Covent Garden gets a taste of France with Mamie’s beautiful crepes & cider…

Hot Dinners is something of a bible for me when it comes to what’s new on London’s edible landscape and ever since they announced way back in April that a new crepes & cider based restaurant was opening in Covent Garden, I’ve been one of those ridiculously annoying jolly enthusiastic people who hang around shops first thing in the morning waiting for them to open. A little Twitter following here, a little Instagram peeking there and maybe even a hopeful visit while the poor team were still installing the chic copper fittings & minimal branding made me something of a Gallic stalker but what can I say? I like crepes, I like cider, I like Covent Garden and thankfully I can now say that I like Mamie’s. I really like it.

Tucked away down Catherine St, this is a sweet little place with a curiously charming mix of the traditional – French galettes & crepes made to order – and the modern – ordering via iPad at the table. The last time I had to order my dinner via the legacy of Steve Jobs was at Inamo where the whole experience was as enjoyable as root canal surgery; here it was simple, uncomplicated & fuss-free with no waiter coming over to read back your order and no need to check in half an hour later as to where your supper was due to a frozen screen. img_9166

Inside on a crisp December evening with the Christmas lights twinkling outside, it was romantically dark & cosy with small ‘date night’ tables for two, larger spots for groups of friends and stools in the window, perfect for people watching on the eternally busy streets outside.

Service was friendly & sincere and the food, quite frankly, splendid. Galettes here are crazily light & crispy and also gluten free thanks to their buckwheat base. Ours came beautifully folded over a generous filling of goats’ cheese & honey and rolled around sausage, onions & wholegrain mustard. Both were spot on in terms of flavour, texture and appearance plus at under £8 each and amply sized for sharing, they were a pretty-close-to-perfect price point.

You have the option for personalising anything you order so if you fancy a bit of blue cheese, pear & walnut ‘Edith Piaf’ atop your wafer thin, burnished gold & ham-cheese-and-egg stuffed galette, well then you go right ahead. The French are refreshingly unapologetic when it comes to what they want so channel that spirit here.

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With a waistband already distinctly tighter than it had been twenty minutes before, dessert was contemplated, mused and mulled over…then duly ordered. Please. As if there was ever any real doubt.

Crepes here brought to mind dreamy reminiscencs of past summers holidaying on the French coast where a post-dinner stroll along the seafront to have dessert was a highlight of each salty, sun drenched evening. Beautifully thin & soft, go ultra classic with an understated sprinkling of lemon & sugar, indulge your inner 12 year old with chocolate & marshmallows or simply copy me and dive face first into La Magritte, which comes with home cooked apples, vanilla bean speckled ice-cream and one of the best caramels I’ve ever had. Sweet, sticky and liberally draped over the pancake, I’d happily have bought a bucket full to bathe in. Messy? Sure. Worth it? Hell yes.

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Tangy, sweet & cloudy ciders from Brittany and Normandy hit the spot for us although there’s also a succinct yet decent looking cocktail menu that I’m pretty sure would lure me back again without too much effort on a cold evening in January when the charm of the festive season is long gone. To be fair though, the cider is only one of the things that will bring me back to Mamie’s and even that will have to wrestle with those crispy galettes and THAT caramel sauce for the top spot in my list of reasons to return. If you need nourishment of the stomach and the spirit in Covent Garden, Mamie’s is exactly the place you’ve been waiting for….just not as long as me.

Tiptoeing deliciously into the world of raw food at Nama…

 

In an ever changing sea of new and relaunched restaurants in London, it’s sometimes hard to pick out those which genuinely seem to offer something different; boasting an entirely vegan and almost exclusively gluten free menu of raw food, Nama in Notting Hill most certainly does that.

Innovative, exciting and – most importantly of all to those of us blessed with big appetites – delicious, Nama is a small, modern & understated spot near Westbourne Park station where you can whet your raw food appetite and it’s the ideal spot for a pair of food adventurers to have lunch.

Staff are, quite frankly, lovely. Unassuming, mild mannered & utterly charming, we were welcomed in with a quiet, gentle smile & an aura of calm and ushered without delay to a table. Swear down, if Buddhist monks decided to start waitressing on the side, this is where they’ll end up.

Nama might possess a niche menu but the good folk of London town are nothing if not intrepid in their quest for food that sits outside of their normal comfort zone parameters and the place was full for the entirety of our lunch. It’s not a huge location and there’s a likelihood that at peak times you may find yourself queuing but the stripped back décor and Paltrow toned colour palette of perfect neutrals are easy on both the eye and the Instagram account.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThe weekend brunch menu has a nice choice of smaller plates for sharing (and somewhere like this is absolutely the right place for you to go with friends, ordering things you’ve never had before and dipping in and out of each with an exploratory fork) as well as larger options and a generous dessert menu. Blueberry pancakes are elegant in their simplicity, the three sticky, chewy discs layered with banana, maple syrup and a pool of silky coconut ‘mascarpone’. Pine nuts give the dish a sweet, earthy flavour and unlike their transatlantic starred & striped cousins, this stack didn’t leave us feeling in immediate need of a gastric band afterwards.

I’m afraid my sister’s Blood Cleanser Juice resembled too closely that which it was aiming to clean for my liking (flashbacks of Buffy replaying through my mind as it was placed in front of her) but she chugged it as though she was Serena Williams headed onto Centre Court. I meanwhile headed for the super food rich rain-forests of South America and a Luscious Lucuma Smoothie, a creamy drink so deliciously fruity I downed it like I’d spent six months crawling my way through the longest of winter droughts towards that first glass of chilled summer blushed rose.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetSkipping daintily from the sweet to the savoury, a cheese & pickle sandwich was like none I’d ever tried before. Artisan raw almond & walnut bread was wafer thin and fully of light, nutty flavour with slices wrapped around silky cashew cheese (which can only be described as looking like the very best version of American sliced cheese but tasting eye-wideningly authentic) & fresh cucumber and onion pickle. It might not be cheese & pickle as my dad knows it but it was creative and intriguing and I adored it.

A slate streaked with simultaneously sinful and guilt-free temptation rounded off lunch with truffle, brownie and energy ball sitting side by side, winking virtuously up at us – such a great way to see how you feel about raw desserts which, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself feeling pretty damn great about.

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There’s an awful lot to like about Nama and its ongoing aspiration to introduce a city of ever increasingly health obsessed Londoners to the benefits of raw food; unprocessed, organic and as close to its natural state as it can possibly be, this is food treated with respect and served with a real passion for the ethos behind it.

You won’t have tasted anything like it before but that’s part of sheer delight of living where we do – you can globe-trot the cuisines and the trends of the world without having to set foot across your own time zone and you can find enough edible inspiration to instigate hot spot holiday bookings for the next decade and beyond.

 

Bowled over by the fresh flavours of Sri Lanka at new must-eat hotspot Hoppers…

No reservations. Like Marmite, mushrooms & Madonna, this is a guaranteed bone of contention among those who love going out to eat. You either don’t mind because you feel the end results are going to be worth the wait or you feel aggrieved that you aren’t being trusted to honor your booking. Either way, there’s no doubt that with some of the most covetable tables in  London now un-reservedly reservation free, your options are limited to waiting it out, going somewhere whose dishes don’t currently grace the Instagram feed of every foodie in town or beans-on-toasting it up at home.

So ask yourself this – how would you feel about waiting 2 hours for a table at one of the hottest new culinary tickets in town?

Honestly, for me it depends on context. Dining alone on a random Tuesday night, you might find that a bit too much to ask when frankly all you want from your dinner is speed and ease – is it just me or are Tuesdays the new Mondays in terms of ‘ugh’ factor?! – whereas dining with a friend on a Friday night with lots to catch up on and drinks available at a nearby wine bar might make it a bit more doable.

Opening last autumn to a quiet fanfare, Hoppers on Frith Street is exactly the kind of place where context becomes important because unless you rock up promptly at opening time, you ain’t gonna get in without a certain amount of determined hanging on for that all elusive table.

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