Monday, 19 December 2011

Cheese is Nice: Obika Mozzarella Bar Opens at Canary Wharf

Denial is difficult. Well for me anyway. I don’t like denying myself what I want, especially food. So pregnancy and all its little confinements has been tough so far.

I dream of gorging on big slabs of blue-veined Stilton piled on crackers, or cradling a large piece of pungent soft-rind Camembert in my arms, and the taste of my old friend goat’s cheese is but a distant memory.

So, when I received a 50% off opening offer from the Obika Mozzarella Bar in Canary Wharf, I was in two minds. Clearly this new restaurant was all about the cheese. Should I visit for a torturous evening surrounded by the forbidden or just wait until 2012 and return to enjoy the full experience uncut?

Curiosity got the better of me however, so I booked dinner for myself and dad-to-be.

Obika Mozzarella Bar, What’s The Deal?:

For what is essentially nothing more than a raised platform in the middle of a corporate foyer, the restaurant had a surprisingly sophisticated feel. A jazzy soundtrack piped through speakers and softly-lit tables were placed around two sides of a mozzarella bar in the middle.

As we queued for our table, I felt a strong presence to my left, and turning around I saw them - three large tanks of fresh mozzarella sat atop the bar just staring me in the face willing me to dive in. I turned away and followed the waiter to my seat.

“Stay calm,” I told myself. “There’s bound to be plenty of alternatives you can enjoy on the menu,” but as my eyes perused the other options my face began to redden.

To begin, there was a whole half page to devoted to delicious fresh mozzarella combinations. You can choose from three different types of fresh mozzarella at Obika – delicate Bufala Classica, naturally smoked Buffala Affumicata and extra creamy Burrata. These can be paired with a number of delicious-sounding further pregnancy-forbidden foods such as Prosciutto Crudo di Parma DOP (cured Parma ham) or Bresaola della Valtellina (cured beef).

“I won’t get the mozzarella because it’s unfair on you,” says hubby.

“No don’t be silly, get it, it looks like the best thing on the menu,” I reply as plates of fresh mozzarella with various delightful accompaniments arrive on neighbouring tables.

“There will be something I can have for a starter,” I say as I look through more combinations of cheese, cured meats and pates. Grr.

“Maybe I can just have some. I’m sure it’s fine."

“Well I don’t think you should risk it."

“Hang on let me check with the waiter, excuse me I have a question."

It’s now my boyfriend’s turn to begin to redden in the cheeks.

“Uh, I’m pregnant. Do you know if I can eat the mozzarella?”

“Yes madam, all our mozzarella is pasteurized.”

“Oh great, thank you,” I say as I feel a hard kick at my leg under the table.

“What are you kicking me for?” I wallop my partner in the leg in return.

“I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” he mutters through gritted teeth.

And so the squabble continues. The next-door table is clearly listening. I’m having a tantrum. He’s toying with ordering mozzarella anyway to spite me or just having a pizza for an easy life.

“Just have the sodding mozzarella. I’ll have a salmon salad to start. I’m allowed salmon by the way before you say anything.”

Finally we order. He goes for the Burrata with Parma ham and I opt for salmon salad.

His mozzarella is creamy and has an almost yogurt-like consistency and comes with an olive and spinach garnish.

My salmon and avocado salad is served in a big glass goldfish-type bowl and is very tasty despite the fact that I over dress it using the olive oil and balsamic vinegar accompaniments on the table.

We then shared very rich and tasty lasagna and a lovely smoky pizza with large chunks of grilled aubergine, courgette, charred radicchio and smoked Mozzarella di Buffala.

The Obika Mozzarella Bar, The Final Word:
Despite our cheese disagreement, the food was all of a high standard and I can't wait to return when I can fully appreciate the fresh mozzarella.

Click here to visit the Obika Mozzarella Bar website

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Laundry Room Christmas Pop Up

Although It's not strictly food, I thought it was about time I wrote about my forthcoming Pop Up shop on my blog.

The Laundry Room Christmas Pop Up will take place on 3rd and 4th December.

We will be showcasing a beautiful array of work from artists, designers and makers in a very luxe Georgian townhouse setting on 3 Fournier Street, Spitalfields E1.

I'm really excited that we have managed to source 8 of Dan Hillier's original prints.

Talented jeweller Corrie Williamson will be getting involved and we'll also have some lovely pieces from Dynasty Jewellery.

We're already getting interest for the brilliant Sue Whimster's ceramic dogs. Cute!

Helen Beard has also won over our hearts with her high class pottery painted with fantastic London scenes and figures. Her work is stocked at Fortnum & Mason's and we're super chuffed she is getting involved.

The Laundry Room Christmas Pop-Up will take place at 3 Fournier Street, London E1 6QE

3 and 4 December, 10am-7pm

twitter: @laundryroomeast

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Balcon Pall Mall

The Balcon, What's The Deal?: For some reason, the fact that I have lived in London all my life, makes me think I need never look at a map or work out my route when trying to navigate anywhere. And so I set off to meet my dining partner @hungryBecs at newly-opened The Balcon, believing as I always do that my sixth sense would subliminally guide me to the correct location.

I set off to Green Park tube station and then spent the best part of an hour circling along Piccadilly Circus, taking a couple of jaunts up and down St James Street, a long lengthy walk up and down once side of Pall Mall before finally making it to the restaurant (the other way down Pall Mall) about 30 minutes late.

I burst in through a classic old revolving wooden door and came face to face with London’s only indoor balcony from which the restaurant takes its name. This is now home to a rather fabulous selection of champagnes, which one can peruse and choose by popping up one of the circular stairwells flanking each side of the balcony.

The Balcon, The Food:
My guest and I were left to leisurely take in the smart surroundings and scoff our way through a large selection of bread accompanied by a moreish smoked butter – which needless to say all disappeared!

The restaurant has a large charcuterie selection and separate charcuterie bar where you can drop in and pull up a stool for some serious meat eating. Alas, being pregnant cured meats were off the menu for me so we settled on some of the restaurants signature pieces:

1. Herefordshire snails, garlic jus, parsnip purée, Mas air dried ham
& country croutons.
The escargot was very tasty. Each little snail had already been plucked from It’s shell and was served with a rich garlic jus and creamy parsnip was a lovely accompaniment.

2. Brioche ‘toad in the hole’ with Lyonnaise pistachio sausage and garlic confit chicken jus - the sausage was served inside a chunky piece of disappointingly dry brioche – something I would not order on a repeat visit.

For mains we did the coupley thing and went for two different fish dishes and shared half-half.

1.Cornish brill, butternut squash purée, brown shrimps and lilliput capers. A great dish. Another well executed purée, and the salty capers went well with the crispy cooked piece of brill.

2.Pan-fried black bream with braised fennel,seaweed and beurre blanc Another fine fish dish. Tasty and faultless.

We also ordered a side dish of delicious colourful roasted beets with thyme.

For dessert I managed to polish off in entirety – a very rich and hugely portioned chocolate fondant – I blame the baby not greed.

The Balcon, The Final Word:
A perfectly posh experience. Just remember to bring you’re A-Z if your navigation skills are as poor as mine.

The Balcon, 8 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5NG, 020 7968 2900,

The Balcon London on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Harvest At Jimmy’s Festival, Suffolk

I’m back from a whirlwind weekend at Harvest at Jimmy’s Farm in Suffolk. The access all areas pass and role of looking after all press for the weekend certainly gave me a different viewpoint of the festival happenings and an excuse to…

1.Grab Antony Worrall Thomson as he came off the Chef’s Stage and ask him to taste Andy Bates AKA Pie Man’s rhubarb and custard pie – he obliged most charmingly.

2. Take photographers into the pit right at the front of the Village Garden stage and get a chance to see the acts so close I was practically up there with them. Highlight: the amazing Fat Freddy’s Drop in glorious melodic action right in-front of my face.

3.Run around after the delightful Jimmy Doherty asking him to talk to various people and take numerous press snaps – despite having 20,000 people pile onto his farm over the weekend, not once did he stop smiling.

4. Get the front row action of Jimmy’s sausage eating contest – the winner was a svelte-looking teenage Suffolk boy who pretty much ate his own body weight in sausages.
5. See the lovely Street Kitchen collect the award for best main dish - well done guys!

6. Watch Dobie from Fat Freddy's Drop prepare his dinner party favourite wonton with prawn and abelone, (a New Zealand shellfish), at the Chef's Unplugged stage.

7.Meet the guinea pigs with the best home in the UK.

See you next year:

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Carnivore Club at The Blues Kitchen

Blues Kitchen, What’s The Deal: When I arrived at the Blues Kitchen early on Tuesday evening, I was surprised how busy it was. There was a great buzz about the place and a real mix of people. Female Blues singer Bex Marshall was playing live later in the evening, which may have been why it was so busy, however mine was a different agenda ...MEAT.

Blues Kitchen, Toilet Watch: As my ‘date’ was running late, I headed downstairs to get acquainted with the powder room. Thanks to an unruly soap dispenser, I managed to cover my top with a large dollop of liquid hand wash. I then tried to rinse this out which resulted in a large wet patch across my front which I attempted to dry off under the hand-dryer. I gave up and left the loos with a big wet stain.
Blues Kitchen, The Food: Carnivore Club is taking place on a serious of Tuesdays, giving adventurous eaters the chance to try a different rare meat each week. When we visited, kudu (a type of antelope found in Africa), was on the menu.

I started with a delightful (and very generous sized) glass of Chilean Merlot and thought carefully about which side dishes I would choose from the regular Blues Kitchen menus to go with my meat.

My dining pal hungrybecs finally arrived and tucked straight into a Dark & Stormy - a mix of Gosling's Dark Seal Rum, fresh lime juice and ginger beer.

Our kudu arrived on a large butcher’s block, along with our chosen side orders of coleslaw, sweet potato fries and green salad. The kudu itself if I’m honest was not that tasty. It was slightly on the tough side and a lot leaner and less juicer than many red meats. On the plus side however, as kudu is such a lean meat it is much healthier for you and it was accompanied with a very good spicy pepper sauce.

Blues Kitchen, Dessert: To finish, we shared a brownie with vanilla ice cream and Charlie the waiter’s favourite milkshake – vanilla and peanut butter which was AMAZING. I'm a sucker for anything peanut-butter based.

The Blues Kitchen, The Final Word:
This joint is rockin’ and serves up decent southern American fare. Check out the website to see their regular menus and live music schedule:

Monday, 8 August 2011

An Evening at A Grelha, London

Anyone familiar with the delightful East London areas of Poplar and the Isle of Dogs will know that there isn’t an abundance of decent boozers on offer, but tucked away down a side street just off Cold Harbour Lane, is historic riverside boozer The Gun.

A Grelha: What’s The Deal? Every summer, The Gun plays host to an outdoor Portuguese restaurant A Grelha. The scenic spot overlooks The Thames and the alien-like 02 and on a sunny day the smell of barbecuing fish wafts on to the Isle of Dogs luring in hungry locals.

A Grelha, The Food: We visited on a brilliant summer's evening and unfortunately for me, due to the weather, most of the day’s fresh fish (sourced from the nearby Billingsgate Market) had been eaten.

There was still a number of Dorado (Golden Bream) left though, so I snapped one up straight away. I was asked if I would like to choose my fish from the remaining ones sitting on ice at the front of the restaurant. I thought this was a nice touch and went for the largest (natch).

While the fish was on the grill, our bread was served with a tasty Portuguese twist – sardine paste.

To start we had clams in garlic, herbs and butter and mussels in tomato and red pepper sauce. Both were fresh and delicious.

My Dorado was served up whole and we also opted for a Monkfish Espetada (hanging kebab), which came on a standing skewer alongside chunks of grilled onions and pepper.

All main dishes on the menu are served with buttery new potatoes and salad.

Monkfish has a much meatier texture than some fish and made a great contrast with the softer Dorado.

A Grelha, The Drink: With our meal we shared a very enjoyable bottle of white - Tom and Ed Martin’s own house wine brand chosen and blended somewhere in France. This was the only non-Portuguese part of our meal. Oops.

A Grelha, Toilet watch: Doh! Forgot to snap it.

A Grelha, The Final Word: Get yourself down there for a cerveza and some fresh fish in the sun while the summer lasts:

Monday, 25 July 2011

Christmas Comes Early – Carluccio’s, London

See below for a sneak preview of this year’s glorious Christmas spread coming to a Carluccio’s near you this Autumn.

Carluccio's Christmas Press Preview

Last Thursday, Carluccio’s at St Christopher’s Place was transformed into a winter wonderland complete with real fir trees and (not so real) snow at the entrance. Inside, a long banqueting table was filled with this year’s range of regional Italian sweets, cakes, biscuits and treats.

Press and bloggers mingled with the superb Carluccio’s team to discover this year’s range.

Those that arrived early were treated to an espresso and the chance to be the first guests to dig into this season's panettone, dark chocolate-dipped clemetines, chocolate-covered nougat cigars and much, much more.

As the day rolled on, the feast grew to include summer vegetable risotto, broad bean and pancetta salad, free-flowing bellinis and prosecco, and those who timed it well even got a glimpse of Carluccio’s own father Christmas aka Antonio Carluccio.

Carluccio’s Christmas Range – Highlights

In no particular order here are a couple of this year’s delights.

Panforte Bianco
– a dense sticky Tuscan cake made with candied fruit, toasted almonds, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg and covered in icing sugar.

Christmas Crackers
Guaranteed to give your festive table a bit of design kudos, I love this year’s Carluccio’s Mini Christmas crackers. Inside each cracker there’s a party hat, chocolate and Italian trivia question.

Pasticceria di Benevento
– A subtle butter biscuit selection covered in dark chocolate and decorated in little gold balls. What a lovely gift!

Sfogliatine. – These beautifully-packaged delicious honey and almond slices are new to the range this year.

Wrapped in gold, the Pandolce is a classic Christmas cake from Genoa. A great gift for gran!

Ho, ho, ho – Pupazzetti milk and dark chocolate Santas, stick them in the kids' stockings.

Get Your Italian Christmas Fix:
The Carluccio's Christmas range will arrive in stores at the end of October and will also be available online:

Monday, 18 July 2011

Jazzy Burgers, Boisdale, London

I still haven’t made it to London’s latest Boisdale jazz club, which opened recently in Canary Wharf, although it is my local so I do want to check it out soon.

Boisdale Great Burger Takeaway Menu

Today I got a press release however, announcing their launch of takeaway burgers for local businesses at lunchtimes. Yum?

You can choose from Classic, Latin, Gourmet, Dangerously Hot or Truffle-mayonnaise burgers all made from proper Scottish beef and served with Bloody Mary Ketchup and chips.

Orders need to be placed before 11:30am and collected before 12:15pm or order to your desk for a £5 charge if you work locally. I feel a Friday hangover lunch run coming on…

Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London:
T: 020 7715 5818

If anyone orders one, please let me know if you rate them.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Ceviche Peruvian Pop-Up in London

I ‘popped’ along to a Peruvian pop-up on Thursday with my foodie friends @HungryBecs and @PaulFrmTheNorth.

Ceviche Pop-Up, What’s The Deal?:
Martin Morales is opening Peruvian restaurant Ceviche later this year in Soho (venue TBC). This pop-up is a chance for the team to experiment with menus and get word out about the restaurant ahead of the opening.

Ceviche Pop-Up, So How Was It?: A bevy of tanned South American waiters served up tasty cocktails to guests on arrival and the communal tables were topped with strings of bright pink faux flowers.

Peru’s official national drink Pisco Sour = YUM! Good enough a reason for me to visit the restaurant when it opens alone. Pisco Sour is made with Payet Acholado Pisco blended with fresh lime-juice, sugar and egg white and topped with cinnamon.

Ceviche Pop-Up, The Food:
Things started well. Our appetiser of aji de gallina tequenos (deep fried dumplings filled with chicken stew with milk, peanuts and yellow Peruvian chilli) was served with a beautiful rocoto spicy mayonnaise and the starter of trio de causas (three potato puree terrines – coriander with tuna, tuna with salmon and sweet potato with asparagus) was a pretty and light summery starter.

The seabass ceviche that followed was fresh and punchy and I loved the addition of the large Andean corn-husks.

Things fell down a bit at the main course. The rice, which was supposed to accompany the lomo saltado (Peruvian sautéed beef with chillies, onions and tomatoes) didn’t arrive due to “an incident” in the kitchen and the dish was not particularly stand out.

Dessert was Guanaja chocolate sponge and lucuma mousse with glazed blackberries – a great combo to finish with.

Ceviche Pop-Up, Toilet Watch: The framed religious paintings in each cubicle were a nice Peruvian touch.

Ceviche Pop-Up, The Final Word: A thoroughly good evening and I’m looking forward to visiting the real deal Ceviche when it opens. Thanks to Martin and the lovely staff. Check out the website for more Ceviche pop-ups this summer:

Saturday, 21 May 2011

What a Difference a PR Makes: The Riding House Café

Big up to the PRs behind the opening of the Riding House Cafe as it’s been getting press all over the place, from website e-zines to big name critics, and luckily (cause it’s rather fabulous), the reviews are all sounding dreamy.

We even spotted sexy silver-haired celeb George Lamb having a drink in the bar when we visited.

Riding House Café: What’s The Deal? Taking over a previous restaurant, which barely lasted a year (RIP Chutney & Larger), on a ground-floor site on Great Titchfield Street, I could hardly believe the transformation yesterday when I popped in for lunch with one of my buddies from work.

Riding House Café is the sister restaurant to two Bermondsey sites Village East and The Garrison which have both been quietly ticking away to gentle acclaim for a good few years now.

Riding House Café: How Does It Look?: Subway tiles, plenty of light, a huge circular bar and sharing tables on one side and distressed orange leather sofas, huge hanging cream lampshades and questionable taxidermy in the restaurant (see photo).

Riding House Café: The Food: The menu is free and easy. You can order large or small plates any time of day and most things sound pretty appealing. We settled on sharing three small plates and a main.

1. Beetroot carpaccio, sheep’s ricotta, merlot vinaigrette – Gorgeous and fresh and I’m all for a bit of sexing up of this underrated vegetable.

2. Chermoula spiced poussin, jalapeno, lemon – Beautiful looking couscous peppered with small flecks of red and green er … pepper. The poussin was cooked to perfection, Soft, pink and succulent. I was expecting something a bit more fiery than pickled jalapeno pieces though.

3. Goat’s curd, figs, honey – Okay so maybe we didn’t need to order quite so much whipped cheese? Sorry Laura. The goat’s curd was light and lovely and paired nicely with the figs and honey but the figs did lack flavour slightly.

4. Chorizo hash browns, mushroom and poached egg – The hero dish of our meal by far. I’d eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner and If I was hungover I’d order two in a row. Perfectly poached eggs, big Portobello mushrooms and Chorizo with hash brown is a genius addition to tasty fried spud.

Riding House Café: Toilet Watch: Get past the stuffed pigeon on the stairwell and take a left. The bogs have a touch of a warehouse feel to them: brick walls and exposed copper taps. Each loo has its own basin complete with hand-wash and lotion.

Riding House Café: The Final Word: It’s buzzy, fun, relaxed and serves up great food and booze. I’m coming back soon to work my way through the rest of the menu…..

The Riding House Café:

The Riding House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Modern Pantry – It Beats Mine

I’ve been hearing about The Modern Pantry for a while now and it’s been on my long list of ‘restaurants to check out’, but I didn’t realise it had been around quite as long as three years – until our waiter confirmed its lengthy existence this evening. Still, better late than never….

The Modern Pantry: What’s The Deal? I love Clerkenwell on a warm Friday evening, hundreds of cool looking creative types spill out of the pubs clutching their pints and there’s a buzz of excitement in the London air. The Modern Pantry is found in Clerkenwell’s coolest corner – set back on the cobble-stoned St John’s Square and neighbouring the newly-opened Zetter townhouse.

The Modern Pantry, The Food: Canadian born and raised in New Zealand, female chef Anna Hansen sure does know what to do with her vegetables despite being brought up in the land of a thousand sheep and trained under purveyor of all things meaty Fergus Henderson.

We dined in the downstairs café and stuck to vegetables only for the evening. We shared Hansen’s trademark fritters – lemon roast fennel, feta & parsley with golden & plum wine compote; a gorgeous gooey and Asian-tinged smokey grilled aubergine with chilli, yuzu soy dressing, crispy shallots and Thai basil, and a salad of roast golden beetroot, miso lentil, broad beans, pickled chantenay carrots, ricotta and spiced seeds all from the small plates/starters menu.

We also split a beautifully presented main dish of Amchur roast parsnip, cauliflower, spinach & Manouri briq cheese, with cashew cream, mango tamarillo and mint salsa.

The Modern Pantry, Toilet Watch: Light, spacious and airy and featuring a large pink mirror. Thumbs up.

The Modern Pantry, The Final Word: Treat your veggie friends to a meal here and watch them weep with joy.

The Modern Pantry, Check It Out:

Modern Pantry on Urbanspoon