Monday, 27 June 2016

MR FOGG'S TAVERN, COVENT GARDEN

Have you heard the tale of Phileas Fogg? The fictional character said to have navigated around the world in 80 days?

Well there's more to this tale of adventure that you might have known and it makes the perfect backstory to a fabulous restaurant-come-pub right in London's theatre-land:
Whilst making his way across the globe, Phileas' dear aunt Gertrude died leaving him as the sole beneficiary of her London home. Together with her loyal housekeeper, Fanny McGee, they turned it into a rowdy tavern where she could celebrate with her theatrical chums. As soon as you step inside, you're greeted with all sorts of curious objects from Phileas' travels around the world. Flags hanging from the ceiling, taxidermy on the walls, waiting staff in traditional victorian dress...it's not your regular West End pub, but that's all part of its charm!
The upstairs is home to the Gin Parlour which boasts over 300 bottles of gin! We had a little peek in there whilst they had a private function on and the manager told us about their new exciting venture.

The G+Tea! will take guests on a mini gin safari, complete with safari hats and aprons. They'll be able to taste 3 unique and rare gins and will be led through the intricate history and origins of each. 

Afterwards, they will be lead back into the Salon where they can enjoy a gin and tonic, followed by afternoon tea with 3 tiers of sweet treats and champagne or gin tea! Sounds fab right?
It's due to launch later this summer so I'll be sure to share details soon but for now we're here for the Tavern downstairs. 

As big on liquor as they are on food, the Libations (or cocktails to you and me) menu is killer. I started off with our waiter's recommendation, the fabulously named: Sparkles from the Orchard - a sweet fruity and floral blend of pear, apple and elderflower topped with sparkling wine! (£8).
If cocktails aren't your thing - don't worry because the bar is well stocked with all sorts of spirits and they also have a wide selection of locally sourced beers too. 
The lunch menu at the Tavern is fairly short and sweet with a choice of pies, meats and salad.

There aren't actually any starters on the menu but I'd been recommended the charcuterie board so they agreed to make one up for us! Sharing starters are always my favourite and this was spot on. The only thing missing for me was some kind of chutney or balsamic vinegar/oil to bring a little moisture but I loved the mini gherkins!
Being a pub, main courses had to pay tribute to traditional British pub-grub. Tom went for the beef and bacon pie which came slathered in gravy alongside a generous serving of creamy mash and green veg.
I went for the roast of the day, in my case perfectly cooked rare beef and a mountain of roast potatoes! I hadn't realise it didn't come with any veg though so I'd definitely recommend ordering a side of greens!
There's only one choice on the menu for pudding, so of course we had to order it. A creamy Eton Mess washed down a super strong gin Negroni.

Overall our experience at Mr Fogg's was brilliant. The cocktails were good, the food delicious and the staff extra friendly. I've already pencilled in a return to make my way through the Gin Parlour upstairs...

Mr Foggs Tavern
58 St Martins Lane, Covent Garden
WC2N 4EA

* Our food/drinks were complimentary.
All opinions are my own

Mr Fogg's Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

BRASSERIE GUSTAVE, SOUTH KENSINGTON

I worked in South Kensington for three and a half years and not once did I ever visit Brasserie Gustave.

A huge faux pas on my part, because it's brilliant. Like a mini slice of Paris hidden away amongst the gleaming white streets of West London. 

Tom & I were invited to review the restaurant last Friday and it was such a brilliant experience that I had to write it up and share with you ASAP. 

Everything was perfect from start to finish - and you don't get a much better start than being handed a cold glass of champagne as you get to grips with the menu now do you?
Named after the man who designed the Eiffle Tower (Gustave Eiffle), the menu here is...you guessed it, French.

I've always loved French food but it often comes with an element of pretence. Fiddly dishes with unprouncable names and even more confusing ingredients. 

We were put straight at ease here though, the waiters are approachable and friendly, french speaking themselves and on-hand to describe the dishes and offer suggestions when you're unsure.
On their recommendation, we decided to eat our way through some classic french dishes including one I'd never tried before: escargot. (Unless you count that time me & my-stepbrother tried to make them using garden snails - blame Gordon Ramsey).

Now believe me when I tell you they are incredible. I was surprised by how much I nejoyed them but that could be partly done to the intense garlic and parsley sauce. Topped with crispy croutons to give them some added texture, I actually wished we'd gone for 12 rather than six! 
As we'd plumped for the smaller serving of snails, we decided to also share a bowl of moules (£8) which came perfectly steamed in a white wine, garlic and cream sauce....with plenty of bread to mop up it all up with. 
The team matched our drinks throughout the meal starting us off on an elegant and very drinkable 2013 chardonnay. I often think Chardonnay gets a bad rep but this was lovely - very alcoholic but light and fruity and perfect with both our starters. 
For main course, Tom had the rib-eye (surprise, surprise) which was delicious. A really generous 220g piece of steak, cooked perfectly medium rare and served with a peppercorn sauce. 

I love how sauces play such an important role in french cooking - being expertly poured by your waiter as they arrive at your table.
I ordered the lamb served three ways (£24) - a meaty cutlet, shoulder and sweetbreads. I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about sweetbreads but the shoulder piece was definitely the tastiest part of the dish and worked really well with the fresh bean fricasse which came served alongside.
Wine this time around was a strong, velvety merlot - so delicious it even converted Tom who has never been a fan of red.Completing our meal was a line-up of side dishes comprised of spinach (£4) and mushroom (£4) and frites which came as part of Tom's meal.
The french are almost as well known for their desserts as they are for their artists so it would have been criminal to leave without ordering a sweet. 

Tom ordered the passionfruit and chocolate 'arctic roll' but was actually served the 'Vacherin aux Fraise Gariguette et Rhubarbe' (£7.50) AKA meringue, rhubarb and strawberries. 

Not realising until halfway through eating I guess was an indication as to how good it was! Beautifully presented and a lovely blend of textures and flavours.
I love the theatrics of table-side cooking so for me it had to be the crepe suzette.  Three thin pancakes cooked in a caramel sauce and flambéed off with Grand Marnier, orange and lemon juice. 
It's incredibly sweet and SO indulgent but also incredibly good. This is the kind of dessert where you really need to forgot about the number of calories you're consuming and just enjoy it. It's 'good for the soul' kind of cooking. 
I can honestly say our experience at Brasserie Gustave was incredible and easily one of my favourite meals in London. Our waiting staff were knowledgable and friendly, our food was phenomenally cooked and the wine just delicious.

The only thing that saddened me was that it wasn't a little busier for a Friday night. This place deserves to be packed so please help me remedy this by taking yourself down for a little Paris by-way-of South Kensington action ASAP.

4 Sydney Street, South Kensington
SW3 6PP

*Our food was complimentary. All opinions are honest.
Brasserie Gustave Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, 20 June 2016

TURMERIC & GINGER HEALTH BOOSTING SMOOTHIE

Every year there seems to be a new wonder ingredient. Chia seeds and coconut water had their turn. As did goji berries and now it seems it's turmeric's chance in the lime-light.

It's even been named as one of Google trends star ingredients for 2016 so you know it's serious.

Turmeric, also known as Indian Gold, is thought to have powerful anti-inflamatory and immune boosting properties which help with skin complaints such as acne and psoriasis so it's no wonder Turmeric shots and lattes are popping up on menus all across London.
After doing a little research into this 'wonder' ingredient, I found that it's the curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow colour, which has the real anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown it can help with Alzheimer's and a host of heart, liver & blood problems - so sign me up.

Feeling inspired by the hundreds of brilliant turmeric recipes across the internet, I decided to create a creamy, smoothie which makes the most some powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients.

You've got ginger in there as an immune booster, lemon for Vitamin C and pineapple which is great for digestion - plus a hit of Omega-3s from the chia seeds on top. What are you waiting for!
What you'll need (enough for 1 smoothie)
75g tbsp 0% Fage Yoghurt
1 handful chopped pineapple
1/2 avocado
100ml coconut milk
100ml almond milk
Small knob of grated gingers
1/2 lemon (juice)
1/2 teaspoon ground Turmeric
1 tsp honey (optional)
What you'll need to do
1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blitz on high till smooth and creamy.
2. Smear the honey around your glass. This step is optional but I like the sweetness it adds.
4. Pour your blended smoothie into the glass and top with chia and pomegranate seeds.
5. Enjoy and get glowing!
This post has been added to Honest Mum's Tasty Tuesday Link-up &
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Friday, 17 June 2016

DUBLINER IRISH WHISKEY + GIVEAWAY

I'm no discerning gentleman - or any gentleman for that matter - but I do love a good whiskey (with ginger ale because #lightweight).

People can be quite intimidated by whiskey. I'll admit I'm definitely still not too sure on all the Scottish double malt varieties but Irish whiskey? That I am so onboard with.

I find it a lot subtler and it's got a sweetness that works really well in cocktails - remember my Salted Caramel Mule recipe?

I've always been a Jameson drink but after being introduced to the new Irish Whiskey on the block. I think my drink order is about to change...
Launched in June last year, The Dubliner describes itself as a blend of single malt and grain whiskies, aged in specially selected oak casks to give it a warm and smokey finish.

While I can't vouch for the smokey flavour, what I can vouch for is its sweetness. The whole drawing point of Irish whiskey for me is the sweet, warm flavour it has. This blend has a lovely caramel finish with a touch of honey makes it perfect to drink with a mixer like ginger ale...

Or if you really like your whiskey - on the rocks
FUN FACT FOR YOU. I don't know about you but I always get confused about the spelling of whiskey/whisky. 

Well I've found an easy way to remember it. If the country its produced in has an 'e' in its name the spelling is whiskey (America/Ireland). Those without an E in the country name are spelt whisky (Japan, Scotland) - clever aye?

Anyway, I digress. I loved this bottle of whiskey and I wanted to share it with you guys so the team behind the Dubliner have given me a bottle to give away! For your chance to win, simply enter using the widget below!

Giveaway hosted on Super LuckyUMeandTheKids and The Prize Finder

 * I was given a bottle of Whiskey to review & giveaway
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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

SUPPER CLUB WITH THE TABL & AMBA CHEFS

Ask any blogger to name their favourite part about blogging and I'll bet they say the community (as clichéd as it sounds)

I've met so many lovely people over the past few years. Some on twitter. Some through Instagram. Some I've even met in real life! But one of my favourite people is Megan.

The guys at Tabl had kindly hooked Megan up with some tickets for a supper club so she took me along for a well overdue catch up!

Tabl is a fab website where you can browse and book tickets for supper clubs across London. Our hosts for the evening were the Amba Chefs; a bespoke catering company set up by four talented ladies; Alison, Monica, Beth and Angela who believe in cooking high-quality seasonal dishes.

Our venue for the evening was the London Cooking Project. A cosy pop-up kitchen, tucked away on a housing estate on the south side of Battersea Bridge.

We were greeted with a glass of fizz on arrival and set about awakening our appetites with the first dishes from our Mediterranean influenced menu - warm olives and a generous helping of hummus. Starters were served in the form of delicious ricotta gnudi balls & asparagus.

I have to confess I had no idea what a gnudi was before this night but I can tell you now, I'm a fan. Made using semolina and ricotta cheese, they're like little Italian dumplings. Far lighter and elegant than they sound on paper, these were one of the highlights for the evening for me.

For main course, we had a beautifully presented duck confit. Duck isn't usually one of my favourite meats - I tend to find it a little greasy but I do love the challenge of eating meat on the bone!

I know it can be off-putting to some, but I love the effort that comes from prising chunks bits off meat! Our duck was well cooked, not too dry but with a lovely crispy skin. The bed of lentils on which it was served were also nice - again not something I find myself eating often but pleasant.

Now dessert was incredible. Actually wonderful - and the dish I was looking forward to most of all.

I rarely see pain perdu on menus but when I do, my god I have to have it! It's basically posh eggy bread. Here, the Amba chefs soak brioche slices in an egg custard overnight then fry it off in a little butter and serve with vanilla ice cream and sprigs of the most incredible crystallised mint.

I've tried to make it home and it never comes out right but this - it was beautiful. So indulgent and comforting.

Overall I was hugely impressed by our experience. I've never really done the whole supper club thing before but the food, atmosphere and service were all brilliant.

It was nice to have a table to ourselves so we could chat away but still interact with the chefs as they came around. There was also a large group there for a birthday which I thought was a fantastic idea!

Big thank you to Megan for inviting me along and big thank you to the Amba chefs and Tabl for the tickets! Make sure you take a look at Tabl's website to find an event near you!

The London Cooking Project
1 Ethelburga Street, London SW11 4AG



* We dined as guests of the Tabl
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Friday, 3 June 2016

PUDDINGS & DESSERT WINE AT COTE, KINGSTON

We're on to post three of our whistle stop tour of the Riverside Walk, Kingston and if you've been following my recent posts, you'll know we're now marching towards the finish with pudding and dessert wines.

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about - take yourself back to starters and main courses to catch up!)

For our final pit-stop, we headed to Cote. Inspired by Parisian brasseries, Cote believe in using fresh, quality ingredients to create authentic french style dishes. The pudding course only means one thing. Sweet dishes paired with even sweeter wine.
I love dessert wine. It's sweet, sticky and always feels like a bit of a naughty treat. 

Straight from the remote Domaine de Barroubio estate, our Muscat de Saint Jean had a citrus flavour which, while sweet, perfectly balanced with the richness of the desserts to follow. 
Dessert wise, we were served two of Cote's most popular dishes - the first of which sadly is my least favourite!

I don't know what it is about creme caramel that I don't like, I just know I don't like it! It might be something about the way it moves! It's popular with Cote's diners though and it seemed pretty well received by the rest of our group.
The second dessert, Chocolate mousse, I could definitely get on board with. Dark, glossy and wonderfully indulgent it was the perfect cap to an evening spent being wined and dined alongside some of West London's fabulous food bloggers. 
I really enjoyed all three restaurants. Yes they're chains but so what? I was impressed with the quality of the food, the staff were all super attentive and I had a bloody good night. Chains often get a bad reputation but if you're looking for decent meal at a reasonable, accessible price, I can certainly voucher for all three of these restaurants!

If you find yourself in South West London on a Sunny afternoon, you've no excuse but to pop by. Get yourself a table at one of the restaurants outside, a nice cold glass of wine and watch as the world goes by. Sounds like a perfect day today.

Cote
Riverside Walk 
Richmond upon Thames

* Our food was complimentary
All opinions are my own

Côte Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A LEBANESE FEAST AT COMPTOIR LIBANAIS, KINGSTON

Hands up who read Monday's post? Well if you did, you'll know that I've been out exploring the restaurants of Richmond upon Thames, courtesy of the team behind the Riverside Walk.

Our starters were at Argentinian steakhouse Cote (yum) and we're now about to head straight into mains at one of my favourite places - Comptoir Libanais (even bigger yum).

Lebanese is my absolute favourite food (maybe joint with British cooking but it's close). All those light, fresh salads, grilled meats and sharing platters. What more could you want? *Drool*
Comptoir is a restaurant I know very well. I used to work round the corner to the South Kensington branch and the Mezze platter fast became my go-to 'treat'. 

While the food is delicious, the decor is even better. You feel like you're being transported to a souk with handcrafted bags, china and ingredients all on sale. The colours are bright, the atmosphere is noisy and I've always found the food is spot on. 
Price-wise, I find Comptoir pretty reasonable. Tagines served with rice are around the £9 mark, with wraps and salads costing between £8-9.

My old favourite, the Mezze Platter, is a great way to taste your way around the menu and comes in at  £9.50 but you get generous portions of the baba ghanuj, hommos, tabbouleh (my fav!), falafel, lentil salad, sambousek, pickles and pitta so it's pretty good value. (You can tell I'm greedy can't you?)
As part of our foodie adventure at Riverside Walk, the Kingston team laid on a fantastic spread including chargrilled chicken wings, fattoush salads, falafels, pittas and homemade lemonades.

We also tried dips including hommos and baba ghanuj with warm pitta and the brilliant batta harra - traditional Lebanese fries topped with red pepper, garlic, coriander and chilli. 
I'm such a big fan of Comptoir that the team didn't need to do much to win me round. It's not somewhere I'd go for a night out (necessarily) but it's definitely one of my go-to places when I want to grab something quick and easy to eat!

There's just one last instalment in my Riverside Walk adventure so check back on Friday to find out where we headed for pudding! 

Comptoir Libanais 
Riverside Walk
Richmond-Upon-Thames

* Our food was complimentary
All opinions are my own
Comptoir Libanais Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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