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…

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.
Why?!
Because that’s where we’re going to dinner.
WHAT!? really? 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

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

sketch Summer Afternoon Tea

Claimed to be a vibrant gastro-brasserie, sketch has long been one of London’s must see spots. Its interior aims to defy the ordinary, allowing its  restaurants to not only nourish the body, but tantalise the mind. It has become an institution and is the place I bring my visitors for a real wow factor meal and memorable experience.

I was delighted to hear The Gallery at sketch has recently been redesigned and a little overly excited to be invited to try their new Summer Afternoon Tea. Paris based India Mahdhavi, who is both an architect and designer, has created a backdrop for artist David Shrigley’s work. Shrigley, if you haven’t heard of him, is responsible for the satyrical sketches lining the wall, deriding everyday situations and thoughts.

Sketch Afternoon Tea The room is now a feminine fairy tale of muted pinks and rose golds, with the famously stunning floor created of 96 different types of marble remaining the only recognisable element from its previous design.

We chose our teas and ordered a Summer Afternoon Tea each, more than ready to ‘forget about it’ and disappear into The Gallery. Sketch Afternoon TeaAs with everything at sketch, the champagne service is part of the act. Sketch Afternoon Tea A very retro looking champagne trolley was rolled over, filled with bottles of chilled champagne. My date was theatrically poured a glass whilst I snapped away, obviously embarrassing the lovely sommelier. Sketch Afternoon TeaSketch Afternoon Tea For tea, we went for a green blend of Osamnthus. The flowering green tea is hand tied around an orange osmanthus flower for a subtle hint of citrus and a beautiful presentation.

Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon TeaHappily sipping our tea, we continued to admire the surrounding sketches, pointing out our favourites, giggling at a few and finding others utterly disturbing.

Our attention, however, was soon drawn to the main event. Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s exciting arrangement of sandwiches, cakes and pastries were delivered on three tiers of David Shrigley designed crockery.

Sketch Afternoon Tea Just look at that selection! You’re jealous aren’t you? I can tell. Maybe I’ve saved some for you to try?
No, no I haven’t.

It was served with accompaniments of raspberry meringues, bubble gum marshmallows and warm scones with fresh fig and strawberry jam. Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon Tea
Sketch Afternoon TeaThe miniature mozzarella and pesto croque monsieur was texturally pleasing with delicious flavour. Posh comfort food that I would happily indulge in on a daily basis.
Sketch Afternoon TeaA tiny triangle of egg and mayonnaise sandwich with quail egg and caviar was next. This was laced with truffle for a subtle earthiness, continuing the luxurious comfort food I so desire to have fill my fridge at home. 
Sketch Afternoon Tea
Having polished off the sandwiches and scones, we indulged in a miniature coffee eclair, an almond and berry tartlet, strawberry cheesecake, mousse malabar, bubble gum marshmallows, meringue tart, raspberry meringues, sketch opera cake and old fashioned pistachio macarons. Sketch Afternoon Tea I was now regretting the tight outfit choice and wondered if sketch also harboured a wonderfully mysterious nap pod. Sketch Afternoon Tea

I had no such luck, so we sipped away our sugar high whilst finding more of our favourites scattered around the room.
Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon TeaOur incredibly attentive and rather charming server checked on us throughout tea, asking if we’d like any cheeky extras of any of our favourites. Literally about to burst out of my dress, I temporarily listened to the debate going on between the little voices in my head. One argued the point of being on a beach in California next week, the other reminded me of the creamy, nutty pistachio macaron which was my firm favourite of the tea.

You can guess who won.
Sketch Afternoon Tea Don’t give me that look, they were delicious!

Some more rest was required as those little gems securely put me over the edge. Sketch Afternoon Tea
Sketch Afternoon Tea
Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon TeaFinally able to move, we nipped to the loos before leaving. You may find this detail an odd inclusion, but these are something special. Sketch Afternoon Tea

That’s right! Egg pod toilets. As probably one of the most photographed bathrooms ever, these are definitely worth a visit.

Dining at sketch is like something out of a fairytale. The Summer Afternoon Tea is surely something every tourist and Londoner must do this season.
But you’ve been warned, be sure to wear something a little loose!

Polpetto

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. 
Polpetto
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?

Polpetto

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.
Polpetto

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…
Snog

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.

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!

Salvador & Amanda

The other night I was invited along to a media dinner at Salvador & Amanda, the restaurants new Bloomsbury location.
Considering the launch was the night before, I was surprised to see such an overwhelming crowd enjoying after work drinks and tapas at the bar.
I was ushered through the bustling crowd and made my way upstairs to the much calmer setting of Restaurant Cadaqués. A dimly lit room with tables set for two and a romantically set long table for our twelve person dinner.

We all found our place cards and chatted away about the restaurants background as we gazed at a stunning picture of Cadaqués hanging over the table. The restaurant is appropriately named after Salvador Dali and his muse, Amanda and serves tapas influenced by the region of Catalonia that he often visited.

After a cocktail reception, the table was then served a series of tapas for us all to share made by the incredibly talented Chef Rubén Dario Estrella. Salvador & AmandaSalvador & Amanda

First we tasted Jamon Iberico ‘Pata Negra’ which is hand carved, acorn fed Iberico ham on the bone from Jabugo which had been cured for 36 months.
This was exquisite and was served with salted Marcona almonds and bread with pure Spanish olive oil.
The perfect taste of Spain to set the mood.
Salvador & Amanda We were then served a salad of chicory, walnuts, pear, blue cheese and an acidic dressing to tie the sharp and sweet flavours together. Salvador & Amanda Next were handpicked crab and chili croquettes. A crispy fried bite with a smooth, creamy filling of sweet crab meat was absolutely delicious.

Salvador & Amanda After that, we were served sauteed wild mushrooms with garlic and a poached, free range egg. This was delicious and incredibly morish.  Salvador & Amanda Salvador & Amanda Next up, Cornish scallops with cauliflower puree and raisins. These were cooked to perfection and had a drizzle of aged balsamic to really enhance the sweet flavours of the puree and raisins. Salvador & Amanda Salvador & Amanda Our last tapas was certainly not least.
Chorizo Lollipops with quince aioli.
Pieces of chorizo which had been battered and fried were skewered to be dipped in a quince aioli.
Crunchy batter, salty chorizo and sweet quince aioli were a divine creation that gave a whole new meaning to the word lollipop.
Salvador & AmandaAfter our series of shared tapas came our main.
Roast Suckling pig served with new potatoes and broccoli.
The pig was cooked to perfection. The new potatoes and broccoli were tender, yet crunchy and had a sweet salty flavour to them.  Salvador & AmandaSalvador & AmandaThen came heaven.
I have had a lot of desserts in my life and it is very rare that I stumble across a pudding that makes me say, “Wow.”
But this chocolate fondant with coffee ice cream and candied almonds made me exclaim in pure delight WOW!
Silky, creamy chocolate mousse guarded a cold, liquid coffee ice cream centre. With each bite there was  a sweet crunch of candied almond.
Dessert perfection, gracias
Salvador & Amanda Salvador & Amanda

If you’d like to taste a series of delicious tapas at Salvador & Amanda’s new Bloomsbury location, book here.

Oh, and promise me you’ll order the chocolate fondant?

Union Kitchen & Tap

Whilst I’ve been away, living across the pond, a new local hot spot has popped up in sunny San Diego.
Union Kitchen & Tap is a new, neighbourhood restaurant located in Encinitas, minutes away from the ocean. They serve lunch & dinner and brunch on the weekends.
The interior is minimalist and masculine and would be the perfect spot to watch the big game or meet up with a group of friends.

Union Kitchen & TapUnion Kitchen & TapUnion Kitchen & Tap The UNION Bloody Mary looks like it would punch a hangover right in the face. Asparagus, onion, olive and yes, a big strip of bacon “garnish” this cup of cure. Union Kitchen & TapThey have a great selection of flatbreads which proved very difficult to choose from. We settled for the Fig Flatbread with Laura Chanel Goat Cheese, poached figs, balsamic onions and fried sage.
Decadent, delicious and could’ve easily been dessert. Union Kitchen & Tap Union Kitchen & TapTo accompany our meals, we ordered a side of Kennebec Frites. These were delicious, but were served with a side of their house ketchup which I really disliked.
I think they flavour it with anise, which gave it a black liquorice taste.
Hate to stay it, but I’ll stick with the Heinz, thanks.  Union Kitchen & TapNote the T-shirt: reppin’ LDN in CA Union Kitchen & TapThen my monster arrived.
Green Eggs & Ham Burger with fried egg, prosciutto, oven roasted tomato and pesto. The flavour combination was incredible and the fried egg slathered with pesto was such a decadent topping.
Prosciutto is sort of a tricky meat to take bite size pieces of which made the messy burger even more difficult to eat, but gave it a great saltiness.
Matched with my favourite sweet potato fries, this is definitely a lunch worth coming back for.
Union Kitchen & TapUnion Kitchen & Tap

Union Kitchen & Tap

I would definitely recommend grabbing some friends and heading to UNION for a game and some great food.
And after, it’s only a short walk to the beach to work off the couple thousand calories.

To find out more about the restaurant, click here and for reservations, you can find their number here.

Raw Bar Research

Today I have eaten non-stop.
I was asked to conduct my favourite kind of research for an upcoming launch, the edible kind.
I had to spend all afternoon wandering from classic London haunts to trendy new bars, trying raw dishes.

It all started at Bibendum.
A classic Oyster bar that’s been serving Chelsea locals for over 100 years.
The building itself is iconic, but unfortunately was under construction so I couldn’t snap a pic.
A beautiful flower stall and overflowing fish stand guard the entrance of the building for those wanting something to go. For those willing to spend an afternoon catching up over a plate of ice and rock oysters, head inside to the Oyster Bar.

Raw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchMy dining partner and I shared a half dozen Rock Oysters, three Colchester Rocks and three Fines de Claire Prestige. A little lemon, some shallot vinaigrette and a dash of tabasco before they were slurped down the hatch. The perfect kick-off to the long day of research ahead.

Raw Bar ResearchNext on the list was J Sheekey in the heart of the West End, another famous London haunt.
Business men brooded over Whisky at the bar and designer dressed couples snuggled into booths feeding each other crab bisque. 
Raw Bar Research
Raw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchWe decided to share the Sea bass ceviche with plantain crisps.
It was absolutely delicious with sweet red onion, spicy jalepeño, coriander and lime.
A lovely pick me up with a kick.

Raw Bar ResearchWe were then given our weapons for battle.
Raw Bar ResearchA beautiful Plateau de Fruits de Mer was then displayed on a bed of ice which took a considerable amount of time to greedily pick through.
Clams, whelks, sea snails, brown shrimp and langoustine all doused in lemon. 
IMG_7922Raw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchEn route to our next stop, I had to stop and giggle at this sign.
Note: the raindrops.
Raw Bar Research Next stop, Wright Brothers Soho Oyster House.
Fairly newer than its competition, it’s tucked away down a side street in Soho with candle-lit tables and a large raw bar.

Raw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchHere we tried a delicious Var Salmon tartare with ginger, coriander and soy.
On top was a tiny, lovely quail’s egg coated in sesame seeds.
Raw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchLast, but certainly not least, one of my frequent favourites: Roka. It’s a modern Japanese restaurant with simple ingredients that never disappoints.Raw Bar ResearchRaw Bar ResearchThe edamame with sea salt is a must have whilst mulling over the menu.
I know it’s technically not raw, but we needed something warm to munch on after our journey through the snow.

Raw Bar ResearchFirst we had one of my favourite dishes, the Yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables.
Flavour, ingredients, presentation, all perfect.

Raw Bar ResearchThen a few bites each of Softshell crab sushi with cucumber and kim chi with a chilli mayonnaise. Simple and delicious.

Raw Bar ResearchThen the decadent Wagyu sushi with oscietra caviar, spring onion and fresh ginger. Every bite of this was pure bliss. Raw Bar ResearchA steaming hot order of flavourful Roasted eggplant with sesame miso was the perfect side dish. Raw Bar ResearchThroughout my sampling, I sipped on a delicious green iced tea with lemonade and passion fruit. They have an extensive list of creative cocktails and great selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Raw Bar Research It’s been a rough day of research and it’s time to compile my notes.
I’m hoping I receive another tough assignment very, very soon.

Breakfast With a View

I have found your new favourite breakfast spot.

If you thought Duck & Waffle looked like the perfect spot for a romantic dinner overlooking the city, you’ll be pleased to know I’ve found a new use for this towering venue. The potential downfall for my new discovery is that you’re going to have to set your alarm clock. This isn’t for a lazy Sunday brunch and you’ll soon see why.

After getting dressed and ready at some ungodly hour and stepping out into the cold, early darkness that is usually only endured to catch a red eye from Heathrow, we made our way into London well before the busy Monday morning commute.

What on earth is worth an early Monday morning? you ask.
Two things: Duck and Waffle.

Not convinced to be up before the sun just for a bit of breakfast?
How about having an entire 40th floor to yourself whilst you watch the city wake up and the sun rise all over a delicious breakfast. I promise it was well worth it.

We sat facing the East and watched as the sun rose above the clouds and lit up a beautiful Londontown. Lines of cars that looked like ants made their way into the city whilst tired commuters crept across the pavement. Lights in skyscrapers were slowly switched on and smoke billowed from chimneys in the distance. There’s something so peaceful about watching a city groan to life, preparing for another busy week, whilst high in the clouds, away from a cramped commute of grumpy Londoners.

For breakfast we obviously shared the star of the show, Duck & Waffle, which you can read more about here. We also shared Colombian Eggs, which were fluffy, scrambled eggs mixed with salsa and spread over a generous serving of fresh avocado on toast. This was a delicious, spicy  take on the standard breakfast dish which I could happily indulge in more often. For breakfast dessert… greedy, I know… we shared a Belgian Waffle with berries and massive dollop of fresh vanilla cream.

Whilst we dined, several people trickled in for early morning business meetings over Bloody Mary’s and waffles, an idea I must store away for future reference. The view was stunning, meal was excellent, and I couldn’t think of a more spectacular way to start off another work week.


You can book a table here but if you’re planning on watching the sunrise, it’s not likely you’ll have too much company.