (cicchetti) then worked our way through most of the rest of the menu. Cicchetti plates we tried included the totally addictive polenta chips with anchovy dressing; veal, beef and pork meatballs; calamari fritti; and the olive oil focaccia that's ridiculously good, and of course made on site.
 
 
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13.4.16

FERA at CLARIDGES, MAYFAIR

I think it's a sign that a restaurant is really good when Meryl Streep is sitting at the table next to you at dinner.... I went to Fera at Claridges to try out their amazing Bookatable deal, where you can get a glass of champagne and three courses for £39 per person at lunch Monday to Friday, or dinner starting before 7pm Sunday to Thursday, with Tara recently. No sooner had our starters been served, than Meryl Streep was shown to the table next to us. I don't really get star struck (I don't think I watch enough TV to even know "who" anyone is) but when it's one of the most famous actresses in the world it's a different story! Anyway, we remained cool, calm and collected, tried to ignore Mrs Hollywood next to us, and enjoyed one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

The menu for the Bookatable deal is a reduced version of the main Fera menu, with one veggie, one fish and one meat option per course. After our glass of perfectly cold bubbles we ordered our food. Starters were confit egg yolk, caramelised cabbage, oyster mushroom and wild garlic cream for pescetarian Tara. And hake and parsley mousse, radishes and pickled mushrooms for me. Not a dish that reads like something I would normally pick off a menu, but it was an absolute delight. The mousse was light and creamy, with a hint of fish and herbs rather than a big smack of them - which is what Simon Rogan's cooking is about - gentle, subtle flavours (if I could pickle vegetables the way Simon does I would be a very happy chef), and absolutely beautiful plates. Both the crockery itself and the food that was on it was stunning.


Tara's egg dish was also light as a feather but so full of flavour. The egg was perfectly confited and the wild garlic a wonderful background note that brought the dish together.



For mains I/the waiter convinced pescetarian Tara to go for the steamed cod with Fowey mussels, calcot onions and broccoli (rather than the caramelised cauliflower, Pablo beetroots, chicory and marigold veggie option) and I had Cotswold white chicken, buttered kale, salsify, fennel, jus and vinaigrette. Again, the ingredients were all so expertly cooked - my chicken had a slightly salty, golden skin with juicy white meat underneath. Tara's cod gently flaked with the touch of a fork while her mussels were plump and bright orange. Every element of every dish was faultless. And heavenly. So good in fact, that at points I totally forgot about our very famous neighbour!




The food at Fera is light yet still manages to fill you up. The plates are beautiful but you don't compromise size for flavour. Despite feeling full we absolutely had to sample some pudding. We shared the buttermilk custard with blood orange, and a cheese board which were the perfect end to a perfect meal. I very rarely say that somewhere is 10/10 but Fera really ticked all the food boxes. The only thing missing was a bit of music. The restaurant was eerily quiet at times, but then I guess that meant there was nothing to distract from the food. Except Meryl....!! 


 
Fera - Claridge's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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11.4.16

DIPLOMATICO RUM TASTING

The Thursday before Easter I headed to Merchant House in the City to join Lucy, a few lovely bloggers and rum expert Jon Lister to learn all about my favourite rum - Diplomatico. Having already spent a wonderful evening with the Diplomatico family, I knew I was in for a rum fuelled treat.

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