Friday, 21 October 2016

What I've Been Eating Lately

I've been reviewing a bit, eating a lot and drinking too much coffee recently so today I will share an update of what I've been indulging in over the last few weeks. From road trips in Scotland to taste-testing new menus at famed London restaurants, it's really been a busy few weeks. 
Grilled Scottish Muffins with Duck Eggs
In September, we took a road trip up to the Highlands of Scotland. This stunning place is so close to my heart as this is where I took my first holiday at the bonny age of 2! Our lovely friend Heather lives up here with her family in a wonderful country house; it's surrounded by fields, a lake and a brook with the closest town a good 10-minute drive away.

During our stay, Heather's duck Rosemary provided us with daily eggs to enjoy for breakfast. The hostess with the mostest cooked these up on the Aga with grilled Scottish muffins and plenty of salt. Alongside a cuppa, there's no better way to start the day, I assure you. 
Scrambled Eggs with Cherry Tomatoes and Avocado
Upon returning to London I craved a health-kick. I recently finished the Results With Lucy Wobble to Model plan but remembered this delicious brekkie. The addition of avocado gave me lots of healthy fats to keep me going all day. It just needed a warmed pitta bread to be perfect.
Team Lunch at Cinnamon Soho
Newly reopened Cinnamon Soho has a brand new menu that we went to taste test in September. We began with breakfast parathas of keema (lamb - obviously I didn't eat this one), Bollyflower Cheese (with cauliflower) and fried egg, before moving onto curries with naan and rice. I chose the spicy Paneer 65 with garlic naan breads and a basil lemonade. Lovely. 
Fish and Chips at Poppies, Spitalfields Market
Um, yeah. For payday Alex and I headed to Poppies in Spitalfields Market. Originally we were going to go to nearby Pizza Union or opt for a curry at Sheba, but instead went for Poppies. This famed fish and chip shop is a real London institution and alongside Sutton & Sons, provides that much-loved British dish that every tourist wants.

We went for chips cooked in olive oil (rather than ground nut) with rings of calamari, fried cod, curry sauce and plenty of mushy peas. It ain't fancy but it's damned good. Add a couple of pints and you've got an absolute winner. 
Coffee and Doughnuts at Crosstown, Brick Lane
After a tough session at the gym (I promise this happened) we trekked to Crosstown on Brick Lane. Their sourdough doughnuts are absolutely amazing. Light, bouncy, not too sweet and packed full of flavours you just want to drown in, these doughnuts are an absolute must-try.

We got a Flat White each (yep, I've gone hipster). I chose the salted caramel with banana cream doughnut and Alex went for the PB&J. He was jealous of mine (because it was infinitely better) but they both looked very pretty over on the old Instagram.
A Real Sunday Roast at Home, with Wine. Duh.

I love a Sunday roast, but since becoming vegetarian it's been a bit of a nightmare. We've gone out for a roast a few times and there's often nothing I can eat. Nut roasts are a no (allergy) and very few places offer fish which is a shame. So we decided to enjoy a roast at home. I roasted up potatoes and parsnips, bought two salmon en croute from Lidl (no shame) and made my own Yorkshire Puddings with plenty of Hemp Oil - trust me it works!

Bisto gravy and a cheap red wine. Yum. 
Green Juice from The Detox Kitchen

Yeah you can't keep eating and eating without starting to pay the consequences. On Monday (after the Sunday roast) I sipped on a Green & Lean juice from The Detox Kitchen in Fitzrovia. It's overpriced but tasty. 

Finally, Mrs 'I Wish I Was French' made ratatouille. Of course it's not the traditional recipe but I really gave it a go with layers of courgette, aubergine and red pepper drowned in a smoky tomato sauce.
This has been the running theme of the last two months - coffee. Too much of it, too often. Beany Green, Barbour & Parlou and Nescafe Azeera are my best friends right now.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

REVIEW: Patron Cave à Manger, Kentish Town

We all know by now I wish I was French, right?
When Patron contacted me several weeks ago about their beautiful new deli and wine shop that's opened up at 16 Fortess Road I immediately got excited. Combining the elegance of a Parisian épicirerie fine - delicatessen - and the conviviality of a bar à vin, the new site offers a relaxed, more casual approach to the Patron Cave à Manger world. But today is all about brunch. We donned our Breton striped tops, I added a little red lipstick, and headed down to the restaurant's first site just a few doors up at number 26.
We began with coffee (duh) and a Bloody Mary which was excellently spiced with fresh black peppercorns and a dizzying drizzle of Tabasco. That stuff kills me. The vodka was strong (good) and the tomato juice fresh which offered a really refreshing sip. Alex's coffee came beautifully finished with a little swirl on the top and just a dusting of chocolate powder. Rich, creamy, warming - what more do you want?
To eat, Alex surprisingly went for the mushrooms on toast which the chef told us features ceps and chanterelles for a really meaty flavour. Cooked in plenty of butter, garlic and black pepper the perfectly soft mushrooms are then arranged on two slices of homemade French bread. A pretty edible flower and dressed rocket salad complete the plate. I found this dish really full of textures, thanks to the soft mushrooms and crisped toast. The flavour was meaty enough to satisfy any omnivore and the rocket salad adds a little pepperiness. 
I went for the mackerel omelet - a protein packed hit before our dreaded weights session at the gym. There was enough mackerel to add that smokey, oily note to the dish without being overwhelmingly fishy and the eggs were nicely cooked. There was too much creme fraiche on the top for my liking but it did provide a sauce of some sorts. The fresh dill and rocket salad, with plenty of salt I might add, was also really nice and refreshed the palette after the richness of the egg and fish. 
We also enjoyed a tub of rosemary fries, perfectly crisp and finished with lots of salt. Hey! It's the weekend. The rich aioli on the side was also absolutely delicious and creamy. 
We couldn't leave Patron without trying their delicious croissants, with a trio of additions: salted butter (with added salt on the top), melted Nutella and confiture fraise (strawberry jam). The croissant was buttery, flaky and just absolutely delicious. It was soft inside and slightly warm which was a dream when topped with more butter and a swipe of jam. Alex, obviously, loved the Nutella. 
Even if you only pop in for a croissant, Patron Cave à Manger is an absolute DREAM for any Francophile. Indulge in classically French plates and kick back in the beautifully designed restaurant. The team will ensure you're happy! Oh, and pop into number 16 for a cheeky treat from the deli to take home too. 

Thank you Patron Cave à Manger for hosting this review 

Monday, 10 October 2016

REVIEW: Afternoon Tea at sketch

sketch is one of the most notorious and well-known afternoon tea establishments here in London, and the beautiful Gallery space makes the perfect location for tea and cakes. Sketch is the brain child of Mourad Mozouz and Pierre Gagnaire. As a destination for food, music and art over two expansive floors, sketch is a must-visit for any Londoner. 
From start to finish sketch is an all encompassing event. The subtle sign, polite doorman and upside-down dog on the outside give very little away about the delights inside. sketch has a variety of spaces that serve food throughout the day including The Gallery, which is decked out in the style of a 1930s tea room. Pink walls, pink chairs and delicate rose gold detailing give an air of luxury without feeling forced. In opposition the staff run around in boiler suits and Converse, which helps keep things relaxed.

We kicked off with a glass of English Sparkling Wine and a Raspberry Bellini. Only problem (depending on your point of view) was that the price of the wine wasn't detailed on the Afternoon Tea page and it turns out one glass was £21! The shock when I got the bill was REAL. The wine was lovely and my Mum's stunning Raspberry Bellini was very sweet but with a sour finish. The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed Silver Needle tea, which has a delicate, soft flavour that can be a little bland but I love it! 
Once again, sketch were really accommodating to my needs. They offer a nut-free menu which ensures that I could enjoy everything on my plate without avoiding particular sweet treats. For sandwiches, I enjoyed double servings of salmon with cream cheese and salmon roe; grilled aubergine with cucumber and ricotta; and the warmed mozzarella with nut-free pesto. I wasn't much of a fan of the egg with caviar sandwich, and Mum really enjoyed the Coronation chicken filling. 
For sweets, I absolutely LOVED the white peach mousse with fresh peach topping which was served in a mini shot glass. I found my roasted pear cake warming and comforting with plenty of cinnamon, but the soya chocolate cake with chocolate mousse was actually quite dry which was sad. My Mum enjoyed s beautifully light cheesecake with a mousse and meringue topping, a croque with a vanilla cream and a plum tart with her favourite being the marshmallow twist on the top of the tower. 
My scones were also absolutely delicious. Served warm with plenty of cream and jam, I managed to eat one before submitting to my fullness. I don't think I could have eaten another tiny piece so I enjoyed my scones for breakfast the next day - try it, it's a must! My blueberry doughnut with its vibrant purple topping was also lovely and not too sweet, which was surprising for a doughnut. 

Thank you sketch for hosting this review.

Friday, 30 September 2016

REVIEW: Squirrel, South Kensington

It's lunch time, you're hungry and desperately trying to follow your healthy eating plan. What do you do? Hang your head and walk to Pret? Sack it all in and go for a long lunch with the gals? Or, head to Squirrel, the heath-focussed hang out now open in South Kensington.

You do the last one guys, the last one.
Salads, hot bowls and even breakfasts are all available and packed with nutritionally dense ingredients. Think prawn and avocado bowls, brown rice with curried veggies, warming porridge with a variety of low sugar toppings. YUM! Each dish is made to order using a buffet style bar filled with vegetables, fruits, proteins, leaves and grains before being presented in a nut-shaped pot to take away. It's hilarious how 'to-the-theme' Squirrel is - nothing is done by halves here! 

The Prawn Star salad (prawns, romaine, shredded red cabbage, cabbage, spring onion, red pepper, edamame, mint, coriander, sesame seeds, chilli, lime and tamari dressing) which was really, really tasty but definitely needed more prawns. The warm grain bowl of Guac 'n' Roll with salmon (brown rice, spinach, sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, black beans, tortilla chips, avocado, pickled red onion, lime jalepeno dressing) was absolutely delicious, packed with Mexican flavours and zingy finishing touches. I even bought another bowl to take home! Alex enjoyed the Miami Rice with chipotle beef (brown rice, lentils, spinach, broccoli, shredded red cabbage, carrot and lime) which had a good proportion of meat to grains and crunchy broccoli. 
While focussing on both seasonality and sustainability, Squirrel also serves up delicious and nutritious “ugly” fruit and vegetables that don’t otherwise make it onto the supermarket shelf. Environmentally this helps to reduce wastage in the food supply process and gives your use-reuse-recycle credentials a little boost. 

Delicious drinks also include matcha lattes, hot tonics and a selection of home brewed teas as well as fair-trade Allpress coffees. Homemade seasonal water infusions do baffle me but are equally tasty, and ice teas are perfect after a hot yoga session.  Cold pressed juices, kombucha and fresh coconuts are also on show to choose from.

Prices range from £3.50 for breakfast, through to seasonal salads at £6.50-£7.95 which is a little expensive in my view but based on the area seems fair. Cold-pressed juices start from £4.95 (standard) and coffees  from £2.50.

Thank you Squirrel for hosting this review.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Blogger Party at Tootoomoo, Crouch End

Last week I had the delightful chance to enjoy a blogger evening at my local. No it's not the pub, but actually Tootoomoo - our local Pan-Asian takeaway up in Crouch End. I won't lie, sometimes blogger events or press launches can be in the most obscure places (I've trekked to Kingston before) so when I found out this would be just 10 minutes from home, how could I refuse?
Not to mention the food. I've made no cover-ups of my LOVE of Asian cuisine. At Tootoomoo, no matter your Asian cravin', they'll have the dish to satisfy. From sushi to Thai curry; from Vietnamese salads to vibrant sharing plates, there's something for everyone. We began the night with beautiful lychee cocktails, complete with a pretty flower topping and elegant Martini glass to serve. I mean, we moved onto a lovely bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (French, 2014) but this cocktail really stood out as a winner. 
For food we were treated to an open kitchen of dishes. Ordering straight from the brand new menu (look out for the Explorer and Discovery tasting menus) we enjoyed sushi, tempura, curry, gyoza and salads throughout the night. Stand-out favourites included the tempura prawn and avocado maki with ponzu sauce, the veggie-packed potstickers with a umami rich black vinegar dressing and schichimi salt tempura squid with a whipped mayonnaise laced with chilli. Don't mind the burnt bits on the potstickers - this is where all the caramelly sweet goodness is! 
 I shared a prawn and veggie Thai green curry with my guest, along with a steaming bowl of brown rice. Tootoomoo is one of the only places in North London (that I've ordered from) that offers brown rice both to eat in and takeaway, probably because it can be a nightmare to cook. The combo of brown rice and gorgeous vegetables made for a really healthy dinner, which when you're ordering Asian takeaway is often not the case. The juicy prawns were de-veined (YES!) and the veggies still had plenty of crunch. The curry could have been spicier though but I guess that's personal taste.  
We ended the event with a moreish bowl of Fro-yo. We all love ice cream, so make it a little less naughty (ugh, ridiculous - it's sweet enjoy it!). I went for the natural ice cream with a drizzle or chocolate sauce (dark chocolate at that) and M&Ms. Sweet, smooth and chilly - what more could you want? 

Thank you Tootoomoo for inviting and hosting me at this wonderful blogger evening!

Monday, 26 September 2016

REVIEW: Ormer Mayfair

It's rare that something quite as special as today's review comes along. From the Michelin-started chef Shaun Rankin comes Ormer Mayfair, sister restaurant to the iconic Ormer in Jersey. Despite being a Yorkshireman, Rankin set up shop in Jersey over 2013 years ago bringing exquisite and quintessentially British fare to the lucky diners. Now, Rankin is bringing that flare for all things British to another institution: Flemings Mayfair. The word 'luxury' doesn't quite cut it: this is a marriage made in culinary heaven. 
I was extremely lucky to enjoy a sneak peek of the beautiful central London spot during their soft launch in August. The restaurant is located on the lower ground floor of the hotel and is as elegant as the surrounding spaces. Smooth leather seating, dark wood wall labelling and monochrome flooring all allude to a bygone Art Deco era. Subtle detailing of scallop shell light fixtures play reference to Ormer's island beginnings while highlights of red and gold offer an opulently finished look. Slide away to the bar after supper and relax in style with plush velvet sofas, rose gold and black lamps and a semi-private bar away from the main restaurant. 
We began, of course, with a glass of sparkling English wine from Nytimber. Rankin is a champion of all things British and this award-winning wine recently took over from the French champagne as the world's best tipple. Take that Frenchies! I went for a classic white while my co-diner opted for a summery rosé. Both were delightful - not too fizzy but with enough tingle to awaken the taste buds. The chef also treated us to lobster brioche rolls with a refreshing fennel salad on top. The sweet flavours and soft textures were divine and although only small this was definitely a highlight dish. 
My starter of lobster ravioli came surrounded by a fragrant lemongrass and lobster bisque. The chopped shallot salad on top added crunch and a touch of bitterness to contrast with the unbelievably sweet lobster. I would have liked a little more bisque but I guess this way the lobster stood out more. My co-diner enjoyed a vibrant plate of scallops with a herby jus, oyster jellies and crunchy shallots on top. The show-stopping dish really  caught the eye and tasted truly of the sea. The scallops were bouncy and sweet.
For main, I chose a beautiful plate of sea bass in a potato and leek risotto that reminded me warmingly of my favourite soup. This savoury side of yumminess was complimented by slivers of smoked salmon, crisped quails eggs and foraged sea herbs. The two sides of the dish, though different in appearance and texture, worked so beautifully offering a wonderful taste of the sea and the land. Truly wonderful! 
My co-diner chose the Iberco pork which is served separately in a silver dish which really allows you to inspect the pink meat and juicy exterior. The perfectly cooked, sweet meat was served alongside a warm salad of calamari, smoked paprika juice and crisped chorizo which again plays on the surf and turf concept and highlights Shaun's expertise with both seafood and land-based meats. 
My dessert, finally, was absolutely incredible. Like literally amazing. Billed on the menu as a dark chocolate brownie, the dish is more of a set chocolate mousse with a chocolate delice on the top and softly crumbly bottom. If you love chocolate, this dish if for you. The accompaniments of popcorn, salt caramel and milk ice cream on a chocolate soil brought out the sweet and bitter notes of the 'brownie' and gave a lot of texture to the plate. I could have cried this was so good.
This visit was arranged privately. All opinions and images are my own. 

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