Tag Archives: eating out

Top 5 Things of the Week (September 2nd – 8th)

8 Sep

#1 Meatopia in London

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The annual New York meat and barbecue festival finally branched out to London and the result was an epic celebration with a carnival atmosphere.

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The intoxicating aroma rising from Tobacco Dock in East London must’ve been detected for miles around: grills sizzled with a mix of quail, beef, venison, chicken and an abundance of pork! There were too many dishes to choose from, and it didn’t help that queues were lengthy, but everything sampled was a juicy delight of smokiness and texture.

My full review of the event is posted on The Upcoming so read more here.

#2 Desserts at Vivo in Islington

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The Upcoming sent me to attend a private preview event of this brand new bakery, café and bar, set to open on Islington’s Upper Street at the end of the month.

The pizzas were fabulous but the desserts were out of the stratosphere! My particular favourite was a Cassata Siciliana: a fondant-like Italian meringue housing candied peel and contrasting cream and sponge layers – heavenly! Read more here.

#3 Hiver‘s Honey Beer

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This is the nicest craft beer I’ve sampled in aaaages! Discovered at Meatopia, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, with a pleasant floral undertone.

Made with urban and rural honey, the beer is long matured and unpasteurised. Hiver tone down the hops with an organic speciality malt to bring out the honey flavours.

#4 Spanish Manchego from Mallorca

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Ah, nothing beats food gifts from relatives returning from a sojourn abroad. Presented with a lovely wedge of fresh Manchego, one of my favourite cheeses, I’ve been layering it with Membrillo and crackers for the perfect daily snack. Delicious!

#5 Barclays Business Seminar
The amount of free seminars, workshops and courses in London never ceases to amaze and inspire.

This week, I attended a seminar sponsored by Barclays and hosted by my local borough council. Offering useful advice and tips on how to launch your own business, from funding opportunities to tax laws!

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Top 3 Things of the Week (August 26th – September 1st)

1 Sep

With my recent bout of ill health continuing for much of the week, I was unable to partake in as many events or food trips. Compiling a Top 5 was unrealistic but I’ve managed to up my game from last week – when I was so ill I could only list one measly item! It is with great pleasure that I write: behold this week’s Top 3 Things of the Week!

#1 Proud Cabaret in the City

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The 1920s themed Speakeasy proved to be one of the most entertaining nights in London! With waitresses clad in basques, exquisite martinis and an awesome burlesque murder-mystery, called The Silencing of Miss Scarlett it was a fun-filled night of glamour and naughtiness. Read my full review for The Upcoming here.

#2 Palmers Green Festival

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Held within the lush beauty of Broomfield Park in North London’s cultural and culinary capital, Palmers Green, this annual festival was the perfect Sunday escapade.

The community event was a celebration of all the borough has to offer, from food and entertainment to shopping and education.

It was difficult to resist the delicious international cuisine – delicacies hailed from a global trail spanning the Caribbean to Asia! Added to mouth-watering cakes from local tearooms such as Baskervilles, the sights and smells were beyond intoxicating.

Arts and craft stalls offered everything from ceramics to jewellery and, if not content to buy, both parents and kids were encouraged to try their hand at making their own from porcelain, under the instruction of Doodle Designs.

A children’s fun fair and separate activity and games stalls proved highly popular, while a local dance studio took eager volunteers through their paces, creating Palmers Green’s very own Strictly Come Dancing masterclass.

The park’s pavilion area, hosted by Tropical FM, was used to introduce a range of performances from local school children. Singing and dancing with equal passion and nerves, the kids excelled themselves. The entire afternoon was an endearing hybrid of The X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent – amazing!

Festivals like this are what community is all about: congregating, celebrating and appreciating. Witnessing the multicultural residents of Palmers Green coming together to interweave their many cultures into a gigantic tapestry of fun and colour for all to enjoy was truly magical. Roll on next year so we can do it all again!

#3 McDonalds

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Left thirsty and famished after attending the launch party for new Soho restaurant and bar, Coal Vaults, there was little choice but to seek sustenance elsewhere.

Luckily, McDonalds on Oxford Street was still open for business. Never before has a “Mickey-Ds” hit the spot to this extent. Delicious, filling and a huge relief.

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Coal Vaults in Soho

31 Aug

UPDATED 5TH SEPTEMBER, 2013: Following its publication, my review of Coal Vaults‘ launch party has been removed, so the link included within my original blog is now invalid.

I gave an honest account of the event and stand by every word submitted. It would have been unethical to lie about such a negative experience and to gloss it up for the sake of popularity. Professional integrity is paramount. I applaud The Upcoming for posting my review – albeit for a brief period – and hope it didn’t cause them any trouble.

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The promise of a new “hot spot” in London is always met with anticipation and excitement. Newcomer Coal Vaults opened its doors this week with a succession of PR-driven launch events to entice celebrities and reviewers.

With promises of seasonal British cuisine, delicious cocktails and a quirky industrial interior, The Upcoming kindly decided to send me along to pen a review. What followed was one the most depressing and deflating nights ever experienced in London. Read why here.

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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RESTAURANT REVIEW: Shake Shack in Covent Garden – Part 2

15 Aug

Slurping noisily, I finished my chocolate shake and possessively hugged the carton like a gorilla cradling her young. Churned with fresh, frozen custard, every gratifying slurp had generated a contented sigh, leaving me bereft after draining my last drop.

My fellow diners may have misconstrued this attachment as a sign of intense satisfaction. After all, Shake Shack – the much-hyped American burger bar which opened its first UK outpost in London two months ago – has attracted an army of cult-like followers, religiously tweeting and instagram-ing tales of near divine experiences. Yet today was the second time I have eaten at the Covent Garden restaurant and both meals proved average and lacklustre.

On both occasions, I rocked up to the soulless yet stylish grey eatery, housed beneath the market square’s glass atrium, and queued for ten minutes for the “amazing” and “incredible” burgers. Surrounded by excited newcomers looking like randy teenagers desperate to enter a brothel during a trip to Amsterdam, expectations were naturally high. Sadly, although my orgasmic shake was worthy of unbridled praise, the same cannot be said of my remaining meal.

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A SmokeShack burger, fries and shake cost a steep £13.50, which goes some way towards explaining why my burger seemingly blinked up at me like a mocking clown with clashing face paint. A golden brioche bun enclosed a brown Aberdeen Angus patty layered with neon cheese, pink Wiltshire smoked bacon and a smattering of red peppers.

Determined to find the fabled ShackSauce allegedly annointing the burgers of hardcore devotees, I dismantled mine to find coral-stained bread and a tiny squelch of remaining sauce. Like a gynaecologist conducting a cervical smear, I prodded at the area with a crinkle cut chip. Feeling apprehensive, I finally shoved the cream-coated stick into my mouth and – Praise Jesus! Holy Ketchup! Or whatever else devoted Shack-ites spout – I was pleasantly surprised. The mild sauce was deliciously tangy with a subtle undertone of heat: a delightful condiment that needed to be laddled on with a skip to sucessfully compete with the mush of bread, bacon and beef. The three core ingredients were locked in a war against a ruthless oppressor: pickled cherry peppers. The ShackSauce was a mere casualty in the epic battle.

Not one to overlook the virtues of an eatery, the chips were undeniably good: crispy, buttery and an acceptable alternative to French Fries (which would have been preferable). It takes a special kind of chef to cock up fried spuds so Shake Shack can rest assured that Mr. Potato Head won’t fire off any angry letters about the mistreatment of his brethren any time soon.

The biggest disappointment was the patty itself: lean and smeared with yellow, it looked as though it had been flattened by one of the local council’s road-marking trucks as they were painting new parking lines. In hindsight, perhaps my visit had some divine intervention after all… had I taken heed of the warning earlier by scanning other people’s trays, I would have parked my rear for lunch elsewhere – Byron Burger and Five Guys are both within walking distance.

The only reason to venture into Shake Shack again would be to grab another delicious milkshake. At £4.50 each, they cost almost as much as the burgers – but with the added allure of rich flavour.

In the blog following my first visit, I concluded that Shake Shack was all frill and no knickers. Now, having tried a milkshake and chips, I concede that I was unduly harsh; it’s more like a lacy crotchless thong – plenty of frills around the edges but a gaping hole in the centre.

Square Meal

Top 5 Things of The Week (July 29th – August 4th)

4 Aug

#1 Dessert at Spice Market

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A rather underwhelming meal at the Leicester Square eatery was uplifted by a magnificent dessert comprised of a coconut cream granita, mixed fruits and Asian syrups. The bubblegum-flavoured concoction was refreshing and light – perfect for summer.

#2 Jermyn Street Theatre

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I finally got to visit this compact theatre, housed in a basement in Jermyn Street, to see Rory Fellowes’ play A Victorian Eye. Intimate yet comfortable, I loved it’s layout and casual grace.

#3 Lemon Meringue Krispy Kreme Donut
Why did no-one tell me to break my habit of always buying the same two varieties of Krispy Kreme so that I could try this tangy, lemon curd-filled option? Topped with a generous swirl of toasted meringue, each donut looks like a little pillow – the perfect cushion for my stomach lining 😉

#4 Mature Halloumi Cheese
Most people are aware of the rubbery cheese sold in supermarkets but mature halloumi, allowed to age in brine, is far more brittle and dry in texture.

Salty and accented with a hint of mint, the best varieties are those made with 100% goat’s milk – but a small tub will set you back at least €50. Yes, Euros, not pounds sterling; you’ll be hard pushed to find a Greek retailer in the United Kingdom who sells them and the only option is a shipment from Cyprus. You see, most mature halloumi is saved to eat in the home as the flavour is often too strong or alien for European palettes.

It’s not for grilling or frying like the cow’s and sheep’s milk blends from across British supermarkets – these are purely for cheese lovers and are best served sliced with fresh bread and juicy ripe tomatoes.

#5 Mourning Bread
Made to mark the anniversary of losing a loved one, these bread loaves are made by Greek Cypriots to include cinnamon, sugar and ‘mastika’.

Cooked until almost molasses-brown yet springy on the inside, the bread is sliced and eaten with ‘Koliva’ – a sweet and savoury mix of wheat berries, blanched almonds, pomegranate, dried fruits and icing sugar (optional).