Month: October 2011

Café Direct tasting

Coffee. I love the stuff. Give me a creamy strong Flat White in the morning and I’m happy for the day. But although I love the taste, my knowledge is pretty limited. So I was glad to be invited to a coffee tasting by Café Direct last week. Despite the event being held at L’Atelier des Chefs, I didn’t realise that we would be donning our aprons and showing off our baking prowess. I was half an hour late and when I arrived to a flurry of bloggers running around the kitchen, cracking eggs, melting chocolate and frantically beating butter and sugar, I was confused. I then learned that everyone had paired off and each ‘team’ had been given one of three Café Direct coffees and been asked to create a dish using a host of ingredients provided. I was paired with the lovely Kate from What Kate Baked who had decided, after watching a recent Nigel Slater programme, to make chocolate bark using dried fruit, nuts and fair-trade dark chocolate. I was quite happy …

Bill’s Covent Garden

I have wanted to go for breakfast at Bill’s in Covent Garden for a while. Last week I finally made it down and had a delicious breakfast with Helen. Bill, for those who don’t know, is a man with a true passion for fruit and veg. He started off in a shed donated to him by his father and eventually set up his first café in his hometown of Lewes on the South Coast. There are now five Bill’s cafés dotted around the UK, including the London venue in St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden. Walk into the deli and be wowed by the vibrant colours. Fresh and seasonal vegetables hang from baskets and carefully sourced deli products span from floor to ceiling and include brands such as Brindisa. Olive oil, Ortiz anchovies, paella rice, cakes, you name it. The breakfast menu features dishes such as full English, a veggie version along with sweet offerings such as waffles, eggs any way you want them and even bubble and squeak. Yum. I opted for the full English …

Caravan Exmouth Market – brunch

If you haven’t been for brunch at Caravan yet, I suggest you do. I have reviewed the coffee at Caravan before but this is the time for brunch, finally! Based on the corner of Exmouth Market, Caravan produces the finest coffee and excellent brunch dishes. I visited a few weeks ago, when it was still warm enough to sit outside and enjoyed a leisurely brunch before heading to visit a few of the Design Week exhibitions. Firstly I ordered an orange juice, which I pretty much never do because I don’t trust most places to bring me something freshly squeezed and not five times the price it should be. But I knew Caravan would be different. And it was. The bright orange, bitty, tangy and sweet at the same time was a delight to start with whilst we patiently waited for a table outside. The table came and we sat down. I ordered a flat white and tried to choose my food order carefully. I had a hard time deciding, everything looked good! I had …

Senkai express lunch menu

I adore Japanese cuisine and I love to spend lots of money on it at restaurants but sadly, due to a lack of Japanese culinary knowledge, I very rarely attempt cooking it at home. There was a time in my life when I was addicted to and obsessed with salmon sashimi. I’d buy a pack on my way to work and again at lunchtime so that I could satisfy my weird craving. I’d even have dreams about it – should I be admitting that?! So I jumped at the chance to sample the express menu at the newly opened Senkai on Regent Street. Housed in the old Cocoon, Senkai is a vast space with low ceilings and subtle touches of Japanese influences in the design. The lunch, with a host of other bloggers / journalists was a lovely and light way to end the working week. And I say light with a reason. The express menu has four options, SEAFOOD, VEGETARIAN, RAW and RAW AND ROBATA. I opted for the RAW (£25) as it consisted …

Pearl barley, cavolo nero, beetroot and Goats cheese risotto recipe

I love pearl barley. LOVE it. And if I didn’t love it enough because of how tasty and versatile it is, I love it even more because it is so cheap. It costs roughly 50p for a 500g bag. I have had pearl barley dishes at some of my favourite London restaurants / cafes – Petersham Nurseries, Polpo and Meatballs to name a few, each dish different. Salads, stews, risottos, you name it. I have cooked it a fair few times myself too, most recently with lamb. A few weeks ago I was staying with a friend in Stoke Newington and she introduced me to the best green grocers I have ever come across. Situated on Newington Green, the appropriately and simply titled Newington Green Fruit and Vegetetables sells a wide (and when I say wide, I mean wide) range of vegetables, exitoc fruits, herbs and condiments. And the best thing is the prices. I bought a huge bag of veg for a mere £8, something that would have cost double the price in my …

REALLY GOOEY chocolate chip cookies

Ok so I may already have a few cookie recipes on here, but NONE are as good as this beauty. Seriously, if you like gooey chocolate chip cookies, you’re in for a treat. The addition of golden syrup instead of egg doesn’t just make it sticky and sweet but also soft and utterly moreish. Ingredients • 125g unsalted butter, softened • 100g light muscovado sugar • 2tbsp golden syrup • 1 vanilla pod, de seeded • 160g self-raising flour • 200g dark / milk or white chocolate, cut into chunks Method Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C 1. Beat the butter and sugar together for around 5 minutes until pale 2. Mix the golden syrup into the butter and sugar with the seeds from the vanilla pod 3. Stir in the flour and chocolate chunks until just combined 4. Place the cookie dough on a lined baking tray. Roll it into balls and leave a few cm’s between each one, otherwise they will run into each other when baking and you will end up …

Malmaison Manchester review

It’s back to work today after an extremely eventful weekend and there’s one thing sticking in my mind – the wonderful stay at the Malmaison in Manchester on Friday evening. I was invited to try out the new restaurant and cocktail bar Smoak and Embers, along with an overnight stay. We arrived, threw our bags down and retreated to the buzzing restaurant. We were sat on a table for two right next to another couple who took great pleasure in listening to our conversation more than concentrating on their own. And despite taking pictures of the food themselves on a small compact digital camera, they looked gobsmacked when I got my DSLR out. Luckily they only ordered a main and were gone before our mains arrived. Malmaison Manchester is situated in the heart of Manchester, literally a stones throw away from Piccadilly station and I get the feeling that Smoak is a destination restaurant in it’s own right, rather than just the usual run of the mill hotel restaurants. Having visited the London Malmaison and …