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Coin Laundry

What
Laid back neighbourhood bar and restaurant, Coin Laundry, serves up proper comfort food, 70s revival cocktails and a big fat slice of nostalgia.

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Where
70 Exmouth Market
London
EC1R 4QP

Experience
Perched at the top of Exmouth Market sits 1970’s inspired restaurant, Coin Laundry. The restaurant boasts nostalgia-inducing culinary delights and retro classic cocktails. I met my friend Sophie on Saturday afternoon to give their new cocktail menu a whirl. “What do you mean 70’s? Like pineapple on a stick?” “Exactly, Soph”.

I was expecting extravagant Retro Bar-themed decor, but was pleasantly surprised to find a spacious subterranean bar with subtle references to 70’s design. The room felt contemporary, less Bee Gees, more Rolling Stones.

The cocktail menu was a joy to ponder. Apart from a few well known classics, the menu featured a host of real original flavour combinations I was excited to try. First up, some bubbles. The Flipper blends apple sorbet, prosecco and lemon in a wide champagne coupe with jelly accompaniments. Sophie and I agreed that we had never tasted anything quite like it. It was sweet, tart and powerful. I could liken it only to yuzu fruit. We could have happily sipped on The Flipper all afternoon, but there were plenty more cocktails to discover.

Next up – my holiday favourite – the trustee Pina Colada. It was made with the traditional blend of rum, coconut milk and pineapple. If it wasn’t pouring down with rain outside, we might have believed we were on a beach in St Lucia.

Coin Laundry offer a bar snack menu throughout the day such as ham frittas & mushy peas, deep fried cockles and chicken popcorn. Sophie and I shared some spag bol croquettes which  were covered in parmesan. The crispy croquette balls were a meaty take on a classic Italian arancini which I love. They were washed down by our final cocktail of the afternoon, White Chocolate & Raspberry Bellini. As you might imagine, this cocktail was not for the sugar phobic. It was super sweet and more like a dessert. Luckily, desserts are my thing.

Cost
Pina Colada £9
The Flipper £8.5
Spag Bol Croquettes £5

Festival of Heat

What
The Festival of Heat: London’s Chilli Festival is back on 25 September 2016

chilleee

Where
Red Market
288 Old Street
EC1V 9LA

Experience
Preparations are hotting up for London’s spiciest food festival at Shoreditch’s culinary hub, Red Market. Workshops, tasting sessions, supplies, music and deliciously confusing chilli infused drinks await.

Last year was my first Festival of Heat experience. I cooked my own infused chilli oil, which has been keeping my pizza crusts happy all year. The festival focus is on eating, growing and cooking chillies, and is designed for those who like to add a little heat to their mealtimes.

This year, vendors keeping our bellies happy include Ayam Happy – White Men Can’t Jerk – Agua Na Boca amd Purbeck Ice Cream. See you at the tasting stall.

Cost
Early Bird Ticket £10 here
Door Price £15

A Lazy Lunch at La Belle, Constantia – ZA

la belle constantia

What

Lunch at La Belle

Where

La Belle, Alphen Hotel, Constantia

Cape Town 7848

Experience

On Thursday we headed for lunch at La Belle, part of the Alphen Hotel in Constantia. Despite staying fairly nearby in Observatory, we hadn’t been to Constantia before and we were pleasantly surprised by how lovely it was. This side of Table Mountain is much lusher, and the drive down oak-lined streets took us past several stately homes and long driveways. We weren’t surprised to learn that Constantia is the home of old money in Cape Town.

Accordingly, the Alphen Hotel is steeped in history. Originally part of Groote Constantia wine estate, one of the first wineries in the region, guests have apparently included Captain James Cook and Mark Twain. Now that is old. The property is incredibly beautiful, with classic green and white Cape Dutch buildings nestled beneath enormous old Oak Trees and, unsurprisingly, was very busy.  We were there for a mid week lunch and it was absolutely packed with other diners sipping on large glasses of local wine.

The building that formerly housed the Boer and Brit pub is now the La Belle Café and Bakery and specialises in salads, sandwiches, (not so) light meals and an array of pastries – you can often see people here early on Saturday mornings buying their treats for the day. Inside, the café seats about 60 people beneath an open thatched roof with a large counter displaying all of the pastries and breads that La Belle has to offer, and there are many.

After spotting the size of the meals arriving at the tables around us, we decided to skip the starter and go straight for mains. The dishes all sounded very wholesome, with plenty of fish and vegetarian options, however, I decided to go for the meatballs and tagliatelle served with parmesan and chunky tomato sauce, whilst Joe ordered the chicken burger, which came with crisp lettuce, tomato, mustard mayo, feta, gherkins and shoe string fries. The meals were both very tasty and enormous, and I caught Joe looking lazily around for somewhere to crawl off and have a nap afterwards before embarking on desert. As this didn’t seem appropriate, we decided to order another bottle of wine, enjoy the lively atmosphere and peruse the extensive pudding menu.

The choice of cakes was immense, providing something for all tastes. We decided to share the gluten free caramel and walnut cheesecake and the lemon meringue pie, which were both delicious and definitely worth the wait. Following dessert, we finished our wine and went for a much needed walk around the large grounds, taking in the beautiful surroundings. La Belle is a lovely place to meet friends for a very reasonably priced lunch, and to while away a lazy afternoon.

Cost

Sandwiches: R75-130 (£4-7)

Starters: R70-95 (£4-5)

Mains: R95-170 (£5-9)

Cakes and pastries: R50-60 (£2.50-3)

Opulent Perfection at Delaire Graff – ZA

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What

Lunch and wine at Delaire Graff Estate.

Where

Delaire Graff Estate, Stellenbosch,  South Africa

Experience

After an incredible mini holiday to Cederberg National Park, we decided to counterbalance our time out in the wilderness by stopping off in Stellenbosch for a few days of indulgence. Surrounded by the vineyards of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch is the epicentre of the South African wine industry and you are spoilt for choice with lavish scenery and luxurious wine tasting tours. Since arriving in Cape Town, more than a few people have told us that Delaire Graff wine estate is a place to be experienced at least once, so we decided to go there and see.

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Finally getting into Stellenbosch at about 10pm, we continued driving along the stunning Helshoogte Mountain Pass towards Farm France, our home for the night. We hadn’t quite realised that we would be driving straight past tomorrow’s lunch destination, but it was impossible to miss it. Set back into the hills, the entrance to the estate is impressively landscaped and lights up the highest point of the mountain pass it resides over. All the love, over-excitement and high expectations that we currently had invested in the two large Col’Cacchio pizza boxes in the back seat, suddenly paled into insignificance at the prospect of tomorrow’s lunch. Having shown zero interest in this event up until now, Joe showered me with compliments and head pats for organising such a treat.

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The following day, we were excited to learn that the extravagance continued well past the entrance. The long driveway is flanked by lush sprawling gardens and magnificent South African sculptures. The effect is breathtaking. The owner is East London born founder of Graff Diamonds, Laurence Graff, and so it should have come as no surprise when he opened the doors to the estate in 2009, that he would be revealing one of the most luxurious destinations in South Africa. Graff is also a well respected art collector and it is his personal collection of contemporary South African art that decorates the walls of this beautiful estate and its gardens.

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After a mesmerising tour of the grounds, we were taken along an expansive corridor (with flooring made from peach stones and resin – lovely!), past the Graff diamond boutique, housing the type of fabulous jewellery that no-one I know could ever afford, followed by giant glass doors that open onto the winery, and finally, to the restaurant for our lunch.

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The whole estate is jaw-droppingly grand and seamlessly stylish. Graff worked with designer David Collins to create a high-design interior, using traditional South African materials, techniques and colours, that also works as a dramatic display platform for his South African art collection. It is clear in its design that the estate is a homage to the beautiful country in which he made his fortune.

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Like all of the estate interior, the Delaire Graff Restaurant is strikingly elegant. Burnt orange leather seating snakes around the restaurant with double sided open wood fires and a ceiling made from asymmetrically vaulted Tasmanian oak. But since today was a dazzlingly warm spring day (British audience read: smoking hot summer’s day), we were to have our lunch outside on the terrace.

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It was the restaurant terrace that made the whole day for me. From our front row seats we were treated to the most breathtakingly beautiful panoramic views over the Banhoek Valley and the vineyards below, almost certainly the most incredible view I have seen in South Africa, or anywhere for that matter. We started with some Delaire Graff Sunrise Brut, made all the more delicious by the knowledge that it was grown in the vineyard below. The food menu is appreciably concise and seasonal, largely dependent on what is growing in the greenhouse at that time. Otherwise, it is locally sourced, fresh and organic.

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For starters, Joe went, conservatively, with the Caesar Salad served with free range egg and house smoked chicken, whilst I had the West Coast Oysters (one served natural with tabasco caviar, one tempura with squid ink, and the other with soy caviar). The salad was absolutely enormous and the oysters were creatively served, fresh and delicious. For his main course, Joe ordered the Pork belly from the specials menu. It was served with pork crackling (I was very pleased to see this little slice of Wolverhampton), apricot jus, bacon apricot jam, homemade pork sausage, creamy polenta and roasted carrots. I ordered the prawn linguine which was served with lemon butter sauce, deep fried capers and confit tomatoes. Whenever I order a seafood linguine, I always hope that it will taste like this but it never quite does. It was deliciously creamy, set off perfectly by the salty capers and lemon. Not that we needed it, but we also decided to order some truffle and parmesan chips because the table next to us were eating them and they looked amazing. They came with aioli and, to our delight, a soft boiled egg! I have never before experienced such high-end eggy chips.

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However, the food highlight was the dessert. Joe ordered the Textures of chocolate, which was salted crème, Guinness gelato, sesame oil aero, dehydrated mouse and crystallised chocolate. I went for the Peanut butter blondie which was guanaja cremeux, vanilla and mustard gelato, caramelised popcorn, cocoa meringue and salted caramel. They were both impeccably presented and tasted like a dream.

At this point we had also made our way through a fair few bottles of wine, were loving life and really didn’t want to go home. Having arrived for lunch quite early, it was now getting rather late and we decided that we would try to drag our lazy boozy lunch out for as long as possible, ideally until sunset. We managed this quite well with many thanks to the unrelenting hospitality and endless wine recommendations of our waiter, and before long we were treated to the most spectacular African sunset. However long you may have lived in South Africa, I can’t imagine that these views would ever get old.

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The estate also has 10 private lodges with their own plunge pools and concierge service as well as a Spa. They are the definition of luxury and don’t come particularly cheap at R17,970 (approximately £930) per night for 2 people. In contrast to this, the restaurant is very reasonable. Although, this is easy to say when you’re converting everything to the British Pound, which even following the post-Brexit crash horror, is still fairing quite well against the Rand. The main courses range from R215 – 285 (currently between £11-15) which is the price of a standard pub lunch in London (this is vomit inducing) and I’ve definitely spent up to that in some of the fancier restaurants in Cape Town. But, at Delaire Graff, you’re paying for the whole experience. It’s not just the mouthwatering food and wine, but the exquisite views over the Banhoek Valley, the opulent architecture, the artwork, sculptures and objects of beauty throughout the estate. From the moment you arrive, you enter a world of affluent perfection. This is, indeed, a place that everyone should experience, at least once.

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Cost

Starter: R125-155 (£6.50-8)

Main: R215-285 (£11-15)

Dessert: R115-145 (£6-7.50)

Summer at the Sky Garden

What
The Sky Garden hosts live music summer sessions

sky

Where
Sky Garden
1 Sky Walk,
London
EC3M 8AF

Experience
Do you ever spend time looking for the perfect summer drinks venue? Then look no further. The Sky Garden has gourmet food, the most spectacular sweeping panoramic views of London, and a garden oasis. It has been my hot-spot place to recommend for the last year and has now excelled even my expectations by hosting live music sessions featuring artists, band and DJS from ALR music all summer.

My city-girl friend Steph had only a few more days in London before she moved to the countryside so I asked her to join me for the opening night of live music at Sky Garden. It could not have been a more perfect end to her London adventure. We walked around the 360 degree platform while listing all city sights viewable from the three storey floor-to-ceiling windows, while surrounded by tropical foliage and sipping prosecco. We watched three bands who played a perfect blend of soul and funk which secured our place on the dancefloor by 9pm.

If you want to take dining to the next level (level 35, 36 and 37 to be precise) then book a table before the music session at one of the restaurants in the sky. Sky Pod, Darwin Brassiere and Fenchurch Restaurant offer all day dining hidden within the highest rooftop gardens in London. The Sky Garden is a true dream-land. Take a seat, sip a cocktail, enjoy the music and take in THAT VIEW!

Cost
Summer Sessions are free
Reserve an exclusive sofa area here

Rosa’s Thai Cafe – Victoria

 

What
The much loved Rosa’s Thai Cafe has now arrived in Victoria.

rosa

Where
25 Gillingham Street
London
SW1V 1HN

Experience
If, like me, you are a long-term fan of husband and wife owned chain Rosa’s Thai Cafe then you will be excited about their new opening in Victoria. Before the grand opening, I was invited down to sample the menu.

I met my pal Gethin at Victoria station and took the stroll down the beautifully affluent West London streets to a quiet corner building. We were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and a seat in the corner of a very relaxed, but bustling, cafe.

The kitchen ovens had not yet been installed but the party menu did not disappoint. We ate Fresh Soft Rolls, soft rice paper rolls of fragrant herbs and vegetables joined by salty peanut sauce and a spicy sweet chilli dipping sauce. Shortly followed by Spicy Beef Salad – Yum nuer yang Char-grilled sirloin on spicy leaves with mint & chilli dressing. Every mouthful was fragrant, spicy, light and definitely moreish.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe serves up homemade helpings of authentic Thai food with a dash of London charm. If you want to try to rustle up a Rosa’s at home Saiphin Moore’s first book ‘Rosa’s Thai Café The Cookbook’ is on sale and is definitely worth a look!

Cost
Fresh Soft Rolls £6.25
Spicy Beef Salad £12
Rosa’s Butternut Red Curry £10.25

Wine in the city

What
A boutique wine bar, sourcing wine directly from vineyards all over the world, Humble grape aims to bring amazing wine and simple, high quality food to customers in London City.

Humble-Grape-Fleet-Street-to-open-its-doors-in-May-20161

Where
Humble Grape
http://www.humblegrape.co.uk/
1 St. Bride’s Passage,
London EC4Y 8EJ

Experience
Humble Grape is on a mission ‘to make wine socially inclusive and approachable by anyone’ and is successfully doing so by creating a relaxed ambience in a beautiful location. Shying away from the typical wine cellar feel of barrels everywhere, they use champagne racks mounted on the walls throughout to subtly allude to the theme of the restaurant.

We arrived on a buzzing Wednesday, and were kindly seated, while our enthusiastic and knowledgeable waiter went through the wine and food menu.  He was keen to find out what our normal go-to wine was and why. I said a dry white and he listed a number of wines, all of which sounded amazing, before we narrowed it down to a white from The Islander Estate in south Australia. It was the so delicious, full of Lemon, honey and floral notes with a hint of spice from the French oak. We enjoyed several glasses of this alongside the Iberia secret: two generous cuts of pork shoulder served with a red pepper puree and roast potatoes and the Piscivore platter; a mound of galician-style octopus, mackerel pâté, white crab salad, home cured salmon, brown bread, focaccia.  Both were heavenly and more than enough for two people. As we were watching our waistlines, we shyed away from desert and instead had two (no doubt calorie filled) glasses of Alimant- Laugner Rose Cremant, which was a delicate Provence Rose, which was definitely worth spending some extra time in the gym for.  Humble grape is beautiful and such a find for the city, the staff are so personable and the owner James is so passionate that every guest has an amazing time and hopefully discovers something completely new that they like.

Cost
£60 for two sharing plates and a bottle of wine