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Covent Garden gets a taste of France with Mamie’s beautiful crepes & cider…

Hot Dinners is something of a bible for me when it comes to what’s new on London’s edible landscape and ever since they announced way back in April that a new crepes & cider based restaurant was opening in Covent Garden, I’ve been one of those ridiculously annoying jolly enthusiastic people who hang around shops first thing in the morning waiting for them to open. A little Twitter following here, a little Instagram peeking there and maybe even a hopeful visit while the poor team were still installing the chic copper fittings & minimal branding made me something of a Gallic stalker but what can I say? I like crepes, I like cider, I like Covent Garden and thankfully I can now say that I like Mamie’s. I really like it.

Tucked away down Catherine St, this is a sweet little place with a curiously charming mix of the traditional – French galettes & crepes made to order – and the modern – ordering via iPad at the table. The last time I had to order my dinner via the legacy of Steve Jobs was at Inamo where the whole experience was as enjoyable as root canal surgery; here it was simple, uncomplicated & fuss-free with no waiter coming over to read back your order and no need to check in half an hour later as to where your supper was due to a frozen screen. img_9166

Inside on a crisp December evening with the Christmas lights twinkling outside, it was romantically dark & cosy with small ‘date night’ tables for two, larger spots for groups of friends and stools in the window, perfect for people watching on the eternally busy streets outside.

Service was friendly & sincere and the food, quite frankly, splendid. Galettes here are crazily light & crispy and also gluten free thanks to their buckwheat base. Ours came beautifully folded over a generous filling of goats’ cheese & honey and rolled around sausage, onions & wholegrain mustard. Both were spot on in terms of flavour, texture and appearance plus at under £8 each and amply sized for sharing, they were a pretty-close-to-perfect price point.

You have the option for personalising anything you order so if you fancy a bit of blue cheese, pear & walnut ‘Edith Piaf’ atop your wafer thin, burnished gold & ham-cheese-and-egg stuffed galette, well then you go right ahead. The French are refreshingly unapologetic when it comes to what they want so channel that spirit here.

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With a waistband already distinctly tighter than it had been twenty minutes before, dessert was contemplated, mused and mulled over…then duly ordered. Please. As if there was ever any real doubt.

Crepes here brought to mind dreamy reminiscencs of past summers holidaying on the French coast where a post-dinner stroll along the seafront to have dessert was a highlight of each salty, sun drenched evening. Beautifully thin & soft, go ultra classic with an understated sprinkling of lemon & sugar, indulge your inner 12 year old with chocolate & marshmallows or simply copy me and dive face first into La Magritte, which comes with home cooked apples, vanilla bean speckled ice-cream and one of the best caramels I’ve ever had. Sweet, sticky and liberally draped over the pancake, I’d happily have bought a bucket full to bathe in. Messy? Sure. Worth it? Hell yes.

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Tangy, sweet & cloudy ciders from Brittany and Normandy hit the spot for us although there’s also a succinct yet decent looking cocktail menu that I’m pretty sure would lure me back again without too much effort on a cold evening in January when the charm of the festive season is long gone. To be fair though, the cider is only one of the things that will bring me back to Mamie’s and even that will have to wrestle with those crispy galettes and THAT caramel sauce for the top spot in my list of reasons to return. If you need nourishment of the stomach and the spirit in Covent Garden, Mamie’s is exactly the place you’ve been waiting for….just not as long as me.

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Brilliant alfresco dining at Pop Brixton…

If you live in South London, you need to pay Pop Brixton a visit.

If you live in any other part of London…you need to pay Pop Brixton a visit.

Fun, lively & vibrant, this spot is a brilliant example of local businesses & entrepreneurs working together to deliver a cracking experience for the people of the community and beyond.

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There are over 50 different companies working out of shipping containers in a previously unused space a few minutes’ walk from Brixton tube, including a community garden, start up architects & restoration enterprises, second hand vinyl & African street-wear shops plus, most importantly to me and anyone else who is generally led at all times by their stomachs, twenty varied food & drink destinations.

Supporting local creatives by offering a safe space in which to flourish? Win. Creating the most delicious pit-stop that’s incredibly easy to get to and enjoy from 9am-11pm every day? Win.

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Pizza, burgers, donuts, jerk chicken, curry, Mexican, Ghanaian, Japanese…you can – and will want to – literally walk around the world here and my advice would be to get here early evening, find a spot at which to plant your proverbial feasting flag & set up camp for the night then get exploring. Take a group of friends and try a little bit of everything or go with one similarly greedy pal and devour dish after dish after dish.

Light & fragrant gyozas from Koi Ramen are elegant and simple finger food at its finest while Baba G’s Bhangra Burgers introduced me (god bless them) to ‘pachos’, an overflowing portion of poppadum nachos that come loaded with salsa, raita, mango, chilli pickle and if you want it – and trust me you do – paneer cheese.

Lighter & crispier than tortilla chips and slick with a kaleidoscope of colours from the varying toppings, these are absolutely awesome and a great, innovative way of putting a modern twist from one side of the planet onto a classic dish from another…

…while steamed bao buns from Viet Box are sweet little pillows of fluffy dough stuffed with gloriously flavoured chicken satay, goats cheese or lemongrass pork.

It gets busy here so don’t rock up at 9pm and expect to find an expanse of space in which to start feasting; vendors are loud and proud of their wares, happy to chat and keen to introduce people to new things. As an FYI, a couple of the stands didn’t do takeaway food when we visited so if you want to try lots of little things, pick a seat in the central areas that you can return to with your wares as opposed to sitting in one place and eating only that.

You might wonder if this is just Shoreditch’s Boxpark copied and transplanted south but it’s got a hugely different vibe and I’d highly recommend you take the time to explore both; you might live on the other side of the river but you can totally dine like a queen on both.

 

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A two Michelin starred evening with the finest of French fare…

It’s not often you get the chance to have your dinner cooked for you by a two Michelin starred chef so when the opportunity arose for a seat at Claude Bosi’s table during ‘An Evening With…’ at the Divertimenti Cookery School on Brompton Road, it was something I’d have climbed over my own sister to be a part of…

…luckily it didn’t come to that. I still have a sibling who’s on speaking terms with me and when I arrived to find there would be only 6 other people there with me, it became even more of a charming & personal interaction with this hugely talented & passionate chef.

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Chef Bosi, a classically trained alumnus of several of France’s finest restaurants including L’Arpege and Restaurant Alain Ducasse, is perhaps best known in the UK as the culinary genius behind Hibiscus, a Michelin star appointed restaurant based first in Ludlow and then London, and his inventive & respectful takes on French cuisine have won him fans both here and across the seas.

Five courses – each paired with wines – were prepared in front of us by Bosi and his two sous chefs in a kitchen that was unbelievably calm, organised & confident, traits of working that he instills in his kitchens. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Comte & Cheddar Gougeres were our starting point for the evening’s feasting; rustic nuggets of perfectly cooked, soft centred, crispy edged cheesey goodness, each one lightly hand dusted with freeze dried cheese powder. There are times when you want party food to look aspirational and times when you simply want it to look comfortably welcoming and these plum sized, choux pastry dollops were the ultimate in homely-meets-chic appetizers, marrying beautifully with a glass of cold, crisp champagne.

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