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    Wednesday, 29 June 2016

    PICCINI WINES x FORZA WIN SUPPERCLUB

    You already know about my love for Italy. The food, the wine, the climate. 

    So when Piccini Wines got in touch with a little invitation which promised to deliver all of these for me (well two out of three), I almost bit their hand off accepting. 
    Held in the depths of Peckham, finding the location was a bit of challenge. After almost joining a Cross Fit class in the garages around the back of the Bussey Building, we made our way to an abandoned cash and carry, which is home to the revolutionary pop-up, Forza Win.

    The warehouse has a rustic feel, kitted out with a wood fire grill, exposed iron panels, plywood bathroom and two huge communal tables suspended from the ceiling.
    Our hosts for the evening were Piccini Wines - one of Tuscany's major players in the wine world, who are aiming to redefine Italian wine whilst still upholding traditional methods. 

    Hailing from the Chianti region of Italy, Piccini manage over 400 hectares of vineyards and believe in taking a modern approach to traditional winemaking, with a real emphasis on enjoyment. 

    This partnership between Piccini Wines and Forza Win was all about showcasing the flavours of Tuscany whilst walking us through some of the finest wines that this family-run producer has on offer.
    We started our evening with a glass of 1882 sparkling wine and traditional Italian crostini topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and a good plug of Piccini olive oil....
    Before taking our seats at the long communal benches as the main food and even better wine started to flow.

    The premise of Forza Win is that you sit amongst friends and strangers and serve yourself, family style to the dishes in-front of you. Whilst intimidating at first, it's a great way to meet new people and becomes much easier by your second glass of Poggio Teo (my favourite wine of the night). 

    Our starter came in the form a light minestrone verde broth with white beans and crispy croutons paired with a delicious Bianco Toscano Orange label white wine.

    Keen to make sure we'd leave with more than just a handover, we were treated to tastings throughout the evening by Managing Director Mario Piccini who explained a little about Piccini's history and the growing, blending and production methods behind each individual wine...

    Another favourite for me was the Agliano Don Pa, a bold red wine served alongside a deliciously cheesey pappardelle pomodoro to complete our pasta course
    The dish I was really looking forward to though was the main. 
    Just look at it. A perfectly cooked florentine steak, served on the bone with a salsa verde. There are few pleasures in life better than good red wine and rare steak. 
    The panzanella made with heritage tomatoes, sourdough and salty capers was not to be missed...
    Nor the meaty pea with pancetta...or fire baked aubergine with salsa verde and pecorino - which was meant for the veggies but we managed to snaffle from our new found neighbour.
    Putting a cap on a perfect evening was a simple dessert of poached pear, basil and ricotta and a glass of Piccini Memoro Rosato
    Such a perfect way to spend a Monday evening (although the Tuesday morning wasn't so enjoyable!)

    While you won't able to attend the Piccini Wines supper club, as it's been and gone, you can still head to one of Forza Win's events over the summer or head to the supermarket to pop a bottle of Piccini Wines to have your own flavour of Tuscany...cheers!


    * Our food & drink was complimentary
    All opinions are my own

    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

    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 flambĂ©ed 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