Afternoon tea at the Sanderson

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I must admit, I don’t usually go for afternoon tea- but when I do, I want it to be special and out of the ordinary. That’s why I decided to book the mad hatters tea party at the Sanderson for my family and I. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s set outdoors in the courtyard of the- you guessed it, Sanderson, providing each guest cosy blankets and presented with  pretty teapots embellished with kings and queens and sandwich plates decorated with zebras, birdcages and ticking clocks.  The food is all themed around Alice and Wonderland and is priced at £48.  The sugar is presented in a cute little music box and the menu wedged in between the pages of a vintage book. You can also choose to have a glass of champagne with it too for £58. As there were 6 of us – (well 5 and one child), we decided to go for a bottle as an extra treat!

Once you are seated, the waiter brings you samples of all the teas. I’ve only recently become more into tea and I will say the Alice inspired fusions smelled delicious. I liked the way they were all in little jars with labels and we got to do more than just simply read the descriptions before choosing which one we’d like to try first. I went for White rabbit, infused with white grapefruit, vanilla and almond white chrysanthemums. It was light and floral! Then, we eagerly awaited our food (we went around lunch time and I was starving).  In terms of first impressions, I loved the food presentation of the tea stand, especially the meringues and the marshmallow mushrooms.

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Going by each tier, the bottom had:

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  • Smoked salmon Scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese (Yum – however, a bit too fishy  and not enough egg to fish ratio if you ask me)
  • Stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croque-monsieur (Probably my favourite of the savoury options! Simple but always a treat)
  • Cornish crab bridge roll with dill, lemon, crème fraîche and avocado (This was OK, I did feel that there was not enough crab to properly enjoy it but from the little crab we had, it was tasty)
  • White Rabbit cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on pesto bread (A bit boring in my opinion)
  • Alice’s cinnamon, apple and peach “ Drink Me” potion (interesting! I liked how as you drank it you picked up different flavours of the dessert- it’s also quirky to include a drinkable dessert) 

These were the only savoury (minus the potion) options for the day. I know I would have liked to have more choices as all the little desserts became a bit sickly after a while- however, this may be due to my own personal preference and what you look for in an afternoon tea!

The next tier had:

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  • Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry Jammy Dodger (Yum! the biscuit was both crumbly and buttery)
  • Mocha chessboard gateau (Left this to last and was not my favourite- I’m not a huge fan of really chocolaty cakes though so that speaks for itself)
  • Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier (Again, delicious but way too rich to finish)
  • Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon (Probably my favourite! I love a good vanilla macaroon)

And finally, the top tier:

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  • Wonderland marshmallow magic mushrooms (Nice in terms of decor, but too sweet otherwise)
  • Mad Hatters lost carrot and fennel meringue (Tasty- it was airy and light. These were placed in the grass served at the top of the tier)

In addition, the waiter then brought out warm scones served with Cornish clotted cream and fruit preserve. This is when I decided (for once and surprisingly) that I was done with desserts and desperately craved another ham and cheese sandwich. While I would go back for the experience, I’m not sure if I would go back for the food. There were, as mentioned, dishes I really enjoyed, but there were (in my opinion!) too many sweet treats in comparison to savoury. As many of them are so rich in flavour, it did feel a bit overwhelming.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a lovely place to have afternoon tea which is a little different to the norm, this could be the place for you!

Brunch at Roka, Canary Wharf

Let’s face it, Japanese food is delicious and when you can combine it with unlimited flowing wine- what’s not to love? That’s why I decided to book Roka’s brunch whilst my dad’s in town.

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A bit of background story: My family is sort of obsessed with contemporary Asian restaurants. We’ve had our fair shares of Yellowtail with jalapeños and salmon tartares- it really is our go to treat, which is why I knew we all had to give it a whirl. Firstly, in terms of their package- I will say the price is actually pretty decent! Essentially it is either £49, £59, or £69 depending on what you pick as your main. Each menu has its own options. The price you go for will also establish what sort of wine you can have, but you can still pick between red or white. Most importantly, these are all free flowing for your two-hour slot. All menu choices include a Bellini (or champagne for the £69 menu), Green tea or a bloody Mary on arrival, as well as a selection of the starters in a buffet style by the kitchen.  To my surprise, there was actually quite an extensive array of options. In fact, by the time I had tried all the starters I wanted (which, let’s be real were most of them) I was already feeling a bit full… (oops we probably shouldn’t have ordered 5 MAINS THEN). All menu’s come with a tasty dessert platter for the table at the end as well. Those who opt for the £69 menu will also get a premium sashimi platter included, the option to have rosé, as well as choose exactly which desserts you want to try for the dessert platter. All in all, though, there is not much difference between the three.  I would suggest that if you are on a budget, you can still enjoy the brunch for the cheapest option as each person can separately opt for whatever menu price they desire.

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The Sashimi Platter: Salmon, Seabass, Tuna, Prawn and salmon tartare. The tartare was probably my favourite. 

My friends and I have done a lot of boozy brunches and I find that in London you usually have to compromise on alcohol or food quality. Luckily, at Roka, neither of these are sacrificed (praise the lord)! The service was prompt and polite, the alcohol kept being topped up so I kept believing my “one glass” remained the same – (obviously not but a great excuse in my eyes) and the food of high standard! In terms of starters, my favourites were the mushroom broth, the crispy chicken wings and the beef ginger and sesame dumplings pictured below!

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Certainly, there was a range of other tasty options, including udon, chicken karaage, sushi and sashimi amongst others. I was surprised to see a few tofu options and even more delighted that these were just as yummy. 

After feeling pleasantly satisfied, we each waited for our mains to be delivered.  As there were 5 of us in total (plus one child), we all got to share – (hello, my favourite! no food jealousy will happen under my watch!). We tried the:

  • Rice hot pot with crispy soy chicken and shiitake mushroom served with seasonal truffle (£69 menu)
  • Essentially a risotto style dish. Loved the taste but the truffle did come through a bit too strong and overpowered the other flavours. There were five of us and we couldn’t finish it.
  • 290-day grain fed black Angus rib eye served with wasabi ponzu (£69 menu)
  • YES, yes and yes. This was succulent and tender.
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  • grilled lobster with yuzukosho mayonnaise and fried shallots (£69 menu)
  • What’s not to love about lobster? I do wish that there was a sauce element with the dish rather than mayonnaise but that’s just my personal preference! DSC03823
  • Lamb cutlets with Korean spices (£59)
  • Juicy and flavourful! We were thankful for the smaller portion sizes as well. The waiter did advise us on portion sizes of each main so we purposely aimed to get some smaller than others.
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  • Black cod marinated in yuzu miso (£59)
  • Again, I can’t fault the black cod. The yuzu miso provided a tangy balance to the salty fish. Probably one of my favourite of the dishes!

Feeling stuffed and tipsy, I eagerly anticipated the infamous dessert platter (because scientifically we all have a second stomach for desserts, right?) As previously mentioned, because we had ordered a few dishes of the £69, we got to pick our desserts. We went for the almond crème brûlée with cherry blossom ice cream and a sesame biscuit, the chocolate to matcha pudding, as well as the banana ice cream with a salted cocoa crumble. Out of the three, my favourite was the latter! (although I must admit I also loved the chocolate pudding). It had little bits of sweet crunchy popcorn and the banana ice cream was fresh and creamy. The brûlée tasted a bit too much like marzipan for my liking but if marzipan is your thing, then hunni you’re gonna love it! The staff also kindly put in a cute birthday message for Mark….This was kinda awkward as he ended up leaving before it came out as he had an event to go to. Yes, Mark, we’re bringing up the guilt tripping yet again!

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Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Roka. It may be a bit more expensive than other brunches available in the capital, but if you’re looking for exceptionally delicious food and good free flowing wine- Roka is the place for you!

Tonkatsu Pop-up at Proud East, Haggerston

Mark and I decided to venture somewhere close last Sunday when the sun was shining- Ok seriously though it was hot AF. We sat on my roof for 30 minutes and decided, Nah, this ain’t for me. I kept envisioning a nice cold pool to jump into and then opened my eyes and realised I was still in London. I really need a holiday, can you tell?- MIAMI HERE I COME.

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Anyways- for lunch time we decided to head down to the Canal in Haggerston and realised that a Tonkatsu pop up was going on in Proud East for twelve weeks only.  Now if you haven’t been to Tonkatsu, you’ll know that their speciality is ramen. Now, don’t get me wrong- I love a bit of ramen. However, the thought of eating it in 30c is not my idea of a good time. However, we noticed that they were doing Ramen salads, as well as other side dishes, so we decided to give it a go.

We went for:

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Pork Gyoza with ginger and chilli

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‘Eat the bits chilli oil’ chicken wings

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King Prawn Katsu

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Chicken Hiyashi Ramen salad with poached and marinated chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, pea shoots and a seasoned egg. Drizzled with a ponzu dressing.

 

The verdict? The food is pretty damn delicious. I’d never had a Hiyashi Ramen salad before. This was essentially a dish made with classic homemade noodles which are cooked then chilled in cold water to retain the perfect bite and bounce, all topped with a tangy dressing. It made a light and refreshing alternative to a hearty ramen broth, whilst still being filling due to the noodles. Furthermore, the Pork Gyoza’s were flavourful and the Prawn Katsu perfectly crispy.

However, the winning dish for us was the chicken wings. Oh. My. God. Mark and I agreed that these were up there for our favourite wings ever- and TRUST ME, we’ve eaten a lot of chicken wings in our time. First, they were deep fried to achieve the perfect crunch and then, they were drenched in their homemade chilli oil sauce. They were just the right amount of spice and perfectly moreish. I’ve always said chicken wings are underrated and wings like this prove me right everytime.

Basically, you have to try these if you’re visiting.

It’s a perfect East London spot to catch a quick bite to eat and the bonus is the lovely terrace that faces the canal, where you can sit in the sun with a cold drink and people watch all day. Don’t tell me I’m the only person who does that….

 

 

 

Santa Maria Product Launch event

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Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of joining my friend Katrina to a wonderful supper club evening to celebrate the new Santa Maria product launch. I know, another post that starts with “Kat kindly invited me” -(thanks, girl you’re the best!). For those of you who don’t know, my friend Katrina works at the Lady magazine and her job often involves getting approached by journalists who send and invite her to try their new food/ drink and lifestyle products. Here, we got to discover their new range of sauces, rice, seasonings, tortillas, toppings and sides, influenced by tastes from the Caribbean to Argentina. This was all cooked and prepared by chef Luiz Hara, the London Foodie and award-winning food blogger Rosana Mcphee. The event itself was hosted in the chef’s lovely home- (seriously, can I just say: HOUSE GOALS!), which really made the evening feel relaxed and more personal- we were all told to help ourselves to his fridge overflowing with delicious wine, beers and bubbly.

Upon arrival, we were each handed a yummy cocktail as we tucked into a few tapas items before the main event. I must admit, we did arrive a bit late, so we sadly only got to try one of the items on the menu (I say sadly only because I’m greedy). These were the Colombian crunchy chicken bites, served with a pineapple and chilli sauce. I was really surprised to hear that the crumb coating was part of the Santa Maria range, as it made the chicken perfectly crispy and crunchy with minimal effort – and who doesn’t love stress free crispy chicken!  I think we all tend to judge that if a sauce comes in a packet, it will fail to deliver on flavours- but as we were about to discover,  chef Luiz created all his delicious and high-quality plates by incorporating the different Santa Maria products, showing us all their versatility and ability to be used by both amaetuers and professionals alike.

Our menu for the evening was as follows, and bear with me because it was a lot of food (which of course, I loved!) I’ve also inserted the Santa Maria products used for each dish that was featured to show you what the chef used, as well as my own pictures of the food to properly convey just how effective the seemingly simple sauces went in transforming the dishes.  You’ll be as amazed as we were, trust me.

Starters:

Baked Costa Rican fish in Banana leaf

 

Capaccio of Mexican Chayote

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Brazillian Xinxim de Galinha  

 

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Mains:

Argentinian Picanha of Beef

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Venezuelan Cigarillas de Repollo

(Baked cabbage cigars with cashew nuts)

 

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Arroz y Frijoles

(Served with spring greens & avocado)

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So, my verdict? I was pleasantly surprised at just how flavourful the new Santa Maria range really is! I LOVED the beef, which thanks to the chef, was cooked to utter perfection. The spices gave it a rich flavour that kept me going back for seconds. I also loved the peanut sauce which was particularly tasty and made the perfect accompainment to the soft peppery tortillas. I’m all about cooking things from scratch- I’m sure every food blogger would agree, but the great thing about Santa Maria range is that it allows anyone to quickly whip up a delicious meal in only 15 minutes. I’m looking forward to trying my own concoctions thanks to the guys at Wildcard PR who gave us all a hefty bag of yummy goodies!

 

London Pizza Festival 2017

Last year, Laura and I discovered the best festival ever to exist in London- London pizza festival! For my birthday last year, Laura had got me a ticket where we got to make our own pizza with our East London (hangover) favourite, Rosso Pomodoro. However, our ticket did not include (as we were to later find out) the main show- namely, voting for London’s best pizza joint.

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That’s why we had to go back and try out this year (and probably every other year to come as well). Six different pizza places are present at London Pizza Festival and for £28, you make your way around trying a slice of them all as you turn yourself into a pizza connoisseur.  Typical phrases I found myself saying were things like: “Shame, the dough is a little bit burnt”, “Too doughy, tastes like bread”,  “WAY too much cheese” – (and who thought I’d ever say that). Essentially, trying each slice side by side really helps you realise that no pizza is ever the same. You’re able to cleverly distinguish every little detail (or at least that’s what Laura and I certainly felt like). Then, once you have tried them all, each person uses one voting sticker to crown the winner.

Out of all the places that were there, I had tried both Radio Alice and Da Michele before. Da Michele definitely does live up to its reputation and its pizza is delicious. The tomato sauce is perfectly balanced and flavoursome. Radio Alice is a little different from conventional pizza places. Its dough is a lot denser like bread, so it is less airy and fluffy than your typical pizza. However, I will say that it is tasty nonetheless and their topping choices are always unique. Therefore, I was excited that there was a range of contenders this year, including many I had never tried before.

This year, the contenders were as follows:

Addommè

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Delicious tomato sauce with just the right amount of cheese topped with a tasty aubergine parmigiana. The dough was light and airy. My only complaint was it was little burnt on the bottom. This pizza ended up winning and I can completely see why.

Da Michele (apparently the best pizza in the world)

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In the restaurant, when I had tried the margarita, I’d ordered it with single mozzarella and I had really enjoyed it. However, the pizza they offered here was double the cheese and in my opinion, it was way too much. I love cheese but it meant the pizza had no other flavour.

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Made of Dough

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This was our overall favourite and both me and Laura did end up voting for it. It also won in 2015. We found that made of dough had the perfect balance of flavours. The saltiness of the chorizo went well the sweetness of the piquillo peppers. The dough was close to being my favourite as well. I loved that they gave us a basil aioli to dip the crusts in. I am not a huge fan of crusts and their aioli was EXACTLY what I needed. We even ended up saving it for some of the other pizzas as well.

Napoli on the Road

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Probably my least favourite of the whole festival. I don’t really like pizza in Bianco (White Pizza) unless it’s a topping that I enjoy.  This pizza was topped with tuna carpaccio, mullet bottarga and yellow tomatoes. Personally, I really didn’t like the concept of tuna on a pizza, or any seafood at all for that matter, but it still did well in the overall voting so I think this was down to personal choice.

Radio Alice

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Radio Alice’s dough as mentioned before is crispy on the outside and softer inside. It sort of reminds me of having sourdough bread rather than a traditional pizza. Yet, I will say, while their pizza was denser, the toppings were delicious. The fennel and pork sausage tasted super moreish with the tomato sauce. I also chose to have mine with some chilli oil which gave it just the right amount of heat.

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Sud Italia

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I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. Sud Italia’s Pizza sounded like the most interesting to me and a pizza combo I would never usually pick myself in a restaurant. The pizza had pumpkin, nduja, mozzarella, bleu de laqueuille as well as pecorino and parmesan. Again, for me, the cheese flavours in this pizza were too overpowering. I’m not a fan of blue cheese but I will say its saltiness did help cut through the creamy mozzarella. Overall, for me, this pizza was way too rich and if I had ordered a whole one, I would have not been able to eat it. I will say that in terms of positives, the dough was nice and fluffy.

 

With all the pizza done and dusted, we left the festival feeling STUFFED. I even googled an ice cream place nearby for a dessert but sadly, I could not even bring myself to order anything (WHICH IS so unlike me). Each pizza place gave you a massive slice and if you add it all together, we probably ate the equivalent of 1 and a half pizzas. Combined with some prosecco and we were well and truly knackered. I spent the rest of my day on the sofa, nursing what felt like a pizza baby….but it was worth every second.

Without a shadow of a doubt, We’ll be back next year to eat more pizza, drink more prosecco and become the ultimate tasting experts.

A weekend away in Venice

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For my Birthday this year, Mark decided to pull out all the stops (cheers babe) and take me on a little weekend trip to the city of love. and carbs. and wine- Venice! This was a wonderful surprise and a great start to the month- aka the best month because I was born. Jokes. Sort of. Setting off on Saturday morning and smoothly arriving into Venice we were both excited for our lovely long weekend away from the hustle and bustle of London. Venice life is relaxing. Everyone drinks wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and leisurely strolls around the city soaking in the culture -sometimes underrated here in London where life always feels so rapid.

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On arrival, we walked the quick distance to our bed and breakfast. In a perfect location, just across the main bridge from the bus station and nestled in one of the alleyways of the city, (il Giardino di Giulia- translating literally into Giulia’s garden) was a true gem. Owned by a lovely man named Marco who prides himself in everything his b&b upholds, we had a lovely quaint room on the ground floor, decorated with old-fashioned furniture juxtaposed with modern art touches. It only has three rooms in total, making it lovely, cosy and intimate. For breakfast, which was served on the top floor, decorated with Marco’s vintage furniture, we were served Italian cakes, coffee, tea, toast as well as a list of other organic items made to order, whipped up by Marco himself as smooth jazz played in the background. He made delicious scrambled eggs with chives and porcini mushrooms, as well as fresh pancakes with tasty berries. By having 3 rooms, the breakfast table is essentially shared by all the guests, which means there’s always a chance to talk to Marco, as well as everyone else, discussing restaurants, where they’ve been around Venice, as well as getting to know people. If you don’t really like the idea of socialising- Breakfast is the only likely time you’ll ever see someone, as people spend most of the day out and about exploring.

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On our first day, we decided to do the whole of Venice. WHOLE? – I know what you’re thinking. Damn girl, that’s a bit ambitious. While that may sound like the case, if you look at the map, you can actually go from north to south of the islands in around 50 minutes. Our idea was to get all the main sights done as well as take the famous gondola down the tiny canals. We went to the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco and let ourselves be guided by the city, constantly wandering down little pathways. Note- this doesn’t always work because you end up walking down a path and hitting a dead end, or several in our case. Also- I’d just like to point out gondola ride is 80 euros for 30 minutes. A bit PRICEY IF YA ASK ME, but, nonetheless, I’d definitely recommend it- you truly see the beauty of Venice as you calmly float through the city.

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SATURDAY:

On our first night, we frustratedly walked around looking for a restaurant which would satisfy us and live up to our expectations. I am, the most– pickiest person when it comes to going to a restaurant when I’m on holiday. Especially in a city which attracts more tourists than locals- it is especially important to know you’re eating somewhere that isn’t a tourist trap. Actually, maybe that is just me and Mark, but we love to know that we’re in for a treat. Thankfully, this is exactly what we were in for when we stumbled upon Osteria Enoteca al Artisti. The wine was gorgeous, the food prepared with the freshest ingredients and the tiramisu was THE BOMB.

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Orchiette with Duck Ragu

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Stewed Lamb and Fried Corn Polenta with Veggies

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Tiramisu

 Sunday:

On Sunday, we were knackered having walked all over Venice. Marco suggested we head to Osteria Alba Nova Dalla Maria, tucked away on a small street, away from the main touristy spots. It was also a five-minute walk from the hotel and as I was feeling particularly lazy, this was great news. It is a family run restaurant that is cosy and authentic. If you’re looking for a small, quaint restaurant that serves traditional Venetian recipes then this is your place to go. Just be careful of an old grumpy Italian man that knows the owner, attending regularly for dinner and who ends up getting drunk and hurling abuse at people. I wish I was joking – he must have been about 85 pissed on half a bottle of red, telling mark how only women should wear shorts- bitch, please.

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Selections of meats

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Spaghetti al Vongole (clam spaghetti – MY FAV)

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Dark Chocolate Pasta – (sounds strange, but apparently an ancient recipe and definetly tasty) with cuttlefish

Monday:

DSC03571On Monday, we decided we would head off to the other surrounding Islands of Venice. If you haven’t been, there are no cars so everything is done by boat- imagine moving house and shifting ya furniture down small canals- nightmare! We decided to take the water boat to the north of the island, where you can access further water buses to Burano, Murano and other little islands. I will say, If you don’t want to spend 80 euros on a gondola then this is a cheap way to float through the city- you essentially get an inexpensive tour and can pay for a day pass for 20 euros and take it all around Venice. Burano is a cute little island, famous for knitting intricate lace and is dominated by pretty colourful houses that are fit for an Instagram account’s dream. For lunch, we decided to try Trattoria Da Romano.  As Burano is small and touristy, all the nice restaurants quickly get filled up. We were being consistently turned away or being told to “try our luck in 30 minutes”. Getting hungry and impatient, we were lucky to finally get a table as I had read good things. I’m glad this was the case because the food was worth it! Burano has lots of fresh seafood and I knew we had to take advantage of this.

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Vongole saltate in padella. Clams quickly tossed in a pan in a white wine sauce, with garlic and parsley. You may tell, I like clams. No, I LOVE CLAMS. In Italy, they are a must try dish- especially with a bit of lemon.

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Calamari with white polenta and deep fried vegetables – again, fresh and tender seafood- crucial for a good calamari dish.

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Gnochetti ala Grancevola (crab and tomato sauce)

Later, for dinner, we went to a lovely Venetian place called La Bitta. A restaurant choosing to focus solely on meats, we went for steak, chicken with red peppers, tomatoes and olives as well as a moreish plate of beef carpaccio. I must admit the pictures look a bit blurry and I think this was because I was slightly tipsy.- As Always. But, I did save you a picture of my favourite part of that meal – the dessert. The Panna Cotta was amazing. It had a perfect consistency and jiggled like me on a club night out- haha, seriously though, it was epic.

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TUESDAY:

Finally, our last food stop of the trip consisted of trying Chichetti (Venetian tapas) traditionally eaten standing up.  You can’t go to Venice and not experience it like a local and Chichetti is no exception! You essentially head to the bar and the food is all on display, as you select which different dishes you’d like. It’s all back to basics here- usually served on paper plates and plastic cups. This is even more enjoyable on a sunny day as revellers sit outside in the sun sipping on crisp, cold white wine. We tried Chichetti in both Cantinone Gia Schiavi and Osteria Al Squero, which are both down the road from each other. You must try the latter as it is always popular no matter what day you walk past and has become synonymous with eating like a venetian.

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I can’t honestly tell you everything we got because we asked for house favourites – I’d recommend doing this so you can try an array of different items rather than go for flavours you’re automatically drawn to

Venice was a lovely trip. I got to forget about work for a few days, eat yummy ice cream every day and justify it because we were “walking around”, practice my Italian and spend time with Mark as we basked in the sun.

A personal shout out to him for organising everything, you really are the best.

Italian Tapas at Gastrovino, Chelsea

Situated over 2 floors, Gastrovino is a cute Italian restaurant nestled in the heart of kings road. Surrounded by Italians, (and being asked if I am ACTUALLY Italian – half mate, half) I knew that the food had to be yummy.

IMG_5246Andrea, Katrina and I attended last Wednesday for their aperitivo night! For just £10 pounds per person, every guest is given a welcome drink, as well as an unlimited access to a selection of different small dishes, which are continuously brought out by the chefs as the night unfolds. In terms of price, their Wednesday night deals are such a bargain, as each dish usually ranges between £5-8. I will say we arrived pretty late and so it was rather difficult finding a table and setting up- if you don’t want the hassle of standing around praying someone gets up, definitely go earlier than 8:30 pm! It is also more dimly lit downstairs than up, but this is because the lower deck is a great place for a cocktail, serving as the bar area rather than the main restaurant itself. However, once we did find a seat it was a cosy evening! There was some live music going on in the background and an array of tasty drinks on offer, which really added to the atmosphere. In terms of food, (my favourite part of any situation) we were in control of what dishes we wanted (and in our case, re wanted teehee)- helping ourselves to the various tasty dishes that were on order. As previously mentioned, because the chefs constantly bought out variations of traditional and authentic Italian dishes throughout the night, there was always something new to try. I must admit I kept helping myself to more… it was for the whole table Ok. My favourite dish had to be the aubergine parmigiana. If I have to explain what that is then you know nothing. Jokes.  It is deep fried aubergine in tomato sauce covered with mozzarella cheese mmmmm. We also had the classic bruschetta, pizzette, seafood risotto, pasta with a creamy tomato sauce and meatballs! A pretty good selection if you ask me… and that wasn’t even the half of it!

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All the food was what I’d expect (and want!) from a typical Italian restaurant: tasty carbs, cheese and lots of deep fried goodies.

Looking for Mexican food in London?

Hello, all!

Another post that is LONG OVERDUE. I have recently started working full time and as I know from interning, it becomes much harder to fit everything into your evenings when you get back home. I usually want to mong out and watch TV all evening. (Challenge accepted)

After my recent take on a vegan taco, (which by the way were delicious, super easy to make and can be found the picture is on my Instagram with the ingredients!), I was thinking about what my favourite Mexican place is in London.

As you may or may not know, I went to Mexico in September with a few friends. Once you’ve been there and tasted their fresh guac (among other yummy delights), you realise that a lot- and I’m not saying all! -chains here in London just don’t offer the same authenticity.  

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Take Lupita on Commercial street in Aldgate for example. I don’t’ usually call out restaurants in a bid to shame them and I don’t want anyone to get the impression that that is what I am doing (Ok maybe a little, though). All I will say is, the last time I went the food was pretty substandard. I just didn’t enjoy it and for a split second, I think I began to think that that was what Mexican food was SUPPOSED to taste like (which obviously it isn’t). SO, naturally, when I heard a few good things about Mestizo I knew I had to check it out. They even serve vegan/ lactose and gluten-free menu options for anyone that’s interested and looking for a restaurant to cater to your dietary needs! My sister and I were craving tacos and my mum was in town so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and give it a go!. It’s based near Kings Cross but I will say it is nestled on a busy road next to nothing particularly prominent. However, once you step inside, you are transported to an atmosphere that is quintessentially Mexican.

With its focus on Mexican cuisine, the restaurant serves traditional food as well as drink: TEQUILLA! There are tequila sours, various flavoured margaritas, tequila sunrise and tejito all on offer. Mexican beers are also available. Unfortunately, since I went to Mexico I must say I struggle with drinking tequila in any and all forms so I avoided these at all costs. However, if tequila is your thing, you’re particularly in luck here!

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In terms of food, we went for a few options. Guacamole for one is always a necessity when you get Mexican. Who doesn’t like guac? (If you’re reading this and you don’t then you probably need to reevaluate your life choices, -just joking).  I think when it’s made a simple way, with the classic flavours, it is actually probably the tastiest.  Then, because I LOVE CHEESE. -Yes, cheesy capitals for emphasis ( see what I did there…), I knew we had to try the Queso fundido (melted chihchuaha and oaxaca cheese) with chorizo all served with tortilla’s to dunk in and scoop up that goodness. This was also served with pico de gallo which does help to cut through all the richness of the dairy. Who knew a simple salsa would be so crucial!

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As for our main’s, we were (if you haven’t gathered) pretty decided on tacos. They have this cool option for “when you really want tacos” where you can have a tray with four different fillings – a quick way to try out a range of diverse flavours! My sister and I decided to go for these four:

  • Pollo con Mole (Shredded Chicken cooked in traditional Mexican sauce- one of the ingredients being chocolate) topped with queso fresco
  • Pastor (Traditional Mexican marinated pork served with pineapple chunks)
  • Arrachera (Beef marinated in beer, garlic, onion and spices)
  • Cuitlacoche (black corn mushrooms with onion, sweetcorn, chilli and garlic)

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The tacos were TASTY! I think my favourite was definitely the beef, however, that may be a personal preference because whenever I am making Mexican at home I always tend to go for beef as well. Ordering this was a great idea if you’re like me and you get especially bored of eating the same thing. By having it on the table, where diners help themselves also meant that you could customise and experiment until you reached taco perfection.

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Now, if you know me (and this is beginning to sound like Deja vu) I love desserts. Naturally, we all decided to order some to finish off our lovely meal. We decided to opt for the pastel 3 leches, as well as the buñuelos. These were essentially crispy dough fritters served with cane syrup and ice cream.

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The 3 leches cake was made with ‘3 milks’ – condensed and evaporated milk all topped with double cream!

DSC02872While the crispy dough fritters came off a bit boring, the 3 milk cake was delicious! Anything that has that condensed milk in it is going to taste yummy! The richness of the cake contrasted really well with the fresh double cream. I’d definitely recommend it if you have a sweet tooth. We were fighting over this dessert rather than the other that’s for sure!

So, it’s safe to say- If you’re looking for a Mexican restaurant in London, head to Mestizo!

Brunch at St. Regis, Doha.

The last of my Doha series. (LONG overdue, I know)

I realise that I have recently spent less time blogging. I think this because I’ve been more preoccupied with trying to find jobs and amidst all the rejections, it is sometimes hard to pick yourself back up. I’ve always enjoyed having a set plan in life- I always knew I wanted to do a masters degree straight after my undergraduate for example and now I feel like the universe is testing me, pushing me on a path into the unknown.  However, when I think about it, blogging, (no matter how many people read my posts- shout out to the family), is a way to have that control I yearn for, as well as the chance to speak about things I am passionate about – namely food and going out to eat! My holiday to Doha was exactly what I needed to put all of that into perspective and I do have to constantly remind myself of all the things I am lucky for.

Anyways, enough of my current life situation and more on what is really important- delicious food! I wasn’t initially going to post this because I figured it had been a few weeks since I’d been to the St. Regis but when I tell you it was the biggest spread of food I’ve ever seen in my life, I knew my fellow foodies would appreciate it.

 

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An abundance of seafood for all you seafood lovers out there

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Fresh oysters

 

In the Middle East, Brunch on a Friday is a regular (and amazing) occurrence. I’ve often wondered to myself why they can’t bring it over to the U.K but the answer is pretty simple. Unlimited booze and food send people into a frenzy! If you aren’t familiar with the Middle Eastern version of brunch it goes a little something like this:

Brunch

brʌn(t)ʃ/

noun

  1. A late morning unlimited buffet, offering everything from starters, desserts and a range of cuisines eaten instead of breakfast and lunch. Unlimited alcohol and rowdiness usually always included.

    “I’m not having any breakfast this morning, I’m heading to Brunch and need all the space I can get”

Now, living in the Middle East for most of my life, I can say I’ve experienced a fair few brunches in my time, as well as a fair few nasty hangovers the day after. (The trick is to most definitely keep on eating despite the urge to keep topping up your free flowing glass) However,  I have got to hand it to them, the St Regis’s Brunch was truly something else. I was in awe at just how much food was stocked and spread throughout the entire layout of the restaurant, stretching outdoors all the way to a neighbouring restaurant on the other side. The brunch offered fresh seafood, salads, Arabic mezze and that’s just the starters!

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a snapshot of the mezze and salads

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In addition, you could have unlimited flowing bubbles, as well as visit the FIVE (yes, I said five) bars that were on offer, each tackling a different spirit. I’m going to keep this post short and snappy for once but in order for you to get an idea of just how much food was available, I’ve attached my pictures so you can live vicariously through me! Even these only provide a mere glimpse into the brunch (believe it or not!).

Enjoy, I know I did.

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Tender steaks- (made to order!)

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Chili con carne

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Wagyu beef sliders

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Aromatic Curry

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Cheesy pasta with mushrooms served in a parmesan wheel (YUM)

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Sauteed Beef and Prawns

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Grilled Meats

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Probably my favourite of them all: Beef Wellington – This ended up running out fairly quickly so I’m glad I got to try it!

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Freshly prepared sushi

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Only a tiny fraction of the tasty desserts provided- my all time favourite was the apple crumble (sadly not pictured)

 

 

 

Hakkasan Chinese New Year Menu: Doha

I’m officially back in London!

My holiday to the Middle East felt like it went by so quick and I am definitely missing the sun. After all, it ain’t London if it ain’t gloomy most of the time!

On my trip, I got to catch up with family, popped over to Dubai to see my wonderful friends and took the opportunity to relax and forget about the stresses of reality back home (aka the never ending job hunt that currently dominates my life). Of course, while I was there I also got to eat at some amazing places and consume mouthwatering dishes (and lots of wine and alcohol too, wahoo!). We went to some great fine dining places in Doha, including Nobu, (check out my previous post for a full round up of that), as well as Hakkasan.

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If you don’t know what Hakkasan is then WHO ARE YOU? hehe just kidding. It is a Michelin starred restaurant that serves contemporary Cantonese dishes. When we went, we were in for a special treat as Hakkasan had launched a  limited edition menu, cocktail and dessert for Chinese New Year. Naturally, I knew I had to try it! Each Hakkasan location in different countries had unique dishes to their Chinese New Year menus, which meant that even when you dined at one of their restaurants, it really was something distinctive to your location, making it a truly unique experience. In Doha, the set menu was priced at QAR448 per person, which is roughly 98.88 pounds (yeah, I had to mention that, Hakkasan is definitely many things but a cheap option is not one of them). As there were four of us, two of us shared the set menu, while the other two got some classic favourites off the a La Carte menu... (all for the food blog right? Sort of… it’s mainly because I always want to make the most of any dining situation and if you know me, you know I get extremely food jealous).

This year was the year of the rooster and the signature cocktail, ‘waltzing colins’ (pisco, sake, mandarin, lemon, grenadine, cucumber and sparkling wine) all had cute rooster broaches attached to the glasses. The cocktail was tasty, although a little bit too sweet to drink loads in a row – (NOT that I am complaining, I was actually a bit hungover from my crazy few days in Dubai- oops)

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For the Doha set menu, we began with the Fortune Tale Salad, with Roasted Chicken and Mooli. This was mixed in front of us as we were all asked to make a wish in the spirit of Chinese New Year for prosperity and good fortune. This was a tasty, light starter and I especially loved the crunch element to it. However, I will say it was a bit one dimensional in terms of flavour. Next, we were served a Hakka steamed dim sum platter. These included Scallop Shumai, Hai gau, Smoked Wagyu Beef and Seabass Dumplings. THESE WERE DELICIOUS. If I had to pick between the salad or dim sum, it’s obvious that dim sum wins EVERY time.Hakkasan is known for its impeccable quality and I couldn’t agree more. My favourite would have to be the Wagyu Beef, they were so soft and tender. Although, each and everyone one was distinctive in flavour and mouth watering!

If that wasn’t enough to entice you from the a la Carte menu, we had the Crispy Duck Salad with Pomelo, Pine Nut and Shallot, as well as Jasmine Tea smoked Wagyu beef ribs. The Duck Salad at Hakkasan is so moreish and the beef ribs melted in our mouths!

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Next, we were served two tasty mains as well as three side dishes. For the expensive price, the amount of food and its quality was worth it. It is the type of place which would always ensure you truly enjoy a special occasion. The mains were steamed Dover Sole with Pumpkin, Shitake Mushrooms in a Soy Fish sauce and Wok -Fried Tiger Prawns with lemongrass and chilli.

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Out of the two, the Dover Sole was more complex in flavours and not to mention- cooked to perfection! I loved all the accompaniments that went with the fish, especially because I would have never paired pumpkin, mushroom and fish together. The prawns were succulent so I don’t have any complaints, only that they were a bit less original if ya’ know what I mean. This was all served with yummy fried rice with salted egg, braised Chinese vegetables and braised abalone.

For desserts, we were served a clever and theatrical dish- probably my favourite in terms of unique plates. Called the ‘Golden Feather’, it was shaped like an egg. The shell  was caramelised white chocolate, the outside ‘whites’ were ginger pannacotta and the centre was a mandarin core.

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It had just the right amount of sweetness and the mandarin added a tart finish. Deciding two desserts are always better than one, we also went for one dessert of the a  La Carte menu.

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The Lemon tart was served with lemon, meringue, crumble and mascarpone ice cream. Considering they were both citrus based desserts, I do have to say I preferred the a La Carte dessert. Maybe this is because I love the combination of creamy mascarpone and lemon. Who knows. Either way, both were luscious.

To round off a wonderful evening, we were asked to write our New Year’s wishes on a piece of bespoke papers, which were then hung all over the famous Hakkasan lattice cages. A perfect end to a perfect evening. Hakkasan always provides exceptional flavours and the New Year’s Menu was a chance to try something new and different. Always a win in my books!

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