Searcys Surprise at The Gherkin

It’s my birthday.
Okay, it’s definitely no longer my birthday. But, I successfully dragged it out for as long as possible, celebrating with as many friends and family that were willing to indulge in more cake with the perfect excuse.

Leaving home always leaves me with a little bit of sadness. It’s not that I’m not looking forward to returning to my home away from home and I do love being greeted by the site of the Thames with London’s lovely skyline. But, I obviously spend my days across the pond missing friends and loved ones that I’ve collected along the way.

The sadness however, was this time replaced with excitement. And jet lag. Lots and lots of jet lag.

I was told dinner was at 8.30pm.
Let me first tell you, I am never surprised. I always have an inkling of an idea, a possible guess, or know full well what’s going on. It’s not that I don’t love a surprise, because I definitely do. I just happen to equally enjoy playing private investigator and have a very persuasive skill of persistence. This was the first time I had absolutely no idea where I was going. Blame it on the jet lag, the lack of sleep or even the transatlantic journey, but I couldn’t figure it out.
I landed at Heathrow at 6.30am and gazed sleepily out of the back of the cab, mentally making the transition back to this side of the world. I spent the morning and afternoon lounging around and attempting to unpack. You know when you take everything out of your suitcase and become engrossed by purchases or products, ending up altogether distracted and surrounded by mountains of things?
Soon enough it became time for my date. I was told to wear something nice as I was going to be taking lots of pictures. This revealed nothing.
It was then revealed we’d be meeting at Bank station. I now had an area to go by, but admittedly wasn’t coming up with any ideas.

I was greeted at the station by a rather dashing looking date and lead down vaguely familiar streets of East London.

SearcysChattering away and mildly distracted, I paused momentarily to snap a picture of my favourite building. There’s something about the Swiss Re building that my heart is enamoured with and my mind is inspired by. I’ve always had this affinity for the thing and when it catches my eye, peering out of the surrounding skyscrapers, it always manages to take my breath away. Searcys We continued walking and my chattering persisted. The oblivion continued until we neared the tall triangular archways at the base of the Gherkin. My date nonchalantly asked where the entrance was and my eyes lit up.
Because that’s where we’re going to dinner.
WHAT!? really? REALLY?!
A mixed slur of excitement burst out as I skipped towards the entrance with a smile plastered across my face. You know the kind that makes your cheeks hurt? Proper uncontrollable grinning from the lobby to the elevator to the hostess to the table. Searcys at The Gherkin is London’s highest private members club. However, to celebrate their 10th year inside The Gherkin, they’ve temporarily opened to the public offering a stunning 10 course tasting menu. It was completely surreal and the fact I was dining at the top of The Gherkin didn’t fully set in until we were well into dinner.
Searcys A display box arrived filled with moss held rocks with main ingredients of each course inscribed on top. This was our menu. Searcys I obviously began a snap happy evening taking pictures of anything and everything in sight. Searcys Clearly not having any fun.
Searcys at The GherkinIt all started with a little salmon ice cream cone. SearcysThis was soon followed by more picture taking and excited rambling.
Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys In my jet lag fuelled delirium, I thought it would be funny to pretend this rock was its edible inscription. SearcysLuckily the real version came and I put away the stone. A little bowl that looked as if it was carved of ice contained lollipops of compressed watermelon with ginger and lime foam arrived. SearcysAs well as tarragon and fennel on sourdough crackers.
Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys SearcysThe next dish was one of my favourites, a sweetcorn ganache with fresh asparagus and asparagus velouté. Searcys Searcys SearcysThen, a ham hock with a sort of saffron sand and pickled cauliflower. Searcys SearcysNext, a scallop served with jersey royal potatoes, peas and broad beans. This wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t as amazing as its predecessors or those that followed. It just needed a little kick, a little flavour to lighten it up as it was overall a bit dry.  Searcys This was soon forgotten as the next course was phenomenal. Perfectly cooked red mullet served with bouillabaisse, leeks and bread foam was definitely a winning dish.
Searcys SearcysWe paused with a palate cleanser of herb sorbet. This was bizarre, in a good way. Tart red wine vinegar topped a sweet, peppery basil for a delightfully confusing mouthful that made you squint your eyes and twist your face before going back for more.  SearcysOur next course was Hardwick best end of lamb served with buttery, sweet ratte potato and mushrooms. Absolutely delicious and again, perfectly cooked.SearcysOur first dessert was different textures of pineapple topped with a light coconut mousse and a pineapple consommé poured over the top. Tropical heaven. Searcys SearcysOur second dessert and final course of the evening was a strawberry blancmange topped with champagne foam and delicate meringue cookies.  Searcys This was amazingly light and a perfect end to such an incredible menu. Searcys


We received a final little taste at the end of the evening of pistachio macarons and chocolate orange truffles. Searcys Which I was obviously very excited about. Searcys We sat and discussed the menu whilst taking in the skyline, snapping some final pictures before heading up to the bar to have a 360 degree view. Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys Searcys I was escorted away in a dreamlike state. Again, this could have been exhaustion setting in, but the evening was truly magical. I even made a new friend on the way home. SearcysHe wasn’t much of a talker.

The evening was truly spectacular and was made even more special as a surprise. If you’re looking to surprise a date and literally sweep them off their feet, I couldn’t recommend Searcys at The Gherkin enough. But, be quick! This special 10 course menu is only available until the 4th of September.

Thank you for an evening I’ll never forget x

Blue Duck Tavern

My trips back to America have become bicoastal. On my way to California, I now touchdown in DC to visit family and friends. This offers an entire new arsenal of restaurants, hotspots and foodie destinations to try.

Blue Duck Tavern is no novice in the DC dining scene. Serving up what they like to call ‘wholesome American fare’, the Park Hyatt resident has long  fed locals, visitors and political partiers alike. The restaurant’s design is stunning, capturing different aspects of historical American elements creating different pockets of varying ambiances throughout. The white marble bar top was hosting a girl’s night out, low cushioned seating by the window had casual meetings and after work drinks taking place, the main dining room had families and dates piling their plates with the soundtrack of the open kitchen and along the towering front windows overlooking their impressive herb garden and a moody sky overhead was where we were seated.

Our dinner started as all good meals should: freshly baked sourdough with whipped, salted butter.  Blue Duck Tavern We decided to share starters. Although, when dining with me, you don’t have much choice. Blue Duck Tavern The Wagyu beef tartar with morels and mustard seed was a stunning start. Blue Duck Tavern Just look that yolky goodness. Blue Duck Tavern Go on, have another look. I’ll wait. Blue Duck TavernThe coddled egg with guanciale, asparagus and almond was a balanced combination of fresh, light ingredients paired with heavy, hearty components. Blue Duck Tavern Our main courses arrived in silver pans with serving spoons, making sharing very convenient.  Blue Duck Tavern I chose duck breast served with rhubarb butter. Blue Duck Tavern And tried bites of tender Wagyu beef with chimichurri and suckling pig. Blue Duck Tavern We also shared sides of toasted faro with peas, almond and preserved lemon, roasted woodland mushrooms with olive oil croutons and beans with pickled blackberries.  Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck TavernBlue Duck TavernAfter dinner, I snuck through the kitchen on my way to the bathroom to say hello and ended up chatting away with a lovely CDP and Blue Duck’s Executive Chef, Sebastien Archambault. I was told that next time I was to try the hanger steak, as this is Chef’s favourite. Now he tells me.Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck Tavern I then spied the restaurant’s specialty set out to cool. There were rows of freshly baked apple pies, which I momentarily considered swiping off the counter using my dress as a basket and running. Alas, I composed myself and continued on my way. Blue Duck TavernI took a sneaky outfit snap which you’ve already seen on Instagram, but I’m loving this mustard yellow dress and these heels (which are annoyingly discounted, lucky duck) which have an awesome gold buckle on the side. Blue Duck Tavern I returned for green jasmine flowering tea and a browse of the dessert menu. Blue Duck Tavern Besides a very greedy order of desserts, I was surprised with a candle lit sorbet of passionfruit, mango and tangerine. Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck TavernWe decided the apple pie needed a little something extra.  Blue Duck TavernSo topped it with an order of vanilla bean ice cream. Blue Duck TavernThe meyer lemon icebox cake was a thing of beauty and of taste. Blue Duck TavernA flavourful and delightfully textured lemon crémeux was topped with lemon gel, graham cracker cakes, cream cheese, blueberry pearls and tasmanian pepper meringue.  Blue Duck TavernAs we waddled away through the lobby, we discovered this cool piece on display. They nailed it, don’t ya think?

Our meal at Blue Duck Tavern was absolutely delicious and service was impeccable. The atmosphere is vibrant and decor appropriate for any occasion. I’d highly recommend a visit for an enjoyable evening out in Washington DC. If you make it there before me, be sure to tell me how the hanger steak is!


Barnyard is Fitzrovia’s cool kid on the block.

It’s decked out in corrugated iron and Americana for a laid back, inviting atmosphere. Here they serve posh twists on British classics with a menu broken down by animal, egg, veg & pudding. The fact I just said posh twists made me cringe a little. What I mean to say, is a focus on quality ingredients and skilled execution for simple dishes that have long littered the English culinary repertoire.

By the way, did I mention this is the creation of Dabbous boys, Michelin starred Ollie & cocktail master Oskar?

But take off your Dabbous goggles, they’re like beer goggles impairing expectation for Michelin starred dining. Forget all the reviews you’ve read and ignore any hype you’ve heard, grab a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with and head to Fitzrovia for a good time with some good food.

Accompanied by the lovely Jaia, whom I found battling the end of a long day with fingers clasped around a coffee cup, we headed for the Barn…yard. Half expecting a line out the door or an hour long wait due to their no reservation policy, we were relieved to be greeted by friendly, welcoming lumberjack ushering us to our table. Seriously, everyone in here is a rugged, plaid shirted charmer seating guests, shaking cocktails and serving dishes.  A sweet, smoky smell of charcoal hangs in the air, enticing us past the bar, up to the small mezzanine. Our server, another charming, lumberjack figure, although albeit more hipster than mountain man, sweetly talked us through the menu and left us to debate the different sections.

We decided what to share, placed our orders and dove into conversation. The atmosphere is buzzing and there’s a feel good ambiance, lent in part by the lively groups sat in the booths behind us. It may have been due to our flowing conversation, but our food arrived in what seemed like mere minutes. However, we weren’t complaining and got stuck in.

Barnyard A beautiful chunk of barbecued, grain-fed short rib sat simply on the plate.


There was visible fat, which initially posed some concern as I’m not a fan of chewing through this texture. But, fear not, the meat melted away in tender bliss with a deep flavour of charcoal perfectly accompanied by the tang of a buttermilk sauce. The pickle I generously donated to Jaia.
I hate pickles. I know, I know. But, it’s my one thing. *shivers* 


Next up, a meaty looker of a sausage roll. This is definitely an English thing. They love their sausage rolls with all the adoring fondness of an American grasping the beautiful buns of a juicy burger. The dirty classic had been reworked into a thing of refinement with excellent quality meat snuggled inside flaky pastry. The accompanying piccalilli was deliciously sweet and sour, despite the lurking green offenders.


Our side of charred broccoli with vinaigrette was a delightful mystery. Although my dinner date wasn’t won over, the crunchy texture paired with the smoky charcoal flavouring and sour sauce was a pleasant surprise. It’s pretty genius to pleasantly surprise with broccoli, if you ask me. Or maybe I’m just easily amused.


Corn on the screw was cute presentation wise, with simple flavour and a glistening pool of melted butter.

Ready for more, but surprisingly full, we ordered the popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce.


If you could like the screen, am I right? Barnyard

This was gourmet soft serve, laced with vanilla bean and an added crunch from the caramel popcorn. The smoked fudge sauce which I elegantly drizzled over the top, I dumped the entire thing on Jaia’s instruction, was rich and fudgey with a nice, smoky aftertaste. A sweet ending to a good meal.

Barnyard goes out of its way to be uncomplicated with its rustic touches and simple dishes. This is such a far cry from the pretty plates of challenging flavour combinations and skilful execution around the corner at Dabbous. But, strip away the implied reputation hanging like a cloud from the impressive track holder, and enjoy this simple, good food that you’ll struggle to find fault with. Because even if you do take issue with a dish, like my dining companion did with the broccoli, you easily forgive because it isn’t trying to be judged. It isn’t trying to impress you. It’s giving you some tasty food in a comforting atmosphere with friendly staff who happen to all be attractive lumberjacks in plaid shirts.

And so I will return to Barnyard, to happily crusade through the rest of the menu. In looser fitting jeans, I may add as this isn’t doing any favours to your bikini body. What’s that? 

If you do skip to the barn, tell me what you taste. Send me some foodporn via Twitter @Alessandra_LDN  


Uh oh.
I forgot to tell you about Polpetto.

I squirrelled away the photos knowing I’d tell you all about my lovely lunch date, and then one thing led to another and now we’re here. But never mind, a little food porn and you’ll easily forgive me. Won’t you?

I met up with hugely talented, fellow foodie of food blog Rachel Phipps at 5pm. That’s right all you late dining Europeans, we ate dinner at the ungodly hour of 5pm. Not ones for queuing and both having Polpetto secured highly on our FBL’s, we agreed to meet at a time surely no sane Briton would arrive for dinner.
And we were right.

PolpettoWe entered Polpetto to find beautifully designed tiled ceilings, worn wooden floors and deep red banquettes encompassing the bacaro, peaceful and undisturbed, save for a few servers chatting around the measured bar top. I say measured because restaurateur and Polpetto owner, Russell Norman, is famously known to measure bars and barstools for optimum height. This fun fact makes my future restaurateur heart flutter.

Polpetto’s kitchen is run by young and seriously talented Head Chef Florence Knight, who obsesses over good quality food and suppliers. Having outgrown their initial space due to popular demand, they shut down shop and regrouped. After a year of hunting for a new location, researching the market and what I can only imagine to be an incredible amount of eating, they chose Polpetto’s new home nestled behind the food market on Berwick Street.

Polpetto Rachel and I were seated in our own private restaurant and soon greeted with a big glug of beautiful, Italian olive oil to be soaked up with fluffy pieces of focaccia. PolpettoThe good thing about dining with fellow foodies is that no one will dig in before all obligatory food photos have been snapped.
Silent nod to all of you that have indulged my snap happy dining rituals and patiently waited before starting to eat 

One last thing before we get to the food. A little disclaimer, if you will.
Chef Knight’s menu focuses on the simplicity of good quality ingredients. If you don’t bare this in mind, you will be underwhelmed and leave thinking you could have whipped up something more exciting at home. Think of Polpetto as providing a thoughtful, simplistic combination of quality ingredients reminiscent to those you would enjoy stumbling upon a hidden cicchetti bar in the backstreets of Venice.

With this said, we started with a tomato. 
A perfectly ripe, Sicilian tomato with a glug of that beautiful olive oil and sprinkling of sea salt to really bring out the flavour.
PolpettoThis was followed by a bowl of clams with wild garlic. One of my favourite dishes and another perfect representation of the simplicity that is Italian cooking. I could’ve easily ordered five more portions of this, but instead happily slurped the white wine and garlic sauce with my clam shell whilst waiting for our next dish. A dish I feel I need to prepare you for as it is what the term ‘foodporn’ was made for.

Are you ready?


A beautiful, glistening mound of burrata topped with agretti and finely chopped chilli. Burrata, in case you haven’t met, is mozzarella’s cooler, sexier cousin that captures the room’s attention with style and ease, breaks the boys hearts with a single glance and has everyone at the party laughing at her subtly inappropriate jokes. With the italian name of ‘buttered’, burrata has an exterior shell of mozzarella guarding a luscious centre of mozzarella mixed with cream. The addition of agretti, a mediterranean succulent and chilli cut through the richness of the cheese and left me in a genuine state of bliss. Although this doesn’t enlist much culinary talent, to source such fabulous quality burrata is a skill in its own in my book. Polpetto Photo opp pre savagery: trying my best to act civilised in front of Rachel and not lift the whole thing with my fork and take a bite.  Polpetto

The scallops with cauliflower purée and slices of lardo was last and I’m sad to say, least. It was good, but that’s about it. The very small scallops were sweet and well cooked, but I wanted more flavour from the cauliflower. The subtlety of the purée and lardo left me wanting more. It was a great dish texturally and I do admire the delicate flavour combination, but it needed just a bit more oomph.

Rachel and I then had a bit of a debate amongst ourselves, deciding whether or not to order all of the desserts on the menu. Don’t give me that look, there were only five. When our server arrived, we composed ourselves with adult-like restraint and instead ordered two desserts to share between us.
This didn’t stop me from being incredibly naughty immediately after, but I’ll tell you about that later.

PolpettoI initially shied away from the chocolate flan, having had my fair share of it growing up so close to the Mexican border. But my chocolate addiction and some prompting from Rachel drew me in last minute and I couldn’t have been more pleased to succumb to my vice. Polpetto This was nothing like traditional, gelatine-like flan soaked in booze. This was more like a silky chocolate ganache with a deep chocolatey flavouring cut by tart, cold spoonfuls of créme fraîche. PolpettoOur other sweet treat was green apple sorbet served with green apple cubes and sultanas soaked in mead. This is the kind of treat you want served poolside on a hot summer’s day scooped high in a gigantic cone. It was smooth and tart with candy-like sweetness, which was balanced by the tangy mead.

At the end of our meal, I snuck downstairs to the open kitchen and other dining room. Chef Knight was there prepping for the night’s service with the rest of her team. I thanked her and the team for a beautifully prepared meal and told her how much I admired such a simplistic, but meaningful menu.

I wonder if you enjoy dining this way as much as I do? A leisurely meal of dishes, presented one after the other to share with a friend or loved one. It’s as if you’re waiting for a surprise that you get to experience together, both visually and in the edible sense. Commenting on flavours, textures and ingredients intermittently between musings. I’d take this form of entertainment over the theatre or afternoon in the park or a festival any day. Combine all four and maybe we’ll talk.
But maybe this is just me! Maybe you’re more the ‘eat to live’ kinda guy/girl. In which case, you’ve probably left the blog in search of some sustenance.

As soon as Rachel and I parted ways, I wandered down Soho alleyways and ended up having a cheeky snog. Not that kind, weirdo. This kind…

I know, I know. But it says guilt-free? That makes my post dinner, post dessert frozen yogurt piled high with brownies and berries perfectly excusable, right?

I thoroughly recommend a dinner date at Polpetto. I will definitely be back and have since heard I’ve missed out on the genius that is the bacon chop, whitty pear butter and walnuts. If you get there before me, promise you’ll tell me how it is? Pop your thoughts in the comments or send me a tweet @Alessandra_LDN. I don’t bite, I promise.

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. 


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!

Restaurant Story

Let me tell you a story.
It happens to be a food story, but I’m sure you’ve already guessed that. Grab a drink and maybe some snacks, it’s going to be a long one.

Once upon a time, a month ago to be exact, we booked a table at Restaurant Story.

I just love having something to look forward to, don’t you? That feeling of excitement about a future trip or event that is worth counting down the days. One of my favourite things I look forward to has always been trying a new restaurant. There’s something about the curiosity and wonder of how it will look, what dishes will be served, how they’ll be presented, and of course, how they’ll taste!

When Restaurant Story was opened last year by Tom Sellers, I added it to the foodie bucket list and casually followed the hype, planning to get there sooner or later. Well, it’s later and here we are, wandering down a street parallel to the river, catching glimpses of a gloriously lit Tower Bridge through gaps in buildings. Clutching my iPhone like a trusted compass, we watch as the little blue dot carelessly passes our destination on the map. Confused, we turn back to find Restaurant Story sitting in the middle of a fork in the road.

Restaurant Story We head inside, greeted by a spotlit host who takes our coats and hangs them on the coatrack by the door. I notice that ours are the only coats hanging and wonder has everyone somehow decided it’s warm enough for coatless outings already? Ever the observer, after being seated I noticed the coats being transported to a coat room just outside the door. A sweet, welcoming gesture adding to the already homely decor.

There’s sort of a Nordic, retro feeling to the room, mixed with touches of home and a modern addition from the view of the Shard out of the floor to ceiling windows. The kitchen is tucked in the corner, behind a stone wall and glass panel, but still maintains being the focal point of the room. In the centre, a converted smoker plays home to cutlery, the cash register, flickering candles, and two ominous stuffed crows overlooking diners.
Restaurant StoryAfter settling in, a flurry of snacks arrived one after the other.

First, two delicate pieces of crispy cod skin with smoked cod roe emulsion, carrot tops and gin botanicals.

Restaurant Story An expertly chosen, if not a little odd, combination of flavours with an inviting texture. More striking, however, was the clear time and effort that went into the presentation.Restaurant StoryNext were radishes filled with seaweed butter.Restaurant Story

These were okay. A refreshing, raw bite with interesting flavour, but nothing outstanding. I appreciated the message of natural ingredients, but combined with an entire chunk of butter, felt a little unwarranted.

Moving swiftly on, the arrival of the Storeo. Restaurant StoryTake no notice of their innocent appearance. These badass biscuits are the savoury version of America’s favourite Oreo cookie, made from squid ink biscuits and filled with smoked eel.
Where can I get a sleeve of these to twist and lick as a naughty treat?
Restaurant StoryThen came the polenta crisp topped with carrot jam, malt soil & slices of carrot. Restaurant Story

These had a completely satisfying crunch and lovely sweetness to them. Again, I’d happily have a cabinet full of Story snacks to nibble on throughout the day!

A candle was then unassumingly lit and left on the table, adding a little romance and evoking curiosity.

Restaurant Story

It would soon prove to be the greatest candle ever. But, you’ll have to wait to find out why I’m excitedly planning a way to fill my home with these candles in future.
And no skipping ahead, cheeky! 

Restaurant StoryDelicate razor clams with champagne snow & crispy pearl barley were next. Restaurant Story This was surprisingly tasty, with a nice crunch from the barely and subtle tang as the champagne snow melted on my tongue.
I promptly decided that all canapés should be served on razor clams. They’re like nature’s elegant, miniature food shovel. Anyone else for this idea? No? Just me then. Restaurant StoryThe snack story is not complete yet! And I couldn’t have been more pleased as the next to arrive were shockingly delicious.
Simply titled, black pudding with green apple was not something I thought would be worth taking note. Yet, with the spongy texture of the black pudding and tang of the green apple, it was a truly tasty bite.
Don’t you love when a dish pleasantly surprises you? I think it’s possibly my favourite thing about trying new foods. Restaurant StoryThe last of the rapid fire Story snack round did not disappoint. A rabbit sandwich with tarragon cream & carrot pickled in bergamot.
Restaurant Story Fried, filled bread with tender rabbit and a sweet but sour addition from the pickled carrot made a sandwich I’d like a much larger version of for lunch.

Seven snacks later, in an almost intoxicating excitement, we placed our orders for the 10 course tasting menu.
Restaurant StoryThis was when the magic, mystery candle was revealed.
A leather pouch of soda bread with a sort of deconstructed chicken terrine arrived. Restaurant Story

This was incredibly flavoursome with chicken consommé and pickled vegetables and paired beautifully with the candle.

That’s right. An edible candle.
The flickering light of the candle slowly melted into a pool of beautiful beef dripping.

Restaurant Story

The smoky, seeded soda bread was merely a vehicle for large dunks of dripping which felt deliciously naughty. As we wiped the holder clean, a new pool would form as the fat dripped down the edge seductively.
Who says a food story can’t be food porn?

I know you’re probably thinking this story is coming close to the end, but this was only the beginning of the courses.
Next to arrive, onion, apple and old tom.
Restaurant StorySimple, fresh and and full of flavour, this continued to showcase the seasonal, British produce which stars the menu.
Restaurant Story Scallops, cucumber and dill ash arrived sitting pretty in the middle of an enormous plate. Restaurant Story I loved the subtlety of the flavours enhancing that of the scallop. The ash covered cucumber slightly distracted from the taste, however visually appealing. But, was still an excellent dish overall.Restaurant StoryThe next dish was, put simply, sexy.
Restaurant Story

Impossibly smooth, creamy heritage potato sat oozing coal, acting as an alluring pillow for tender asparagus.
Just look at it!
Restaurant Story

It’s almost disappointing knowing that I will never have mashed potato as good as this ever again. Almost.

My head swimming from the previous carby creation, an elegantly presented plate of crab, smoked leek, rapeseed, pear and lovage arrived. Restaurant Story This was good, but the flavours were subtle and slightly overpowered by the smoked leek. Restaurant Story The room buzzed as we watched other diners enjoy courses yet to come. Restaurant StoryAnother pretty plate showcased a delicate display of wild stems, squid and pine honey.Restaurant Story This was then drowned in what the chef fondly referred to as an ‘umami party.’ Restaurant Story The texture of the squid was nice, but unfortunately I couldn’t taste it. The umami flavouring was great with the freshness of the wild stems, but I really wanted the squid to stand out more. Restaurant StoryThe last of our savoury courses was delivered as perfect closure. Restaurant StoryLamb three ways with grilled salad and sheep’s yogurt was an incredible execution of stunning flavours from simple ingredients.

We then had a palette cleanser as a little break following the 14 different dishes we had tried so far.
Restaurant StoryRapeseed ice cream, sea buckthorn granita and crumble.
This was very odd. We were told to ensure we had a little bit of each ingredient in each bite, or else the sourness of the granita would be overpowering. It was incredibly sour, but strangely turned to a sweetness on the palette as the rapeseed ice cream and crumble took over. My date was not a fan of this dish, but I didn’t mind it.

And anyways, I was too busy squirming in my seat for what was next to come.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’re somewhat aware that I previously had a minor freakout about the next dish when trying something similar at Duck & Waffle.
Restaurant StoryFoie gras crème brûlée with pear & sorrel is a beautiful sentence. Contrary to D&W’s outrageously decadent brunch item, this was a refined sliver serving a different purpose. The presentation was stunning and the textures entertaining, all tied together with a fresh, sweet and slightly salty flavouring.

The story isn’t over yet! If you’ve made it this far without just skipping ahead to look at all the food porn, I’m impressed. We’re almost done, however when dining at Restaurant Story, it isn’t a story you’ll wish to end.

A big bowl of hay ice cream with prune and cereal was next to try. Restaurant StoryThe oversized bowl was finished with a splash of milk at the table, causing the crunchy, nutty grains to swirl around. The hay ice cream was subtle but gave way to the sweetness of the prune compote, which was nestled under a layer of milk skin.
I think this is exactly what you would expect a Michelin starred bowl of cereal to embody.
Restaurant Story

The last of our desserts was almond & dill.Restaurant StoryAlmond and dill?! you’re asking.
I know, I know. But this is one of those unexpected surprises we discussed earlier. Almond ice cream, ground almond and dill snow are amazingly a match made in heaven. The freshness from the dill paired with the sweetness of the almond are delightful and textures are incredibly amusing.

Slightly sugar high and delirious from our whirlwind of adventure through Tom Seller’s story of a menu, we watched the kitchen prepare its final dishes of the evening as the restaurant began to slowly empty from a busy buzz to a soft murmur. Restaurant Story Restaurant StoryAs full as we were, and as many courses as we had just consumed, nothing will ever prevent me from getting excited by an after dessert. (Smiling greedily) 
After desserts are like little kisses goodbye from a restaurant, possibly to sweeten to pain of the bill, but probably to give you one final, delicious taste. Restaurant StoryMini milk bottles of rhubarb & custard and tiny teacakes filled with raspberry coulis and rose meringue were placed on the table. The cakes were a soft cloud of sweetness with sharp raspberry to cut through the meringue’s floral notes.
Restaurant Story The custard bottle was the perfect size for my little hands and now seriously stunted appetite. At the top was incredibly rich vanilla custard and hiding at the bottom, sour punches of rhubarb. I created a genius method of moving my straw upwards through the layers for each sip to ensure a balanced combination of both sweet and sour entered my mouth. I guess I could’ve just stirred it up, but this way was more fun. Restaurant StoryRestaurant Story Restaurant Story

I hope you enjoyed hearing this story as much as I enjoyed telling (tasting) it.
As the name suggests, an evening here tells a story; a tall tale of inspirational dishes, abstract decor and attentive service.

I forgot to mention that in the corner of the restaurant stands two large bookshelves filled with books. They encourage diners to bring a book with them to add to their ever-growing collection in hopes that another guest may find inspiration from them. Wrapped up in excitement that the day had finally come, I completely forgot to bring my literary donation and have decided this means I simply must pay Restaurant Story another visit.

I’d definitely recommend a romantic evening or leisurely lunch spent nibbling away at Restaurant Story. Tables are released  a month in advance and you can book online here.

Speaking of stories, have you told any good ones lately? I’d love to read your blog, (whether or not it’s food related) so please leave a link in the comments and I’ll happily check it out!

Granger & Co Brunch in Notting Hill

Just a quick one to kick off your weekend.

Last week, some friends and I skipped over to Notting Hill for some brunch.
Australian restaurateur and food writer Bill Granger has a casual, all day dining spot cosily tucked into Westbourne Grove. At Granger & Co, the menu features simple, seasonal dishes with heavy Australian influence.

To those of you not from America, brunch is a meal very close to my heart.
Brunch, in the simplest terms, is a combination of breakfast and lunch. But really, it is so much more. Because the two are meals are combined, this means you are legally allowed to eat two meals in one sitting. Brunch means you can pretend to have something healthy for the first part of the meal, and happily have dessert for the second. Brunch means those extra few hours in bed, which you probably should feel guilty for, but you don’t because you’re up just in time for brunch. Speaking of time, brunch means you can spend hours relaxing, catching up and most importantly, eating. Brunch is just amazing, alright? And I’m glad this city is slowly catching on to such a glorious event.

To start off our brunch, we nourished ourselves with an order of the healthiest mixture of ingredients ever.

Granger & Co

Bill’s greens juice is a ludicrously health conscious combination of green apple, cucumber, silver beet, chia seed & young coconut. The juice was refreshing and delicious, but my heart sank a little when brunch sized expectation did not size up. There were literally a few sips of the stuff for the price of what I would expect a normal glass of juice would cost.

For some reason, I continued along the path of health with my order of coconut chicken salad with nashi pear, watercress & avocado. This was simple and incredibly fresh, but lacked a bit of sweetness. Overall, it was still a delicious dish, but may have been interrupted by the most serious case of food envy.

Granger & Co

Food porn alert. You have been warned.Granger & Co

Just look at that.
Look at that, now look at mine.
Now back at that, then back at mine.
Ricotta hotcakes with banana & honeycomb butter. Ya that’s right, honeycomb butter!
Granger & Co Fluffy pancakes with warm, sweet banana and luscious, melted butter.
Granger & Co
One last look… I’ll give you a close up.  
Granger & Co
Needless to say, my food envy got the best of me and my fork may have wandered its way across the table a few times. And because its brunch, I didn’t even have to feel guilty about it.
That juice countered anything bad I ate for the rest of the day, right?

After brunch, we waddled our way around Notting Hill to work off the damage, popped down Portobello Road to check out all the goodies at the market and eventually found the cutest shop filled to the brim with cookbooks. 
Granger & Co
Granger & CoA day well spent, don’t ya think?

What are you getting up to this weekend? Do you have a favourite brunch spot I haven’t tried yet?
Don’t be shy, leave me a comment or send me a tweet @Alessandra_LDN

The Real Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Alright, alright. I’ll tell you about Dinner.
If you follow me on Instagram @Alessandra_LDN, you’ll know I promised a post from my fabulously romantic, surprise date at Dinner.

Now the title of this post doesn’t suggest I’ve been to a fake dinner by Chef Blumenthal. It refers to my lovely lunchtime visit with Ireland’s sweetest, Miss Katie Larmour. Both desperate to dine in the restaurant, but not able to plump for the full menu, we savoured every morsel of the meat fruit & tipsy cake on our visit last year.

This, however, was the real deal.
I put on my favourite lacy black dress and black heels before being whisked away to an unknown destination.
Now, I absolutely love surprises. Giving a surprise is one of my favourite things to do. Receiving them is equally enjoyable, but I always figure them out. I either convince (bully) the surpriser into telling me, or work like a detective to put together the clues. My date, however, threw so many curveballs to bury the tracks that I was left completely in the dark with a nervous excitement in my stomach. (Or was that hunger?)

You may know from my Fat Duck post that I am completely inspired and maybe even a little obsessed with Chef Heston Blumenthal’s food. The reinvention of Britain’s historic gastronomic past by Blumenthal and Ashley Palmer-Watts has been something I’ve longed to experience since before the doors opened.
As I was lead towards the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I blurted out ‘are going to Dinner!?’ To which I received a smirk and the sarcastic response, ‘of course we’re going to dinner.’
The rest was a blur of giggling excitement until the bread arrived. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Warm sourdough and brown bread with a salty, creamy slab of butter brought me back to earth as I rambled on about the restaurant, the guests in the dining room and the impeccable service.

For our first course, he ordered the savoury porridge of frogs legs with smoked beetroot, garlic and fennel. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe meat was tender and paired beautifully with the savoury porridge, flavoured with parsley and cumin. The beetroot, one smoked and one pickled, each had such strong, uniquely different flavours it was hard to believe they were both the same vegetable. It was a stunning dish, both in presentation and execution, but nothing compares to my mandatory order.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMeat Fruit.
This plump little sphere of charade makes me very, very happy.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal(sorry about photo quality, strange lighting and discreet snapping with iPhone) 
I won’t go on too much, as I know I’ve detailed it in the previous post, but the mandarin mocking meat fruit is an absolute must! (say that three times fast)
The mandarin gel encapsulates a decadently smooth chicken liver & foie gras parfait which is to be slathered on warm, crunchy grilled bread. I can safely say I would happily eat this for any meal of the day.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalFor our main courses, he ordered powdered duck breast with smoked confit fennel & umbles. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
The meat had been sous vide and was rendered perfectly tender. Duck is rarely my first choice, but this was a great dish and fennel was an excellent accompaniment.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMy roast Ibérico pork chop with spelt, ham hock & Robert sauce was… massive. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe flavours were deep and rich and although the meat was a little tough, it was still an excellent dish. I managed to get through most of the pork, even with an accompanying order of triple cooked chips and mashed potatoes as sides.

I know you’re wondering why the two types of potato as sides, but the charming server convinced me that mashed potato dipped fries were delicious. As I didn’t enjoy the much talked about chips on my previous visit, I hesitantly gave them another chance. I’m still not a triple cooked convert, but these were decidedly better than their chewy predecessors and mash dipped chips could become a ‘thing’.
(a very weird ‘thing’)

Enough about spuds, it’s time to get tipsy.
Another of Dinner’s signature dishes, tipsy cake arrives in a darling little cast iron pot. The rum soaked, cream filled brioche is a heavenly mouthful when paired with spit roasted pineapple.
As you may have noticed, there are only five segments in the cake. This is either a very cruel game or a very crucial way to sum up your dinner date. Good luck with that one.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalAs our final dessert (don’t give me that look, we shared the tipsy cake), we ordered ice cream. Like most things involved with Mr. Blumenthal, ice cream is not just ice cream.
Instead, it is table side, liquid nitrogen ice cream!
As the custom-made liquid nitrogen ice cream trolley rolled its way towards us, I wiggled with the excitement of a small child upon hearing the ice cream van enter the neighbourhood.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Our lovely, very knowledgeable server talked us through the process whilst putting up with my paparazzi-like barrage of photo snapping. I gave up trying to capture the magic and took a little video to show you.

The creamy, vanilla bean ice cream is then scooped into sugared filo dough cones before we were asked to choose our toppings.

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe toppings to choose from were chocolate coated anise seeds, freeze dried raspberries, chocolate hazelnut crunch and popping candy. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMy date chose freeze dried raspberries & popping candy, which I sampled and posed with whilst mine was being churned.

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalDinner by Heston Blumenthal As it turned out to be an extremely difficult decision, when I finally settled on chocolate hazelnut & popping candy, the lovely server filled my plate with freeze dried raspberries and chocolate anise seeds for me to dip my ice cream into as I went. Another incredible touch of service leaving me grinning ear to ear as I dipped and licked my greedy way through the rest of my cone.Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

As if we hadn’t indulged enough, an earl grey infused chocolate ganache with a delicate caraway biscuit arrived as a chocolatey kiss goodbye. The perfect end to such an amazing evening. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
I left happy, sugar high and a little food drunk.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalI cannot recommend Dinner by Heston Blumenthal enough. It is the perfect venue for a special occasion with very special food.
Oh, and a safe bet for a very impressive date!

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.
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. 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.