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 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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