The speedy supper goes Italian with a classic Pesto alla Trapanese…

Late last year I was fortunate enough to attend a cooking demonstration by the rather lovely chef & food writer Rachel Roddy at the brilliant Divertimenti Cooking School on Brompton Road in London.

Among several evocative dishes cooked by Rachel, all of which transported me to sunnier Italian climes, one stood out as being an arguably perfect plate of pasta. So delicious was it that it’s been recreated in my own Islington-rather-than-Italy kitchen with great success – I feel it’s ok to modestly give it that label since bowls were left empty at the end of dinner so no further evidence needed, si? Grazi. Read More

Clever Catalan small plates and a newly cultivated crush on all things tapas – this is Rambla…

Rambla aka the place that made me like octopus.

Not love it mind you – baby steps and all – but definitely like it more than I ever did after past tastings or recent viewings of ‘Blue Planet II’ where, let’s face it, they come across a bit mean, a bit beaky and a bit grumpy. In all fairness I’d probably spend my life looking pretty peeved if the threat of being fished, fried and served on earthenware pottery in the heart of Soho was ever present but I digress…

Catalan cuisine takes front and centre stage here at the place named after the leafy, bustling boulevard in Barcelona where chef Victor Garvey grew up. I’ve never been the world’s greatest fan of tapas – too many rubbery rings of calamari and over-cooked potatoes limply floundering in smeary tomato puddles – but Rambla offers neither of those things and has subsequently left me wondering how many years of very fine tapas I’ve missed out on and how exactly I’m going to rectify that situation now because these tapas, these tapas (cue finger jabbing at photos) I kinda have a thing for.

Eating at the bar has rapidly became my favourite way of dining; there’s something delightfully yet effortless cool about sitting across from the chefs and watching a parade of dishes strut past. Here you’ll find an abundance of doe eyed, dark haired staff all in possession of disgracefully long lashes and delightfully charming spirits, each one happy to genially chat through a menu split into land, sea and field, raw, cured and sweet. A small but decent wine list gives you the chance to try something new and fizzingly sweet or fall back on old favourites, as comforting and nostalgic as your dad’s worst jokes.IMG_4834Snacking whilst selecting has always made sense to me. Pan con Tomate arrives thickly spread and nicely straddling the line between squishy and chewy while Blistered Padron Peppers are softly charred & heavily crunchy with sea salt.IMG_4835 Read More

Winning in life – and at dinner – in the Wigmore…

The thing about the Wigmore is that it’s good. It’s really good. The fact that it’s barely five minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus – something which would normally put me off being anywhere near it – works in its favour here. You won’t quite be able to believe just how close you are to the part of London that makes normal people want to curl up in a corner and cry because it’s so beautiful and welcoming and soothing and buzzing and stylish inside. Those are adjectives never usually applied to a sentence containing the words ‘oxford’ and ‘circus’.

Decked out in shades of pistachio and olive, lit by glowing copper stemmed bulbs and offering polished wood, leather stools & the comfiest of armchairs, it looks for all the world like a cross between a movie-set court-room and the personal library of your Pinterest dreams. As someone with a bit of thing for bar-side dining, my tip would be to get there for an early-bird dinner and bag two seats on the back of the 360-degree bar. You’re on the quieter side of the space but perfectly placed within chatting distance of the very friendly bartenders. You’re also ideally seated for people watching, my favourite kind of acceptable nosiness.

With a menu from the pen and the pan of Michel Roux Jnr, the fact that it’s simple, elegant and exciting will come as no surprise. Certain dishes have, naturally, already become staples on London’s late 2017 Instagram dining scene – hello baby crumpets and giant toastie – whilst others are less showy but stonkingly delicious.

You can’t have a decent bar menu without chips. Here they arrive chunky as a Christmas lovers’ thighs come January 2nd when all that remains of the Quality Street are tooth shatteringly unlikeable toffee pennies. These chips are hot, crispy, fluffy and covered in an intensely sharp & moreish Bloody Mary Salt.IMG_4787Those afore mentioned crumpets are perfect two-bite canape inspiration and come topped with sweet crab meat, brittle slivers of seaweed and a smattering of paprika. Rich and fresh, this is the second time in as many months that I’ve seen these baby crumpets out and about and, as pugs & party food are proof that the world loves anything miniature, I’m just gonna place my bets and call them out now as something we’ll be seeing everywhere by the end of 2018.IMG_4793 Read More