Hash House, San Diego

HI! How are you? I’ve missed you!
I’ve seen you checking and checking and to your dismay, there hasn’t been a peep out of me in months. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you. I had a little fight with WordPress, but after a bit of a battle, I won. And here I am!

I have quite a bit to catch up on, so I thought it best for us to go to brunch: a meal of savoury and sweet delights specifically created for a leisurely waffle, both verbally and edibly.

Let’s try Hash House A Go Go. They started in San Diego back in 2000, and after great success, decided to take their “twisted farm food” and excessive portions across the US, ensuring doctor’s appointments for all. But, if you grab a group of hungry friends and promise not to over order, a veritable feast is sure to be had.
P1040770Here, have a look at the menu, what should we share? P1040756 Sage fried chicken Benedict with split biscuit, fresh tomato, spinach, bacon, mozzarella, chipotle cream, scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes? Are you sure? Seems a little excessive, but… IMG_0592 Oh. my. Benedict. What have we done? P1040761 This monstrosity along with everything else on the menu, should come with a warning. Don’t worry! That little wedge of fresh fruit will counteract any damage this edible mountain inflicts upon its consumer.

You want something sweet? Now I can’t argue with that notion, but after this? Maybe there’s something reasonable we could sugar up on.
P1040757This, my friend, is possibly the most decadent trap of a flapjack and waffle menu I have ever seen. Snickers pancakes, you insist?
P1040765 Sold. P1040767Cue the food coma and slow creep of remorse that blankets your immobile body only when tempted by delectable options of vast food items. Having pried ourselves from the table, we made our way to the ocean, ready to join a passing pod of humpbacks.P1000188With no signs of our massive, blubbery friends, we walked along the coast instead. P1000192 P1000199 P1000204If you’re in San Diego and have an obscene appetite, give Hash House A Go Go a go…
They’ve branched out at an alarming rate, so check out their site as there could be a bountiful brunch near you.

It’s good to be back. Consider the following posts as a succession of throwback Thursdays that fall on any given day of the week, and I look forward to catching up with you soon!

Le Bab

Have you ever wondered what comes next after the gourmet burger, gourmet hot dog, and dare I say it, the gourmet taco?
Wonder no more food loving friends, next to be perched upon the tiny, edible pedestal is the much-loved kebab.
Le Bab, a compact, new kebab restaurant has already been painfully popular sitting pretty atop Kingly Court.

Rid your mind of the dirty, late night, grease-fuelled indulgence sloppily shaved from a medieval contraption, used to absorb one too many shots of Russia’s finest export. But before we delve down the path of midnight mistakes, I’ll give you a little injection of culture with some of London’s most handsome structures.  IMG_4526After giving a talk at the University I once attended, I found myself exceptionally early for my dinner date. Rather than jump on the tube, I opted for a wintery stroll. This lead to a lengthy trip across the city, reigniting the ever flickering flame in the depths of my soul for this exceptional city. IMG_4471But you’re not here for the cityscape, you’re here for the bab boys that are having foodies’ feeds all aflutter. We’ve got another example of fine dining going rogue following Le Bab owners’ Michelin-starred stint at Le Gavroche. Having survived the latest wave of junk food gone gourmet, they took their interest for the history of the kebab, sprinkled a little experience, and have taken the restaurant plunge. IMG_4474With a charmingly small menu, broken up by beginnings, babs, sides and dessert, you can’t really go wrong. I must insist, however, you try the achingly trendy savoury doughnuts stuffed with spiced chicken liver parfait.  IMG_4476As seen on instagram @Alessandra_LDNIMG_4493And the best kind of falafel: one stuffed stuffed with tender lamb meat and deliciously seasoned. IMG_4481IMG_4483Ready for the main event, a rustic flat bread arrived topped with gourmet fixings. IMG_4485We went for the corn fed chicken shish, served with squash hummus, seasonal pickles, chicken crackling and Turkish hot pepper paste.
Do you see what I mean? Not your average bab. IMG_4490The flavours were incredible and level of guilt shockingly low. IMG_4498Despite the naughty side of chips served with a cheesy fondue sauce, which the lovely Jaia willingly helped me destroy. IMG_4497Next time you’re ready to cause some daylight damage with an edible indulgence, seek out Le Bab and give in to your delicious desires.

Best Bites of 2015

Well, hello there. Yes, yes, happy new year. How much longer must we go on saying this? But really, when is it socially acceptable to stop wishing people a happy year, because I don’t want to get half way into February optimistically encouraging peoples’ vibes. Basically, I hope your year is happy, healthy and successful, but I’m probably not going to say it again.

Now that it’s a new year, it’s fun to look back on memories close to the heart. Yes, I’m talking about those fond moments of foodporn. All those resolutions you made to eat healthier, get to the gym and steer clear of the sugar? I wish you luck, my friend, because by the end of this post, you’ll need something substantial to come down off the filthy high of discreet foodporn browsing. Last year was indeed a gluttonous one, so join me in looking back on some of my best bites of 2015.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 It started on a sweet note, indulging in the expert confectionary of Yauatcha‘s dessert counter. An assortment of my favourite macarons, and some of the most beautifully intricate and flavourful pastries and cakes. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015East London gem Lyle’s, serving up elegant British cuisine, hosted Parisienne chef James Henry, with a menu of cured meats, perfectly prepared fish and noteworthy veg. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Bone Daddies previous pop-up joint that now permanently resides in Soho, Shackfuyu, had heads turning and instagrams posting. Prawn toast masquerading as okonomiyaki topped with bonito flakes was particularly great, but we all know this mention is about the best dressed on the menu. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The kinako-style french toast with a stacked side of green tea soft serve stole the limelight of social media channels in a paparazzi-like frenzy. Lime green swirls atop pretty blue china appearing in every frame of each drawn out scroll. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The Clove Club, claimed to serve often overlooked ingredients with British flair, stirred the pot with their buttermilk fried chicken topped with pine salt. This arrives nestled amongst pine needles, cushioning the crispy morsels of tender meat. A moreish treat, indeed. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Inspired by the changing seasons, Claridge’s resident Fera serves a sensational tasting menu of expertly executed dishes in stunning receptacles. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Although my passion for food involves tasting, judging and critiquing dishes to myself and amongst my dining partners, I have often been told I’m much more judgemental when it comes to dessert. Now, I don’t know that this is due to my significant sweet tooth, that I feel the need to seriously scrutinise the sugary details, but it’s rare that I’m pleasantly surprised by pudding. However, I must admit, Fera’s aerated yoghurt and rhubarb dessert is a sensational treat – both complex and flavourful, leaving a memorable impression.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Worldwide, Japanese hotspot Zuma creates some of the most visually appealing plates of expertly prepared meats, fish and vegetables. This particular masterpiece had delicately combined pieces of lobster, wagyu, crab, truffles, broccolini and peppers.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Three Michelin-starred Epicure, the masterpiece of Chef Eric Frechon, served another most memorable dish of the year. Caviar from Sologne topped ratte potato mousseline flavoured with smoked haddock and served with a buckwheat crisp stuffed with sourcream and chives.Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 A luscious bite indeed. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015The spotlight shone, however, on their most popular dish: foie gras filled macaroni with black truffle. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Three of the most perfect macaroni served with a heavenly filling. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Last year it was decided that fried chicken topped Belgian waffles with truffle salt and maple syrup should be a mandatory brunch item (by me). Luckily, London’s Hot Box feels the same way. This perfect combination of sweet and savoury is what brunch is all about.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Yashin Sushi, my favourite sushi spot in London, touts their delicious sushi as best consumed “without soy sauce”. However they serve it, I’ll eat it, because this fish is beyond phenomenal. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Taiwanese street food place, Bao London, served up a threesome you want to be involved with. Lamb shoulder with jalapeño, confit pork with sticky sweet sauce and fried chicken with sichuan mayo and golden kimchi were unbelievable bites worthy of the overindulgence. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Although their Taiwanese take on blood pudding wasn’t the tastiest bite of 2015, it was certainly foodporn popular. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 This beauty was one of my favourite bites of 2015. Rabbit Restaurant’s pickled mackerel with potato and anchovy is a flavour and texture combination I’ve since craved on numerous occasions. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Ottolenghi’s Nopi creates a myriad of phenomenal flavour combinations topped with stunning spices, but the simplicity of this burrata and peach with coriander seeds and plum wine was a definite winner. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Another dessert worthy of a shoutout, Polpetto‘s chocolate flan with freshly made crème fraîche. Simple, clean flavours with a powerful punch of chocolate is enough to make you swoon.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Camden market resident, The Frenchie, turns heads with its duck confit sandwich, topped with crispy duck-skin scratchings, rocket, mustard, red-onion chutney, goat’s cheese and truffle honey, all piled atop a brioche bun. A proper mouthful. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Whilst galavanting ’round Europe this summer, a particularly memorable meal was that of a picnic in Budapest. The air was thick, sun was hot and our feet growing heavy with each step. We soon stumbled upon Nagyvásárcsarnok, or the Great Market Hall, a restored neogothic hall where food traders now sell products and ingredients from their stalls. We picked and pondered over each stand, leaving with our arms loaded with goodies, before finding a shaded bench near the Danube. Sweet knotted bread, spicy meats, milky Hungarian goat’s cheese and sour cherries warmed by the sun made for the most enjoyable snack. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015King of the world of pastry (sounds like a fairytale land I’d like to reside in) Paris has long since been crowned for its patisserie production. Established in 1903, Angelina’s signature pastry, the mont-blanc has been creating queues as far as the eye can see, and stomach can bear to stand. But it’s all worth the wait for a bite of this sumptuous combination of meringue, whipped cream, chestnut cream vermicelli. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Another moment of picnic perfection involved lazily lounging in the Jardin du Luxembourg nibbling on meats, pâté, goats cheese, Brie, cherries, peaches, figs, fresh baguette and the pièce de résistance, an excessive amount of Pierre Hermé macarons. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Amsterdam is internationally known for its Indonesian fare, and I have to say that Kantjil & de Tiger is the best I’ve ever had. Each dish more flavourful than the last, the tender meats and saucy vegetables combined for an enjoyable feast.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Upon recommendation, another delightful find amongst the picturesque canals of Amsterdam, lies the little gelateria IJscuypje. With hazelnut, speculoos and milk chocolate gelato piled high, I uttered a statement I never thought would escape my lips so far from the Italian motherland. This is the best gelato everBest Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015One of my favourite sky-high spots is the much loved Duck & Waffle. With sugar spiced ox cheek stuffed doughnuts served in apricot jam, what’s not to love?  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 This grilled asparagus with smoked buttermilk curd, dandelion and pickled walnut was a special I won’t soon forget. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Another one of my all-time favourite brunch dishes, silky Turkish eggs served with yogurt and chilli oil, can be found tucked away in Covent Garden at KopapaBest Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Only in America’s capital, Washington DC, can something this indulgent be found. Good Stuff Eatery’s toasted marshmallow and red velvet milkshakes are worth slowly sipping into a caloric coma.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Bring on the brain freeze! Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Switch coasts to California for a cult-like love of burger fanship. In-N-Out may not be the best burger on earth, (calm down, burger snobs) but the freshness of the ingredients and addition of salt-scented ocean air beats your fine dining fat feast any day. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 I finally made it to Los Angeles’ star-studded Gjelina last year, and man was it worth the wait. The quality of ingredients are incredible, with a pretty awesome kale salad representing the Californian flair. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The wood roasted cauliflower with garlic, vinegar and chilli really makes you want to eat your veg.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015And the eggplant caponata with burrata on toast, as well as the gruyere and caramelised onion pizza were dough-topped delights worthy of the after effect.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015At Manhattan Beach Post, there’s a mandatory order of bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits with maple butter. Promise me, should you ever visit MBP, you will not leave the premises without trying these biscuity bad boys? Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015The pomegranate couscous with lavender feta, Marcona almonds, grapefruit and mint is really special, as well. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015With my casual burrito obsession flexed to the fullest whilst residing on the West Coast, I popped into Lucha Libre Taco Shop to see what all the fuss was about. The Surf & Turf burrito comes with steak, shrimp, rice, potatoes and secret chipotle sauce. A tip of the hat to you, you absolute burrito babes.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015We then kicked it old school at El Indio, the family owned Mexican restaurant that’s been serving San Diego for 75 years. This California burrito is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever had.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Why have one burrito, when you can have three? Yes, it’s a bit absurd to have three burritos on my list of highlighted dishes. But if you think about it, is it really? The final tortilla encased bliss can be found tucked away in a seaside town in Baja California, Mexico. At this little side of the road taco shop called Magañas, you can find the quesotaco, a burrito filled with succulent rotisserie chicken, beans, onion, cilantro, and a salsa so fiery, you’ll sniffle your way through every bite.

That’s it people. Your diet is over, goals squashed, and resolutions railroaded. Rather than wish you a happy new year, I wish you a happy food year. Happy eating and good luck with those resolutions! Let me know any must-try dishes for 2016 and where you’re most looking forward to eating in the comments below, or tweet me @Alessandra_LDN 

Taste of London Winter 2015

Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit more than an afternoon of great music, buzzing atmosphere and festive feasting. This year, Tobacco Dock played host to another round of Taste of London Winter (can we please go back to calling it Taste of Christmas?). The halls were decked with tinsel, Christmas trees lined railings, lights and decorations hung from the rafters, and it was characteristically freezing – an element I would’ve happily sacrificed. Nevertheless, we bundled up and soldiered on, fuelling ourselves on this year’s gastronomic fare.
Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015The Truscott Arms started the afternoon on a delicious note with several winter warming dishes.
Taste of London Winter 2015This take on colcannon was filled with creamy ragstone and topped with basil oil and fried kale – an edible hug in a bowl.
Taste of London Winter 2015Moreish bites of crispy pig’s head were served with a sweet apple puree. The meat was really flavourful and paired perfectly with the tart contrast of the applesauce, bites I could happily replace popcorn with whilst watching a film.
Taste of London Winter 2015 Their icon dish was the most tender piece of beef cheek, served swimming in a pool of smoked mash, topped with crispy shallots. Taste of London Winter 2015 Over at The Bandstand, some really talented bands kept the vibe cool as we wiggled our way around the stalls. Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Room was stunningly decorated and filled with minglers slowly sipping their bubbles before braving the cold again.
Taste of London Winter 2015Over at The Fire Pit, Mike Lecouteur from Mews of Mayfair was barbecuing meat fit for a monster, alongside a creamy bowl of lobster macaroni and cheese. Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015 Gordon Ramsey’s Maze played ring around the Big Green Egg, with a wrapping queue of BBQ fiends eager to get their paws on slow cooked BBQ pulled beef on a brisket bun. Taste of London Winter 2015The perfect combination of sweet and tangy of BBQ sauce and tender beef rested on a fluffy bun ready for a bite, after removing the pickle, of course…
Taste of London Winter 2015 Kurobuta served their famous BBQ pork belly buns with spicy peanut soy sauce, one of my favourite flavour combinations, despite the cold weather getting the best of the chilly bun.

Awesome charity Action Against Hunger teamed up with five star chefs to create 5* kebabs.Taste of London Winter 2015We opted for Francesco Mazzei’s spicy veal meatballs with Grana Padano and salted padron peppers.  Taste of London Winter 2015 Having experienced a feast fit for a queen, it was time I took my place on the throne… Taste of London Winter 2015 I think it rather suits me, don’t you? Winter is coming… and so is hibernation at this rate. Taste of London Winter 2015 The HBO stall even had a gingerbread scale of King’s Landing! I considered attempting my own form of attack by taking out the towers and eating them one by one… but resigned to a hunt for less destructive dessert.
Taste of London Winter 2015

Glistening in the glow of winter light, Club Gascon was serving some winter-themed treats.Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015We went for the oversized black forest macaron, filled with brandy soaked cherries, dark chocolate mousse and chestnut cream.
Taste of London Winter 2015 We watched, mesmerised, as Pan-N-Ice chopped, slathered and rolled ice cream into rolls. Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015 This Thai-style method was enticing, but I was too cold to even consider a frozen treat. Taste of London Winter 2015 Sari Cakes hand-decorates each fruit cake inspired by ancient henna creations.
Taste of London Winter 2015 Vicetti’s homemade tarts were beautifully presented, with great flavour combinations. Taste of London Winter 2015The much loved Meringue Girls hosted Saturday’s dessert bar, but were sold out of the good stuff hours before closing. I really wanted a Nutella Cookiemuff topped with vanilla ice cream and salted hazelnut honeycomb crumble, ya know? Taste of London Winter 2015Instead, we waddled our way back to Maze for fried doughnuts swimming in a beautifully tart clementine curd.
Taste of London Winter 2015Taste of London still sits firmly atop my event list. This year saw the least amount of restaurants, but the venue looked beautiful, food was all delicious, atmosphere was amazing, and overall I’d have to give it an A… ^ get it?

I can’t wait to see who turns up to Taste of London 2016! Who’s ready for Christmas?

Taste of London 2015

Remember London back in June, when the sun shone gloriously on upturned, smiling faces? People spilled into the streets, joyously sharing a pint or two of Pimm’s, lovebirds skipped arm-in-arm through the park, and boats sailed gracefully up the Thames – every drop of sunlight absorbed and every ounce of Vitamin D enjoyed. The winds have changed, literally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look back on the summer season with fondness. Especially with a flashback to my favourite food-filled event, Taste of London, which is now kicking of with its winter sister, creatively referred to as: Taste of London Winter. To help get you in the mood for the weekend long feast, let’s look back at the main event.  Taste of London 2015I grabbed my dining partner in crime, and made our way to Regent’s Park for an afternoon of gourmand delight. Taste of London 2015Taste of London 2015We first said hello to our burger buddies from across the pond, Shake Shack, guarded by smiling faces, including this posing beauty.
Taste of London 2015After snacking and sampling from an incredible selection of stalls, we stopped by Australian tea brand, T2 Tea
Taste of London 2015
They had a buzzing stall pumping out music and pouring out samples of an endless variety of loose leaf teas.Taste of London 2015We filled up on our favourites before hunting down more treats to try.
Taste of London 2015East London’s star in the sky, Duck & Waffle, were dishing up the classics. Taste of London 2015We decided Duck & Waffle’s Chef de Cuisine, Tom Cenci, looked like a giant chef taking over the Swiss Re building.Taste of London 2015An obligatory order of the duck and waffle never fails to satisfy.
Have you seen Daniel Doherty’s cookbook, yet? Perfect Christmas gift for the foodie in the family, and quite the bargain. Taste of London 2015We couldn’t resist some bacon wrapped dates with linguica and manchego. The perfect combination of sweet and savoury – these filling bites are like candy for adults.
Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015Before heading for Round 2, we chilled Mahiki-style in the sun whilst rocking to the beat. Taste of London 2015We soon spotted our other friends from across the pond, New York-style Chop Shop had some wonderfully meaty offerings.Taste of London 2015Creekstone Farms USDA hanger steak was served with a whipped Parmesan & Dijon mustard dressing. Taste of London 2015And smoked creamed corn with barbecued beef short ribs embodied comfort food on a plate.
Taste of London 2015 For those looking to top up with some bubbles, Laurent-Perrier‘s Champagne garden was overflowing with people watchers, and later offered a Champagne Masterclass. Taste of London 2015Lured by the scent of smoking BBQ, we squeezed past the growing queue of Roka‘s Robata grill where Korean spiced lamb cutlets sizzled away.
Taste of London 2015 L’Autre Pied offered elegant portions of scallop ceviche with cucumber, balsamic, crème fraîche and dill. Taste of London 2015And The Truscott Arms served up comforting plates of beautifully cooked beef cheek served with smoked mash and crispy shallots. Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015We made our way to José Pizarro where pieces of acorn fed Jamón Ibérico were being expertly sliced straight from the leg.  Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015The Palomar oozed cool, serving Israeli influenced specialities from the much favourited restaurant. Taste of London 2015I couldn’t resist one of my favourite dishes of Shakshukit, a deconstructed kebab of minced beef and lamb served with yoghurt, tahini, watercress pesto, tapenade, Harrisa and a mini pita, all bursting with flavour.
Taste of London 2015Chris Thompson, Duck & Waffle protégé, cooked up something fit for the Flintstones, but happily devoured by my dining partner and I. Other foodies greedily looked on, all asking eagerly where they could get their hands on the succulent braised short rib, smothered in vibrant jalapeño miso sauce.
Taste of London 2015Switching tracks to the sweet side, we visited Tredwell’s for some salted caramel soft serve, topped with ginger cake crumble. Taste of London 2015 Taste of London 2015And made sure we said hello to Chef Marcus Wareing, himself. Taste of London 2015
Close to bursting but looking to satisfy our sweet tooth with a final treat, we tried Duck & Waffle’s buttermilk and corn mousse with pistachio and toffee for one last bite.
Taste of London 2015Now that you’re suitably armed with a fair share of foodporn, who’s making their way to Taste of London Winter this weekend? Warning: sunshine not included.

Bao

You’re hungry.
You want copious amount of food that will comfort your stomach, ease your mind and soothe your soul.
I hear you’re dealing with a tube strike in London (I’m on a beach in California, not sorry), so now, more than ever, you need an edible hug.

Take yourself to Soho, get your bum on a seat at Bao – thank me later.
(You can do this via twitter, instagram, or carrier pidgeon – should they be able to make the cross-Atlantic, cross-country trip to my beach-lounging bodyBaoThis could be you right now ^
This is also what I looked like a few weeks ago – on a Saturday afternoon, after being at the front of the queue, ready to consume some Taiwanese deliciousness.
Yes, there’s usually a queue. BaoI’ll let you have a perusal, mentally make your order before you view the influx of food porn.
BaoWe started with some 10-year aged, coal baked oolong tea. A very civilised accompaniment for the savagery that was to ensue.
BaoThen it became a free-for-all. Taiwanese fried chicken with hot sauce kicked off the feast with a lovely crunch and welcome spiciness. Bao Trotter nuggets are worthy of a foot fetish – tender fried pork ready to be dunked in a fiery chilli sauce. BaoWhether or not you can take the heat, a sip of iced peanut milk is a palate pleasing refresher.

Prepare to BAO DOWN BITCHES. BaoLamb shoulder bao is incredibly tender, with a citrusy sauce and bites of jalapeño. Bao Confit pork bao was ever the winner with a sweet, sticky sauce and delightful crunch of fried pork scratchings. BaoAnd fried chicken bao, with sichuan mayo and golden kimchi.
Bao This is a threesome you want to be involved with. BaoThis dish is the thing food porn dreams are made of.
Pig blood cake is a Taiwanese take on black pudding, topped with a charming looking orb of egg yolk – ready to be satisfyingly burst, causing an attractive ooze of golden yolk.
Bao Bao *Angels sing*BaoThis, my now starving friend, is 40 day rump cap with aged white soy sauce. Tender beautiful bites of meat that truly melt in your mouth – worthy of ordering twice should your dining partner be skilled with their chopsticks. BaoObligatory order of sweet potato chips with plum pickle salt – as I can never deny my mouth the sweet taste of this confused tuber.
Bao Guinea fowl Chi Shiang rice is a bowl of comfort. Again, hope for the downfall of your dining partner’s chopstick skill.

Should you still have the ability to move, let alone consume something sweet, vacate this daring little joint and head for Crosstown Doughnut’s new Soho spot. Bao Given your travel predicament, order them all, share with stranded Londoners, and maybe moan slightly less about your four hour journey home given your sugar high state.Bao BaoHowever you choose to deal with London’s lovely shut down, be sure to make your way to Bao… and tell me all a-BAO-t it.

HOTBOX

I’ve already told you, I’m not cool enough for East London.

It feels a bit like visiting that edgy exhibition that pushes boundaries, makes you question the uncomfortable, and leaves you feeling a bit twitchy behind the rope to either touch, photograph or stare what is inexplicably defined as art.
This is how I feel as soon as I cross central, emerging into the depths of the über trendy, often strange realm of what is East.

The thing is, these cool kids are knocking out some damn good food – and to my delight, they tend to be cooking up something wickedly naughty. Cue HOTBOX.

This isn’t new. In fact, if you’re a clever cookie, you’ve already been tempted by the foodporn and made your way to Spitalfields for a feast of epic proportion. This is what I did, and forgot to tell you about it. I’m sorry, I’ve been busy! Don’t give me that look, you’ve had your fair share of foodporn via my Instagram & Twitter @Alessandra_LDN… so no complaining.

HOTBOXHere’s your menu, have a little browse and try to control yourself for the cravings to come. Maybe you can even guess what I’ve ordered… although, unfortunately, it wasn’t one of everything. After serious debate, reasoning and compromise, we made our choice. HOTBOXThis particular brunch managed to tick all my brunch boxes: savoury, sweet, filthy, indulgent, and naughty, with a side of comfort.
HOTBOX

We started with a special that sounded too tempting to pass up: slow-cooked beef brisket sandwiched between sweet brioche buns, topped with homemade coleslaw and pickles. HOTBOX

Accompanied by a skillet of creamy mac & cheese, with a perfectly crispy, crunchy top. HOTBOX Beef rib tacos with crispy shallot, rocket, chipotle mayo and chimichurri – good enough for me to admit they satisfied my Mexican food standards. Ay yi yi, I could’ve eaten this all over again. HOTBOXHOTBOX HOTBOX

Last to compete for foodporn glory, the chicken and Belgian waffle. A fried chicken thigh with truffle salt atop a fluffy Belgian waffle, begging to be drizzled with maple syrup. HOTBOXThe action shot of your foodporn fantasies.
HOTBOXThat’s a pretty attractive lineup, if you ask me.

The servers are lovely, and the atmosphere lively, with the extreme comfort food even influencing a few diners to break out in song. Crawl there hungry on a Sunday morning, and I promise your every indulgent desire will be met.

Afterwards, wander around the streets to walk off your aching stomach and admire the aforementioned art: perplexing fashion, captivating street art and stylish shops selling something hip in a vast amount of space, mocking the extortionate rent prices elsewhere.
HOTBOX If you’re in the area, be sure to check out Mast Brothers.
These Brooklyn brothers are artisan chocolate makers, with a factory flagship located in Shoreditch. HOTBOXHOTBOX Tour their chocolate factory, sip special hot chocolate and make sure to pick up some pretty-papered bars as a gift for a friend or sweet treat when you finally come down off your brunch high. The goat milk chocolate bar was a personal favourite, and I’ve been a particularly good friend lately…

Bone Daddies | Shackfuyu

Bone Daddies bad boys have done it again.
You sort of want to tell them to knock it off – we get it, you’re particularly skilled at cooking up Japanese street food, serving it in a rock’n’roll location and flooding our senses with absurd cravings at all hours of the night.
If you’ve been to their latest pop-up, Soho love child Shackfuyu, you already know what I’m talking about. A certain swirled something with vibrant colouring and a wickedly naughty twist: the ‘most instagramed dish’ as of late.
(This is no joke, go search #shackfuyu on instagram – oh, and whilst you’re there, give @alessandra_LDN a follow)
But, no dessert before lunch!

We began with an admirable assortment.
There’s no civilised order to this affair. It all arrived in a flurry of rising steam, sizzling meats and a spicy sweet scent filling the air. A jar of homemade yuzu mayo and angry looking chilli oil decorated the gaps between the onslaught of china and dish ware.

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Note my dining partner’s commendable attempt at food styling with subtle insertion of logo…

Shackfuyu

Fiery, fried chicken wings were more crispy batter than meat, in a good way, and the sauce is finger-licking delicious.

Shackfuyu

Miniature tostadas were ordered as a reminder of home. Fresh, fleshy chunks of yellowtail placed atop a smooth guacamole, topped with jalapeño and a dash of hot sauce. This gave me a pang of homesickness for the kind of Mexican-Japanese fusion California has so lovingly abused and embraced.

Shackfuyu

A cast-iron skillet of marinated beef arrived angrily hissing, topped with sour snaps of kimchi to accompany each perfectly cooked bite. (medium-rare, obviously)

Shackfuyu

This thing, controversially placed on its decorative dish, is actually prawn toast masquerading as okonomiyaki. Japanese street food at its finest. An indulgent bite served with tobiko, yuzu mayo and chives.

Shackfuyu

A steaming miniature cauldron (okay fine, it was a stone hot pot, but cauldron sounds cooler), announced its arrival with billowing steam and an intoxicating smell. A steaming pot of hot stone rice, continuing to fry at the bottom from the heat of the bowl, was mixed with chargrilled sweetcorn, beef and goma butter. This is the kind of dish you can’t stop picking at, with nibbles being snuck between conversation.
ShackfuyuWho could resist this?

ShackfuyuFinally, there she is. A thing of beauty.
Matcha soft serve with Kinako-style French toast. I won’t go on about it, because you’ve read about and seen its neon green presence flooding your social media channels. But you must admit, it is good looking.

Shackfuyu

I’ve had a stroke of genius. French toast is a breakfast food and matcha is a super food, so technically you should be consuming this for breakfast daily for a super lifestyle.
You’re welcome.

In need of a walk following our casual carb-fest, we strolled London streets away from Soho towards Holborn’s hipster hotspot, Hubbard & Bell.

Hubbard & Bell
Here I attempted to undo the afternoon’s damage with a green juice, packed with kale, cucumber, celery, lemon, spinach, ginger, apple, pineapple and parsley, whilst watching bearded cool kids click away on their MacBooks. Having reached my fill of delicious food and conversation, I left my date and wandered down to China Town.

Guess what I found?
Sriracha

This isn’t any old Sriracha… it’s SUPER HOT CHILLI SRIRACHA. This is no joke, just as delicious drizzled over just about everything… but to be used with a bit more caution than my regular Sriracha smothering, as it is seriously fiery.

Royal Academy of Arts

Before ending an ideal day in lovely London, I spotted Rubens sculptures decorating the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Great food, good finds, cool company and attractive art – London truly is the best city in the world.

Chop Shop

There’s something about a place that doesn’t even pretend to be good for you that I openly, unashamedly appreciate. A blunt show off, proudly catering to your filthy desires in a confined space of misbehaviour and indulgence. With a New York-cool façade, imported from our neighbours across the pond, Chop Shop is the Haymarket heartthrob tempting you to act upon your lustful inclinations.

Start at the bar, where Vlad will help you pick your poison and shake up a house cocktail, spiked with sweet and sour accompaniments.
P1020795The Passione Arrabiata is a sinfully sweet combination of chilli-infused tequila, tart passion fruit and a generous squeeze of lime. Ask nicely and you can have yours altered to be less naughty – or more! Chop ShopHaving sipped your liquid courage, venture past the wall of embedded butcher’s knives into the New York-inspired, London-embraced interior; a world of contradictorily edgy comfort. The obvious, exposed brick walls are lit by immense, reclaimed tiles, softening the warehouse feel.

P1020798P1020799But, you’re not here for the cool interior. You’re here for an indulgence of impressive scale with thoughtful twists on satisfying classics. And that’s exactly what you’ll get.
The menu is dominated by a tantalising list of chops and steaks, accompanied by a selection of jars, crocks, planks and other cutely named serving styles we’ve grown annoyingly fond of. IMG_1584A pretty pot of white onion mousse with parmesan and chervil oil is easily slathered on toasted chunks of grilled sourdough.

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As well as duck liver mousse, cut with fruit mostarda. These were a comforting introduction to the evening’s feasting, a toe in the pool before diving head first into gluttony.

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Crispy hot wings kicked in protest with their addictive, fiery sauce, made even more irresistible when drowned in Cashel blue cheese dip.

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The showstopper of all starters, if such decadence can even be labelled as such, was a wicked dish of cottage pasta pie. Hidden beneath a molten layer of cheese were tiny, tender bites of basil gnocchi accompanied by tender pieces of braised oxtail. This was one of those dishes you pine for once finished.

IMG_1602Temporary sorrow was soon replaced with predatory instinct as a carnivorous dream arrived at the table. A veritable feast fit for a table of ravenous kings and queens, complete with 35-day aged Cumbrian bone-in sirloin for two, a patty melt sandwich of dry-aged beef burger smothered in onions and cheese, market fish with pea and pancetta, and an immense pork chop.

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American-sourced Creekstone USDA hanger steak was tender perfection, an easy winner, which was subtly fought for with rapidly darting forks across the table.

IMG_1595The steaks and chops can be excessively topped with things like fried eggs, roasted garlic, red wine bone marrow sauce, and even a vodka bacon peppercorn sauce. However, none of this is truly needed for such finely sourced meat. An obligatory order of fried onion rings and rosemary chips played accessory to the mass consumption, as well as honeyed carrots and creamed spinach.
P1020815Even the vegetables are impure in this place.
P1020816Tempting coronary implosion, we stuck around for dessert. A glass of butterscotch custard with salted caramel and Chantilly cream was sweetly satisfying, but gobbled up too quickly for me to snap a shot. Chop ShopSticky date pudding was a necessary evil to end the feast, each bite a decadent squeeze dripping with warm toffee sauce.

Chop Shop is the cool kid on the block, looking to lure you and get you hooked. Service, lead by the charming Alastair Gallichan, is welcoming and knowledgeable, with friendly staff willing you to succumb to temptation. Give it a visit and tag me in your food porn @Alessandra_LDN so I can ensure you’re sinning correctly.

The Tommy Tucker

I’m not a pub kinda girl.
I know it’s terribly un-English of me to not yearn for weekend roasts and post-work pints in the sticky sweet atmosphere overflowing with chattering murmur, interrupted by outbursts of laughter and clinking glasses. And yes, I know it’s terribly un-American to not be enchanted by the familiar interiors, charming quirks and stories told by that local who can always be found perched upon his post. But, the environment aside, it is unsurprisingly, all about the food. The sad, repetitive menus listing average dishes are no less comforting to me than a lukewarm bubble bath.

But, what about the rise of the gastropub! you shout at me through your screen, shaking with rage behind your mug of tea – which is fair enough, as I might as well have insulted HM The Queen, given the importance of this fine English institution.  

Now that I’ve finished shuddering at your use of the term ‘gastropub’, I will reluctantly agree that yes, the incessant turnaround of rundown pubs being seized by culinary crews and reborn with fresh licks of paint, creative interiors and friendly front of house have undeniably improved these tedious establishments. It’s not often, however, that the food shines through with creativity, elevation or elegance.

Well Londoners, I’ve found one.
A pub that aims to please, The Tommy Tucker has set up shop in the side streets of Fulham. Here, the perfect mix of rustic charm and culinary finesse is headed up by the band of boys behind Parsons Green sweetheart, Claude’s Kitchen. Tommy Tucker I’m sure you’ve heard of this much-loved local by now, as every West Londoner has been singing its praises. I decided to swallow my preconceived disdain, and skipped down to meet the lovely Seb and Jaia for supper. The Tommy TuckerThe menu is divided into meat, fish, fruit & veg, and on the side. Each dish is accompanied by a selection of thoughtful ingredients, including pickled beetroot, mushroom ketchup, lavender jus, Jerusalem artichokes and salsa verde, all of which make foodie me tingle. The Tommy TuckerTo start, I went for an obligatory order of pickled pumpkin and goats curd with winter herbs and spices. The pumpkin is crunchy with a sweet sharpness, perfectly paired with subtle flavouring from the goats curd.The Tommy TuckerThe Tommy TuckerMy dates went for girolle mushrooms on grilled sourdough with watercress and shaved Berkswell cheese. The Tommy TuckerAnd scallops with chorizo, radishes and its leaves, both of which were delicious, and prompt me to recommend you order all the starters to share between the table, as this left me greedily wanting to try them all.

Ready for more, our mains were served with a side of congeniality, present across all the staff here. The Tommy TuckerMy smoked beef short-rib was served with arrocina ‘baked beans’ and black olives, topped with salsa verde. The Tommy TuckerThe meat was so tender it was falling off the bone, and was lifted by the acidity of the salsa verde and olive.The Tommy TuckerJ went for ‘Rub-a-Dub’ Burger with smoked mayo and pickled vegetables, which somehow managed to look attractive with its pretty playmates of tart veg. The Tommy TuckerSeb completed our proper meaty feast with an order of pork chop served with charred hispi, bacon and apples. The Tommy TuckerOur bit on the side was several orders of deliciously moreish chips and a tad overly sweetened sweet potato mash. The Tommy Tucker Wander downstairs to the loos and find the namesake’s nursery rhyme. Be sure to also check out the ‘Tuck Shop’, a temperature controlled jewel box of fine wines painstakingly tried and tasted one sip at a time. The Tommy Tucker Because all good things end with pudding, (my new saying), we decided to check out the sweet treats. The Tommy TuckerAn adult version of choc ice is served with raisin and rum infused ice cream is sure to bring back wicked memories of childhood misbehaviour. The Tommy TuckerThis is far to difficult to eat in a civilised manner with a fork and spoon, so I advise you pick it up with your fingers and go for it. Offer any horrified neighbours a bite and I’m sure they’ll understand, or ignore their judgemental looks as they sound completely dull anyways. Be sure to dip in the accompanying salted caramel cream, almonds and their milk. The Tommy TuckerThe Cox apple and quince crispy pie is served with cinnamon and milk ice cream. This underwhelming title does not do the delicate dessert justice. I mean just look at it – it deserves more than its three-lettered moniker. I have decidedly renamed it ‘apple parcel of love’. This is accompanied by a spicy crumble, which everyone seems to enjoy. My batch was a little heavy on the cumin, so I happily scooted it to the side and focused on the pastry parcel. The Tommy Tucker The Tommy Tucker Poached red plums with spiced rye crumble, lemon posset and lemon curd is like a work of art. I love the vibrant colouring of the lemon and wintery vibes of the poached plums, but will be ordering mine without the crumble next time.

By now we were at the heavy breathing stage, the giddy state of overfed and sugar high, basking in the candlelight and buzzing atmosphere. The Tommy TuckerSomeone in the kitchen happened to know I have a particular fondness for the salted caramel cream and naughtily sent us a plate piled high with the sugary cloud decadent  dreams are made of. We tenderly spooned several bites before surrendering.

The Tommy Tucker is deservedly becoming the adored local it so effortlessly emulates. They have a killer cocktail list pleasing the new generation of pub-goers who no longer search solely for beer stained nights, and a menu more than worthy of setting foot in a pub! Check out @TheTommyTucker and let me know what you think @Alessandra_LDN