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Txoko Pan Asian Supperclub Review

Reinventing themselves from Table for 10 to Txoko Supperclub, pronounced “Cho-ko” and meaning a ‘cozy corner’ in Basque language, which was the name given to gastronomical societies for members to cook, drink and socialise together.  An apt name I think!

Having visited their first attempt, I was keen to see how it had changed and it was great to be in a cafe in Finsbury, compared to someone’s living room.  Without a shadow of a doubt, this was a much improved and great experience.  The food was great, with lots of stories about how they concocted the menu and in addition, there were two glasses of wine with a detailed explanation of why that wine was chosen and where it came from.

Full menu:

Gin, pineapple, lemon, vanilla and Thai basil welcome drink

Fried duck eggs, Chinese style
Chilled cucumber, dill and yoghurt soup
Mangalorean “Chicken Sukka” with coconut rice
Mango and coconut semifreddo with hazlenut dacquoise

Santa Florentina unwooded Chardonnay 2015
Dominio de Toya Torrentes 2015

To start the evening, we were handed the welcome drink and oh my gosh! It was amazing.  Definitely something I’d want to recreate at home, especially as I’m partial to gin!

Once we were all seated, the hosts Wendy and Reshma introduced the supperclub, the meaning behind it and the menu.  After finishing the cocktail, the first wine was introduced.  Normally I have an aversion to Chardonnay, but this one was a pleasant surprise and also wasn’t too yellow.  I might give unwooded Chardonnay a try in the future but it wouldn’t be first on my list!

The wine was chosen to cut through the flavours of the duck egg.  Hands down, my favourite dish.  I would have licked the plate if I could but in company of strangers and in a cafe, I refrained! But at home, I might have done!  It was beautiful, the flavours exploded in your mouth.  This is apparently a typical snack for when children in China would get home and were peckish, but wasn’t too much to fill them up.

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Next up, was a move away from China and more towards Malaysia/Singapore and a chilled cucumber soup.  Although this was nice, going from a warm dish, to cold, and back to warm was a little odd.  However, the flavours were lovely and was a nice twist where you wouldn’t normally associated the flavours with Asia.

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Next up, was the next wine, which again, was chosen to be paired with the Mangalorean curry.  The curry derives from Mangalore, a small region on the East cost of India, with unique spices and recipe from that area.  With a dry curry, the coconut rice was important to give some moisture and the chicken was cooked on the bone to prevent it becoming too dry.  Served with a salad with onions, tomato and beetroot and then lashings of coriander.  Delicious!

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Last but by no means least, and ensuring that you have had your fill of alcohol when you leave, was the exotic fusion dessert fusing east with the flavours of mango and coconut and a semifreddo from Italy.  But as with the last supperclub, this was served with a shot, this time, coconut liqueur.  For most of the table, the portion was unexpected after three courses already but I still polished it all off!  The hazlenut meringue was a delight that really complemented the Asian flavours.

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Overall, the dinner was a success and the group of people were interesting and happy to tuck in to whatever was put in front of them.  Definitely went home with a satisfied belly!  I also recommend looking them up on Facebook and attending their next supperclub on the 10th of September!  Big thumbs up!

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Three Girls Cook supper club @ Bluebird

Any proper foodie loves a season of Masterchef.  Personally, I love the amateur version, to see someone really grow and blossom to become outstanding chefs.  So when I saw that Giovanna, Alison and Lorna had banded together to form ‘Three Girls Cook’ and that they were starting supperclubs, I knew I had to try my best to get involved!

I know my parents also love the show and we all loved the style of cooking from these three girls and so when the opportunity flashed up on Instagram, I was quick off the mark and booked three places for a lunchtime slot at Bluebird.  Notice I said Bluebird, so I had a slight hesitation as my last experience wasn’t great!

Nevertheless, I booked and kept an eye on instagram for any sneaky peeks at the food and menu.  We were promised English summer flavours on a plate, and they didn’t disappoint!

My parents were fresh off a plane the day before and we headed to King’s Road for our feast.  We were greeted with cucumber gin cocktails and then allowed to sit wherever we pleased.  One thing was guaranteed… everyone in the room was a Masterchef fan.  We swapped stories of other contestants, why we loved the show and our love of food.  It felt like a bit of a cult but without the killer kool-aid!

As we got to know each other, we were served some little picnic treats of cheddar beignets with pineapple chutney, rabbit an ham terrine and smoked mackerel pate.  Lovely little bits to whet our appetite!

canapes

Next came the starter, Crab roll with watercress and fennel.  An absolute delight, very light and full of flavour.  We were all wondering if the outside of the crab roll was bread or a batter, but it was delicious!

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Next, was my personal favourite dish of Barbecued lamb , lamb sausage, peas, mint, artichoke and goats curd.  The lamb was beautiful although we did have to wonder where the sausage was, but it was crumbled up and same went for peas and artichoke all blended in one place.  The goats curd was a lovely addition but was a little overpowering, with slightly less of this, it would have been perfect.  It was still my favourite though!

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Between the lamb and the dessert, we were served a very cute tiny little ice cream cone with cherry ripple ice cream which had a lovely flavour but was a bit icy and more like a sorbet, but two bites and we all demolished it!

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I like my desserts but I don’t have a huge sweet tooth.  Whilst everyone else declared the dessert their favourite, I liked it, but the lamb won hands down.  At the end of the day, we were served Blueberry and lemon Eton Mess which was served with some lemon verbena.  It was a delicious sweet end to the night with some asking for seconds.  I would have loved a little bit more lemon to cut through the sweetness, but other than that it was lovely!

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I was thankful to be part of a special day with the girls coming out to say hello and being warm and friendly.  We felt we all knew them after watching the show and they’re just as lovely in person and I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future and I wish them all the best with future supperclubs and whatever takes their fancy!

Quick tip: quick quinoa

Quinoa, yes it might be a fad food, but I still like it.  The annoying thing is cooking it on the stove and getting it right so it’s not mushy or stuck to the pan.  So, here’s my best tip for cooking quinoa!

A microwave.  Just like how I cook rice, a microwave can be your best friend here.  For one person you will need:

  • 1/2 cup of quinoa (rinsed to get rid of the starch)
  • 3/4 cup of boiling water
  • Salt, pepper and any seasoning (chicken/veg stock cube)
  • A microwave safe bowl and a plate

So, in a microwave safe bowl, add the quinoa and the water plus any seasoning you want as it will be quite plain without anything.  Put this in a microwave with the plate on top and then cook on high for six minutes.

That’s IT! Easy and perfect!quinoa

Disaster at Bluebird Restaurant Review

The Bluebird Restaurant in Chelsea, was always on my list to visit.  The number of times I’ve said I’ll visit to see the giant tennis balls on the roof during Wimbledon or the appearances on ‘Made in Chelsea’.

However, it was quite a disappointing affair for all of us and it seems to have gone downhill and still relies on its name, rather than service and food.

We unfortunately timed our booking with the Mens finale of Wimbledon, where the outside cafe was full of overpaying tables dining whilst watching TV screens of the game.  I don’t know if this contributed to the mishaps of the day.

We had already read reviews that sometimes the service was too intruding, which we experienced straight away, when three separate people asked if we were still expecting our sixth guest and if we wanted water.  I’m not sure why it took three people three attempts to ask those questions and why we couldn’t have just the one person.  Once our sixth person arrived, we were keen for drinks and usually this is quite a simple order, but our waiter didn’t understand one of our party and she had to speak loudly and slowly for him to understand.

We also arrived at 2pm, hoping for the lunch menu but were given the brunch menu instead but decided to go with it.  However, the sea bream had already run out, which was what I was hoping for.  I opted for the 2 course, and then if there was room, I’d add the dessert.

I started with the Crispy tiger prawns with yuzu mayo.  This was pleasant but difficult to eat with cutlery and a finger bowl would’ve been appreciated.  I decided to stick with the seafood theme for my second course and went with the seared sea trout, pipperade and olives.  My dish was a lot smaller than everyone else’s and he should have warned me about this so I could order some sides.  This was one of the mistakes, but that wasn’t the only one.

My friend asked if the chicken burger was fried or grilled, of the same opinion as me, that a grilled chicken burger would be much nicer.  The waiter confirmed it was grilled, however, this turned up and it was like KFC in the middle of a burger bun.  She also asked if there was any salad in it, again, he confirmed no, again, he was wrong.

One of our friends also didn’t receive their main when we received ours, as he forgot to put it through the system, although her chips arrived.  Instead of allowing her to much on the chips and getting her fresh ones with her meal, he took them away.  At this point, we knew we weren’t going to pay full price as the mistakes kept adding up.

On to the next mistake! Two friends ordered the Sweet potato hash, shitake, kale and poached egg, but you could have been forgiven for thinking they had different dishes. One had twice the amount of sweet potato, meaning the other basically had a dish of kale.

We then had to ask for the dessert menu and due to my small portion of main course, I definitely wanted a dessert.  However, as I’m allergic to raw cherries, I was wanting to check if the Creme chocolat, cherry compote with green team foam has any raw cherries.  After the waiter got the chicken burger question wrong, I didn’t want to risk it, so I opted for the salted caramel profiteroles with pistachio ice cream instead.

My friend ordered the creme chocolat dessert, and from the corner of her eye noticed a waiter had dipped his sleeve in the green tea foam.  She was waiting to see what they would do.  Would they replace it, try and cover it up or leave it.  They didn’t seem bothered, so they just left it which made our decision to remove the service tip 100% locked in.

The place itself was lovely, with lots of plants and art around it, but the place can’t rely on its previous reputation and the pretty factor.  The food was of an OK standard, but nothing special and the service was just all over the place.  Luckily the next time I visit here will be for a supperclub, and will be completely different to the standard service you get from there.

Vegan cherry & almond cake

So, it was my turn again to make a cake for ‘Cake Friday’ at work.  Barely anyone actually bakes anything, but I still like the challenge.

The gluten-free/nut free person in the team had left the company, so I wasn’t so restricted if I wanted to be inclusive.  However, it still had to cater to the vegetarians and vegans and with me being allergic to raw cherries, I wanted an opportunity to have something with cooked cherries.

So after scouring the internet, I stumbled across a recipe which was almost perfect, but I adapted it to suit me better.

When one of the vegans in your team takes two slices and says it’s the best thing they’ve had in a while, you know you’re on to a winner!  Especially when it all disappears!

Ingredients:

  • 200g of self raising flour
  • 150g of ground almonds
  • 200g of sugar
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 120ml of liquid coconut oil
  • 300ml of soy milk
  • 2 tsp of almond essence
  • 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 punnets of ripe cherries – halved
  • Icing sugar to sprinkle on top
  • Flaked almonds to sprinkle on top

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Line a 9 inch round springform tin with baking parchment
  3. Place all dry ingredients (flour, ground almonds, sugar, baking powder) in a mixing bowl and mix well
  4. Pour the wet ingredients (coconut oil, soy milk, almond essence, apple cider vinegar)  into another bowl and mix well
  5. Gently pour in the liquid into the dry ingredients, bit by bit and stir to mix well
  6. Mix in your cherry halves, but be careful not to mix too much that the cherries bleed their juices too much
  7. Pour into your baking tin and bake for around 40 minutes – testing to see if a knife/skewer comes out clean.  If not, put it back in the oven and cook for 5 minutes more.
  8. Once cooled and ready to serve, sprinkle some icing sugar and scatter some flaked almonds on the top

Voila!  Really easy and simple vegan appropriate cake!

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Highly recommended ‘Frenchie’ review

Another day, another catch up with one circle of friends.  Now, this was a restaurant I’d never heard of, and unlike me, I didn’t look up the menu prior to visiting.

Frenchie Covent Garden is an absolute gem of a restaurant and credit goes to my friend Vanessa for finding it.  Booking is a must, as it’s a small restaurant which makes it quite intimate but oozing with charm.  Perfect for a catch up with friends or a date. Everything was on point, from the decor to the butter knife and glasses (that I did want to slip into my bag at one point!), everything was chic and service was immaculate.

I wanted to eat everything on the menu, but as always, I’ll pick something that I can’t easily cook at home.  We opted for a couple of snack items, pork crackling with apple and bacon and maple scones with clotted cream. Yes… I said bacon scones.  We were a bit dubious about this one, but since one of us had been before, we were encouraged to try it and I’m definitely glad I did!

All courses are inspired by French cuisine and all come with a slight twist, mainly in the form of being deconstructed versions of classic dishes and looking very instagrammable on the plate!

After mulling over the menu, I decided on going for the duck foie gras served with peaches and pistachios.  I did take a chance on this one, as I wasn’t sure if I’d react to raw peach as I do with nectarine, but safe to say, I survived!  This came out shaped as a slice of pie and full of flavour with a bread roll to spread it on.

Next came the main course and one of my favourites.  Monkfish.  The icing on the cake that it was Cornish Monkfish, which is where my Mum grew up.  Served with the monkfish, was smoked eel, bean ragout, some seaweed and raspberries.  As soon as I saw the raspberries, John Torode’s voice boomed in my head “fish and fruit?!” but this worked completely.

I didn’t go for a dessert as I was already stuffed, but they had cheese options as well as deconstructed banofee pie and strawberry pavlova.  Next time I visit, I’ll make sure there’s enough room for a third course!

Absolutely recommend this place, it pleasantly surprised me and we all came out satisfied and wanting to visit again.  Definitely something special.

 

Restaurants/food bucket list

At the start of 2016, I wrote a bucket list of restaurants and eateries I wanted to go to, so here I will keep track of ones I’ve been to, ones I’m waiting to open and ones I want to visit.  Let’s see how many I can tick off!

In no particular order:

  1. Somsaa – Authentic Thai restaurant in Spitalfields
  2. Salvation in Noodles – Authentic Vietnamese noodles with a modern twist in Dalston
  3. Tata eatery – Chinese/Portuguese fusion in Daggerston
  4. Riding House Cafe – Modern all day brasserie near Oxford Circus
  5. Ivy Cafe Wimbledon – especially during Wimbledon when they have the flower decorations
  6. Tramshed – known for steak and chicken and the Damien Hirst art piece!
  7. Trufflesecco – Truffles and prosecco!
  8. Milk Train cafe – for the amazing ice cream surrounded by candy floss.
  9. L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele – authentic Italian pizza in Stoke Newington
  10. Ahi Poke – Hawaiian poke bowls with raw fish, vegetables, seeds
  11. Bone Daddies – Japanese soul food
  12. Bao – steamed Taiwanese buns
  13. Dinner by Heston – contemporary British menu by wacky Heston
  14. Soho Joe’s – serves wagyu burgers in Soho
  15. Din Tai Fung – coming soon, steamed Chinese buns, globally known
  16. Chick n Sours – herb fried chicken and sour cocktails
  17. Farm Girl – cafe with health conscious brunches
  18. Lao Cafe – authentic, tasty Lao food!
  19. Kova patisserie – home of the crepe cake
  20. Dominique Ansel – home of the cronut, cookie shots and more
  21. Sexy Fish – swanky robata and raw fish restaurant
  22. St Moritz – The oldest Swiss fondue place in London
  23. Farang – Thai street food
  24. The Clove Club – Innovative British menu, 1 Michelin star
  25. Eneko – Basque cuisine
  26. Cantina Laredo – modern Mexican food based in Covent Garden
  27. Plum and split milk – all day modern British menu
  28. Zelman meats – steak house with daily changing menu
  29. Rail House Cafe – modern European/Asian brasserie
  30. Rosa’s Thai Cafe, Brixton – Thai food with a modern twist
  31. Mere – Monica Galetti from Masterchef’s restaurant
  32. Bubbledwrap Waffle – egg waffle dessert based in Soho, long queues.
  33. Montys deli -salt beef bagels
  34. Westerns laundry – daily changing seafood menu
  35. Bokan – European dining on a rooftop in Canary Wharf
  36. Bun House – canto style fluffy steamed buns
  37. Xu – Taiwanese cuisine, served in a traditional 1930s style
  38. Bob Bob Exchange – sister of Bob Bob Ricard ‘press for champagne’ , opening Summer 2017
  39. Dean and Deluca – coming over from NY, a little nod to ‘Felicity’
  40. The Frog – coming soon, ultra-creative cooking in a playful setting
  41. Fatty Crab – not open yet, Malaysian crab institution
  42. Demon and wise – basement cocktail bar based in the city
  43. Pharmacy 2 – food served in a venue that looks like a Pharmacy
  44. Nobu – Fancy famous Japanese sushi
  45. Rules, covent garden – oldest restaurant in London, established in 1798
  46. Corazon – authentic Mexican food in the heart of Soho
  47. Balans Society Clapham – relaxed all day brasserie and bar
  48. Street XO – experimental Spanish food
  49. Palm Vaults – instagrammable vegetarian food and smoothies
  50. Barshu – Sichuan restaurant in Soho
  51. Flora Indica – botantical/Indian themed cuisine
  52. Antipodea – same team behind the Brew franchise, an all day Aussie brasserie in Putney
  53. Luca – modern cuisine with an Italian influence
  54. Texture – modern European cuisine with a Scandinavian influence, 1 Michelin Star
  55. Hotpot restaurant – authentic hot pot place in Chinatown
  56. Le Hanoi – casual Vietnamese restaurant near Chinatown
  57. Sticky Mango – Southeast Asian street food near Waterloo
  58. Petersham nurseries – restaurant in a glasshouse, surrounded by nature, 1 Michelin Star
  59. Pied a terre – Gastronomic cuisine, 1 Michelin Star
  60. Native – beautiful dishes in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden
  61. Vagabond wines – help yourself wine venue to try tasters
  62. Trinity restaurant – Clapham, seasonal modern cuisine – 1 Michelin Star
  63. Ned Kaia – Latest hotspot, another poke bowl place
  64. Sarastro – overrated tourist trap Turkish restaurant with live opera once/twice a week
  65. Aviary montcalm rooftop – supposed to be good views
  66. White onion – Wimbledon contemporary French cuisine
  67. Samarkand – Uzbek cuisine
  68. Lima Floral – Floral Peruvian food
  69. Magpie – not open yet, same team behind Pidgin
  70. Henrietta – colourful, pretty food in a boutique hotel

Dinner at Lyle’s

So this review is a little late, but I still remember the meal, so I’ll still blog about it!  Once again, we booked a place here for the quarterly girls’ dinner.  Unlike most of the other places, the price for this was pretty reasonable, especially for a Michelin star.

The menu changes on a daily basis, and they normally update the website each day with the menu, but no matter how often I refreshed during the day, the menu hadn’t been uploaded.  This meant I was going in blind!  However, I know the ingredients would be fresh and the meal would be tasty, so I wasn’t too concerned.

Dinner was £55 with a no choice approach (unless you have allergies, vegetarian etc).  I arrived a little late, due to train issues, so it took a little while to get someone’s attention for a much needed drink which wasn’t ideal! G&T sipped and allergy requests dealt with, we shared some bread (but needed to ask for plates).

So…because everything wasn’t listed on the menu, I’m going to do a bit of guess work here – I tried stalking other people’s food on Instagram, but as it changes on a daily basis, that didn’t help!

We had some amuse buche to start with, which weren’t on the menu but I vaguely remember were spinach leaves with some sort of filling, potentially with anchovy? Hmm next image also wasn’t on the menu but I remember we were making a big deal about white asparagus, so I believe this is it.

Next up was something that I can identify! Green asparagus, walnuts, anchovy & spenwood (cheese).  Followed by my favourite fish, monkfish, artichokes & liver.  Not the hugest fan of liver but I’ll eat anything anyway.

Hmm the next two are a mystery!  I even whatsapp’d the other girls, but noone can remember!  They were tasty though!

The last two dishes were fabulous, suckling kid, ramson and yoghurt and then to finish off the menu, we had brown bread ice cream, honey and elderflower.  The brown bread ice cream wasn’t to everyone’s taste but it went so well with elderflower.

All in all, the menu was fresh and tasty and affordable too.  It took a little while to get attention for drinks, but other than that it was great.  The restaurant felt a bit like a small canteen and not quite the same decor as other restaurants I’d been to, but then I guess it is all about the quality of the food here.

Thai fried fish, beef cheek curry, pork with morning glory

Authentic Thai food from Som Saa review

Having lived in Thailand, I’m quite fussy with my Thai food and I really judge a place if it doesn’t have Som Tam on the menu (spicy green papaya salad).

I’d been wanting to try Som Saa for a while, but unless you have 4 or more, you couldn’t book and would have to chance a potential queue in order to get in.  I really don’t like having to wait to enter a restaurant, especially when you have no idea how long you might have to wait!

So Som Saa serves traditional regional dishes without a Phad Thai or Green Curry in sight.  Dishes are supposed to be shared, which is the way Thai food is supposed to be eaten, not ordered individually per person.  So I was glad when they encouraged this.

I can handle my spice more than most, but I know I’d have to compromise on dishes with heat, especially when I checked Instagram the night before and saw someone call the guinea fowl jungle curry “The hottest thing they’ve ever had”.  Instead, we opted for: Thai style grilled chicken leg with tamarind dipping sauce, grilled quail with crispy garlic – both were small dishes to be shared.

For the slightly larger dishes, we chose the stir fried morning glory with crispy pork and the whole deep fried seabass with roasted rice powder and issan herbs from the Wok section.

Thai fried fish, beef cheek curry, pork with morning glory

Now for the som tam, there were two options of Bangkok style or country style with the differences being dried shrimp in the Bangkok version and apple aubergines and ‘pla raa’ (fermented fish seasoning) in the country version.  Bangkok style is what I’m used to, with plenty of spice…my favourite!

Som Tam Salad

Finally, we ordered the five spiced soy braised beef cheek with chilli vinegar sauce and then some sticky rice and jasmine rice to soak up all the goodness.

We felt for four people, we could have ordered one more dish, and we did try to order one after we had devoured the other dishes, but the wait became too long and we cancelled the order.  Desserts in Thailand aren’t my favourite – usually too sweet and sickly, but Thai fruit is great.  There was a choice of three desserts: salted palm sugar ice cream with banana, perfumed syrup with Thai fruit, coconut and pandanus ice or fruit.  We weren’t too keen, so decided to forgo the desserts.

All in all, this has quickly become one of my favourites, with authentic Thai food, in a lovely warehouse style environment and wasn’t too crowded.  Definitely keen to go again!

Jolly Gardeners review

As a treat for my Dad’s birthday, we decided to take him to Earlsfield, to the pub run by Dhruv Baker – a previous MasterChef winner.

Dhruv is known for his East meets West cooking style and so we were excited to try the food and booked a lunch, but unfortunately Dhruv wasn’t present.  However, the food was a great experience.

All three of us opted for different dishes for the starter: Prawn ceviche with chilli, coriander and coconut dressing, Spinach and ricotta ravioli, sage and Parmesan and then I went for the Ham hock terrine, with honey mustard dressing, frisse salad and toast.  I would’ve gone for the ceviche, but I’d had a meal at Ceviche, the night before!

The ham hock was as expected, but maybe one piece of toast too much, but was a perfect start to a meal.

Next up, were the main courses, of which my Mum and I went for the same dish of Pan fried sea bream, turmeric potatoes and coconut French beans and my Dad went for the lemon sole with butter potatoes, asparagus and a hollandaise sauce.  The sea bream was where we really saw the fusion food come to life with the spiced potatoes and coconut with French beans (which I’ve never heard of before!).  The meals were all delicious but I think we all agreed that portion size was a bit too much with a heavy dose of potatoes and vegetables and we all left something on the plate, meaning there was no room for dessert!

All in all, a lovely pub with a great outdoor area for the Summer.  I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit and try other options, but might skip the starter so I could sample a dessert instead maybe!