Food

You are currently browsing the archive for the Food category.

Apologies that this is basically turning into a blog where I talk about food and a tiny bit of life stuff! I’m sure you’re wondering how I haven’t eaten myself into oblivion but it’s all being balanced out by walking 5 miles into work every day which my health-logic then entitles me to eat anything and everything. (I also keep focussing on the fact that soon I’ll be climbing mountains and sweating litres in Caribbean heat) (& Not the fact that I also have to brave a bikini…)

Like most children of the 80s/90s raised on a diet of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles; I love pizza. I love it so much. I’m not really a fan of Pizza Hut and after a brief novelty-value-flirtation with Domino’s I now can’t stand it, the freaky donughty base is not the one. I like my pizza thin-crust and as authentic as possible, my favourite London pizza joint up until now has been Stingray in Tufnell Park where you can get a pizza & a beer/wine for £5.95! And the pizza is GOOD and the waitresses always play amazing songs like Tatu and Melanie C from their ipods. Stingray still has a hunk of my heart but there is a new kid on the block rivalling for my affections. I first heard about Home Slice a few weeks ago. I follow lots of wise food blogging owls on twitter and start hearing rumblings that it was well worth a look. It is located in the very picturesque Neal’s Yard, an area of central London that I really don’t go enough and so it’s nice to have a delicious excuse to visit more often. Like many of the start-up restaurants, such as Meat Liquor and Wish Bone, Home Slice started humbly – as a homebuilt mobile pizza over in London Fields. It’s lovely to support these passionate chefs and entrepreneurs as they grow and blossom. Using traditional wood fires, pizza is all they serve! But that’s not to say the menu is dull, the toppings are all mouth wateringly tempting ranging from ox-tail to bone marrow to salami to traditional Caprese. The pizza is served either by the slice (£4) or a full pizza (£20). After basing our decision to go to Home Slice purely on the novelty for being able to order by the slice NY style, we then succumbed to being piglets and ordered a whole pizza.

photo 1[1]

photo 2[1]

That is 20 inches of pure cheesy tomato delight. Home Slice is one of those laid back places where asking if we could go half-n-half on toppings was absolutely no problem. Our waitress was so enchanting and even praised us on our topping selection – mushroom, ricotta & pumpkin seeds / chorizo, corn & coriander. Upon the arrival of the 20 inch beast, we both proclaimed “oh wow, we’ll be taking home a big doggy bag”. Then we took a bite, and all concepts of doggy bags vanished as we silently troughed through the whole lot only breaking to make ridiculous movie mmmmm noises and wide eyed YUM faces at each other. It is by far the finest pizza I have ever had in my life, including the many slices I shovelled away on my trips to New York.

photo 5[1]

Most of my friends will know that my tipple of choice is Prosecco. Mainly, due to cost, I reign myself in and only drink it on special occasions and celebrations. Occasionally I cave in and order it on an average night out and get met with “celebrating something..!?” and then feel all bashful. But Home Slice clearly felt my pain and therefore they have Prosecco ON TAP. Have you every heard of such a thing? I would be such a happy (merry) person if I could have Prosecco on tap in my house. Anyway the draft-ness of it means it’s a steal at £4 a glass…another very good reason to go, chow down and chug up!

photo 3 copy

photo 4[1]

After all those inches of dough we decided we better walk home. When you have a boyfriend who’s handily your bestfriend and braintwin, you have lots of adventures even on a walk you’ve done a thousand times before. First we walked through “Sci-Fi City” (the new business development by Warren Street) and then found a door that led to nowhere. We scampered about and found a lot of things to laugh at and about, even as our legs grew weary and the sun dipped. It’s nights like this that make me extra-excited for our international adventure, as I think if we can still find a way to find a tedious walk home so sparkly then imagine what it will be like when we are roaming through rainforests and trekking through misty mountains. I’m sure we’ll have the odd “I miss London!” moment and it’ll be nights (and meals) like this that I’ll be remembering.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My work-mate/mate-mate Chloe is one of those people that always knows exactly where to go to eat. Whatever conundrum I have (eg. where do I take this client for lunch to look cool but not pretentious? where can I get Scottish square sausage in London? where can I get the best soup noodles in China town?) she has the solution. In fact she EVEN knows what to say when I have those frustrating “I’m hungry but I don’t know WHAT I WANT” moments (um, every day).

This week I have turned into a human pin-cushion. Ahead of quitting my life and travelling the world, there is a lot to be organised and one big part of that is the fifteen vaccines I need before doing things like living on a hammock on the Amazon. On Monday I had three injections in one day (two in the same spot on one side, sprouting a sad sympathy bruise) so I arrived into work with lead arms and a traumatised face and Chloe said “Huzzah! I know what you need. You need to Nordic Bakery” and she was right. It fixes all woes, including needle related sulks.

photo 5

Since discovering the Nordic Bakery I have been back more times than I can confess, and plan to camp out there on a weekly basis until I leave Soho. It’s tucked away at the back of Golden Square, so about 10min stroll from Oxford Circus, past the Carnaby Street chaos. I am already a fan of nordic food but this only really stretches to summering in Stockholm a decade ago and… Ikea. I thought I liked Cinnamon Buns, a lot, but I didn’t realise that the rest of them PALE in comparison to the Nordic Bakery Bun. Weighing about the same as an iPad (!) it’s layer after layer of flaky, sticky goodness that is the equivalent of eating a hug.

photo 1

The Nordic Bakery is dreamy for breakfast-brunching. Not only do they serve a damn fine cup of coffee (I heart Agent Cooper) they also have an array of pastries and baked goods ranging from standard pan au chocolate to the real traditional Nordic bits such as karelian pie which is a Finnish dish consisting of a crusty rye base, filled with potato or rice porridge and then topped with the most miraculous of ALL food inventions; Egg. Butter. Egg Butter. It sounds like something from the Butterflied Diet, but is an actual real thing and is as tasty as it sounds. The pies are served warm so the whole thing is a flaky, melty, buttery delight.

photo 2

photo 4

There is also a pretty good spread of lunch goods, although I haven’t sampled any yet. But they range from salmon & egg on rye to some traditional brain-busting fish combinations including gravlax, herring and salmon. The cafe itself is very aesthetically pleasing, all wooden loveliness and sleek lines and corners, and has a zen sense of calm and tranquility despite being in the heart of Soho. Oh! I also haven’t mentioned the sweet treats. There are mountainous cakes on offer, lingonberry tarts and I sampled (all in the name of afternoon-tea suitability research of course!) the oatmeal cookie which sounds potentially dull but it was a sweet sticky gooey mass of oats and nuts and dark / white chocolate heaven. The thing I actually like best is what the baristas are wearing! The denim aprons are top of my object of desire list. I think they should start selling them.

photo 3

I’ve spent the last seven years working in Soho, only moving from the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street to the Oxford Circus neighbourhood when switching jobs. It’s been the place I’ve clocked up more hours than anywhere else in my adult life and mooched in and out of doing my 9-5 (pah, 9-8 more like) thing for so long that it feels entirely surreal that in a mere 2.5 weeks I’ll no longer be a Soho socialite. Ah well, it’s a good excuse to eat and drink and sample EVERYTHING here before I leave…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I haven’t been sure what to post in here lately, because although life has been true to my busy-bee name, I have mostly been busy lying like a starfish on any patch of grass I can find in London, soaking up the sun and nattering to colleagues and friends. My freckles have moved in for summer and I love the fact I haven’t even thought about wearing a jacket for weeks on end. A lot of people seem to be complaining about the heat at night but I LOVE it! I sleep deeply and dozily and wake up looking like a mole who’s just seen daylight for the first time. I hope the heat is here to stay a little longer.

freckles

On Wednesday I visited Opium in Chinatown for the third time in three weeks, which I think makes it an official obsession and therefore something I need to share with the world. Opium is a Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour; what better combination is there than that? It’s the sort of place you hear about via word of mouth, whispered tip-offs and drunken loose lips, and that’s because there is no sign – speakeasy style! I know the “secret” thing is getting a bit overdone, but I have to say I still get a little rush of excitement when you walk up to an anonymous door and have no idea what you will find lurking behind. The door in question here is the “Jade Door”, 15-16 Gerrard Street (the main Chinatown strip) which is nestled between bustling restaurants and Chinese supermarkets. On arrival, a poe-faced security man will phone up to the “hosts” and you will then be sent up a dark, winding staircase to your table. Out of the gloom you are welcomed into an oasis of calm and tranquility, it’s almost impossible to believe you’re still in the heart of chaotic Chinatown.

photo 4

photo 2[2]

The main thing that’s captured my heart about Opium is the atmosphere. The decor is stylish and simple, with huge comfy seats and low set mahogany lattice tables. It’s always the exact right side of busy; buzzy but you aren’t sat on any strangers laps or squidged into shared tables. The staff couldn’t be more attentive, and the music is a treat in itself (where else can you hear a folk version of No Diggity?) The setting feels exclusive and you are made to feel like your custom is really valued, something I’ve found desperately lacking in a lot of of my London nightlife experiences lately.

a89dc270df5411e2ae7f22000ae912b7_7

47175ca4df5511e2891a22000a9d0ec6_7

And of course the best part, is that the prices are totally reasonable. Cocktails are all around a tenner (I can’t believe I’m saying this so flippantly as I’m sure my friends back up north are recoiling in horror, but that’s pretty standard for London cocktail clubs) and they are worth every penny. The Crafted Fancy Drinks are all exclusively created by the Opium mixologists and a menu for the more adventurous drinker like me, there basically isn’t a spirit or flavour I DONT like! Which makes choosing a really tough experience, and explains why I keep going back. Not only are the drinks delicious, but they are also smashing it with the presentation. Syrups come in “Chinese Medicine” bottles, the Opium No 3 cocktail arrived in a dramatic smoking cauldron with griddled nectarine slices on the side and shorts are served in traditional tea cups. My favourite tipple is the Lady of Yue which comes with the description “while strengthening the spirit, one should remain outwardly calm”; a quote that is about to become very relevant to my life. It’s a tasty combination of remy martini, aporel, homemade almond syrup and fresh strawberries. If weird and wacky doesn’t do it for you, there’s an extensive list of old fashioned classics too including things I’ve never heard of such as cobbler, pisco sour and a bronx.

photo 1[2]

photo[1]

Of course you need something to soak up those spirits, so the dim sum is a very necessary side addition. It’s a short, simple menu featuring favourite such as siu mai and char siu buns but also some extremly addictive items such as sesame-poppy prawn-lobster toast and salt and pepper aubergine which is by far the highlight of the menu. Order it even if you don’t think you like aubergines, because you will now!

photo 2

photo 3

And there you have it. My latest London secret find, which I can’t recommend enough. Something else that I keep noticing lately is a new breed of trees… the painty variety. I’m pleased to see some of the grey-er corners of North London getting a colourful smattering of nature, and I wonder if it’s the same person planting the seeds or if it’s just coincidence?

photo 1

photo 2[1]

Now that I have lived in London seven years I’ve finally found “my spot”. Everyone needs that hideaway nook that they can go to think, read, write, ponder (or phone their mum, like me!) but in London it can be hard to find a place that isn’t already bustling with people or claimed by others. Over the last two years I’ve returned to this spot over and over again, in every season. I don’t know why the tree is dead, and perhaps it’s a bit morbid that it’s the place I’m attracted to, but I love it’s spindly branches and the way it dominates it’s surroundings. It’s set in wild long meadow grass which I like to sprawl out in and breathe in the fact that no one passing would even know I’m lurking there. Well, until I start wriggling around to scare off the insect & creature invasion. I’m already excited to get a little bit of me-time there tomorrow, and finish the last chapter of my book appropriately called The Memory of Trees by F G Cottam.

photo 1[1]

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I don’t know why it surprised me, but cheeseburger is my most used tag on the blog. Examples here, here AND here. I really, really like cheeseburgers and have dived in with both feet to the burger trend that has tidal waved across London in the past two years. I really need to write a post updating my stance on London’s best burger (Lucky Chip? Patty & Bun? The Diner? Byron? Admiral Cod? Kua ‘Aina? Meat Liquor? I’ve tried ‘em all… numerous times just to be sure) and actually the world’s best burger (Shake Shack? In-n-Out? Umami?) but I don’t think there is any point in doing this until I’ve sampled the latest burger boys to roll into town (Covent Garden to be precise!) – Shake Shack UK and Five Guys UK. No one seems entirely sure why these competitors chose to open their first ever British/European branches in the same week, American Independence day maybe?, but they are here and surely there is enough hype and hungry mouths to keep both in booming business. It was extra nice to see  neighbourhood branches of Bryon and The Diner tweeting them to welcome them to town.

photo

I’m excited to sample both, but selected Five Guys to celebrate 4th July at as I have been to Shake Shack a few times in New York (twice both visits in fact) and I adore it, but wanted to try something shiny and new. I’ve also been keen to give it a whirl since Wish Wish Wish Carrie came back with rave reviews after her visit in NYC. My partner in burger crime, the delightful blogging beau What Katie Does , was already camped out in the queue when I arrived hot and bothered after a power walk through a sticky Leicester Square. Luckily, she had already befriended a sunshiney American girl infront of us who, in turn for holding her place, fetched us some cold beers to slurp as we waited. Safe to say, a pretty dreamy start! The snaking queue may look off putting but it was very well managed. Menu’s handed out to drool over, lots of interaction with chatty staff keeping us updated on estimated queue time etc, and at peak-time of 6.30pm we actually only queued for 25 minutes before we were IN…

photo 3

Almost every staff member I interacted with was American, which added to the novelty “fresh from the US” experience. It also made me extra-appreciate their cheery, chatty attitude as I’m sure they’d have all preferred to be back home munching 4th July food and watching fireworks. As you queue, you can pick up a carton of shell-on peanuts to take the edge off a grumbling tummy. Five Guys have a close bond with the holy peanut; as they cook the fries in Peanut Oil rather than standard cooking oil. Perhaps not ideal for those with peanut-allergies, but very happy days for a peanut mega fan like me.

photo 2

I hadn’t even glimpsed at the menu before the daunting task of selecting WHAT to have! I thought the standard size cheeseburgers were extremely pricey (at nearly £9 for bacon/cheese – my favourite combo) so out of cost cutting alone I opted for a more reasonably priced Little Bacon Cheeseburger and trust me, it was not little! So don’t be put off by the title, this was a totally average size burger and filled the burger shaped hunger hole perfectly. Myself and Katie shared a large fries, which was WAY too large. We barely finished the fries that had falled out of the paper cup fries-holder and into the paper bag… so again, size down when ordering your sides. We were thrilled to discover them stocking Brewdog ale, so both opted for a frosty IPA to wash everything down with. They also stock Brooklyn Beer. Although, the big drink schtick Five Guys have imported with them is Coca-Cola Freestyle which is a machine where you can literally build your own Coca-cola drink! Adding flavours, picking the base cola type (caffeine free for meeee!) and playing cocktail maker with the worlds most iconic drink. At £2.50 a cup you can also have as many free re-fills as you like; meaning you can create some real horror flavour combos just for fun.

photo 2[2]

My main LOVE for Five Guys is that all toppings are FREE. How obvious is that? But how stingy most burger places are, charging £1.50 for bacon, at least £1 for bloomin’ BBQ sauce etc. It is such a relief to see this burger revolution whereby you can choose any topping and it’s still the exact same cost. I couldn’t really get over this fact, so put it to the test by opting for All The Way (every topping! – onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayo, mustard) plus extra BBQ sauce AND hot sauce (it was a saucy affair, but I just love a condiment). I regret not chucking some jalapenos in there, but you live and learn and it’s a good excuse to return very, very soon.

photo 4

And the food? Oh it was GOOOOOOD. The burger was perfect; exactly the right colour and a taste bud sensation of flavour and exact-right melty American cheese.  I also love a burger wrapped in foil, as it reminds me the brief dalliance my nothing-cool-ever-happens-here northern hometown had with Wendy’s and their square-burgers. Maybe now burgers are cool, Wendy’s can make a glorious return?! Katie is a caring herbivore so chomped through a veggie burger which she also made very happy noises about and said was a brilliant veggie option. We both ummed and ahhhed about ordering the grilled cheese instead of the burger (wild!) which looked and smelt delicious so that’s another must-have for a return trip. I’ll be honest, the fries weren’t anything to shout about. Skin-on and crunchy, but they seemed to go cold and tastless within moments. Granted we were chatting a million miles a minute and not exactly hurrying up with our meal, but they should be able to last a conversation and still be delicious. Five Guys do their own brand of cajun spice fries, so I would have these next time as maybe they will liven the spud up a bit.

photo 3[1]

I was SO impressed with the eating experience considering it was opening night. I’ve been to Shake Shack near Port Authority in NYC at 3pm on a WORK day, and still had to queue for 30+ minutes once in the door, then faced the horror of absolutely NO seats so having to just hover with your tray, shovelling food in and evil eyeing all the happy folk with the luxury of a stool. It really ruins the experience! This was fully what Katie and I expected when we hit Five Guys. Instead, the staff were really managing the queue plus the restaurant is split level with tons of space both upstairs and downstairs. There were numerous spare seats to choose from, and being the curious types we spotted a narrow little staircase which we braved with our heaving burger-trays and were rewarded with a massive 10-seater booth in a private VIP corner to ourselves for 2 hours of peace, quiet and alone time with our burgers. Bliss!

photo 1[1]

The staff also couldn’t have been more welcoming, friendly and lovely. Not a single bead of sweat on any of them, as they bent over backwards to make our experience perfect! I forgot to order mayo for the fries at the counter, so one of the many “floating” staff not only went upstairs to get me some, but also bought it right over to our tables so we could dig in. Table service? Pretty special, I can’t think of many places who would be so accommodating. They really did live up to the name of the Willy Wonka’s of burger making. It was a flawless evening. And the company was pretty swell too, thanks Katie for being such a great burger companion, I can’t believe we spent three hours together and I didn’t talk abou The National?!

I took this photo entirely by chance, but chuckled when I realised I had literally captured Five Guys, in Five Guys…

photo 1

Five Guys is at 1 Long Acre, Covent Garden (a short stroll from Leicester Square and Covent Garden Tubes) and is here to stay aka.. it’s not a pop up. Their website is already teasing a Five Guys Reading coming soon, so hopefully for non-London readers there will be Five Guys invasion in your neighboorhood soon. They are very twitter-happy, so maybe pester them with your location requests and hope for the best!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After my discovery that Chelsea isn’t in fact just for people named Binky or owners of miniature dogs, I’ve been branching out and exploring more of this London gem. A few weeks ago my friend Phil aka Chime Hours told me about Big Easy and more importantly, it’s all-you-can-eat FAJITA WEDNESDAY! Big Easy is a short stroll from Sloane Square station and describes itself as deluxe crabshack dining which already had me sold. The decor & atmosphere is worth a visit in itself, let alone the fact the food is sensational. Feeling as if you’ve just left Chelsea stiffness and entered the deep south, Big Easy is adorned with crabs, fishing nets, amazing artwork and kitsch quotes.

photo 5

I usually have Spanish evening class on a Wednesday so this was an extra special treat because I skived my lesson (then had to make up for it with the Que Horror! of double spanish the next week) as the lure of all you can eat sizzling meat was too high. You pay a really reasonable £14.95 and this includes as many fajitas as you can scoff PLUS an icy beer or a frozen margarita. Guess what I opted for…

photo 4

I just want to take a moment to pay tribute to my beautiful Sugarhill Boutique Love Birds blouse. I was in the market for a birthday-present to myself when I saw lovely Rosie’s post with her wearing it and I was a style thief and instantly ordered myself one! Luckily we live hundreds of miles apart so I felt safe in the knowledge that she wouldn’t trot in at any moment wearing it too, phew. Since buying this blouse I’ve been obsessed with Sugarhill Boutique. I’m a sucker for prints and they have such a beautiful selection, I’ll be writing more about them next week as I am wearing this little number to the York Races tomorrow so I’ll be reporting back on the day and the dress! SO, back to the fajitas…

photo 3

The fajita goodness comes out on a huge sizzling platter. You can choose chicken, steak, shrimp or vegetable. Or you can be a greedy guts and choose all four, which is what we did. It sizzles away on a hot plate, whilst you are also bought baskets of hot fajita wraps and plates of salsa/lime/cheese/guac/sour cream. After feasting your way through the lot, you can ask for as MANY refills of everything as you can possibly muster. All of the food is delicious but as a surf & turf freak I stuck mostly to shrimpy steak combos. I intentionally arrived with a huge appetite but as usual was quite lame once under the pressure of you can eat as MUCH as you like! I managed 4 fajitas, but my three dates for the night fared better. Phil & Craig both managed 5 fajitas but Nick was crowned fajita champion by chomping 6 (and his were all stuffed so full they basically exploded). I don’t think Nick felt like the winner as he groaned his way up the Northern line home and had to be rolled into bed though.

photo 1

photo

A nice added bonus was that Big Easy also have nightly music. We were sat next to the stage and a group of guys & guitars serenaded us with sweet covers and tropical tunes as we ate. It did mean conversation was a little SHOUTY and getting waiter/waitresses attention for refills and new drinks could be a challenge, but the pros outweigh the cons and I really enjoyed the buzzy, hectic, friendly feasting atmosphere. The Big Easy has a huge standard menu of BBQ, shrimp, steaks and seafood. They also do various other offers similar to this during the week including all-you-can-eat Shrimp on Tuesdays and an annual rib-eating contest on 4th July. I basically am already dreaming of when I can next go back there and want to take all my friends there to experience the fiesta vibe. Who’s in?

photo 2

Our smug not-as-full-as-Nick faces! I realised that when you live in London you NEVER take photographs on the tube, so thought I’d go rogue and actually the lighting and colours are quite fetching. In-real-life friends will recognise this shearling collar, as I am wearing it every day at the moment. This nightmare May weather means I want to wear my leather jacket or parka but never know when I’ll get an attack of the chills and need something toasty. I down-right refuse to wear a scarf in Spring so this is the next best thing, it also adds a nice furry lapel to any jacket you are getting a bit bored with. In fact I love it so much, I just ordered myself another one from ASOS in cream. I guess it’s just my big collar addiction hitting a new level of over-size!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After my recent days as a nil by mouth, struggling sickly type hiding away in Yorkshire, coming back to London was quite the shock to my sore system. Despite living here for 5 (or is it 6?) years, I found the noise and bustle and crowding and big smoke chaos almost impossible to handle and had a really wobbly first week back at work as a the new frankengirl version of me.

One thing I fixated on eating most when I was too poorly to eat was ICE CREAM. My boyfriend must have picked up these brain vibes and in my second week back as a fully functioning member of society, he surprised me with tickets to Ruby Violet for a night of festive menu taste-testing… also known as getting locked in an ice cream parlour and eating ice cream for my tea. It was as dreamy as it sounds!

There was a group of about 10 of us at the tasting, sat at the large wooden bench and quickly plyed with wine whilst learning some fascinating facts about Ruby Violet (named after owner Julie Fisher’s grandmother, a stern but sassy looking lady from the photos of her that adorn the walls). Then it was time for the good stuff! First we sampled scoops of every new flavour on offer over winter which ranged from mulled wine and elderflower & prosecco sorbets to gingerbread, baileys, Christmas pudding and marzipan ice cream. Then came their very special arctic roll, officially known as antarctic roll as arctic roll is a trademark. Who knew! Then it was revealed this was only the starter… and next arrived a bursting ‘Christmas bombe’ which looked beautiful, but less so once we’d devoured it and created a sloppy mess. Perhaps wine & ice cream was always bound to cause a sticky situation? Then came my very favourite course – Ruby Violets special baked alaska. A steal at a fiver a go, these perfect clouds of raspberry ripple ice cream cased in perfectly browned meringue are something I now get regular tummy rumble cravings for.

Last up was a bit of a shocker. We had been warned, but even still my hands quivered as I was handed STILTON ICE CREAM. I am a huge cheese fiend, in fact the first thing I did after getting my post-surgery appetite back was discover Alex James (of Blur fame)’s Blue Monday cheese. I’d always been a bit sniffy about him getting all welly wearing and rural and making lame cheese rather than epic music… but I take it all back. It was the nicest cheese I have ever tasted ever, and I managed to devour 85% of a block in about 15 minutes saying just one more slice lots whilst gobbling. So I was thinking I like cheese and I like ice cream, so surely I will like stilton ice cream. And I did. A few people made yuck noises, but I liked the fact it was served on a cracker too. It was sort of like eating a cold marscapone. Not sure I’d buy it by the tub but it might be a  nice sloppy addition to a cheeseboard if I ever am fanceh enough to host a dinner party.

 

 

I had such an amazing evening. Sugar high, brain freeze, wine rush and the wonderful hosting from the Ruby Violet team of luscious ladies made it a really memorable step back into socialising. Not that I need an excuse to go in and purchase ice cream more often, but the fact they made us feel so special and patiently listened to all our feedback (mostly ‘more baileys in the baileys ice cream’, ‘more rum in the rum & raisin ice cream’, ‘more wine in the mulled wine…‘) makes me want to buy everything for everyone for Christmas. Who wouldn’t want a Christmas bombe to unwrap? I just need to invest in a really cute freezer bag and enough willpower not to ‘sample’ everything en route to delivering it.

 

 

 

Talking of festive foods, it’s nearly December! Which means it’s time to eat a Christmas sandwich for lunch every day. If you are a Christmas sandwich novice, or in a quandary over which to sample first, go read my Christmas sandwich show down. It’s very scientific indeed.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Most of my friends back up north don’t really understand how I cope living in London as they perceive it to be so cripplingly expensive. I am inclined to grumblingly agree, although most of the things that take a wedge out of my wage are standard stuff like rent, travel, bills & brogues. (Ok the last one slightly more me-specific) I think the danger when you live in a capital city is that the ££ can really stack up is when you eat/drink out. This shouldn’t mean you have to spend your evenings home along nibbling cream crackers though…I really believe you can find numerous places to eat out for a reasonable non-crazy-inflated-London price if you hunt hard enough.

I find the Kentish Towner one of the best sources of new (cheap and cheerful) places to sample in North London. In fact I visit this blog so much that I recently switched to Google Chrome and it’s the only website that comes up on my frequently visited tab. Stalker! It was there that I first read about my new #1 favourite Indian restaurant Hazraj. As you may have gathered from even casting a glance at my blog I’m a totally hopeless romantic, so it actually wasn’t the glowing review or the reasonable prices that made me determined to take a visit to Hazraj. It was when I read that the owner Raj had named the restaurant by adding his wife’s name (Haz) to his name (and first too, good man!) therefore creating Hazraj. Doesn’t that just make your heart swell?

The day my boyfriend and I headed to Hazraj had been pretty work crazed for both of us and I remember we ummed and ahhed about where to eat, what to do, cuisine type etc as we were both too screen-fatigued and zombie-faced to make anymore decisions! He suggested Hazraj and I am so glad he did, as every scrap of bad day and work stress was soon a distant memory, replaced with cheery grins, messy mouths and wide eyes!

Hazraj specialise in Mumbai Street Food which is also known as Indian Tapas and Tiffin Cuisine. As I mentioned when I wrote about Tayyabs, I grew up in Bradford so a huge proportion of meals I have ever eaten are curry based in some way. However Hazraj got me seriously whipped into a frothy food frenzy as I scouted the menu, as so many items on there I had never ever heard of, let alone tried! And for less daring types there are still delicious versions of all the old favourites (bhaji, samosas, paratha, tikka). Hazraj pride themselves on creating healthy Indian cuisine and use very little oil & salt, which is really clear when your food arrives without a bubble of grease in sight. Relating to this I assume, I noticed quite a heavy focus on veggie options too – in actual fact there were more (V)s on the menu than non vegetarian choices!

Before we’d even started considering our food options, I was in dire need of a drink. The drink menu was extensive, with wines especially selected to compliment the various courses. I squealed in delight (attracting a few stares) as I spotted tequila beer on the menu. It’s a recent discovery of mine (a bit slow considering tequila is my favourite spirit) but I think I might be in the minority group of fans since it’s barely and rarely stocked anywhere! As we perused the food menu and I happily supped on my Desperados, a friendly waitor (who I later learnt was the legendary Raj!) came over and politely asked how my beer was as I was “the first person to ever order one” (!) I thought it was really heartening in such a new business to see a) the owner greeting and serving guests but b) enquiring after their feedback. It also gave me opportunity to beg Raj to keep stocking it, even if I remain the only person to ever order it for the rest of time! He said he has really worked hard on the drinks menu to offer a diverse selection of beers, recently adding Crabbies ginger beer too, which I imagine would work well with the more fiery dishes.

For starters we ordered the Mumbai Street Chaats, having no real idea what they were or what we were doing, we thought it wise to opt for the platter to try a bit of everything and at £9.95 you get more than your moneys worth! When they arrived like this, it evoked another squeal of delight from me (if the food wasn’t SO worthy of it, my boyfriend might have been tiring of the squealing by this point…)

The platter came with 4 types of chaat, with ample amounts for two to get a good few gobfulls of each one! The flags detailed how best to eat and what was included in each chaat. This was my absolutely favourite thing about Hazraj, as when you eat an entirely new cuisine its easy to to feel intimidated by it.. This was such an easy (and adorable) way to help us understand what to do in a non patronising and educational way. It’s a delightful notion and just one of the many ways that makes you feel like more than just another customer to Haz & Raj.

I can’t accurately describe the taste sensation that followed with each chaat as anything but MMMMM! You really have to just go and sample for yourself. It’s messy, it’s crazily healthy (mostly vegetable based and spiced with unusual ingredients to perfection) and its devastating when its over!

For main courses there is an easy meal deal offer. Main, rice & naan = £8.95. Main, rice, naan & veg = £11.95. For the incredibly high quality of the food, this seems insanely cheap. Every item was delicious, in perfect portion size and presented like the starters; with such pride and attention to detail.

As with the starter, the food was faultless other than the fact at some point it had to end. Hazraj was such a pleasent experience above and beyond the food though. Every staff member we came into contact with was so caring and welcoming, the ambience was a buzzy but not busy (although we were there on a Monday night, I believe Fridays & Saturdays can attract a bustling queue – hardly surprisingly!) and the decor created a fairy lit enchanting escape from the noise and turmoil of the busy Fortress Road outside.

We were having such a brilliant evening that we ordered chai lattes to extend our trip even longer (not a second tequila beer for me you’ll note, it was a school night after all…) and even these were the best I have ever had. You are probably starting to think I’ve been paid (or subliminally messaged though the mellow Indian music playing throughout our meal) to write this as it’s such a glowing review, but the Kentish Towner agreed with me and gave it a rare 9/10! So DO believe the hype! And if not, believe the happy look on Nick’s face…

I grabbed Raj for another chat at the end and he was so proud and passionate, it’s clear to see why Hazraj has been such a roaring success without spending a penny on marketing! A brave choice (instead they chose to invest the money into the venue, food and service) which has completely paid off. He is hoping to extend the restaurant to cater for more diners in the future and also planning to offer take away hampers in the summer for Hampstead heath dwellers. With smart ideas like that, you can see that I won’t be the last person to rave about Hazraj.

There isn’t much more to say except hurry up & go, then tell me how amazing it is yourself!

I’m already day dreaming about my next visit, as it’s an entirely guilt free experience both on the waist-line and the bank balance. I basically want to eat here every week until I try everything, then start over again… so maybe I’ll see you there.

Address: 1A-1B Fortress Road, Kentish Town, NW5 1AA

Website Here

Twitter Here

Facebook Here

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I love cheeseburgers.

I love cheeseburgers so much that this joyous Lazy Oaf sweater is top of my Christmas List, although sadly I don’t think I know anyone who loves me enough to pay 60 big ones for a novelty jumper! I would probably wear it everywhere though, even in the bath.

I’m pretty carniverous, despite the fact that upon meeting new people the most frequent judgement I get is that I “look like a vegetarian” which surely is just about the most random summation of a persons looks possible? But it happens over, and over, to the point that now two of my friends only refer to me as “our favourite meat-eating vegetarian”. Whenever I go for a nice meal I have the endless battle of wanting to branch out and try something new, but then my blood thirsty meat eater voice pipes up and saying ALL YOU WANT IS A CHEESEBURGER! Why deny it! And then I just have no choice but to order the burger. But is is a risky way to live your food-ordering life, as burgers can be so hit & miss. So often they arrive filled with greasy potential, only to let you down.  Dry stale bun, drooly cheese slop, brown lettuce, recently-frozen grey patty, rogue pickles…

So when I heard that MEATLiquor had opened and was serving “the best cheeseburger in London” I knew I would not be able to sleep easy until I had sampled it for myself. It is the latest project from the people behind the legendary elusive Meatwagon truck, and later #Meateasy… which I shamefully never managed to get to because it was in New Cross. and as a northerner-in-London my geography is not good enough to navigate myself to such an obscure location. Thankfully they must have felt my pain when selecting the location for MEATLiquor  as it is just behind Debenhams off Oxford Street, and a glorious ten minute straight-line stroll from my work.

MEATLiquor is snuggled into a quiet corner on Welbeck Street, surrounded by bleak car parks and hiding from the rawcous Oxford Street rabble. As I walked there, I started to wonder how hard it was going to be to find. The thing that no other review I’ve read has mentioned yet is that you can smell MEATLiquor minutes before it actually comes into view. As I clutched my iPhone and watched the little blue dot (me) scooch closer to the red pin (ML) I was suddenly hit with the definite hunger-groan-inducing smell of burgers. I did have to stop and have a stern word with myself, panicking that my over-excitement at going to MEATLiquor was bringing on some sort of scent delusion, but then I saw the red neon sign glowing in the distance and realised it was my impending dinner I could smell.

First things first, you will have to queue. Sometimes queues = overhyped disappointment, and that fear that people are purely joining a queue in a zombie/sheep/just to be cool fashion. The queue at MEATLiquor however is well deserved and exists because a) it’s amazing and b) once you are in and bagged your table, you aren’t rushed. Both these things  make it way more worth a wait than Alton Towers rides or something else you might happily stand in line for. If you arrive PRE-6.45pm on an early week night you will only have to wait about ten minutes. If you arrive after 6.45pm (I guess this is burger o’clock as it specifically does get instant busy at this time!) then I don’t know an approximate time but the queue was as far as the eye can see. Even way past the good-smells zone. Queue entertainment is however provided as impatient city boys and bustling business folk attempt everything to skip the queue and schmooze the doorman, who hearteningly is very fair and simply does not make any exceptions and tells them to get to the back of the line buster (only far more politely than that)

We were lucky to be seated right underneath this incredible ceiling art, but the entire interior is the epitome of the word cool. I’m a sucker for animals, especially angry looking animals, and ML has these in abundance. The seating and table settings are minimal (tealights in jamjars) but this just goes to help show off the drama of the towering burgers and beautiful beverages. It feels like you have walked into New York and I guess that is exactly the aim, as long gone are thoughts of tube tussles and work woes, as you soak up the grease fumes and the cheery staff make you welcome.

STARTERS: I opted for the buffalo wings with blue cheese dip which resulted in a heaving pile of wings – a really over generous portion for the price. They were slathered in the most heavenly hot sauce and left me a sticky, shiney, sauce covered mess of a girl gnawing on the bones in desperation for it not to be over. A good sign? My hot date opted for deep fried pickles. I am unfortunately a pickle-phobic. I hate the taste of pickles, the look of pickles and being called pickle. But he assured me that they were heavenly, the batter revealing a juicy, crunchy dreamland laying in wait.

MAINS: As a result of obsessing over Burgeracs Dead Hippie Review both hot date and I couldn’t bring ourselves to sample anything else. It’s been likened to a big mac, and I suppose it is, but a really insanely delicious version that won’t leave you with those hollow McDs guilts & shakes after! It’s 2 burgers, lotsa cheese and special oniony sauce. With the compulsory lettuce all burgers must have. Mmm burger-juicey lettuce. ..Why can’t all salad taste like you! I’m no fancypants food reviewer but it was definitely one of the best burgers of my entire life which is what I’d signed up for.

BOOZE: I should have guessed from the name, but I hadn’t expected the highlight of the night to be the drinks, not the burger! It’s a close run thing, but it’s the speciality cocktail House Grog that I can’t stop dreaming of since my ML experience. A rum based punch served in a giant glass jar/jug with a hunk of pineapple and a straw makes you feel like you are in a Wham! video and tastes SO good. It goes down way too easily, and the menu specifies that customers are limited to “2 servings only” ! When the table in the middle of ML was apparently designed especially for dancing on, this seems a little mean. I could have definitely gone for 4, although my bank manager and hot date might not have thanked me so perhaps ML are wise to protect their clients with a rationing policy. I also sampled the cocktail named loosely around The Full English (?) and the fact I can’t remember the exact name is because it was pure alcohol with no mixer. Just spirit. But somehow delicious and also served with a mini pickled-egg rolled in bacon dust (where do you buy bacon dust?! I want to roll all my food in it please) and so was worth a sample purely for that. The MEATLiquor twitterer claims “Come hungry. Leave drunk.” I can vouch for this claims accuracy due to the fact I talked about dog bones for an entire 30 minute night bus ride home!

The atmosphere really was electric in there, in that exciting buzzy way of something amazing taking place. Everyone was beaming (no hipster pouting going on, hooray) and the ambience, CHEAPNESS, service and food could not be faulted. To read some proper-reviews by people fortunate enough to sample everything on the menu – go here to Time Out  and here to Cheese and Biscuits blog.

Safe to say I will be going back super soon. I’m looking at it this way – everytime I go I get fatter. Therefore every next time I go I have more bee blubber to keep me warm in the queue!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I LOVE Christmas dinner. Everything about it is dreamy, and it is definitely one of the things I look forward to the most; way above presents and potential snow storms. So, Christmas dinner is great. But Christmas dinner COLD and inbetween slices of bread? FAR superior!

Every year  it is with baited breath that I await November, and the launch of Christmas Sandwiches in the shops. Pret A Manger practically have a restraining order against me for how many times I have asked when is Christmas Sandwich day?? on their Facebook fan page.

Off the back of a few people saying they enjoyed my Halloween snacks blog, I thought I would sample the top 3 Christmas sandwich offerings and report back. Any excuse to eat a turkey dinner sandwich every day this week for lunch under the guise of research!

1. Marks & Spencer Turkey Feast Sandwich

This is a heady line up of turkey, cure dried bacon, stuffing and cranberry. Oh and some random onion mayonnaise for good measure. It’s a pretty meat-tastic sandwich and the dryness of the turkey overtakes the more subtle festive flavours. Also the stuffing is minimal… and personally I think that is the best bit so being stingy isn’t very acceptable! On the whole it fills a hole and definitely beats boring ol’ ham and cheese but isn’t the king of Christmas sandwiches.

However, there is a very exciting selection of other Christmas treats from their Food on the Move range that have caught my eye; including Roast Gammon Crisps, Beechwood Smoked Gammon & Cornish Cruncher sandwich, Aberdeen Angus Rare Roast Beef & Ale Chutney sandwich, Christmas Cheesecake and Mulled Plum, Grape and Pear Juice (YUM!!!!) so you can expect a follow up of other Christmas goods – but I might hang on until we are actually in December. Although you don’t have to feel guilty about getting into the Christmas mood early as the best thing about the Festive range is that for every product sold; M&S will donate 5% to housing charity Shelter.

2. Eat Turkey & Cranberry Sandwich

This is the healthy option for festive foodies! There are only 369 calories per sandwich (compared to 500+ in the other two, mostly due to their lashings of mayo) and less than 5% fat. A lovely combo of turkey, cranberry and GREENS! Yes, rockety-water-cressy green stuff. This is the healthiest on offer so good for days when you fancy a big packet of crisps and mince pie on the side.

3.Pret A Manger Christmas Lunch Sandwich

It’s the original… and THE BEST! Those lovelies at Pret definitely know what they are doing and this sandwich is honestly some sort of genius. A perfectly stacked line up of turkey, sage & onion stuffing, proper cranberry & port sauce AND my favourite bit – little crackly pieces of fried onion create a taste sensation. Again, the company have a fantastic process where they donate 5p from every sandwich sold to help provide hot meals to the homeless across the UK at various charities.

So there we go, if you are a Christmas sandwich novice, I would highly recommend you start at Pret and report back. If you are a herbivore… there are tons of great products out there for you at all the chains I’ve mentioned too such as brie & grape baguettes and brie & cranberry chutney  sandwiches.

The one thing missing from all the contenders is…. a nice slab of Yorkshire pudding in there!

Maybe next year ey.

Tags: , , , , ,

Breakfast Club

Oh Brunch, let me count the ways in which I love you.

You aren’t early enough to be breakfast (tummy too tired to function) but you aren’t late enough to be lunch (argh half the day passed already). You are the perfect inbetween; a fake meal who snuck into my life and stole the best meal prize.  The best brunches include a good friend for company, lots of re-ordering pots of tea, the Sunday newspapers, a scrabble board and going 2 rounds of food so you can try two different types of breakfast combinations.

The best brunches start with sleepy Sunday eyes and I need coffeeee, and end when the sun is setting again and you realise that brunch became lunch and dinner and your entire day. Brunch is unrushable, basically! 

I’ve taken my job of discovering the best places to brunch very seriously and here is the top five. If you ever want to discuss this shortlist over brunch… that would be swell. (Especially at The Woseley aka Brunch venue of the stars and way out of my lowly price range; who’s menu I have downloaded on my desktop and read sometimes just for fun. SAD…)

 #1. S&M Cafe Spitalfields, 48 Brushfield Road, London, E1 6AG :

Be sure to sign up to the lovers club for amazing offers. Straight away you get £10 funny money which should see you a couple of trips for free!

Despite the fear in some compainions eyes when I tell them I’m taking them to an S&M cafe, there is nothing kinky here except the occasional Carry On film-still on a menu. S&M stands for Sausage & Mash, which the cafe specialises in when it isn’t serving up KILLER brunches! Cute red gingham table clothes,  oh so friendly staff and – for London – the cheapest  edible brunches I have found so far. You can get 3 breakfast items of your choice (including the holy grail that is bubble&squeak) for £3.25 and a cup of tea for £1.40. If you’re on a post pay day rampage then you should go bigger and braver. Their day job as sausage specialists means there are treats such as marmite or caerphilly cheese & leek bangers to try.

#2. Riveresque 15 Bridge End Road, Leeds, LS1 7HG

 

A picture tells a thousand words and hopefully this one is telling you that the Riveresque cafe WINS the portion size prize. I mean count it for yourself! That’s 4 toasts, 2 hash browns, 2 eggs, 4 sausages, 3 bacons, beans, mushrooms and tomato. For £5. I can’t see how they’re turning a profit but boy was I grateful  (need to work on my grateful face) Added to the generosity, you get a neat view of the river and randomly, a heaving back catalogue of Chat magazines to browse through. After the 2nd egg; reading Love thy neighbour: the girl next door sliced my Mels head off for £30! wasn’t a great move. Please go, but please take your own reading material.

#3. The Pot 38 Crwys Road, Cardiff, CR24 4NR : Click

It’s quite ironic that I had my first ever traditional American breakfast in Wales, but I can’t imagine the yanks make them any better. Wow-wee. Waffles, pancakes stacked to the sky, bacon, maple syrup and the perfect sunny side up. This little gem might involve a hefty hike out of the town centre to the student patch of Cardiff, but it is well worth the treck and hey, you’ll have walked off any calories you injest when you can’t resist the chocolate cookie milkshake. The decor here is flea market/shabby chic and the most serene spot to while away some hours. The waitresses are also adorable, all decked out in frilly polka dotted pinnies and so friendly that it definitely feels like you can stretch out and sit it out for the long weekend haul.

#4. Clock Cafe, Headingley Lane, Leeds, LS6

Is it called Clock Cafe? Or LS6? A long, pointless, bone of contention between Leeds residents Vs the Leeds student population! This place means business and isn’t in any way meant to be visited for less than three hours. Pitch up in one of the huge boothes, grab yourself scrabble and buckaroo and start calling friends to visit you over the course of the day. Afraid the brunch menu isn’t up to much, so this is a location for when you have a serious hangover. Then you can order the giant portion of dutch fries (of which the hot skinny waitresses like to ask ‘are you sure you want a whole portion to yourself, they are very big’ the answer is YES YES YOU DO!) mm curly fries, cheese, mayo and ketchup. Add in an iced coffee and a few hours later the fairy lights come on and the cafe turns into a bar and you can order a Fruli beer and start the night where your day began.

 #5. The Breakfast Club 2-4 Rufus Street, Hoxton, N1 6PE : Click

 

Wins the best cafe name before I even step foot over the threshold. I hadbeen perusing this joint on the internet for weeks before I even moved to London and my hopes were high as it boasts 2nd place in the Observer food awards – Best UK Breakfast line-up. Brunch here quite regularly involves a queue first and even then, it’s so busy you may well have to sit on the big shared tables with… STRANGERS argh! So not one for shy and retiring types, or people who want to swap secrets. The menu is epic though with absolutely tons of choice; including a dish called Green Eggs & Ham ♥ If you like a side portion of risk with your eggs opt for the charity breakfast – where you flip a coin and if you win – you get a £12 brekkie for £4. If you lose, you pay £12 but the extra money is donated to charity. Although I would recommend The Breakfast Club, all the staff I’ve encountered are very East London Cool (read: surly and quite affronted when faced with this prospect of you actually wanting to order food from them, rather than just gaze lovingly at them!) so do not go if you are on the verge of losing consciousness with hunger as service is slightly slow and sometimes stroppy!

PS. In non brunch information, I finally have a blog email address. likeaskeletonkey@hotmail.com – feedback, brunch recommendations, thoughts, ideas for posts and well anything you’d like to say here please!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

« Older entries