Lobster rolls to gorge on in your own corner of Soho hosted east coast USA…

Darling readers, hello. I must jump right in on this beautiful summery afternoon and ask you what far flung corners of the world can be found on your must-visit-must-eat list? Plates of spicy chorizo & blushing prawns among the tapas of Barcelona? Authentic cocoa-spiced mole & hand-made yellow corn tacos in Mexico City? Fresh flavoured, clean lined, elegant fish from the Scandinavian coast?

Sensational as they all sound – and really, I am sincerely up for accompanying you to all of the above plus any other international spots you fancy feasting at –  for me, east coast USA has long held a place on my own global-dining wish list. A work colleague recently jolly-holidayed in Boston & New England and I nearly died of food envy upon hearing his tales of white sandy bonfires, seafood so fresh it practically swam to your plate & bowls of chowder so warm and creamy you’d happily bob around using saltine crackers as a deliciously nibble-able flotation device…

Well now, thanks to the kind folk at Smack Lobster, we can all our own piece of white-shuttered-beach-house Americana without needing to undertake the purgatory of an 8 hour flight wedged into a screaming baby, overweight passenger, dehydrated food laden plane…

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Smack Lobster is the kid sister of Burger & Lobster, a restaurant group where the only decision required of you to make is literally ‘Burger…or lobster?’ The ideology behind Smack – named after the type of boats used to catch lobsters incidentally rather than an invitation to get into a claw-fight with your dinner – is that lobster isn’t something to be reserved only for fat cats with deep pockets, and I can absolutely lay testament to that fact; for a mere 10 of your hard earned pounds, you can gorge yourself on the type of beautiful, fast, fresh food that you’ll remember long after the last smears of mayo have been licked from your fingers.

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Smack can be found in 2 helpfully central London locations with their main restaurant on Binney St near Bond St tube and their deli spot on Dean St in the heart of Soho; on this occasion we were headed for a Pixar Picturehouse date after eating, so it was the second that we headed towards after work on the sort of gloriously bright evening that warms both the skin & the soul.

First thing first, this is a small location so leave your cat at home because kids, there’s no room to swing it. That said, after faux-casually stalking a couple finishing off their rolls in the window of this joint, J & I were seated after only a few moments wait and really, if you’re after something quick to be eaten al fresco or on the run, this place will totally see you right. A large open window on the side was a nice touch with a bench outside where lobster-diners were also happily perched.

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Like its big brother, Smack has a small menu – lobster rolls or lobster salad. Now I love avocado & cous cous as much as the next gal but there was no way anything other than brioche rolls were being ordered on this visit…I had a Hamptons-esque daydream to bring to life after all. Out of 5 options, J and I opted for the California & the Seven Samurai, leaving the Original, the BLT and the Mexican for another time.

The California (below) combines lobster meat with fresh lettuce, juicy cherry tomatoes, wafer thin cucumber slices and a surprisingly light avocado-lime mayo, all of which lie nestled under a scattering of chives. The whole thing was gorgeously creamy without being overly rich and the luscious avocado mayo paired with generous hunks of fat, smooth lobster meat transported me – I was no longer in the streets of W1, I was sat atop a washed-ashore piece of driftwood, listening to the roar of the Atlantic and devouring coral coloured lobster meat, one gluttonous mouthful at a time while the latest Tommy Hilfiger ad campaign cavorted preppily around me…

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If everything about the California carried me, ironically, to the eastern US seaboard, then the Seven Samurai bore me straight to the Far East. Pairing lobster with Japanese mayo, shredded white cabbage, sliced cucumber, pickled ginger, spring onion slivers and togarashi, a Japanese spice made traditionally with chili & pepper, this roll possessed all the beautiful clean flavours that come with Japanese cooking plus a suggestion of heat from the ginger and the spice. The togarashi, as lovely to look at as it was to taste, was new to me but something I’ll be seeking out to throw on future home-made dishes as a change to my time-honoured dusting of everything with smoked paprika.

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A word of praise for the brioche which was every bit as glossy, sweet & soft as you’d imagine; a gentle toasting of the outer sides made for a nice contrast in texture to the rich but low in fat & high in protein lobster within it. Melted butter and velvety mayo accompaniments aside, there’s a lot to be said for adding this crustacean to your diet, especially if you’re made of stronger stuff than I am and can forego those sumptuous brioche buns.

Smack work with a specific group of Nova Scotia fishermen for as much of the year as possible, sourcing from Maine only when out of season there. Every lobster they use is wild when caught and kept in the best conditions possible until it’s delivered fresh each day to their restaurants. They also work closely with the Canadian government ensuring that they stay positively within sustainability laws.

If you’ve always thought that lobster was something to be had in white-linen-and-gleaming-silverware restaurants only, if you’ve wondered how you could afford to introduce it to your diet or if you’re after something a bit fresh, a bit different and a lot exciting for your dinner tonight, then good news…Smack’s open till 1opm.

Race you to that window seat….

A glorious vision of health and beauty with citrus spiced salmon…

Dearest darling reader,

How are you? How’s your day going? Ready for your 3 day weekend? Well of course you are…God bless the Bank Holiday in all it’s brief-respite-from-work-even-though-it’s-guaranteed-to-rain loveliness. We’re British and we’re used to doing things in a state of perpetual change when it comes to the weather because if we didn’t go out every day with sunglasses, an umbrella & a set of snowshoes in our bags, frankly, we’d never leave the house.

The sun appears to have departed these shores to be replaced in residency by a polar wind – pop up only I hope – so this post comes to you from the hands of a lady wearing several more layers than you’d hope for in May, who can currently be found in that slightly overwhelmed, definitely overfed state that arises post-birthday. Or more accurately, post-week-long-and-eating-out-every-day-birthday celebrations.

I love it, I love any excuse to go and eat out and normally J and I don’t have to look very far to find one.

It’s someone’s birthday? Great!

You had an excellent ,meeting at work? Ace!

Oh look, it’s Tuesday? Woo-hoo!

The plus side of all this feasting is that you get to travel the world on your plate without the need for excess baggage fees or learning to sleep upright – I’ve been to India at Dishoom, Italy via Polpo, Britain thanks to the Soho Hotel, Peru through Lima and Japan by way of Shackfuyu this week alone – but the downside is the mysterious & unfathomable shrinking of one’s waistband followed by a general feeling of utter lethargy and the craving for something fresh, healthy & reinvigorating.

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This is where today’s delightfully cheeky little dish comes in – something that you can eat with sheer gusto knowing that it’s every bit as good for you as it tastes. Luscious, fat-on-your-fork flakes of salmon are smothered with a marinade that combines a citrus kick with the faintest hint of floral and served alongside a juicy pineapple salsa, coconut oil roasted sweet potato half moons, sweet & nutty red rice and creamy hunks of avocado, it’s the perfect dish for getting back on the culinary straight and narrow…

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Step into the wonderful world of wholegrains with a chicken, chickpea & bulgar wheat one pot wonder…

It’s interesting how much our tastes and eating habits change as we grow up. When we’re young, we eat what we’re given by parents, family & friends. We learn to love and loathe certain ingredients. We embrace or become wary of different cuisines by the reactions we see around us. We’re defined by the contents of our lunchboxes in the playground and our first-flat-fridges when friends come round for dinner.

My beloved mum who never met a vegetable she didn’t want to start a meaningful relationship with and who placed great importance during my and my sister’s childhoods on eating well balanced meals around a table together was also famous among my friends for always having a tin of mini chocolate bars in our cupboard and this approach of ‘everything in moderation’ is as deeply embedded in me from her as my love for Rhett Butler & strawberry milk.

Something that I’ve recently tried, subsequently loved and which I’m sure my pre-teen self might have wrinkled her nose at are wholegrains. I know, I know, you get that I like them because I talk about them a bit.

Okay a lot.

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Alright, all the time but I can’t help it – there are so many benefits to these tiny nuggets of loveliness that I become impassioned on their behalf whenever they come up in conversation. Like Frodo Baggins or Oliver Twist, wholegrains might appear on the surface to be the quiet, unassuming underdog but overlook them at your peril because like our pointy-eared hobbit or Cockney, jazz handed orphan, there’s much more to them than meets the eye.

Simple, healthy & filling? Check.

An average cup packing a whopping 33% dietary fibre? Check.

Helping to reduce the risk of strokes, diabetes & heart disease? Check.

Wholegrains add bulk to a quick dinner meaning you feel full on less calorie intake, make the perfect next-day-leftovers lunch and greedily absorb whatever flavours you want to drizzle or drench them with and this one pot recipe is an excellent example of this.

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