Sunday in Victoria Park

Friday, May 29, 2015 0

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s a person suffering from hayfever, I welcome Spring/Summer with mixed feelings. On the one hand I love the longer days, the warmth (sometimes.. not seen much evidence of this recently!) and the ability to wear floaty floral dresses with no tights on. On the other hand, no antihistamine can prevent the months long sneeze fest, the painful itchy eyes-nose-face-throat, the blocked nose… it’s not a pretty picture and it sucks. Last year it was so bad I couldn’t breathe properly and had to go to an NHS Walk-in centre where I was given an inhaler. (This worked a miracle, I was pretty much fine afterwards, though I’ve not used it once since the nurse showed me how)

As a result of this I don’t get to spend as much time in the park as I would have ideally liked to and I welcome rain for its short term pollen reduction qualities, but last month before the full on bloom had taken over I had a wonderful day in and around Victoria Park.

Breakfast at the Pavilion

I have written about The Pavilion Cafe here before, in the heart of Victoria Park, this offers plenty of picnic tables overlooking the lake, ideal for these warmer days and a great, if pricey, breakfast menu.

I am going to talk about it again, because this time I tried their wonderful veggie breakfast and it was awesome and I want to share that awesomeness. As a vegetarian (well, pescatarian, but not much fish tends to be included in brunch dishes..) I often get resigned to exactly the same sad looking veggie sausages in my version of the regular ‘full English’, so when a superior alternative is provided I am going to sit up and pay attention.

No soggie sausage in sight! Instead excellent grilled haloumi, portobello mushrooms, fried egg on a thick slice of  sourdough bread, avocado and their version of baked beans, butter beans in tomato sauce.  Still undeniably a full english breakfast, the proof is in the tomato, but one with a twist that I wholly approve of.

I also tried my friends’ excellent poached eggs and avocado toast, elevated by the coconut chilli dip and a posh version of nutella on toast, absolutely wonderful (just thinking about it right now is making my mouth water!) hazelnut chocolate spread and pomegranate. Planning to go back as soon as I can sit outside without sneezing continuously.veggie breakfast

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Tea and Cake at Lofting

After a very nice walk through the park we thought we’d walked off our breakfast so it was time for some tea and cake, I had not been to Lofting before, it came from a friend’s recommendation, but I liked it and will be sure to return again when I am back. It is small, but unlike the Pavilion the advantage of indoor seating means that I could even go during the height of all things hayfever. The decor is of the ever prevalent shabby vintage chic aesthetic, all mismatched furniture and chipped crockery, but the cakes are delicious and the it’s makes for a very pleasant surrounding to sit down for a nice cup of tea after a long walk in the park.

Lilting Outside

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Hello Fresh Review

Monday, October 6, 2014 0

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ost mornings when I exit the tube station amongst a rush of other people, all of us running late for work, there is someone waiting to give us things. Some, such as Time Out, I reach out for, most I hurry past. About a month ago, I was handed a £25 off gift card for Hello Fresh, in their own words they “deliver delicious recipes and the exact ingredients to your door every week.”

With full price £36 (for 3 veggie meals for two people, meat ones are £2 more) it seemed pretty steep to me, but with the voucher I figured I’d try and then cancel it straight after. As I am writing this I just got my second (full price!) box, so it’s safe to say that I’m convinced. The premise is simple, every Monday (though you can pause if it you need to, as I did due to my awesome holiday: more on that soon) you get the recipes and ingredients for 3 to 5 surprise meals. There is a classic and a veggie box, though I wish there was a hybrid veggie plus fish option too… I think you can swap recipes with the classic box, but not with the veggie, though I personally love the element of surprise. Getting that box with all its goodies feels like Christmas! I am very lazy and I eat out way too much, but do enjoy cooking and have been trying to do more of it. More often than not that means throwing the random remains in the fridge together in the hope that something will come of it for me Hello Fresh wins in two major ways.

1) You learn new recipes, I want to add dishes to my not very long repertoire that I can make again and again and this way I can keep the recipes and get my own ingredients.

2) If I ever try to follow a new recipe, inevitably I would not buy or substitute a lot of the ingredients, because often you are required to buy particular ingredients especially herbs of which you need very little amount and are unlikely to use again. As a result it never tastes like it should. With Hello Fresh you get all the ingredients with the correct amounts and that makes a difference.

In my first box I had a mushroom risotto, something I actually make myself on a regular basis, but cooking the mushrooms separately in butter and thyme made all the difference and added a really nice flavour to the finished dish.

The highlight was the absolutely delicious courgette tart, which I can’t wait to try making again! Looking at the ingredients I was wondering where the flavour would come from and feared the end result would be rather bland, however I was proven wrong. Pan frying the courgettes, prior to cooking the tart, made them very crispy and full of flavour and with the sun-dried tomatoes it worked really well.

And my third dish were fairly simple fajitas. Yet another dish I am very familiar with, however with something to make it a little different. In this case I particularly enjoyed the addition of lime flavoured sour cream.

If anyone is interested in trying, they have great introductory offers and even if you were to immediately cancel, I really recommend giving it a go.

Hotel Dining Recommendations

Sunday, September 7, 2014 1

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have tried to go to Barrafina, the ultra cool Spanish small plates no booking Soho restaurant, a few times  now, with no success. Last time I tried, it must have been about 5:45 on a Wednesday and I was told to expect a wait of about an hour. And no, I couldn’t come back in an hour, if I wanted my place in the queue, I had to stay in the queue. (the countless masses would kill for my place in the queue, was heavily implied in the waiter’s tone and arched eyebrow)

I chose not to and if I sound bitter it’s mostly because I feel they were quite rude to me, though I am still planning on getting there one day. It’s on my list. I have an ever growing list of places I’d like to try and after a quick peruse of this list, a worrying trend becomes apparent, most of these have adopted this ‘no bookings’ policy. Which is all well and good, but sometimes I just want to have a specific time and a place, where I can eat some good food with no hassle. And so if you are looking for the latest pop up that only has 3 tables, and two dishes made from the produce locally grown in the owner’ back garden, then I would advice you to stop reading right now. However, if you are looking for a nice place where you could take your parents for a good meal in lovely surroundings, then please carry on.

My secret weapon when it comes to a family visit or a last minute dinner reservations is hotel restaurants. London is full of hotels I can’t afford, with restaurants that I can. These are restaurants you could never find if you didn’t know about, which means that hotel guests aside they are rarely heaving, making them extremely convenient for a last minute booking. The surroundings are often lavish and the food can vary from pretty decent to amazing. There are often good set meals and it’s worth checking bookatable.com or opentable for any additional deals.

Thirty Six by Nigel Mendham at the Dukes Hotel

This is top of my list, it’s a three rosette restaurant that deserves it. The dining room is very light and airy, the service impeccable and the food beautifully presented and delicious. We had a three course set lunch, which included an amuse bouche between each course, which was completely unexpected and a lovely touch, not to mention very tasty. The desserts are to die for. If you want to be surrounded by hustle and bustle, this is not the place for you, as when we started our lunch we were the only people there, but if you want to take your time and enjoy your food, I would very much recommend it. We were there for a good few hours and felt welcome the entire time. It was a lovely experience and though I have an aim to go to new places as much as possible, this is a restaurant I cannot wait to repeat.

Brasserie Joel at the Park Plaza Hotel

Unlike the others on this list, the Brasserie Joel has modern even minimalist in decor and we were not the only diners there. It occupies a large space on the first floor of the Park Plaza, with a pleasantly high ceiling and round tables, nicely spaced apart. The service was excellent and the set menu included the Tuna Tartare starter, which was very good. They also offer a set lunch menu of exceptional value, that I have not yet tried, but it is on my before mentioned to do list.

Reform Social and Grill at the Mandeville Hotel

This is located just off Oxford Street, offering some peace after a hard day’s shopping. It’s got good, hearty food, very generous portions at very affordable prices. If you are looking for even more affordability, there is a bookatable deal for steak or lobster burger with chips and half a bottle of wine for £16, which I have tried and tested and would do so again. But whatever you do, you’ve got to leave some space for dessert, because all else aside, I’d recommend this place on the strength of its desert alone. It’s got great spin on childhood classics like the jam rolly polly and toffee apple cumble and everything comes with lots of custard. Real nice comfort food.

The Brasserie at the Charring Cross Hotel

I must have walked past Charring Cross station hundreds of times, not once looking up at the Charring Cross hotel. My brother found the Brasserie and yes, yet again that is where we took our parents. Trying to find the restaurant once you enter seems like an adventure and yet again it felt like we were the only guests, but the decor is lovely, the view from the terrace really very good and the food decent. After the craziness of the street below us, it felt like a retreat.

Brunch – Berners Tavern

Sunday, August 17, 2014 0

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imeout released its Top 100 Restaurants in London this week, and I am disappointed to reveal that I have only been to about 10 of these. This felt like a challenge (I’ve got a year presumably till they release a new list, so going to two a week is totally doable, right?) for all of five minutes, before I reconsidered, much to my bank balance’s relief. But still, I love a good list, the time I’ve wasted following links to ‘related’ articles with titles like ’10 things not to do on the Tube’ or ‘top 50 music videos hair styles’ or ‘5 easy salad lunches’ (these in particular, always disappoint) is frightening.

This is all to say that despite being a regular brunch-er… brunch-ee? I don’t have a go to brunch place and spent some time frantically googling “top brunches in London”, “best breakfasts in London’ etc, when my parents said they were coming to visit today. Due to unfortunate transport issues, their visit has been postponed and all I’ve got is a browser history full of brunch.

My most recent brunch was to Berners Tavern in the London Edition, which incidentally scored rather high on Time Out’s before mentioned top restaurant list and I am sure deservedly so, though I wouldn’t have guessed it judging by the brunch alone. It’s undoubtedly a beautiful space, with a high ornate ceiling, crystal chandeliers and paintings of all shapes and sizes adorning the entirety of its walls. It’s a great place to go to with a group, as it’s got fantastic booths and round tables which make it easy for conversation to flow. So I give it a high score for ambience and it’s all good until we get to the food, which was frankly disappointing. I ordered the avocado on toast with poached eggs, as the vegetarian options were rather limited and this is a simple dish that I’ve ordered elsewhere and rather enjoy. I had high hopes as the simple dishes are usually a standout at great restaurants, but this was barely average. It was exactly as per description, poached eggs and avocado, with no flavour whatsoever, the avocado was unseasoned and the whole dish was bland and uninspiring. I had poached eggs and avocado on corn bread at The Diner(!) a few weeks ago that was vastly superior. The ‘fresh’ pink grapefruit juice almost certainly came from a carton or at least tasted like it did and my friend’s latte was not a latte at all but coffee with a splash of milk. I am sure that the dinner the Berners is fantastic, though at that price point I am unlikely to try it soon, but I will certainly not be returning for brunch.

Can think of a few places that would go on my list, so will hopefully be sharing that soon.