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    Monday, 30 May 2016

    STEAKS BY THE RIVERSIDE, KINGSTON

    There were very few things I knew about Kingston before last Monday.

    I knew they had an okay shopping centre and I knew they had a theatre. And I guess that's about it.

    What I didn't know was that they were hiding a little sun-trap strip of restaurants right beside the thames: The Riverside Walk.

    I was invited down, along with some other fab foodie bloggers, to try out some of what the Riverside had to offer. Each course, we were hosted by a different restaurant - kicking off with drinks and starters in Argentinian steakhouse Cau.
    Cau promises to capture the vibrancy of Buenos Aires in its menu made up of steaks, burgers and meats from the grill.

    We tried a mixed array of starters including mini pork belly slices, salmon tostadas, beef tacos and burnt tomatoes served on crusty ciabatta slices.
    The main event of course though was the delicious slices of steak. Served with the most incredible chimichurri (which had much more flavour than the one I recently at Gaucho) the meat was perfectly cooked, juicy and literally melted in the mouth.
    We were also treated to some little tasters of the dessert menu with the most incredible warm chocolate brownies topped with marshmallows and homemade churros.
    Overall I was really impressed by Cau. I'm still not too sure how to pronounce it (Cow or C.A.U) but the food really was delicious.

    In terms of price, it's a lot more accessible than somewhere like Gaucho but it has a lot of the same vibe and I have to say the quality of the food I tried was brilliant. There's plenty dotted around the country so I'd definitely recommend it for next time you're heading out for steaks and cocktails!

    After all that food, I'll give you a little breather before taking you on to our main course so come back on Wednesday and I'll show you where we headed next on our culinary tour by the Riverside...

    Cau
    Riverside Walk
    Kingston-Upon-Thames
    * Our food was complimentary. 
    All opinions are my own
    CAU Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Monday, 23 May 2016

    PORKY'S BBQ

    If I could name one holiday destination that truly appeals to me, it's the Deep South. Everything from the bluesy jazz music to the soul food and whiskeys, I just feel like Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana are calling my name. 

    I've not made the trip over there (just) yet, but I have found a little part of London which promises to bring some of those flavours of the South home....Porky's. 
    Porky's is the brain-child of husband and wife team Joy and Simon Brigg, who after a tour of the US sampling everything that the Deep South had to offer, decided to turn their little restaurant in Camden into a Memphis style BBQ. 

    It's gone down pretty well with us Londoners, so much so that they've now got 5 locations across London which all put the hearty flavours of the South at their core.  I was recently invited down to the Bankside branch and I have to say I'm impressed (and not just by their Beer Pong tables) 
    The menu at Porky's does pretty much what it says on the tin. They're all about great tasting meat which they prepare lovingly on their smoker for up to 10 hours! You can chose from just about any pulled meat, burger or hot dog plus you've got all your comfort food classics like mac & cheese, making this a pure hangover haven.

    Talking of hangovers, there's an extensive alcohol menu here too - not just beers and wine but also a pretty impressive selection of whiskeys and bourbon giving a nice nod to their Southern influence.  
    All the food is made freshly on site every day, including all their sauces, marinades and 'sopmops' which you can use to flavour their vast selection of chicken, ribs and burgers. 
    If you do ever find yourself in Porky's, promise me you'll order the hot wings (£8 for 6). I love spicy food but these things are not playing about, that sauce is like molten lava but is so incredibly addictive, you can't stop eating them! 

    Do you know what else I liked about the wings here? The fact they serve whole wings - so many places chop them up so it's nice to have yourself a whole legs that you can gnaw down on!
    Main course-wise, Tom was impressed with his chilli dog (£8.50) - a huge bockwurst sausage in a brioche roll and topped with a spicy beef chilli and chopped onions.  Never something which appeals to me on a menu but it looked and tasted brilliant!
    I predictably went for the buttermilk fried chicken burger (£7). I literally can not resist fried chicken in a brioche bun! It was really well cooked, juicy in the middle but with a nice crunchy coating. The only thing missing for me was a good slather of hot sauce...but there was more than enough left over from the chicken wings to oblige...
    All in all we had a really good meal at Porky's. It's got a really fun, laid-back vibe and the staff are happy to leave you to your own devices whilst still being attentive and helpful. They have a beer pong tournament (with official rules) so if you're ever looking for good food, drinks and bit of fun - I'd definitely recommend you head down there! 

    Porky's
    18 New Globe Walk
    Bankside
    London, SE1 9DR

    * Our meal was complimentary. All views are my own

    Wednesday, 18 May 2016

    THAI PRAWN KEBABS [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

    The sun came out this weekend so like all true Brits, so did the BBQ. I love a good family BBQ but it's easy to get stuck in the rut of having the same burgers and sausages every time.

    I'd been sent out some lovely cooking sauces to try out so I got to work on these delicious thai kebabs to bring a little more excitement to our spread!
    Goldfish Brand sauces were developed by founder Mr Lee to bring the taste and quality of Chinese restaurant home. The concentrates start out as a classic roux and are combined with a selection of carefully chosen spices to create a delicious paste which can be used for cooking.

    All you have to do is add water to the paste to create a smooth sauce which can be stir-fried with your favourite meats, fish and veg or used to liven up some of your favourite dishes. I used mine to create an easy thai kebab recipe which you'll find below!
    What you'll need
    200g Raw king prawns
    50g Goldfish Thai Curry Concentrate
    Wooden Skewers

    What you'll need to do
    1. Mix the Thai Curry Concentrate with 150ml boiling water and stir until it creates a smooth paste.
    2. Prepare your king prawns and pop into your marinade and set aside for about 45 minutes
    3. Fry your prawns in a hot saucepan (or BBQ if you're lucky with the weather!) and cook until the prawns turn pink

    If you'd like to have a go at this recipe at home, enter the competition below and you could win your very own set of Goldfish goodies so you can experiment with the recipes for yourself! Good luck!
    UK Residents Only. 
    Giveaway hosted on Super Lucky, UMeandTheKids and The Prize Finder

    *I was sent samples to use for this post

    Monday, 16 May 2016

    COOKOO, PROFESSIONALLY COOKED DINNERS TO YOUR DOOR

    I love cooking - hence why I've got a food blog - but sometimes coming home from work and having to start cooking dinner just feels like a chore. 

    There's always the option of ringing the local Chinese or Indian, but take-aways always tend to be unkind on the waist-line so what you need is a tasty, nutritious, home-cooked meal delivered to your door.  

    Well I think I've found a pretty decent solution in Cookoo. The team recently got in touch to tell me a little about their service and arranged for me to try it out for myself.  I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with the concept behind Cookoo. They have a team of chefs who put together a menu which you can chose from and order online, they then cook it up for you and deliver it straight to your door. 

    All the food is nutritious, with the full break-down of macros and ingredients listed on the website, which is great if you track what you're eating. 

    For my meal, I decided to try out some Vietnamese dishes from food writer and chef Uyen Luu. She runs a fabulous supper club in East London where she brings to life all the flavours from her home, Saigon.
    I ordered a portion of the CĂ  Ri GĂ  (£10), a traditional vietnamese curry made using chicken thighs, potatoes and carrots in a mild, fragrant sauce. This came served with white rice, all of which arrived in cardboard containers which could be warmed up in less 5 minutes and were ready to serve. 

    My curry had leaked a little on its journey to my house but as I'm outside of their normal delivery zone, it had to come via courier who I think was probably a little heavier handed than their normal delivery method! 

    Flavour-wise the curry was beautiful, really light and delicate and felt way more nutritious than the normal curries which you get delivered from the take-away!

    I also ordered a jumbo prawn summer roll (£3.95) which was actually my favourite part! Loads of fresh ingredients including king prawns, vermicelli noodles, lettuce, mint and coriander wrapped up in rice paper and served with a delicious hoisin and sriracha dip. 
    I was really impressed with the selection of food on offer and also the quality of the meal that arrived. It's probably a little too pricey to have all the time, but I think if I were to be having friends round and wanted to impress then I'd definitely order from Cookoo again. It's a great way of taking the stress out of dinner party entertaining - or a guilt-free alternative to a takeaway and DVD night!

    They currently only deliver to EC, WC, W1, N1 and SE1 postcodes but there are plans to expand so do keep your eyes peeled. 

    If you live or work in those postcodes and you'd like to try Cookoo for yourself, I've got a 20% off code (Cookoo20) which you can use at check-out! Let me know your thoughts if you do try it out!

    *My meal was complimentary but all opinions are my own

    Thursday, 12 May 2016

    HAKKASAN, HANWAY PLACE

    If you're ever looking to buy me a present, buying me a restaurant voucher will always be a winner. I much prefer having experiences rather than 'things' and it's always nice to try out new places when you don't have to foot all of the bill! 

    One such place is Hakkasan. I've heard a real mix of reviews about London's Hakkasan - some people LOVE it and rave about the food, but there's also a camp of people who think it's far over-rated. For the prices they charge in there, I was never fully convinced if it was worth a visit but when I left my last job, they bought me a £100 voucher for the restaurant so it was the perfect opportunity to go and try it out for myself.   
    I've been to the Hakksan in Las Vegas so I kind of knew the sort of vibe to expect when we arrived. Everything is very sleek, dark and intimate but with a real buzzy atmosphere - especially on a Saturday night, which is when we visited. 

    After taking our seats in a cosy corner of the main restaurant, we planned our assault on the food and decided to opt for one of the premium tasting menus. With £100 off our total bill, this seemed a good way of trying out exactly what Hakkasan had to offer. 

    We started off with a glass of Champagne and a serving of the peking duck which came topped with caviar and served on mini pancakes with spring onion and cucumber. A very classy take on traditional duck pancakes and I was impressed that we both had our own portions of 3, rather than having to share (typical greedy me!)
    Next up was a portion of soft shell crab topped with crispy egg threads. Hakkasan were generous with the meaty chunks of crab which were perfectly cooked in a light tempura batter but the egg threads were a real surprise star of the dish. They reminded me of sea-weed but worked perfectly with the crab to provide a little kick of heat and texture.
    For the fish course we had a Chilean sea-bass in a light honey sauce which was one of my favourite dishes of the night, wonderfully cooked fish which just flaked apart and was perfectly balanced with the crunch from the deep fried mushrooms.
    The stir-fried lobster which came in a spicy black bean sauce was...okay. It was nice but I wasn't blown away by it. I kind of feel that with the wealth of 'affordable' lobster restaurants in London these days, lobster has sort of lost it's bragging rights. It's still delicious - don't get me wrong - but you need to be doing something a bit more exciting with the whole dish rather than just relying on the fact it contains lobster to wow people?After a promising start, our meal hit a bit of speed bump on the mains. One of the big disappointments for us was the wagyu beef - which I'd expected to be the main event. If you order this from the a la carte menu, it's £66 which seems extraordinarily steep for the portion which came up. 

    Not only was it small but it was overcooked and nothing like the brilliant wagyu I'd tried at HKK. I felt really let down by this dish, especially considering it was one of the dishes that swayed us towards the more expensive set menu aswell. 
    Although props to Hakkasan on impressing me with the rice. I'm not usually a rice person (weird I know) but I really enjoyed the mui choi glutinous rice which came alongside our mains.

    My main bug-bear with rice is that it's so fiddly to eat (see also: peas!) but as this had a nice sticky texture I actually got on well with it - plus the flavour was incredible and really helped liven up some of the dishes.Alongside these mains we also had the stir-fried peking duck in XO sauce and a trio of mushroom dish which we did actually enjoy! I didn't manage to get any pictures of these - I think we were caught up in eating when they arrived but I was pretty impressed.

    The duck was a little too similar to the lobster dish in that they were both stir-fries with similar ingredients so it might have been nice to have a little more variety but the taste was good with lots of heat in the XO sauce so I can't complain too much!
    Hakkasan saved face after my earlier disappointments by stepping up with the desserts which were a real treat. The spiced plum pot wasn't something I would normally go for but I really enjoyed,especially with the vanilla madelines which we used to scoop up all the delicious filling.

    I also enjoyed the milk chocolate and cashew parfait - who doesn't love a dessert that explodes as you cut into it?
    So there you have it - a bit of a mixed experience for us. The service on the night was okay (although being served a dirty wine glass in a Michelin starred restaurant doesn't seem up to scratch?)

    Food wise, Hakkasan didn't quite deliver for me. At over £300, it was one of the priciest meals I've ever had and with that in mind, you'd expect for it to be one of the best. Our meal at Roka last year came in at around £80 less and was, in my opinion far better. I can honestly say that meal at Roka was one of the best I've ever eaten and makes the eye-watering price-tags a little more bearable.

    Maybe we should have ordered individual dishes from the main menu but hey, I'm glad I've been to try it for myself and it certainly hasn't put me off the Hakkasan Group all together, I've heard Yauatcha is brilliant and is far more purse friendly so I think I'll be heading in that direction next time instead!

    Hakkasan
    8 Hanway Place
    London,  W1T 1HD
    Hakkasan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Monday, 9 May 2016

    DUCK SOUP, SOHO

    The best kind of meals are always the unexpected ones. I found myself at a loose end in London last week and on the off chance decided to message an old friend to see if she might be free. Like the trooper she’s always been – she agreed to come and meet me on her lunch break so we could cram in a long overdue catch up and some good food

    Our destination – Duck Soup, a small, unassuming restaurant on Soho’s busy Dean Street – a few short steps down from the infamous Town House. Big on seasonal produce, the menu changes daily in order to serve the highest quality dishes - a great example of a restaurant using simple cooking with tasty results.   
    The restaurant itself has a local feel, there’s nothing intimidating about Duck Soup – from the friendly staff to the simple menu, as soon as you pass through the doors you feel at home.

    We ordered a carafe of wine and spent the next hour chatting and catching up on life. I’ve known this girl for over 15 years and no matter how long it’s been since we last saw each other, it’s always like no time has passed when we’re back together!

    Tracy took the lead and ordered before I arrived, with the dishes arriving at various intervals as we chatted. First up was a brilliant taramasalata with cucumber and toasted onion seeds (£9) and a portion of freshly cooked bread. All the dishes here were incredible fresh and tasted incredible.
    The lamb chops with garlic yoghurt, cumin and lemon (£16.75) were perfectly cooked and wonderfully seasoned - and a decent sized portion, perfect for sharing
    The surprise highlight for me was actually the mizuna, red sorrel, buckwheat and ricotta salad (£4). The toasted buckwheat gave it a nice nutty flavour and a lovely bite which took the salad up a notch – as I said earlier, simple cooking is what Duck Soup does best!

    I loved our lunch at Duck Soup - Tracy comes here all the time and I can honestly vouch for how good the food is. If you like simple, well cooked food then I would highly recommend you give it a go. it's always the places you don't expect to find yourself in that impress the most!

    Duck Soup
    41 Dean Street
    London, W1D 4PY
    Ducksoup Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Sunday, 8 May 2016

    MY WEEK #10

    These posts started off being called 'Thankful Fridays' but I'm really bad at keeping to my scheduling so I've given them a little re-brand so I can get away with posting on different days! #DontJudgeMe Lots of food in this post (shock!) so enjoy!

    BANK HOLIDAY BURGERS
    We drove into London last Sunday (hello free parking on Bank holiday) and headed to Porky's* on Bankside for something to eat. My god - the hot sauce in that place is INCREDIBLE. All the food (including the sauces) are freshly made on site each day and they've got a brilliant selection of whiskeys and beers which are totally channelling a Louisiana vibe. OH and there's beer pong contests, whats not to love?!
    DATE NIGHT DINNERS
    Tom and I went to Hakkasan last weekend for the most eye-wateringly expensive meal I've ever eaten! Some big hits and a few misses so keep your eyes peeled for the review coming to the blog shortly!

    GOOD LUCK CHRIS
    My step-brother headed off to Australia yesterday so we had a family curry night earlier this week to send him off! He's headed on a 6 week trip across Thailand, Bali, South Korea and New Zealand before he actually arrives in Oz and I am so jealous it's unreal! Planning a trip out to see him as we speak....
    #ANYONEFORACOURGETTE?
    If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen the rediculous/hilarious mix-up I had with Tesco? After the 3 loose courgette that I ordered were unavailable, Tesco decided to substitute it for 3 kilos of the things instead! Hats off to Tesco for seeing the funny side and to their social team for their sassy Twitter responses!
    BLEECKER IS BEST
    OH MY GOD. We all know that Bleecker burgers are amazing but I tried Angry fries for this first time last weekend and they are INSANE. Hot sauce AND blue cheese sauce - I almost wish I didn't know how good they were.
    ETON MESS CAKE
    Last weekend involved turning one of my favourite desserts into a cake - and it is a thing of beauty! Head over to the post for the full recipe
    PEAKY BLINDERS
    Another of my favourite TV shows came back this week! Normally all the good shows disappear in the summer but I've got GoT and Peaky to see me through - always looking for good series to binge watch though so comment below with any recommendations! I've heard good things about the Night Manager?

    RUN FOREST RUN
    I've got my running groove back again (brought on by the realisation that I'm off to Cyprus in 2 weeks) so I've started training properly again! I love running in the mornings, always helps set you up for the day ahead and gives me at least 30 minutes with my own thoughts!

    COOKING WITH JOSE PIZARRO
    I was invited down to a tapas master-class with Jose Pizarro last weekend as Estrella brought a little slice of Barcelona to Spitalfields market. There was plenty of food and beer in the East London sunshine, plus I got the chance for a little chin-wag with the man himself!

    *Our meal at Porky's was complimentary

    Porky's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Wednesday, 4 May 2016

    RECIPE - ETON MESS CAKE

    I'll openly admit that baking isn't really my forte. I have neither the patience, precision or perfectionism to spend hours lovingly creating cakes - I'm more of a throw it all together and hope for the best kind of cook, but every now and then I impress myself.

    One such occasion was with this Eton Mess cake, I am little bit proud of it
    I'd been sent out a Magic Baking tin* so I wanted to try my hand at making something a little more exciting than your average Viccy sponge.

    So what is a Magic Baking tin I hear you ask - well it's just like a normal baking tin, but it comes with lots of different sized pieces that you can fix together using a silicon matt and metal pins, meaning you can make any shapes or size you like. Star, triangle, tractor - you name it, you can pretty much make it!

    As Eton Mess is one of my favourite desserts, this cake had to be made into the shape of heart. The tin is pretty easy to use, you literally chose the metals you need (2 straight panels and 2 semi circle) and slot together and you're good to go. 
    My recipe uses a simple vanilla sponge topped with the classic Eton Mess ingredients - cream, raspberries and meringue. It's sweet, incredibly more-ish and perfect with a cuppa!

    What you'll need
    For the cake:
    175g Margarine
    175g Self-raising flour
    175g caster sugar
    3 eggs
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    For the topping:
    200 ml double cream
    50g Icing sugar
    Raspberries
    Freeze dried raspberries (optional)
    Meringues (crushed)
    What you'll need to do
    1. Preheat your oven to 180c and lightly grease your baking tray (I used my Magic Baking Tray to create a heart shape)
    2. In a bowl, mix together all of your cake ingredients until a smooth mixture, pour into the tray and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
    3. Once cooked, turn your cake out onto a wire cooling rack to completely cool while you make your frosting.
    4. For the topping, whip together cream and icing sugar until it forms stiff peaks
    5. Evenly spread the cream over the entire surface of the cake until it's completely covered
    6. Decorate the cake with your raspberries and crushed meringue. I cut my raspberries in half and outlined the heart shape but feel free to be as creative as you like!
    7. Enjoy a slice (or two) with a cuppa!

    The lovely people at the Magic Baking tin would like to offer my readers 20% off their own tin. To claim yours, use the coupon code here: http://www.themagicbakingtin.co.uk/or-mbt-10-off

      *I was sent a Magic Baking Tray for review

    Monday, 2 May 2016

    MAY FOODIE FAVOURITES [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

    Another month, another foodie favourites post for you! This month has been about speedy meals, guilt-free drinks and taking time for some tea & cake...and speaking of cake, there's a fab giveaway at the bottom so make sure you take a look!

    CHARLIE BIGHAMS
    I'll admit, juggling a full-time job, a blog and a long-distance relationship can be really hard! I spend my evenings trying to cram in photo taking, photo editing, blog post writing and spending time on FaceTime with Tom - plus trying to go to the gym and getting all my cooking, cleaning and washing done. #TheStruggleIsReal. 

    The lovely team at Charlie Bighams recognised my struggles and offered to send over some of their ready meals to help take the stress out of cooking - freeing up my time to concentrate on the rest of my evenings! I tried out the Lasagne, Meatball al forno and my favourite - the steak and ale pie over the course of last week and was really impressed with the range. 

    I've seen them in the supermarket before and always thought of them as the 'posh' ready meals but the quality of the food was brilliant.  At £7 a pop, they come with a premium price tag but it works out reasonably between 2 people and it's definitely worth paying that bit extra for quality food.
    Charlie-Bighams-MealsPie-and-mash
    UGLY DRINKS
    I was sent some cans of the curiously named 'ugly' drinks this month - a natural fruit infused sparkling water which contains no added 'uglies' (sugar, sodium, artifical colourings or sweeteners). Made with natural fruit flavours, they still have a little sweetness and definitely feel better than my normal 4pm Diet Coke binges - I loved the the grapefruit and pineapple! You can buy them from Whole Foods, Selfridges and the Ugly website for 99p. Ugly-DrinksWE ARE TEA
    Independent tea specialist We are Tea sent me a Simplicitea infuser this month along with a supply of my favourite Assam tea. I've never really been a loose tea kind of person but this handy little gadget lets you brew the perfect cuppa in just 90 seconds - all you do add your loose tea, fill with water and leave to infuse and your perfect tea is then ready to enjoy. I'm already a convert! They also sell a wide range of teas on their website so make sure you take a look www.wearetea.com 
    Cup-of-TeaMR KIPLING - #BREAKFORCAKE
    Talking of tea neatly segue-ways me into my next topic - cake! I've been trying our Mr Kipling's new Exceedingly Good cake slices and I can confirm they are not only delicious but a bit of a guilt-free treat too, weighing in at only 140 calories a slice! 

    I loved the Cranberry, orange and oat flavour - they've got a lovely moist, chewy texture studded with real fruit pieces which bring a nice sweetness, perfect with a cup of tea when you next #BreakforCake!

    The very lovely team at Mr Kipling have generously given me a hamper packed full of their new Exceedingly Good cake slices and classic cakes to give away to my readers! When I say packed - I really mean it - there's over 12 flavours including Cherry Bakewells, Viennese Whirls, Bramley Apple Pies, Mini Battenbergs, French Fancies, Angel Slices to name just a small few! Enter using the Rafflecopter form below - good luck!MR-Kipling-Cakes
    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    Giveaway hosted on Super LuckyUMeandTheKids and The Prize Finder

    *I was sent the above products for review.
    All opinions are my own.