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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26.4.17

LONG LISBON WEEKEND

Every year I try and visit at least one new European city/country, as well as others I've already been to and fallen in love with. Last year was my first time in Menorca, and earlier in Spring Lucy and I headed to Lisbon for a wonderful long weekend. I totally fell for the beautiful, friendly, warm and happy capital city of Portugal. We ate like queens, saw the sights, got to the beach and came back full of happy memories. As normal, lots of research happened before and during our trip to seek out the best places to eat, drink and party so I wanted to share some of the gems we found here. 

After landing late on Thursday evening and heading straight to the hotel, we were up bright and early on Friday for a morning of walking and exploring. Lisbon is called the city of seven hills and I think we tackled most of those that morning before our well earned lunch at Taberna da Rua das Flores. I'd heard lots of good things and we weren't disappointed. This cute little restaurant is in the centre of Lisbon and has a "basic", daily changing lunch menu that's chalked up on a blackboard in Portuguese, and a longer tasting menu in the evenings. After a run down of what the menu consisted of we kicked things off with queso fresco and a salty, spicy pepper sauce. The lovely proprietress had gone through all the dishes in detail and had given very accurate descriptions of what was on that day's menu. We mopped up the soft, sharp cheese and actually really salty but very delicious pepper sauce with typical Portuguese dense bread that the restaurant bought in from the village where the bread originates. 




Lucy had a salt fish and chickpea salad for mains while I went for thinly sliced and lightly fried fillets of fish (not sure which - it's one that comes to breed in the waters near the city in spring) with a side of breadcrumbs, garlic, white wine, more garlic and a raw egg yolk. Unlike anything I'd tried before or would normally order, but SO good. We loved the relaxed and local vibe at Taberna da Rua das Flores and our bill was ridiculously cheap, at around 18 euros each, including wine.


At the other end of the spectrum is Mini Bar which is one of several restaurants in Lisbon from Jose Allivez, who is ex El Bulli and known as one of the city's top chefs. Mini Bar has a tapas type menu and we went for the set menu at 39euros a head. We had the same El Bulli "olives" we'd had in Barcelona at Bodega 1900, "Ferrero Rocher" made with pate and gold leaf, oxtail with parmesan and truffles and a whole host of other nibbles and delights. Mini Bar is fun and lively and serves excellent food. Definitely book and go if you can!





Another place we loved was A Cevicheria. We were told to head there for pisco sours and ceviche, so didn't take much convincing. It's a light, bright restaurant, with a curved sit up bar and a huge octopus sculpture dominating the room. You can go for pisco sours al fresco that they serve straight out of the front of the restaurant so you don't need to go in for your fix! We nabbed one of the last available tables so we could sample their ceviches as well as their pisco sours. Both are worth going for, though if you're not a tapioca fan (neither of us are, but we'd missed it on the menu when we ordered) then maybe avoid the green gazpacho with TAPIOCA and mackerel! Such a shame as the soup it was in was delicious, but it was all a bit too frogspawny. 




What was enjoyable were the ceviches. We had "ceviche puro" - white fish, sweet potato puree, onion, tiger's milk and seaweed, that was probably the best ceviche I've ever had. Perfectly balanced flavours and quantities, we were practically licking the bowl clean. 




And tuna ceviche, with grated foie gras, beetroot tiger's milk, lychee and hazelnuts. Such an odd sounding combination on paper, but it worked so well. The foie gras got a little lost but the juicy lychee and earthiness from the beetroot were really good with the meaty tuna and tangy tiger's milk.





From modern back to traditional and a day at the beach. We jumped on a train to Cascais (four euros and forty minutes) and followed our noses (instagram searches) to a little restaurant at the top of the town called Restaurante Apeadeiro where, before we could even sit down, we were led over to the fresh fish selection and asked to choose our lunch. Having pointed at a large sea bass and ordered a starter of "prawns" to share we settled down with a carafe of 4 euro light pink wine and had the kind of Sunday lunch I wish I could eat every Sunday, especially when it's followed by a nap on the beach and a (very brief) dip in the sea.







EVERYONE we spoke to told us about the Time Out Market so we gave that a go too. About 40 different food stalls line the walls of a huge old warehouse down by the riverfront. It was buzzing in there both times we went so was a fun place to hang out. We had the obligatory custard tarts from there on day one - though if you want the real deal go to Pasteis de Belem, wait out the queue and get rewarded with the flakiest, custardy bites of deliciousness you can imagine. Returning to the Time Out Market after a failed attempt at eating at Pistolas y Corazon (apparently you need to get there at 7pm, but we were busy having dinner number one at A Cevicheria then) we had a couple of dishes - a very good pork belly and pak choi dish, and a less good, slightly bland and rubbery squid dish - probably the only dud of our whole trip. There's so much choice there though, so follow your nose, and the biggest queues.








Our last meal in Lisbon was utterly bizarre and wonderful all at the same time. I'd googled "best fish restaurant Lisbon" and had come across somewhere called Ultimo Porto. We were heading back into town from the Belem custard tart mission and this recommendation seemed to be en route back to our hotel, so we decided to give it a whirl. After a terrifying uber ride to the port from Belem, which involved mounting a curb and several u-turns, the driver dropped us off in the middle of a shipping yard, shrugged at us and drove off. Slightly hesitantly we followed the map, turned the corner of a big industrial building and saw several plastic chairs and tables caged in by huge metal fences topped with barbed wire spirals. Hungry and with no local alternatives for lunch we chose a table and waited to be served, while we watched trays of raw meat and fish being brought out to the huge BBQ next to us. We were the only tourists there, surrounded by Portuguese men in suits having business meetings.... We ended up with a swordfish steak, and another fish steak - no idea what! But both were divine. Smokey from the BBQ and cooked to perfection we couldn't really believe how good the food was and how random the location! It's only open during the week for lunch, but definitely worth going to, especially if you're heading back in from/out to Belem.





Lisbon stole my heart and I can't wait to go back - it's so affordable, easy to get to and to get around, and has everything I ever want from a European city break.


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20.4.17

GOODE AND WRIGHT, PORTOBELLO

As a fan of eating out, there's nothing better than finding a gem of a restaurant on your doorstep. I've passed Goode and Wright so many times, thinking that I should check it out, and finally did with Emily a couple of weeks ago when she invited to review it, much to our delight. G&W is a French inspired bistro/wine bar serving excellent food, and really good, great value cocktails (starting at £6.50). The room is wood paneled and narrow, and perfect for whiling away the hours over sharing plates of delicious food and drinks with friends.

The food menu at Goode and Wright is pretty much my idea of heaven. Split into nibbles, veg, fish and meat we chose a couple of dishes from each section, starting with ceviche, tiger's milk and grapefruit. I don't think I'll ever get bored of ceviche, especially when it's this good. I've tried so many different combinations, but it's the citrus that always comes out on top for me. 


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12.4.17

BROCKMANS CURED SALMON

On receiving a bottle of Brockmans gin to use in a recipe, I knew exactly what I’d make with it when I smelt the heavy floral scent of berries and zings of citrus coming from the bottle. I’ve never smelt or tasted a gin quite like it. It’s such a delicious and powerful standalone drink that it’s one of few gins I like neat. Therefore I didn’t want to add too much to my recipe to take away from all the flavours in the spirit. As a big fan of curing fish I wanted to go to this, and added a little beetroot to give an earthiness to compliment the gin's botanicals, which very unusually include blueberries and blackberries. What better to go with these purple fruits than a purple vegetable to cure a piece of salmon...

It’s such a simple recipe, though it does need to be made a few days in advance so bear that in mind when you make it. If you haven’t cured fish before then try it – the process “cooks” the fish so you end with salmon that’s of a similar texture to smoked salmon, and utterly delicious as it’s absorbed the flavours of the gin and the beetroot.

1kg salmon loin
2 beetroot
70g granulated sugar
70g table salt
120ml Brockmans gin
Zest of 1 lemon

Chop the beetroot into chunks and put in the blender with the sugar, salt, gin and lemon. Whizz up until you have a paste. Smother the paste all over the salmon loin then wrap the salmon in three layers of cling film. Pop the salmon in a tray in the fridge and put another tray on top, weighed down with something heavy (tins of beans are good!) Turn the loin of salmon over twice a day, for 2-3 days. When ready, rinse the salmon under cold water then pat dry with kitchen towel. Thinly slice and serve on blinis as canapes, or with salmon mousse and pickled vegetables, with bread, for a lovely starter. 



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11.4.17

FORZA WIN, PECKHAM

A few weeks ago I ventured to Peckham, for maybe the first time in over ten years, since I lived nearby in Camberwell! A friend who's moving to Cuba was having a get together so we headed to Forza Win - billed as an Italian restaurant in a Peckham warehouse - after a few pre dinner cocktails on a double decker bar/bus next door first. Forza Win was brilliant. The night we went was "pop up restaurant" format - everyone sat and ate together. No menu choices, just huge sharing platters of delicious food, unless you had dietary requirements, in which case you got your own plate of food. It's all about local, seasonal, top quality Italian food. Simple and delicious.

My photos are awful - I was having far too much fun with my mates to take decent pics, but I wanted to tell you about the food in case you haven't heard of Forza Win and you're looking for a fab night out of food and fun. While our group were sat at the end of one of the long tables, we soon started chatting to the diners on our other side as soon as the plates of antipasti were brought out for all to share. Excellent sourdough, duck ham and whipped white beans full of garlic started us off while we ordered very reasonably priced wines (£20 and up) from the waiters for the table. 

The nibbles were followed by food proper - huge plates of linguini primavera - al dente pasta with sorrel and spring greens. Main course was nettle risotto topped with grilled lamb neck fillet and served with asparagus and grilled baby gem. Our table looked and tasted like Spring in Italy. My vague attempts at recreating the lamb and risotto at home yielded nothing like the tasty dishes we had at FW.


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5.4.17

THE HOLY BIRDS, SPITALFIELDS

I feel like a lot of my eating out in London recently has revolved around specific types of meat. A few weeks ago I was at The Holy Birds, who specialise in poultry and game birds, and last week I went to SMITHS of Smithfield, in Cannon Street for a night of steak options. Both of which were actually pretty good, despite my initial doubts about eating out in The City.

The Holy Birds is a super retro restaurant in between Liverpool Street Station and Brick Lane, just south of Spitalfields market. We headed there from TT Liquor (blog on that to follow) and settled down with some delicious cocktails - a rum punch for him and an excellent whisky sour for me. The cocktail list at The Holy Birds is long, all encompassing and really good value - £9.50 for the very punchy punch, and the same for my whisky fizz.


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29.3.17

HOT X BBQ - GOOD FRIDAY

In case you haven't already seen it splashed all over my social media, I wanted to share details of the most amazing pop up I'm doing with a very good friend of mine on Good Friday. Lucy and I have signed up to climb Kilimanjaro in August, to raise money for young adult cancer support charity Trekstock, so we thought we'd put on a huge pop up restaurant, with all proceeds going to the charity fundraising pot. 

On Friday 14th April Neil Rankin, from one of my favourite restaurants, Temper, and Hardeep Singh Kohli, one of our favourite comedians, are joining us to put on this epic Good Friday feast. We're serving up a feast of BBQ'd Indian lamb (from Daphnes Original Welsh Lamb) dishes, BBQd cauliflower curries, veggies, chutneys, homemade breads, and lots lots more. For pudding there'll be zingy lemon tarts and wonderful rhubarb stewed in cocchi rossa, followed by cheeses and chocolates made with Diplomatico rum. Tickets are tiered in price and all include drinks - there's a saintly non alcoholic option for £45, then all-in packages at different prices depending on how much and what you'd like to drink, going all the way up to a open bar ticket for £100 which includes champagne, high end wine and cocktails, and food, of course! We're doing pre and post dinner cocktails using some of favourite spirit brands, and wines with the meal include gorgeous roses from Vins de Provence. Every guest will also receive an Easter themed goody bag from our lovely friends at Farmdrop

Our HOT X BBQ is taking place in the gorgeous Brunswick Studios in Queen's Park, where we've got enough space to host 100 guests for dinner, with welcome drinks on their stunning outdoor terrace. 

And if all that's not enough to tempt you down, then how about our wonderful auction prizes.... Hardeep will be hosting the evening for us and auctioning off some "money can't buy (except at our HOT X BBQ pop up) prizes. We've got a pair of tickets to the London premiere of Alien Covenant with Michael Fassbender; artwork by cult artist Stedhead; film club for two at either The Soho Hotel, Charlotte Street Hotel or Covent Garden Hotel which includes a movie and either a three course dinner, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea; dinner for two at Temper, Soho; a pair of tickets to the hugely popular Literary Hour pop up restaurant; a hamper of oils and olives from Filippo Berio; a case of wine and £100 voucher from our friends at Honest Grapes; a lovely package of cured meats, cheeses and preserves, and lots more. 

Tickets are available here - we really hope you can come and join us for what is bound to be one of the best pop up restaurants in London this year!



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23.3.17

PICTURE, FITZROVIA

Emily and I have pretty similar food tastes so it's normally a good bet that I'll like restaurants that she does. She's been going on about Picture for some time, so when we needed an early evening feeding before the bar awards recently we hopped on to Bookatable where you can get five courses and a cocktail for £35, which is pretty decent for the quality of cooking.

We settled in to a mostly empty restaurant (that filled up throughout our meal) and enjoyed our welcome cocktail while we checked through the fixed menu to ensure there was nothing on there we didn't eat. Emily switched out a beetroot dish but other than that we were good to go. Warm bread and venison bites (which were a whole £1 each extra and worth every penny and more) kept up going til food proper started.


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9.3.17

A(NOTHER) WEEKEND IN PARIS

Paris - one of my favourite cities in the world. Last weekend I was back there for the third time in just over a year. This time I went with my mum, and we had the loveliest, whirlwind 36 hours (or less!) there. After an early start for one of the first Eurostar trains we headed straight to the airbnb studio I'd booked. Unfortunately our host had gone AWOL so we settled in at a local patisserie for coffees and freshly squeezed orange juice, before giving up on the airbnb host, leaving our bags with a very friendly man at his independent wine shop and setting off for a stroll around Le Marais, ducking in and out of galleries, gorgeous sun dappled squares and shops galore. I'd reserved a table at Amarante, which Lucy and I adored when we went this time last year, so meandered towards Bastille for lunch. Amarante is a tiny bistro on an otherwise residential road to the east of Bastille. But don't fooled by its random location - it's dishing up some of the best food in Paris and is 100% worth a visit. Mum and I went for the fixed lunch menu which is a steal at 19 euros for 2 courses, or 22 euros for 3. Our starters of tarama for me and liver pate for mum were perfect, followed by sublime ox cheek, greens and the jus of dreams; and fish and confit leeks for mum. I can't see myself ever visiting Paris and not eating at Amarante, and I suggest you do the same! Make sure you book though.




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1.3.17

PANCAKE PIZZA RECIPE

I'm fully aware that pancake day was yesterday, but this recipe's too good not to share, and I don't think pancakes should be confined to just one day of the year anyway. A quick, cheap and easy recipe to make, they're ideal for a fridge/cupboard raid supper. Sweet or savoury, they work well with a whole host of fillings and toppings. I decided to make a pizza out of mine yesterday - they're a lot lighter than a regular pizza and you can top them with whatever you fancy. Plus, having spent the weekend in France I had a fridge full of cheese that I needed to start work on!

Pancake pizzas for two:

For the pancakes (makes 4)
50g plain flour (I used spelt flour)
1 egg
150ml whole milk
Knob of butter and drizzle of oil

For the toppings
Grated cheese (comte, cheddar, emmental), or torn up soft cheese (goat's cheese, mozarella)
Cooked meat - salami, sausage, pulled pork
Any vegetables - spinach, tomatoes, artichokes etc

Whisk together the flour, egg and milk until you have a smooth, light batter. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking. When ready, heat a pan with a small knob of butter and drizzle of oil, then wipe most of the fat away before pouring a quarter of the pancake mix in, swirling round the pan til it's evenly coated and cooking until the pancake comes away from pan. Flip the pancake and cook on the other side til golden. Repeat until you've used up all the batter.

Put each pancake on a baking tray and top with whatever you fancy. I went for spicy sausage and Comte from Paris. Slide under a hot grill and cook until the cheese has melted. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve with a salad if you want extra greens, or a second pancake pizza if you don't!


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27.2.17

WESTBOURNE GROVE PUBS x 2

One of my favourite things about where I live is the proximity to SO many good eateries. Within a 15 minute walk there are really excellent pubs, restaurants, bars, brasseries and local pit stops for food from all around the world. Two of those pubs that were recommended over and over are The Oak and The Cow, which are less than 100m apart from each other. I've now eaten at both and will definitely be heading back regularly. 

The Oak is from the same people who run an old favourite of mine, The Bird in Hand in Shepherds Bush, though I hadn't realised this until we were given menus at The Oak and I recognised the format and font.... in fact, having just checked their website I see it's their flagship restaurant. Food is modern European sharing plates and wood fired pizzas. We shared a few of the nibbles and starters, including parma ham croquettes and vegetable antipasti before devouring a sumptuous wild boar ragu. It's no booking at The Oak but you can wait upstairs in the cocktail lounge bar to enjoy a drink until there's a table free. 


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23.2.17

KERB, CAMDEN

For some unfathomable reason I hadn't been to street food market KERB in Camden until only a couple of weeks ago. Looking to rectify this, we took a leisurely Saturday stroll along the canal from my flat all the way to Camden in search of some deliciousness. 

KERB is now in five locations, Camden being the most recent opening, where there are 34 street food stalls that trade 12-5pm Monday to Friday, and 11am-6pm Saturday and Sunday. Stalls selling food in Camden include Ghetto Grillz (NYC bagel melts), Kimchinary (Swedish-Mex-Korean...!), Hanoi Kitchen (noodles), La Churreria (churros), Ink (szechuan squid strips with pastel mayos), Luardos (burritos), The Mac Factory (gourmet mac and cheese), and lots, lots more!

We did the classic thing of walking round the whole market and ending up back where we started - Arepazo Bros, to get an arepa (a patty made from ground maize dough) filled with shredded beef, melted cheese, LOTS of garlic sauce and pico de gallo with some fried plantain on the side. I've had a few versions of this Venezuelan dish before but this was definitely the winner. Soft, rich meat dripping with pokey garlic sauce and melty cheese. We'll definitely be going back for more of these.



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22.2.17

MY POP UP RESTAURANTS

It feels like it's been ages since I posted anything on here about my pop up restaurants! Last year I held regular pop ups at Angie's Little Food Shop in Chiswick, where I also did a Thanksgiving dinner with Tiki Chris, and I did takeovers at various other venues including 68 and Boston in Soho, Bart's in Chelsea, The Andaz Hotel in Liverpool Street, The Flying Boat Club on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly and Bert and May's warehouse in Hackney. On top of these I did tons of private events - birthday parties, weddings, hen dos and private dinner parties, and I did canapes and cocktails for lots of fun press events for River Island, hosted by lovelies including Pandora Sykes, Glamour mag's editor Jo Elvin and some fab fashion Instagram stars. 

As well as this, and my full time job and writing this blog, I also moved house. Having spent the last six years in West/South West London, I've moved to W9, which I'm absolutely loving. So it only seemed sensible to move my pop ups too! My pop ups will continue as they always have - an evening every four weeks or so of British seasonal produce made into a five course meal with a welcome cocktail. Next up is one of my personal favourites, rhubarb, which is the star of the show next Saturday, 4th March at a gorgeous venue in Queen's Park which I'm taking over for the evening. There's a few tickets still available so snap them up fast if you want to join us for the evening. If there's anything on the menu that you don't like or can't eat just mention in the comments when booking and I'll make an alternative for you. Groups, pairs, couples and solo diners are all welcome, as always. The full menu for the evening is:

Rhubarb Barentz (a wonderful jasmine scented gin) fizz welcome cocktail

Smoked eel and ham hock terrine with rhubarb salsa, pastry puff rolls

Duck and black pudding bon bon with rhubarb coulis, warm cauliflower and radicchio salad, chargrilled spring onions, cauliflower puree

Trio of rhubarb desserts - Individual rhubarb and pistachio cakes, rhubarb and lemon bars, rhubarb sorbet

British cheeseboard

Homemade chocolates


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9.2.17

CHICKEN "RAMEN" RECIPE

I'm a huge fan of ramen and really appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a proper bone broth in my favourite places that serve it in London and Kyoto - the broth takes 24 hours to make in the best restaurants, but sometimes when you get home from work and only decide what to eat en route home you need a cheat's way to speed things up. I whipped up this ramen in 40 minutes or so for friends and family last week and it went down so well that I wanted to share it here. It's not authentic, and probably shouldn't even be called ramen, but it was delicious, so here's my version. I was inspired to make this having spent an evening watching a wonderful new mini series called Hot Off the Wok with Lee Kum Kee - which you can catch here.

Serves 4

4 chicken thighs, bone in
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha
1 tbsp Lee Kum Kee sesame oil
1 bobble of ginger (I didn't have any fresh ginger so used a couple of the mini packs ginger I'd kept from my Sushi Shop delivery recently!)
Water

4 free range eggs

Good quality chicken stock
2 tbsp miso paste, dissolved in a little hot water to make a liquid paste. I used red miso paste but you can use whatever you have/can buy 
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha
Ramen noodles - I used 2 portions of these. You cook them straight from frozen, so they're handy to keep in the freezer for when you need them
12 mushrooms
1 chinese cabbage or pak choi 

Coriander
Chopped spring onions
Roasted sesame seeds

Start with the chicken. Marinate the thighs for up to 24 hours in the soy, sriracha, sesame oil and ginger. The best way to do this is adding it all to a zip lock freezer bag and popping it in the fridge. Once marinated tip the marinade and chicken into a large saucepan and fill with water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 40 minutes, scooping off any scum that forms on the top. Remove the chicken, keeping the liquid. Leave the chicken to cool slightly then shred the meat.

Bring another saucepan of water to boil and add the eggs. Cook for 6 minutes then run under cold water and peel.

Top up the chicken broth with some chicken stock, miso, soy sauce and sriracha. Bring to the boil and add the noodles, finely sliced cabbage and sliced mushrooms. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Divided the shredded chicken between four bowls. Scoop out a big spoonful of noodles and vegetables and put them on top of the chicken. Fill the bowls up with the broth and top with a halved egg, coriander and spring onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. 



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8.2.17

RECENT EATS (III)

Another month, another selection of restaurants that for one reason or another - I think mostly that I didn't find any of them to be destination restaurants, ie they're fine and good if you're in the area but I wouldn't necessarily travel far to eat there again - aren't getting their own post but worthy of a mention all the same.

KILN, SOHO

Having been to neither Kiln, nor it's bigger sister Smoking Goat, Rhea and I rectified half of that situation with a trip to the former on Friday. Kiln is in the middle of Soho and like so many of the good ones, there's no reservations. So I whizzed down there straight from work and got our names on the list, then met the girls at Bar Swift where I'd booked a table for our unavoidable wait. Luckily Kiln run a "text you when your table's ready" system so we relaxed and caught up over martinis til we got the text to say there were seats for us at the restaurant. I think it was around an hour and a bit wait, and I'd put our names on the list at Kiln at ten past six. 

Kiln is a thai grill, seafood and claypots cooking restaurant which is lively and buzzing. There's counter seating upstairs where we sat and bigger tables downstairs. Go in a small group and then a) you have to wait as long and b) you'll get the counter seats which is where all the magic happens. We worked our way through a big portion of the menu and sizzled our tongues along the way. Highlights for me were the aged lamb and cumin skewer, and smoked sausage with turmeric, as well as the grilled Tamworth pork loin. Clay pot baked glass noodles with pork belly and brown crab meat was lacking in both meat and fish for me, and Rhea's made up version of the monkfish curry didn't really hit the spot, but then we shouldn't have swerved from the menu like that! Our bill was around £70 a head so not overly cheap, though with SO many excellent places open and opening in London I'm not sure I'll be rushing back to Kiln often. 


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3.2.17

A WEEKEND in PROVENCE

Our weekend in Provence with Olivence revolved mostly around food - after all, we were there to try all the wonderful olive products that are made in the region. This also included two wonderful meals in two of Marseille's top restaurants where we ate meals that had been designed to showcase the wonderful olive oils we'd sampled at the different mills and groves.

First up was a meal at Les Trois Forts, which is several storeys up at the top of the Sofitel hotel, with the most incredible views out over the old port of Marseille. Though this gorgeous sunset was actually looking out towards Les Trois Forts from our walk round the Christmas market before dinner.



We were seated at a huge round table right in the middle of the restaurant and started our specially designed meal with a perfectly poached egg (which I think had been cooked in a water bath at 63 degrees), on top of wild mushrooms and a green herb sauce made with the fruite noir olive oil. 



Our main course was the star for me - expertly cooked fillets of mullet on a creamy, rich risotto a la Provence with a bouillabaisse foam that was so tasty. Drizzled with olive oil this dish was right up there. As was the huge trolley of cheese that got rolled round afterwards for us to choose from. Though having chosen cheese I missed out on the olive oil themed pudding, but we all know how I feel about puddings!





Les Trois Forts was wonderful but the real highlight of the trip was the next day when we headed to Michelin starred Une Table, Au Sud where we had a cookery lesson with France's youngest starred chef, Ludovic Turac before sampling his creations at lunch in his restaurant. We prepped some of our lunch with Ludovic then watched him make his "aioli" - a piece of squid ink and olive bread topped with cod brandade and ribbons of vegetables - such a simple dish elevated to Michelin standards. 





Lunch opened with smoked mackerel pate on crispbread and a puff pastry roll stuffed with tapenade, which was warm and light and fluffy and superb. 



We'd made the parmesan tuille for the starter which came with vegetables and citrus zest in olive oil and melted in the mouth. 



Mains was bream wrapped in vine leaves with fennel and bisque foam. It was so good - zesty and really light, and cooking the fish in the vine leaf was such a great way to keep all the juiciness in. 



Dessert was a pretty plate of pineapple in various forms, with candied black olives, but far too sweet for me.



The food at Une Table, Au Sud is innovative and absolutely delicious. They do a lunchtime menu of three courses for 32euros, which is incredible value, so if you're in Marseille it's definitely worth checking out. 

Huge thank you to Olivence, all the wonderful olive oil producers and restaurants we ate at for such a great weekend. 





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