Passo London, a one week pop-up and the impeccable pizza of Nancy Silverton…

Nancy Silverton. Californian, chef, baker, restaurateur, author and, oh yeah, casual pizza legend.

I have a teeny, tiny, giant, supersized girl crush on this funky, talented, smart, warm woman which began with her ‘Chef’s Table’ episode on Netflix and was firmly assured after lunch last Friday at her one-week pop-up in Passo, one of London’s loveliest Italian restaurants just off the Old St roundabout.

Beautifully shaded in a palette of nudes that Bobbi Brown herself would be proud to out her name to, this is a vast dining room but one that feels delightfully intimate thanks to the cosy bar, the varied table sizes, the honeyed caramel décor accents and the warm daylight that streams in through floor to ceiling windows at the back. Staff are friendly & welcoming, happy to chat and eager to ensure your time there is a good one plus there’s a buzz through the space that was apparent as both a gentle murmuring at the start of service and then a fully obvious delivery of all-out good times once every table was full.

Silverton, dough master & all round exceptional culinary talent, was visible during our lunch on the last day of a residency that saw 900+ covers make their way through the restaurant in a week and her touch was apparent in every dish that emerged from the open plan kitchen.

*Sidenote, whilst waiting for my friend to arrive, I may or may not have texted that I could ‘see Nancy on the pass’, thereby forever cementing my place as a total geek on the food landscape in which I live…judge me not dear reader, you too dwell there or you wouldn’t be reading this.

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The very best things I ate…February 2018

February, you were a minxy little trickster. In you rocked on day 1 with your crisp blue skies and your diluted dappled sunshine and then off you bombed it four weeks later in a huffing, whirling, squalling blizzard of lash-tickling snowflakes and bone-chilling temperatures.

Thanks. No really. You were an absolute sweetheart.

However, despite leaving us quilted in the sort of thick soft snow that never fails to send Transport for London into the sort of screechy, shouty, panicky meltdown usually associated with the contestants on America’s Next Top Model, you did bless us with some really, really, ridiculously good-looking food like this…

1. Vegan Cheeseburgers

We have an insanely talented bunch of development chefs at work which means that when lunch rolls round and it’s stuff they’ve put together, you’d be crazy to miss it.

So I don’t.

Ever.

These cheeseburgers were served as part of a vegan inspired lunch that was uniformly splendid but it was these bad boys with their melty, plastic cheese, their soft seeded rolls and their charred-and-smothered-in-special-sauce patties that really dialed it up ‘Hello? Oh hi, this is ludicrously tasty here!’

Looking like the burgers of your childhood and all the better for it – no glazed brioche buns or artisan leafy greens squatting here thank-you very much – I’d defy anyone not to seriously love them.

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2. Rhubarb & Cardamom Pastry at Pophams, Islington

Islington has long been sought out as one of London’s most delicious boroughs and now with the arrival of Pophams, a petite artisan bakery that specialises in beautiful sourdoughs and uniquely gorgeous pastries, it’s even harder to narrow down where you want to eat at any given time, day or night.

With a beautifully light & modern interior, crockery you’ll find yourself ogling & ‘gramming voraciously and a chilled vibe just the right side of being cool, Pophams is the sort of place you’d be proud to call your local…and I am.

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Their peanut butter-jam pastries are a feat of viennoiserie engineering excellence, their sourdough ham & cheese toasties are perfect snow-day provisions and their rosemary-sea salt plaits are as light & delicate as butterfly wings but it’s their stepping-into-Oz Technicolor rhubarb & cardamom custard pastries that are really worth nipping over for. Crispily, flakily edged and softly, sweetly middled, if you’ve found yourself obsessing over new ways to eat spring’s prettiest fruit, here’s one of the nicest you’ll find.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.