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When hearts and bellies meet

What

Pasta’n’Goulsh http://www.pasta-n-goulash.co.uk

What A ‘Hungarian-Italian fusion’ winter pop-up bar and kitchen, right in the heart of Holborn (for now)

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Where

Temporarily homed in The Plot Twist in Russel Square

Experience

While Hungarian and Italian might not sound like the most naturally complimentary cuisines, they are united by one crucial characteristic that we all crave at this time of year – stodge.

Pasta’n’Goulash is the brain child of partners in business and in life, Agata and Tamas, and comes to the bellies of Londoners at a time when we need it most (because nothing trumps winter quite like potatoes served in bread).

On arrival, we were greeted by the aforementioned couple who, I think it’s safe to say, were no less than the most charming hosts I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I am a sucker for schmaltz so fell hook, line and sinker for their tale of love at first sight. Originally from Parma and Budapest respectively, the pair met in London and ‘from that moment decided to share life together’, uniting their native cuisines in the process. Beautiful stuff.

The seasonal menu – as the name suggests – focuses on goulash and pasta dishes. With total disregard for our waistlines, we of course tried one of each. The traditional goulash soup served in a bread bowl (bowl perhaps doesn’t do its size justice, it was more of a bread sink…), while not something I would usually go for, was really quite scrumptious. Rich, tender and perfectly seasoned, it was just the thing on a cold winter’s day.

The pasta Tubetti was next up. Made with potatoes (you can never have too many…) and sausage, I would strongly advise sporting your roomiest attire if going for this dish. However, for the visual spectacle of it being made before your eyes in a flaming wheel of parmigiano cheese, this sartorial trade-off is a small price to pay.

I am ashamed to say that I was not looking forward to my owner-recommended desert before it arrived. Perhaps it was naïve but, for me, the concept of cottage cheese covered in chocolate is simply not that appealing. But God loves a trier and try I did. Thank heavens and praise the lord, etc, because it was spectacular. Known as Turo Rudi, what we were presented with was a very pretty, delicate plate of chocolate fingers that were seriously moreish and resulted in a licked-clean plate. Hungary’s most popular chocolate desert for good reason.

Carb-loading wasn’t the only one of Londoners’ favourite pastimes they had on offer though, oh no. It seems that the Hungarians and Italians do booze very well indeed. With a wide range of traditional wines from both countries available, as well as more than ten award winning craft beers from Hungary, the drinks list was a pleasure to behold – as was evidenced by our stumbling and slurring on exiting the building.

While the ephemeral nature of the pop-up experience is inherent to its charm, it does have its draw backs. In the case of Pasta’n’Goulash, it is the location that has suffered somewhat. Aside from the fact that Tamas and Agata’s brand of open-arms service and hearty cuisine would sit better in, say, Highbury, than suited and booted Holborn, the venue itself leaves one a little cold… both literally and figuratively speaking. It is not, as my companion wryly commented, somewhere you would choose to impress a first date, but it’s nothing that a few nice lamps wouldn’t fix.

If you’re in Holborn and in the mood for a winter warmer, you could do a lot worse than Pasta’n’Goulash. This is not fine-dining, that’s for sure, but it’s tasty, wholesome cooking that makes a pleasant change from the usual London restaurant roster. And with more beige food than you could shake a stick at, I will almost certainly be going back for more.

Cost

Approximately £30 per person for a three course meal with wine

Address

51 Red Lion St, WC1R 4PF London

Sunday lunch with the Jones Family

Where

Jones Family Project

http://jonesfamilyproject.co.uk/

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What

A comfortable, chic bar in Shoreditch with a passion for wine, cocktails and delicious locally sourced food

Experience

Situated in the heart of bustling Shoreditch and within strolling distance of Old Street station is The Jones Family Project, which I discovered is a gem of two parts this Sunday. As you enter, you walk into a welcoming bar in a setting that is comparable with a chic New York loft mixed with a 1970s lounge and obviously one hell of a good bar. There are booths, high tables, coffee areas and my personal favourite were the drawers built into the bar to give the illusion of a tea tray. Downstairs is a beautiful restaurant, again with an expansive bar and dining room with fairy lit trees and dim lighting. It’s honestly beautiful.

We were greeted by Alejandro, who is the assistant general manager and a massive food and wine enthusiast. He is friendly, informed and really passionate about The Jones Family Project. He recommended we tried the squid to start, a newbie to their autumnal menu; a deliciously light, crispy

Salt and Pepper Squid with Spiced watermelon, rocket and crackling. For our main course, we both ordered the roast beef, as A; it was Sunday and B; we saw several going out and knew if we hadn’t we would have missed out. The roast is a beautiful tower of roast root vegetables, lightly buttered greens and a giant Yorkshire resting on creamed mash potato partnering perfectly cooked, locally sourced beef, oh and of course their homemade creamed horseradish. It was delightful and paired beautifully with the wines highlighted on their November wine list. They pick four a month, which on top of their already chosen thirty means you really need to ask for a recommendation. I have the +Ritme, an earthy white from the Priorat region in Spain and Lizzie, more in line with what you should have with roast beef had a red, a Chihon Cuvee Terrior from the Loire region in France. Both delightful. After politely declining a desert for two minutes, we decided to cave on any ideas of Sunday dieting and shared a brownie, which is not just any brownie, I believe it is somewhat of a labour of love of Anna’s, one of the owners. It was a perfectly gooey brownie, with salted caramel sauce and coconut ice- cream. It was absolutely delicious, every part of it, and when I go back again, I am going to have the good sense, not to share! The food is lovely here, the staff are warm and helpful, I imagine you can tell from my review, but I really like the Jones Family Project, you get a real sense of family and passion coupled with amazing food. Go at any time of day, on any day and I am positive, you will not be disappointed!

Cost

Sunday Menu 12pm -4.30pm – One course £9.95, two courses £14.50, three courses £17.50

Address

78 Great Eastern Street London EC2A 3JL

Happiness at 30

It has been so long since I last posted, I almost wondered whether I might have forgotten how to use WordPress. So far, so good. I’m here. I’m writing. And it feels good.

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I’m currently in the midst of a week of reflection. As I approach the big 30, I am looking back at my 20s in wondrous amazement of everything that has happened in the last decade.

I’m not here to dwell on the negative, I am here to celebrate the positive. I arrived back in London in March after a year and a half hiatus, following an awful break up and a very unsettling thrust into abnormality. I am extremely happy to say, however, that after three and a half years, the enthusiasm and passion for life that I once had has returned.

2016 has been an odd year. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to say that. I just had the added bonus of unsettling myself and moving back to a big city that is hard to settle in on top of everything else. As we near the end of a year that I could only describe as bilious, I enter a new chapter of my life and (hopefully) a brand new fresh year to look forward to.

Right now I’m single. How does that make me feel? Well, society tells me that I should be stooped over and crying myself to sleep at night because I don’t have someone to love and, more importantly, no one loves me. But I couldn’t be further from that in reality. When I split from my ex, he commented on my inability to be alone. I needed people – to feel safe, to feel loved, to feel happy. But the longer you spend alone, taking the time to do things for yourself, being forced to make decisions of your own, the easier (and better) it becomes. I haven’t been this happy in years and I hope to god that this feeling doesn’t leave me just yet.

Sure enough, I am having my fair share of dates. But the longer I am single, the less bothered I am about using one of the vacuous dating apps out there. Luke – you were a self centered posh git, Nicholas – I liken you to a very past its sell by date Duracell Bunny, Patrick – you have some issues you need to sort out… the list goes on. I don’t doubt they all have something to say about me, but a dating app can cause psychological instability when meeting with a potential suitor. I’m not saying I’ll never use one again, but I can pretty much guarantee that the person I end up with will not have been swiped.

Next year I am running the London marathon. I never thought I would be a runner. I hated cross country at school and was sick at the end of races. When my ex boyfriend wanted to go for a run, I would laugh in his face and say ‘maybe next time’. But here I am. I have found it to be incredibly theraputic and as soon as I started, the majority of my anxiety vanished into thin air.

I am going to make an effort to post more about my training runs, as well as the food that I have been eating in the run up to one of the craziest days of my life, no doubt.

For now, there’s a picture above of me dressed as Santa Claus from yesterday’s Santa Dash in Clapham Common. I’m going to be saying this a lot over the coming months, but if you feel like donating for a VERY good cause, please head to my Virgin Money Giving page.

Until next time.

Aquum, Clapham

What
Aquum has re-launched as a late night drinking, dining and dancing destination.

aquum143958-1Where
68-70 Clapham High St,
London
SW4 7UL

Experience
It was my first visit to Aquum which has been completely refurbished into a modern, vibrant restaurant – turned late night bar. It was the type of place you could imagine ordering shots and dancing until the early hours. I was joined by an old friend Lucinda who within minutes was speaking to a handsome man at the bar. I left her to it while I pondered over the menu.

My first drink of the evening was a Greek Negroni. A thirst quenching blend of Campari, Bombay Sapphire, sweet vermouth, and made Greek by the addition of Skinos Mastic liqueur. The liqueur made the usually bitter cocktail sweet enough to be palatable for the rest of the evening, so I ordered another.

The food menu offered contemporary Greek dishes which features sharing plates, fresh salads and grilled meats. Lucinda and I sampled a few sharing dips with sourdough bread. If you are familiar with the florescent pink dip found in your local supermarket labelled ‘taramasalta’, forget that. Aquum’s dip is made from natural cod roe, olive oil, sweet onion and lemon. It’s rich, salty and smooth – we mopped it all up. Octopus is a firm favourite of mine, and Aquum’s Chargrilled Octopus with fava beans, Kalamata olives and crunchy capers did not disappoint.

We sipped one final drink before going our separate ways and leaving the handsome man at the bar behind. This time it was a deconstructed Kir Noir, mixed with Pinot Noir syrup, cherry syrup and Mercier Champagne. It was like dessert for grown-ups. We did not get to dance the evening away this visit, but it was a school night.

Cost
Taramasalata £4
Chargrilled Octopus £12
Greek Negroni £9
Kir Noir £10

Indigo –Street Food of India

What

fusion of authentic sub- continent dishes

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Experience

Indigo in Shoreditch, prides itself on bringing the authentic vibrant and colourful heritage of India’s cuisine to Shoreditch and on Thursday last week, I had the joy of confirming they really should do. As soon as I arrived, I was warmly welcomed and chose a seat in the window, so to watch all the revellers from Richmix Cinema next door coming and going and the city coming alive for the weekend.

As it is BYO and I was trying to be good, I ordered a sparkling water, proud of myself for not ordering one of the delicious looking lassis or non-alcoholic cocktails. Think subtle mango delight, rather think grenadine and orange.

Jack arrived and we started to review the menu, which along with having all of the must have favourites, had a number of dishes which quizzed us to prompt the waiter on A: what they were and B:which was best. He suggested we ordered one from each section and as they all look great and are all very reasonably priced, we saw no reason to not do as he suggested.

We started with a mixed tandoori or lamb, chicken and paneer, all of which were perfectly charcoaled and rich in spice. We then followed this with a mixed vegetable dosa, which was just as amazing as it smelt as we watched one of the chef’s cook it on the open oven. We then followed this with a Saag Talwa and a Butter chicken masala, which were both excellent and greedily mopped up by a garlic nan.

I would highly recommend visiting them in Shoreditch or later this month their new restaurant opening in Croydon

Cost

£40 for two (starter, main and soft drink)

Head Over Hills Luxury Retreat: stunning views and a £50,000 bed – Knysna, ZA

What

Head Over Hills is a 5* luxury retreat situated along the Garden Route of South Africa.

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Experience

Despite spending 8 weeks working at a state hospital in Cape Town, it would be a lie to say that the last few months have been in any way stressful. Joe and I are absolutely in love with South Africa and have enjoyed treating ourselves to all of the delights that this incredibly beautiful country has to offer. These treats are largely focused around the themes of eating and drinking, relaxing and having a great time. So with these aims in mind, we decided to spend our final two weeks in South Africa travelling along the Garden Route with various stops along the way. The Garden Route is essentially the N2 highway which starts in Cape Town, in the Western Cape, and meanders 800km along the coast to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. However, this is no motorway as we know it. Along its course the road travels past some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, is flanked by rolling hills and awesome mountains, lagoons and lakes, forests and rivers. You’ll also drive past fields of Ostrich and potentially over an aggressive Baboon or thirty.

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One of the more popular destinations along the route is the forested town of Knysna, situated on a picturesque lagoon and famed for its Knysna Heads, two giant headlands that ships would need to negotiate before entering the lagoon from sea. The variety of accommodation in Knysna reflects its popularity with tourists and something can be found for most budgets and tastes. Unquestionably, the areas best views of the Knysna Heads can be seen from Head Over Hills Luxury Retreat, and we were lucky enough to stay there for our two nights in Knysna. Situated on the Eastern head, the retreat offers breath-taking views of the Western head and Indian Ocean from all of it’s eight rooms.

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Manoeuvring along the tiny winding roads up the Eastern head after a fairly long drive from Hermanus, we had google imaged to death the view from our balcony and could wait no longer. However, we were made to wait outside the property for a good few minutes before being let in by Debbie, who informed us that she had been watching dolphins play around in the sea below and hadn’t heard the buzzer. We totally understood and nodded in solidarity.

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The retreat consists of 4 suites and 4 deluxe rooms. We were shown to the Captain’s Suite and were greeted by the most stunning hotel view that I have ever seen. The whole width of the room consisted of glass doors which could be folded out to open the room onto our private balcony. We decided pretty quickly that this is obviously what we would do and then settled down into our sunloungers with a couple of beers to soak it all in. Whilst the views are clearly their selling point, the rest of the room was also excellent. It was clean and spacious, with a cosy log fire for the chillier evenings. The Smeg fridge was stocked with plenty of soft drinks, including complimentary beers and still and sparkling water. There was also an Nespresso machine, much appreciated by Joe, with complimentary tea and coffee and Le Creuset cups and saucers. The bathroom took up half of the room and included a large shower, double sinks and a Jacuzzi bath from which you could enjoy the exceptional scenery.

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However, my favourite part of the room was the bed. Three of the four suites have luxury Vividus beds, made by Swedish based company Hästens. They are labelled as ‘The World’s most incredible bed’ and retail for around £50,000, which is absurd. Each bed is made by hand from a recipe of natural ingredients, including eight different layers of horse hair and slowly grown arctic pine, and takes about 150 man hours to make. I had the dreamiest nights sleep that I have ever had on that bed, it felt as though I was sleeping on candy floss and purring kittens. But is any bed worth £50,000? A more relevant question is: will I ever be in a financial position where I might need to make this decision? Probably not.  However, there aren’t many hotels in the world where you get to sleep on such a luxurious bed and I would be keen to pay the extra for a suite if we stayed here again, purely for this reason.

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As we weren’t quite sick of the scenery just yet, we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant for the evening. The restaurant looks out on to the shared balcony and infinity pool and you can enjoy the same views of the heads whilst enjoying your evening meal. The menu isn’t particularly adventurous but the food was tasty and perfectly cooked. You can pre-order oysters in advance, but since I’d forgotten to do this, I went for the mussel pot instead which was really nice and spicy. Joe had the venison carpaccio and we both had the springbok loin for mains. All of the dishes were served and explained by the chef which was a nice touch.

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When we made our way back to our room in the evening, the room had been turned down and we had been left two small bottles of amarula as a nightcap. There is also an honesty bar downstairs where guests can help themselves to an impressive selection of South African wines, beers and spirits when there are no staff around, so there’s no danger of running dry. Head Over Hills has a very good balance of providing a warm and helpful service whilst at no point making you feel harassed – a great quality for a small hotel as I’ve found that they can sometimes feel slightly overbearing. An extensive breakfast is also included and served in the restaurant. There is an assortment of cold and hot dishes and some bubbly to keep everyone happy.

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The view from Head Over Hills really is stunning and we spent way more time in the hotel than planned because of this. If you’re after some ultimate relaxation then you will not be disappointed here. The service is a little more laid back than in most 5* hotels, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy being left alone. Prices per night range from R3400 (£195.00) for the twin Oyster room, to R6600 (£375.00) for the Elephant Honeymoon suite, and our Captain’s Suite was R5700 (£325.00). The hotel is often fully booked during peak season (Dec-Feb) so booking well in advance is advised.

Balan’s Soho Society Celebrates British Food Fortnight and Their Beautiful Refurbishment

What

To celebrate British Food Fortnight we were invited along to Balan’s Soho Society to indulge in all things British!

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Experience

Everybody loves locally sourced food, other than the fact it is fresher and is better for your local economy- there’s something satisfying about knowing that the radish you are nibbling on was grown just down the road. It also helps when we are lucky enough to have some of the highest quality food produced right at our doorstep. On Thursday evening we were treated to a delicious array of locally sourced food (and drink!) at a newly refurbished Balan’s Soho Society.

We began our feast with Scottish smoked salmon supplied by legendary East London smokehouse Foremans (served with wasabi and said radish). This was followed up with Cornish crab (also from Foremans) – this was a highlight for me – deliciously light and rich all at the same time. We then transitioned from the sea to the land with a mouth-watering Cod fishcake (South Coast fisheries) served with a perfectly poached Woodlands Farm egg on top. The focus then moved to vegetables – served just how I like them – in pastry! The Kent Vegetable and Feta Pide was wonderfully flavoursome, crispy on outside and wholesome in the middle – and yes this did count to my 5 + a day!

The Ginger Pig supplied our next two dishes – succulent Marshland Lamb Noisettes and Yorkshire Longhorn Beef, and it wouldn’t have been a Celebration of British food if the beef wasn’t served with a Yorkshire pud! It was also accompanied by an Onion puree –which gave the dish a subtle sweetness and made it one of the most memorable of the night.

Finally, just as I was feeling as though I had single handily eaten every single morsel of food that had ever been produced in the UK – pudding was served! And unfortunately for my expanding stomach – they had saved the best for last – a Cinnamon and Somerset Cider Apple Doughnut served with Jude’s Peanut Butter Icecream. WOW. God Save the Queen – it was absolutely glorious.

And of course, being a Thursday night in the heart of Soho we didn’t go thirsty either. Starting the night with a Lychee Gimlet – made with King of Soho gin. We then had English bubbles by Coates & Seely to sip on between bites – crisp, light and straight to my head – just the way bubbles should be.

By the end of the night I was well and truly reminded why British food is worth celebrating. Fresh, flavoursome and far too delicious keep to one fortnight.

Cost:

Cocktails £9.5

Entrees £7-£9

Main £11 – £26

Desserts £6