And the gold medal for London’s best buttermilk fried chicken is awarded to…

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One of the loveliest things about living in London – along with Southbank sunsets, summery picnics in Greenwich and red-velvet-seated screenings at the Prince Charles – is that there are always so many gorgeous, wintry, festive events to enjoy with friends & family in a warm, cosy, Christmassy blur of mulled wine and Slade.

For the past few years during the run up to Christmas, the skyline of Hyde Park has been dominated by Winter Wonderland’s fairground rides and swiss-style chalets and although there’s no doubt it’s a fun novelty to experience, its growing popularity has resulted in it being exceptionally busy so if you’re after something a little less commercial, your best bet now is to head east to Victoria Park, and the slightly hipper and less mainstream Winterville.

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Along with a legion of & crafts stalls, the absolutely-compulsory-come-December ice rink and an entertaining if slightly deafening wall of death, there were more places to feast your face in than you could shake a glass of eggnog at.

From a hot cider tent and craft beer arena – the mingled scents of incense and alcohol creating estive, hippy buzz in the air – to legendary-in-London street food traders and artisan producers, Winterville offered a refreshing change to the same tired old dishes that get trotted out at similar events and it was here, among rosy-cheeked and bobble-hatted families, couples and groups of friends, that J and I found something completely outstanding…ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Butchies fried buttermilk chicken.

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This, the Clancy Wiggum, was without a doubt one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a very long time and quite possibly the most amazing chicken I’ve eaten ever.

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Sandwiched in between two halves of a beautifully golden & softly sweet brioche bun and nestled as comfortably atop chopped lettuce and tomato as your granny on the sofa in front of the Coronation Street omnibus, was a little piece of poultry sent from heaven via E8.

Deep fried in buttermilk batter, this chicken was so light and crispy without a single slick of superfluous grease that you’d be forgiven for doubting whether or not it was actually fried but the bubbly, brown crunch surrounding each succulent bite of chicken reassured you that it was. The avocado was plentiful, creamy & chunky without being mushy, the bacon was salty & crisp and the chipotle mayo added a slight tang and heat to each mouthful. Seriously not sure I can remember LBC – Life Before Chipotle – and whenever I do, it seems a bit sad & tame.

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When I say I could have easily eaten this again immediately, I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. Sharing it with the love of my life was a delightful memory to now have together; it was also exceptionally hard once the first bite was taken. If burgers have besieged London in all their their juicy, meaty, drippy glory over the past year, I’m gonna place a bet that fried chicken will be doing the same in the very near future. I would say it’s a gamble but if it’s Butchies that you’re eating, fear not, it’s less of a gamble and more of a dead cert that you’ll end up every bit as addicted as I now am.

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Falling head-over-stomach in love with the Wildflower Cafe…

There are so many places to eat in London that if you’ve spent any time visiting or living here, you’ll know that there are times you find yourself in one of two predicaments; a) you end up going back to the same places you’ve been to before because you know you’ll get something you enjoy there (I’m talking to you Salvation Jane, you delicious little minx) or b) you end up staying in and eating cereal out of the box because the choice is just too overwhelming and if you go here it might be good but what if over there is better and you’ve missed out or what if neither are any good and you’ve wasted time and money in arguably the world’s busiest city and aaaaaagggghhhhhhh, it’s all just too much so pass me the Crunchy Nut and let’s forget the whole thing!

Either of these scenarios sound familiar? Ever experienced one or the other?

Yeah, I see ya. I hear ya. Sometimes, too much choice makes us wish we had less to begin with. It’s a first world problem but I’m here to give you one solution – the Wildflower Cafe in Notting Hill. Beyond charming with service as genuine & welcoming as if you were their best friend and not a hungry stranger, the only thing lovelier than the ambience is the food which is, frankly, a sincere & utter pleasure to eat.

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Q: How do you fill your belly with 24 hours in Portland? A: You start with cheese & ice-cream…

Grilled cheese and ice-cream and donuts and duck and kale and figs and cider…this is my prescription to you for sustaining yourself through a day in Portland.

Do not eat it all at once. Do not expect it all to be in the same part of the city. Do not concern yourself with thinking about how you’re going to eat all of this and not end up a) the newest and squidgiest contestant on ‘The Biggest Loser’ or b) horizontal on a park bench somewhere clutching your tummy and whispering to yourself ‘How did I get here? How did this happen?’. Trust me when I say you will easily walk it off; in fact after 24’000 steps spent personally trotting around this oddly charming, hip and I-don’t-really-care-what-you-think city, I guarantee it.

When J and I put Portland on our road-trip map earlier this year, we were both really looking forward to seeing what it had to offer – it’s notorious for being a bit artsy, a bit hipster, a bit laid back – but I was especially excited because the food scene in America’s 29th most populated city has literally exploded over the past few years, leaving food trucks and independent cafes and world class restaurants in its wake. With literally too much choice for the time allowed, decisions had to be made about what we’d be eating otherwise, frankly, it was all going to end in my confused-and-overwhelmed-and-over-stuffed-tears.

With a critical harshness that would make Simon Cowell give me a slow hand clap, we ended up with the Grilled Cheese Grill food truck, Salt & Straw farm-to-cone ice-cream, classic-brioche-with-an-unexpected-twist Blue Star Donuts and Veritable Quandary, a local landmark in Portland’s restaurant scene since 1971.

This post is going to cover the little comers of Portland devoted to cheese and ice-cream so first, who’s up for the best grilled cheese of their lives at Grilled Cheese Grill, a nonchalantly-cool-but-casual converted school bus…?

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