EAT, SHOP, TRAVEL, EAT

Friday, December 17, 2010

MERRY XMAS & HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Hi friends,

I have been so busy being out and about over the festive season in both London and abroad (Edinburgh, Bordeaux and Vienna) that I haven't had a lot of time to keep you updated on my foodie adventures of late.

I can assure you that I have a backlog of wonderful restaurants to tell you about as well as lots of new adventures in the pipeline.

Heading into 2011 I have already got lots of trips planned (St Moritz, Hawaii, New Zealand, LA, Amsterdam, Beirut, Tel Aviv).

I'm am signing out for 2010 as I am off to St Moritz tomorrow, so until we meet again, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and thank you for following me. I look forward to sharing the love of foodie adventures with you in 2011.

Check me out in my Xmas outfit. It was kindly gifted to me by my friend Amelia Mouse. I think it is going to be the perfect party dress for St Moritz- I can't wait to wear it!



Happy Holidays x x x

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Christmas Dining Line-up

Les Trois Garcon - http://www.lestroisgarcons.com
The Ledbury - http://www.theledbury.com
Tempo - http://www.tempomayfair.co.uk
Gessler at Daquise - http://www.gesslerlondon.com
Kikuchi - 14 Hanway St



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arbutus

My first meal at Arbutus had been a very long time coming. I had walked past the quaint facade of the restaurant many times before and wished that I had been one of the convivial faces bunched up inside the warm interior. Even though it is set amongst a myriad of great restaurants on the same street (and not to mention in the wider Soho area)...there is something about Arbutus that sets it apart.
For this occasion my friend Miss C decided that she wanted to come on one of my ‘adventures’ and try a “really nice” restaurant. I suggested Arbutus. She booked it for four. I dragged along some old friends that I hoped would add value...and they did. My account of our evening at Arbutus subsequently follows x
Where: Arbutus, 63-64 Frith St
When: A Tuesday night 7:30 -10:30pm
What: A much lauded restaurant for its quality dining in relaxed and informal surroundings. This restaurant had been on my must visit list forever, so we booked weeks in advance.  Arbutus is part of the team also behind Wild Honey in Mayfair and the recently opened Les Deux Salon in Covent Garden (Both also on my list). The chef and co-owner Anthony Demetre cooks modern British cuisine with a European/French twist to a very high standard-michelin star standard to be exact
Who: A banker, A forensic, A lawyer and I (A fox)
Food: Starters: The banker chose: Veal bolognese, olive oil, parmesan and fresh parpadelle. The forensic and I chose: Salad of young beetroots, fresh goats curd, lemon and honey vinaigrette. The lawyer chose: Braised pigs head (without moustache), potato puree, ravioli of caramelised onions

Mains: The forensic chose: Traditional bouillabaisse. The banker and lawyer chose: Grilled bavette of beef. I chose the risotto of red wine, radicchio and taleggio


Drinks: On arrival I sat at the bar and waited for my guests to arrive. The bar tenders were extremely attentive and friendly.  To make the start of their evening interesting, and to entertain me whilst I waited, they offered me a degustation of wines to try. The extensive wine list made it hard to choose...but I settled on a chardonnay and it was delicious. It was a pity that once we were seated our waitress was not as attentive as the boys at the bar had been. Eventually my guests were treated to some Scottish and French beer, Miss C started with a pear and prosecco aperitif and we all shared a delicious St Emilion red to accompany dinner. This red was suggested by a waiter we hailed from another table.
Price: Our bill came to 200 pounds...We certainly could have spent more than that but as it was a Tuesday night and we were limiting our alcohol intake, the bill was manageable.  Nor did we have dessert of coffee
Service:  The service on entry was impeccable as was the attention I received whilst I sat and waited at the bar. We were also given a table in the window overlooking Frith St, which I presume is a perk of reserving so far in advance. It was a pity that we received a waitress who was a scattish. Her service was all or nothing and if she didn’t present us with the bill we could easily have confused her as another random diner. I can’t say she added any value to our evening. Other diners seemed to be getting more seamless service.
Clientele: The clientele was refined and sophisticated. Three dapper boys shared the bar with me before my guests arrived. There is something good about being surrounded by nice looking people when you eat.
Ambiance: A really nice ambiance- However if I was on a date I would have wanted the lights to be dimmed down a notch. Actually I think date or no date the restaurant would have had better ambiance if the lights were dimmer
Saw: No-one of interest...perfect
Bathrooms: I was disappointed with the bathrooms...I would liken them to that of a rural rugby club. Except for the presence of loccitaine hand products. They have always been a favourite. 
Would I go again?  Yes I probably would as it is one of the better restaurants in the theatre district and it has a very dynamic menu.  It is also one of those rare restaurants that can balance between being a nice place to regularly go for dinner and also a place to go for special occasions
Also of note: As we were paying the bill Miss C and I saw the desserts arrive to the table next to us. Envy sunk in and we immediately regretted not ordering. We will be back.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SAF




I had heard a lot of about Saf over the years, so when I had a vegetarian friend in town we jumped in a taxi and headed over there...35 pounds later we arrived at Saf in Shoreditch for a vegetarian feast.  

Where: Saf - Shoreditch - 152-154 Curtain Road, EC2A 3AT
When: Sunday lunch 3-5pm
What: A restaurant perfect for vegans. It is mainly a raw food restaurant with hardly any dishes heated over 48 degrees
Who: Myself and another vegetarian fox went to scope it out
Food: Some of the dishes have obvious names like pad thai, but don't think they will arrive as you would normally expect. I had the pesto au poivre (cashew cheese, sage pesto, crushed pink peppercorns, dehydrated tomato and balsamic reduction, flaxseed crackers) and he had the pad thai (courgette noodles, enoki mushrooms, mung sprouts, tomatoes, thai ginger, chilli, chipotle and almond sauce). This was then followed by some delectable desserts...chocolate ganache torte and ginger cheesecake





Drinks: Saf does some really good cocktails (all designed by the lovely mixologist Joe Mccanta). As it was a Sunday and I had overindulged the evening before, I chose an apple juice and he chose a pinot grigio
Price: 60 pounds
Service: Despite the restaurant being half empty, the service took a while to kick off. The waitress was slightly weird and vague, the interesting and tasty food made up for her lack of attentiveness
Clientele: Hip Shoreditch types
Ambiance: The restaurant felt more like a cafe 
Saw: Stylish East Londoners...mainly couples enjoying a healthy afternoon out
Bathrooms: These were down a set of stairs and weren’t very tidy
Would I go again? Probably not unless I was in the area and was with someone that really wanted to try it. I thought the food was really well presented and tasty, however the overall concept of the restaurant was a bit gimmicky
Also of note: There is a terrace at the rear where you could enjoy alfresco dining in the summer. There is a wellness studio behind the restaurant where they hold regular yoga classes and also they host ocassional cooking classes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Broadway Market







I met some friends for lunch on Saturday at the Broadway market. It was a tough decision as to whether we should eat at one of the restaurants that lined the marketplace, or grab something to takeaway and eat in the park nearby. We chose the latter and it didn't disappoint.
Where: In the Hackey area. The closest tube is Bethnal Green. The market runs from the Regent's Canal down to London Fields with an extension market in London Field School's yard
When:The market is open from 9am to 5pm every Saturday and there are also probably about 30 shops that line the market stalls and are open all week
What: A vibrant Saturday market, which is home to over 80 of the some of tastiest stalls in London 
Who: I went with some friends and we loved the variety and quality of the food available
Food: The stalls are mostly abundant with tasty treats...but you can find anything from vintage fashion to home-made tortellini and fudge. We chose to have wraps from a Lebanese stall. I can’t remember the name of the stall, but the wraps were filled with small disks of either beetroot and cumin or potato and dill and this was accompanied with grated carrot, cabbage and yoghurt and chilli sauce. We all agreed that these were delicious and not to mention healthy. This was however accompanied by one of the best chocolate brownies I have ever tasted from a stall called The Cinnamon Tree. My friend had a rock salt cookie from the same stall. Who would have thought that salty and sweet could go so well together





Drinks: There are plenty of drinks to be had in the bars lining the street
Price: Cheap and cheerful
Service: The stalls were all manned by friendly proprietors, most of whom offered for us to try small morsels of their delicious goods to lure us into purchasing
Saw: Loads of people enjoying a chilly Saturday afternoon strolling through the boutique marketplace
Bathrooms: Hmmm...not that I could see, but there are lots of cafes and restaurants you can go into
Would I go again? Yes. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon
Also of note: We were so full that we walked towards home (West London) for a few hours along the Regents Canal. It was a lovely stroll, and of course girls being girls, we were never short on conversation

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lunch at Zuma

FINALLY! I made it to Zuma. I love Japanese food and I have been itching to get my bushy little tail into Zuma for a long time now. Did it prove to be as good as I expected? Yes yes yes. If only this place could be my local.

Where: 5 Raphael St, Knightsbridge, SW7 1DL
When: Lunch on a Monday
What: Japanese izakaya style dining
Who: Myself and another friendly fox
Food:  Westernised Japanese cuisine with authentic flavours from its eastern origins
We chose a variety of dishes. - Zuma kapi maki, steamed edamame, vegetable tempura, courgette skewers, yakitori, and a sobacha brulee for dessert. Delicious!

Drinks: We tried the Zumanuka cocktail…A Zuma’s creation made from 42 Below honey vodka originating from New Zealand. After a few of these I was not really caring about the food- wow!

Price:  £100 + for 2 people including drinks, but we weren’t on a budget last Monday
Service: The service is what defines this restaurant from its counterparts. I like it how the girl at the front of house commented on my coat and asked me where I got it. I also liked it that the waiter commented on how I had made a good choice when I chose the Zumanuka cocktail. They obviously have good taste too…ha ha
Clientele: It is always interesting to be out lunching in a mainly residential area. I always question what other people are doing there…why aren’t they working? Who knows. ..but it was a nice Monday to be lunching at Zuma
Ambiance: Lively but intimate at the same time. Much less chaotic than the real izakaya dining experience in Japan. Either way it was enjoyable
Saw: I love it how in every Japanese restaurant they line up sake bottles like they are a piece of decorative art, and usually they are backlit. Zuma didn’t fail to deliver on this unique offering


Bathrooms: Really lovely and clean bathrooms. The hand soap was Molton Brown, which is a personal favourite. My hands love Molton Brown
Would I go again? Yes! Japanese cuisine is a favourite of mine
Also of note: There are private kotatsu rooms that you can hire if you go in a group. They look really fantastic. Next time I will try and take 10 other foxes with me and we can sip on sake all night long in the authentic sunken dining rooms

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coburg Bar at The Connaught - Mayfair

I was told on very good authority (by Jason Bailey...boyfriend of amazing mixologist and Grey Goose Ambassador Joe Mccanta) that the Coburg Bar is one of the best places in London to get cocktails. I must say, I haven't yet tried better so I might have to agree!

Where: The Coburg Bar at the Connaught, Carlos Place
When: Sunday evening 5-7
What: Cocktail Bar
Who: Myself and an old friend
Food: Hand cut crisps and fresh olives to accompany our drinks...delicious
Drinks: Mojitos, Cosmopolitans and Appletinis 

Price: A little pricey...but worth it
Service: Impeccable. The gorgeous waitress recommended the Appletini to me and it was devine
Clientele: Refined and sophisticated
Ambiance: Very intimate, warm and relaxed. This is the type of place where you can have a proper conversation 
Bathrooms: These bathrooms are in a league of their own. A maid opens the toilet door for you, and she also turns the tap on for you as you approach the wash basins. The bathrooms are very clean and there are great full length mirrors. To top it off, the products are all Molton Brown
Would I go again? I would love love love to go again
Also of note: Along with the yummy cocktails, the velvet wingback chairs make you want to stay all night

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sketch~

My foodie pal Lady Blonde recommended I try Sketch for my birthday last week... and so I did.

Sketch offers some really lovely drinking and dining spaces and it has a great ambiance. I can definitely see it as a great place to retreat on a cold winter's night. The front of house people whisk away your coats and make you feel very welcome. I had a really nice time whilst there, but came away thinking the food could have been better. Of note were the cocktails we had on arrival in The Parlour...and I loved the maitre d' who looked after us all night. His personality was a juxtaposition to that of the French waitress we had in The Parlour.

Where: Sketch - 9 Conduit St, London
When: 7-10:30
What: The Parlour: A high-tea room by day and a cocktail bar by night. The Gallery: In The Gallery you feel like you are part of an art installation, it is the more formal dinner dining area.
Who: Loads of French accents...and us.
Food: Modern French cuisine



Drinks: The cocktails in The Parlour were gorgeous. A pity about the sour waitress.  

Price: 50 pounds for mains and dessert
Service: Impeccable service from the main entrance through to The Gallery restaurant. The maitre de in The Parlour treated us very badly. I arrived with one other friend, and although there were five of us booked, instead of seating us at a table for five, she insisted on moving us around the room to different tables until all five of us were there.
Ambiance: Perfectly dimmed lighting. Very exotic
Saw: Every room had an interesting point of difference. At Sketch you can have many different experiences in one place
Bathrooms: The toilets were like space saving pods...very interesting. We liked the cleaner dressed as a cute maid and that upon closing the toilet door a speaker plays the commentary of an airport. Kind of odd, but fun
Would I go again? Tough one. It was nice, and it was quirky which made it fun, but personally I thought it may have been slightly overpriced for the quality of the food.
Also of note: Book in advance to get a table

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bocca Di Lupo

I can't recommend this restaurant enough! My body is still revelling from the taste sensations that it experienced here. Bocca di Lupo claims that each dish takes the notes of each region in Italy that it derives from - dining here is basically like taking a gastronomic tour of Italy! All the dishes come in small or large sizes, a nice point of difference.  Based on non-descript Archer St, you will feel like you have found a gem in the rough on arrival.


Where: Bocca di Lupo
When: 1-4pm
What: A bustling and modern Italian restaurant. The food has a rustic look and feel
Who: A bunch of foodies, enjoying a very long lunch with some really great Italian wine
Food: Start: Shaved radish,celeriac & pecorino salad with pomegranates and truffle oil. This salad blew my mind! I don't think I have ever tasted such a variety of flavours that go better together. Main: Pumpkin & Amaretti tortelli with sage butter- another favourite. I then didn't have enough room to taste the cheese boards and the dessert




Drinks: Aperitif: 2005 Franciacorta Brut  - Fratelli Berlucchi. With starter: 2005 Sierra Fiorese (Verdicchio Classico Riserva) - Garofoli. With main course: 2007 Tocco – L’Acino
2007 Capitel San Rocco Valpolicella Ripasso - Tedeschi
 
Price: 20 pounds for the two courses excluding wine
Service: Perfect Italian friendly service and a very qualified sommelier
Clientele: A mixture of corporate people for lunch and foodies
Ambiance: Clean, sharp and warm
Saw: At ground level there is a great bar area if you are dining alone or with one other and a spacious dining area exists at the back of the restaurant. Downstairs is a private dining room (the Remus room).
Bathrooms: Big, bright, loads of mirrors and very clean
Would I go again? Yes, this was my best food experience in London this year, and it's been a long year. Value for money +
Also of note: They also own the gelato store opposite called Gelupo. Probably equally as good!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Virgin visit to Polpo

Having heard so much Venetian bacaro- Polpo, you can imagine how excited I was to get a last minute lunch booking there with one of my besties on my birthday. This place takes lunchtime reservations, but after dark expect to join the queue. Tutti bene.

Where: Polpo, 41 Beak St, Soho W1F 9SB
When: 2-3pm
What: A bustling Venetian tapas joint with a menu that you won't be able to decide from
Who: Miss Emma and I
Food:  We had a variety of amazing vegetarian dishes- Arancini, Crochetta, Grilled Foccaccia, Beetroot , Zucchini, and Mozzarella
Drinks: Merlot served from an authentic carafe and sipped from tumblers
Price: 30 pounds including the wine!
Service: Perfect
Clientele: A mixture of corporate people for lunch and out-of-towners. We sat between a sophisticated French duo and a table of American blokes
Ambiance: Bustling and jovial
Saw: There is a great bar area if you are dining alone. Probably quite a good place to meet lone lunchtime diners from the same hood
Bathrooms: I didn't have time to check them out
Would I go again? Yes, this was my best food experience in London to date. Value for money +
Also of note: Around the corner is sister restaurant Polpetto, which I am also eager to try

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tiny Robot for a late lunch

My friend and I decided to try Tiny Robot as it is a new place in one of our favourite neighbourhoods. Tiny Robot's rough brick walls and formica tables give it the New York diner feel. It is the little sister to Clerkenwell's Giant Robot. There is a small bar downstairs with a rare late license. Unfortunately it is for members only.



Where: Tiny Robot
When: 3:30-5pm
What: New York style diner with an Italian influence. Great for lunch and dinner and it has an all day weekend brunch menu
Who: Miss C and I
Food:  I had a rocket, beetroot and goat's cheese salad and Miss C had seared Tuna. We shared a simple chocolate torte for dessert
Drinks: Cocktails (delicious) and prosecco
Price: 25 pounds for 2 people excluding drinks
Service: Waiters were attentive and friendly but the service was a bit disjointed. Because the restaurant is new, I won't hold it against them
Clientele: The usual cool, eclectic crowd that most Notting Hill eateries pull
Ambiance: It is a diner style restaurant, so it is not exactly a place to go on a romantic date. It was the perfect place to go with a friend
Bathrooms: Down a set of precarious stairs. Very tiny
Would I go again? Yes, the menu was really good, and I'd like to try some other dishes. Apparently the meat balls are amazing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Bleeding Heart Bistro

How did I stumble upon this bleeding heart? 


Well...I was due to meet up with a few old friends for dinner. After many emails back and forward trying to decide on a restaurant...we all settled for The Bleeding Heart bistro.  A lovely evening was had by all in this gorgeous restaurant set in a courtyard surrounded by only two other establishments- a fine dining restaurant, and a pub both of the same name.  The courtyard was quite enchanting and added to the appeal of this place.


Where: Bleeding Heart Yard, off Greville Street, EC1N 8SJ
When: 7:30-11pm
What: A gorgeous intimate French restaurant owned by a New Zealand couple
Who: Two couples and I
Food: A mix of traditional and modern French cuisine
Drinks: Red wine and riesling
Service: Waiters were attentive and friendly and spoke French to us. Tres bien!
Clientele: Predominantly refined middle class looking people, with a discerning look about them
Ambiance: Yes... the light is suitably dimmed and there was a bustling vibe like that of a true French bistro
Saw: People arriving into the courtyard and being surprised like us, to find this gorgeous restaurant, packed with people in the know. I also saw an interesting mix of 19th century French wine posters on the walls. 

Bathrooms: Lovely and quaint
Would I go again? Yes, this was some of the best service I have experienced in the UK.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fernandez and Wells

There is always time to stop in at Fernandez and Wells for a quick after work drink. You walk in there and you instantly feel like you are in a barrio in Spain. It is a fantastic place to sip the worries of your working day away.


If I could take this bar with me everywhere I went...I would. I love the waiters, I love the clientele, I love the simple tapas and I love it that the wine options are quality as opposed to quantity.





Where: 43 Lexington Street, Soho, London
When: 6-8pm
Food: Manchego cheese platter with yummy bread. Simple and effective
Drinks: A gorgeous Argentinian red. Allegrini I think was called
Service: Waiters - hot- tick
Clientele: Interesting, Eclectic, Creative, Corporate
Ambiance: Yes...the light is suitably dimmed and there is a bustle of people vying for the few seats
Bathrooms: Didn't go...so I can't comment
Saw: A mix of cool and unpretentious people
Would I recommend to a friend? Yes, and especially people who appreciate the life of the Latino


Saturday, October 16, 2010

My favourite for lunch - Mrs Marengo's

When I first moved to London...I spotted this place as I was rushing to an appointment. The cute facade made me stop in my tracks and peek in the window full of delicious looking salads and cakes. This was my second visit to Mrs Marengo's...and I know that we will develop a close friendship. Mrs Marengo's specialises in catering to the Soho lunch crowd and offers all sorts of yummy vegetarian delights for both eat-in and take-away. Meat eaters wouldn't even notice that there is no meat on the menu.


Where: 53 Lexington Street
When: 12:45 to beat the 1pm Soho lunch rush
What: Vegetarian takeaway and eat in. Meals, coffee and cake shop
Who: A friend and I...like always
Food: I ordered the haloumi and spinach stack...which had an amazing anonymous brown sauce. My friend ordered the spinach and roasted vege omelette. There are also amazing salads that sit on the counter. Cakes and slices fill the window and tempt people in off the street.
Drinks: Sparkling water...as they don't serve wine...but they do make amazing organic juices.
Saw: There is always a queue between 1pm and 2:30pm because the food is so good!
Bathrooms: A bit annoying because there aren't any. They are at Mildred's which is the more formal sister restaurant next door. Mildreds is another favourite.
Would I go again? Yes because the food is so good, and it is very inexpensive
Would I recommend to a friend? Of course...this is my kind of lunch place

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Out in the country- The Woolpack Inn- Hampshire

My friend and I set off from London's Waterloo station on a 45 minute journey out to the Hampshire countryside to escape the hustle and bustle of London. We stayed in a delightful cottage amongst grandiose homes set in park-like properties. After spending all afternoon relaxing...we weren't sure what to do with all our spare time so we set off down the road to the 'local' pub. What we found was far from an old English pub full of farmers and dirty gumboots, but a very warm, sophisticated drinking establishment with a stellar wine list, and menu!

Where: Tolford, Hampshire
Who: My friend and I, sitting by the open fire and a mix of shooting groups, cyclists, locals and walkers
Food: Delicious hearty pub fare with a modern twist
Drinks: A Chianti red by the fire and then 2  delicious bottles of Sancerre at the bar for dessert
Service: Excellent. The bar manager even provided a taxi service and dropped us home down the country road after dinner
Clientele: A mixture of shooting groups, cyclists, locals and walkers and of course a couple of girls from the city
Ambiance: Convivial, warm and friendly like that of a mountain chalet
Bathrooms: Great
Saw: Some really friendly local people, and lots of dogs standing at the door. We also took a sneak peek at the boutique accommodation upstairs for future reference. The bedrooms are modern, with power showers, flat screen TVs and crisp linen sheets.
Would I recommend to a friend: Yes. I would like to take a group of friends back there for the highly acclaimed Sunday lunch.