Thursday, 9 February 2017

REVIEW: Viet Food, Wardour Street

From the outside, Viet Food really doesn't look like much. Even the website is distinctly okay and until you get to the menu, you'd be forgiven for passing over this restaurant without a second thought. But guess what - you'd be very, very wrong! 

Viet Food is led by Jeff Tan, one of the UK's top Asian chefs and the former Executive Chef at Yuan in the Atlantis Palm, Dubai and, excitingly for me, Chef de Cuisine at Hakkasan Mayfair - yes, that's a Michelin star establishment guys! Jeff took his passion for exceptional Vietnamese food and celebrates it at Viet Food. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the shy and unassuming restaurant is an absolute treat for the foodie who craves great Asian food in the cultural heart of Asian London. 
From the outside guests can spot the chefs hard at work through the floor-to-ceiling windows and once inside will be greeted by the salty/sweet/sour scents of great Vietnamese food. We were invited to dine upstairs and began with a bottle of Saigon beer, duh, while spotting the birdcage hanging lights. 
The free prawn crackers came with a hot as hell spicy chilli sauce, which I loved, before our starters arrived. We shared crispy coconut calamari which was soft and juicy with just a hint of sweetness from the coconut; grilled scallop and prawn served in a scallop shell with the absolutely most delicious dressing IN THE WORLD - slightly sweet, mostly savoury, plenty of salt; and soft shell crab dusted with five spice. This final dish was the only slight let down with this course as the five spice was a bit non-existent but the crab was lovely and sweet. I also really enjoy the onion salad and made wraps out of the lettuce cups. 
When it came to mains, Alex and I went in very different directions. I opted for braised sea bream with fresh chilli and pineapple in homemade sauce, which is comparable to a light curry or soup. The fish was battered, then served in the soupy sauce which was a bit weird and cloying towards the end. However, the fresh pineapple was absolutely dreamy and worked really gorgeously with the fragrant sauce. The homemade sauce also worked really well with the house rice as it balances sweet-savoury spicy-salty flavours.
Alex chose a main of wok-sauteed pork ribs with fresh chive and sweet corn in mint chilli sauce, which visually looks a bit disjointed but actually worked well together. The fresh chilli added a lightness to the sweet, sticky ribs and the sweet corn was an interesting texture. The green bean side with preserved shrimp was really savoury and sort of lost the fresh green flavour.
Frankly Viet Food was one of the yummiest places I've eaten in a while. Compared to Hakkasan (bit naughty to do but there you go), there are definitely comparisons - the rice was equally good and the scallop starter was absolutely mind blowing. I think having this sort of option in the heart of Chinatown is such a win for Londoners as tourists will walk past believing it to be 'just another Chinatown outlet', while us in the know can enjoy great Vietnamese food at a really accessible price.

Thank you Viet Food for hosting this review. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

REVIEW: Dinner at Patron NW5, Kentish Town

I think it's safe to say that I am quite literally obsessed with this restaurant. From indulging my inner Frenchie to treating my soul to some of the most delicious food ever, there's nothing I don't love about Patron. The decor, subtly French and darkly decadent; the food, obviously French and utterly delicious; the wines, well priced and inviting - the list could go on. Even the fabulous collection of waiting staff are a joy to chat to over a glass of something sparkling before starting dinner. 

But love letters to restaurants aside, we're here to review. We revisited Patron after enjoying a truly divine brunch last year to taste-test their supper selection. The fabulous restaurant manager helped us select the perfect wine (a Sauvignon Blanc no less) to work with the dishes we selected which included: soupe à l'oignon with garlic coutons and tomme de savoie, goats' cheese tarlet with sweet onion, tomato and pesto, mussels cooked in white wine with garlic and tomatoes with rosemary fries, and duck confit with dauphinois potatoes.   
My soup starter was the highlight dish of the whole visit, pretty incredible for such a simple dish. Sweet yet savoury, smooth in texture but with plenty of slippery onions and topped with the most divine cheesy croutons - I mean you really can't match it. Truly divine.

Alex's starter of goats' cheese tartlet was also delicious but perhaps a touch small in comparison to my soup. The zingy pesto and peppery rocket worked well with the salty cheese and sweet onions. A great balance of flavours. 
 When it came to the mains, I kept things ultra classic with mussels cooked in white wine, garlic, fresh herbs and tomatoes. The portion was impressive to say the least and the lovely general manager brought me fresh bread at the end to soak up all that liquor. Speaking of, while the mussels were cooked beautifully I did feel the liquor could have been thicker or I could have had a little less. It seems such a shame to waste great flavour. My fries, topped with plenty of salt and rosemary were crunchy, crispy and delicious. 

Alex's main of duck confit came drizzled with an intense, sweet red wine jus and served with his choice of dauphinois potatoes. The duck, at times, was a touch dry which could have been helped with a lot more sauce on the plate. The potatoes were creamy yet with bite and worked great with the duck and red wine sauce. A bit of greenery wouldn't have gone a miss but there you go. 

I really can't say no to dessert. I chose the utterly French crème brûlée which was beautifully creamy with plenty of vanilla. The top was really impressive and well blow-torched but not burnt. Alex went for the deconstructed tiramisu meringue topped with vanilla ice cream, fresh espresso and grated chocolate. Light, flavoursome and a really nice take on the original.

Overall yes, I am in love. I cannot fault Patron on the basis of atmosphere, menu choices, staff, or wine. A few tiny adjustments would have made this visit dream-like but really, who cares that much about a touch of sauce here and a little reducing there when the food tastes this good. I thoroughly recommend to all North Londoners, but let's keep this secret gem for ourselves. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Treating IBS with Indigo Herbs

We all live stressful lives in one form or another; it's a facet of modern living. We are bombarded everyday with messages that our brain determines are urgent which leads to a constant state of low-level stress. For others, this low-level stress can graduate into persistent worrying, anxiety, depression and ultimately ill health. 
Earlier this month I was diagnosed with stress-onset acute IBS. I've met several people with IBS before and I think it is more common today than ever before. That said, I had never be informed that it was a side-effect of stress. I truly believed my life wasn't that stressful, but, as it turns out, it kind of is! I run this blog; work nine hours a day in Central London in a highly pressured role; manage my home; plan my wedding; and all the other tasks expected of a functioning home, every single day. It's hard to balance my time and I often feel busy as hell, but I never saw myself as 'stressed'. 

I've suffered with other stress-related conditions in the past (constant headaches, brain fog, exhaustion, lack of motivation etc) but have always blamed things like my diet, inconsistency with exercise, boredom or lack of sleep. I've not really ever made the connection between my day-to-day life and the effects on my health. In many ways this is completely ridiculous - I'm always reading articles about stress and it's effects on your health, I'm a food and fitness-led person and I am a true devotee to sleep. Why I expected to go on running my busy life in the way I have been with no effects on my health, I have no idea. 

So that's where I am now - stuck with a life-long illness that is causing me daily pain. I wake up in the night in pain, I feel sick throughout the day, I'm learning to avoid certain food and I'm feeling unhappy with my constantly bloated appearance. Although there is no cure for IBS there are things you can do to alleviate the symptoms and that's where Indigo Herbs come in. 
I've worked with Indigo Herbs quite a lot in the past. I think their products are fantastic and the range is truly mind-blowing. I mean who even knows what mushroom extract is or how to use it! The team at Indigo Herbs reached out to me recently and I explained my IBS diagnosis. On the website they have blog posts and product pages dedicated to digestive health and specifically IBS. I picked out the Super Cleanse Bundle - a four piece set including tea, essential oil, pulse point roller and massage oil - and peppermint herbal tea which was recommended by my GP. 
You can follow my updates and how I get on with these products on Twitter and Instagram. Have you ever used natural methods to alleviate these problems? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Winter Warmer from The Tabl

Fancy winning a Christmas treat? At this time of year we are (rightly so) buying gifts for those we love, but this year Tabl want to treat YOU to a present of your own!
Tabl is a community platform where fantastic food producers, supper club holders and foodie fans can come together and share the love. Whether you're looking for the perfect present for that picky person in your life or chasing the adventure of unknown flavours, Tabl has the answer.

I love taking a healthy approach to classic recipes or adding that certain something to established foods to make them sing, and that's exactly want Tabl want to hear from you. Simply comment below this post, or Tweet me, you favourite winter warmer recipe with a twist! Why not update one of the below fabulously festive favourites? 

  1. Mince Pies 
  2. Leftovers
  3. Christmas Cocktail
  4. Winter warmer drink
  5. Stuffing
Here's my recipe for red wine and honey spiced hot chocolate, or chocolate spiced mulled wine depending on your view point!
Red Wine & Honey Spiced Hot Chocolate

1. Begin with whole milk. It's natural fats will help the chocolate to melt slowly and create a really creamy finish. Pour two mugfulls into a small saucepan and pop the heat on. Low and slow is the game here.

2. Add in your solid hot chocolate. I'm using Cocoba's 71% Ecaudor Origin Dark Chocolate. Allow this to slowly melt down. 
3. Once the chocolate has fully melted add in two table spoons of red wine and a table spoon of honey. Normally one would cook out the alcohol in the wine but I like my treats extra naughty. I've used a Chateau du Fort Pontis (2011) Fronsac Bordeaux and Pearly Queen London Honey from Enfield. 
4. Allow this to reduce down a little and pour into your favourite mug! Enjoy!


Don't forget to Tweet or Comment with your recipe for a chance to win a lovely Christmas pressie from Tabl!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Brunch at Frank's Canteen, Highgate

Hidden away in the residential hills of Highgate sits Franks - a supper club pop-up and brunch hub. Specialising nearly exclusively in pre-dinner dining, Franks has a distinctly European flair with the likes of beef bourguignon and shakshuka both featuring on the menu. We visited for brunch at 11:30 on Saturday morning and it was packed!
The service, initially, was a little slow with later arriving tables served before us. Once we had decided on our food the service was much quicker. The wide, chunky tables are lovely but perhaps a little better suited to a venue with more space - while I am quite open minded when it comes to communal seating, tables of 4 equate to two couples which I found a little uncomfortable. Perhaps investing in thinner tables to give the option of tables of 2 would be a great move for Franks.

We began with two flat whites which were perfectly nice, creamy with a good amount of bitter rich coffee. Sadly the tops were left a little bereft with no latte art - which seems awfully middle class but I do like a bit of latte art. The orange juice I selected was perfectly balanced between sourness and sweetness, which was delicious. 
For food we ordered beef bourguignon for Alex and poached eggs on toast with smoked salmon and homemade baked beans for me.

The poached eggs on both dishes were absolutely perfect. They had beautiful orange yolks with plenty of runniness and excellently cooked whites - well done chef! On my plate, the portion of smoked salmon was absolutely exceptional and in fact better value than buying a packet the same size in a super market! The watercress salad was also well dressed and cut through the richness of the dish as I had lots of big, protein-rich flavours. 
The beans, homemade and bright red, were sadly too watery. The sauce needed to be much more reduced and the onions cooked down more into a sticky sweetness to have that sticky, moreish, almost creamy texture that I want from baked beans.

The story was quite similar with Alex's Beef Bourginon. The crisp fried bread was great under his poached egg. It was not at all greasy, really crisp and a lovely addition to the stew. The beef was, in part, quite chewy and slightly undercooked and the sauce again was quite watery and needed much more reducing to give it that sumptuous richness that comes from a good Bourginon sauce. The herb salad was refreshing and brought a lightness to this classically rich dish.
  Overall while I enjoyed my visit to Frank's it's not one that I would rush back to. I would love to see the sauces reduced down more to really infuse the great flavours they had in them and let the dish really sing. I think the table situation isn't that big a deal if you're not bothered by sharing (perhaps I'm just picky) so don't let that put you off. It's a solid brekkie if ever you needed one.

Thank you Frank's for hosting this review. All opinions are my own. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

REVIEW: Yuu Kitchen, Aldgate

Yuu - haha - know when two Aussie's set up a restaurant you're in for a fun night. When those Aussie's are previously of ICEBAR, Nobu and Zafferano you're definitely in for a treat. And that, my friends, is exactly what Yuu Kitchen is.
Opened earlier this year as part of the regeneration of the Aldgate area, Yuu Kitchen specialises in the fun, freshness and flavours of South-East Asia and the Pacific ring. Comic book references and modern-manga pop art bring this refreshingly traditional cooking style right up to date, offering a point of difference against the hundreds of South-East Asian establishments across London.

The menu is decorated with South-East Asian turned London favourites: bouncy bao buns, 7Up-braised pork belly, poke bowls, jalapeño tostadas, pot stickers and so much more. Plus, the open kitchen means you can chat with your chefs while they prepare these delicious dishes! I also love the fact that wine, bubbles and beers are all on tap, creating a casual vibe for all-night feasting! 

We began with pardon peppers which were slightly sweet from the yuzu dressing  and could have done with a little more salt. Alex then enjoyed a bowl of chicken wings which were really tender with a salty and sweet sauce. The wings were not too sticky even though covered in sauce and remained crispy - no mean feat
Next we tucked into spring rolls. The chicken and pork spring rolls had lots of different flavour profiles with a slight aniseed touch from star anise. Sadly there was slightly too much salt. The veggie spring rolls were filled with rice noodles sweetcorn and shiitake and enoki mushrooms then wrapped in salad leaf with shiso, coriander, Thai basil red onion and chilli with zingy chilli dressing. YUM!
The scallop and prawn dumplings were sweet yet meaty and worked excellently with the black vinegar. There was also a peppery finish from cracked black pepper on the top. Contrastly, the butternut squash dumplings were served with a dulce de leche textured sesame sauce. The flavour was sweet and warming, with a creamy texture to the filling. The small sweet corn kernals gave a little crunch.
Our highlight dish of octopus was cooked for 50-60 minutes (depending on size of octopus) then soaked over night in sake, mirin and soy then soaked. It is then finished on the Big Green Egg. The topping salad of red onion, baby coriander, normal coriander and red aramath and dressing of garlic and ginger brought so many flavours and textures to the dish, but the octopus was never overwhelmed. The meat was perfectly tender, basically the best octopus ever, and not at all tough to chew. 
Alex's dish of Iberico baby back ribs, marinated low and slow in 7Up, ginger, garlic and five spice was also finished on the Big Green Egg. The meat simply slid off the bone and was, in his words, just mmmmmm.
Gosh, we really ate so much! We opted for two types of bao: the wasabi mayo with soft shell crab wasn't too hot at all but sadly really overwhelmed the delicate crab and I could hardly taste it. The pork bao had the crunch of peanuts which worked brilliantly against the soft bun and tender pork, with subtle hint if chilli  to end.
Finally we ended with a dish of aubergine, caramelised and served astonishingly hot. The sugary flavour actually worked nicely with the melting, soft texture of the aubergine. Our final dish of Kobe fish was served with green beans and shiitake, then finished with hot sesame oil. The green beans had a nice crunch, the fish a firm texture (almost cured and similar to seared tuna) and the dressing was very light. 
What can I say, we really went for it at Yuu Kitchen! I would absolutely thoroughly reccomend you going RIGHT NOW. The chef is an absolute dream (sit up at the bar for chats) and the food is exceptional. Yuu Kitchen currently host a range of deals and offers with more coming in the new year. You can check them out here:

Thank you Yuu Kitchen for hosting this review. All opinions and images are my own. 

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