London Daze

As the harsh a’s, slipped like’s and occasional misuse of the term fanny are detected laced throughout my conversation, I’m often asked, “Where are you from?”
America is assumed. They probe deeper, faces lighting as California rolls off my tongue. The story of that time they visited LA during their gap year quivers at the ready, before furrowed eyebrows and sinking corners of the mouth interject. “Then, what are you doing here?!” is almost bellowed at me as their eyes bulge a little in their bewildered sockets.
I tend to insert a nervous giggle here, to diffuse the tension and prepare my defence. But, I shouldn’t bloody have to! Yes, California is full of beautiful beaches, gleaming rays of sunshine and people with sparkling, white smiles – and London, is full of crowded streets, grey, cloud littered skies and questionable grimaces on the pale faces of commuters… but there’s so much more to it!
It’s a European metropolis of diverse culture, epicurean delights and endless activity. It’s truly one of my favourite cities in the world and I’m reminded all the time of how lucky I am to live in such a cool place. For those of you that do not live in London and even for those that do, I love getting to share my adventures around this sweet city with you. So snuggle up, grab a cup of tea and maybe even a snack. It’s time I catch you up on my latest escapades.

London Daze

This particular Sunday started as most should: with brunch. There are few things as perfect and decadent as baked eggs to start your day. These from Eelbrook are served with yoghurt, harissa and grilled flatbread for a deliciously Middle Eastern touch.
London DazeWhen the weather is nice, or at least when the skies aren’t threatening imminent rain, the best way to get around is to walk. This way you always encounter things you may never have expected to find.
London DazeChristopher was rather taken with this model in the window. Quite a striking resemblance, don’t you think?  London Daze Speaking of models in the window, no stroll through Knightsbridge is complete without a little window shopping at Ferrari Atelier.London Daze And the predictable Rolls spotting, complimented by a casually purple Bentley.
London Daze If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have hopefully already laughed along with me at this. Scroll up again and tell me you don’t at least let out a giggle. Someone took the time to ensure that ended up on a card. Brilliant. London Daze Somerset House is always stunningly decorated this time of year, complete with an ice skating rink and Fortnum & Mason Christmas tree. London Daze Do you think there are treats inside the hampers? I definitely should’ve checked.
I didn’t get a chance to ice skate this year, but you should try and go. Whether or not you’re a seasoned pro, it’s so much fun in such a Christmassy atmosphere. Hopefully there will be no one like me around, overcome with uncontrollable giggles at anyone that hits the ice.

London Daze

King’s Road had a visiting reindeer to help get everyone in the Christmas spirit. Although he was fuzzy and adorable, I wanted nothing more but to send him back where he came from so he could frolic freely with his friends, rather than being flashed at by a bunch of posh cameras and grabby kids’ hands.

London DazeOn Saturdays, Duke of York Square turns into a mélange of marquees. The piazza is transformed into an international melting pot of stands selling delicious smelling dishes from all over the world. With an insatiable craving for Mexican food, I scurried over to the grill where Tamales UK were cooking up pork pibil tacos and ordered tres con todos, por favor! London Daze A browse of Saatchi & Saatchi gallery is always amusing. You never quite know what you’re going to find. From golden prints of nature.. London Daze To walls of flower shaped profanity… London Daze To caviar covered rooms.. London DazeTo pornographic pop art. It truly is an eclectic, but entertaining mix. London DazeI popped into Bentley for a sneak peak of Vertu’s latest creation. They’ve teamed up with Bentley to create a customisable phone, with diamond knurled titanium side rails and a quilted calf leather back to match your Bentley’s interior. All I know is for $17,000 it better come with someone that dials the phone for me. London DazeTo my fellow American expats, do you still make the attempt the celebrate Thanksgiving abroad? I decided to go for it again this year, making the sweet potato casserole, chilli garlic brussels sprouts, pomegranate salad and stuffing. Although I usually manage all the sides, I even attempted my first turkey! A 5kg whopper which soon became equivalent to what I can only imagine it must be like having a toddler. I spent my day having to lift, adjust and baste the monster every 20 minutes. It was all worth it in the end as the bird came out beautifully and was completely devoured.  London DazeI absolutely love when people come to visit. Showing a tourist around London is one of my favourite things to do. I just love seeing the city through someone else’s eyes and getting to share some of my favourite bits with them. So, when Tyler came to visit from San Diego, we hit the town walking. London DazeWe visited the Queen. London DazeMet some residents with fowl manners. London DazeStrolled through the park. London DazeLondon DazeAnd visited the ever handsome, Benjamin. Tyler is an amazing photographer, by the way, and you can see more of his shots here.  London DazeHe’s even mastered the selfie. London DazeWe changed course and wandered up past Trafalgar where I showed him our big, blue cock.
London DazeAnd into Soho for an obligatory purchase of my favourite macarons in London. If you are ever in Soho or even dining at Yauatcha, promise me you’ll try one (or all) of their incredible macarons. London DazeWe popped into Polpetto for a snack. I told you about this place before, when I met up with lovely blogger Rachel. It’s the perfect place to share simple dishes with stunning ingredients.  London DazeWe started with an attack on a mound of luscious burrata topped with tender pumpkin and marjoram. London DazeFollowed by grilled octopus with chickpeas and tomato. London DazeAnd a show stopping finale of pink duck breast paired with blueberries and pickled walnuts. London DazeWe ended up dancing the night away at Home House, who had an awesome DJ mixing 90s with current charts. This ended in an equally cool manner, curled up in the early hours of the morning in hotel sheets watching Ratatouille. (It was the first time I’d seen it! I know, I know.)

London Daze I recently enjoyed a rather delicious breakfast meeting at the Dorchester’s CUT at 45 Park Lane. The setting is beautiful and beyond perfect for a meeting, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Damien Hirst’s butterfly pieces on the wall. London Daze M Restaurant hosted an appropriately massive launch party for their massive new space located in Bank, complete with concert provided by Tinie Tempah. London DazeBeing so close to one of my 24-hour favourites resulted in a midnight snack in the sky. London Daze Complete, of course, with some duck & waffle! London Daze No London post would be complete without a nod to Britain’s resident badass. How hot is this Aston? I’m not normally a fan of matte paint jobs, but there’s something fitting for Bond’s perfect getaway ride spotted in Notting Hill. London DazeSee? There is literally something for everyone in London, don’t you think? Where’s your favourite place to go, thing to see, or food to eat? Is there somewhere particularly amazing I ought to try? I always love a suggestion. Tweet me or leave a comment below.

La Brasserie

I’m not a picky eater and I’m certainly not a princess.
I enjoy, no, I obsess over food. There’s nothing I love more than being excited by a dish, inspired by its execution and aroused by its flavour. I have a passion for good food, whether its served by a suited server on a wiped, white plate or unwrapped from greasy paper delivered between two beautiful buns.

When it comes to French food, however, I have a bit of a benchmark.
As France is arguably revered as the gastronomic haven of the world, there’s something about eating French cuisine that has my secret, miniature magnifying glass up.
You just pictured me inspecting a plate of snails with a miniature magnifying glass, didn’t you?
I crave authenticity when it comes to consuming the food of France and that isn’t always easily met when dining outside the land of pastry and fromage.

When I was invited last week to review La Brasserie nestled in Chelsea, you better believe I snuck in my spy kit. I entered off the chilly London streets and was greeted by not only my lovely friend whom had invited me along, but a warm, bustling brasserie which transported me instantly back to Paris. I tend to find brasseries in London and father afield feel staged and almost tacky in their efforts to exude a French feeling. La Brasserie, however, encapsulates authenticitié with its checkered floor, red leather seating and amber glow from the lighting overhead.

It was lunchtime and the restaurant was filled with diners enjoying brunch whilst reading their papers, conducting business meetings over pâté or having a catch up with flowing bubbles. As we nibbled on baguette and pale, creamy butter I struggled through the menu trying to decide what to eat. I eventually decided to indulge in an entirely Parisienne affair, beginning of course with escargot.

La Brasserie

They arrived swimming in the classic combination of garlic, butter and parsley.

La BrasserieAlthough they could have been a little hotter in temperature, they were cooked perfectly. After scooping them all out skilfully using my escargot tongs (I always picture an escapee slipping and sailing across the dining room) I couldn’t resist drowning pieces of baguette to consume the rest of the heavenly sauce.
La BrasserieDespite the miserable weather, I chose the steak tartare for my main. It was tangy and flavoursome with nice crunches of onion. The frites served with this could’ve also been a bit warmer, but were the perfect combination of crispy and soft.

Throughout lunch, I watched as the staff not only treated me with warm, welcoming hospitality, but were equally attentive with all diners. Everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, whether their purpose be relaxing or socialising, and believe me, plenty of the latter was going on. Lovely locals and repeat customers tend to bump into each other here and just before dessert arrived, we had a few join us and began sharing endless, engaging stories.

La Brasserie
To satiate my sweet tooth and continue our Parisienne journey, we shared a lemon tart with plum and blueberry compote. This had been blowtorched for a nice crunchy exterior guarding the creamy lemon curd underneath.
La Brasserie

As no French meal is complete without cheese, we shared a board of very strong cheeses. Ignoring a few bad grapes, I happily slathered the cheese onto our remaining baguette whilst hearing more stories from our new dining companions.

La Brasserie is well worth a visit for an afternoon of fine French food, welcoming hospitality and enjoyable atmosphere. They take bookings online and even do an Afternoon Tea which I may need to test.
grabs magnifying glass
If you do dine at La Brasserie, tweet me pictures of your French feast @Alessandra_LDN. Go on, make me jealous.

Medlar Restaurant | Chelsea

I’ve been hearing about Michelin starred Medlar for ages.
It’s tucked away down King’s Road and I must’ve unknowingly passed it a thousand times. It’s the kind of place I casually put on my bucket list somewhere near the bottom with no real sense of urgency, but enough enticement to feel the need to get around to it.
Ya know whadda mean? 

Well, I finally decided to take a date to lunch, a very reasonably priced set menu of 3 courses for £27.
We arrived to a partially full dining room, which grew into a buzzing atmosphere throughout the afternoon.
The interior is elegant without being fussy. The grey walls are decorated by eccentrically busy artwork and obscure light fixtures. The banquettes are a vibrant green with artfully distressed mirrors overhead. Although we were sat in the front dining room, a trip to the bathroom meant passing through the restaurant. There’s a middle section of intimate booths filled with businessmen conducting deals and a naturally lit back room from the skylight overhead decorated by walls painted with the restaurant’s namesake. 

Medlar Considering the menu aims to serve seasonal ingredients from the British Aisles and Europe, we were not short for choice. I battled back and forth between the dishes, ensuring there was no overlap in ordering so I’d get a taste of whatever my date decided on.

We placed our order and a bread basket arrived with the choice of sourdough and brown bread. This disappeared far too quickly for me to get a snap, but there’s plenty of other food porn for you to feast your eyes upon.
Having finished round two of the bread basket, I was pleased when our starters arrived.
I cannot say no to bread. 

Medlar

He ordered the beetroot soup with smoked eel, crème fraîche, croutons, orange zest and cornered garlic flowers. Rich, comforting and delicious. The kind of dish you want to spoon into your mouth whilst curled up on a leather chair by the fireplace. Medlar MedlarI went for the thinly sliced veal with tonnato dressing, green beans, pickled shimeji and salted almonds. Inventive flavour combinations with the pickled shimeji mushrooms adding an incredibly balanced, sweet tang to the dish.

MedlarFor our main course, he ordered rump of lamb with crisp croquettes, asparagus, pied bleu, carrot purée and pommel fondant. This was a lot of food. It was all well cooked, but had more than the necessary amount of ingredients on the plate.

MedlarI ordered the gilt-head bream with palourde clams, speck, jersey royals, fresh peas and a nettle and parsley sauce. The dish was beautifully cooked and had great ingredients, but unfortunately, the sauce only tasted of butter. I would’ve loved a citrusy kick rather than a pool of butter. C’est la vie.
MedlarFor dessert, we shared poached rhubarb with Prosecco and Kaffir lime jelly, mandarin sorbet and pistachios. This one makes your eyes squint and lips purse, in a good way.
I bet your mouth just watered thinking about it.

MedlarThe cocoa nib panna cotta with Pedro Ximénez, honeycomb and stem ginger biscotti was a tiny bit of a let down, only because I am obsessed with panna cotta. You may have seen my panna cotta recipe here, of which I devoured all by myself. The flavours of Medlar’s panna cotta were good, but the springy, jelly texture that I so enjoy with a panna cotta was instead more of a creamy mousse. There are worse mixups in the dessert world, and it was still very tasty, but I wanted the spring in my step mouth.

I think I’ve told you before, but I’ll tell you again.
I love a petit four.

MedlarWe nibbled away on lime marshmallows and rich chocolate truffles with Pedro Ximénez as we planned adventures for the rest of our day. 

MedlarA new Whole Foods has recently opened in Fulham and seeing as I frequent the store as a home sickness cure, I had to check it out.
The store is lovely, filled with friendly staff and my favourite, samples!

Oh and look what I found!
Isn’t romanesco the coolest looking thing you’ve ever seen?

Whole Foods We then popped into my new favourite store, Nisbets. Have you been here? It’s like kitchen heaven. I skipped down the aisles finding miniature copper pots, darling serving dishes, dream knives and this bad boy. NisbetsI reckon I could whisk you off your feet with this one!

This was a day of foodie adventure.
5 House Points to anyone that can tell me what a medlar is?
Oh, you’re looking it up on Google…
I guess I’ll give you a couple points for being resourceful. Whilst you’re there, check out Medlar and their well-priced lunch menu, which is available Monday – Friday. Or if you’re in the mood for a more intimate affair, they serve 3 courses for dinner, as well.

Have you had any foodie finds lately? Leave a comment or tweet me here. I’d love to hear about your adventures!

Kurobuta Pop Up

Kurobuta has popped up in Chelsea.
The Japanese-Asian Pop Up is the baby of ex-Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth and is making some serious waves on King’s Road.

Currently nesting in a little, intimate space, Kurobuta’s big bright plans are soon coming to fruition with a permanent location near Marble Arch.

But for now, dinner.

www.alessandrabrian.comWe were seated in the lower level of the restaurant, tucked behind the bar, me with the perfect view of the kitchen buzzing behind my date. This obviously left me a little distracted, but was very kindly put up with as I rattled on about what was happening out of sight.

www.alessandrabrian.comThe first of our order arrived, a plate of sweet potato and Soba-Ko fries with kimchee mayo & jalapeño sauce. The fries were a little lacking in sweet potato flavour, but had a lovely crunch to them. Both sauces were phenomenal and we kept these on the table throughout the night to dip (drown) other things in.

Sushi purists look away now.
www.alessandrabrian.comMy sushi obsession was happily satisfied by the arrival of soft shell crab tempura maki with kimchee mayo. The crunchy, sweet bite of fried crab was full of flavour and paired well with my naughty addition of wasabi and jalapeño sauce.
All sushi is healthy, right? Good, just checking. 
www.alessandrabrian.comThis was followed by one of the specials, foie gras & eel maki. Another sweet and successful, if not unexpected, flavour combination. www.alessandrabrian.com
Having watched Chef Hallsworth blow torch countless buns, giving them a smoky, chargrilled flavour and texture, I couldn’t wait for our next dish.
www.alessandrabrian.comBBQ pork belly in steamed buns arrived with with a spicy peanut soy sauce, which I generously slathered on each bite.

www.alessandrabrian.com These were by far my favourite dish of evening and we even considered a second order. But, there was still another dish to come, so we held off.  www.alessandrabrian.comThis proved to be a good decision as the special of Hamachi collar was great as well. Tender chunks of fresh fish with a nice citrus kick left us feeling full, satisfied…

www.alessandrabrian.comand ready for dessert. www.alessandrabrian.comYou didn’t think I’d leave without dessert, did you?
There were a select few to choose from the handwritten board. I don’t remember the other options, but one of them had chocolate so, easy decision.

A beautiful creation of pistachio, dark chocolate mousse, pistachio cake, pecans, and blackcurrant jellies arrived spread out across the plate. Another well paired dish with deep, sweet bites of chocolate and pistachio accompanied by a burst of sour flavour from the fresh berries and black current jellies.

I could’ve used twice the amount on the plate, but that’s because I’m a glutton.
www.alessandrabrian.comIf you don’t make it to Kurobuta’s current location, be sure to visit them in their new, permanent home near Marble Arch soon for a feast of Japanese junk food.