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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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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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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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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If you're mad about mushrooms and want a really fun evening out, I've got just the pop up for you! On Saturday 25th June, the wonderful Liz O'Keefe (who I met when I wrote a recipe for her peppers cookbook) is hosting her second mushroom inspired pop up. This one is "summer" and I went to the "spring" pop up to check it out. Liz sources excellent UK produce and creates a stunner of a menu. The menu remains secret until the night but I know her June pop up features strawberries and raspberries from Ladysden's farm in Kent, heritage tomatoes from Thanet Earth in Kent, Madecasse chocolate, Westlands' edible flowers, Chase Distillery vodka, gin and wine, and girolles, ceps, Caesar mushrooms, truffles and shameji.
At the Spring pop up we sampled delights including amuse bouche of mushroom caviar, homemade bread rolls with a secret morel in the centre, the most delicious pulled Suffolk salt marsh lamb with St George's mushrooms topped with purple asparagus and wild garlic salad, and orange blossom mousse with dark chocolate and honeycomb, to name a just a few of the dishes we ate!

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When the lovely people from Diageo got in touch asking if I'd write a blog post about cocktails it wasn’t too much of a hard decision to make, especially when they mentioned martinis – one of my favourite cocktails due to the many different flavours and guises it comes in. I love an espresso martini after a big dinner, and never say no to a fruity or spicy variety when I'm out for drinks with the girls. As it’s National Martini Day (yes, that’s a thing – a very good thing) coming up on the 19th June, I wanted to share a recipe for my absolute favourite martini. It’s the perfect cocktail for hot summer evenings, and has a bit of spice, a little sweetness and is utterly refreshing.
Makes 2 chilli, passion fruit and cucumber martinis
For the syrup:
6 passion fruits
2 red chillies
100g caster sugar
100ml water
For the cocktail:
100ml Smirnoff vodka
25ml fresh lemon juice
50ml cucumber juice (blend a cucumber then strain the juice through muslin)
To serve:
1 passion fruit, halved
2 slices of red chilli
Make a passion fruit and chilli syrup by chopping the chillies and taking the seeds and juice from the passion fruits. Add to 100g sugar and 100g water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes then leave to steep overnight. Pour the liquid through a sieve into a cocktail shaker and add the vodka, lemon juice and vodka. Top up with ice and shake til cold. Pour the cocktail mix into martini glasses, top with half a passion fruit and a slice of chilli to serve.
If this doesn’t tickle your fancy then there’s loads more martini ideas, recipes and inspiration here.
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A few weeks ago I was invited to a supper club at the Bert & May showroom in Hackney. Bert & May make and supply beautiful handmade artisan tiles, engineered woods, natural paints and furniture, bathrooms and kitchens. Recently Bert & May have designed a stunning barge that's parked up alongside their Hackney showroom. They've now launched a monthly supper club which I was lucky enough to attend in April. With welcome drinks flowing, and delicious canapés being passed around we sat on the barge and watched the world go by.

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If you want to learn more about sake and pairing it with foods from all over the world, then head down to the piazza in Angel Central shopping centre this weekend to find out more. You can taste sake from some of Japan's top sake breweries, see live cooking demos, taste delicious food and learn how to make the tastiest sake cocktails.

On Thursday there's a macaroon piping masterclass at 3pm from Atelier des Chefs, followed by sake cocktail making with Chef Events at 5pm. Friday's activities include Pratap from That Hungry Chef making Bengali chicken tikka paté on toast from 3-4pm and Eccie from Karma Cans will be dishing up ceviche samples from 5-6pm. I'll be there on Saturday and Sunday from 5-6pm showing you how to make delicious umami canapés that go perfectly with a glass of sake, and from 12-1pm ex-Fat Duck stagier Andy Chapman will be making a chocolate water ganache with crispy rice and matcha on both weekend days. Pratap is also back there with his Bengali chicken tikka paté on Saturday from 3-4pm.

So come say hi, get some free nibbles, and sample lots of different types of sake. It's a free event and runs from 3-7pm on Thursday and Friday, and from 12-7pm on Saturday and Sunday.

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The Art of Dining know how to do a pop up restaurant. Their 80s Office Party I went to will long remain in my memory (despite the copious amounts of booze consumed...) - the food they serve is delicious and the immersive experience of the whole evening is unlike anything I've experienced elsewhere. Which is why you need to book tickets to their next event - Fire and Feast, which starts its two week run at the London Dungeons on Tuesday 14th June. It's nearly sold out so get in there quick!

I went down to the London Dungeons for a sneaky preview of what's to come. Firstly, I have to say that the London Dungeons are not where I thought they were.... Apparently they moved. Three years ago. So having completely ignored the email from the PRs, in my "I don't need to read that, I know where the dungeons are" state, I arranged to meet Julie on Tooley St, near the "dungeons". They're not there anymore. The London Dungeons are now at County Hall, right next to the London Eye, so if you go to Fire and Feast that's where you need to head.

We finally arrived at the correct location, and had an excellent hour of quaffing bubbly, and going on a tour of the dungeons' new show - Escape the Great Fire. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it was a really excellent show! Lots of laughs and screams, and plenty for you to work up an appetite for the feast that followed.

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There's a new-ish company in London that is literally the company of my dreams. Eat First are a food delivery company like no other. They don't go and collect your food from restaurants - they have their own kitchen, run by top professional chefs, where they make your food to order. You can order on the day you want food, or if you know you've got people coming round and want some top quality dishes to serve you can order in advance. Oh, and they also do brunch. And Bloody Marys! Delivered straight to your door exactly when you want them. Sounds pretty good?!

Eat First have recently teamed up with Noemi from Berlin Brunch to launch the brunch part of their delivery service. So if you know you're going out on a Friday and can't face cooking on the Saturday you can put your order for brunch (and booze) in during the week, and it will come straight to you when you need it. We went to The Little Yellow Door to check out Noemi's dishes, and sample some (all) of the drinks on offer too. Starting with a Bloody Mary made with clear tomato juice - using cyrofiltration (freezing the vegetable then straining it as it defrosts) - creating the most tomato-y flavoured tomato juice I've ever tried. Mix that with Our London vodka, some pickles and the horseradish sauce mix that comes with the drink in the delivery, and you've got a seriously good Bloody Mary.

We sampled all of the brunch items that Noemi has created for Eat First. My absolute favourite was the smoked mackerel pate with grated apple, fresh horseradish and rye bread. Other highlights included The Berliner - a platter of cheeses, cured meats and veggies, and the sweet potato and feta toasts. Beetroot hummus and avocado was brilliant, and for the sweet toothed, there was almond butter and banana with quark and chia granola.

There are other dishes available for brunch that have been created by head chef Benn Hodges, like the asparagus frittata with béchamel, and the flock and herd sausage ragout. Lunch and dinner dishes include salmon teriyaki, rare roast beef salad and spring lamb with vegetables to name just a few. And wine, beer and fresh juices and smoothies.

Eat First are revolutionising the food delivery market, offering top quality food made using the freshest ingredients, and I really like the ordering system - allowing you to plan ahead, or order off the cuff. Check out the dishes you can order from there here.
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If you want finger lickin, healthy chicken I've got just the spot for you. Earlier this year Cocotte was opened in Westbourne Grove by a group of Parisian friends who lamented the lack of healthy rotisserie chicken joints in London. In Paris they're a common occurrence, but not so much in London as KFC and deep fried everything seems to take precedence. So Ziad, Capucine, Eglantine and Romain (who created all the recipes) set up shop and have been dishing up their delicious chicken dishes in the their restaurant (and via Deliveroo) since. Cocotte source all their chickens from a free range farm in La Chapelle d'Andaine in France and then marinade them for 24 hours in their secret herb and spice blend before cooking them on the rotisserie.

Hazel and I popped in on a rainy Monday to eat all the chicken and have a catch up. The menu is short and sweet - you can get a whole (£22), half (£12) or quarter (£7) rotisserie cooked, juicy and tasty chicken with a variety of homemade sauces including garlic mayo, BBQ, Cocotte mustard, chicken gravy, spicy, green or truffle mayo, all of which are £1. Sides range from the healthy - The Nathalie salad (kale, roasted yellow pepper, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, sesame, lime juice, walnut oil and tahini) and the Nini's (broccoli, broad beans, green beans, basil, olive oil, mushrooms and lemon dressing), to the not-so-healthy but bloomin' delicious mac n cheese. We shared a half chicken with the spicy sauce and truffle mayo, a mac n cheese and the The Nini's salad with extra avocado, which was more than enough for two of us. The chicken was expertly cooked and seasoned and the sauces were spot on. Gooey mac n cheese and a bowlful of green goodness was all we needed to go with it.

Cocotte is light and lovely inside, and perfect for either a quick pit stop and bite to eat or a more leisurely meal with mates, sharing one of everything with some cocktails on the side. They're open from midday til 10pm every day so next time you're craving really good rotisserie chicken why not head to Cocotte?Cocotte Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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It's no secret that I love Japanese food. And even less of a secret is my fondness for a good cocktail. So put the two together and I'm a very happy girl. Koji - which ticks both these boxes - in Parsons Green, seems to be a bit of a secret.... I'd never heard of it until researching sake cocktails for a piece I wrote for Time Out, but when they read my piece they invited me down to sample the cocktails and food in person. I went along with Lucy the night before heading to Tresco to do a weekend of pop ups, and we had the most delicious feast of delicate yet punchy Japanese food with punchy yet delicate cocktails!

Koji have an ex-Nobu chef in their kitchen and you can really tell there's someone who knows what they're doing there. Every dish was exquisite, and the whole experience heightened by being in such a gorgeous setting - if you want to impress a date then head straight to Koji. We started with cocktails in the elegant bar area, which is lit by huge feather covered lights. When you go to Koji (which you really should if you're anything like me about good cocktails and Japanese food) order the lemongrass and chilli martini. The perfect balance of zesty and spicy it left our lips tingling in all the right ways. We didn't get round to trying it but the watermelon martini also sounds divine.

The food at Koji is Japanese,with a modern twist. The menu's divided into snacks, hot and cold tapas, robata grill and various forms of sushi and sashimi. Being the good (greedy) reviewers that we are, we tried to sample something from each section. Starting with the most wonderful soft shell crab and asparagus summer roll. Light, fresh and expertly rolled it was a great start to what turned out to be a top notch meal.  

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I've got a roast potato confession to make.... they're always the part of a roast that I don't finish and leave most of on my plate... Blasphemous to some, but I find roast portions so big at pubs and restaurants that I'd rather eat all the meat and veg, than fill up on the roasties, despite the fact that I really like them! I normally eat one or two, and obviously, if I've cooked the roast myself, will only serve myself what I'm going to eat, so others can get their fill. But there is, as always, an exception to the rule. My absolute favourite version of roast potatoes are hasselback potatoes. They look great, taste amazing and have all that extra surface area that crisps up and gets all sorts of delicious.

If you don't know what hasselbacks are, they're the "hedgehog" potato. They're much easier to make than they look as well. You can have them with roasts, steak, fish, meat, or one of my favourite ways is one their own with salad, drizzled with loads of sauce (normally salsa verde or aioli) that you can dunk each slice of potato in.

The easiest way I've found of prepping hasselbacks is as follows:

Take 4-5 new potatoes per person. Place one potato on a chopping board between two wooden spoons running parallel, so the potato is between the wooden spoon handles. Chop the potato, til the knife hits the wooden spoon handles. This should mean you end up with a potato with slices through the top two thirds, but still all joined together at the bottom. Repeat with all the potatoes. Once all the potatoes are sliced, brush them with a mixture of olive oil and melted butter and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes for 20 minutes at 200C, then remove from the oven and brush them again with the oil and butter mix, making sure to get right down inside the slices. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy. If you're cooking them as part of a roast you can add them to the same pan as the meat to cook, if there's enough room, and they'll absorb all the delicious roasting juices.

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