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

Lisbon; where to eat in one of the world’s sunniest & most delicious cities…

‘You’ll love it!’

‘It’s great for food!’

‘Best city break ever!’

To say I heard these declarations of love for one of Europe’s sunniest cities once or twice during the weeks leading up to J’s and my much needed holiday in Lisbon would be something of an understatement. The glorious sunshine, the gorgeous food, the dreamy tiles, the kitschy gifts, the pastels de nata – all these things were raved about to me in sentences heavy with near fanaticism for Portugal’s capital and every single one of them raised my expectations to nigh on stratospheric levels…

…luckily Lisbon knows a things or two about making a gal happy so consider every expectation exceeded.

There are a lot of places to stay in and around the city centre; J & I are somewhat rather very a teeny bit antisocial when it comes to holidays. We’re not fans of cloud scraping hotels with all-you-can-eat buffets at 8am, fights for the sun-loungers at 1pm or traditional British pubs that vomit drunken tourists onto the pavements outside at 2am. Small, gorgeous, friendly places are more up our street which is exactly what we found in Palacio Ramalhete, a 10 room boutique hotel (barely 15 minutes walk from the legendary Time Out Market) which boasts a rooftop pool & the nicest staff in Lisbon.

6

Clean, cool & pretty rooms come dressed with the loveliest little touches – complimentary homemade chocolate covered fruit & nuts on the dresser or a creamy roses in the bathroom anyone? – while the communal rooms are a beautiful blend of modern and antique and that aforementioned rooftop pool was ours alone for most of the week.

There’s no restaurant on site at Palacio but the breakfasts are a little bit special and there’s a small but decent snacks menu that’ll see you through the day. Cheeseboard and local beers by the pool, you say? Well chaps, I didn’t fly all the way here for green juice and broccoli.

12

First day exploration of the local neighbourhood revealed a hidden gem of a restaurant – Le Chat, named after one of the owners’ semesters in Paris. A modern construction of glass, chrome and white parasol shaded terraces, this was a gorgeous place to stumble across, sink into and enjoy the first of many local beers and dishes at. FYI, as someone totally uninitiated in Portuguese beers, it may well be that it’s actually the Stella of its market but we loved the super light & refreshing Superbock.

Codfish shredded with chickpeas & pink pickled onions was light and gently herbed…

19

…while chubby pink prawns lazed gently in a pool of paprika spiced oil from slices of food of the gods, chorizo. Top tip 1 – Le Chat’s homemade focaccia comes fat & fluffy in hipster approved kilner jars and is pretty perfect for mopping up every last golden slick.

20

A wheel of goats cheese looked like it was about to win first prize in a ‘vegetables masquerading as creme brulee’ competition but tasted tangy and soft against crisp greens and earthy walnuts…

21

…and eating everything al fresco on the terrace which slowly filled up with locals-in-the-know and lucky-to-find-it-tourists was the perfect way to watch a setting sun paint the sky around us with flushes of candyfloss colours.

Top tip 2 – save room for dessert. Like a heaving bosom in the court of Louis XIV, Le Chat’s decadent yet elegantly simple chocolate mousse is piled high in ridiculously soft & velvety mounds while sprinkles of popping candy stop it from being too serious and grown up a dessert.

22

Read More

Tasting the best in the world at Taste of London 2017…

Taste of London 2016 left big shoes to fill.

Good news is Taste of London 2017 does that with ease.

Of course it undoubtedly helps that today was the most gorgeous of days – blazing buttery sunshine and that particular shade of blue sky that only London can deliver – which meant that wandering around Regent’s Park eating glorious food and drinking bubbly fizz from some of the world’s best restaurants was really the perfect way to spend an afternoon but still…big shoes filled.

For 4 days, there are 8 restaurant blocks who become home to 30 of London’s culinary hot spots who’ve set up camp among dozens of exhibitors plying you with everything from pastries to mochi to cheese.

IMG_1719

Oh and there’s gin. A whole lotta gin.

Seriously, if you’re part of the soft focus, rose tinted love affair that the entire world is having with gin at the moment, you are gonna be seriously happy at Taste this year. Slightly pickled by the time you leave for sure but pretty damn happy nonetheless. Personally I’d also recommend the English rose sparkling wine at Digby’s as an alternative; light, fizzy and fabulous, it’s a flute of pale pink perfection, ideal for sipping in the summer sun.

IMG_1704

Onto the most important bit though – the food. You wanna know where to go and what to try? You’ve got a limited period of time and you don’t wanna be that person sprawled on the sofa hours later, scrolling through social media, nursing a gentle, gin induced head fog and seeing what you should have eaten so kids, listen up.

You’re gonna wanna hit up Neil Rankin’s freaking awesome Temper for the panko bread-crumbed mutton with gochujang and the goat tacos…FYI, super messy but so flipping worth looking like you need your Nan to spit-wipe-tissue your face after for.

IMG_1708

IMG_1709

Don’t miss Balls & Company for the moreish squid ink arancini & the hot, salty manchego churros or the silky, near translucent pluma iberica with piquillo aioli at Little Jose.

IMG_1715

You should make a brave, bold, unstoppable beeline for both the sweet, sherbety pomegranate strewn confit duck kibbeh from Clerkenwell Boy and The Good Egg and the wonderfully fresh & spicy watermelon & masala cashew nut chaat at The Cinnamon Club whilst the surprisingly light courgette & mint arancini from Ember Yard and the squid ink croquettes from Little Jose are also worth a nibble.

IMG_1717

IMG_1706

Oklava’s baked lamb fat dauphinoise with halloumi, fried egg and sherry vinegar caramel was a real and gorgeously elegant but down & dirty standout however it was a daily special for today so won’t be around again.

IMG_1707

Fear not though, the daily specials still to come are pretty awesome – if you go on Friday, I’d head to Bao for the Horlicks ice-cream bun, Saturday would see me running to order everything on the menu at Kricket and Sunday is the perfect day for Perilla’s set strawberry buttermilk.

IMG_1713

For desserts, do not miss the gorgeously pretty brownie ice-cream profiteroles with air-light Persian fairy floss at Balls & Company, the sweetly sharp lingonberry ice-cream in fennel cones at Aster and the truly delicious tahini & tonka bean cheesecake cream spectacle with salted caramel, sesame crumble and banana compote from Bala Baya.

IMG_1710

IMG_1712

There are masterclasses, demonstrations and residencies to choose from and ladies, you’ll be pleased to hear that clean, tidy facilities and cloakrooms are generously scattered around. You can pay by card at some places but pre-paid Taste cards are the easiest way to pay for your hours of feasting and really, do set aside hours for this because you’ll need it.

Get there for the start of your session and stay until they (very politely!) kick you out; if you’re looking for the best example of the finest food in London, if you’re at all unconvinced that we have the most delicious capital city on the globe (though god knows how that could even be possible), if you simply fancy grazing around a corner of one of the prettiest parks in the UK, do not miss Taste this year.