DSTRKT, LONDON

I first ate at DSTRKT in April (http://aspoonful-of-sugar.tumblr.com/post/21780299968/dstrkt-london) and had a fabulous night with my friends Paul and Heath. We were impeccably looked after by the maître d’ Guillermo and decided there and then that we would return for my birthday.

So a couple of weeks ago, we returned. Unfortunately Guillermo was no longer there (although he did text me to wish me a happy birthday which I thought was incredibly thoughtful) and I must say, we all missed him. The waiter and waitress we had serving us were both lovely and pleasant but the level of service was a tad lacking since Guillermo’s departure. Saying that, the hostess for the evening couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful.

When we sat down, Paul and I immediately asked if we could substitute our first course of Maldon rock oyster for something else. Paul said he couldn’t bear to watch me try to swallow another oyster! (see my last review). They were fine with this and gave us venison tartare instead. Albeit it the size of a thumbnail.


It was very nice, but literally gone in one mouthful. Next came the yellow fin tuna cubes with soy air and avocado mousse.


I loved this when I had it the first time but I felt slightly disappointed in it this time. Something wasn’t quite right. There was a very strong tasting droplet of olive oil on the plate and it overpowered the flavour of the tuna. Paul and I took our bites at the same time and immediately looked at each other with puzzled expressions. It was definitely not as good as last time.

Then came the seared Scottish scallops with English pea puree, olive oil powder and preserved lemon.


Beautiful and sweet scallops, perfectly cooked with the incredibly fresh taste of peas and zesty lemon. Lovely.

Next it was Saudi prawns with charred scallions oil. Sweet and meaty, this was delicious.


Then came a dish we had (and loved) last time…grilled flatbread salad with macadamia nut pesto.


This was as good as we remembered. Peppery rocket, soft goats cheese, punchy olives, soft sweet peppers and tomatoes all contrasting beautifully with the crunchy flatbread. I loved this.

And then the main event…the Scottish rib eye steak, sliced and cooked to perfection, served with a Talisker whisky sauce.


To accompany this, a pot of wild mushroom, fresh herbs and madacadmia nuts, with an egg nestled on top. When the waitress removed the lid of the pot, she broke the yolk and mixed it into the mushrooms.


Wow! This was beautiful. Tender, juicy, melt in the mouth beef and earthy, nutty wild mushrooms. Stunning. The addition of the egg yolk really added to the richness of the mushrooms. This was an incredible dish.


Meanwhile, Heath, who is vegetarian, and joined us mid-meal, ordered the truffle potato gnocchi with cheddar espuma. I wasn’t really paying much attention to it until I heard what can only be described as orgasmic noises coming from Paul. He had tried a bite of Heath’s gnocchi and his eyes were about to pop out of his head. So of course, my fork immediately found its way to Heath’s plate. Cue the same noises and eye-popping. This was A M A Z I N G !!

So even though Paul and I were eating off the tasting menu, we ordered an additional serving of truffle gnocchi to share and add to our already expanding waistline!


Totally worth it though. The gnocchi were slightly crispy on the outside so I think they must have fried it after having cooked it. This was a lovely touch. Sometimes I find gnocchi a bit bland in both texture and taste but these were stunning. The truffle and cheddar sauce was divine. Light and foamy in texture but rich and deep in flavour. I think this was the dish of the night.


Then it was time for pudding. The first plate was Chocolate S’mores…cider sabayon, chocolate custard and Gram Cracker crumble, with some toasted marshmallow cubes.


And ice cream…I think it was blackcurrant and vanilla. I’m not entirely sure. (I’d had a LOT of wine by this stage!)


I was a bit underwhelmed by the pudding to be completely honest. It just felt like lot of different ingredients placed on a plate without it really coming together.

Overall, we had a lovely night but we missed Guillermo. Also, the food was still coming out of the kitchen rather quickly and I would have appreciated more time to enjoy my wine. As it was, I felt like I was playing catch up all night. And when the wines are supposed to match each dish, that isn’t ideal.

Certain dishes stood out…the truffle gnocchi in particular, while others failed to deliver…the tuna cubes and the dessert. But we still had a great meal, although it didn’t shine like our last meal.

In terms of the service, we had to keep a constant look out for the waiter in order to get his attention. However, when he was with us, he was very friendly. Just not quite as attentive as Guillermo had been on our last visit.

DSTRKT is a restaurant and a club and the night we were there was the same night Hackney Weekend kicked off, and a few of the stars of that were expected to be partying at DSTRKT later that night including Jay Z, Rihanna and Rita Ora. So by the end of our meal, the place was really filling up. We decided to move into the club after our meal but we were told we would have to walk back up to the front door, pay £20 each and get a stamp. Hmmmm…we’d already paid about £100 each for our food so paying another £20 each to literally pass through a curtain and drink just a few feet from our table was a tad galling.

We did pay to get into the club but only stayed for one drink and decided to move on to another club to dance the night away.

I really like DSTRKT’s food and they have some excellent wine but I’m not sure if I would go back. Perhaps for the a la carte menu as opposed to the tasting menu. And actually, I think I’d climb over my dead Grandmother to get to that truffle gnocchi again! For that, I would return.

DUCKSOUP, SOHO

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Claire and I met up for a catch-up. She asked me where I wanted to eat and I suggested Ducksoup on Dean Street, Soho.

I’ve been once, but just briefly while I was waiting for another friend to go on elsewhere. I really wanted to try it out properly.

Ducksoup, which opened late last year, is the brainwave of chef Julian Biggs, helped by Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy, all hailing from Mark Hix’s Oyster & Chop House.

This is a cool little restaurant. Most of the seating is around the bar with a few tables along the wall. Everyone pretty much sits on top of one another so don’t expect too much privacy! Personally I quite like this. It adds to the atmosphere of the place and more often that not, I usually end up meeting really interesting people this way.


I arrived at 6.30pm and just managed to nab the very last table for two. They don’t take bookings (I can’t remember the last time I was able to book a table in a restaurant!) so you need to get there early. It was a roasting hot day so they had the windows open into the street.


Ducksoup was buzzing with noise, energy and atmosphere as I walked in. That could be because us Brits are always incredibly excited when the sun comes out. The restaurant was packed with people perched at the bar and the tables inside and out were full.


The decor inside is simple and unpretentious. The wine list (all natural wines) is scrawled across the white tiled walls.


As you walk through the door you pass a turn-table and a stack of records. The restaurant has a BYO policy - bring your own vinyl! Fantastic idea.


The menu is updated every day which I like. I love that you know you’re getting seasonal, fresh ingredients each time. It also keeps you on your toes and it makes you keep coming back. The hand-written menu is divided into sections…small ‘bar’ plates and more substantial ‘kitchen’ plates.


As I was waiting for Claire to turn up, I ordered a cold, crisp glass of white wine and the salami toscano (£6)…


The salami was delicious. It melted in your mouth. But for £1 per slice, it seemed a tad overpriced!

When Claire arrived we decided to order a few plates to share. The chopped pancetta on rosemary toast (£6) jumped out at us.


I loved this. Crunchy sourdough toast topped with fried onions and pancetta and lots of rosemary. Strong, punchy flavours. Delicious.

Next to arrive, the grilled sardines and pine nut tarator (£7)….


Claire loved these. I don’t mind sardines, I just don’t like fiddling with my food, checking it for bones etc. I’m too impatient. They were very nice, I just wouldn’t normally order them. The pine nut tarator was wonderful though.

Next up, beautiful fresh, in season asparagus, topped with Guanciale and a poached egg (£7)…


Finally, quail on fried bread, onions and a brandy sauce.


I loved this, although the quail looked rather too much like a women laid back with her legs crossed! She tasted delicious though! The quail was juicy and tender, the sweetness and the softness of the onions was beautiful against the crunchy toast while the brandy sauce brought it all together. Gorgeous.

I ummed and ahhed at having a pudding. They had Torta di Nonna on the menu which is one of my favourite desserts, but we decided to order some more wine instead. Next time…

I liked Ducksoup a lot. Its busy, crowded, full of atmosphere, the staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and they offer up great food. The turn table delivered us some classic Joe Cocker and Stevie Wonder the night we were there but that will obviously change day to day. And with their ever-changing menu, I know i’ll definitely be back.


Ducksoup, 41 Dean Street, London, W1D 4PY
Tel: 020 72874599

http://www.ducksoupsoho.co.uk
@ducksoupsoho

The menu is printed on Tumblr every day - http://ducksoupsoho.tumblr.com/

Paul Ryan and Heath Massi’s Wedding, Kensington Roof Gardens, London.

CHARBONNEL ET WALKER’S JUBILEE CELEBRATION


Unless you’ve been living under a rock of late, you will probably have noticed that over the last week or so, Britain has been having a right good knees-up to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A couple of weeks ago, I posted photos of my own Jubilee party (http://bit.ly/LkIrBq) and luckily for me, someone at the renowned chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker, saw it, liked it and consequently sent me an invitation to their very own Jubilee celebration!

So last Thursday, my friend Cassie and I arrived at their Old Bond Street store in London’s Mayfair and were warmly greeted with a smile and a glass of champagne.


The shop had been thoroughly decked out in bunting and Jubilee-inspired gift boxes…


And even a chocolate crown!


There was an infectious atmosphere of excitement and anticipation as everyone mingled together. With the champagne flowing and spirits high, the Old Bond Street Manager, Adam Lee, addressed the room and welcomed us all, giving us a bit of background information about the Charbonnel et Walker brand.


I already knew of the brand and have enjoyed their chocolates in the past, but I had no idea how rich the history was.


To give you a little of the history…Charbonnel et Walker was founded in 1875 and is one of Britain’s earliest chocolatiers. It is also endorsed by the Royal warrant as the official chocolate manufacturers to the Queen.

The company first formed as a partnership between Mrs Walker and Mme. Charbonnel, the latter from the Maison Boissier chocolate house in Paris. Their original shop opened at 173 New Bond Street in Mayfair and has remained in Bond Street ever since.

Charbonnel et Walker’s exquisite chocolates are hand-made according to traditional recipes in their factory in Tunbridge Wells. Their hand-made boxes and satin ribbons are immediately recognisable and make an ideal gift.


Adam explained that their best-selling chocolate is the Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles. I have had these many times before and they’re incredible.


These consist of a milk chocolate, butter and Marc de Champagne centre with a white chocolate shell and a light dusting of icing sugar. Melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness.


We were also treated to the dark chocolate version although I preferred the milk version.

We also tried their classic milk truffles…


And their dark chocolates dusted in cocoa. I personally adore dark chocolate so the dark ones were my favourite. Intense, rich, smooth…perfect.

Then we moved onto their world-renowned speciality…English Rose & Violet Creams (apparently a favourite of the Queen and the Queen Mother!)

Decorated with a crystallised rose or violet leaf, the fondant creams are infused with rose or violet oil and coated in dark chocolate. As well as the fondant creams, we were also given rose and violet truffles…


I was surprised how much I liked the Rose creams. I’m not normally a fan of fragrant chocolates but these were so delicately fragrant, and so smooth, they were wonderful. I wasn’t as big a fan of the Violet ones but that is purely a personal thing. Everyone else seemed to love them. I’ve just never been a fan of Violet.

Next we were offered to taste some chocolates that are in development. Starting with the sublime Creamed Coconut encased in dark chocolate. I loved this one.


Next up was Passion fruit Cream. This was light and tangy and lovely, but not as good as the coconut. Again, this is purely a matter of personal taste.


Then…the grand finale. Clearly they had left the best til last…Sea Salt Caramel Truffles.


Wow! As you bite into the milk chocolate shell, you’re met with a liquid salted caramel centre. Bite into only half of it and you’ll end up in a mess, so this is best consumed whole. You can taste the hint of salt, which stops the caramel truffle from being too sickly sweet. I could have eaten a lot more of these, they were absolutely divine.

To round off the evening, we were all guided to the back of the store where we were greeted with tea cups of Pimms!


Whilst strawberries dipped in chocolate were passed around.


Cassie and I had a thoroughly wonderful evening. What can be better than an evening of chocolate truffles and champagne?! And we were even sent home with a goody bag containing the chocolate crown and a heart-shaped box of chocolate truffles! I went home feeling slightly queasy (in a good way!) from all the chocolate and champagne but extremely happy.


Thank you so much Charbonnel et Walker for the invite!


Charbonnel et Walker,
One, The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4BT
Tel: 020 7491 0939

www.charbonnel.co.uk (for more information on stores and stockists)
Twitter: @Charbonnel

* The top two photos are courtesy of the wonderful Cassie Bennitt (@Miss_Lola_Mae)

MISHKIN’S & OPERA TAVERN, COVENT GARDEN


Last Wednesday, my best friend Carmen and I met up for dinner. We’ve both been so busy lately we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks which is unusual for us since we live round the corner from one another.

We wanted to have a nice bite to eat after work accompanied by lots of lovely wine. My friend Sally had told me about Opera Tavern in Covent Garden. When I looked it up I realised it was right next door to Mishkin’s, one of my favourite restaurants. (http://bit.ly/KFb91i) Carmen has been wanting to go to Mishkin’s for ages. So I booked us a table at Opera Tavern for 7.30pm, just to be safe, and figured that we’d go along, see what it was like, and if we didn’t like it we’d go to Mishkin’s.

So we met up outside Covent Garden tube station and got to Catherine Street for 7pm. We were too early for Opera Tavern so we popped into Mishkin’s and sat at the bar, hoping for some nice gin cocktails. We were told we had to eat if we were going to drink alcohol so we ordered the baby spinach, roast red pepper, labneh & spiced pecan salad.


It was divine! The soft spinach with the sweet roasted pepper and onions worked so well with the smooth creaminess of the labneh. And the pecans gave it a lovely bit of texture. Finished off with a fantastic dressing, I would have been happy eating this all night. It really was one of the tastiest salads I’ve had in a restaurant.

We also ordered a portion of deliciously crisp and sweet onion rings…perfect.


These were accompanied by beautifully refreshing Diamond Fizz cocktails…Beefeater gin, Prosecco and lemon.


Mishkin’s cocktails are a little too good. I’ve had many great nights I can’t fully remember, all because of their gin cocktails.

At 7.30pm. we paid up at Mishkin’s and headed next door to Opera Tavern.


Initially they seated us upstairs but we asked if there might be a possibility of table outside since it was such a lovely hot evening. We were in luck! A table had become available and we were moved right away.

The very friendly waitress talked us through the menu. My eyes immediately went to the Courgette Flowers Stuffed with Goats’ Cheese and Drizzled with Honey…


Absolutely delicious. The crisp petals of the flower provided a delightful contrast to the smooth, creaminess of the tangy goats cheese. The honey added a beautiful rich sweetness to it.

Next came the Chargrilled Beef Underblade Fillet with Watercress Purée, Gorgonzola and Portobello Mushrooms…


This was Carmen’s dish. I like a bite of steak but I can’t eat a lot of it. Served on a piece of slate, the beef was thinly sliced and cooked medium rare, and it was so tender it melted on your tongue. The addition of the gorgonzola gave it richness and depth and the mushrooms, an earthiness. It was a lovely dish but for me, too heavy for such a hot evening.

Next up was my Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger. I was to-ing and fro-ing between ordering this and ordering the Chorizo with Piquillo and Marjoram but the waitress recommended the burger very highly so I took her advice. And boy, was I happy that I did!


It was the perfect size for me. I don’t like huge burgers. I find them a little overwhelming. This was perfect. But let me assure you, it might me mini in size but its big on taste.


With soft sweet peppers on the bottom, the burger was cooked medium rare over a grill with the foie gras mixed through the pork. The foie gras adds a rich velvety texture to the burger. Topped with aged manchego cheese and crispy onions, it was so juicy, so tender, I loved it.


I was pretty full by now but Carmen’s meat feast continued with her Moorish Marinated Ibérico Pork skewer which I think has harissa on top.


I only had a tiny bite of this since it was so small to begin with. It had a really strong chargrilled taste to it which I loved and the pork itself was incredibly moist.

And last but not least, the Chargrilled Spring Lamb Cutlet with Smoked Garlic Purée, Tomato, Courgette and Cumin.


Again, this was Carmen’s. I’m not a huge lover of lamb so I had the tiniest piece of it. I must say, these guys really know how to cook their meat. Once again, it was soft, tender and juicy and I loved the smoked garlic purée that came with it, although Carmen wasn’t a fan.

We were too full for pudding so we just ordered some more wine and enjoyed the amazing music that was pumping out from Mishkin’s next door, who seemed to be enjoying a bit of a 70s disco vibe. As I danced in my seat to Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and Le Freak by Chic, Carmen and I caught up on all the gossip and enjoyed being able to sit outside in the warm night air. It really was a wonderful night. Made even more wonderful when John Torode, chef and presenter of Masterchef, walked out the restaurant and stood right next to us with his friends. Carmen, who was feeling super confident due to the amount of wine she’d consumed by this point, was about to walk over and introduce herself and tell him that I loved him. Not her, me! Luckily I managed to stop her just as he walked back into the restaurant and our bill came.

We jumped in a taxi as Carmen was complaining of stomach ache. Nothing to do with the quality of the food, but more to do with the fact that she’d eaten pork, lamb and beef in one sitting! I’m sure eating three different types of meat in one meal can’t be good for you.

Both restaurants were great. Mishkin’s really is fantastic and its fast becoming one of my regular haunts, for the gin cocktails if nothing else! Opera Tavern’s friendly and knowledgeable staff served terrific food and great wine. What can be better than that?

If you’re in Covent Garden, take a trip to Catherine Street. Whichever restaurant you go in to, you’re sure of a fantastic meal.


Mishkin’s: 25 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
Tel: 020 7240 2078
http://mishkins.co.uk
Twitter: @MishkinsWC2

Opera Tavern: 23 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
Tel: 020 7836 3680
http://www.operatavern.co.uk/

DIAMOND JUBILEE PARTY

This weekend celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and London looks incredible. Union Jacks adorn every part of the city, as far as the eye can see. It’s a beautiful sight and makes you feel very proud to be British.


Even better, we all have an extra day off work! And there’s nothing we Brits love more than a bank holiday weekend. Throw in some bunting, party food, Pimms and bunting and we’re all raring to go!

This year there is a record number of street parties planned with almost 9,500 road closure applications having been granted, that’s 4,000 more than for last year’s royal wedding! With tens of thousands of events planned in streets, gardens, parks, pubs and church halls around the country, the scale of celebration will the off the charts!

This Sunday, 3rd June 2012, over 1000 boats will gather on the River Thames in preparation for The Queen to take part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Starting between Hammersmith and Battersea and finishing down from Tower Bridge, it will be one of the largest flotillas ever assembled on the Thames. Boats of all shapes and sizes will be decked out in Union Jack flags and streamers, and passenger boats carrying flag-waving members of the public will be joined by music barges, all celebrating Her Majesty’s 60 year reign.

The preparations have already started as you can see from this photo, taken by my lovely friend Jason:


Now, as much as this weekend’s Jubilee festivities is all anyone can talk about in London at the moment, unfortunately, the excitement has not reached Glasgow where I am assured by my brothers that no-one is talking about it. What a shame. Especially as I booked this weekend to fly home and visit my family months ago, before I realised quite how huge this weekend would be in London.

So yes, I’m officially gutted that I’m missing out on all the street parties my friends have invited me to and the amazing party atmosphere that will be engulfing London this weekend. And this is why I decided to hold my very own Jubilee party last Sunday…a week early!

The idea began when I decided that I wanted to make a Union Jack cake. Then I saw these gorgeous cupcake toppers on this website - http://bit.ly/LxKDbx - and decided I could not live without them!


And so decided to make some mini cupcakes. THEN, I found some gorgeous Union Jack cupcake cases and had to buy them too. It just made sense that I should have a party so I could share the cake with my friends as opposed to scoffing it all myself! And I love any excuse to have a party.

On top of that, every shop in London is full of Jubilee-inspired gifts and there’s nothing I like better than to buy myself a gift! So of course, I had to buy the Union Jack paper chains I found (http://bit.ly/JKkSXr), and the Union Jack bunting, the Union Jack paper cups (http://bit.ly/JRKSte), the Union Jack tablecloth (http://bit.ly/K7wwLh), napkins with the Queen on them (http://bit.ly/LDEo1L), London-inspired paper plates (http://bit.ly/KNl9X1) ….! It slightly spiralled out of control!

And so, over the last week, I turned into Nigella on speed! I’ve been cooking and baking constantly, I’ve been making list after list, trying to organise it all. I even popped into Liberty to buy myself a special notebook so I could write down all my notes. (I told you, I like buying gifts for myself!)

And so…Sunday came! The bunting was up…


The sandwiches were made….Coronation Chicken (of course!), egg mayonnaise and cucumber and cream cheese…


A jug of Pimms was on the go…


The mini cupcakes with the ‘Royal’ toppers were ready…


Mini smoked salmon quiches and mini quiche Lorraines…


Sausage rolls…


Fairy cakes on my London-inspired cake stand (from Sainsburys)…


Millionaire shortbread, so we have a bit of chocolate caramel sweetness..


And the pièce de résistance, the thing that started it all off in the first place…my Union Jack cake!


I added my Royal pop tops (http://amzn.to/LABrTF but you can get these in most shops at the moment)…


Unfortunately, it was 29 degrees outside, the hottest day of the year so far, and my flat is like a sauna at the best of times. Did I mention I have no outdoor space?!

So my poor friends had to endure being indoors instead of sunbathing outside. But, bless them all, not one of them moaned or complained. I’d half expected them not to turn up!

It was such a great party and we all had such a lovely day. I love having my friends together in one place. And the cherry on the cake was that my good friend Trenham, who moved to Melbourne 2 years ago, (his blog is londonerdownunder.tumblr.com) was back in London on holiday. It was amazing to have everyone back together again.


The party ended up in the pub round the corner at about 8pm and we sat out in the garden drinking Prosecco until midnight. What a perfect day!

God Save the Queen!

CREPERIE DU MONDE, HACKNEY


As you may have seen from my previous post, (http://bit.ly/KigmZe) I spent a lovely day in East London on Saturday with my friend Cassie who took me to her favourite creperie on Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton, just a 5 minute walk from Homerton overground station.

Creperie du Monde is a lovely little place. The interior is full of reclaimed wood and distressed furniture with empty vintage picture frames on the wall.


Its really tastefully designed and has a really nice chilled feel to it. If you’re lucky enough to get there when the old comfy leather at the front window is empty, you could easily spend an afternoon there, whiling away the hours, eating crepes and drinking coffee.


The kitchen area is open so you can see the crepes being made.


As I was queuing to put our order in, I stood, mesmerized, as they served up beautiful looking plates of food. So much so that I didn’t realise that one of the waiters had actually been trying to speak to me for about a minute whilst I stood there with my mouth hanging open, staring at the food!


The mouthwatering combinations on the menu make the decision making process incredibly difficult.


Cassie and I spent ages changing our minds. She’d had the Amazon Rose before and loved it, but then thought that she should try something different. The worked out well for me…it meant I could order the Amazon Rose! And so I did…

The Amazon Rose consists of Gruyere, Mushroom, Aubergine, Roasted tomato and Rosemary. All my favourite ingredients! The crepe was, as you’d expect, light as a feather. As they’re cooking it, they sprinkle the dried herbs on the hot plate and toast them for a few seconds before pouring the batter over the top. That way the herbs are incorporated into the crepe mix itself. The whole place fills with the smell of the herbs as they’re toasting and its a wonderful scent.


I absolutely loved my crepe. I was so glad I’d opted for that one as I was very close to ordering the Of The World one. That consists of Chistorra (family of chorizo), Red peppers, Aubergine, Courgette, Rocket, melted Camembert and mixed herbs. Mmmmm….it still sounds good. I think I’ll go for that next time.

Cassie ordered The Italian Influence


Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella, fresh Rocket and du monde Tomato sauce.


Again, this was delicious. The aroma of the room when they were making this was incredible. The air was thick with the smell of oregano. It tasted like the lightest pizza you could imagine.

I had ordered a strawberry milkshake to have alongside my crepe. I’m a bit like a child when it comes to milkshakes…every time I see them on a menu I have to order one. I don’t know what it is with me and milkshakes but if I think I’m going to get a good one, I simply have to get it. Even though I know they’re filling and they will usually ruin my appetite for whatever food I’ll be having with it. But I never learn.

About five minutes after I’d ordered it, a rather shy waiter notified me that there was no ice cream left. I looked at him blankly. I wasn’t sure if he was telling me there was no ice cream left ANYWHERE and therefore I wouldn’t be able to get my milkshake, or there was none left right at that moment and I would have to wait for a while. He stood looking at me rather nervously then Cassie and I both pointed out that there were two shops directly across the road where one might be able to purchase some ice cream. Again, he looked a bit nervous, then looked at someone who I assumed was his boss. Five minutes later I saw him running across the road for some ice cream. Phew! Five more minutes and I would have bought the ice cream myself!


But my God, it was worth the wait! I was presented with a pint, yes a PINT of gorgeous sweet, rich strawberry milkshake….in a pint bottle. Amazing. I think this might have been the highlight of my day!


We had decided to share a sweet crepe after our savoury ones. Again, the choices were amazing.

Choices included your standard sugar and lemon, or Nutella, all the way to The American - peanut butter, banana and jam; London Loves - banana, caramel and a scoop of ice cream (the crepe itself is shaped into a heart with the ice cream in the centre); Danes Delight - cream, custard, strawberries, chocolate syrup and crushed biscuit; Samba Banana - cinnamon with hot sliced banana and dulce de leche. You can see why it was so hard to choose!

We eventually decided to pick 3 we really wanted. The first one we both said was the Tropical Pecan - Pecan & fresh Bananas with Maple Syrup and Cinnamon, crushed biscuits and cream.


Wow! It was like heaven on a plate. Conversation was virtually non-existent as we both tucked in. All that could be heard was the odd muffled “Wow…this is amazing”, but otherwise speech was forgotten as we savoured every bite.

If I lived down the road from this place, as Cassie does, it would be dangerous. I could easily see myself sitting here at the weekends, stuffing my face with crepes and drinking copious amounts of milkshake and getting fatter and fatter!

Saying that, I will happily be making more trips East to work my way through their menu.


Creperie du monde
51 Chatsworth Road, London, E5 0LH
020 8525 5735

creperiedumonde.co.uk
Twitter: @CreperieDuMonde
facebook.com/creperiedumonde

A DAY OUT IN HACKNEY…

My gorgeous friend Cassie is one of my favourite people in the world and more importantly, one of my favourite eating companions! Its so nice to eat with someone who enjoys eating as much as you do. We have very similar taste in food and in the types of places we like to hang out in. She’s also good at spotting a hot chef/cheese seller/baker and always has a good recommendation of where we should go next to eat and stare at the hot guys!

Cassie lives in Hackney, East London and we love to spend Saturdays wandering around the markets, chatting to/flirting with the stallholders and generally eating our way around the area.

Last weekend, London decided to give us all a break from the relentless rain we’ve been experiencing lately, and we were bathed in some much-needed sun. I arrived at Hackney Central on the Overground about midday on Saturday and met Cass round the corner on Mare Street. We wandered through the small market that is set back from the main road, in a beautiful church garden. Its a cute little market…nice and chilled. You can stroll along without being hassled, and the stall holders are so friendly, you can talk to them for ages about their produce. http://www.hackneyhomemade.com/


Our favourite stand was the cheese stand - Fratelli Formaggio – Ian and Gian, known as the “Dark Knights of Cholesterol” were serving us up constant tasters of incredible cheeses.


As soon as we arrived at their stall, a knife was immediately pointed at me with a taster of aged Gruyere balanced on the tip. This is one situation in which I really don’t mind a knife being pointed at me in East London! The Gruyere was wonderful and Cassie and I both immediately bought some. The boys kept putting tasters in front of us and I think we tried most of the cheeses they had on offer. They were so lovely and friendly.

Gringos London make a selection of fresh salsas, plus guacamole made to order – to your specifications – right before your eyes. www.facebook.com/gringoslondon | @GringosLondon.


Lush Mush makes the most beautiful looking cupcakes and full-sized cakes - www.lushmush.com | @LushMushHackney.


Then we hopped on a bus to London Fields just 5 minutes away.


And wandered to the E5 Bakehouse - http://e5bakehouse.com/


The E5 Bakehouse is an East London artisan bakery which uses organic, locally-sourced ingredients in all their daily-baked breads and homemade cakes.


Their head bakers share their knowledge and expertise in a weekly bread course every Saturday from 11am til 5.30pm, costing £95. This is definitely something I’m going to sign up for next pay day!


We then popped into Happy Kitchen - www.happykitchen.org.uk – next door for a coffee and some cake.


Happy Kitchen sells only natural food – no gluten, eggs, dairy or wheat. They sweeten their food with fruit.


Cassie had their bakewell tart which was absolutely delicious.


I had one of their brownies which, to be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely taken with. I need the sugar! If I was gluten, dairy and wheat intolerant and I wasn’t able to eat regular brownies, then I’m sure this would have been a delight. But I’m not. I love my sugar!


It is a lovely place to be though. You almost feel healthier just being in there! I love the feel of the place, and if I wasn’t so addicted to sugar, it would be heaven.


We then wandered down to Broadway Market - http://broadwaymarket.co.uk


But it was so manically busy and there were roadworks taking away half the stalls, so we decided to walk down the road to Netil Market for a Lucky Chip burger - http://www.luckychipuk.com/.


Unfortunately, there was a large queue and we were told the wait would be 30 minutes from order so we decided to head to the market in London Fields Primary School playground which was just round the corner, for some pizza.


Homeslice - http://www.homeslicepizza.co.uk/ - is the love-child of three men with a passion for making and eating woodfire pizza. Through lots of research they think they’ve found what it takes to keep our tastebuds satisfied.


And after tasting a slice of their Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta pizza, I’d say they’ve been successful!

They hand-roll their dough on site, top it with fresh gourmet ingredients and then cook it in their custom-built wood fire oven. At first I was gutted that they’d run out of the ingredients for their Serrano, Stilton and Walnut pizza, but after I tasted their Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta pizza, I was in heaven.


This is serious pizza. Super-thin tasty crust which had a nice crunch to it. The ricotta was so fresh and I think I noticed flecks of lemon zest through it which would explain the slight lemony taste in the background. It was absolutely stunning.


Once we’d finished up, we decided to head to Chatsworth Road. On the way to the bus stop we popped into the Corner Deli on the corner of Mare Street and Westgate Street, to buy our favourite sfogliatine pastries for the journey!


We lazily got the Overground one stop from Hackney Central to Homerton and walked 5 minutes to Chatsworth Road…

When you’re walking down Chatsworth Road you get the feeling its just on the cusp of changing from being a bit grotty to being ‘hip’ and cool. You can tell from the food places alone.

On the corner of Glenarm and Chatsworth, there is a little cluster of lovely food shops which shows the beginnings of regeneration. We popped into Venetia’s Coffee Shop - http://www.venetias.co.uk - for a quick glass of still lemonade…


Whilst I was in there I recognised the cakes they had on display…they were cakes made by Lush Mush, who I had spoken to earlier that morning at the first market we went to! What a small world! www.lushmush.com | @LushMushHackney.

Then went for a wander around L’epicerie - http://www.lepicerie56.com/ - a gorgeous deli full of cheese, charcuterie, antipasti, quiches, wine and breads. They also serve fair trade coffee together with French savouries and pastries, all of which you can eat in or take away.


But the main reason we were on Chatsworth Road was to visit Crêperie du Monde - http://creperiedumonde.co.uk/. Cassie went here a couple of weeks ago and sent me some photos. I immediately texted back “I WANT!” and so here I was to try them out.


This place is so good, I’m writing a separate post about it but this is the crepe I had.


And this is the PINT of strawberry milkshake I had!


You can see the rest in a couple of days when I get round to writing up the post.

To round off our day we walked up to Lower Clapton Road and had a Bloody Mary at the newly opened Clapton Hart pub which is absolutely stunning inside.


It only opened 2 days previously so they still seem to be finding their feet but I definitely want to come back here. They aren’t serving food just yet but promised they would have a menu soon.

So there you have it…my lovely day out in Hackney! If you’re ever in London, please head East. There are so many amazing places to eat and drink, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

40 MALTBY STREET, LONDON

Last Thursday, I met up with my lovely friends Lisa and Bronwyn for a bite to eat after work. I wanted to try out 40 Maltby Street as I’d been hearing a lot of talk about it lately.

Maltby Street in Bermondsey hosts a fabulous food market every Saturday out of the railway arches near Tower Bridge, bringing together artisan food and drink producers selling top quality produce. Its a different world from Borough Market which is just a 10 minute walk away. It’s a lot smaller and more laid-back…a lovely departure from the hectic hustle and bustle of Borough Market which I sometimes find a bit stressful. Its also a lot more personable, with the stall holders more than happy to stop and talk about their produce.

Nestled in the arches, is 40 Maltby Street, the wine bar attached to Gergovie Wines, an independent supplier dealing with organic producers in Italy, France and Slovenia. Two evenings a week and all day Saturday, they open up their very small kitchen and serve up some fantastic food from their menu on the blackboard by the bar.


Knowing how busy this place gets, and the fact you can’t book, we decided to try it on a Thursday night to avoid the queues. I got there just before 7pm and it was already pretty busy. Luckily Lisa and Bron were already there and had got us a pitch right next to the wines!


We’d all had pretty long, stressful days so it was a blessed relief to be out of the office, and near wine! Bron asked the waitress for a recommendation and she came back with this really lovely smooth white wine…


After a couple of glasses of wine we felt a lot more relaxed and decided to order some plates of food. Looking at the menu by the bar, I could have eaten everything!


But between us we decided to go for the Tuscan salami….


The cheese plate featured Lincolnshire Poacher, an unpasteurised cows milk cheese (sweet, nutty and with a nice sharp tang), Stawley, an unpasteurised goat cheese (firm, smooth and nutty) …


And St John’s, an unpasteurised sheep’s milk cheese (smooth, creamy and a little salty)…


Soft, thinly sliced bresaola with sliced crunchy artichokes….


Then came the most wonderful tasting semolina gnocchi with braised beef cheek…


This dish was a triumph! The beef melted in your mouth, the sauce was rich and deep, the gnocchi was creamy and smooth. I kept closing my eyes when I was eating it so I could concentrate on the flavours. It really was delicious and I really hope I can try it there again.


To accompany the beef dish, we ordered these stunning tasting Roman courgettes….


These were absolutely incredible and complimented the beef dish perfectly. There was a tiny amount of chilli through them and even though I generally steer clear of chilli since I can’t take the heat of it, it actually provided taste rather than heat. They were really beautiful…light, fresh and full of flavour.

We also had another lovely bottle of wine…


I’m afraid I don’t remember what this tasted like but I remember I liked it a lot!


I will definitely come back here. I loved the atmosphere, the wine and the food. The staff are friendly, passionate and knowledgeable about what they’re selling.

Don’t come here hoping for a large meal, this is a place to come to if you want to enjoy some really good wine and have a bite to eat with it. I love this style of eating…lots of little things so I can pick and have lots of different flavours. They change their menu regularly so I would like to come back to see what else they have to offer. Although I really hope they have the beef cheeks with gnocchi next time I go back as I’d like to be able to devour it by myself without having to share it!

40 Maltby Street SE1.
www.40maltbystreet.com

Thursday and Friday, 5.30pm – 10pm; Saturday, 10am – 5pm.
No reservations.

PASTRY CLASS AT COOKERY SCHOOL, LONDON


If you read my blog regularly, you will know that many a tear has been cried into my shortcrust pastry tarts in the past. I just can’t seem to master the shortcrust. It is my nemesis! And my mum can’t understand why I can’t master it, since she finds it so easy. Which I, in turn, find highly annoying! She has offered to teach me herself but I think even more tears would be shed if I took her up on her offer. As much as I adore my mum, we are both very territorial when it comes to the kitchen!

So for the past few weeks I have been looking for a good pastry class in London. One where I can learn shortcrust, puff and choux. One where I can get my hands dirty, and one that didn’t cost the earth! Now, you might be surprised to learn that this wasn’t easy. I genuinely thought I would type a few requirements into Google and a myriad of suitable classes would pop up and I could take my pick. How wrong I was. There were classes on weekdays, there were week long courses, there were courses for £500! But nothing on a weekend or evening for £100 or less.

I asked on Twitter if anyone could help and lots of lovely people went out of their way to search for me but they were equally surprised that they couldn’t find what I needed. Leiths did message me about their pastry courses but they weren’t until later in the year and me, being the impatient person I am, wanted to do it as soon as possible. Then on Monday afternoon, the lovely www.thefeelgoodfoodbook.blogspot.co.uk tweeted me to say that Cookery School at Little Portland Street in London had some space left for their evening class the next day!

I had a look on their website - www.cookeryschool.co.uk - and their evening class promised to teach you how to master choux, shortcrust, pate sucree and puff pastries, and in the process, you will learn how to make apple pie, vegetable quiche, traditional Cornish pasties, cheese straws, palmiers and profiteroles. All of this for £100 plus the school was a 10 minute walk from my office! Result!

I booked onto it straight away and 24 hours later I was sitting on a stool with my fellow pastry novices and a complimentary glass of organic wine in my hand.

The cooking school is quite small, but for me, perfect. I don’t want to go to a huge kitchen with a large group of people. I’ve been to cookery classes like that before, and I learnt nothing.


Our class comprised of 6 people..Eva, Antra, Camille, Jason, William and myself. Once everyone had arrived, our teacher for the evening, Ghalip, talked us through the evening ahead. He covered health & safety first, then he went straight into explaining and showing us how to make choux pastry, whilst we crowded around to watch.


Each of us took turns to mix the choux pastry so we knew how it should feel and look when we’re doing it at home for ourselves.


Ghalip encouraged us to ask questions throughout. He wanted us to make the most out of having a pastry expert in front of us. When the choux mix was ready, Ghalip showed us how best to spoon it onto the baking tray then popped them the oven.


Next, we were divided into pairs and shown to our stations to start on the puff pastry. This is one pastry I have never tried before because I have always thought it was too hard to make for myself. There were ready-prepared bowls of pre-measured flour laid out for each of us. We took these and a block of cold butter straight from the fridge and Ghalip demonstrated how to make the dough and then how to roll it, incorporating the block of butter. (I will post this seperately).


We rolled and turned the puff pastry twice then we popped our pastry dough into individual plastic bags which were placed in the fridge.

Next we we were given the choice of making either quiche, apple tart or Cornish pasties. I decided to opt for quiche, since this is where I have been going so wrong in the past.

Again, I will post each pastry recipe separately but needless to say, Ghalid made it look so easy and was always to hand if you needed help or advice..


The shortcrust pastry cases were blind baked whilst we watched the Cornish pasties and the apple pies being finished off. Then when the shortcrust pastry cases were ready, we layered them with caramelised onions, sautéed mushrooms and topped with the milk/cream/egg mixture, then popped them in the oven.


With everything in the oven, Ghalid showed us how to make cheese straws…


And palmiers…


The choux buns that had come out of the oven earlier were now completely chilled and ready to be filled with cream and dusted with icing sugar…


By now, our tummies were rumbling with the mouth-watering smells that were filling the kitchen. I think the smell of pastry hot from the oven has to be one of the most enticing smells in the world. Luckily we didn’t need to wait long to see the fruits of our labour…


And within seconds we were tucking in with great abandon…a cheese straw here, a profiterole there, back to savoury with another cheese straw, then a sweet, sugary palmier…back to the cheese straws and another profiterole, and then one last cheese straw…


(Can you see the teeth marks??)

I must admit, my tummy was aching as I sat on the tube on my way home. But I was so happy, I didn’t care! Warming my knees was a cake box containing my still-warm, delicious-looking mushroom quiche (plus a profiterole, a couple of palmiers and a couple more cheese straws!) and on top of the cake box, was my puff pastry that I’d rolled at the beginning of the night. That is now in my fridge, ready to be used this weekend. (I ate the quiche for dinner the next day, and it was every bit as delicious as it looked.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this class. I have been to quite a few cookery classes in my time, and I’d almost given up on them altogether. I have spent a lot of money in the past, being told how to do things I learnt when I was a child watching my mother cook, and not learning anything new. So this was a lovely surprise.

Ghalid made everything look and sound so simple, I’m not sure what I’ve been doing wrong in the past, but I do feel a lot more confident now and I’m really looking forward to testing out his techniques over the next few weeks. He made us feel at ease, never made anyone feel stupid for asking what might have been an obvious question, and his explanations were easy to understand. And most importantly, he made it fun.

With the class being small, it also meant that you got a lot of hands-on experience. Again, in past cookery classes, there have been so many people in them that only a few were allowed to actually touch the food and so you end up being a bystander, casually watching from the sidelines. That is not me. I like to get stuck in. I believe you need to feel the food you’re making. And with just six of us in the class, we were able, not only to get experience of what we were making ourselves, but we were learning what the others were making too. Even though I didn’t personally make the Cornish pasties, I would still feel confident that I’d know how to make them in the future.

It was also lovely to meet like-minded people. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who loves food as much as I do, and its so gratifying to meet people who love to eat and cook as much as I do!

We all left the Cookery School with full tummies, smiles on our faces and recipe cards in our bags. I will definitely be coming back here again. Next time, I think I’d like to go to their bread class. I know that Antra and Eva are booked onto other classes of theirs so clearly they are doing something right!

For a full range of their upcoming classes click here - http://www.cookeryschool.co.uk/classes

They also run 6-week and 3-day courses at three different levels which you can see here - http://www.cookeryschool.co.uk/courses

Cookery School
15 b Little Portland Street
London
W1W 8BW
T: 0207 631 4590
E: info@cookeryschool.co.uk

Twitter: @CookerySchool
Facebook: www.facebook.com/CookerySchoolLondon

A PROFILE OF LONDON, NEW YORK TIMES


My friend sent me an article from the New York Times yesterday. Its a profile of London written by A.A Gill. I read it on my way home last night and was stared at by a few of my fellow tube passengers as I chuckled and guffawed through it. It really does paint a very funny and very accurate picture of London.

Excerpts include:

If New York is a wise guy, Paris a coquette, Rome a gigolo and Berlin a wicked uncle, then London is an old lady who mutters and has the second sight. She is slightly deaf, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

With more guilt, I realize that London may be a great metropolis, but it’s not very nice to people. We’re not friendly. Not that we’re rude, like the Parisians with their theatrical and frankly risible haughtiness; nor do we have New Yorkers’ shouty impatience. Londoners are just permanently petulant, irritated. I think we wake up taking offense. All those English teacup manners, the exaggerated please and thank yous, are really the muzzle we put on our short tempers. There are, for instance, a dozen inflections of the word sorry. Only one of them means “I’m sorry.”

We have, collectively, osmotically, decided that we hate the Olympics. It’s costing too much, it’s causing an enormous amount of trouble and inconvenience, it’s bound to put up prices, make it impossible to find a taxi, but most of all, one thing this city doesn’t need is more gawping, milling, incontinently happy tourists.

On the bus recently a middle-aged, middle-class, middleweight woman peered out of the window at the stalled traffic and furiously bellowed; “Oh my God, is there no end to these improvements?” It was the authentic voice of London, and I thought it could be the city’s motto, uttered at any point in its history, embroidered in gold braid on the uniforms of every petty official.

London itself looks best in the dark. It’s a pretty safe city, and you can walk in most places after sunset. It has a sedate and ghostly beauty. In the crepuscular kindness, you can see not just how she is, but how she once was, the layers of lives that have been lived here. Somebody with nothing better to do worked out that for every one of us living today, there are 15 ghosts. In most places you don’t notice them, but in London you do. The dead and the fictional ghosts of Sherlock Holmes and Falstaff, Oliver Twist, Wendy and the Lost Boys, all the kindly, garrulous ghosts that accompany you in the night. The river runs like dark silk through the heart of the city, and the bridges dance with light. There are corners of silence in the revelry of the West End and Soho, and in the inky shadows foxes and owls patrol Hyde Park, which is still illuminated by gaslight.

Now the Olympics has come and dragged us all into the bright light, and a lot of attention is being given to London, and we’re not used to it. We’re not good at showing off. We’re not a good time to be had by all, we’re not an easy date. London isn’t a party animal by nature, it doesn’t join in or have a favorite karaoke song. It does, though, have a wicked, dry and often cruel sense of humor. It is clever, literate and dramatic. It is private and taciturn, a bit of a bore, and surprisingly sentimental. And it doesn’t make friends quickly, is awkward around visitors. We will be pleased when all the fuss and nosiness has gone away.

This article may shatter a few pre-conceived illusions of London but a lot of it is true. I especially love and agree with this section:

There is no difference between you and us, not in color, ethnicity, dress or demeanor. Those who live in London and those who visit are exactly the same. In half my lifetime this city has become a homogenous, integrated, international place of choice rather than birth. Not without grit and friction, but amazingly polyglot and variegated. I travel a lot, and this must be the most successful mongrel casserole anywhere.

I love that about London.

There are a few parts I disagree with. I don’t agree that Londoners aren’t friendly. We are…as long as we’re not in a rush to get somewhere or on the tube! Also, I think the Tower of London is an incredible place to visit.

London has been my home for 14 years and I love it more and more every year. I think it is the most beautiful, exciting, diverse and vibrant city I have ever been to and I feel privileged to live in it. The air is thick with history everywhere you go, but you can especially feel it in the East End.

If you do visit London, don’t get bogged down doing the usual ‘touristy’ things. Explore the city a bit more and break free from the tourist trap. You won’t find the real London by going to Piccadilly Circus and Harrods. Do some research and ask Londoners where to go. The hidden treasures of London are never in tourist guidebooks, and these hidden treasures are what make London the wonderful city it is, and the place I am proud to call home.

I thoroughly recommend having a read of it - http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/travel/a-profile-of-london-by-aa-gill.html

AFTERNOON TEA AT THE PARK LANE HILTON


My lovely friend Sal went to the Hilton on Park Lane for afternoon tea with her boyfriend Blair last weekend. And what a feast they had! Her photos looked amazing so I thought I’d post them in case anyone was thinking of going for afternoon tea anytime soon.

They started with sandwiches served with a choice of strawberry, mango or peach bellinis. Sal had peach, Blair had mango.


Egg and cress / Forman’s smoked salmon and horseradish / Cucumber with cream cheese and chives / Honey roast ham and Pommery mustard / Prawn mayonnaise and baby gem lettuce

Then came the desserts!


Freshly baked chocolate chip scones, still warm from the oven! Served with a praline chocolate spread and clotted cream with strawberry jam.

Pastries…


Battenberg / Sacher torte / Raspberry cupcake / Red velvet cupcake.


Next came miniature fancies…served on a thick chocolate plate!


White chocolate and cherry cheesecake
Red velvet and orange tuile
Milk chocolate cremeux
Pistachio macaroon with Manjari chocolate filling
Iced shortbread butterfly orange and chocolate profiterole
Lemon and raspberry marshmallow cone with Meringue lolly

Sal and Blair took the chocolate plate home and are still eating it!

How amazing does this look??


This all came with a selection of Harney & Sons loose leaf teas. Sal and Blair drank Earl Grey with blue flowers petals.


Chocolate Afternoon Tea - £ 29.50 per person
Royal Afternoon Tea (as above with a glass of Champagne) - £ 37.50

You can see all the details on their website: http://bit.ly/3klOa

(Source: afternoontea.co.uk)

PING PONG, LONDON

My beautiful friend Michele, who lives in Spain, is back in London this week so we met up on Monday night for a catch up along with our gorgeous friend Kate. We decided to go to Ping Pong on Great Marlborough Street as its one of Michele’s favourite places to eat and she misses it when she’s in Spain.

Michele and Kate kept it healthy by going for steamed dishes but I must be honest, I don’t like steamed dim sum. I like it fried. You can take the girl out of Glasgow….!

We started with some quite a few bowls of sesame seed prawn crackers and some edamame. Then I ordered sesame prawn toast, honey-glazed spare ribs, the honeyed chicken rice pot and some crispy duck spring rolls with hoi sin sauce.

It was delicious, although not quite as healthy and calorie conscious as Michele and Kate’s meal was!

We had a lovely night…a good girlie catch up, lots of good food, lots of wine and lots of laughs. I love my girls. :-)

DSTRKT, LONDON

Last week, I went for dinner with my fabulous friend Paul and his gorgeous boyfriend Heath at DSTRKT.


For a nice change, I had heard nothing about DSTRKT before we booked it. Paul and I had planned to go elsewhere for dinner but then he saw that DSTRKT was doing a deal on their tasting menu so we decided to book that instead. And wow, what a fantastic decision!

Before I go to any restaurant, I usually pour over the menu days in advance and know exactly what I’m going to order. I love doing this as I get excited before I go and I really look forward to it. But in this instance, I genuinely had no idea what was in store for me. I didn’t read any reviews online. I literally went in with a blank slate.

DSTRKT looks very unassuming from the outside. Situated on Rupert Street, just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, I arrived 5 minutes before Paul and Heath. As I entered the rather dramatic doorway and gave my name to the very glamorous receptionist, she showed me downstairs where I was met by another glamorous assistant who took my coat and showed me into the lounge bar.


I was amazed at the size of the place when I walked in, its huge! It was pretty empty but it was only 7pm. The room is beautifully lit so it doesn’t look like a huge open space.


Paul and Heath soon arrived and we were shown to our table. Luckily for us, our table was situated on the mezzanine right above the kitchen so we were able to see the hive of activity below us. As someone who loves seeing how restaurant kitchens work, this was the perfect spot for me.


As soon as we were seated, our maître d’ for the night, Guillermo, introduced himself and told us he would be looking after us all evening. We told him that we would be having matching wines to accompany our tasting menu and then he then presented us with delicious champagne cocktails.


Soon enough, our first course arrived. Maldon Rock Oyster with Champagne Vinegar Air…


This was beautifully presented on a little mound of sand. Paul and Heath knocked theirs back straight away and with what looked like incredible ease. I, having never been a huge fan of oysters, was a tad nervous. It looked huge! And I was right. Once it was in my mouth I really struggled to swallow it. I could see Paul eyeing me nervously from across the table, praying that I wasn’t going to gag on it. He and I were both in luck. I did kind of gag on it, but I think I hid it well!

In truth, I don’t really ‘get’ oysters. I don’t see the point of swallowing something so big (it was like swallowing a very large boiled egg in one!), only to taste salt water in my mouth. I get no satisfaction from it. But I know lots of people who claim to love oysters so clearly this is just a personal thing. But then again, I do think it might be a case of the Emperors New Clothes!

Next up came Yellow Fin Tuna Cubes served with Soy Air and Avocado Mousse…


These were stunning! Seared every so slightly around the sides, gorgeous and pink inside.


This was so full of flavour and yet light as air. I could have had so much more. The only problem with tasting menus is when you find something you love, you really only have a couple of bites of it. This was a problem again with the next dish.

Grilled Flat Bread Salad with Macadamia Nut Pesto, Baby Rocket, Local fresh Goats Cheese, Olives, Sweet Peppers and Tomatoes…


Paul was making all sorts of noises whilst eating this. It was delicious. It was like a party in your mouth. You could taste each ingredient and they complimented each other beautifully. It was so fresh tasting and yet it really packed a punch in terms of the flavours.

The dishes were coming out pretty fast from the kitchen and as soon as we finished, we were presented with Sautéed Padron Peppers with a Sherry Vinegar Reduction and Orange Segments…


And Seared Scottish Scallops with Green Pea Puree and Olive Oil Powder…


Both of these were delicious. The orange segments complimented the peppers so well. Its not something I would have thought to have with padron peppers but I certainly will in the future. You should definitely try it.

The scallops were perfectly cooked. Paul said they were the best scallops he’d ever had.

Again, rather quickly, we were presented with Grilled British Lamb Cutlets with Smoky Eggplant Puree and Piquillo…


And to accompany that, Grilled Broccollini with Burrata, Pomegranate, Micro Basil and Garlic…


My God, this was amazing. The lamb melted in my mouth and we couldn’t figure out how it could have such a strong chargrilled flavour when it wasn’t burnt to a crisp! Then I tasted the eggplant puree on its own and realised that it was the eggplant that had probably been burnt to a crisp. It had such a strong smoky flavour, that eating it with the lamb made everything taste smoky. It was heaven! And with the added sweetness of the piquillo, it truly was the dish of the night. Again, I wish I could have had more of it.

And the grilled broccolini with the burrata was insanely good. You really couldn’t have put a better dish in front of me and I was grinning from ear to ear.

When we were finished and our plates were being cleared from the table, Paul asked if we could have a 15 minute break before our pudding came. In all honesty, each course had come out so quickly that we needed a few minutes to take in what we’d just eaten and allow ourselves a rest before we went onto the sweet stuff.

We noticed the restaurant was a lot busier now and there was a hive of activity in the kitchen.


Not only was it nice to have a break from the food, but it was a good opportunity for me to catch up on my wine! The courses had come out faster than I could drink each glass of wine and I was lagging behind. I must say though, the wine was superb.

After our rest, we were looking forward to our pudding. But first, Guillermo brought a sweet appetiser…


I’m still not completely sure what it was! Whatever the filling, it tasted like it was dipped in molasses and then dipped in popping candy. Definitely not something we were expecting! But lovely nonetheless.

Then came our pudding. Crispy White Chocolate Hazelnut, White Chocolate Ice-Cream and Pink Pepper Corns…


This was a little piece of heaven. I didn’t think I’d like the pink peppercorns but they really went well with the chocolate.

We also had ice-cream and sorbet on crushed biscuit crumbs.


Next, Guillermo gingerly approached our table with a bowl of liquid nitrogen and some dried raspberries. He swirled them in the liquid nitrogen for a few seconds and then gave them to us to try.


Next we were given espresso martinis which were heavenly…also Paul’s favourite! This was the perfect way to finish off the meal. We were all nicely full but not stuffed or bloated.

This wasn’t just a great meal, it was a gastronomic experience. I like when food is an event. The food was stunning throughout, and the wine pairings were perfect.

My only complaint, and its a small one, is that the courses came out a little too quickly. I would have liked a bit more time in between them to fully take in each course and to appreciate the wine with it. As it was, I found myself almost downing glasses of wine to catch up with the next courses pairing!

The staff couldn’t have been nicer. Often in places like these you have to contend with snooty staff who clearly don’t want to serve you, but everyone we came into contact with was delightful. Especially Guillermo. He was friendly, funny, knowledgeable and he even brought the chef up to our table so we could thank him for such a wonderful meal.

Staff like this really make a huge difference when you’re eating out. We decided there and then that we would come back in June for my birthday. When we mentioned this to Guillermo, he gave us his number and he said he would make sure I have the perfect birthday. He then showed us around the club with is situated right next to the restaurant, separated by a thick curtain.

We all left in high spirits, having had a truly fantastic evening and we all can’t wait to go back!


DSTRKT, 9 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DG
0207 317 9120
e: reservations@dstrkt.co.uk
www.dstrkt-london.com
Twitter: @dstrktlondon

MELE E PERE, SOHO


A couple of weeks ago I found myself in Soho in between meetings so I decided to stop off and have a bite to eat before I headed to my next meeting. I was walking down Brewer Street and noticed a new Italian restaurant, Mele e Pere on the corner of Brewer and Great Pulteney Street.

It’s hard to miss! Its a lovely bright addition to Brewer Street. Mele e Pere translates as ‘apples and pears’ which is illustrated quite literally by the huge assortment of colourful glass apples and pears in the window.


You would be forgiven for thinking this was an antique shop, but venture through the slightly formal reception and down the stairs and you’ll find yourself in a very large whitewashed basement.


I must say, I’m generally not a fan of restaurants where I can’t see inside from outside. I like to see if a place is busy before I walk in. Having to walk up or down stairs to see the restaurant itself usually puts me off. I don’t like staff to see me walk in and then walk back out again if I don’t like the look of it or if its quiet. I hate to see their expectant faces as they hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs, followed by their huge welcoming smile as they rush over to me, only for me to turn around and head out. I feel like I’ve just kicked a puppy! So if I can avoid those places, I will.

However, in this case, I was hungry and I didn’t have much time. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I was amazed at how big it was, I was expecting it to be a lot smaller. Unfortunately for a room this size, you really need a lot of customers to make it feel warm and welcoming. The first thing you notice is the large copper corner bar to the right, and high wooden tables and stools to the left with vintage looking Anglepoise lamps attached to the wall above them.


If you look a bit further back, you will see a rather huge, brightly-lit room full of wooden tables and chairs and lamps all around the wall. There were only a few people eating there so I sat next to the bar. Mele e Pere only recently opened so I don’t think too many people know about it, going by how empty it was at the height of lunchtime in a prime location in Soho.


The Maître’d Hugo Roldan couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming. I just wanted a few things to pick at so I ordered a few small plates.

I had the fried zucchini with mint…


Grilled peppers, aubergine and courgette and spicy Ascolana olives…


Sardinian ham…


Buffalo mozzarella with yellow and green courgettes and baby basil…


Finocchiona, broad bean and pea bruschetta…


The food was really fresh and light and full of flavour. Everything Italian antipasti should be. Hugo looked after me throughout and was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and the ingredients.

Mele e Pere has only been open a couple of months ago so I’m sure once word spreads, it will fill out a bit more and come into its own. Personally, I’d quite like to see the ground level entrance being converted into a bar so it doesn’t feel quite so intimidating to walk into. It might also make it look more like an eatery and less like an antique shop!

But overall, I’d like to go back and try a bit more of the menu. The service was great and I really like the bar area. I reckon when its a bit busier and there’s a bit more of an atmosphere, it will be a great little place to sit having a few glasses of wine and enjoying a good meal.


Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer Street, London W1
www.meleepere.co.uk
Twitter: @meleEpere