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    Friday, 30 October 2015

    #BAKEWITHDEBS - BAKING MASTERCLASS WITH DEBENHAMS & KENWOOD

    One thing I've learnt from my time in the kitchen is that I'm no baker. Baking requires precision. Baking is an art. Have you seen the Bake Off? One mistake and you've got a soggy bottom. Those people need to be acc-u-rate.

    Me? Not so much. I'm all about the sprinkle of this, sprinkle a little of that, cooking vibe so when Debenhams invited me to a baking class organised with Kenwood so i could brush up on my skills, it took me all of about 30 seconds to accept.

    On arrival I was presented with a glass of prosecco, a gorgeous antipasti spread and an Ashley Thomas apron (so far, so good) before we escorted through to where the magic happens...   
    Andrew and Aika, our tutors for the evening, talked us through our plan of attack and we got down to making cupcakes and cookies for the first half of our session using the Kenwood K-mixers.

    Cupcakes and cookies are definitely within my skill set and using the Kenwood mixer made things a hell of a lot easier. It's a lot heavier than I was expecting but the speed settings mean that you can whizz up things like cake batter or meringue without ending up with a dead arm!

    Next up with was even more fun stuff. Chocolate tempering and honeycomb. I've been to a chocolate workshop before which involved some basic tips on chocolate but it was great to get some more detailed experience into what it entails.
    Tempering chocolate basically is what makes it all nice and glossy and shiny. It stops you ending up with that horrible white sheen you sometimes see - plus it also helps give you that satisfying snap when you break into it.

    It's all about raising and lowering the temperature to rearrange the sugar structure - all very scientific - but also very fun - just try not to eat all the chocolates during the process.

    Once the chocolate was all melted, tempered and set into moulds, we got into decorating and making honeycomb.


    I've always been fascinated by honeycomb. It sort of grows in the pan when you add the bi-carb but it's incredibly easy to make. 

    Simply boil 100g sugar with 8 tablespoons of golden sugar - DO NO TOUCH IT - it's so tempting to stir things when you've got them over but you need to leave it well alone to make sure it works. Once it's started to colour, remove from the heat - add 3 teaspoons of Bi-carb stir and watch it grow! Then it's ready to go onto a baking tray to cool. 
    Next it was on to the Great British Bake Off style decorating challenge. I admit my competitive streak may have kicked in and I may have gone a bit Monica Gallagher. But it was all in the name of light-hearted fun right?

    We got to work making butter icing with our Kenwood mixers and were given an array of toppings so we could get creative decorating our cupcakes and a cake to be judged by our lovely judges.
    Sadly my two-tone icing didn't do quite enough to impress the judges but there were some stunning looking cakes on display....
    We were each given a cake box to fill with our cookies, cakes and honeycomb along with our own Kenwood hand blender and Ashley Thomas apron to take home which was a lovely surprise! 
    Big thank you to the Debenhams PR team, Andrew, Aika, Kenwood and the lovely Ashley Thomas for the masterclass. It was a brilliant  experience and I've learnt lots of tips - make you sure you take a look at the ranges on the Debenhams site for bake-ware inspiration!

    * I was a guest of Debenhams. Photos either my own or by Leah Whitty

    If you liked this post, you may also enjoy: Sunday Cupcakes or Eton Mess Tartlets 

    Monday, 26 October 2015

    YEAH! BURGER, STAR OF THE KING

    Another week - another burger post. What can I say? I didn't actually intend to go to Yeah Burger last week - it just sort of happened....

    Let me explain myself. I met Tom at Euston last Friday with all intentions of getting the tube home to cook dinner for both of us. I planned to go to the Sainsbury's to buy ingredients but when I got there - the whole place was depleted. Empty shelves EVERYWHERE. Who knew people did their shopping at the supermarket next to one of London's busiest stations - NOT ME.
    So we walked around to Kings Cross and did a lap of the queues at Dishoom, by-passed Caravan and the Grain Store (Tom laughed in my face at the suggestion of a veggie restaurant) and started headed back to the station in defeat when we happened across the Star of Kings.

    I knew there was good food to be had inside so we shuffled in, found ourselves a dinky table in the dim low-lit bar and started scanning the menu.
    The pub itself has its own quirky charm. Think peeling wallpaper, a graffiti wall, mis-matched furniture. A proper local boozer. But don't be put off by it's rugged interior as the burgers are top-class.
    Burgerwise - we chose to share two of the best looking burgers on the list. Firstly The OG (£9.50) an aged beef patty with cheddar cheese, bacon, avocado, sour cream and guacamole - really delicious but why no hot sauce? Stick some cholula in between those buns and for me things would have kicked up a gear.
    The main reason we were here though was for the Scotch Egg burger. Yes. A Burger in a Scotch Egg. Goodbye boring bun. Hello crispy scotch egg casing. The Marco Polo (£12.50) encases a beef burger with cheese, rocket, smoked yeah! sauce in a chorizo sausage scotch egg.
    It dribbles. It oozes. It leaks salty-gooey-cheesy-goodness all down your chin but by-God it's delicious. It did divide opinion - Tom being the burger puriest he is preferred the OG for it's soft bunned brilliance but I like to get down and dirty with my burgers so this was the winner for me. Jesus wept.
    Tom and I need to learn to stop behaving like baby elephants and ordering two portions of fries everywhere we go. We NEVER finish them but I get serious FOMO about side orders and insist we try a little bit of everything just to be sure.  
    We went for big bowls of 'Hombre' (£4) and Oxtail Chilli Cheese Fries (£6). Yes the lighting is rubbish but let's just go with it yeah? My one critique would be: put these things in dishes. Putting cheese on chips in a bowl means the ones on top are all lovely and cheesey while the ones at the bottom were left pretty plain. Spread those evenly in a flatter dish and perfect that cheese to chip ratio. 
    Overall Yeah! Burger is pretty damn good. A lot like BurgerShack it's good to see decent burger joints representing towards my side of London. You'll consume a week's worth of calories in one sitting but go with it, it's worth it, plus you can head downstairs to the basement club and work off a few of those calories on the dance-floor.

    Yeah Burger at Star of Kings
    126 York Way, London N1 0AX

    Saturday, 24 October 2015

    TEN ROOM AT THE HOTEL CAFE ROYAL

    When I first started blogging, I was super secret squirrel about the whole thing. Hence why my blog name doesn't contain my real name. (It's Lauren.... so it's 'Elle' as in L...oh never mind) but since I' ve 'come out' and started meeting people in the blogging community, I've realised how frickin' awesome people are.

    Case in point - Lauren of the Lifestyle Diaries. Not only do we share the same name but she's actually exactly like me - but you know, Scottish. After having so much fun on our trip to On the Bab we promised we'd have a blogger date again ASAP and what with it being Bookatable's London Restaurant Festival we thought 'why the bloody hell not'.
    Hotel Cafe Royal was the venue of choice. Because we're swanky like that. The hotel's restaurant, the Ten Room, were offering a three course menu with champagne cocktail for just £30 so we could have all the swank for less of the dollar. Me likey.
    The hotel itself is beautiful. You've got door-men who greet you on arrival, high ceilings, marble - it's all feeling very opulent, which you'd expect from a hotel which used to play host to Oscar Wilde. The Ten Room restaurant itself is towards the back of the hotel in what I imagine to be the old foyer - decor-wise it's a little less lavish than the rest of the hotel but i'm not here for interiors, I'm here for food so let's begin with starters.   

    We both went for the mackerel escabèche starter which sadly wasn't quite to my taste but the other choices of salad and soup didn't particularly sweep me away. Don't get me wrong, it was pleasant but I was expecting a warm dish and being served cold threw me off slightly.
    My main course more than made up it though with the braised pigs cheeks. I love a bit of cheek - slow-cooked in a thick rich gravy with soft mashed potatoes -it's one of those dinners which feels like you're being hugged while eating it. 

    A £5 surcharge for what's essentially a very cheap cut of meat seemed somewhat steep, but having experienced great food envy at Darwin when I last saw it on the menu there was no way I would let this one pass me by.
    Lauren went for the wild mushroom and spinach risotto which I'm told was really good. There was a little mix-up with the waiter not explaining that the side salad should be eaten mixed with the risotto but other than that the textures and flavours were all spot on. Dessert at the Ten Room was a delight. Lemon tart for me is always a winner - strong citrusy flavour with a slight meringue top giving it that lemon meringue pie vibe without being too sickly and cloying.
     Lauren's chocolate mousse with raspberries was incredible. Dark, bitter chocolate perfectly balanced with the sharp raspberries.
    The service was tip-top as you'd hope in a hotel of this stature although the vibe just wasn't really there for me. Our reservation was early so I'm sure the atmosphere would have picked up towards the latter part of the evening if you booked in around 8 o'clock.
    Ten Room is one to tick off the list but not necessarily somewhere I would rush back to. I have been told by the hilariously-funny Emily of Curious London that the afternoon tea here is good so perhaps try that rather than stop by for dinner?

    68 Regent St, London W1B 4DY
    Ten Room - Hotel Café Royal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
    Square Meal

    Monday, 19 October 2015

    SENOR CEVICHE, KINGLY COURT - #ZOMEETO

    Have you been down to Kingly Court lately? It's like a little treasure trove of wonderful places to eat: Pizza Pilgrims, Stax Diner, Wright Brothers and Dirty Bones all hold fort on this little courtyard found at the back of Carnaby Street & that's exactly where I was headed for my second Zomato meet-up #Zomeeto
    I've wanted to go to Senor Ceviche for AGES. I think it's something to do with all the neon lights and the promise of Pisco sours - and also the fact that I'd heard the food is frickin' delicious.
    Inspired by his time spent in Peru, owner Harry Edmeades has been bringing the flavours of Lima to London since 2013. What started out as a pop-up has now grown into a full scale restaurant here in Kingly Court.

    All of the dishes at Senor Ceviche are freshly prepared and served sharing style - my favourite way to eat. And being the hospitable bunch that they are, they presented us with nearly the WHOLE menu to try.

    First up was Picarone Aubergines (£5) - little sweet potato and aubergine doughnuts fried in a light crispy batter and served with an achiote, coriander yoghurt & peanut sauce.
    along with Chifa chicharonnes (£6) - my favourite dish of the night. Slow cooked, crispy fried pork belly in a sweet soy sauce. I think I ate most of the ones I was meant to be sharing...
    Next up time for ceviche - the real reason we're all here. Ceviche is essentially raw fish which is cured using lime juice and spices - it's big in Peru. It's kinda like sushi but you know...Peruvian .

    The Mr Miyagi (£7) was as closes to sashimi as you could get but packed with a lovely citrusy flavour. Generous slivers of Salmon tiradito with Nikkei tiger’s milk, pomegranate, purple shiso & salmon scratching.
    Senor Ceviche (£8.50) the name stake and house classic, for me was the superior of the two. Diced sea bream and octopus ceviche in a citrus aji amarillo tiger’s milk sauce served with sweet potato puree, avocado, coriander, red onion & beautifully cooked tempura baby squid.

    Harry & the team import the limes and chillies from Peru to ensure they contain the same authentic flavours as the dishes which inspired Harry on his travels & they shine through beautifully in this dish.For main courses we shared plates of Super Pollo (£8.50) - tender pieces of chargrilled chicken with a spicy rocotto and piquillo pepper salsa.
    Anticucho de res (£8) - another of my favourites. Grilled beef heart on skewers with a sweet potato mayonnaise (yes I did say heart) Not to everyone of the table's taste but I thought it was delicious. It's got a slightly more offal-y (yes I did make that word up) taste than regular beef but still every tasty.
    Nikkei Greens (£6) aren't to be overlooked. Charred tenderstem broccoli, lettuce and courgette drizzled in a miso, aji amarillo and pickled garlic sauce - incredibly moreish.
    We also tried the Quinoa Soltero (£6) - a salad made using both black and white quinoa and baby gem, roasted beetroot, avocado, asparagus, edamame beans & choclo corn.
    Promise you'll save room for dessert. The Arta De Queso (£6) or passion fruit and white chocolate cheesecake is INCREDIBLE. During a lengthy cheesecake conversation with Alexandra, we managed to polish off two bowls - it's a deconstructed version of a classic cheesecake but the passionfruit flavour was so good. I would go back for two more bowls now if I could.
    The food and the whole vibe of Senor Ceviche is brilliant, we were there on a Monday evening and the place was pretty much fully booked for the whole evening. They also have a killer cocktail list which we were treated to through-out the evening (being Monday I sipped rather than guzzled like usual) but I recommend the Pisco sours if you can hold your liquor.

    It's great to see a team so passionate about the food and drink they're serving so do yourself a favour and book yourself in so you can experience the tastes of Peru for yourself.

     Senor Ceviche
    Kingly Court, Kingly St, London W1B 5PW

    Señor Ceviche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
     * I was a guest of the restaurant so my food/drink was comp'd but opinions are still honest!