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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4.4.16

GASTROVINO, CHELSEA

A couple of weekends ago I had the most lovely Sunday. I'd spent Friday night and Saturday cooking for a pop up for 36 people on the Saturday night, so despite being knackered, I really wanted to get out of the flat, stretch my legs and eat some good food (that I hadn't cooked!) Bron came to mine in South West London and we then walked the four miles from there to Gastrovino, where I'd been invited to review, stopping a few times on the way for coffee, juice and to pet a donkey we passed(?!)

Gastrovino is a new Italian bar and restaurant located on the Kings Road, which is somewhere I so rarely go. We took our seats at the bench bar in the window where we people watched, chatted and ate an absolute feast of incredibly good Italian food. Gastrovino's marketing is being done by the lady who introduced me to VII Hills gin last year, so I started with a VII Hills gin and tonic, whilst Bron went for the Aper8 - aperol, St Germain, rhubarb bitters and prosecco. Both were perfectly refreshing aperitifs that kept us occupied til the food started to come out. If you go to Gastrovino and you're not fussy about what you can/can't eat then I really recommend letting the chef choose for you - he'll send out his best dishes of the day, made with the freshest seasonal produce he's had flown in from Italy and you'll be in for a treat. And as all the dishes range from £5-8 you're safe in the knowledge that you're not going to be stung price wise.

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