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    Tuesday, 29 March 2016

    SIMPLE ITALIAN WITH THEO RANDALL

    As a born and bred West Londoner, I have to say I am excited. For years, all the best restaurants have been popping up on the other side of town but FINALLY we're getting some some brilliant restaurants of our own – so I no longer have to schlep to East for a feast.

    Big names like Polpo, Dirty Bones, The Ivy and Kurobuta have all recently opened their doors in Kensington and Chelsea and now Theo Randall has followed suit, opening Theo’s Simple Italian just a stone’s throw from Earls Court Station.
    I was invited down to the launch of the restaurant last week for a masterclass session with the chef himself and also to try out the food and drink which would be gracing the trendy restaurants menu.

    The restaurant itself has a wonderfully cosy feel, it’s light and bright and is sectioned off into small separate areas which creates a lovely sense of intimacy but still keeps that all-important ‘buzzy’ atmosphere. The menu is all about great Italian cooking, using all the best ingredients with a relaxed, informal approach.

    Kicking off the session, Theo walked us through how to make fresh pasta and a delicious pesto from scratch – getting us all involved in pressing out the sheets of pasta and packaging up into a little doggy bag for us to take home.

    We really couldn't have asked for a better host in Theo. He was so passionate about the food he was preparing and shared lots of anecdotes and tips about the various ingredients he was using – while I doubt I’ll be making fresh pasta at home anytime soon, Theo has certainly given me the confidence to knock together some home-made pesto!
    After working up a sweat with the pasta machine, we were seated and given a showcase of all the food on the menu. And when I say all, I really do mean ALL the foods. The team were extremely generous and served us up pretty much everything on the menu!

    Up first were a trio of ‘primi’ starters, led by my favourite - veal, beef and pork spicy meatballs (£3.50) which were baked in a delicious tomato sauce and finished with creamy burrata.
    Completing the trio were the deliciously crisp calamari fritti served with a light lemon-ey aioli (£3.50) and polenta chips (£3).
    For our second course we were treated to marinated black angus beef carpachio topped with a generous handful of parmesan and a good drizzle of balsamic glaze and rocket (£9.50).I’ve developed an unhealthy love for Burrata since I watched it being made at Pulia recently (blog post coming soon) so this next dish was always going to be a winner for me. Served with winter tomatoes and a generous splash of olive oil and basil, this creamy ball of burrata cheese (£9) was an absolute dream.
    Moving swiftly into the pasta course, we tried a trio of dishes including thick ribbons of pappardelle pasta served with a meaty oxtail ragu (£11) and the table’s favourite calamarata allo Scoglio (£11). A light pasts dish made with generous lumps of fish, mussels, squid and prawns which tasted like the sea!

    We also sampled the rissoto al Castelrosso cheese (£11) which can assure you was delicious but I didn’t get a chance to take a snap of!
    By this point I was ready to burst but the food just kept coming. Main courses or ‘Secondi’ as the menu states came in the form of sea bream (£18) served with potatoes, fennel, capers and olives which was beautifully cooked and instantly transported you to some exotic terrace in Italy.
    The rose veal milanese was a great option if you’re looking to share. Served on the bone for two people (£38.50) along with potatoes and rocket, it’s a pretty reasonably priced dish for two. Beautifully cooked with a nice crisp coating.
    Sides, as if we needed any more food, were the wonderfully named patate salate (£4) – or fried potatoes to you and me and the zucchini fries (£4) which far surpassed the ones I tried at Granger & Co last week.
    The dessert course was a mixed bag for me. Of the three desserts we tried, Theo’s signature lemon tart was the absolute star. Packed with really bold, sharp citrus flavour which made your tongue tingle – I could have eaten three.

    The white chocolate and orange tart (£6) was pleasant and the spicy chocolate sauce really helped to take it up a level but the Sambuca semi freddo (£6) sadly really wasn’t for me. Sambuca for me should be confined to nightclubs at 4am and the coffee essence was far too strong for my tastes but others on the table seemed to enjoy it.
    Overall, a really brilliant night. Theo was a fantastic and engaging host, even emailing me a list of personal recommendation for my trip to Rome next month which certainly went above the call of duty! Big thank you to Theo and the teams at Sauce & the Indigo hotel for putting on a great event. I’ll definitely be popping back in again soon!

    Theo's Simple Italian at The Hotel Indigo 
    34-44 Barkston Gardens 
    London 
    SW5 0EW

    * I was a guest so all food & drink was complimentary
    Theo's Simple Italian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Saturday, 26 March 2016

    GRANGER & CO, KINGS CROSS

    Where better to kill time before boarding a train at Euston station than down the road at Granger & Co?

    I had a couple of hours to kill before heading up to Liverpool on Thursday so I decided to stop by for a quick bite to eat. I've heard brilliant things about Granger & Co - Bill Granger has made a name for himself as the friendly Aussie king of quick and easy cooking so I thought it was about time I tried out what he had to offer.

    Grainger & Co has three locations across London but my destination of choice was Kings Cross. The beautifully lit restaurant faces the rear of main station, in the newly developed area behind the main station, making it ideal for travellers up to the North from Kings Cross or Euston.
    The cooking at Granger & Co focuses on simple dishes cooked with an Aussie flair. Everything has a pretty trendy-healthy vibe, you can expect to see foodie favourites like courgette, sour-dough, tahini on the menu but you've also got a well stocked bar of booze for good measure - anywhere that serves Asahi is off to a good start for me.
    I decided to go for the wildly unhealthy option on the menu, the beautifully moist Korean fried chicken (£8.50) served with iceberg lettuce and a chilli sesame sauce which was just the right side of spicy.

    I can't rave about this chicken dish enough - the batter is beautifully crispy with that lovely salty crispy skin that you know your arteries won't thank you for, but your belly will. It was a real highlight of a dish and after posting a picture on Instagram - it seems I'm not the only one bowled over by it's greatness!
    A dish as good as that needed something brilliant to accompany it, but sadly I was let down by my choice of courgette chips (£7.50) - which came served with a tahini dip.

    They felt pretty virtuous, with only a tiny coating of light batter but the whole dish lacked any real flavour for me and just felt a little...pointless. Definitely not worth the almost £8 price tag so I'd definitely swerve this next time. I was eyeing up the Kimchi and crab arancini (£6.50) on the table next me though so think that would have been a better bet!
    Food wise, I left feeling impressed with Granger 7 Co but the service was a little lazy. No-one offered me a dessert menu (which is a red-card offence in my eyes) and with a train to catch I didn't bother to hang around to ask for one. I'm not put off though, after much Instagram stalking, I'll certainly be back for some of those pancakes..

    Unit 1 Stanley Building, 7 Pancras Square, London N1C 4AG

    * I was given money to cover the costs of my meal by citizenMag
    All opinions are honest regardless

    Granger & Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Wednesday, 23 March 2016

    JAMESON & SALTED CARAMEL MULE

    If you've read my Twitter bio, you'll know Jameson is my drink of choice - Jameson & ginger ale to be exact. It's strong, refreshing, with just a touch of sweetness...and it doesn't give me a hangover. Result.

    So why am I telling you this? Well I was bought a lovely bottle of Stoli Salted Karamel vodka for Christmas and I've been wondering how best to drink it. Stoli themselves recommend a cocktail called the Bad Romance which blends the caramel vodka with cherry cola but I'm not keen on cherry so I decided to play around with other cocktail combinations.

    Caramel and ginger are brilliant together so I thought why not turn my favourite drink into a cocktail by adding a splash of the vodka and the result is insanely good!
    The result is very similar to a Moscow Mule but I've changed it up by adding the whiskey, bitters and ginger ale (instead of ginger beer). It's super easy to make and even easier to drink - give it a go for yourself and let me know how you get on! 

    What you'll need
    2 shots Salted caramel vodka
    1 shot Jameson Irish Whisky
    2 dashes Angostura Bitters
    Glug of ginger ale
    1/2 lime (juice)
    Ice

    What you'll need to do
    1. Fill a glass tumbler with ice
    2. Add your Jameson & Vodka followed by a squeeze of the lime and bitters
    3. Top with ginger ale (depending on your preference) and stir
    4. Enjoy. Cheers.

    Monday, 21 March 2016

    #YEAROFTHETACO AT WAHACA, ONE NEW CHANGE

    St. Paul's is fast becoming one of my favourite places to head to on a Saturday with the arrival of the One New Change development. It's home to some fab restaurants (Barbecoa, Pho, Bread Street Kitchen), a brilliant line up of shops and it's even got one of my favourite rooftop bars, Madison's, on its sixth floor.
    The lovely team at Land Securities, who manage the One New Change development, recently got in touch and invited me to come down to one of their restaurants, Wahaca, to celebrate the launch of their new Year of The Taco campaign. I've not been to Wahaca before so in the spirit of making 'One New Change', I headed down with one of my best friends to try out what they had to offer
    I'm sure most of you will know Wahaca. There's more than 17 spread out across the city but for those that don't, Wahaca is the brain-child of Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers and offers laid-back tapas-style Mexican street food. 

    Our waiter explained that the best way to order is to choose 2-3 small plates per person and share them out amongst the table. We were a little stuck on what to go for so we opted for the 'Adventure' set menu (£32.50pp) so we could get the best taste of what was on offer!
    Each dish comes out when it's ready so we were treated to a flurry of flavour as one by one more and more dishes started to appear. 

    One of the star dishes of the night had to be the Pork pilbil tacos which came up first. Slow cooked pork in Wahaca's special Yucatan marinade adorned with fiery pink pickled onions which helped to marry all the flavours together - simply delicious!
    Next came the Huitalacoche empanadas which were an absolute joy. A new addition to the menu, these crispy pastry parcels are filled with mushrooms, truffled Mexican corn and LOADS of melted cheese. Perfectly crisp on the outside but all lovely and gooey within. 
    My favourite dish was the Salmon sashimi tostados - deliciously fresh salmon marinated in lime and tamari served on a soft taco with avocado and a slightly spicy chipotle mayo. Luckily, Anna (my eating companion) isn't keen on salmon so I managed to wangle both to myself....
    Next up was a smokey chipotle chicken quesadilla and chipotle cauliflower cheese. The quesadilla was tightly packed out with tender shredded chicken lathered in a rich, spicy tomato sauce - I traded off my share of this for the salmon tostado but Anna assures me it was delicious! 
    We also enjoyed a portion of crispy fried sweet potatoes and some amazing char-grilled poblano peppers, spinach and corn tacos but I'll admit by this point, I was too busy enjoying myself to get pictures of everything!

    After our marathon dinner, we just about had enough room for some churros and chocolate (of course)...and another glass of red wine.
    All in all, it was a brilliant evening. Given Wahaca is a chain restaurant, I was really impressed with the freshness and quality of all the food and the staff were so attentive and on hand to give advice on the menu. Next time you're over St.Pauls definitely make sure you head over to One New Change - even if it's for a Pornstar Martini up on the the sixth floor....

    Wahaca St.Paul's
    One New Change, London, EC2V 6AG

    *Our food & first round of drinks were complimentary 
    All opinions are my own
    Wahaca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
    Square Meal

    Saturday, 19 March 2016

    BOOZY BANOFFEE PIE

    If there's one Patron Saint I can get behind it's St Patrick. The Irish know how to party so rather than confining the celebrations to Thursday, I wanted to bring something sweet into St Patrick's weekend with my deliciously boozy Banoffee pie using one of Ireland's finest products - Feeney's Irish Cream Liqueur.

    I was introduced to Feeney's a couple of weeks ago - it's a delicious Irish Cream Liquor which contains the highest amount of cream and Irish liqueur on the market - giving it an incredibly strong but fresh, creamy flavour.

    Irish liqueur usually reminds me of Christmas when my mum wheels out a bottle from the back of the cupboard but the team at Feeney's have convinced me that there's more ways you can enjoy it than just over a glass of ice during the festive season. They challenged me to see if I could use it in a recipe and I immediately knew what to go for. 

    Banoffee pie is one of my favourite puddings. It's rich, indulgent and definitely not good for you. Some people like to use pastry or shortbread but for me it's all about a thick, buttery, biscuit base (cue Gregg Wallace). Shortbread can tend to go a bit soggy and there's nothing more satisfying than the snap when your spoon breaks through that thick bottom that you only get with melted butter and biscuit. 

    It's also really simple to make and I could only think of one way I could think to make this banoffee pie better and that was with a glug of Irish liqueur in the creamy topping. It's boozy but won't blow your head off - I promise you'll want to go back for seconds. I don't judge.  
    What you'll need
    225g digestive biscuits
    150g melted butter
    1 tin of Nestle Carnation caramel
    3 bananas
    300ml double cream
    80ml ml Feeney's Irish Cream Liqueur
    Chocolate to grate on top
    What you'll need to do
    1. Crush your biscuits in a bowl and mix in the melted butter
    2. Line a cake tin with greaseproof paper and pour in the biscuit mixture, compacting it while you go. Make sure to push some biscuit up the edges to create the sides of the pie
    3. Chill in the fridge for around 10 minutes
    4. Once removed from the fridge, spoon your caramel over the base and layer with bananas
    5. Whip up the double cream and Irish liqueur till its stiff and hold it's shape. Once ready, spoon over the caramel and return to the fridge for 30-40 minutes.
    6. Remove from the fridge & grate chocolate on top
    6. Cut yourself a slice & enjoy its gooey-deliciousness!
    Delicious. Just don't think about the calories. Think about the banana, lovely healthy banana.

    * I was sent a bottle of Fenney's Irish Liqueur to use in this recipe

    Wednesday, 16 March 2016

    SUNDAY LUNCH AT THE CHEQUERS INN

    I read recently that sales of the traditional Sunday roast are in decline. Wetherspoons served their last roast dinner last month, taking their £7 dinner off the menu and sales of roasting joints in the supermarkets are down compared with last year. This is the worst thing I've ever heard!

    I love a Sunday roast. I can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday than enjoying a roast dinner with my family. There's plenty of contenders for my favourite roast but there's one place which always tops my list. 
    My parents lives in Buckinghamshire in a little town called Beaconsfield. It's full of restaurants and bars, you might remember the Crazy Bear or The Cape which I've written about before? Well just down the road is Wooburn Common, home to one of my favourite pubs for Sunday lunch.
    The Chequers Inn is a 17th century coaching inn which has been refurbished into a cosy pub, with a boutique hotel and chic restaurant attached. The newly extended restaurant sits towards the back of the pub where they serve delicious, British cooking. 
    The menu has everything from giant burgers (which I highly recommend) to fish and chips but Sundays mean only one thing for me and that's the roast dinner. Maybe not quite as good as my nan's but it comes pretty close! For £13.95 you get a generous portion of rare roast beef, beautifully cooked with lashings of gravy. The potatoes are deliciously fluffy inside but with a nice crunch - just want you want from a good roastie! All complimented with green veg, a yorkie put, cauli cheese and roasted parsnips.
    If the Sunday roast truly is in decline, I don't mind doing my bit to keep them on the menu! Let me know if the comments below where you're favourite place for Sunday lunch is!

    Kiln Ln, Wooburn Common, Buckinghamshire HP10 0JQ