The London Diaries: A Few Hidden Gems

In London you have a whole plethora of restaurants and eateries. You’ve got the chain restaurants, the rapidly expanding burger places, the street food markets. You really are spoilt for choice!

 photo Frenchies Duck Confit Burger - 5_zps2huhzszp.jpgImli Street Restaurant Review4 photo 0c2c2808-d19d-4811-b1ec-1aab52c06ec0_zps6fzrfyiq.jpg photo Five Guys 8_zpsthpxwpqp.jpgI’ve loved the Indian tomato-free specials I was cooked up over at Imli Street. Wahaca is obviously a favourite. There’s been a carb-overload in Pizza Pilgrims. I’ve eaten countless burgers – pink tinged Byrons, greasy Five Guys and the BEST duck confit burger (which is pretty much one of the best things I’ve ever eaten) However I’ve also come across a few hidden gems during my time in London, both of them I’ve spoken about before.

 photo St Moritz Restaurant Review Soho 12_zpsxj1zl5o7.jpg photo St Moritz Restaurant Review Soho 17_zpsm3esxrlw.jpgSt Moritz is a Swiss restaurant in the heart of Soho (just about my favourite area of London!). Being a fan of cheese is a must if you visit here, not least because you are greeted by a traditional racalette on entering. I highly recommend their cheese fondue, and of course their chocolate fondue is a must ‘due’!

 photo IMG_0804_zpsh4qs54pe.jpg photo IMG_0810_zpso7ojry8i.jpgThe Stockholm is a little out of the way, nestled towards Mortlake. It’s pricey but we found the lunch menu both affordable and delicious – my sausage was beautiful, and of course the Swedish meatballs were far superior to IKEA’s.

But there’s so many more hidden gems out there, and I do feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve found the best way of getting a good place to eat is by word of mouth. Obviously I google blog reviews before I go anywhere, hell I’ve got a list of 43 blog posts of restaurant reviews (all places I want to visit). I use Twitter, I use Zomato, but still it can be difficult. When Millennium Hotels asked me to contribute to their new infographic about hidden gems in London, I knew that (1) I had to add my bit and (2) share it with you!

It was a toss up between the two restaurants about but in the end St Moritz won. Just. I wish I could have quoted two places!

I’ve loved reading about some of the other suggestions too. The House of Ho sounds amazing, I’ve really been lusting after some fresh, authentic Vietnamese food after reading about Libby’s first backpacking experience. Their September Set Menu sounds like great value for money, I’m adding it to my list of places to visit. Which considering I’m not living in London after Monday is going to have to be put on hold for a bit…

 photo 0c365d70-cf39-4235-b9e8-efc7bad6bd20_zpsxstursud.jpgOf course virtually all the pizza places have gone on the list in the hope of a tomato-free option (fingers crossed), and I’m now craving wings and hot dogs. I’m so surprised I’ve not piled the weight on this summer!

Where’s your favourite place in London? I’ve got ONE weekend left so send over your recommendations!

Lifestyle: “Street Food” Pies

Pies. Quite possibly my favourite type of food. Carbs, fat (probably a little too much!) and protein in one neat parcel, what’s not to love?! Hearty, filling and often made with seasonal ingredients I could eat a pie a week and not get bored. Though possibly a little chubby. I’ve lunched on a fair few pies recently whilst out and about, and decided now was the time to share.

Pieminister (Oxford, but a few other branches)

 photo 2015-02-01 14.33.16_zpsv5gh4d1f.jpgIt was a very, very cold day in Oxford when we ate these pies, so possibly not surprising that most varieties were beginning to sell out. The shop wasn’t the most welcoming. Being in a covered market it wasn’t exactly warm, with hard benches to sit on. Free tap water was available though which gives bonus points!

 photo 2015-02-01 14.33.04_zps9532fnle.jpgW has some sort of beefy pie. Pies are the one thing I seem to have to be really careful with as they often contain tomato pastes, and Pieminister were no exception – boo! I went for a chicken and mushroom (it has a silly name, can’t say I’m a fan of their naming convention!). Crunchy pastry (possibly a bit too hard), buttery sauce, tender chicken, plenty of mushrooms that actually tasted of mushroom. It was all good but overshadowed by the use of herb. Everything tasted a bit dried-tarragon-y and it got a bit unpleasant after a while. No similar complaints from W though, so I’d be willing to try another type.

Mash was a bit sweet and lumpy, and we declined the offer of gravy (which also looked a bit lumpy having scrutinized other diners’ lunches). Overall? Not bad, I’d go again, but not great and a bit overpriced.

My Pie

 photo IMG_0862_zpssjv2eigj.jpgFirst of all, a moving PIE VAN. Words can’t describe how much joy that gave me. Not as much joy as when the guy gave me 47p off my lunch because I hadn’t quite got enough in my bag (oops).

 photo IMG_0861_zpsckjibkwk.jpg photo IMG_0860_zpshxipns9v.jpgI went for the Chicken and Aspargus, and oh my was it good! Creamy but peppery sauce, lots of chicken, and the aspargus still tasted fresh and crunchy. The pastry was just how I like it, firm but a little soggy. Will’s steak pie was demolished in record timing and was thoroughly enjoyed.

Gravy was meaty and well made, and the mash was delicious. Buttery, creamy, still tasting of potato. I could have eaten a bowlful!

 photo IMG_0859_zpslfmiz3xo.jpgMy Pie came in a few pounds cheaper than Pieminister, and was undoubtedly the better meal. I’m keeping them firmly bookmarked as I’d quite like to see them at a future big event in my life (cutting the pie sounds far more fun that cutting the cake!), and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them again.

Have you had a pie from these places? What’s your favourite pie filling?

Restaurant Review: Urban Angel Cafe, Edinburgh

Before we went away to Edinburgh, I spent hours researching places to eat. Myself and my boyfriend are both students, both on relatively tight budgets, so I wanted to plan away, find deals etc, and make sure we weren’t excessively spending. One of the deals I came across was Urban Angel’s 10th Birthday Celebration, so we decided to go with their dinner deal of two courses for £10.

 photo 2014-06-19185751_zpsc79e7daf.jpgWhilst thoroughly impressed with the decor of the place (all nice and rustic, an instagrammers delight, though the second photo was taken from their site!) we were a little disappointed when none of the staff knew about the offer. We promptly got it up on our phones (to convince ourselves too!) and we were offered one small plate and one big plate each for the £10 as promised. Whilst it could have been my imagination, I felt service decreased then slightly, it was a little less friendly although still nothing to complain about! In our defence, their website actually stated the offer was running from the 10th June to the end of July, and we visited on the 19th – surely we weren’t the first?! Anyway, onto the food…

 photo 2014-06-19191831_zpsc953ce0b.jpg photo 2014-06-19191839_zps6d89aba3.jpg photo 2014-06-19191928_zps70b0cf53.jpgI suffered serious food envy when the starters came out. I’d gone for the Handcut Chips with Thyme Salt & Aioli. Whilst it was lovely, I kind-of expected a little more than just a huge plate of chips. Bit of an ordering mistake if I’m honest, the mushrooms would have been a far better bet! I found the thyme salt to be barely noticeable, though the aioli packed a huge garlicky punch – I would have loved that spread on warm fresh bread! Onto my boyfriends far more satisfactory starter – Falafel Balls in a Curry & Coconut Emulsion. I’d avoided these as I couldn’t be bothered with the tomato issue, but after inspected his plate I promptly demanded a taste – they were delicious! I’d probably want my falafels a little crisper, but the combination of flavours was great. One happy boyfriend, one jealous girlfriend!

 photo 2014-06-19193720_zpsee437ed6.jpg photo 2014-06-19193728_zpsb18f7b83.jpgOnto bigger plates, and I think we were both satisfied – I like to think my dish was the better but in reality I couldn’t try the other! Will went for the Veggie Chilli and really enjoyed it, despite him having an issue with veggie chilli (to be fair, meat ones are better!). I scored with my choice of a Herby Ham Hock Cake with Soft Poached Egg & Hollandaise – yum yum! Again I’d have preferred the cake to be slightly crisper as it was a little soggy, but the flavours were beautiful. The egg was absolutely perfectly poached, there were decent sized chunks of tender ham hock – one of the most different and exciting main courses I’ve tried! I would say that all out dishes required seasoning at the table to taste their best, but other than that it was a pretty good meal for £10 each. We’d happily go back to Urban Angel again, their brunch sounds delicious!
 photo 2014-06-19193805_zpsa7cb45fe.jpg

Have you have a nice meal out lately?

“Restaurant” Review: Chicken Pie at The Goods Shed, Canterbury

 photo IMAG1026_zpsycplbblv.jpgAnother pie-related post for National Pie Week! If you missed my recipe for Shortcrust pastry then you can read it here. This post is a review of the pie I ate a few weeks ago, when I finally visited the Goods Shed in Canterbury. I’ve been aiming to visit the place since I moved here nearly 18 months ago and finally went for a cute ‘date’ on Valentine’s Weekend (prior to going to the Lego Movie in which everything is awesome…)

We were immediately out-priced by the main restaurant, though we’re definitely aiming to go back there for a proper date before I graduate in 2016. After a nice wander round (its not as big as I imagined, but definitely enough to keep my eyes occupied for far longer than the hour we spent there in total!) we decided to give Patrick’s Kitchen a try.

I was really tempted by the Short-Rib Beef Stew (something about short ribs is really, really appealing to me!) but as it contained tomato puree it was a no-go for me! In the end we both went for the chicken pie…

 photo IMAG1027_zpsoqhfbwsk.jpgIt ended up being an amazing chicken pie – rivalling the one from my local butchers (which is a pie I really MUST review for you sometime!). Our pies came with a generous portion of mustard mash, and the most thick and flavoursome gravy I personally have ever eaten. I’d happily eat a bowl of that gravy with some bread!

Now the pie itself! The pastry was very crisp and flaky, but without being dry. It was also spectacularly flavoured, being buttery and well-seasoned.  The filling was wonderful. Great big bits of chicken (you can see them in the photo!) in a herby sauce that was creamy but light. Again well-seasoned – just a fabulous pie. Although the portion looked a little stingy for the (ouch!) £7 each it was deceptively huge, and there were definite “I’m full” groans from both of us afterwards.

 photo IMAG1028_zps9iycwcfp.jpgI’m planning on going back to the Goods Shed very soon to try out the Jonny Sandwich stall (pork belly, onion and caramelised pear sounds good to me!) so please let me know if you want a dedicated post. And if you do visit there at any point, I recommend the pie!