Thursday, 16 December 2010

Lazy Days in Ko Kood, Thailand

Less about food and more about travel, this latest post brings tales from the glorious island of Ko Kood (pronounced, and also sometimes written Koh Kut).

Ko Kood is one of the four main islands in Thailand's Ko Chang archipelago, found on the Cambodian/Thai border.

Ko Kood, What’s The Deal?: Ko Kood is a honeymooners' island. Plush resorts are dotted all along the palm-fringed coastline and bungalows are anything but rustic – air con, satellite TV, tea and coffee makers, power showers, room service, you’ve got it.

Delve a little deeper though and it’s still possible to seek out the backpacker experience.

We arrived in fashion by a very fast speedboat. The driver stopped just once in the ocean to witness a fisherman haul A HUGE fish out of the water and onto his longtail boat. Serious skills!

We got dropped off at the jetty at Hat Khlog Chau bay, one of the best beaches on the island which is great for swimming due to the wide calm bay of sparkling blue sea which stretches gently out into the ocean.

Ko Kood, Where to Stay: Got cash? Ko Kood 'is your oyster'. We spent three nights in a luxury tent, overlooking the ocean, in the Away Resort. Tent doesn’t really do the canvas-clad dwelling justice, which comes complete with a comfortable double bed, wardrobe, kettle, air con, fan and a bamboo-walled bathroom.

Strapped for cash? Meander down the river (you can rent a kayak or take the road) and you will find lots of less expensive accommodation. We stayed at the Cozy Guesthouse which was cheap, friendly and clean. There’s even free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee.

Ko Kood, Where to Eat: Next door to Cozy you’ll find The Mangrove - a popular restaurant overlooking the river. Try the soft shell crab - some of the best I've ever tasted!

If you’re after a cheap lunch, perched on the hill overlooking the Hat Khlog Chau bay is a low-key bar and eatery, The Chill House. The view is beautiful and you can choose from a menu of local Thai dishes all priced at £1 or under.

Last but not least, be sure to visit The Sunset Bar for a couple of sundowner cocktails mixed by the lovely owner Jay. Each night his wife Ouy cooks up a feast of local dishes, which the evening’s guests share communally. Not only is it terrifically tasty and inexpensive but you also get the chance to try local Thai dishes that you may not have tried before, and make some new friends.

Flash-packer: Away Resort 1,500+ baht a night

Back-packer: Cozy Guesthouse 250 baht a night (sorry, no website)

Party time: The Sunset Bar

Monday, 1 November 2010

Street Food in South Vietnam

I'm in Southern Vietnam and I've been eating like a king from the street food stalls for days. This is a nation of foodies. You can't turn a street corner without bumping into a fruit-shake stall, noodle soup shop on wheels, or someone frying or boiling their lunch on a stove on the roadside.

Our first dinner was a classic Pho Gà (chicken noodle soup) which we ate in the main square of the Mekong riverside town Chau Doc. The soup came with chicken, rice noodles, dried onion and chopped spring onions and a side plate of fresh bean sprouts, herbs, chilli and lime.

Cost = 1 pound

The next night we had a theatrical meal at an outdoor street food restaurant in fellow Mekong Delta town Can Tho. We ordered beef in soybean sauce and prawns in chilli. These came raw and we cooked them ourselves on a barbeque at our table. Each order came with a free portion of okra in chilli.

Cost = 2.50 pounds a head

For dessert we hung out at the nearby fruit shake stall. I had a mixed shake of coconut and mango. This was blended with ice and milk and delivered in a tasty milkshake form.

Cost = 50 pence

Night three we arrived in Ho Chi Min city (Saigon). I've been told there are seven million people here and six million mopeds. Needless to say crossing the road is an art that I am yet to acquire.

We managed to navigate on foot to one of Saigon's main markets – Ben Thanh Market – and ate at the outside restaurant – Hai Lua. This was a serious operation with lots of uniformed staff buzzing around and cooking meat and fish on large charcoal barbeques.

We dined on grilled red snapper, pork spring rolls, beef with chilli and onion, morning glory with garlic, and rice. To drink I had a fresh coconut. The food was fresh, flavoursome and sublime.

Cost = 15 pounds total for three people.

I'm going to get very large if I stay in this county too much longer......

Friday, 29 October 2010

Kep Vine Retreat, Cambodia

Eco-tourism is taking off on the Southern shores of Cambodia.While reading local brochures and guide books, buzzwords like 'solar powered', 'naturally filtered', 'organic' and 'home-grown' are on the increase.

We went to check out The Vine Retreat near the coastal town of Kep, an area that may one day be Cambodia's answer to New York's Hamptons.

Krong Kep seaside resort and the neighbouring French colonial riverside town Kampot are also home to a number of Kampot pepper plantations. Rich minerals in the soil, lots of rain and traditional growing methods help to make Kampot pepper some of the best in the world, and Kampot Pepper is the first Cambodian product to be given the status of Protected Geographical Indication.

Order a plate of grilled beef or Cambodian Lak Lok (grilled strips of beef with onion and green pepper) and you'll likely be served up a sauce of freshly ground black pepper with salt and lime juice on the side. Simple, but simply one of the best zingy pepper tastes I've ever experienced.

The Vine Retreat is 12km off the beaten track from Kep, down a windy road into the Krong Kep countryside. We took a wobbly Tuk Tuk past farmland with the looming Phnom Vor mountains in the background.

The Vine Retreat is an eco-guesthouse and organic farm with its own Kampot pepper plantation. Organic vegetables, chillis, salad and fruits are all grown in the surrounding gardens and served on the outside terrace in communal dinners.

Manager Suran chooses the daily menu inspired by the foods in season. We all shared a dinner of beef Lak Lok, tomatoes stuffed with minced pork, morning glory and steamed rice followed by the freshest papaya I've ever tasted for dessert.

The retreat is solar powered, organically farmed and thoughtful energy consumption is encouraged during your stay.

A 'naturally filtered' pool (a hollowed out space which will collect rain water) is planned for next year and local builders have assured the operations manager Dan that this will work a treat.

The Vine Retreat is roughly half an hour in a taxi from Kampot or 3-4 hours from the capital Phnom Penh. Check in to chill out:

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Crab Lunch at Kimly Restaurant, Cambodia

Welcome to Cambodia, a land filled with bicycles, green rice paddies and unforgettable Khmer smiles.

My foodie pilgrimage on this leg of my South East Asia tour was to the coastal town of Kep, famous for its crab.

First we stopped to get a shot of the town's stone crab statue. Cambodians seem to be keen on painted cement sculptures. In the nearby town of Kampot, a monumental Jackfruit statue (one of the area's favourite local fruits) was in mid-construction but yet to be painted.

We then drove down to the long strip of beach shacks for our lunch. We chose Kimly restaurant, recommended to us by a local, but I'm guessing most of the restaurants would have turned out a pretty fresh meal seeing as we ate literally on top of the water.

As I was reading the menu, a young boy waded into the sea in front of the restaurant to inspect his crab boxes and see if he'd already got his catch of the day.

We ordered a plate of 'crab with local spices' and were served up a humungous portion of bright orange crab with a side order of rice. This cost us a mere nine dollars and was more than enough for two hungry people.

The crab was cooked with a creamy coconut based spicy sauce with chilli, green peppers and fresh green buds of local Kampot pepper - Cambodia's first product to be given a protected geographical indication.

If you are ever in the area, pair your lunch with a visit to one of the local pepper plantantions. Bicycle and moped hire or taxis can be organised at any guesthouse.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Julib - London Restaurant News - August 2010

The capital goes Italian this August with the arrival of Tinello, Polpetto and storming success of Gelupo ice cream parlour.

Plus Benito's Hat opens in Covent Garden and Fenwick department store welcomes Bond & Brook.
Click here for London August Restaurant News

Friday, 6 August 2010

Breakfast Club, Shoreditch

It may just all be in the clever title, but everyone seems to want to be a part of The Breakfast Club right now.

I popped down to the all day diner in Shoreditch for a sunny Sunday brunch with one of my best pals and there was a queue of Hoxton trendies half way down the road all waiting for their morning fix.

Breakfast Club, What’s The Deal: Inside, retro light fittings, mix and match chairs and tables (all from e.bay or second hand furniture shops), kitsch old signs and the odd plastic palm tree, are all thrown together to make a no-fuss, laid back eatery.

Breakfast Club, On The Menu: I had blueberry stacked pancakes with a side of crispy bacon. These were tasty although not show stopping and the side of maple syrup could have been a bit more generous. Not a patch on the US pancake houses where they trust you with your very own maple syrup jar at each table.

Still, food is reasonably priced and perfect for hangovers and I’m guessing about 70% of the diners were in exactly that state as they chatted away piecing together hazy memories of Saturday night’s shenanigans.

Check out the smoothies, which you can have by the jug. We went for Return of The Redeye - blueberry, raspberry, passion fruit, orange and hangover boost.

Breakfast Club, Toilet Watch: Possibly best of all is the bogs. Not only is each cubicle dressed in retro wallpaper – Fraggle Rock being my personal favourite – but those waiting for a pee can have a boogie in the queue in the ‘World’s Smallest Disco’. Yes, the hallway has it’s very own set of disco lights and music.

Breakfast Club, The Final Word: See you there next Sunday.

Breakfast Club, How Do I Get There?:

The Breakfast Club Cafes are in Soho, Angel and Hoxton:

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Sweet Sensations Launches in The Cotswolds

I’m very excited to announce that we launched Sweet Sensations Ice Cream the weekend before last at Cornbury Festival, Oxfordshire.

The sun shone all weekend and customers had the choice of mango & passion fruit, vanilla bean and mint choc chip ice cream flavours.

We’re selling organic, fairtrade Cotswold ice cream from Farmington courtesy of the lovely Danni.

Hire Sweet Sensations at Your Event

Need ice cream at your do? Sweet Sensations is available for events or private party hire. Mail us at

Image of Betsy, aged four, tucking into a vanilla ice cream.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Julib - London Restaurant News - July 2010

Bistrotheque Pops out its latest, Centre Point's Paramount opens to the public, Roux Jnr. opens in Parliament Square and legendary chef Pierre Koffman is back....

Click here for Julib July Restaurant news in the capital

Friday, 11 June 2010

Elliot’s in the Park, Victoria Park, London

I’m still in a foodie daze, fresh from the heady delights of my first ever supper club dining experience - Elliot’s In The Park at The Pavilion Café.

The team at the pavilion are preparing to open Elliot’s restaurant in Borough Market in October and as a precursor, they’re treating a select group of diners to sneak previews, at this rather elite Friday night pop-up taking place until the end of August.

My mother and I mingled with the other diners in the early evening sun on the picturesque jetty framed by the lake. We were treated to champagne and nibbles in the form of popcorn chicken served in wooden crates with pine cones and radishes in green pea foam and some sort of sesame seed concoction that was supposed to mirror dirt. Strange, but it worked.

We chatted to some of our fellow diners, locals Matt and Paul who come to the Pavilion Café for their Sunday brunch most weekends and it was great to meet fellow food blogger youngandfoodish.

Elliot’s in the Park Pop Up, The Chef:
The weekly-changing menus have been created by chef Isaac McHale, who’s been all over the place this summer, gathering ideas for the autumn restaurant opening. His time spent at this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants winner Noma in Copenhagen had a lasting effect on his cooking style and this year he’s already done stints at Indewulf in Belgium and in New York working at restaurants including Momofuku and Corton.

He also makes a mean cherry compote, which each guest got an Elliot's-branded jar of to take home at the end of the evening.

Elliot’s in the Park Pop Up, The Food:
We began with a beautiful dish of English asparagus with mussels, tarragon sauce and vibrant orange edible flowers.

Isaac's focus is on fresh, local food. He's working with Chegworth Valley Farm in Kent who are providing orchard fruits and heritage vegetables for his menus.

The second course was an equally picturesque plate of Cornish Mackerel with speckled splodges of Celtic mustard, sprigs of dill and pickled cucumbers.

Local winery Bottle Apostle on Lauriston Road have matched a different wine to each course. Our American dining neighbours Avery and Drew lucked out sitting next to my mother as she doesn't drink. Throughout the evening they were willing her to keep having her glass filled up by the waiters and divvy out any excess liquid into their glasses.

The third course was pork shoulder with bacon pieces, crumbles of crackling, broccoli and pea puree.

Strangely the 5-course tasting menu (priced at a very reasonable £50 with wine pairing) included two dessert courses. The first our waitress pitched as a palate cleanser of sorts. This was a fragrant little bowl of goat’s cheese foam with a blackberry compote and crumbled Speculoos.

The second pudding was a gorgeously seasonal strawberries with elderflower sour cream and was filled with the joys of summer and fit for an English wedding.

Finally we headed off in to the night, chaperoned by owner Pheobe who let us out of the park gates clutching our Elliot’s jams.

Elliot’s in the Park Pop Up, The final word:
These guys are the real deal. There was no element of phony PR-driven ‘pop up’, just a really special evening filled with great food and wine, interesting people, and a serious dining outfit taking place behind the scenes.

Roll on October when we can check out Eliot’s in Borough:

Elliot’s in the Park is nearly booked up but you can try to nab one of the remaining dinners by calling the café on:

Images on this blog post courtesy Eve Aspin:

Friday, 28 May 2010

Julib - London Restaurant News - June 2010

Portuguese barbeques, village cafes, parkside dining and outdoor eateries. Read on for all the hot openings this month to try to bag a table at on

June Restaurant Round Up - julib

Monday, 17 May 2010

72 Hours in Eating – New York City

French Martinis @ Schiller’s Liquor Bar

131 Rivington Street, NY 10002
212 260 4555

Dinner @ Freemans
Devils on Horseback, artichoke dip with crisp bread; goat’s cheese salad with pecans

End of Freeman Alley, New York, NY 10002
212 420-0012

Breakfast @ The Bus Stop Café

Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, lattes and fresh OJ

597 Hudson Street (12th & Hudson)
(212) 206-1100

Lunch @ Pastis

Mussels in Pernod with fries

9 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10014-1203
212 929-4844

Frozen Margaritas @ The Crooked Knife

29 East 30 Street, NY 10016

DIY Salad @ Wholefoods

95 East Houston St, NY 10002 USA

Lunch @ Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Pizza and root beer

19 Old Foulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Dinner @ The Natural Restaurant Spring Street

Tostada salad with corn chips, pinto beans, rice, onion, tomato and guacamole.

62 Spring Street, NY 10012

Espresso Martini @ Soho House

29 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10014

Brunch @Cafe Select

Crispy bacon, poached egg and hash brown with lattes and fresh OJ

212 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012
(212) 925-9322

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Green Dining at The Park Terrace Restaurant, Kensington

This week Foodie In London was most excited to recieve an invite to the new Park Terrace Restaurant at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

The Park Terrace, What’s The Deal?: The Park Terrace has just re-opened at this classic London hotel that’s been around for so long that my mother remembers visiting the lobby to phone home (she’s American) when she was a student at the nearby Royal College of Art.

The towering 5-star hotel is also home to the swish Chinese restaurant Min Jiang which opened a couple of years back. One of the waiters gave us a quick tour of the top floor restaurant and the views of the city skyline really were spectacular. Note to self: book on NYE to see fireworks over the London Eye minus the crowds and cold.

Come on back down to the ground floor with me though as this my friends was the reason for mine and my dining companions visit (known affectionately as Mom).

The Park Terrace, The Food: This restaurant was in fact already called The Park Terrace but the dining room has been revamped where executive chef Steve Munkley is bringing a newfound dedication to local produce.

Local suppliers include Mrs Tee’s for wild mushrooms, venison sourced from the New Forest and smoked salmon comes from the John Ross Smokery in Scotland.

Even more local still is the cocktail list. Peering out of the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Kensington Gardens, with even a glimpse of the palace in the distance, we pored over a cocktail menu inspired by the adjacent royal park.

Alcoholic inventions include Elfin Oak (Château Damasse, Amaretto, Angostura, fresh mint and soda) – named after a painted 900 year-old tree stump in Kensington Gardens, Betwixt & Between (a Peter Pan creation of Absolut Citron, Passoa, Mandarin Napoleon, orange peel) – JM Barrie was said to be inspired by his strolls in the gardens, and Green Woodpecker (Mud House Sauvignon Blanc, Amaretto, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice). The waiter assured us that although he had not personally seen a green woodpecker (yet) they were known to nest in the gardens.

However my mother doesn’t drink and in a bid to be healthy for once and try to go for a novel 24 hours without booze, I joined her in a ‘mocktail’.

We had a Parkside Cooler (strawberry puree, peach juice, fresh mint, orange juice) and a Virgin Vanilla Mojito – (apple juice, fresh mint, lime juice, vanilla sugar and lemonade) which were both fruity and delicious but my Parkside Cooler was perhaps a bit filling to kick off a three-course meal.

After debating about whether it was wrong to have fish to start and more fish for a main course, I settled on rosemary and sherry marinated Shetland organic salmon with crème fraîche and oyster crisp to begin with, followed by a meaty main of loin of New Forest venison with celeriac purée, confit root vegetable terrine pink fur potatoes and port jus.

Throughout our meal we were served by the adorably charming manager Jorge Canela who was such a cutie, I find it hard to criticize even the slightest thing but here’s my honest opinion.

The starter was nicely presented and generous in size but I found something a bit too slimy about the salmon – perhaps the sherry infusion had this effect. I wasn’t a big fan of the thin slivers of cucumber that came with it either. Too fussy. Altogether a dish that just didn’t excite me much.

The venison was really good – beautifully gamey and flavorful and the ‘oh so rich’ port jus that accompanied it was fabulous. The celeriac puree complimented everything on the plate and the root vegetable terrine had a nice tough texture too.

By the time the dessert menu came round we were getting a bit full but we opted to share the white mozzo coffee tart with mascarpone cream and coffee crisp which Jorge said was his favourite. AMAZING! Really, this was one of the best desserts I have had in long time.

The tart filling was rich and creamy and punchy and filled the mouth with all sorts of lasting sweet sensations. Jorge revealed the secret of this gloriously sweet treat. There is white chocolate in the tart filling.

To finish we had coffee and some beautiful petit fours, which came served in an edible leaf-shaped biscuit.

Park Terrace, Toilet Watch: Grand, spacious and filled with marble and mirrors. Plenty of room to swing a cat.

The Park Terrace, The Final Word: A fancy hotel restaurant with adoring staff and a serene setting. Visit a) if you’re a tourist, b) if you love British produce, or c) if you’re in the area and looking for a tranquil spot for lunch. Let’s hope The Park Terrace lives on.

Park Terrace
Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High Street
W8 4PT

Park Terrace on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Livin’ is Easy at The Summerhouse, London

This week Foodie In London was delighted to bag an invite to London’s latest pop-up restaurant The Summerhouse in Maida Vale.

The Summerhouse, What’s The Deal?:
From the owners of the nearby canal-side restaurant and bar The Waterway, this temporary eatery is modelled on a New York Hampton’s beach hut. With pebble flooring, sailor striped wallpaper, boating memorabilia on the walls and even its own mooring space for river arrivals, this is faux beach kitsch 'eat your heart out'.

My friend and I spilled out of Warwick Avenue tube station and walked around in circles for a while until we found the correct way along the picturesque canal towards the restaurant. What a beautiful village of London this is to dwell in. Breathing in the early-evening air and gazing up past the huge mansion houses I realised there was a reason I hadn’t been in Maida Vale for as long as I could remember – none of my friends can afford a house this damn expensive.

The Summerhouse, The Food: We arrived and were offered a cute table for two by the plastic awning right onto the canal. We kicked off with some fresh fruit cocktails. Moi - a 'Basil and Strawberry Mojito' and the gal pal – a 'Summer Pimm's' made with blueberries, blackberries, mint and cucumber.

"Well that went down a treat and you can quote me on that." - were my friend's exact words once she had demolished her drink and started making loud noises with her straw, sucking on ice at the bottom of the glass.

To start, we shared a clam chowder which was creamy, well seasoned, and as good a bash as any London kitchen could do to re-create the USA classic (head to Cape Cod if you want to try the real deal). We also shared some popcorn shrimp. This was served up in two mini white sand pails (you get what they've done here?) alongside blue and white striped napkins, a sweet chilli dip and watercress garnish – top marks for presentation. The shrimp coating was soft and fluffy and not too greasy.

Next came the mains, eventually. Luckily we weren’t in a rush but Maida Vale 'ladies that lunch’ might have a bit more to say to the waiter on the matter. I went for whole seabass with caper and butter sauce and she had The Summerhouse signature fish pie.

Some might say my seabass was practically cremated, but I happen to be big on crispy skin and this was oily, crunchy and delicious. The fish was also served in the best possible way, whole, with the head still on. I can’t stand squeamish eaters who are happy to shovel down meat by the bucket load but as soon as they see the first resemblance to the being from where it has derived get all squeally and start shrieking 'urgh I can see its eye, it’s looking at me'. If you don’t like it, eat vegetables.

The fish pie was delicious but was a filled with aubergine and tomato ratatoille interiors – a dramatic departure from the classic dish. However, we both agreed that fish pie can be too creamy a lot of the time and it did say that the pie included ratatouille on the menu – so I think it deserves The Summerhouse thumbs up.

To drink, we ordered a bottle of Billi Billi Pinot Grigio from Mount Langi Ghiran, Victoria, Australia. It wasn't cold enough and tasted pretty dull but we did order a Pinot Grigio I suppose.

Dessert was my dining highlight of the night. We ordered a watermelon and strawberry platter for two which came again with another beach pail of clotted cream. Our waitress confirmed that the strawberries came from Heulva in Spain. They were some of the most beautifully ripe, sweet, juicy and good-looking strawberries I have ever tasted.

The Summerhouse, Toilet watch: Fun, fun, fun. Bright interiors, proper expensive throw-away hand towels, more pebble flooring and fish print wallpaper. Top marks for effort in the bog.

The Summerhouse, The Final Word:
Probably not worth venturing all the way across town for, but this temporary dining addition will have the locals smiling all summer. A pop up of the greatest proportions.

The Summerhouse
Opposite 60 Blomfield Road
W9 2PD
Tel: 020 7286 6752

The Summerhouse on Urbanspoon