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NEWS: Something Extra Special at the More London Christmas Market

10 Dec

Christmas shoppers are in for a treat this week: Shepherds Markets and More London Riverside are hosting a special Christmas Market with food, fun and Yuletide magic. Here’s the full skinny from the Shepherds Markets team:

Shake out your tinsel and dust off your baubles; Christmas is finally upon us and we’ve got everything you need to make the festive season extra special! From December 11th to15th, you can head to More London Riverside where our More London Christmas Market will showcase the finest artisan food gifts and hand-crafted presents.

With 20 different stalls each day, we’re bringing you more of everything you love at Christmas: more food, more entertainment and more unique presents! If you want to surprise your family and friends with exclusive gifts they won’t find on the high street, the More London Christmas Market is your one-stop shop!

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Fancy something inspiring for the kids? Make their faces light up with a handmade toy none of their friends will have – just one of many items available from our talented craftsmen. Need something luxurious for mum? How about a heaven-scented body cream or a beautiful pashmina (to keep her warm and on-trend this winter)? Hoping to transform turkey leftovers into appetising dishes? Try the delicious organic chutneys and sauces available from our amazing food traders.

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We know that shopping for friends who seem to have everything can be a nightmare but why not invest in an original painting or print from one of our art traders’ stunning collections? Alternatively, pull together a bespoke gift set or hamper with the aromatic oils, vinegar, speciality teas, honey and preserves on sale – a present for all the family! There will also be a range of Christmas stockings and cards to buy, as well as traditional Christmas cakes and puddings, helping you to create the perfect celebration at home.

You can tuck into hot and cold dishes from around the world while you browse our food and craft stalls, or sip a cup of warming mulled wine with a crumbly mince pie or roasted chestnuts. Local carol singers will be on hand to perform all your festive favourites and even Santa has been persuaded to fly in for a visit!

Entry is free, so there’s nothing “Bah! Humbug!” about this Christmas, only the true spirit of the season: supporting London’s most talented food and craft start-ups to bring you the finest gifts for family and friends. We can’t wait to see you at the More London Christmas Market and look forward to helping you make loved ones feel extra special.

Visit the More London Christmas Market at More London, More London Riverside, London SE1 2DB, 11am – 6pm, from Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th December 2013.

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House of Coffee Pop-Up Café by Panasonic UK

10 Oct

Gone are the days of ugly coffee-makers bringing down the tone of modern kitchens – Panasonic’s latest espresso machine – the NC-ZA1 – is a sleek, elegant newcomer, worthy of its own exhibition space in a futuristic gallery.

The sophisticated, silver-coloured, beans-to-cup machine was unveiled to bloggers at an exclusive, all day pop-up café, called House of Coffee, housed in ‘The Caves’ – a tunnel-shaped venue near Farringdon tube station.

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Stepping into the space, the first thing I noticed was a breathtaking series of images on the left-hand wall. Sheets of parcel wrap were adorned with stunning retro portraits by artist Cosmo Sarson. The disco-inspired images were all cleverly produced using coffee and were a fitting welcome to the ‘café’, which hosted a range of events throughout the day: breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea and a cocktail evening with a DJ set.

 

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Opting for the brunch slot, I arrived at midday to indulge in bagels, pastries and plenty of warm, soothing coffee – it was freezing outside, despite the appearance of the sun, and I needed to defrost quickly!

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An impressive bar area was topped with three of Panasonic’s machines and, spoilt for choice, I started off my coffee binge by asking for a Latte: not too strong and generous in quantity, preferably served in a mug.

Invited to step behind the bar to witness my drink being made, the high-tech machine had no problem in catering to my picky request. Made with hand-roasted coffee beans by Union, and served in a stylish mug printed with Cosmo’s art, my Latte was creamy, smooth and perfectly delicious.

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Using the machine was simple: a touch-screen display offered Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, Americano and Macchiato, after which further options included the desired strength of the drink and the volume – so if you fancy a super-strong double espresso or a big mug of weak Latte, you can have it within 60 seconds, all at the touch of a screen!

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Expecting something far more complicated (which is often the case with state of the art machinery), I was surprised by the ease and speed of using the machine – so effortless, it will make even the biggest technophobe feel like a professional barista!

Coffee beans were poured into the top of the machine, which can also be fitted with an optional milk chiller – available to purchase separately for attachment to the side of the unit. Otherwise, it’s fine to use a simple jug of milk: the machine includes a handy tube to draw up the liquid without fuss.

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Proving that coffee isn’t just for teetotal-ers, there were three varieties of coffee-laced cocktails on offer – shaken and blended by The Rum Runner (acclaimed bartender Sam Paget-Steavenson, who also made all the hot drinks).

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Whilst I don’t usually partake in cocktails before evening, I couldn’t resist Sam’s menu and threw caution to the wind! Opting for a Madrugada (Bianco Tequila with dark chocolate, fresh mint and espresso coffee, it was crisp and refreshing, despite an earthy undertone with a minty edge!

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By the time I left House of Coffee, I felt super-charged and pleasantly light-headed! I was sent on my [merry] way with a gorgeous goody bag, containing a bag of Union’s hand-roasted Equinox Seasonal Blend and a fabulous espresso cup, decorated with a portrait by Cosmo Sarson – a lovely end to a lovely afternoon.

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The NC-ZA1 retails for around £899, with the optional milk attachment costing a further £69. For regular coffee drinkers, it’s a great investment and worth the extravagance. Sadly, it’s a bit out of my price range, but would definitely be on my Crimbo ‘wish list’ if I had a wealthy boyfriend!

There’s not much to criticise about the unit: it’s compact enough for a kitchen counter, smart enough to look elegant and it makes a damn fine cup of coffee! A great gadget and an undeniable must-have for coffee addicts.

REVIEW: Kusmi Tea Party

27 Sep

I confess that tea has always been my drug of choice; I cannot function without it. Having once sacrificed my habbit for Lent, I proceeded to look ill and diseased for the entire 40 days of withdrawal. So epic was my decline, my work colleagues celebrated when my fast ended, proclaiming: “You have never looked so terrible, thank God it’s over.” Tea, it seems, is both my drug and my beauty therapist.

Thus, when I spotted a competition on Twitter, run by Sauce Communications, to win an exclusive invitation to Kusmi‘s Tea Party, I knew I had to enter! To say I was excited when I won would only scratch the surface of my elation!

Stepping into the Kusmi Tea store in Marylebone was like stepping into a Pirate’s treasure trove. Wherever I looked, there was a rich bounty of exquisite tea blends, in all different flavours. Coloured boxes lined the shelves like twinkling jewels, pulling me towards them like a magpie to shiny trinkets. For a tea addict such as myself, Kusmi’s shop was a Wonka-esque utopia of colour, flavour and charm.

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The tea party was the perfect soiree: hot and iced Kusmi teas, organic cakes by Marlette, makeover and beauty treatments courtesy of Michael John and Laura Mercier, beautiful artworks from YellowKorner and lovely, welcoming staff with a genuine passion for their products!

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I loved hearing about Kusmi’s origins; the esteemed tea company is steeped in history! Having begun life in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1867 – where customers included Tsar Nicholas II – the company, founded by Pavel Kousmichoff, had already launched a subsidiary in London before settling permanently in Paris, France, during 1916 (just ahead of the revolution in which the Tsar and his family were assasinated).

There were two teas available to sample at the party: BB DETOX from a new Wellness range and ANASTASIA, a signature Russian blend. Poured into the most gorgeous, branded cups, the Iced Grapefruit-infused BB Detox tea was served with an old-fashioned paper straw, adding to the evening’s party vibe. Refreshing, light and packed with health-boosting antioxidents, the tea smelt as fruity as it tasted!

Anastasia, served warm, was a comforting blend of Earl Grey, lemon and orange blossom. In truth, I have never been a fan of Earl Grey, hating its floral and bergamot notes, but this tea was beautiful. Named in honour of Tsar Nicholas’ most famous daughter (in the decades following the revolution, claims persisted that she was still alive), it was so addictive, I bought a box to take home – making use of the great discounts available on the night for party guests!

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Offered alongside the teas were a fantastic array of cakes, courtesy of home-baking brand Marlette. The French company offers a range of HOME-BAKE CAKE & BREAD MIXES – all organic and free from nasty additives.

I’ve never admired home-bake mixes, particularly as many seem to produce a cardboard crust or a chewy centre, but Marlette’s products had no such problems and I was impressed by the quality of their cakes.

Pairing Kusmi’s Anastasia tea with slices of Marlette’s moreish almond Financiers and squares of gooey Fondant au Chocolat (brownie), I was in sugar-high heaven. There was even a Cereal Bar Cake – a fragrant slab packed with figs and apricot – which nicely complimented Kusmi’s iced BB Detox.

I’ve since spotted the chocolate fondant mix in my local M&S store, priced around £7. I’ll be stocking up on these, along with tins of Kusmi teas, throughout December – for inclusion in homemade Christmas hampers for family and friends.

During the party, I paused for a sojourn in the rectangular store’s ‘Chill Out Corner’, created especially for the event with gallery chain YellowKorner. I was blown away by some of the dazzling prints on display, which included limited edition exclusives, vowing to visit the gallery’s Westfield and Mayfair outlets very soon to check out more show-stopping artworks!

I spent the rest of my evening chatting to fellow guests and admiring the amazing skills of Sara Chatterton, from luxury salon chain Michael John – who was blow-drying curls and ringlets with finesse – and the nimble fingers of a beautician from Laura Mercier, who was expertly transforming guests into goddesses with eyeshadows, liners, skin products, blusher and plenty of lippy!

Upon leaving, I was presented with a stunning goody bag, containing over £50 worth of treats! Items included a tin of Kusmi’s Anastasia loose leaf tea, a Laura Mercier Foundation Primer, a packet of Marlette’s Organic Fondant au Chocolat mix, a 50% off voucher for a cut and blow-dry at any Michael John salon, a discount coupon for YellowKorner and lots of fantastic information about the brands.

The Kusmi Tea Party was a fabulous affair – stylish and entertaining, with plenty of delicious treats. The store was a grotto of delights – parading everything from funky tea pots to exclusive, Russian tea blends! A brilliant event with top-notch food, entertainment and staff, I walked away with loads of Christmas gift ideas and a range of new favourite tea flavours.

Kusmi Tea, 15 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4NU

RECOMMENDED: Four Corners Café near the South Bank

18 Sep

Behind Waterloo station, adjacent to the London Eye and a stone’s throw from the bustle of London’s South Bank sits an airy and charming café: Four Corners.

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Located on Lower Marsh, its pea-green exterior is a welcoming beacon for the delights within. Hot and cold sandwiches, fresh salads, sweet pastries and fruit tarts are complemented by a wide range of loose leaf teas and smooth yet rich coffee.

Surprisingly, there is no kitchen on the premises but the café has no problem in finding ways to serve tasty food. Sourcing ingredients from the four corners of the globe, the simple menu is regularly updated; next week will see the launch of new, tapas-themed dishes. These will include slices of manchego cheese with forest honey, and a platter of lomo, chorizo and serrano ham with pepper jelly.

This comfortable and relaxed café only opened two months ago and its inviting interior – with a global travel theme – has already attracted a loyal customer base. Further charm can be found in the staff, led by owner Shaun. Everyone was wonderfully welcoming, helpful and cheerful, happy to answer questions and explain key menu items.

Having won free teas and cakes for two via a contest on Twitter, I took my mother along for a treat and arrived just after midday. We couldn’t resist buying a freshly-prepared chorizo and cheddar roll (£4.50) – complemented with rocket leaves in what looked like a sesame-seeded pretzel bun. It was delicious: a perfect mixture of texture and flavour.

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Our pastry tarts of fig and apricot were both exceedingly good – washed down with lovely teas and coffees – and it was difficult to select a favourite. After all, partake in a scrumptious tart and you can’t go wrong! We finally settled on apricot, buying one to take home. We plan to return to the café very soon for more!

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Offering great service and excellent food, Four Corners is well worth a visit during your next trip to London’s South Bank; the simple yet flavoursome menu is great value for money in a location were over-priced tourist-traps are usually the norm.

Four Corners, 12 Lower Marsh, London, SE1 7RJ, is opening from 7.30am – 5.30pm from Monday to Friday and from 10am – 5pm on Saturdays.

Baker Street Quarter Food Market

11 Sep

The bustle of Baker Street gets an extra injection of excitement on the second Wednesday of every month – a thriving Food Market offering everything from sandwiches to truffle oil. 

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Located in the outdoor atrium of 55 Baker Street, the market features a variety of stands showcasing foods from across the globe. Attracting hungry diners happy to queue for a lunchtime treat, there’s plenty to choose from:

Sandwiches & Wraps

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Greek Cypriot outfit Petros Produce dished up Grilled Halloumi Wraps (£5), a popular choice from a menu which also included Smoked Ham. Watching the thickly sliced cheese grilling slowly over a hot plate, it was easy to see why queues had formed!

A fundraising meal-deal from The Radisson Blu Portman Hotel offered a homemade sandwich, a piece of fruit and a smoothie for £3.50 – with all money going to Variety, the children’s charity.

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Large, soft baps housed fillings of Chargrilled Vegetables & Hummus or Chicken Chilli Mayo & Rocket – both looked very tempting!

Curries

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An array of vibrant-looking curries from Fire & Spice Bar & Kitchen attracted quite a crowd. The Marble Arch based restaurant dished up meat and veggie options of its signature dishes: Chicken Chettinad infused with coconut; Vegetable Korma made with yogurt and saffron; Lemon Rice; and Poppadoms.

Baked Goods – Breads, Pastries, Tarts, Cakes & More

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Samples of Karaway Bakery‘s beautiful breads and pastries all tasted superb – particularly a Lithuanian Scalded Rye and a Pumpernickel loaf.

I brought home a bag of Pancake Biscuits, priced £1.20. The vanilla flavoured, bite-sized puffs have an airy texture and are exceedingly moreish!

For something sweeter, visit Galeta‘s stall. The bakers are well known for their chewy, giant cookies and an award-winning, decadent chocolate brownie (£2).

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Giving the latter strong competition is their Pastéis de Nata (Portugese Custard Tart): layers of light, flaky pastry containing a scrumptious egg custard. The tarts are priced at £1.50 each but it’s worth splurging £4 for four – restricting yourself to one could prove difficult! 

Hush Hush Chefs‘ filo pies and tarts also drew crowds. Crisp triangle pastries filled with Roasted Aubergine & Peppers and Mushroom & Cheese were huge, while open topped tarts, sliced into giant wedges, included Caramelised Onion & Parmesan and Roasted Vegetables & Goat’s Cheese.

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I opted for a slice of Spinach, Feta and Nut (£3.50) pictured above. The flavour and texture of the cheese seemed more akin to an unsalted Ricotta, but no-one else seemed to notice!

Truffle Oils & Sauces

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Newcomer Marche Food was a great find at the market! Their delectable White Truffle Oil with Courgette was incredible, as was a sample of the oil served separately, Tartufo Bianco (£8) . Selling products from Marche, Italy, a region renowned for its produce, the quality of the oils was exceptional, with a luxuriously rich flavour.

Deli Items

Flying the flag for charcuterie was Picco Salumi, an Islington based outfit famed for its cured meat products, made with the finest free range, British pork.

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I couldn’t resist buying three varieties of salami: Soppressata, made with garlic, chilli, oregano and hungarian paprika; Saucisson, spiced with ginger, garlic, ground white pepper, and whole black pepper corns; and Salt & Pepper with Mulled Wine – all delicious!

An enticing array of plump Olives, Nuts and Turkish Delight were also on offer from another vendor which I cannot name.

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Unfortunately, their branding still needs some work – the stall didn’t carry a sign with a company name – but their produce is great!

Confectionery

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Simply Handmade Chocolates had a glorious assortment of truffles (from 95p), fudge (from £3.50) and macarons (£5 per bag) to choose from. I particularly enjoyed a smooth and intense dark chocolate Raspberry Fondant Heart and a creamy and crunchy milk chocolate Manuka Honeycombe Cluster. I’ll definitely be returning for some fudge and macarons very soon!

Tea and Coffee Blends

Bellevue Teas had a wonderful stall, with a fabulous selection of blends and gift sets.

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Both bags and loose leaf varieties were available to purchase, from classic Peppermint and Camomile to Nilgiri Silver Tip and Sweet Orange Rooibos.

An unexpected, yet welcome, discovery came in the form of a smooth coffee that wasn’t actually made from coffee beans!

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Innocente‘s Caffè d’Orzo is a caffeine free alternative made from roasted barley and produced by a family-run business in Tuscany. Looking like espresso, it lacks the expected aroma yet tastes just like decaf – but without any of the nasty chemicals used in the manufacturing process! You can buy a cup for £1.

Exotic Fruits & Juices

Toucan Fruit had the most colourful stall, showcasing exotic produce also available from their London store.

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I found a good mix of familiar and unusual fruits, from Coconuts and Melon to Cacao Fruit and Colombian Pitahaya. I recommend picking up an Exotic Fruit Pot – a healthy lunch or dessert option that will only set you back £2.50.

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Toucan also offered freshly squeezed juices: the only cold beverage available to buy at the market – great for washing down a hearty sandwich or chocolate treat!

Baker Street Quarter Food Market, is held on the second Wednesday of every month, from midday to 4pm.

The London Restaurant Interiors Tour – Part 1

25 Aug

Imagine if an events company offered a tour of the most beautiful, interesting or quirky restaurant interiors in London. The possible locations would be endless and it’s difficult to select a Top 10. Thus, I’ve decided to blog countdowns throughout the year: an evolving and expanding list to which others are welcome to contribute.

Whether you prefer dining in themed eateries, quirky diners, intimate supperclubs or sat upon the swaying deck of a boat restaurant, there are enough gorgeous, innovative and opulent choices to ponder and assess.

To kick off the ‘tour’, I suggest we take a virtual walk around a tourist-friendly combination of familiar, central and interesting hot-spots before future lists expand to encompass some of the more brow-raising decors gracing the Capital.

#1 A pit stop to Momo in Regent Street’s Food Quarter is must for a brief sojourn from London life. With its copper tables, dark wooden panels, amazing arches, colourful upholstery and pretty tableware, the heart of Morocco comes to the heart of the English Capital.

Selected wares are available to purchase from the Mo Cafe, next to the main restaurant, but do not endeavour to haggle with the waiting staff; it may look and feel like a bonafide souk but it’s most certainly not. Attempting to negotiate a 2-for-1 deal, or suggesting they throw in a couple of fake Rolex-style watches for an extra quid upon receipt of your dining bill, will only result in confused looks from fellow diners and staff!

#2 One of the most ornately decorated cafés in London is the stunning cafeteria found in the V&A Museum. With exquisitely painted ceilings, globe lighting, stylish columns and attractive arches, it’s a beautiful spot to indulge in Afternoon Tea during a visit to the museum.

So pleasant is this venue, you may find yourself turning into one of their exhibits. I never want to leave whenever I’m there and half expect the cleaner to give me a quick dusting at the end of the evening and hang a sign around my neck stating: Double-Chinned Tea Lover, 2013. A Greek artefact often seen in areas serving cake.

#3 Of course, we can’t mention the ornate without a nod to Gilgamesh in Camden Stables Market. Featuring more wooden carvings than an Indonesian street market, the panels tell the story of the Sumerian King and demi-God after which the venue is named.

Immortalised in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest stories ever written, the King goes through a series of adventures that require bravery, courage and wisdom. Entering this venue will require the same three skills; the excellent Pan-Asian food and gorgeous cocktails aren’t cheap so don’t go if you can’t face a hefty bill without wanting to chuck yourself onto one of Gilgamesh’s spears!

#4 Competing in the over-the-top carvings stakes is neighbour Shaka Zulu, also located in Camden Stables Market. Try to resist the temptation of turning up in fancy dress; no matter how much a loin cloth may complement the venue’s tribal interior and the scantily-clad fire eaters it houses, I assure you that entry will be denied and your bits will feel quite a chill as you stand in your cloth trying to negotiate with the bouncers at the door.

#5 Flamboyant doesn’t even begin to describe the decor of Turkish-Mediterranean eaterie Sarastro on Drury Lane. Modelled on the Victorian curiosity shops of yesteryear, expect to find more than your mind can dream within the confines of this unusual restaurant!

Fellow food blogger Mint And Rosemary visited the eatery last week and was welcomed by a large figure pointing a giant erection towards her. This was not the manager or a registered sex offender running amok: it was a statue forming part of the decor. Fertility God? Possibly. It might be worth considering a Depo-Vera shot or a vasectomy before you visit, lest you tempt fate.

★Part 2 of my Top 10 will follow soon but please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments box★

Top 5 Things of the Week (August 12th – 18th)

18 Aug

#1 Restaurant Reviews course at City Lit
Food writing is a delicate art, requiring balance and creativity – just like good cooking. Hidden in a discreet side street in London’s Covent Garden, City Lit adult education college offers a range of food-related courses, from cupcake decorating to food writing.

Under the supervision of expert tutor Nikki Spencer, a vivacious food critic and journalist, I spent a week honing my Restaurant Reviewing skills.

Gaining useful tips, advice, feedback and skills, the course included two visits to local restaurants – which, of course, we had to review. It was an inspiring week and my classmates were awesome: an amazingly talented bunch of food writers and truly lovely people.

#2 Chocolate Frozen Custard Shake at Shake Shack

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Rich, smooth and exceptionally delicious, the Frozen Custard Shakes at Shake Shake burger bar in Covent Garden actually taste better than their burgers!

I discovered the delights of their chocolate flavoured creation during a field trip in the Restaurant Reviews course mentioned above. Sitting within the bustle of Covent Garden, draining my carton of chocolate goodness in the name of education, I felt a pang of sorrow for all my classmates who had ordered a different drink – my shake was unbeatable!

#3 Music Paper Bread
Crunching out a pattern of addictive beats with every bite, I’m addicted to these wafer-thin bread discs from Sardinia.

Salty, crisp and as addictive as Pringles, these have become a storecupboard staple. Available from M&S stores for £2.49, they won’t break the bank and come in a handbag friendly box – result!

#4 Tiramisu at Polpo in Covent Garden

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It was a toss-up between Venetian-inspired Polpo’s cheese and onion Pizza Bianca or their creamy Tiramisu: the dessert only just clinched it! Creamy, light and served in a glass, every mouthful was superb – from the flavorsome cofffee-soaked sponge to what looked like a chocolate ganache lining the bottom. Heavenly!

#5 Gelati from Venchi

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Covent Garden certainly kept me well fed this week! A cone topped with two Chocolate and Chocolate and Hazelnut gelati from Italian chocolatier Venchi was rich, tasty and the perfect antidote to the scorchingly hot summer sun!

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