Chloe vs Mildred; drawing the vegan battlefield lines in London…

Throw a nutritional yeast dusted cauliflower in any direction at the moment in London and odds are you’ll find yourself hitting a vegan restaurant. Whether it’s full on plant based or a more gentle flexitarian approach, chances are you either know somebody or are somebody who’s adopted a meat free diet in a time when the whole world seems to be in the throes of animal free dining. Living in the capital means you’re spoilt for choice with vegan options that cover everything from the casual Cook Daily at Boxpark Shoreditch to the more formal Manna in Primrose Hill, as well as making sure you don’t go hungry at breakfast – try Farmacy in Westbourne Grove – or lunch – head to Ethos for PAYG plates – or dinner – Dalston’s Club Mexican will see you right.

However just because something appears to tick all the boxes of branding, product & vibe, doesn’t mean they actually deliver and recent meals at both Mildred’s in Soho and By Chloe in Covent Garden proved just this. In Mildred’s, you have a stalwart of London’s edible landscape and a small chain that’s been around since the late 80’s with cult-like fandom stretching across boroughs & generations. In Chloe, who rocked up earlier this year, we now have a darling of the New York food scene on this side of the pond and only in one location so far but with up to seven more being promised across the city by the end of 2018. That’s an impressive level of confidence and one that – along with the fervent adoration lavished on it in the Big Apple – made this somewhere that inched past other more long-standing inhabitants of my ‘must eat’ list. Let the lesson here be that this isn’t always a good thing… Read More

Making a beeline for Margot Bakery…

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New to me last week but familiar to the lucky people of East Finchley since 2016 is Margot Bakery. Created on the site of a former post office, this is the sort of place where you want to lock down a table in the corner and work your way through everything residing behind gleaming glass panels, dappled with gentle sunlight. Beautifully tiled floors take me back to the Lisbon pastelarias where I cultivated a love for sticky, flaky, burnished pastel de natas last year, shelves of takeaway baked goods hint at a future where the shop element may grow to match the bakery & staff have an easy relaxation about them that drifts through the air alongside puffs of steam scented with dough & spice. Read More

The very best things I ate…January 2018

January.

It’s cold and dark. You’re poor and chubby. Everything that only days before had seemed warm & inviting in the cosy twinkle of fairy lights now seems a world away and in the last few hours of holiday, you find yourself stuck between two warring sides of your brain, one which desperately wants to start the new year virtuously and is throwing everything green and leafy into the Nutribullet, itself in possession of a layer of dust so thick across the top that you have to resist the urge to write ‘wash me’ on it and the other that demands you finish everything good bad good in the house – Bailey’s, brandy butter, blue cheese – in one final gluttonous sitting because really, until that alarm pierces your slumber at 6.20am the following morning, you. are. still. on. holiday.

Ya get me?

However, new year, new page, new start and there are many things to be thankful for at the dawn of another twelve months through this journey we call life.

One of the best things about January for me is the opportunity to leaf through new cookbooks, to mark so many pages with post-it notes that rifling through them creates a gentle rainbow breeze on your fingertips and to plan weekends around what dishes you’ll explore and savour. I don’t make new years’ resolutions as such – too often they strike me as being things that you either know you probably should be doing anyway (put down the cigarette, the whisky and/or the bag full of sale bargains please) or that will cause you to leap into some new activity with relentless enthusiasm until midway through the month when you make it home at the end of a long day, trip over the roller blades/ballet shoes/how-to-learn-Japanese book, fly into a rage, throw the offending items across the hallway and then drown your wilting anger in a wineglass big enough to keep koi in.

That said, my non-new-year-resolution for 2018 was to be more patient in the kitchen because try as I might not to be this way, I am bossy, restless & demanding in that particular corner of the house. I like to be in control to the point where I’d hazard a guess I’m not always much fun to be around unless there’s an open bottle of Pinot Noir on hand to soothe all concerned so this year I’m trying to share my love of food & cooking rather than keeping it all to myself before presenting something on a plate that is beautiful but rather meaningless. In less than four months time, I become a different tick box on every form and really, if I’m going to undertake that journey, the biggest of my life and the one I’ve waited for above all others without fear or worry, wouldn’t it be nice to turn what is often a solo obsession with perfection into a joint venture that’s fun with the soon-to-be mister to my missus?

And so, something a little different for the blog this year – a monthly dip into the greatest things that I’ve eaten. No criteria other than full and sincere love for whatever was on the plate in front of me…though let’s be real here, we all know it probably didn’t stay there for long.

1.Blue Corn Tortillas with Baked Avocado, Pickled Chillies & Charred Salsa by Anna Jones from The Modern Cook’s Year

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J & I share a love for many things, movies and California being just of them. Before our paths crossed in London, we unknowingly spent simultaneous but separate time in the same drama school and the same neighbourhoods of Los Angeles. Going back there together for the first time on our achingly wonderful 2014 West Coast road trip gave us the chance to share some of our favourite things in the City of Angels, one of which is soft corn tortillas eaten at shadowy dive bars or with our toes in the sand dunes or in the Chateau Marmont shadowed Pinches Tacos, always with the stain of lime on our fingers and the fizz of Corona on our tongues.

Given that Santa was kind enough to gift me with a beautiful cast iron tortilla press and a gorgeous copy of ‘The Modern Cook’s Year’ by Anna Jones for Christmas, it only seemed right that the first dinner of 2018 – something that for some reason means a lot to me…it seems to send a beacon up for how the ensuing months might pan out – should be homemade blue corn tortillas. Simple to make and a dream when stuffed with cornmeal-Parmesan-ancho baked avocado wedges and served with the sweetest pickled chillies and a smoky tomato & spring onion salsa, these team-effort-tortillas were eaten quickly but with every mouthful savoured as we were transported back to our spiritual home.

 

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