21 December 2015

Chocolate & Cranberry Alternative Christmas Cake with Lindt

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

I'm not going to lie, after my birthday last weekend I feel like I have overindulged and been absolutely spoilt rotten already, I'm not sure I'm ready for Christmas (who am I kidding?!). Last Saturday, my friends and I went for brunch at Marcus Wareing's restaurant Tredwells (post to follow but in summary amazing cocktails, great company and some great food albeit in quite small tasting portions!), before chilling out at the Southbank Christmas market and laughing the day away with a fair few glasses of prosecco/hot rum/mulled wine in hand. It was exactly how I wanted to spend my birthday, just having a relaxed care free today with my closest friends...and Han Solo. Oh my God, have you seen it? Are you a huge fan? I love all of the old 70s Star Wars films, me and my brother were obsessed with it growing up, and Princess Leia was my ultimate role model. Yeah, she's a princess who occasionally needs rescuing, but she also does the rescuing, leads the rebellion, fights on the front line and sets herself free (after strangling Jabba the Hut). In my eyes, that's a perfect role model (maybe minus the strangling but desperate times call for desperate measures). 

Anyway, instead of a birthday cake this year, because we were out eating lots of goodies all day Saturday at the Christmas market, I decided to make a cake for our Friendmas on the Sunday, where me and my friends exchanged presents, ate 'Christmas' dinner together (basically lots of brie) and went to my friend's carol service. Because the lovely Mai at Lindt had sent me a box of Christmas chocolates, I knew it has to be a chocolate cake, plus you know it was my birthday weekend and I love chocolate cake. One of my favourite cakes is black forest gateau, but obviously cherries aren't in season right now, so I decided to make a cranberry butter icing to adorn my cake and up the festive factor. In the box from Lindt I also had a couple of reindeer which I thought would be perfect cake toppers, they're good on their own but again birthday gal's cake means birthday gal's rules and that means covering them in glitter and lots of it. 

My boyfriend, Dan, has been getting a bit frustrated with the amount of glitter in our lives, since I wrapped all our presents (need gift wrap inspiration? See the post here). He's pretty much had glitter living in his beard for a couple of weeks now, which has only worsened following the introduction of boxes full of chocolate with glitter in from Lindt and you know glitter boots (sayyyy whaaat, amazing birthday present to myself seen here! I adore them). But Christmas is a time for a bit of sparkle so I flaunted his no more glitter rule and went full steam ahead painting my Lindt reindeer with gold glitter dust, because I'm a rebel with a festive cause. And that festive cause is Friendmas!

17 December 2015

A Very Merry Mulled Wine Apple & Cranberry Strudel

Ok top 5 favourite desserts of all time, go! It's hard but mine have to be chocolate brownies (see here and here), cheesecake, banoffee pie, trifle and apple strudel. Phew, it's tough, but there it is, my top 5 desserts. Now I've made most of these, some with varying degrees of success (aka not baked cheesecake: liquid cheesecake everywhere), but I'd never made a strudel up until a couple of weeks ago.

In truth, I've always seen it as that fiddly dessert that's just going to be an absolute flop at home and is much easier to buy from the frozen aisle in the supermarket. I always try to avoid processed foods but  I canny resist frozen strudel and, in the spirit of honesty, fries. That was till I made it, I can honestly say this is the best strudel I've ever eaten and yeah it is a little fiddly but what it takes in effort it makes up for in pure buttery delicious. My boyfriend's brother seemed to think so too and seems to have told everyone how good it was, as I got a text from his Dad the next day asking me if I could make it for him when I see them over Christmas.

I'll be honest, putting mulled wine in recipes has become a bit of an obsession of mine. We're talking strudel, mince pies, sausage rolls (I'm lying about the sausage rolls). I just always seem to have some lying about, in a glass, with a slice of orange, normally in my hand. I don't know how it gets there, but the next thing I know it's in whatever I'm making. This idea actually came from making mulled wine pears, which then turned into mulled wine pear frangipane (Mmmm almonds). Admittedly my frangipane was no way near as good as Dan's mums and that's why this recipe is for apple strudel (#frangipanefail, definitely a hashtag that'll catch on). 

15 December 2015

That's a Wrap! With a Little Help From Lindt

It's Christmaaaaaaassssssssssss!
Merry Christmas Everybody, Slade

I don't want to alarm anyone but there are only 10 sleeps till Christmas. Everyone to your Christmas panic stations! Speaking of panic, I need some help. Particularly from anyone that has also had to buy presents for one of my brothers, I'd really appreciate that because when I ask my brothers what they want for Christmas the answer is always a pony (cute if you're 10 but they're fully grown men). 

Aside from buying my bros' presents, I've got it all sorted. Seriously I'm never normally this organised, I'm a leave it till the last possible second, then do it slightly late kind of lady. But I've had so much going on this December, I've had to plan ahead (who knew doing things early meant less stress?). Last Saturday my plans fell through which in a way was a bit of a blessing because it meant I actually got to sit down watch lots of Christmas movies (why is Love Actually and the Holiday not on Netflix/Amazon Prime/Sky Movies?!), make some mince pies and do some much needed Christmas wrapping. 

To make my day in extra Christmassy, the lovely Mai at Lindt sent me a big box full of the best chocolatey goodies we're talking bears, santas, bears, some cheeky elves, bears, reindeer and did I mention a heck load of bears. Honestly when I got the box I was like what am I going to do with all these bears, after eating half of them, I had an epiphany. Use the bears (and a couple of cheeky santas) as my present accessories, because it's all well and good giving a normal wrapped present, but at Christmas you kinda need to push the boat out and put an accessory on it. That means bows, candy canes, poster paint, glitter (my all important Christmas accessory, look at my new boots!!!) and chocolate bears (who doesn't love chocolate? In fact don't tell me, I don't want to know). Don't hold back, free flow your accessorising, hell put some prajazzles on there (aka present vajazzles).

9 December 2015

Christmas Time, Mistletoe & Mulled Wine Recipe

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see
Mistletoe and Wine, Cliff Richard
Got to love a bit of Cliff's Christmas Song. It's Christmas! Almost, sort of, not really. I mean it's actually my birthday beforehand but you know when you turn 21 for the umpteenth time it's not as exciting as the first time. Anyway I'm excited for Christmas it is providing a welcome escape from the fact that I will officially no longer be in my early twenties next week. Ohhhhhhhh I hate getting older, I mean I'm excited for brunch with all my friends (including you dear reader) but Lord no I don't like it. The only way I'm going to get by is with copious amounts of bucks fizz and mulled wine, maybe chuck in some gin as well just for good measure.

Speaking of mulled wine, I've got this super easy, guaranteed idiot proof recipe for mulled vino to share with you. I can't guarantee it's easier than opening a bottle of mulled wine and heating it up in the microwave (genuinely you can buy it premulled and it's not always terrible) or sticking a teabag of spice in it, but it definitely is (in my humble opinion) more delicious.

30 November 2015

The Lake District, Lambs a Leaping Part II

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils
Daffodils, William Wordsworth

I know what you're thinking, 'when was Part I?'. That's a really great question, it was roughly 3 months ago (see here), yep, I've been slack on uploading the second part of our wet walks in the Lake District. A fact that has not been forgotten...least of all by my mum. Every other conversation I have with her ends in 'when are you going to upload our holiday photos?'. The problem is, I take too many. This is probably obvious from any post I've ever posted. As Dan, my main man, has now ruled, I am no longer allowed to take any photos of sheep as I have just shy of a gazillion (not a real word) shots of them. As well as taking multiple photos of the same thing for the fun of it, I'm also doing it because I've been trying to improve my manual photography this year since Dan lovingly bought me a DSLR last Christmas (I think he feels like this is the biggest mistake he's ever made, at least I'm using this gift...unlike the mittens and egg timer of 2012). That's mean, the mittens and egg timer were part of a larger array of gifts who's first letter of each present made an anagram for Merry Christmas Felicity (yeah that's right I got twenty two gifts...who's sounding spoilt now? Still me). Spoilt-ness (also not a real word) aside, I've finally finished editing all of the sheep photos out of our Lake District snaps, I may have left one or two (or perhaps 10) still in but look at the little lamb's face, he was practically begging me too. (SPOILER ALERT FOR MY MUM) So this year for Christmas, along with an actual real gift, I'm giving my mum a copy of our holiday photos (but no you still can't see the ones from Iceland, it's going to take me years to narrow down which Icelandic horse photos to keep).  

26 November 2015

Let's Dance! Sushi Samba, Heron Tower, London

Let's dance, put on your red shoes and eat sushi...
Let's Dance, David Bowie...sort of

You look confused. I understand you think it's hypocritical that I write about my love for street food and independent restaurants, and hatred for chains but then here I am writing about Sushi Samba, one of the biggest, luxurious 'chains' (a wee chain of five) of restaurants around. The truth is I'm a food snob. That's it I've said it, I feel so much better with that off my chest. I know you would never know this to be true (who am I kidding you all knew!) but it is, I am a food snob and proud! This doesn't mean I turn my nose up at a cheap meal, only that I turn my nose up at meals which are poor quality and/or flavour (aka rubbish boring food). Let me present exhibit a, the £2 hot dogs I walked to the harbour in Iceland to buy almost everyday, yes it was cheap, which was great in Iceland, but it was also absolutely delicious (I don't want to spoil the surprise as I have a whole post on the food we ate in Reykjavik in the bag but let's just say best hot dog of my life).
Anyway to cut a long story short, Dan and I are food snobs. Which is why, we have wanted to go to Sushi Samba for ages, as they are famed for serving some of the best sushi London has to offer, with a South American twist (we're talking about Brazil and Peru here) that keeps it fresh and modern. That and the fact that Sushi Samba in Heron Tower is the second highest restaurant in London (preceded only by the Duck and Waffle, who are on the next floor up, almost 200m above street level)  with panoramic views out of the floor to ceiling windows that make up the outer walls of the dining room. To put it in perspective, you're dining above the Gherkin, St Pauls, the BT tower and the London Eye to name a few London highlights. With this view in mind, it makes it almost impossible to have anything but an amazing dining experience. And the lift to the top is guaranteed to make you never want to leave...or at least not go back down. So when Dan was told by his boss to take me out for a fancy dinner on the company card for working so hard (the world of Mad Men is an exciting and very generous one) he booked us in for a late lunch at Sushi Samba.

17 November 2015

Christmas Spiced Chestnut Cinnamon Buns & Cream Cheese Frosting

 It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go

Its round about now that this Christmas song get's stuck in my head until the New Year. I don't have a problem with it, I'm feeling plenty Christmassy already having nailed all my Christmas shopping last weekend. Honestly I'm not normally this organised but as I don't have any free weekends between now and Christmas I've had to get it all done way in advance. In previous years my brother and I have been known to leave our Christmas shopping till the 24th of December (not ashamed) but this year I am the queen of present buying.

Anyway as you all know I'm a holiday lover (it's not just Halloween and Valentines Day people, see posts here and here, respectively) and Christmas is the holiday to rule them all! I can't wait to light up my pine scented candles (yes I bought shed loads, still searching for the allusive pine scented tea lights though) and crack out the Christmas Carols while wrapping up presents festive style. Usually all Christmas activity is banned in our house till December as Dan, my live at home man, is a Christmas scrooge till December 1st when he becomes the most excitable Christmas elf I've ever known. In truth, when December strikes, I think he loves Christmas even more than I do although it is debatable. 

9 November 2015

Peanut Butter Jelly Time Brownies!

Is there any baked good better than a brownie? I spent the whole weekend baking (watching films/gossiping/playing card games with my friend Alex) and I'd say a good 50% of the time I was thinking about brownies, the other 50% of me was thinking about Christmas and pine spiced candles (because I want the smell of pine but don't want to wait till we get a Christmas tree), and the rest of me was running on autopilot. Running on autopilot is scary, one moment you're commuting home on the train and the next second you're opening your front door, I mean how did I get there?! This happens to me a lot, especially when I switch it on when I'm walking to the shops and then the next thing you know I've got several bags of ice cream and tortilla chips. That's the more positive side of autopilot.

Anyway while I was running on autopilot baking something else Christmassy related, my mind kept jumping back to brownies. Fast forward two days later and I am still thinking about brownies, and seeing how I can't get them off my mind there's only one thing to do: embrace the brownies, and share my recipe for my PBJ (peanut butter jelly to those in the know) version with you. Lord knows I have enough Lindt chocolate to make a truckload of brownies (thanks Lindt!).

6 November 2015

Pre-theatre Dinner at Jar Kitchen, Covent Garden, London

The Jar Kitchen's little restaurant off the seven dials has been in my line of sight for a long time. In fact it was the first place we tried to take my mum and her boyfriend to dinner to when they came to London a while ago. Unfortunately at the time there was something wrong with the Jar Kitchen's kitchen so we ended up at Pachamama instead (sorry not sorry) and we had one of the best meals we've had this year (you can read about it here). Dan, my main man, often gets invited to gigs/theatre productions/fancy dinners/anything under the sun through work and on this occasion I got to come along to see The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time at the West End. Long story short, the play is not for epileptics or even people who aren't epileptic (I felt seriously ill afterwards), the acting is good but it can be a bit confusing at times as you have actors playing multiple characters sometimes even in the same scene, and there's a real live puppy in it at the end. The dog may or may not have been have been my favourite part of this show. Anyway go, make up your own mind or don't if you have epilepsy/migraines/photosensitivity/a hatred for clubbing.
Anyway, a trip to the theatre means one thing to me; pre-theatre dinner. Given the choice obviously I'd rather eat like the Romans, stay in a restaurant for hours gorging myself till I'm sick then eating some more but unfortunately pre-theatre dinner translates into quick eating. Especially if you're me and can't get to Covent Garden till 6.30pm and the show starts at 7.30pm, and you're freaking out because you don't want to be late for the play but you need to eat and you're not sure you can eat anything in less than an hour that isn't a McDonalds, and you haven't had a McDonalds for at least 5 years and you don't want to break that roll because it makes you depressed and why would you eat something that depresses you! Obviously you can see how this stresses me out, probably for no real reason apart from I'm a really horrible hungry person to be around and the thought of eating McDonalds again fills me with dread (am I the only one who feels depressed after eating it?). You can probably also see why my doctor is concerned I have high blood pressure but that's a story for another time. 

27 October 2015

Harry Potter & the Kitchen of Secrets

So we all know about my obsession with dinosaurs, which is most specifically linked to having seen Jurassic Park a gazillion times. But I might have failed to mention I am as obsessed if not slightly more crazy about Harry Potter (the books not Daniel Radcliffe) than I am about dinosaurs. It's not something I've purposely kept from you guys, it just never cropped up. That is until Sophie and I confided in each other. Ever since I missed out on going to Kate from The Little Library Cafe's Harry Potter themed Supper Club, I've been dreaming about throwing my own inspired dinner party, a Death Day Party if you will, after all it is Halloween. Finally I just threw it out there that Sophie and I should collaborate and do some Harry Potter baking together.

To say Sophie was keen would be an understatement. Gryffindor scarf adorned, Harry Potter food themed pinterest board at the ready and bag with enough baking ingredients for Hogwarts Halloween Feast in tow, Sophie arrived at my flat. In fact, I knew she'd arrived before she rang the doorbell as I saw her outside peering into my neighbours car. To clarify Sophie's not a car burglar, she was just jealous of the stuffed Ponyo hanging from their car mirror, although I wouldn't put it past her to steal Ponyo. After several cups of tea, the very short flat tour (which includes the cupboard/bathroom under the stairs), and a good hour spent nattering about everything and anything. We got down to baking or at least deciding what to bake.

21 October 2015

Let's Talk About Bao Baby, Soho, London

"Let's talk about Bao baby
Let's talk about Bao and me
Let's talk about all the good food and the bad food that may be
Let's talk about Bao"
Just to clarify there was no bad food at Bao. Literally none, nada, nicht kaput. Or should I say nei kaput, seeing as I just got back from Iceland, which was incredible! And I'm still recovering from the fact that we actually did have to come home, I would move there in a heart beat. Just need to master my Icelandic first, which so far is ekki gott (thanks google). Having been heart broken at returning to England there's only one thing that can make me feel better. Food and lots of it. Which is where Bao comes in.
When we were students and sick of eating leftover roast chicken in various guises and pancakes for weeks on end, my friends and I used to head to China town to eat as much dim sum for as little money as possible. The most notable dish being the deep fried chicken feet we sampled (not something I'd rush out to try again) and our absolute favourite dim sum taking form in the char siu bao. A sweet, marshmallow soft steamed bun or bao to those in the know, filled with sticky bbq pork;  pure heaven. A lot has changed since I was a student spending £8 on our weekly food shop for one of my housemates and me (this actually happened, I'm not sure how but it did) but I'm still in love with bao or as I should say Bao. The street food stall turned restaurant that now has two permanent venues where they serve up their fluffy bao stuffed with moreish fillings with some quirky little sides that is Bao, has fast become my favourite bao eatery.

My friend Alex (who you might have seen creeping about in my blog posts here, here and here) and I decided to head to Bao's Soho branch one Saturday for a lot of goss and even more food. I'd been at a festival  and stupidly not eaten anything all day (very unlike me), and when you've got that food head ache there's only really one cure: Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Thai/Vietnamese food with the paracetamol/ibuprofen combo and San Pallegrino (other sparkling mineral waters are available). So when Alex rang me and told me she'd just walked past Bao and there was a 20 minute queue, and asked if I could get there asap? The answer was to sprint across town from Victoria, grab some drugs (paracetamol and ibuprofen only folks) and voila we were seated in Bao.

You might think I'm a bit crazy for running across town to get to Bao, but maybe you won't judge me when I tell you the average queue time is anywhere from an hour upwards! The first time we tried to go the queue was 2 hours long. I mean I love bao but 2 hours is a long time to stand outside waiting for it, plus by then I would have been incredibly hangry (hangry; han-gr-ee: when you're hungry and angry simultaneously). Anyway now seated, Alex and I proceeded to order off the paper tick box menu setting ourselves up for the meal with the final part of the headache cure (sparkling water) and the tiniest tea pot of green tea you will ever see. You feel like you're playing with a doll's tea set...not that I have done that ever...I'm in my twenties yeah. Moving on, while we waited for our food, Alex and I caught up on the four core chat groups (holidays, work, friends, bitching) and surveyed the room.

Bao, the restaurant not the food, is small, really small. I wanted to take some shots of the inside, but doing so would have been a bit too intrusive as the restaurant was packed and you're in such a small place I could have taken a photo up the guy opposite's nose. It's all bare wood and white walls which some people find quite cold but I really enjoy the clean lines of it all. We sat at the bar that takes up the main part of the restaurant, although there are a couple of tables if you're wanting to go in a small group (we're talking no more than 6 per table at a squish). There's also one restroom, so if you need to go you have to keep a watchful eye on your fellow diners for when it's free. You can't wait outside the restroom as you'll be encroaching on someone's table and they'll probably end up asking you for more mineral water. Then you'll be stuck because you have no waitering experience, so you'll bring them the wrong drink and a fist fight will assume. Just don't do it, remain vigilant and you'll be fine.

Taiwanese Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce

40 day aged Rump Cap with Soy Sauce

Sweet Potato Fries with Plum Sauce

Scallop with Yellow Bean and Garlic

You might be mistaken going to Bao, in ignoring the side dishes they have on offer. This is the biggest mistake you will make. Ever. In your whole life. The crispy fried chicken in panko style breadcrumbs with hot sauce are succulent on the inside, crunchy on the outside with the right amount of punch from the hot sauce. The 40 day aged rump camp slices aka super rare beef in soy sauce is divine, Alex and I had a Mrs Fat and Mr Lean situation going on where I gorged myself on all the fatty bits of this dish and it was just gorgeous. I then became selfish and ordered shellfish for one in the form of a scallop grilled in the half shell with yellow bean and garlic, it was delicious with a great charred flavour, I didn't going solo on this dish and nether did Alex (her motto is fish are friends not food). All of these dishes were great but there was one side that ruled them all. The tempura sweet potato fries with plum sauce, when people ask me about Bao it's the first dish that springs to mind.

I'm convinced every restaurant has that one stand out dish that you'll always order (ahem crab churros at Pachamama), and at Bao despite it's name I think it's the sweet potato fries that are my stand out. You see, sweet potato fries on their own are not new, they're on most menus in some guise, but never have I seen a guise that would tempt me into eating them as much as this one. The plum sauce is something I've been on/off dreaming about ever since visiting. It's tart fruity tang goes well with the sweet salty tempura fries. If you go to Bao, don't skip on it's namesake but make sure you leave a decent sized whole for these cheeky fries. They're 100% worth it.

On to the main event. If you've never tried one of these sweet pillowy buns your first bao is mind blowingly good. We went for all four of the meaty options on offer (the vegetarian option is daikon; a radish that can be coerced into various forms), from left to right these are the classic pork bao with cabbage and peanut powder, the lamb shoulder with green chilli, the confit pork belly with crispy shallots and the fried chicken in a sesame bao.

If I was to pick a favourite out of these four it'd be a toss up between the lamb shoulder bao and the fried chicken, because who can resist succulent on the inside, crunchy on the outside fried chicken, and any dish with lamb is my go to and this one gets extra points for spiciness. I enjoyed all four though, and I implore you to order the four yourself and work out which one is your favourite. Except if you're veggie then stick to the Daikon, although if I'm honest there are probably some better places to eat out at with more options if you're veggie than Bao. With pig blood cake and trotters on the menu it's not the most vegetarian friendly restaurant in Soho (try Ethos and/or the Coach and Horses).

Fellow bao lovers, have you ever had a sweet bao? I've had three, one filled with nutella which was average to poor, one filled with egg custard which was revolting and then this one. A deep fried sesame bao filled with a scoop of malted horlicks ice cream. It sounds unpleasant and medicinal, it tastes awesome. It's so good, the hot bun with the cold ice cream is a taste sensation to put your teeth on edge but who can refuse when it's looking at you with its big creamy scoop. It's so good, its only a matter of time before someone starts a sweet bao stall, I'm thinking PBJ bao (aren't I always), a matcha tea bao and of course good old fashioned nutella and banana. Someone needs to get on that. Pronto. Street Feast/Kerb/Other Street Food Markets that are Available sweet bao needs you.

Go to Bao, try all of their namesakes, pick your favourites and get some sweet potato fries on the side. Maybe some pig blood cake for our more adventurous readers.

What's your favourite place to eat bao? Now I'm back from Iceland I'm trying to conserve my pennies. That doesn't mean I'll stop eating out, more that I'm going to be a bit more choicey about my dining options. If anyone has any restaurant recommendations, bao or otherwise drop a comment below and hook me up. Life's been quite full on recently, so if I haven't replied to your comments/emails, I really appreciate all the lovely comments and will do so asap. In addition, I'm not sure if I mentioned it but I just got back from Iceland, so expect me to go on about that for a couple of months...or at least until December when the topic will change to my birthday and the C word. If anyone has any travel recommends as well, let me know, I'm suffering from post holiday depression and need to book another one stat.

1 October 2015

Peruvian Plates at Pachamama, Marylebone, London

I want to tell you about the best meal I've had this year.
Which is a huge claim because we've had some cracking meals this year. Like when I took Dan (my long-term man associate) to Ink for his birthday, the restaurant of Nordic Cuisine Madman Martyn Meid, whose food I had the pleasure of sampling last year courtesy of Miele (hello 9 about them all here) which Dan had been jealous of ever since I went. Then we also went to Sushi Samba, amazing Brazilian inspired sushi with a killer view, so Dan could thank me for being me and ultimately just being the best person ever (this blog is rich in sarcasm). It's a hard life. Although both restaurants were incredible, I keep thinking back to our visit to Pachamama, a peruvian fusion restaurant serving up some sexy sharing dishes, and what a great night out we had parents. They know how to hang loose guys! And if you're not taking your rents out on a Friday night then more fool you.

I'll lay it on the line, my photos from Pachamama are substandard. But the food was amazing, so amazing I'm sharing my camera phone horror pics with you. Look away now if you don't want to be scared! We'd bought my mum's boyfriend tickets to see Shakespeare in Love (which apparently is also great but is no longer running, sorry guys) and said we'd take them out for dinner afterwards. My mum isn't great on tubes so the brief was to find a place within walking distance of the theatre that had proper chairs to sit on AND would take reservations. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds and after our first booking rang us on the morning of our reservation to say their ovens were broken, it was all family members to battle stations to find somewhere else!

Queue our reservation at Pachamama. Booking made, we grabbed my parents and leisurely strolled towards it. Leisurely because my mum is a magpie or to use Dan's fave (and my most loathed) analogy she's a magnet in a spoon shop. Almost everything we passed by we had to stop and examine, I don't mind it makes you a proud Londoner (albeit part time) when someone is complimenting it every 5 minutes as opposed to the usual I don't know how you could live in London speech (we've heard it, we love London, get over it). Anyway cutting a long waffle short that's how we ended up late for our reservation.

Maybe it's because Pachamama had recently opened and were eager to please, or because I'd emailed in advance and told them I had two elderly relatives coming (sorry mum!) or they are just really nice, but what we experienced was some of the best service I've ever had, if not the best. We were welcomed, shown to our table (which I was positively sure we would have lost as we'd been running so late) and were sipping on cocktails in no time. Mum or as we call her Mama T had to go for the Mama's Pisco a rather fruity number with raspberries, orange and lime. Wondering what Pisco is? Me too, so I googled it (you're welcome) it's a type of refined brandy made in Peru and other places. I also went for a Pisco cocktail because you know when in Lima do as the Peruvians do, mine was a Chilli Pisco Sour and it was all of those things. I'll be honest I switched to beer afterwards because I fell victim to the strength of this drink, definitely not for the faint hearted. The men drank beer, in glasses of course...we're not animals (we are, we all are).

Brown Crab and Yuca Churros

 Cornish Seabass, Samphire and Tiger's Milk Ceviche

Yellow Tuna, XO and Pickled Potato Ceviche

Whole Seabass Frito with Chimichurri 

Following on from our Pisco discovery was the food. As I said Pachamama serves Peruvian fusion plates, focusing on the aspect of sharing. This is my favourite type of dining, I love sharing food and us all digging in. We did have side plates for us to use but they fell to the wayside as we fought over some of the tastier dishes, which leads me on to the first dish or 'snack' Brown Crab and Yuca Churros. I love churros. They're probably my favourite street food (BIG praise) but never had I ever had a savoury one before. Oh My Lord this churro will change your life, it changed mine (I'm enlightened now, and more refined). It's soft and crabby on the inside, crispy on the outside, and rolled in salt and sugar it's a miracle in choux pastry form. There's a lot of great dishes at Pachamama but this is the reason why you'll wake up in the night with wet sheets craving to go back. Trust me, order the churros.

Moving on we went for some 'Sea' options (the menu's split into Land, Sea and Soil, easy dining for veggies and pescatarians alike as you know what's suitable is all confined in one place). The Cornish Seabass, Samphire and Tiger's Milk Ceviche was refreshing from the lime in the Tiger's Milk (FYI not real tiger's milk) and fresh. I've eaten this flavour combination a lot recently and it doesn't get old. We also went for a Yellow Tuna, XO (strong chilli shrimp sauce like tamarind except without any tamarind) and Pickled Potato Ceviche which was incredibly different to the other ceviches I've had, the flavour was strong but not overpowering and the potato which I thought would be a bit gross was delicious, we were left trying to scrape up the sauce it was so good. But the one that had us going tooth and nail at each other was the Whole Seabass Frito with Chimichurri. Picture this, a whole deep fried seabass with a pungent parsley, lemon and chilli chimichurri (my lazy go to condiment recipe at home), juicy, plump flakes of seabass with crispy skin on the side left me thinking I need to deep fry whole fish more often. Served on the bone, it won't be for fussy eaters but it's perfect for a fish lover like me.

Grilled Plantain, Malt and Olive

Warm Quinoa, Garden Peas and Summer Truffle

Fried Aubergine, Smoked Yogurt and Pecans

Soil wise, I could have picked any one of the veggie dishes. However, we narrowed it down trying the Grilled Plantain, Malt and Olive which although nice, I'd pass by next time. The Warm Quinoa, Garden Peas and Summer Truffle was a hit, refreshing simple clean flavours with a nice bit of nuttiness and crunch. And my fave, the Fried Aubergine, Smoked Yogurt and Pecans whose smoky yoghurt sauce won my heart, you could smother that sauce on anything (anything? ANYTHING!) and I'd eat it.

Crispy Lamb Belly with Jalapeno and Green Miso 

Beef Short Rib drowned in Wild Garlic

Land also got a look in with the Crispy Lamb Belly with Jalapeno and Green Miso, and the Beef Short Rib drowned in Wild Garlic. Both courses were good, but they weren't my favourites. To be honest, I was hugely disappointed with the Beef Short Rib. You could tell the meat was good and it flaked nicely but you couldn't really taste it over its bath of wild garlic puree. Don't get me wrong I'm a heavy handed garlic fan and I cook with wild garlic whenever I can get hold of it (hello recipe plug for Wild Garlic Pesto and Wild Garlic, Beetroot and Goats Cheese Tart) but it was just too much. Poured all over the beef short rib, the meat didn't stand a chance. Hopefully they've fixed this dish because it has a lot of potential to be scrumptious.

 Plate of Small Bites of Chocolate Truffles and Plaintain Marshmallows

 Strawberry & Sorrel Suspiro de Limena

Chewy White Chocolate, Rhubarb and Basil

I don't always order a pudding, queue shock and horror, but I'd normally rather have another savoury plate, in this instance crab churros. However, even though we were all so full I could tell my mum wanted one (she's my excuse for being greedy) so we ordered a few to share between us. A plate of small bites of chocolate truffles and plaintain marshmallows was devoured graciously, but the scrapping started again when faced with Strawberry & Sorrel Suspiro de Limena, with meringue, macerated strawberries and a sorrel granita there's no way I can describe the complex flavours except outing it as the best high class pud I've had. Next to this was Chewy White Chocolate, Rhubarb and Basil, a nice novelty that my rents hadn't seen before. Both desserts were refreshing and delicious, if we hadn't have been family I would have fought my Mum and her boyfriend to the death in order to eat them all to myself (and Dan).
But you know blood is thicker than dessert...only just.

My only negative about Pachamama and to be fair for me it's a fairly big one, is that as soon as it hit 9pm, the restaurants music got so loud and electronic it felt like we were sitting in a club, and FYI I hate clubbing. Then people started coming in for dinner, who didn't have bookings and they were just waiting round the tables chatting and pushing up against us. It would have been nice to have been forewarned if this is a regular occurrence at Pachamama, especially because I told them I was with some more senior members of my family but then by 9pm we were just polishing off dessert and we left fairly sharpish afterwards. Overall the food was so good, definitely the best we've had this far!

This post has been a long time coming, excuses aside I just couldn't stomach writing about it last week as I was cursed by the dreaded Norovirus (two words projectile vomiting) and now we're off to Iceland! Can't wait, so excited to try loads of new things and just chill out! I loved Pachamama despite the club vibe and are keen to go again soon, if you've been let me know what your favourite thing to order was below. More importantly have you been to Pachamama for brunch? It's high on my to do list. Supposed to be incredible. Too many good brunch places not enough time. 

To Reykjavik we go!

p.s don't worry I've packed my real camera! No more bad phone photos on this blog!

18 September 2015

The Magic Roundabout, No Dougal just Disco, Old Street, London

Firstly does anyone else remember the TV show The Magic Roundabout? I used to love it, looking back the whole production looks like it was produced by someone on a psychadelic trip but hey ho. Growing up in the Falklands we only used to get one tv channel (mind blowing), and the programs I watched were all reruns from the 60s to the 80s, we're talking Roobarb and Custard, Banana man and Stingray. Also the Moomins, Clangers and Rainbow, I could go on. Hey I'm a 90's babe but as a child my tv taste was much older than my years.

Anyway when I found out that The Magic Roundabout, an outdoor permanent pop up offering cocktails, burgers and excellent seafood, was opening on top of Old Street station my immediate thoughts were is it going to be psychodelic inspired and will Dougal be there? Answer: there was no flower eating dog (aka Dougal to those kids born outside of the 80s who didn't live close to the South Pole). However, there was lots of disco music, trippy graffiti and cool yuppies a plenty, so I think we can say yes it's inspired.

I'm a self declared street food lover. Be it a farmers market, pop up or random street stall adventure, I like to hunt all the food available down. If we're going away on holiday it's the first thing I look for before we go (coincidentally does anyone know if there's a market in Reykjavík that's open all year round?).

When I heard about The Magic Roundabout and saw the massive whole BBQ'd crabs at Prawnography I knew I had to round up the troops for our latest food attack. And who better to take to a pop up (is it a pop up if there's no end date?) serving all things under the sea than my two skittish seafood haters Sophie and Frankie, and my partner in crab desiccation Gianni. It's not entirely fair or true to say Sophie and Frankie hate fish but let's call it poetic or blogger licence.
At first unsure that this pop up was for them, I swung my second plan of attack at Sophie and Frankie 'there'll be burgers, cocktails and a free reign on gossiping'. Sold, we set a date and headed on down to stuff ourselves silly.
Finding the entrance to The Magic Roundabout is easy if you know where to go (name that movie quote). We stumbled around for a good while searching outside of Old Street station until Sophie turned up and showed us the light. FYI come out of the ticket barriers and turn left then it's on the left hand side surrounded by bouncers. Humiliation at failing to spot the mass of bouncers at the stairs up on to Old Street roundabout led to me drowning my sorrows in cocktails while catching up with the ladies that pop-unch...just go with it.
My cocktail was nice and refreshing, nothing to write home or in this blog about but there it is. London cocktail prices are generally expensive, a lot of the time it's worth it but for this I just thought it was a bit basic for essentially £10 (give or take a few quid). They've done a good job at circling off the area to avoid most of the road noise, which also means you lose the panoramic 360 view of the road outside the pop up. Aside from the view up being surrounded by skyscrapers you wouldn't know you were on a roundabout it's more like a hipster beer garden with no inside (aka don't go on a rainy day).


Embarrassment over, cocktail down, sites captured, we split up to search for food. At the moment there's only two foodie outlets but don't let that put you off. I'm a solid believer of in quality over quantity and both of these pop ups are excellent. Like top 10 street food stalls ever excellent.
Gianni and I clubbed together to split the cost (£ was a large crab) of a whole Spider Crab and chips from Prawnography. After being told it'd be 20 minutes and arriving 40 minutes later (we were apologised to several times in that period). It arrived looking magnificent, king of the crustaceans, complete with two apology BBQ'd bacon wrapped scallops. You know an apology is sincere when it comes with food.
The bacon wrapped scallop was delicious, seriously good. One of the things I can't wait for when we get a house with a garden is to be able to bbq everything and anything I want daily, and scallops are right up there on my bbq wish list. Some people take their gardens for granted, not me though I'll be out there bbq'ing a turkey for Christmas (#bigplans).
After some bashing, thrashing and some very scared looks from Frankie, the crab was broken into and the meat enjoyed. I love crab, coming from a seaside town we used to eat a lot of fresh fish and crab claws used to be my favourite meal. With their long spindly legs spider crabs are a bit harder to break into than I imagined. The brown crab meat had melted away and became a good salty sauce for the chips, which was super rich.
It's definitely worth a go, although next time I'll be sampling the bbq'd king prawns or one of their fish of the day dishes. If you hit up the crab, bare in mind this dish is not for the lazy lay abouts. This is a working woman's dish so be prepared to put your back into it!

Crab tackled, I'm ashamed (not really) to say I then went on to eat a Grizzly Bear Burger from Burger Bear. I mean how could I resist when Sophie and Frankie ate theirs, the Grizzly Bear Burger was awesome, we're talking American Cheese, Bacon Jam, Bacon on top of a Beef Patty and a touch of salad. It was dreamy, the buns as well, although not as good as Bill and Beaks at Kerb (see here) were a pretty close second.

Sophie, Lauren and I recently went to Mr Hyde's National Burger Day celebrations at Street Feast and the queue for the Grizzly Bear Burger was at least 30 minutes long. It was ridiculous. It's a great burger but cut the queue and head to The Magic Roundabout if you see the stand out and about. I wanted to try the Angry Bear Burger, but after seeing Frankie cry tears into her brioche bun I thought I'd give it a miss.

Another cocktail later, the disco started heating up as the DJ cranked up the volume. I'll be honest, for me this is super off putting as you can't speak to each other and ruins the dining experience, but hey I'm a nightclub hater for exactly the same reason and I'm sure there's someone, somewhere who is loving it. It's probably the DJ. Based on this we cut the night short, but let's be honest I couldn't have eaten another crab so it's a probably a good thing. If like me you prefer music to stay in the background while you eat, hit up The Magic Roundabout in the day for fabulous, mouth watering, Michelin star quality seafood and burgers for those extra hungry readers.

Look at that beaut above, I'm so spoilt by burgers in London. This is definitely one of the best I've had but I'm always up for the next burger challenge. Tell me your ultimate favourite burger in a comment below and I'll make sure I take it on and devour it. I'm super excited to head to Iceland, it's only a couple of weeks away (EEK!) and it'll be the first time I've been away and know absolutely none of the language (need to correct that pronto, preferably before we go away!!!) so I'm really nervous. If anyone has any tips for things to do or eat (mostly eat) in Reykjavik, please let me know. We're going to be staying in a self catered apartment so any tips on where to shop for food is also much appreciated! I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend, I'm excited to spend mine with my friend Kimi who's coming over from Hamburg for the weekend. I'm thinking lots of food, wine and chick flicks are needed (aka Pitch Perfect). Anyway peace out pitches (you can be a man pitch if you're that way inclined).