24.11.17

YAUATCHA, SOHO

Without a doubt my favourite Chinese meals in London have been at HKK which has sadly recently closed it's doors. Part of the Hakkasan Group, and with its own Michelin star, it was a smart but friendly and very slick Chinese doing fixed menus to die for. Beautiful plates of food each with their own story and history were paired perfectly with drinks, giving you a meal and a night to remember on every visit. So having shed a little tear about its closing, it was time to find my new favourite Hakkasan restaurant. And when I was invited to check out Yauatcha in Soho, my problems were solved!

I'd heard good things, and they too have their own star, so I headed down to Soho, to see if it could live up to my HKK dreams.

Yauatcha have two sites in London - Soho and Broadgate Circle in the City. The Soho site is vast. A large, bright open ground floor level, with a slightly darker, moodier cavernous sprawling out downstairs. We sat on the ground floor level and kicked things off with tangy, refreshing mocktail (it was pre Kili and I was on a bit of a cleanse!) Closely followed by plate after plate of incredible food. I'd found my "new" HKK!

We started with one of my favorites - the venison puff. I order these whenever I go for dim sum and Yauatcha's were the best I've tried. Light, flaky pastry encased rich, gamey venison meat, so soft it all just melted in the mouth. Dunked in a ludicrous amount of chilli oil I could eat these more often than I should! Whenever I think of dim sum an image of steamed, light dumplings comes to mind, but whenever I get to a dim sum restaurant it's these that are first on the list. The wagyu beef version that Yauatcha do is also excellent - a strong meaty, fatty alternative to the gamey venison. 


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28.9.17

TEQUILA + MEZCAL FEST 7-8 OCT

There aren't many dates that get put in my diary months in advance and stay there, no questions asked. But Tequila and Mezcal Fest 2017 was one such marker penned date. And there's not long to wait for it now. Next weekend - Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th October - sees the festival of my dreams return to London, for two days of Mexico's finest showcased at The Boiler House in the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Not only will over 50 of Mexico's top tequila and mezcal producers (including Patron tequila's master distiller - Francisco Alcarez - on his first ever trip to the UK) be on hand to talk you through the production, tasting and pairings of Mexico's very best drink brands, there'll also be food from temper (goat tacos), Barrio (al pastor tacos) and Cafe Pacifico (a selection of pork, beef chorizo and/or veggie tacos), mariachi bands, Mexican art, folklore dancers and even an Aztec ceremony! 

Whilst sipping on your classic tequila cocktails (Margaritas and Palomas) you can grab yourself a Mexican brunch, or get stuck into a Bloody Maria or Michelada (beer with lime and spices). Adriana Cavita from Peyotito London and Ibiza will be doing demos on how to make the perfect guacamole, and the secret behind Mexican ceviche - 12:45 on Saturday, and there will be talks and seminars on topics like "What the f*ck is mezcal" - 15:15 on Sunday, "How to make the perfect Margarita", and "The tequila masterclass" - 18:00 on Saturday. 

Saturdays sessions run from 12-4.30pm and 5.30-9.30pm and Sunday's session is 1-7pm. Tickets are £20 and include samples of tequila and mezcal and free entry to seminars and masterclasses. But I reckon the bright idea is to go VIP - for £40 a ticket you get fast track entry (which you'll want if the event's as popular as it was last year), two cocktails, two dishes, samples of tequila and mezcal, and free entry to all the seminars and masterclasses.

The currency for the festival is pesos, so get ready to change your money at the door - and a percentage of the proceeds from the festival's ticket sales will be sent to The Cruz Roja Mexicana and TOPOSMX to support the current relief efforts in Mexico following the recent devastating earthquakes. 


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15.9.17

CLIMBING KILIMANJARO

If you follow my blog then you may be aware there hasn't been much to follow recently.... starting a new job, getting a dog, lots of summer pop ups and catering gigs and deciding to climb the highest free standing mountain in the world are all excuses I can throw into the mix. But I'm back. With a big one! And lots more to follow so keep reading over the next few weeks for new restaurant reviews, trips to Italy with Riso Gallo, Cotes du Rhone fueled evenings and more. But today's post is all about the mountain...

In August last year Lucy and I volunteered to help some friends with a pop up they were doing to raise money for a small charity called Trekstock, who support people in their 20s and 30s who have or have had cancer. Off we headed to Palm 2 in Clapton to spend the day cooking and making cocktails for 60 guests. On the night of the event we met the CEO of Trekstock, and after a couple of glasses of wine (the beginnings of all good decisions) we'd signed up to the 2017 Kilimanjaro challenge. And that was that. A year later, after a mega fundraising effort which included 5am car boot sales, our own huge Hot X BBQ pop up we put on with Hardeep Singh Kohli and Neil Rankin for 60 people on Easter Friday (which we raised £3.5k from alone), and donations from many generous family and friends, the departure date rolled around and off to Tanzania we went. The trip was organized by Trekstock through 360 Expeditions who ran the actual trek itself and arranged everything from the minute we landed at Kilimanjaro airport. Before we left we'd had all the information we needed with regards equipment, training prep and medical requirements. Everything was covered and all our questions answered. So we were good to go.



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17.8.17

FREAK SCENE, FARRINGDON

I've been a fan of Scott Hallsworth for a while. The Marble Arch branch of Kurobuta, where he used to be in charge, isn't far from my flat and I've been there to enjoy their wacky take on fusion food several times. So I was very happy to hear that his new venture, Freak Scene, was due to open less than five minutes walk from my office. I popped in last week for a quick lunch to try a couple of dishes and will definitely be going back while it's there. Freak Scene is just behind Fabric in Farringdon for the next couple of months, serving up "curious Asian plates" like the chilli crab and avocado wonton bombs I started off with. Clean, fresh, punchy flavours of soft crab and avocado in a crispy deep fried wonton wrapper. 


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8.8.17

CHICK'N, BAKER STREET

Chick n Sours, in Covent Garden (and originally Stoke Newington) is hands down my favourite place to go for fried chicken in London. Top quality meat from free range, happy chickens is juicy and crunchy and doused in spicy, tangy vinegar based sauces, and served with pickles and watermelon and smacked cucumbers. Heaven. So imagine my joy to find out that the geniuses behind Chick n Sours, Carl and David, had a new trick up their a sleeves. A fast food joint, serving burgers, wings, chips doused in melty cheese, spicy slaws, lettuce covered in blue cheese and all the other delicious bits and bobs, a mere 10 minutes bus ride from my flat..... uh oh! 

Chik'n is just as I said - fast food, but the very best version of fast food you can possibly imagine. Higher welfare chicken is fried in rapeseed oil (no trans fat and lots of Omega 3 = as healthy as you can get when it comes to deep frying), which is all recycled after being used for frying. In fact, the whole restaurant is run super responsibly, with staff on proper wages, care of duty when sourcing ingredients and getting rid of rubbish, and prices start at £4.95 for the straight up chicken burger (which comes with lettuce, buttermilk and herb mayo, and pickles). And I can't be the only one who thinks these are all good things - there's been a queue pouring out the door every time I've gone past, but the queue moves quickly, so don't let that put you off!

Over a couple of visits I've now worked my way through the majority of the menu. The Chik'n Tiki Sandwich, with hot sauce, buttermilk mayo, pineapple, bacon and cheese is amazing. It's all the things a chicken burger should be - so juicy and zingy, with good crunch and all held together by a burger that stands up to its contents. Then there are the burger options with some or various of the components of the Tiki, plus extras, my favourite being the Chik'n Hot - Sriracha sour cream, lettuce and spicy slaw.


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24.7.17

NIFE IS LIFE

Nife is Life got in touch with me recently and asked if they could send me some produce from their online Italian deli. After a quick peruse of their site I was keen to try out some of their goodies so when a big box of meats, cheeses, fresh Italian tomatoes and other delicacies arrived the next day I got stuck straight in.

Having raided my mum's veg patch that weekend, the first thing I made was a huge bag of spinach, walnut and pecorino "pesto". Using this as my base I did a "pesto" pasta topped with a huge creamy burrata on night one, then a spelt base pizza with "pesto", fresh mozzarella and Italian tomatoes on night two. Recipes below....

SPINACH PESTO
Large bag of spinach leaves - I used the long leaf spinach from mum's garden but any spinach will do!
Small handful of walnuts
Small handful of grated pecorino
Big glug of really good olive oil
Pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz together. Taste and add more pecorino and pepper as needed, and add enough oil so that you get a good pesto like consistency. When it's to your liking pop into a jar, add a layer of oil and it will keep for a week or so in the fridge.

For the pasta, I cooked up some penne, stirred it in with the pesto and a bit of the cooking water, then topped it with torn up, creamy as you get burrata.


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29.6.17

WESTERNS LAUNDRY, HIGHBURY

I'm pretty spoilt when it comes to eating out. I get invited to review lots of lovely, and some not so lovely places, and I book myself in to the newest openings to check them out as soon as I can get into them. So, it takes a lot to impress me. There are restaurants I like and appreciate and am glad I've been to but probably wouldn't go to again, and then there are places like Westerns Laundry, where before I've even left on my first visit I'm plotting my next one and lamenting the fact that it's not in West London where I live.

Westerns Laundry also snuck up on me. I hadn't heard of it, I hadn't heard anything about it until I read Grace Dent's review of it in ES Magazine two weeks ago. I booked a table for the first evening that Lucy and I were free and headed there last night for a feast of epic proportions. The only problem we really had being what to choose from the menu! The menu changes daily and features sharing plates of seasonal goodies - lots of shellfish, but also delicate fish dishes and more hearty meat ones. We gave it a pretty good go!


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28.6.17

AEG MASTERY RANGE

Having been running pop ups in venues all over London and further afield, for over three years, I like to think I've got the hang of ovens - I've used many, many different brands, types and styles of oven and however good they are and well they work I didn't think I could be truly impressed by a new oven. Until I went to see AEG's new Mastery Range at Grand Designs Live, and again at Taste of London. The new ovens that AEG have designed are like a new a sports car - one that's meant for F1 but has slipped through into the commercial market and is ready to be used in your kitchen today. They are SO exciting!

I've now had the chance to see the ovens in action twice. First off was under the guide of Jozef Youssef at Grand DesignsLive where I learnt all about the sous vide function of the ProCombi Plus steam ovens. AEG have created an oven where you can cook meat, fish and vegetables in vacuum sealed bags to give a perfect cooking result every time, whilst retaining all the flavor of the food. With to the 0.5 degree accurate temperature, you can vacuum seal your food with whatever herbs, sauce or flavours you want, pop it in the oven and it will come out exactly the same every time - delicious! Not only great for cooking, the vacuum drawer, which is part of the Mastery Range, is also brilliant for preserving foods. By vacu-packing fresh food, you can majorly extend the fridge life of herbs, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy, as by removing the oxygen it takes longer for food to go bad. Jozef rustled up some super tasty and zesty octopus salads, having cooked the tentacles sous vide, followed by bao buns (cooked with the steam function) stuffed with rich, melt in the mouth pork that had also been cooked sous vide. You really can cook anything sous vide, meaning you can create restaurant worthy dishes at home - look out for lots of sous vide cooked foods on my pop up menus soon! And did I mention they do a self cleaning range?! Yup, no more harsh chemicals, overnight soaking and scrubbing.  

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30.5.17

DEAD DOLL'S HOUSE, ISLINGTON


Summer seems to be finally eeking its way to London and what better way to celebrate than with a Bacchanalian feast. According to Google Bacchanalian means characterized or given to drunken revelry which seems an apt way to celebrate this heatwave/the summer. So The Dead Dolls House on Upper Street are putting on a Bacchanalian Feast every first Thursday of the month. And drunken revelry or not, it's definitely worth a visit for the food alone. The venue is beautiful too - black and white chevron tablecloths made stunning by the simple yet plentiful strings of fairy lights.

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11.5.17

SISU ROOFTOP, MARBLE ARCH

The so called start of summer sees rooftop venues spring up across London. And typically, the same week they all open, British weather decides it's not playing ball and what feels like winter returns. But anyone who's lived here for longer than about a week knows that's how it goes, and is/should be prepared for all eventualities! And luckily, the people behind the best rooftops are prepared too, especially at Sisu on Oxford Street, where I headed on a wild and windy night last week. Perched on top of the rooftops near Marble Arch, Sisu is a gorgeous space, complete with its own hut, and a marquee tent to keep the bad weather out. 

Another reason Sisu are winning at the rooftop game is their cocktail offering. There are fruity, punchy, jam jar cocktail options galore, including my favourite, the Super Size Ohio - made with Bulldog gin, maraschino, grapefruit juice and bitter lemon. Oh, and they have a coin operated Negroni and Old Fashioned machine....!


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9.5.17

BRUNCH at ROUX AT THE LANDAU

Sunday brunch is the epitome of a happy, lazy weekend. Because I work full time and run pop up restaurants, it's often the case that I work 6+ days a week, so Sunday becomes my only day off. Therefore, what I do on and who I spend my Sunday with is even more important. So a late brunch (basically a late lunch) with my man, at one of my favourite chefs' restaurants is a pretty good way to celebrate Sunday. On the hottest day of the year so far we headed over to Roux at the Landau to sample their "Farmhouse Sunday Brunch" - a feast of epic proportions that is as delicious as it is generous. The whole restaurant is transformed, with huge buffets of colourful starters and puddings, and a guitarist playing and singing throughout the meal.

After being shown to our seats by the ever so attentive, and plentiful, staff, and being offered a choice of bubbles or Bloody Mary (both choosing the latter), we were invited to help ourselves to starters. These included beetroot "remoulade" with egg mimosa and watercress, Cornish oysters "mignonette", whisky cured salmon, pate en croute, charcuterie, Jersey Royal potato salad, green bean and smoked duck salad, black quinoa and caper salad, and octopus carpaccio. We picked our favourites from the selection and devoured plates stacked high with salads, meats and salmon. My personal favourite was the beetroot, and the French bean and smoked duck, though it was all excellent. 



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5.5.17

SUMMERS, KILBURN

It's hard not to sound biased sometimes when I write about restaurants, cos a lot of the ones I go to and love, are run by friends of mine. But that's never what sways me. What makes me love any restaurant is the food. That's why I go. To eat good food. Sure, the service and ambiance and drinks list all add to it, but ultimately, for me, it is always about the food. Which is why I've totally fallen for Summers. Yes, it's run by a mate, and yes, I got invited to try the food for free, but do you know what, I'll be going back and paying my hard earned money to eat there over and over again.

Summers is a dining room above the Sir Colin Campbell pub on Kilburn High Road. It's not the most glamorous location, and possibly not the easiest to get to, depending on where you're coming from, but you should make the journey and go. The "shabby, not quite chic, in the best possible way" dining room holds 20 covers. The menu of small to large plates changes daily, showcasing the best of the British produce available, and the wine list offers easily priced bottles at £25, £35, £45 and £55. And they make a mean negroni.

We picked a few bits off the menu, but could've worked our way through the whole thing had we been there with another couple to help share the load! Ox tongue, chicory and watercress was mustardy and rich and tangy. I know so many would steer clear of tongue but done as well as it is at Summers, it's absolutely worth ordering.



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