Dinner at Acciuga – #ZomatoMeetup

14 Dec DSC_0992

I was invited to a #ZomatoMeetup along with 20 or so food bloggers at Acciuga, an Italian restaurant on Kensington High Street. We got to pre-select our 3 course meal in advance and it all sounded amazing, so I was very excited by the time the day came around.

The restaurant isn’t exactly in an area where there’s a lot of footfall in my opinion, so the walk from the station took a little longer than anticipated, but it was certainly worth it.

We arrived and were greeted by friendly faces and welcome drinks. Even though I don’t drink, I could tell the people around me were enjoying Accigua’s new ‘Madness of Gold’ cocktail.

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We were then introduced to head chef Guglielmo Arnulfo, who is from the Liguria region of Italy and he explained that the passion behind his food comes from wanting people to rediscover traditional Italian cuisine. And that’s exactly what we did!snacks

We got to nibble on different types of bread. Two of them were fried doughs – one was plain, but the other had the delicious fragrance of sage with a little salty kick which I loved. There were breadsticks too of course, but my absolute favourite was the Focaccia Ligure topped with caramelised onions… just thinking about it right now is making me drool! Focaccia is my absolute weakness – I can easily eat a whole slab of it in seconds, which I don’t think is a good thing…
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We were then taken to the kitchen where chef Arnulfo did a demonstration of his signature poached egg with fresh black truffle. I didn’t have the best viewpoint so when I heard the whirring of a machine I was a little confused, then I realised ‘poached’ was what he was trying to make it look like – he was going for the deconstructed method.DSC_0969

The fluffy eggs certainly intrigued me but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try it on this occasion – but I suppose that’s a good enough reason to go there again, right?IMG_4666

Walking into the space where we were going to dine was very exciting. I liked the bright pop art on the walls and seeing a long table set up like this always fills me with joy. The one thing I love just as much as food itself is talking about food with like minded people.IMG_4669

A shout out to the lovely Alexandra from Zomato who came up with the genius idea for this anchovy which opens up to a list of names of all the attendees and their blogs – so clever and such a great touch! It was a great conversation starter and it allowed people to get their phones out and start following each other on Twitter & Instagram straight away.DSC_0972

It was so nice to actually put a face to some of these names. It turns out that I already follow a lot of these people on their culinary adventures and knew far too much about them than they’re probably comfortable with, but I was really pleased to meet them all in person.DSC_0978

Luckily we had already pre-selected our meals so we didn’t waste time deciding on what to order, but it all sounded incredible.IMG_4682

I went for the breaded and fried Mediterranean Anchovies to start. Did I forget to mention the story behind all this talk of anchovies? Well it’s because that’s the meaning of ‘Accigua’, which happens to be a staple ingredient of Liguria. So how could I not try the anchovies after all that?IMG_4690

It came with a simple tomato sauce in a clever tin; I think we were all surprised that it didn’t taste overly fishy, which I know usually puts people off from eating pungent fish like anchovies unless it’s hidden in things. DSC_0992

For my main, I went for the Trofie Pasta with Basil Pesto, which also had green beans and potato in it. This was the best decision ever! Everyone else had serious food envy as they’d gone for one of the meaty dishes.
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I have never had this style of pasta before so I was intrigued and it certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was absolutely delicious in my opinion. I heard that someone said it wasn’t al dente enough, but to be honest with you, I thought it was cooked to perfection. I loved how the basil sauce wrapped around each piece of the pasta and the beans and potato added a fuller texture to each mouthful. I let my fellow neighbours have a try and they all seemed to love it too – what a great dish!DSC_0988

I didn’t get to try the other dishes as they weren’t halal, so I can’t really pass any judgement on them, but I managed to take a few photos. This was the Slow Cooked Beef with Nebbiolo Wine Sauce & Vegetables.DSC_0996

Piemontese Pork & Beef Stuffed Ravioli with Vegetable Sauce, which I heard some people raving about down the table. But there seemed to be some mixed opinions elsewhere.DSC_0999

The Salted Cod Fried with Garlic Sauce & Panissa would’ve been my other choice but I’m still glad I went for the veggie option – mine looked a bit more filling than a lot of the other dishes too!

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For dessert it looked like everyone pretty much went for the same dish – the Cream of Pistachio Millefeuille and Raspberry. I don’t know about anyone else, but this was not what I was expecting. I also didn’t seem to have raspberry in mine, which was a shame as it could’ve done with some sharpness. But I appreciated the fact they were trying to do something a bit different – maybe the Italian take on the millefeuille?DSC_1019The pistachio cream was really tasty, but I must admit, the rest of it was lost on me. Maybe it’s because I have had some of the best millefeuille in the world when I was in Paris so this was hard to compare. But the ‘pastry’ element in this pot was lacking the flaky lightness you expect from pastry. Presentation wise though, I am a sucker for food served in jars and quirky pots!

Overall I had a wonderful night; I met some lovely people and ate some delicious food. And if I’m ever craving that basil pesto trofie pasta again, I know exactly where I’ll be going. Thank you to Zomato for my invite and for helping me discover this place.

If you’re in London and love food, then download their app – it’s awesome! And I truly mean it, because I have been able to refer to it many times recently when looking for inspiration on where to go with friends and it has been really useful.

Savoury Cheese & Vegetable Muffins

27 Nov IMG_4410

I’ve been craving savoury muffins recently, reminiscing about the delicious ones my lovely friend Sucre Belle made on her last visit to London. So I decided to make some myself to use up half a bag of grated cheese I had in my fridge and the vegetables I’d bought from the market.

I looked at several recipes online, but most of them seemed to be over complicated for no reason or didn’t incorporate many vegetables. But then I found and adapted a great one from Julie Goodwin’s website, Australia’s first Masterchef winner.

I took these into work the next day and my colleagues loved them – lots of people even asked for the recipe, so here you go guys!

Ingredients (makes approx. 16):

3-4 cups (450g – 600g) vegetables of your choice – I used the following:
Half Courgette, finely grated
3 Spring Onions, diced
1 Small Red Pepper, chopped finely
Half Can Sweetcorn
1 Medium Sweet Potato, diced
1 tbsp oil
1 heaped tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Salt
Pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups (150g) Mature Cheddar Cheese, grated
2 cups (300g) Self Raising Flour
½ cup (120ml) milk
3 eggs
60g butter, melted

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180°C or gas mark 4. Heat the oil in a pan for 1 minute before adding the sweet potato, ground cumin, 1 tsp salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes before taking the pan off the heat and tilting it to drain the excess oil. Transfer into a bowl and let it cool.

IMG_43622) Prepare all the other vegetables and place in a bowl. Squeeze as much water out of the courgette as you can. It will clump together, so make sure to separate the strands again.IMG_4366

3) In a separate bowl add the egg, milk and melted butter and lightly whisk, then set aside.IMG_4369

4) In a larger bowl, add the self raising flour, vegetables and cheese.IMG_4372

5) Mix the vegetables in with the flour until it is all well coated.IMG_4373

6) Add the egg mixture to the bowl and give it a good mix.IMG_4374

7) At this point, add the last tsp of salt and any additional pepper to taste. I also added 2 tsp of dried tarragon, just because I felt like it, but I don’t think it’s necessary as part of this recipe. I only decided to add sweetcorn at this point (hence not in the first few pictures) because I thought there may be too many vegetables at first, but I found it actually enhanced the taste.IMG_4375

8) Distribute the mixture evenly into cupcake or muffin cases, filling it approximately 3/4 of the way up and bake in the oven for around 25 – 35 minutes depending on your oven – I baked mine for 35 minutes. Make sure to turn the tray around half way through baking in order for it to brown evenly.IMG_4410

9) Now enjoy this cheesy, veggie, savoury muffin – I ended up eating 2 myself straight out the oven! :)IMG_4412

 

Taste of London Winter 2014

23 Nov DSC_0864

So I’ve been quite lucky recently. I entered a competition on the lovely Rachel Hosie’s blog (Handbags and Cupcakes) and won 2 tickets via Electrolux to the Taste of London Winter at the Tobacco Dock in East London.

I went to the Taste of London in Regent’s Park in the summer and had the most amazing time and got to eat some incredible food. So I was really looking forward to this.

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I went on Thursday evening after work on their opening night. The venue is a strange one, you’re inside but outside so it was a little chilly, but we were lucky that it wasn’t raining. Although, I’m sure the people who went on Friday weren’t so lucky with the weather.

DSC_0864I loved the sparkliness of it all! It really made me feel like winter had arrived and Christmas was around the corner.

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And would you believe it – we bumped into the one and only Michel Roux Jnr just as we entered the building! We were a little star struck and I felt a bit paparazzi stalkerish, snapping away on my DSLR camera, but it was a great start to the evening for sure.IMG_4481

We also got to see twice Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar at the Electrolux Taste Theatre. I actually went to his restaurant Benares back in the summer for my birthday and had a wonderful dinner with my friends.IMG_4496

Then the eating began…! There weren’t as many food stands as the summer event, but there was plenty to choose from for sure. I mainly tried to go to the restaurants I haven’t eaten at yet, with a few favourites thrown in too.

We started off at Assado by Cyrus Todiwala where we tried the Chickpea Xacutti in Pao – flavoursome Goan chickpea curry served in a bun.DSC_0860

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We went to Ember Yard to try their creamy Truffled Mac and Cheese, and boy was it good! I loved the crumb on top, it rounded the texture and flavour off so well. I could really do with some of this right now…DSC_0866

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Although I’ve been to Kurobuta a couple of times now, my friend was yet to try their incredible Nasu Dengaku (miso grilled aubergine) so it obviously had to be done! Love the candied walnuts served with it.DSC_0865

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The 5* Action Against Hunger stand is always a must – 5 top chefs each put together gourmet Haute Dogs in 5 varieties to please everyone’s tastes. And to top it off, all the proceeds go to charity. I even ended up buyng raffle tickets from them – you never know eh!DSC_0883

I went for the Haute Dog designed by Alfred Prasad of Tamarind restaurant – the ‘vada pav’ which was a spiced potato ‘hotdog’ with chilli coconut chutney, mint chutney and red onions.IMG_4485

My friend went for the hotdog designed by Jason Atherton with an apple puree, onions, crispy pancetta and Gruyere.IMG_4486

I am yet to go to Shake Shack, so I wanted to try this to see what the fuss was about. My friend had the Cheeseburger and I had the Lil’ Shroom Burger which was actually rather nice.
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We also tried their Pumpkin Pie flavoured frozen custard… this was interesting. The consistency was certainly different, much thicker, but I kind of liked it. The crunch from the crumbled biscuits was definitely welcomed.IMG_4487

I’ve heard good things about Gaucho before, but the only thing I could eat from there was the dessert – the Dulce de leche cheesecake. DSC_0859

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The Gü Garden of Temptation was surprisingly one of my favourite things from Taste of London. We got to see the lovely Head Chef Fred do a demonstration, making a Lemon & Chestnut dessert which was delicious. I loved the set up too – like a mini winter wonderland. I also got to have a go on their swing!IMG_4502

Can you believe these baubles are made out of purely chocolate? Every single detail of it! There were a few things around the room just like it, all so impressive.IMG_4494

I was asked to help ‘assist’ in piping the first layer for this dessert, which was a little embarrassing, but no-one else was volunteering to go up so I thought, why not!IMG_4504

Andina was the last restaurant I ended up going to. I wanted to try their Peruvian Pumpkin doughnuts, served with purple maize honey. Pumpkin seemed to be the running theme, and actually I was pleasantly surprised by the lightness of the doughnuts. Although, the honey sauce may have been a bit too heavily spiced for my liking. After that I could not eat another bite!DSC_0935

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Asda Extra Special had a lovely warm and cosy demonstration area set up too, which had a lot of pretty food on display.IMG_4501I kind of have a weakness for palmiers, and when they’re shaped as Christmas trees, how can you resist?

DSC_0903It was really nice to discover the B-fresh  cold pressed juice stand. These types of events are great places to sample food from all sorts of producers and it’s where I like to give new brands and businesses a try. I sampled the orange and carrot juice and fell in love with it’s sharpness.

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Loved their variety of flavours as well. I’ve started making my own smoothies at home but I’m not brave enough to do full-on healthy green smoothies just yet, I really don’t know how people do it.IMG_4497

The Meringue Girls had a stand there of course, bright and full of creative displays. I always end up being drawn to them!
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In summary, it was a very different experience from the summer Taste of London and definitely had a different vibe. This is great for people who like to drink – there was alcohol everywhere! In fact, that was the only thing I was slightly disappointed about, just because I found it very hard to find anyone selling non-alcoholic drinks (other than that one juice stand & a few coffee stands).

I liked how all the stalls had standard food allergy and ingredient signage, which I’m sure was very helpful for those with special dietary requirements.

The new top-up card system certainly sped up the ordering process, but the downside to this was when it came to sharing dishes with friends. It was harder to split the cost, especially if you don’t want to have a ‘joint account’. My friend and I made it work because we pretty much shared everything.

Overall, I preferred the summer event, but still had a lovely evening, which is nicely summed up by these photos :)
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Banana & Nutella Swirl Muffins

16 Nov IMG_0323

I had some overly ripe bananas which I didn’t have the heart to throw away… but then I remembered I had a brand new jar of Nutella sitting in my cupboard… and we all know how these two were always meant to be together.

So I found a recipe online on a blog called The Novice Chef which only required ingredients I already had in my cupboard, so what followed next was pure magic!

Ingredients (makes approx. 15 muffins):
3 large over-ripe Bananas, mashed
1/2 cup (112g) Golden Caster sugar
1/2 cup (112g) Brown Sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 cups (250g) Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
Nutella (approx 30 teaspoons)

1) Pre-heat oven to gas mark 4 or 180•C. In a large bowl, combine the bananas, golden caster sugar and brown sugar.

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2) In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the egg, oil and vanilla.IMG_02663) Add the egg mixture to the large bowl and whisk until combined.

IMG_0270 4) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and give it a mix with a spoon.IMG_02655) Add the flour to the banana and egg mixture and whisk.
IMG_02726) I wanted to make sure there was an even distribution of Nutella throughout the muffin, so I did this in 2 stages. Firstly, fill the muffin cases halfway and add 1 teaspoon of Nutella and use a cocktail stick or skewer to swirl it around – it doesn’t have to be neat!

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7) Then top it up with more of the batter to fill the case 3/4 way up and add another teaspoon of Nutella and do more swirling, but this time do it nicely, as you will be able to see the swirl effect once baked.IMG_0291

8) Bake for approximately 15-20 mins depending on your oven and ENJOY this banana, chocolate, hazelnutty goodness!IMG_0323

Kurobuta – Marble Arch Review

29 May IMG_8420

Kurobuta is Executive Chef & Co-Founder Scott Hallsworth’s take on a Japanese pub, or izakaya. It has become a much talked about place to dine in London – they already have a pop-up restaurant in Chelsea which I haven’t had the chance to try out… yet.

But when I heard that a permanent location was being opened in my neck of the woods, in fact, down the road from me, I just couldn’t wait! I signed up to their newsletter and followed them on social media and anticipated their opening. As soon as they were taking bookings, I booked a table for myself and my best friend at the end of their first week and counted down the days.

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I thought the location was quite fitting and appreciated the fact it wasn’t on the main road (i.e. Edgware Road). Our table was booked for early evening, so it wasn’t busy when we walked in, but I can’t say that was the case when we left – it was heaving and I’m not surprised! The staff were friendly and welcoming and I quite liked their quirkiness – really added to the whole experience. I also liked the open kitchen idea and the décor, although the low hanging lighting did seem to be a bit of a nuisance for the waiters and waitresses serving the food and drinks.

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I had already checked out the menu (several times) to narrow down what I wanted to try this time round because, let’s be honest, I already knew I would want to go again. Who doesn’t love Japanese food? Especially when Kurobuta was offering some interesting twists to dishes as we know them.IMG_8358I’m sure the menu will be changing with seasonal produce, but I just wanted to share what was on offer during my visit. It has to be said that it was a bit on the pricey side, but I expected this before I went and saw it as a treat. Although, when you hear ‘Japanese pub’ I suppose you wouldn’t be expecting these prices either. But I’ll let the food do the talking…
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I ordered the delicious Salmon Gravadlax and Avocado Tartare which was served with Dill Mayo, Rice Crunchies and Fresh Yuzu Zest.IMG_8374

The presentation was incredible and made the dish look so tempting. The flavours were fresh and subtle and the added textures were much appreciated. I’ve never tried a beef tartare before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but I liked this dish and I’m glad I started with this, because the dishes later on were a bit more intense and would’ve overpowered these flavours.IMG_8382

This was the Nasu Dengaku Sticky Miso Grilled Aubergine with Candied Walnuts. There aren’t enough words in this world to describe how tasty these were. In fact, I loved them so much that I tried to replicate this at home, and although I can’t say it tasted like theirs, it was a fair attempt. I will perfect my recipe one day…IMG_8368I went for Kurobuta’s take on Japanese junk food… the incredible Tuna Sashimi Pizza with Truffle Ponzu, Red Onions and Green Chillies. I didn’t really know what to expect here. How can you have tuna sashimi on pizza!? But I was pleasantly surprised.

I love Tuna sashimi, but it doesn’t have a strong or distinct taste. The ‘pizza’ element was the flat crispy base, and the sharpness from the onions and chillies were complimented by the tanginess of the truffle ponzu. This left a tingling sensation in (and around) my mouth! But I quite liked the dish as a whole – I would never have thought this would work, but it did.

IMG_8377My friend ordered the BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns with Spicy Peanut Soy. I couldn’t try this of course as I don’t eat pork, but I tried the spicy peanut soy sauce and it was so rich and intense – I felt like it would make a great condiment for all sorts of food! It’s also one of the dishes that all the reviews had been raving about – I’m just sad that the food isn’t halal.

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We had to order dessert of course. Especially when the ever so nice waitress told us about the talented pastry chef and so we couldn’t resist!

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My friend ordered the Jelly Doughnut Pistachio Parfait which consisted of Pistachio parfait, limoncello jelly, matcha meringue, hazelnut and chocolate mini doughnuts in green tea sugar. Loved the presentation; I tried a bit and liked the different textures too. I wasn’t so sure of the matcha meringues though… it reminded me of something soapy. But hey, that’s just me!IMG_8409

I on the other hand ordered the beautifully presented and delicious Japanese Carrot Cake. This came with shortbread & hazelnut crumb, shiso cream Chantilly and lemongrass & coconut sorbet. The carrot/coconut combination worked really well together. Especially with the coconut being in the form of sorbet, it made it quite light and refreshing, so it didn’t overpower the other flavours which was amazing.IMG_8408

Each element fulfilled it’s purpose and brought something to the dish. Honestly, hats off to the pastry chef for a very tasty dessert, which was both pleasing to the eye as well as my taste buds!

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Like most places these days, the dishes come out as and when they are ready. We were just very patient and waited because I wanted to take this beautiful picture of our table of goods.

I’d say it’s probably best to go with a group of friends who like trying different dishes and don’t mind sharing. Although the portions aren’t huge, it just would be a shame not to order a selection and try a bit of everything. Plus it helps when splitting the bill – it seems so much more reasonable then!

I would definitely say this was a unique dining experience. And like I said before, I cannot wait for the opportunity to eat there again. 

Gooey Chocolate Brownies

20 Mar IMG_1397

I’ve made these incredible gooey chocolate brownies so many times now and have been asked for the recipe just as many times. So I thought it’s about time for me to share it with others. I’ve tweaked it slightly from a Jamie Oliver recipe, so I can’t take full credit for it, but it never fails me.

At first I used to make the basic version, but nowadays  I add a centre of white chocolate chunks, or whatever chocolate I have laying around. It really does make a difference in my opinion, so give it a go.

Ingredients:

200g Dark Chocolate
250g Salted Butter
200g Golden Caster Sugar
6 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
4 Heaped Tbsp Self-Raising Flour
4 Medium Eggs
Optional: White Chocolate Chunks for the centre

1) Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180•C. Scrunch a large piece of grease proof paper and moisten it under the tap with only a little bit of water. Unfold and line the baking tin and set aside.

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2) Add all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix to break up the lumps. Form a well in the middle.

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3) Cut the butter in cubes and break the chocolate into pieces and place in another microwave proof bowl. Microwave for approx 2 minutes in 30 second bursts or until melted. This can also be done over a bain-marie if preferred. Mix to form a glossy mix and let it cool for a minute.

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4) Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and add to the cooled chocolate/butter mixtureIMG_4484

5) Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate and mix until it is fully incorporated. Try not to over stir/mix as it will get thicker, making it harder to pour into the tray.

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6) Add half the mix to the baking tin and layer the chocolate chunks on top, making sure to leave a 1cm edge. I do this because I usually trim the sides off before cutting into squares.

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7) Add the remaining half of the mixture and make sure to cover all the chocolate chunks.IMG_4504

8) Bake for about 20-30 mins until it’s done to your liking. It really does depend on how good your oven is, but I usually bake mine for between 20-25 minutes as everyone loves the gooey centre. 

IMG_13979) Once slightly cooled, take it out of the tin, and trim 1cm off all the sides and cut into squares – as big or small as you like. My baking tin allows me to get approximately 15 decent sized brownies. 

And everybody loves a gooey chocolate brownie – especially when it’s freshly baked and still warm from the oven. So enjoy!

Brunch at The Providores

23 Feb IMG_3299

I’ve been to The Providores a few times now and wanted to share some delicious looking photos with you because I like this place A LOT. It’s a café/restaurant co-owned & run by two New Zealanders and is based on Marylebone High Street. This is a sister restaurant of Kopapa which I have blogged about before.

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I loved this wall which added real character to the place. And I especially loved the clear light bulbs hanging down and you could see the coiled tungsten but this photo doesn’t do them justice.IMG_3299

The first time I came here it was for brunch with some friends and I ordered the hot smoked salmon, which came with two poached eggs and spinach on walnut toast with yuzu hollandaise. Absolutely delicious and surprisingly filling.IMG_3310

We tried a few of the sides too: Sautéed buttered field mushrooms, smoky molasses Boston baked beans & a glass of tangy fresh orange juice.

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One of my friends went for the French toast stuffed with banana and pecans with grilled smoked streaky bacon and vanilla verjus syrup. This looked delicious but obviously I couldn’t try it because of the bacon (as it isn’t halal), but I can imagine it being yum!IMG_3304

My other friend went for the grilled chorizo with sweet potato and miso hash, a soft boiled egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline.IMG_4968

On another occasion when I went again with some work mates, I went for their Turkish eggs from Changa restaurant in Istanbul – two poached eggs on whipped yoghurt with hot chilli butter and sourdough toast. This is what I had when I went for Brunch at Kopapa.

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Flat White in a pretty cup!

It’s become one of my favourite places to go on Marylebone High Street and it always seems busy and stuffed with people, which I think actually says something about the place. You might have to queue for a little bit at the weekends, but I think that’s pretty much the standard for London these days.

Dinner at La Sophia

18 Feb IMG_1885

I have the best ‘Best Friend’ in the world. She is kind, caring and so thoughtful. I don’t think there are enough adjectives to describe how amazing she is. 

Anyway, I know this post isn’t about her, but she is the reason why I got to experience this delightful dinner. For my birthday last year, she looked into halal restaurants to take me to and came across La Sophia, a French and Mediterranean restaurant. 

It’s located near Westbourne Park station, and I must say that it’s a shame it’s not as easy to find because it makes it less likely that someone would just stumble across it like I have with so many other places, unless you were wondering around Portebello Road of course. But nevertheless, we found it and couldn’t wait to try what they had to offer, especially having checked their menu out online.

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For my starter I had the Aubergine mille-feuille – with grilled halloumi, chilli, tomato concasse, pecan & parsley pesto. Obviously mille-feuille is normally pastry based, which was what I was expecting. But I soon realised that they used aubergine instead, which was tasty and I see what they did there, but I don’t know if I’d call it that. You can’t go wrong with halloumi though!
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For my main meal I chose the roasted corn-fed chicken breast with spinach cannelloni, gratin dauphinoise & tarragon sauce. This has to be one of the best meals I have ever had. The chicken was succulent and the sauce was seasoned just right with some flavoursome dauphinoise.IMG_1890

My friend had the pan-fried marinated rabbit with ras el hanout, caramelised onions, garlic, herbs pomegranate tabouli & saffron couscous. Sounds silly but seeing as we had a rabbit as a pet when I was younger, I couldn’t get myself to try this! But she seemed to enjoy it… the monster! Haha, only joking of course.IMG_1911

For dessert, my friend went for the warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream.IMG_1918

Just look at the chocolate oozing out of it… yum!IMG_1914

And I had the delicious apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream. I like the fact it was a mini version but I wouldn’t have minded it being a little bigger – but that’s just because I’m greedy.

Overall, I thought the experience was wonderful. It wasn’t busy when we went as it was mid-week, but the food was delicious, the service was good and I had a great time. My friend also had a tastecard so our meal was discounted too, but I hear that they don’t do that deal anymore. I’ve read other people’s mixed reviews of La Sophia, but I don’t share their thoughts because my experience was very pleasant and I would like to go back again for sure. 

La Pâtisserie des Rêves in London

9 Feb IMG_5855

It’s been a long week but I’ve finally got around to telling you about the most wonderful patisserie that has opened up in London just last week!

Around a year ago, my friend had told me about this patisserie in Paris and brought me back a Kouign Amann to try and it was like love at first bite. The sweet, caramel, fluffy, buttery, brioche-like goodness was an explosion of flavour in my mouth, which I wanted to eat for the rest of my life!

So when I went to Paris last year, a visit to La Pâtisserie des Rêves was definitely on the cards. The shop is an attraction itself, with it’s funky central pastry display with it’s innovative glass bell jars (Verrines). There were just too many things I wanted to try. I mentioned it in my Oh la la… treats in Paris post.

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So when I found out that the amazing French pastry chef Philippe Conticini was opening his latest shop on 43 Marylebone High Street, I was super excited! It also happens to be less than a 10 minute walk from work for me… this could be very dangerous, I know.

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I decided that I wanted to be one of the first people there on the day of the opening, so I made my way down there just before work and saw the staff putting the final touches in place before they opened their doors to the public.
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Going into the shop was surreal, I actually felt like I had stepped foot into Paris again. The display was amazing as expected and apparently all the baked goods had come in from Paris that very morning.
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Philippe Conticini himself was there at the opening of the shop and I am really gutted I didn’t get a photo with him (I was too shy and a little bit star-struck to be honest). But he happened to be standing outside whilst I was taking a few pictures and so there he is! IMG_5821

Here are a few of the items on display… the Paris-Brest IMG_5819

Tarte au Citron IMG_5822

The famous Saint-Honoré IMG_5825

The delicious Tarte Tatin IMG_5827

The Grand Cru (which I am yet to try)

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These mini Paris-Brest looked amazing too! IMG_5837

A lovely selection of their freshly baked pastries IMG_5835

Gigantic Brioche – I wanted to get this but it was the size of my head, if not bigger! IMG_5836

This loaf looked incredible, I could imagine the buttery layers once taken apart.IMG_5840

Their packaging is really bright and eye-catching and made me want to buy everything. IMG_5846

I couldn’t resist and just had to buy a selection of things to try. I wish I could have eaten it all on my own but that would’ve been greedy and highly calorific, so instead I shared it with friends after dinner as a treat. IMG_5855

I bought the mini Paris-Brest, Saint-Honoré, slice of Tarte Tatin and an Eclair au café. I also bought a few Kouign Amann’s and Brioche Feuilletée. All delicious, all indulgent and just so good.

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One thing that has changed since the last time I ate a Kouign Amann is the shape. It is now shaped like a stick, which I wasn’t sure if I would like as much. I must say, it still captures the incredible flavour, but it is much crunchier than before. I liked the doughy element to it’s previous shape, but I suppose I’ll just have to get used to this now.IMG_5856 jpeg

I follow La Pâtisserie des Rêves on instagram and saw that they had sold out of everything by the end of the first day of opening – incredible!IMG_5858 jpegAnd last but not least, I don’t usually post photos of myself on here, but as I was one of the first people there at the opening, they took a photo of us and posted it online too. That’s me on the right – my umbrella even matched their branding. (I wasn’t there at 7.30 though!)

You must go and visit their shop in Marylebone – it is a delight in so many ways and possibly the best patisserie in London!

Gougères (Cheese Puffs)

7 Jan IMG_5420

I discovered this recipe on a food magazine website called Saveur and just knew I had to try and make it myself!

Gougères are French cheesey choux pastry delights, like cheese puffs. As soon as I opened the oven door, the amazing smell of the toasted Gruyère cheese was heavenly. I especially loved the crisp outer shell which contrasted the soft texture inside. These taste amazing when served freshly baked from the oven. I took them into work to share with my colleagues and it was a winner! My only disappointment was that it lost that crispness and crunch overnight, but it still tasted wonderful.

Next time I’m definitely going to try different flavours by adding some herbs. It’s so simple to make and the ingredients are easily accessible to everyone. The hardest part was grating the thin block of Gruyère cheese and washing the mixture off the beaters of my electric whisk – that’s all!

Ingredients:

120ml milk (½ cup)
120ml water (½ cup)
120g unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp. salt (I used fleur de sel)
128g flour (1 cup)
4 eggs, at room temperature
Approx. 190g Gruyère cheese, grated

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Depending on what size you want to make these, this recipe makes about 20 or so Gougères. I’ve tweaked the instructions below into an easy to follow step-by-step format.

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1. Heat the oven to 220°. Bring the milk, water, butter & salt to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.

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2. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it turns into a dough and reduce the heat to medium. Stir the dough constantly for about 2-3 minutes then transfer to a bowl.

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3. Beat in 1 egg with a hand mixer and then repeat with the remaining eggs, one at a time, until the dough is smooth.

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4. Stir in the cheese. I did this in two parts to make sure the cheese was fully incorporated throughout the mixture.

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5. Use a tablespoon to drop balls of dough onto a lined baking tray. Try and make them as round of possible as they’ll be aesthetically pleasing.

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6. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°. Bake for about 20-30 minutes depending on how good your oven is, until golden brown. I would recommend turning the tray around quickly and carefully half-way through baking to give them an even colour.

IMG_5420And enjoy these highly addictive treats! I can’t wait to make them again.

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