31.3.16

THEO RANDALL at the INTERCONTINENTAL, MAYFAIR

I've been very lucky recently and have spent two evenings eating very delicious food cooked by one of the loveliest chefs I've met. A couple of Tuesdays ago was my Theo Randall experience part 1 at The Intercontinental in Mayfair where I was invited for drinks, a cooking demo by Theo and a sit down four course dinner. This was followed by a very different evening the next Tuesday at his new restaurant, Theo's Simple Italian in Earl's Court, which I'll write about in a separate post.

So back to Theo part 1. A group of lots of lovely bloggers and I were invited to the newly refurbished Theo Randall at the Intercontinental. We started with drinks in the stunning bar area which has undergone a significant redesign to incorporate a sommelier’s table, where all the garnishes, bitters and mixers for the cocktails are kept. There's a revised bar menu which offers authentic and innovative Italian cocktails, including my absolute favourite, the Negroni. And the InterContinental's Negroni is one of the best I've tried. The perfect balance of bitter, citrus and punchy, I could drink far too many of these! If you want to go for drinks at the bar there's also a few small dishes and antipasti so you can go just for drinks and nibbles. But that would be silly with all the delicious main food on offer!

We headed through to the smaller of two private rooms where Theo demonstrated how to cook the perfect risotto - don't use butter to start with (it'll burn), you don't need wine if you have good stock, be generous with the stock and use the freshest of vegetables that have been pre cooked so they don't bring the cooking temperature down in the pan. Whilst he was showing us this we nibbled on deep fried polenta with chilli and anchovy, which may well be my new favourite snack, and battered courgette slices.
 

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29.3.16

THE ART OF DINING 80s OFFICE PARTY

Last Thursday I had all the fun with some of my favourite people at The Art of Dining's 80s Office Party pop up dinner/party. Taking place in The Rose Lipman building on De Beauvoir Road, the place had been transformed into an actual 80s office space. Desks made up the tables, and projectors, photocopiers and filing cabinets were strewn around the room along with all the office supplies, all of which had been designed by Alice Hodge, one half of The Art of Dining team. It was the most dramatized pop up I've been to and they pulled it off so well. The night was led by Amanda Bellingham - "The Margaret Thatcher of Condiments" - a fictional female powerhouse and boss of The Pickle Company Ltd, who led us through tasks such as naming her new pickle company and drawing portraits of her that were then projected on to the wall. Her antics were great as in between course fillers and kept us occupied and very entertained.

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28.3.16

EASTER EGG FUDGE w LAVOLIO

When I was sent some Lavolio nutty Easter eggs recently I was asked to bake cupcakes using them, but had another idea. So I've got two recipes for you today - the cupcakes I should've made, and the other naughty Easter treat that I came up with. You should really try both recipes - the cupcake recipe is from the wonderful Bake with Maria - a baking lab where you can book private group classes (perfect for birthdays, hen parties, office outings etc) to learn how to make the most delicious cakes, bread, pizzas, macarons and all sorts of baked goods. I've been on a chocolate workshop there and learnt so much, as well coming away with lots of goodies.  

Lavolio are the perfect brand to pair with Maria's recipe. All of the Lavolio chocolates are lovingly handmade, and take up to five days to make starting with the heart - toasted almonds, which are then coated in dark chocolate, hazelnut gianduia chocolate or white amaretto chocolate, one layer at a time before being delicately spun to form a crunchy sugar shell that preserves the chocolate coated nut inside. These are their Easter special Nutty Easter Eggs, but other products in the range include Fruit Garden - a collection of decadent confectionery inspired by the classical Roman spice routes using cinnamon, saffron, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and a selection of other fine flavours from East and West; and Arabian Nights -  roses, violets, lemons, almonds and pine-nuts wrapped in a delicate sweet shell.

The recipe I've made is for a nutty, peanut fudge which I've jazzed up by adding the Lavolio Nutty Easter Eggs to create the perfect post Easter indulgence which is super simple to make.

Makes 24 squares

200g coconut butter
150g smooth peanut (or almond) butter
4 tbsp. maple syrup
Lavolio Nutty Easter Eggs

Melt the coconut butter, nut butter and maple syrup in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly, until it's completely melted and combined. Grease a small square Tupperware with coconut oil and pour the melted mixture into it. Once it's started to cool poke a few eggs into the mixture, then refrigerate for 2 hours or more. Turn the Tupperware upside down to tip the block of fudge out, then using a sharp knife cut into small squares. Keep the squares in the fridge until you're ready to eat/gift them.

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24.3.16

PHARMACY 2, VAUXHALL

I can always rely on Lucy to get us booked in to the most recently opened, hyped restaurants in London. We were there when the now almost impossible to get into Hoppers opened, and last week we went to check out Pharmacy 2, the reinvention of Damien Hirst's first restaurant (Pharmacy) that closed in 2003. Pharmacy 2 is near Vauxhall, located within Hirst's Newport Street Gallery. The food side of the restaurant is run by Mark Hix and you can see his influence all over the menu. The food is very Hix (I've heard people moan that it's just like any other Hix restaurant, but a chef is always going to have his own style that's discernible across his restaurants) and we loved all the dishes we tried. One thing that makes it different to other Hix restaurants is not the amount of art in the space, as all of Hix's place are pretty full of art, but the subject matter. Pharmacy 2 features work from some of the Hirst's most iconic series including the Medicine Cabinets and butterfly Kaleidoscope paintings. There are cabinets stuffed with pills, and the whole place has an almost surgical feel to it whilst still being quirky and relaxed.


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23.3.16

DANILO CORTELLINI w RISO GALLO

A few weeks ago I headed to Wandsworth with Julie for a Friday night of feasting on delicious Italian food cooked by Masterchef The Professionals finalist, Danilo Cortellini, using quality Italian produce supplied by Riso Gallo (who are one of the oldest rice growing companies in Italy). The event was held at Venturi's Table, a cookery school by day and the perfect spot for an intimate pop up dinner, as we all sat around the large table where the food was being prepped. We were welcomed with a glass of prosecco and a delicious, truffly arancini before taking our seats.

Danilo had prepared a veritable feast for us, starting with a colourful burrata filled tortellini served with raw, sweet and juicy Sicilian red prawns which cooked slightly in the smoked artichoke broth that was poured over them, all of which was washed down with a glass of Albizzia Chardonnay.

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18.3.16

BLACK DICE, MAYFAIR

When somewhere in London has been open for nearly 20 years, and is still going strong, that's a pretty good sign. Places come and go so quickly in London and just when you've found your favourite new restaurant/bar/hang out it seems to close or move. However I've got a new favourite bar and it's not going anywhere! Black Dice is the newest addition to the Momo collection on Heddon Street, having opened a year ago and been flourishing ever since under the management of Michael Lucombe (who used to look after the bar when it was the famous Kemia bar). Upstairs is Momo - the main restaurant, and a gorgeous North African inspired tea room with low seats, little tables and beautiful lighting. Downstairs is Black Dice - a late night bar open Wednesday to Saturday from 7pm til late that also serves food and has live music on Wednesday nights. I went along to try out the food with some friends recently and discovered great eats, excellent cocktails and the kind of bar I can see myself hanging out in a lot. It really is my perfect spot for cocktails, yummy eats and dates with friends.

The menu at Black Dice is similar to that at Momo, with a few tweaks and extra dishes (merguez tacos and stuffed baby squid both sound amazing), and is available til 11pm each night. We tried a selection of the cold and hot mezze, which range from £5-12, and were really impressed. Everything was packed with flavour, super fresh and made with great quality ingredients. We shared plates of crab tacos, stuffed with crab meat, avocado, bergamot, coriander, tomatoes, onions and mayo:


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17.3.16

TANNER & CO, BERMONDSEY

To be totally honest I'm not really sure where to start with this review. I went to Tanner & Co on Bermondsey Street a couple of weeks ago with Bron as I was invited there to check it out, and although the food wasn't bad, and we had a lovely night catching up, I also wasn't totally blown away by it.

Let's start from the beginning.... Bron arrived about 15 minutes before I did (I was running late) and was shown to the table. She was then completely ignored until I arrived. It would've been nice/welcoming if she'd been offered a drink during this time. When I did arrive we were talked through the menu and ordered a cocktail each. They were ok, but not worth the £10.50 they charge for them. I had the Spring Heeled Jack - cava, kings ginger, rhubarb shrub and apple juice, and Bron had a St Saviours Mire - ketel one vodka, damson gin, strawberries, honey, quince and cava. When the wine list starts at £20 a bottle I think their cocktail pricing is a little steep.

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16.3.16

MY APRIL POP UP RESTAURANTS

My next pop up restaurant takes place this Saturday for 36 guests who managed to get tickets before it sold out a couple of weeks ago. However, I've got two dates in April that still have tickets available, so wanted to let you know about them in case you want to come!

First off is Saturday 2nd April at Angie's Little Food Shop in Chiswick, where I'm hosting a Sipsmith themed dinner. I'm using something to do with Sipsmith in each course - their lovely gin that's made a stone's throw from my venue to cure the fish for the starter; no alcohol per se in the main, but I am using a lot of the botanicals that Sipsmith use to make their gin, to cure the goat meat; and for pudding I'm topping my tart yet creamy sweet lemon possets with a jelly made with Sipsmith's sloe gin. And of course there'll be Sipsmith cocktails to start. As always, if you want to come but can't or don't eat anything on the menu just let me know when you book and I can send you alternate options. The full menu for the 2nd is:

Sparkling welcome cocktail made with Sipsmith gin
 
Sipsmith gin cured trout served on samphire with homemade bread
 
Goat marinated in Sipsmith botanicals, including lemon peel, orange peel, juniper berries, almonds and coriander seed, on a bed of pearl barley and spring onion, with purple sprouting broccoli and watercress salad
 
Rhubarb and lemon posset topped with sloe gin and lemon jelly, rhubarb jam, lemon shortbreads
 
British cheeseboard, homemade salted biscuits, chutney
 
Sipsmith fruit pastilles, teapigs tea or coffee 
 
Tickets are available here and are £40 for four courses, a cocktail and homemade fruit pastilles and tea or coffee. The evening is bring your own booze, and I can recommend wine pairings for the menu. Everything is made from scratch by me, and past evenings have been lots of fun. Sheerluxe have recently recommended my pop ups and my very lovely guests have left me some lovely reviews:
 
"A wonderful evening - a warm welcome on a miserable winter evening to a convivial setting, delicious food. The menu was seasonal and professionally crafted to exploit flavours. The dishes were well presented, and generous. Rosie and her staff host a great evening. (The warm spiced chocolate truffles tipped off a top evening!)"
 
"A thoroughly enjoyable evening. Warm and friendly host, fantastic food and very generous portions. Great value for money, would go again."
 
"So so good. Everything about this pop up restaurant is superb. I can't wait to go again and hopefully I'll convince a few others to go with me. The food was delicious, full of complex flavours yet subtle and pure, great textures, beautifully cooked. The venue was lovely, it had a great atmosphere (lovely crockery) - the set up was absolutely conducive to striking up conversation with new people. The booking process was seamless. The chef was very professional and relaxed - my allergies/intolerances (boo) did not phase her one bit. So highly recommended."
 
My next event after the 2nd is a long, lazy lunch on Saturday 9th April at Barts in Kensington. The menu is inspired by the idea of brunch running in to lunch, so I'm using the classic brunch ingredient salmon to make the starter; smokey, sticky pulled pork for mains served with fresh, vibrant sides; and a sweet and creamy posset for pudding with puff pastry rhubarb dipping soldiers. Barts are making cocktails to go with my menu, though there's also beer, wine and soft drinks available if you prefer. The full lunch menu for 9th April is:
  
Smoked salmon mousse with samphire, spring onions and watercress, homemade bread, whipped butter
 
24 hour cooked pork shoulder marinated in homemade BBQ sauce, warm jersey royal potato salad, root veg "naked" coleslaw, raw apple chutney
 
Lemon posset with rhubarb puff dipping soldiers
 
British cheeseboard, homemade biscuits, apple & rhubarb chutney
 
Homemade boozy chocolate truffles
 
Tickets for lunch at Barts are £36 a head and available here. Again - if you want to come but don't like or can't something on the menu I can make alternatives, just leave a comment when booking.
 
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14.3.16

WHERE TO EAT - KYOTO, JAPAN

Wow, Japan feels like a long time ago! I only got back five weeks ago but it seems far longer ago than that. I've already done one post focusing on the actual reason I was there - sake - but I also want to tell you about all the incredible food we ate out there, in case you're planning a trip.

We started our tour with three days in Kyoto, which I fell in love with. It's a beautiful city and we ate at a huge variety of places there, from some of the top restaurants, to cheap but incredible ramen bars where you order from a screen then wait in line til there's a seat for you to eat at. In fact, that's the first place we ate when we landed. Tired, a little grumpy and really just wanting a shower at the hotel and a strong coffee we were instead whisked off to Sugari where I had the best ramen I've ever tried. It's a tiny little restaurant, and once you've ordered from said screen (which luckily our tour leader did for us as it's all in Japanese) you take a ticket and wait out the back in a little courtyard until there's space at the long bar inside for you. The ramen costs between £6 and £9 depending on what size you choose. I had the "small" motsu ramen made with pork broth and guts, bonito soup and yuzu noodles. I'd said before the trip that the only thing on my 'don't eat' list was tripe (assuming we wouldn't come across Heinz baked beans which are the other item that make up my list) but was convinced to try the grilled pork guts ramen and I'm so glad I did. There were only a few pieces of meat in the broth, that's served separately from the cold made-in-house noodles, and they were delicious. The broth itself was rich and creamy, and the yuzu tang on the noodles balanced this out perfectly. Highly recommended if you're in Kyoto. The queue moves quickly and it's 100% worth the wait, and I really liked sitting at the bar watching the chefs do their thing.

 
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9.3.16

BLANCHETTE, SOHO

It's so good when I finally get round to visiting a restaurant that I've been meaning to go to for ages and it lives up to the high expectations I had of it - always a relief....!! Emily and I went to check out the cutesy little French restaurant Blanchette, in Soho, that I'd heard so many good things about but still hadn't got round to going to. Blanchette is a French bistro on D'Arblay Street that's beautifully romantic/lit by candlelight/awful for photos and serves up small French family dishes alongside charcuterie, cheeses and excellent French wines. You're encouraged to order for the table and share dishes, though there were so many utterly delicious plates, I really wanted to eat all of some of them myself!

We started with one of their signature dishes - crispy frog legs with Bois Budran sauce - whole frog legs that had been breaded and deep fried, which were actually a little tricky to eat. As the leg is whole, it's still on the bone. I'm not sure if we tackled them wrong, but we both ended up with mouthfuls of frog leg meat and bone. Not our favourite but luckily not a sign of things to come as the rest of the plates of food that came out were spot on.

 
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8.3.16

COCKTAILS and DRINKS

Whether you fancy a glass of wine at home or heading into central London for a cocktail or three, I've got some great recommendations for you.

First let's talk cocktails. This week is the annual cocktail event Cocktails in the City, taking place from Thursday 10th - Saturday 12th March at One Mayfair. The three nights will see 20 world-renowned bars serving cocktails in this stunning four floor building, where there's also a rooftop BBQ. You can experience so many different drinks and bars without having to leave the building! There's live music, masterclasses and a liquid nitrogen bar. Tickets are £15 and include one cocktail. If you want to drink more cocktails (of course you do), then they're all £7.50 on the night.

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3.3.16

THE BALCON, ST JAMES

There's something about eating in a hotel restaurant that I love. It feels grand and luxurious (when done right), especially when said restaurant is on Pall Mall in the grade II listed Sofitel London St James. I picked Lucy up from a Jensen's masterclass in Bermondsey where we jumped in an uber and headed to central to check out the new menu at The Balcon. In charge of the kitchen is Matt Greenwood, who's worked at some of my favourites including Smokehouse, Caravan and Providores before he joined The Balcon in December 2015 where he's created a menu with a real fusion of global influences. The room itself is beautiful, with double height ceilings, grand columns and lots of marble, which we admired from our table on the raised area overlooking the rest of the diners in the brasserie style restaurant. 

We kicked things off with a glass of bubbles and starters to share - seared mackerel with falafel, sumac yoghurt and confit tomatoes; and grilled scallops, boudin noir and apple croquette and carrot pickle. Both were lovely - the fish in both was perfectly cooked, I liked the moisture balance in the mackerel dish with the oiliness of the fish working well with the falafel, though the sumac was barely discernible. The apple went excellently with the scallops - clean plates all round.

 
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2.3.16

SAKE TOUR OF JAPAN

Until last month I'd never been to Asia. I've travelled around a lot of Europe and a few places beyond but had never made it that far East. Then an email landed in my inbox at the beginning of January inviting me on a sake tour of Japan three weeks later, so off I went.

Japan was fascinating - I learnt so much, laughed so hard, ate some of the best food I've tried, saw sights that blew my mind and sampled more sake than I ever thought possible. I've got so much to write about our trip, so will break it down by city over the next couple of weeks on here (we did five cities in eight days!) but today's post is all about the sake.

Sake is the national drink of Japan and has been an integral part of Japanese culture for well over 1,500 years, and according to one video we watched, "makes interactions with others smoother". Sake is a Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice which has been polished to get rid of the outer bran. Most white rice that we eat has been polished 10% - getting rid of the bran, and leaving 90% of the grain. Rice used in sake making can be polished up to 65%, leaving only 35% of the grain remaining. The rice is polished in a rotating machine with a sharp stone which makes it purer, clearer and more expensive.

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