I’m back! and bigger than ever (literally)

There’s no denying it, I’ve been gone a fair while and if by some miracle you are still following, you probably reached the conclusion that I’d keeled over a cliff with a belly full of Michelin goodies and copious amounts of rosé. And whilst that wouldn’t be the worst fate, I am pleased to say I’m still very much in this world and here to answer your burning questions.

So…What happened then?

Well shortly after my epic 30th birthday, the pinnacle that I’d been focusing on for probably most of the life of this blog, I discovered a bun in my oven. Baby no 2 is baking away, as our plans to move out of London also take flight. By the end of the summer, I’ll be making the transition from London townie to country bumpkin. To fellow city dwelling foodies, this probably sounds like your idea of hell and for a long time I shared that view too but once the tots start multiplying and space becomes a primary need, that very quickly changed.

What does this mean for the blog?

Panic not. I’ll still have one foot firmly in London. Let’s face it, apart from a plethora of chain restaurants and the odd decent gastro-pub or two, the country dining scene doesn’t set my tastebuds on fire, in the same way London does. Yes, the baby thing may slow things down a bit but I shall be braving the trains with buggy in tow, to make the most of mummy lunching once more!

In between restaurants, I’m hoping to get busy experimenting in the kitchen again and share some of the more successful recipes with you. And as always I’m sure there will continue to be ample musings on wine, cake and motherhood just for kicks.

OK covered that…what have you been eating?

Well to be frank, pregnancy for me is the exact antithesis to my usual experimental foodie loving self. For the duration, my pregnant self prefers to survive primarily on carbs of the naughty kind. I’ve taken to calling myself less foodie and more carbie these days. This includes an unhealthy obsession with potatoes in any form (though chips from the chippie are the preferred kind).

Thankfully living in London and hearing the constant buzz of new openings and must-try menus has got me out of my potato prison on occasion, and I’ve picked some of highlights of AW2014 to recap as short and sweetly as possible, to bring you up to speed.

Happy reading!

P.s. Keep your eyes peeled for my next (more recent) visit to Bob Bob Ricard and THAT Lobster tail burger. Plus talk of cake heaven at the Lang Deli, Shangri-La Shard.

Experience this: Learning the art of sea salt caramels at none other than William Curley, Belgravia

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OK, so I know some have declared the sea salt caramel craze as done and dusted but I refuse to turn my back on the heavenly morsels. And if you’re as seriously in love with sea salt caramels as I am, you will love a day at the flagship store of master chocolatier, William Curley. Classes are fun yet informative for the more serious chocolate connoisseurs amongst us. Not only do you make your own caramel, there’s tastings along the way and a generous box to take back home with you. I was fortunate to experience this as birthday treat and I’d definitely recommend it as a gift or day out with a special someone.

 

Restaurant rave: Surprise! The private room at Pied à Terre, Fitzrovia

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If ever there was a time when you shouldn’t mind your bestie and husband colluding behind your back, it’s your birthday. Both know I’m rubbish at letting suspected surprises lie, with my incessant detective work. So, I was more than overwhelmed to find that a girlie night out with said bestie turned out to be a surprise dinner including hubby and a small collection of friends and family. More so, at none other than one of my all time favourites; Pied à Terre. The jammy dodgers really did make the milestone celebration special 😉

I’d visited the restaurant when I first started my food and drink tour of London back in 06′, and was blown away by a knockout vegetarian tasting menu that defied the limits of meatless cooking. So much so, that it has long since retained an esteemed place in what I call the ‘Triangle of indulgence’, alongside two equally compelling restaurants; The Square and The Ledbury.

Thankfully on this, my second visit, there was no question about whether it still deserved such high praise. Chef Marcus Eaves and team did a fabulous job of making this a night to remember, with skilled dishes such as the silky mushroom and truffle soup with orzo pasta. Juicy tomatoes, rocket, mozzarella on a bed of fresh seared sardines. Succulent cod fillets with cauliflower cream. I hope to be back for more meals, surprise or otherwise and suggest you do too.

 

Restaurant rave: Casual dining at Lyles

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Who says tasting menus have to be all formal and hoity-toity. I love Lyles because it has taken the concept of the tasting menu and stripped it down to the bare essentials. Out with the fancy foams and gels (which lets face it, more often than not taste of air) and in with the raw ingredients, cooked deservingly.

A reasonable £39 will buy you five courses that’ll give you an essence of chef James Lowe’s passion for letting the ingredients speak for themselves. On the right table you can also catch him meticulously checking dishes as they are cooked and on the pass.

A refreshing starter dish of Beetroot, cobnuts and ticklemore cheese was a particular favourite, as well as woody-rich chanterelles, fried egg and sweet onions.  The regularly changing menu is genius for enticing repeat dining too. Worth a visit.

Restaurant rant: Playing the waiting game at Clove Club, Shoreditch

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There are those that rave about the Clove Club non stop and as you know, though I try and steer clear of the hype there are some instances where I dare to venture, to form my own opinion. The evening started off well enough, we were seated at the casual dining bar by the seemingly efficient yet stressed looking Maitre’d, whilst a tasting menu seating was taking place in the main restaurant.

Menus and drinks chosen, we sat in excited anticipation of the dishes to follow. And we sat and we sat…eventually we were rewarded with the first of our plates; Oak smoked Cod’s roe served with Fennel & Rye crackers. The more simpler dish in our selection, it was the one that I liked best. A creamy taramasalata scooped up in addictive, moorish crackers and complemented with the texture of the firm fennel (though after a while the plentiful fennel has to be pushed aside, before it’s strong flavour takes over).

Then we sat and we sat (think you can see a pattern forming here), asking twice if our next dishes were ever going to see the light of day. It had become clear that the kitchen was struggling to balance the tasting menu guests alongside spontaneous orders from the bar diners. It seemed the bar was deemed a lesser priority, hence our long wait. Unfortunately, by the time the duck egg yolk, risotto of grains and girolles and an average fish dish came out, we were less interested in assessing their merits, and more concerned with gobbling them down at speed, to make it to our viewing of Gone Girl.

This was an absolute shame, as hubby was very much looking forward to sampling the Amalfi lemonade and Sarawak pepper ice cream, he’d seen on the menu. There simply wasn’t time, because of the restaurant’s poor planning. The Ironic thing being their constant stressing of our 1.5hr table turnover time during the booking process and upon our prompt arrival.

Maybe just a bad night but even with the average food, I’d say you are better off at nearby Lyles.

Experience this: Nahm (Bangkok)

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Finishing off in more exotic climbs, I wanted to share our visit to Bangkok and to David Thompson’s world renowned Nahm. Having missed out on visiting the London branch at the Halkin Hotel (now Ametsa with Arzak Instruction), I was determined to experience the No. 1 Winner of ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurant’s in Asia 2014, whilst in Thailand last November, for our fifth wedding anniversary celebrations.

But first we indulged in a week of much needed R&R at the idyllic Six Senses Spa Resort in Koh Yai Nai, not far from where both ‘The Beach’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ were filmed. One of the highlights of this beautiful hilltop oasis is an ice cream parlour serving over 20 flavours of ice cream and sorbet all day long, which was a godsend during my hunger-stricken first trimester of pregnancy.

Having been spoilt with the hotel’s breathtaking infinity pool, our more than comfortable villa and seriously impressive dining; from traditional Thai to more contemporary interpretations, we arrived in Bangkok refreshed and restored.

Just as well, as the city is pretty full on even for a Londoner. After two days of intense sightseeing up and down the river taxis on the Chao Phraya, it was time for our dinner date at Nahm. The Metropolitan Hotel by Como, which houses the restaurant is one of the more contemporary abodes in the city and impresses with its minimalist design and interiors. The restaurant takes on a similarly sleek approach with dark wood and glossy black finishes. The ethos is simple except for the food, which is anything but.

A canapé starter of Lobster with shredded ginger and thai citron started off the proceedings swimmingly, even though it was somewhat generous in portion. Though I didn’t realise at the time, I made the rookie error of not rolling up the betel leaves it was served in and instead scooped off each zingy lobster filling with a spoon!

What to order next was a conundrum from the extensive menu which spans pages of salads, soups and relishes to curries and stir fried /steamed/grilled. However with the help of our informative waiter, we opted for;

-Yellow curry of cauliflower and tomatoes with cucumber relish
-Coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab with calamansi lime
-Pak wan stir fried with garlic and mushrooms
-Yellow bean salad

Whilst the dishes were bursting with the thai flavours we know and love; sweet, sour, salty and spicy, it was the last of these that I mostly struggled with through the meal. I’m no stranger to spice and use it regularly in my Indian cooking but the heat from fresh green and red thai chillies is something else altogether. And they’re certainly more potent over here than your neighbourhood thai in London (as it should be I suppose).

The sweetness from the succulent crab and the creamy coconut helped to provide some relief rom the otherwise fiery and vividly yellow turmeric curry. Meanwhile, hubby demolished his equally hot hot hot curry and cucumber relish with a side serving of moorish crispy yellow bean salad.

I must put my hands up and admit, I thought my Asian origin meant I could handle what the waiter described as ‘medium hot’ rather than sheepishly needing to enquire after more lightly spiced dishes. And whilst I can cope with most forms of spicy heat, I was clearly no match for the fierce thai chilli. That said, it didn’t stop me appreciating the intricate flavours and textures within the dishes and its clear why the restaurant retains such a prestigious reputation.

Definitely one for the thrill seeking spice lovers out there and best experienced in a larger group, as dishes are designed for sharing.

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