November 25, 2010
If you hadn’t already guessed I really loved Hampstead, I had a lovely weekend there and enjoyed mooching about looking at all the amazing houses and gorgeous shops…
Another thing I loved about Hampstead was that there was gorgeous pâtisseries everywhere, one near us was called Paul’s, (a London chain) I was desperate to buy cakes but didn’t think they would survive the trip home, so just nibbled on samples and grabbed some bread…
One shop we could not resist was this Butchers… we tried for all of an hour but soon headed back that way to grab some steak for dinner… The Hampstead Butchers and Providore
I think it was the sausages being sold outside and the window of steaks that got us…
Not just a butchers but also a providore they had all kinds of fresh produce and products… check out this table of treats… brownies, all kinds of tarts, cakes and huge home-made scotch eggs
It’s a well stocked store and (if you were being naughty) you could definitely do a full shop here!
They even make ready meals, although generally I disapprove of ready meals I admit there are times when they are great… I think this would be one of them, I doubt very much they are full of nasties
Homemade sausage rolls, one of my vices, it took all my willpower not to get one of these…
Focaccia Bread that smelt so yummy…
They even had some treats to taste…
Plus the poshest cat food I have ever seen… I really should have gotten Biggie the cat some but I fear he’d never go back to the normal stuff.
A cheese and wine shop at the back…
With more samples!
Wrapping our purchase, a proper knowledgable butcher, with a saw in his apron…
I made the huge mistake of asking for a small one, in my defense they looked massive, and were expensive and I didn’t want to buy a huge one and not eat it… but I regretted it, one of the best steaks I have had, ever… and it was a rib eye but I would even rate it better than the last fillet I had.
This is the Boy’s much bigger steak, with a tomato jam and pan-fried nutmeg spinach and sweet potato chips.
If you ever this way check this place out, I think I will definitely be engineering a trip back soon.
November 23, 2010
It was my birthday last week, and as part of my treat the Boy took me to Claridges, which I must say is now my most favourite place in the world.
It was such a great meal and it was made so special by the amazing service we received.
I didn’t take photographs of the hotel or dining room as I normally do, I didn’t feel it was okay to do this here.
The hotel is art deco and is beautiful, and everyone we met was so lovely, smiley, pleased to see us and helpful.
I really urge you to go here, go for tea, go for lunch, just go!
I did, however, have to share the ladies room with you, after my post about The Anthenaeum I am sure you know I adore a gorgeous power room…
*sigh* check out the dressing tables…
you literally don’t lift a finger here there is a discreet lady to turn on the taps and pass a towel…
I could seriously live here.
So the meal…
My amuse bouche was a pumpkin soup… probably with a flourish but I cannot remember what that was… very tasty indeed and quite a large portion…
The Boy had chosen soup for his starter so was given a goats cheese salad with beetroot and butternut squash…
I go out to eat a lot, and I have been to some really nice places but this was my first proper fine dining experience, and I loved it.
It was the smallest things that I liked the most, mostly based around the service.
And I adored the battered silverware… just think of the history of my cutlery!
I apologise for going on a bit in this post but I want to remember everything…
Little things like placing the correct spoon on the edge of my plate; to save my embarrassment of not using the correct one? Like arriving at our table when we raised our eyes, no trouble attracting someone’s attention here.
The Boy joked about asking for chips and tomato sauce but I doubt whether they would even blink before arriving with both 2 minutes later…
We went for the £30 three course lunch menu, which we thought was amazing value, not just because of the service but the food… it was so. good.
We also ordered a bottle of wine (a Argentinian Viognier) that was about £40, one of their cheaper ones, which was really great, and this was poured for us throughout the meal, placed in a bucket where even if we wanted to we couldn’t have reached it but not once were we left dry…
You order your wine on an iPad, which almost doesn’t fit with the traditional surroundings and service, however it does make selecting wine very easy and less intimidating, you can pick by country, grape or colour and then again from more options within those.
The arrival of the wine was again service at its best, we had just picked our Viognier, the waiter left us then another appeared with an ice bucket, then another with our selected bottle, all within seconds… then he disappeared only to arrive and pour again a minute later with the bottle open. No fuss!
For my starter I chose the rabbit and crayfish ravioli…
At each course both of our dishes were covered, then both the covers lifted at the same time… this was done with all, us a table of two, to large tables, we saw one where seven waiters appeared out of no-where all lifting the seven covers then melting away again, it was something to watch. Everything is done to make you feel special.
My ravioli was so good, the peas were just perfect… probably my favourite course.
The Boy had parsnip soup… which came as a little dish of the venison with the onions and beans then the soup was poured over the top at the table, it was all about the show…
For my main I had sea bream… it was so fresh, it really tasted of the sea, and everything that same with it was cooked so perfectly, I was very quiet when eating this…
The Boy had braised pork cheek with pork belly… which is what I wanted to order but am still a little squeamish about some meat (and the crackling would have gone to waste) but I did try it and it was amazing, so rich and melt in the mouth…
Then for dessert we skipped the cheese (it was a hard decision) as we thought the desserts would be too special to miss, so I had parfait and The Boy has a pannacotta, an unusual choice for him but of course it was great…
We did regret it a little after seeing the cheese trolley though (huge!).
The parfait with a crispy wafer treat beside it
My parfait also came with this molten pot of hot chocolate amazingness… seriously if I could just have this pot with me at all times I would consume far less chocolate, it was that intense
About halfway through our time in Claridges we realised we had to catch our train quite soon, so with this being a little issue as we were still awaiting our mains we mentioned to a waiter that we had only an hour before we had to leave.
No problem, suddenly our mains arrived, and shortly after we had finished our desserts arrived, then as soon as we had finished them coffee was offered and arrived with petit fours in minutes.
They literally speeded up perfectly timing everything so we left on time, then apologised for rushing us, brilliant!
The petit fours were equally great, fresh mint chocolates and marshmallows…
The chocolates were made with fresh mint leaf, they were the best after-dinner mints ever, I am going to try to replicate them… somehow!
I have also been wanting to make marshmallows for ages, this has scared me a little as they were the lightest things I have ever eaten and I doubt I could match them.
Then the best bit…
On our way out the maître d’ said goodbye and asked ‘Is it a special occasion?’ (strong French accent of course!) and the Boy replied, Sally’s birthday… ‘Saaaalllyyyy, ‘appy birthday!’ then to his hostess; ‘has anyone given her, her surprise?’ to shocked “Oh no’s!”…
Then I was whisked into the kitchen for a tour!
And given this…
Like I said, everything is a show and is to make you feel special, and although I was massively embarrassed it was brilliant.
So yes all in all I loved Claridges, and would recommend it, obviously you could splurge and spend an absolute fortune, but you really don’t have to, to enjoy it, so go!
I am definitely going to return for my favourite… afternoon tea very soon.
A massive thanks to my amazing boyfriend for this xxx
November 22, 2010
A few weekends ago I was staying with friends in Hampstead and have blogged our breakfast already, but have only just got around to blogging this dinner after a busy few weeks, I am very behind!
We had driven from Bristol that night and after battling with the horrendous London traffic for a good few hours decided to head out rather than staying in to cook.
Ducking into the nearest place we could find that we all agreed on, on a horrible drizzly night…
We lucked out… all the food was great and the 5 spice squid was the talk of our weekend… mmmmmmm I could eat that squid right now!
Dim t is a small chain of Asian and Oriental food and actually have a number of restaurants across London.
I apologise for the quality of the photographs, it was quite dark… but I still wanted to share because I really enjoyed all of the food that night.
The obligatory crackers you eat whilst looking at the menu only made us hungrier… there’s a reason you shouldn’t go to a restaurant TOO hungry…
So we all nibbled on grilled vegetable gyoza dumplings, prawn toasts, edamame beans, and THAT squid… so tender and melty…
Just in case I hadn’t got the point across about how good the squid was… we ate this is 1 minute flat… and so had to order another plate, and I know for a fact if our mains hadn’t had arrived so soon after that, that we would have ordered another.
See what I mean, 4 very hungry (and a little tipsy) people) means you order A LOT of food…
We still had mains to come… Piggys!
Sarah had some Japanese noodles, rice noodles with lemongrass, roasted coconut, and a ton of vegetables in a spicy Thai style sauce…
The Boy had Laska… with prawns, at first missing but then found again right at the bottom soaking up all the yummy liquid. Made with Vermicelli noodles, prawns and squid with pak choi in the laska broth…
Aand Jim had Thai (battered) fish… which I reeeally wanted but had a craving for something else so resisted, was almost glad I did until I saw how big it was… gutted. This was served with Pak Choi and sweet chilli sauce…
My craving was for bang bang chicken, ever since I had dinner with work-c0lleagues and someone had the most amazing bang bang (a spicy peanut dressing) I have tasted… this was a salad version dressing with sesame and soy sauce and but was great, and defianately filling enough…
We cleaned our plates!
My only complaint is that although we were given dessert menus when we tried to order (a couple to share… honest) I was told that the kitchen had closed…
I think thats really bad, not only were people still in the restaurant, we had actually been given menus… naughty.
Probably a good thing though, we had all eaten enough.
We did, however get the most depressing fortune cookies ever… you want some inspiration after dinner not depression!
All in all I think it’s a great restaurant and wish we had one in Bristol.
November 19, 2010
These are my staple dinner party pudding, firstly because you can make them up to a day in advance therefore a no hassle pud on the night, plus they only take about 15 minutes in total to prepare anyway… so good!
Plus they are ultra impressive and goey.
Serves 4-6 depending on the ramekin size
200g fine dark chocolate
100g caster sugar
2 lightly heaped tablespoons nutella
Set the oven @ 200c and lightly butter ramekins
break the chocolate into rough pieces and melt in the microwave, also melt the butter (strictly the recipe says to do this with a water bath but Nigella uses this way and it works, and is far less messy)
put the sugar in a mixing bowl, separate the eggs and add the yolks beat until thick and creamy
whisk the egg whites until airy and almost stiff
stir the butter into the chocolate then add the nutella then fold the mixture into the egg and sugar then carefully fold in the egg whites with a metal spoon
be calm, don’t overmix…
bake for 10-12 minutes
You really don’t need to serve anything with them as they are all goey and lovely inside, but I served some berries and creme fraiche just to lighten them up a bit, as they are quite rich
Enjoy… don’t just save them for when friends are visiting either, they’re too easy make some for you, for tonight!
November 18, 2010
So the day after my birthday… I had a good hangover, not the kind where you cannot move for the room spinning, or bear to hear noise for your head-banging…the kind where I feel a bit weak and useless and in the need of air and grease.
So off we go to Brunel’s Buttery, it’s about 30 minutes from my house so it’s a little walk…
Mostly along the river… then this is your view from the benches… brilliant!
I love the retro mugs they serve your tea in…
We all went for bacon and egg sandwiches, and I am (almost) ashamed to admit… chips… they were great though so I’m not really…
For breakfast spots it’s up there with the best, rustic it may be (all seating is outside so if it’s raining drive!) but it’s proper! If you haven’t been yet, why not!
November 17, 2010
This is a nibble I served to our friends whilst the Surprise Tart was cooking but we loved it so much the Boy and I had it for a light supper the next day!
This is another recipe from the New Vegetarian
30g pine nuts
5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
1 garlic clove
Salt and ground black pepper
4 slices sourdough, 1.5cm thick
3 semi-ripe pears, unpeeled
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
120g good quality goat’s cheese
A few leaves fresh watercress and purple basil (I didn’t have any hence mine are a little beige!)
Preheat the oven to 200C
Put the pine nuts, four tablespoons of oil, garlic, a pinch of salt and a little pepper in the bowl of a food processor and work to a coarse, wet paste.
Spread on one side of each slice of bread, pop on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly coloured.
Remove and leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile cut your pears into slices, mine were very thin but you could have thick slices if you prefer, place the slices in a bowl along with a tablespoon of oil, sugar, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and toss gently.
Take a griddle pan and place on high flame until piping hot. Lay in the pear slices and leave for about a minute, then flip over and leave for another minute, to get char marks on both sides.
To assemble the crostini, thinly slice the cheese and arrange over the toasts, alongside the pears, then pop them in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese starts to melt.
Remove, place a pile of leaves in the centre of each toast, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot!
Simple and yummy… a great starter replacement!