Review: Royal China, Queensway*

Don’t judge, but I may have (nearly) made it to the age of 25 without ever trying a Chinese. I’m not even sure why! Don’t get me know, we had the occasional takeaway as a treat growing up, but more often than not it was fish’n’chips (my go-to was a Pukka pie, I love them!) or the very occasional Indian – made even rarer when I developed my tomato allergy. We just never ordered Chinese.

 photo Royal China Restaurant Review 1_zpsjftdvbvz.jpgWe were recently invited to try out the menu at the Queenway branch of the Royal China restaurant group and let me tell you, I’m now definitely going to consider Chinese we do order in from now on – my eyes have been opened to a whole new cuisine and I’m gutted I’d missed out before!

Royal China is an award-winning restaurant chain with branches across London. They’re most famous for their Dim Sum menu (which I’d have really loved to sample, but unfortunately I have very few weekends free right now!), but they also have some really quite unique dishes available. That said, being first-timers we played it safe with our choices – maybe next time we’ll be more daring!

 photo Royal China Restaurant Review 17_zpsimk0p7ia.jpgArriving at the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised by how large the dining area was – and how full it was at just 7pm. A lot of people seemed to be just finishing their meals, with it near emptying soon after we sat down, but by the time we left it was again near-full with a buzzy atmosphere. Service really depending on the staff you got at the time. Our waitress who sat us down asked us if we wanted a drink immediately, we requested tap water ‘for now’ and she obliged, though took the drinks menu with her never to be seen again. This contrasted greatly with a waiter who was, quite frankly, delightful. Pleased to advise on dishes that might be suited to a ‘first-timer,’ not laughing at my chopstick ability and even offering to take photos and move out of the light for me. I’d seen some reviews detailing really bad service and, whilst it was brisk, efficient and not particularly friendly (above waiter aside) I didn’t have any real complaints.

 photo Royal China Restaurant Review 6_zpsdheizxbc.jpgWe started with some Crispy Aromatic Duck with the usual pancakes and accompaniments. We went for the half duck (£25.80) but felt the quarter would have definitely served two fine if you’d wanted another couple of starters to share or richer main courses. The duck arrived in one piece, then was swiftly taken to one side and shredded in front of us. This meat it was as fresh as could be and it certainly showed – the fleshier pieces were moist and tender, the crispy parts not showing even a hint of sogginess. The sauce was strongly flavoured, sharp and sweet in equal measures which balanced the rich meat well. There was just the right amount of pancakes for the duck, though we noted we ran out of cucumber a little quickly. My one big complaint here is that we were assembling on cold plates, which rendered serving warm pancakes pointless as they were always cold by the time we’d filled them.

We decided to ‘go by the pictures’ when ordered our mains, shameful as I feel that is! We ordered a couple of meat dishes to share, along with a vegetable ‘side dish’ and some egg fried rice.

I surprisingly enjoyed the egg-fried rice (£4.50). I was surprisingly because my only previous exposure to it was dubious school dinners where it was not good. The rice was fluffy, the egg not overcooked and it perfectly edible. Perhaps a little more seasoning wouldn’t have hurt, but when enjoyed alongside other dishes it was absolutely fine.

 photo Royal China Restaurant Review 19_zpsgpk1ioxl.jpg photo Royal China Restaurant Review 20_zps1nzpyl6t.jpgOur first meat dish was Lemon Chicken (£11.80). I have to say this was not to my taste at all, but having said that I’m not sure it would be anywhere. I found the sauce very sweet, and likened it to something I’d have liked with some cake or ice-cream, not chicken! The little bit of chicken I nibbled on was very well cooked, tender and soft with a pleasingly crisp coating. This was perhaps a bad choice on my part, as W enjoyed the dish a lot more.

On the side we enjoyed the Chinese Broccoli with Ginger (£11.80). Other than the price making me wince a little, I did find this dish exceptionally difficult to eat with chopsticks, but it was crunchy and flavourful and went perfectly with our next dish.

 photo Royal China Restaurant Review 14_zps5jnkatby.jpg photo Royal China Restaurant Review 15_zpshcpvt4is.jpgBeef with Cashew Nuts (£12.80) was our most successful main order, and I really loved the sauce. It was rich, well-balanced and had a good salty kick. Most of the beef was melt-in-the-mouth tender, and all of the vegetables had clearly been cooked for their allotted time as nothing was under or over done. I did have an issue with some pieces of very chewy beef, suggesting more care could have been taken with trimming and preparing before cooking, but I still really enjoyed it. It went really well with both the egg-fried rice and the broccoli, and I’d definitely re-order.

So, my overall impressions of Royal China? It was fine, and a great introduction to Chinese food. I found the prices to be a little high and I probably wouldn’t rush back, but it wasn’t a bad experience (if it was closer to home I probably would have felt differently about going back). The prices were perhaps a tad high, though I thought the duck was really reasonable. I may had also felt differently had I ordered things more to my taste, or knew more about what food I might enjoy. I know Crispy Beef is something I now really need to try, so maybe I will head back to try Royal China’s version…

*We were invited to dine at Royal China in exchange for an honest review. All photos are my own, unless marked otherwise, and my opinions are as always honest!

Are you a fan of Chinese food? What dishes should I try next?!

Restaurant Review: Pizza Union, Kings Cross

This review should really be titled “what to eat when you’re really hangry in King’s Cross and don’t fancy a McDonalds.” Because in that situation I always, always recommend Pizza Union. Speedy service, excellent value and tasty pizza to boot, it’s a great option that’s just a short walk away from the station (especially if you get the right exit out of St Pancras!).

 photo Pizza Union_zpseorlm4hn.jpgI’ve eaten a lot of pizza, both in Italy and in London. I’ve eaten really bad pizza (so far Pizza Pilgrims has been my least-loved), I’ve eaten absolutely amazing pizza (get The Stelvio at Dynamo, you won’t be disappointed! Best. Pizza. Ever). I know what I like in a pizza. I like a sourdough crust that’s got a bit of crispness, isn’t soggy and has good flavour in it’s own right. It should be topped evenly with sauce, cheese and other tasty things, but not overloaded. Pizza Union is a little different to my preferred pizza, in that it’s a thinner crust and really rather crispy dry. But it is tasty, and doesn’t leave me feeling so full I can’t face boarding a train.

 photo Pizza Union Review 2_zpsd1ze64cp.jpgThe average pizza costs around £6 which is pretty bargainous if you ask me – and the margherita gives change from £4 which is probably cheaper than a meal at McDs these days (I haven’t eaten one since the night we got engaged. Let’s just say it wasn’t the romantic night it should have been!). You order at the counter, grab a buzzer, take your seat then collect your pizza when it’s ready. I enjoyed a glass of pretty good prosecco whilst I waited, at £3.70 it would be rude not to! W also spoke very highly of his frozen raspberry mojito slushie…

And then the pizza arrived.

A Calabria for him (tomato sauce, mozzarella, mascarpone, Nduja spicy sausage, rocket, £5.95) and a Milano for me (white base with mozzarella, gorgonzola, pancetta, mushrooms, and rosemary, £5.95).

 photo Pizza Union Review 7_zpszlulfvwu.jpg photo Pizza Union Review 9_zpspxgwwliq.jpg photo Pizza Union Review 11_zpsxc02b93s.jpgThe bases were thin and crispy, my bacon also nicely crisp. Not too much mushrooms (because whilst I love them, I find they go cold super-quickly on pizza), and a great salty and slightly funky hit from the blue cheese. A really good white pizza, especially for the price. W hoovered up his pretty quickly too.

My only regret? We didn’t save enough room for the Dolce – a ring of pizza dough encasing nutella and mascapone. Maybe this is a reason to go back!

Where’s your favourite pizza place?

Restaurant Review: Pasta Perfection @ Padella, Borough Market

Anyone who loves food, or indeed anyone who has ever been to Borough Market, will be aware of Padella. It’s hard to miss the huge queues that start to snake around the market during the afternoon, just as it is difficult to ignore the tantalizing smells of garlic, of Parmesan. It’s also pretty difficult to miss the happy and satisfied faces of the people who managing to wait out the queue and snap up a much coveted table.

 photo Padella_zps1sgcekwm.jpgObviously, me being me, I become obsessed with going. And I hate queuing. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to spend my rare free Saturdays (I have potentially under a year to go before I reclaim my weekends back from studying – what will I do with all that time?!) queuing for lunch. I also have a teensy tendency to get a little hangry, so I can’t imagine W would be too happy for me to queue for potentially 2+ hours either! With that in mind, and a random Monday booked off work, we set about a day of foodie-touristing in London. 1 day, several restaurants with no-booking policies and an ice-cream exhibition (Scoop is well worth a trip, even if just to stand in a freezer during this heatwave!).

So, is Padella worth the hype?

Short answer = YES!. Long answer = see below.

 photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 10_zps8ldagsux.jpg photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 13_zpsx41h68bu.jpgWe started with Burrata, something which I’ve wanted to try forever, but which neither of us had ever actually ordered before. I’m fairly sure it’s now my go-to summer starter if I see it on the menu. Stretchy mozzarella, balancing the line between chewy and non-rubbery perfectly, with a just liquid, just oozing centre. Sat in a oil of fruity olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and served with well-baked bread, this is heaven on a plate. It was rich, creamy, cheesy and yet surprisingly light.

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And then came the pasta. The star of the show. W ordered the daily special, which was delicate pasta parcels filled with a rabbit mix. The rabbit was tender, lightly shredded, with some soft vegetables in there. The flavours balanced bold yet subtle. Nothing overtook the rabbit, yet the whole dish shone. There was nowhere for the pasta to hide with this dish, yet it was clear it was expertly made.

I plumped for the Tagliarini with Exmouth Mussels, Chilli, Garlic and Oregano. And oh my! I’ve eaten a lot of pasta dishes in my time, and this is by far and away one of the best. It beats any pasta I ate in Rome hands down, with only a single dish in Venice remaining unbeaten. Pasta in the UK hasn’t come close to this so far, and I could have eaten it day after day. Soft, silky and extremely delicate pasta strands in the most fragrant of seafood sauces, small but plump mussels, and just the right level of chilli and garlic. It was sweet, it was savoury, it was absolutely delicious.

 photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 17_zpsjplffh18.jpg photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 22_zpswmortqll.jpgAnd then we finished with Lemon Tart. I thought it couldn’t get any better, but this was a fine example of a lemon tart. Very zingy, just the right amount of sweetness, and very well balanced with a dollop of creme fraiche. We shared this, but I regret the decision to share. Next time I’m keeping it all for myself.

So is Padella worth the hype, worth the queue? I hate to say it, but yes. I don’t think I’d risk queuing on a weekend, and I’d highly advise turning up before they open and planning on an early lunch. We joined the queue at around 11.35, they opened at noon, and we were seated just before 12.30. Service was pleasant, not at all rushed, and prices were surprisingly reasonable with our meal coming to just over £30 including service. I’d happily pay that for my pasta dish alone. That’s how much I loved it.

Would you be willing to queue for lunch?

Review: Wyld Cocktail-Based Afternoon Tea @ Dandelyan, Mondrian London

Up until recently I’ve shied away from the idea of enjoying an afternoon tea in London, because damn can those menus get expensive. However a promise of a fancy afternoon tea for my mum’s Christmas present but the pressure on and, after much research, I booked us in for the not-quite-so-traditional Wyld Tea at Dandelyan, in the ground floor of the Mondrian London hotel.

Based on the Southbank (the location is perfect for people-watching, particularly if you manage to get a window table), and with a lovely view of the River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral, Dandelyan is an award-winning cocktail bar. It’s also one of the lovliest places to spend a few hours. The area is full of comfortable sofas with their own tables, each slightly tucked away and private without loosing the buzz of the bar. We arrived at 1pm and it was nice and quiet (wonderful for the all-important Instagram shot) but it got quite busy from around 2pm onwards – so if you wanted a quieter afternoon tea I’d recommend booking for noon. Service was also wonderful – friendly without being pushy, attentive without being over-bearing.

Dandelyan offers 3 choices for afternoon tea – the ‘sober’ version coming with just a pot of tea, (£35) the champagne option (£45) and the Wyld Tea. At £55 per person the Wyld tea includes 4 cocktails each, a full pot of tea, as well as three plates of afternoon tea delights. It’s an inventive menu, with the delicious 1970’s inspired sweet and savoury treats having a subtle botanical influence throughout. The cocktails are also perfectly matched – I was concerned that as we enjoyed the food the cocktails would taste less and less delicious, but this was far from true. All the elements of the menu complemented each other perfectly.

We started with our first cocktail, the Fluff & Fold Royale. This was a short-style cocktail of Lime, Fresh Basil, Cacao Liqueur, Orange Bitters and Prosecco Served with Marshmallow and Pistachio Powder. Whilst it actually didn’t smell great at all, we found it delicious. The zing of the citrus and slight bitterness coming through really whetted our appetite. It was also nicely strong too – they certainly don’t skimp on alcohol measures!

Our choice of tea was served alongside the first cocktail. My mum, being the Northerner she is, went for the standard English breakfast tea which she said was delicious, although we did have to ask for sugar to be served alongside. I went with their Zest Tea, which was a fragrant blend of lemongrass and ginger. Light, tasty and delicious alongside the rest of the food and drink!

Our savoury food course came next along with our second cocktail – the Knoll House Cup was a longer cocktail, served iced cold, made up of Martini Ambrato, Italicus, Creme de Melon and Cardamom. This was a delicious cocktail! Not sweet in the slightest, it was refreshing and very easily drinkable. And of course, the food matched up to the cocktails. We had a couple of different dishes due to our different allergies, but between us ate:

  • Scottish Smoked Salmon, Rock Samphire, Brown Shrimp, Candied Orange Butter Sandwich
  • Lyan Lager Braised Bacon Jam, Confit Suffolk Chicken Pin-wheel
  • Elderflower Compressed Cucumber, Burnt Herb Cream, Rocket Sandwich
  • Ham Hock & Piccalilli Vegetable Butter, Mustard Cress Sandwich
  • Mushroom Toast
  • Roasted Vegetable and Hummus Sandwich

All were slightly different variations on the more traditional elements of an afternoon tea, but all were delicious. It’s quite possible they’ve spoilt a more normal afternoon tea for me!

The Salmon sandwich was as fresh as can be, with the orange butter adding a luxurious layer of flavour. The shrimp added a bit of much-needed texture, although my mum did note that with it being a double-decker sandwich the texture of the smoked salmon was perhaps a bit overwelming.

It’s clear that top-quality ingredients are used here, and it was highly evident in the cucumber sandwich. Utterly delicious, it was a subtle combination of flavours that I could have eaten again and again. I love cucumber sandwiches anyway, but I’ll be looking to re-create the smoky and floral notes that Dandelyan managed to achieve.

I also really enjoyed the Ham with Piccalilli Butter. The ham was meaty and succulent, and the butter added just the right about of pickle-ness without taking over. Again something I’ll definitely look to recreate at home!

My only negative was the Mushroom Toast, which I don’t believe is a regular feature on the menu (it was replacing the Leek & Goat’s Cheese Rarebit, which sounds delicious but unfortunately neither of us are able to eat it!). The Mushrooms were gorgeous and well-flavoured, the toast crunchy. However it was impossible to eat in a lady-like fashion, with both of us rather inelegantly ending up with mushrooms in our laps…oops! I would have also liked the option of refills, as I’d have definitely eaten another one or two of those cucumber sandwiches!

The sweet courses were just as delicious, though first we were given a ‘palate cleanser’ cocktail which turned out to be our favorite of the afternoon. The Spotless Peach (Ketel One Vodka, RinQuinQuin, Off-Cut Cordial, and Chalk) is hands-down the best cocktail I’d even drank, and one I’d walk a thousand miles to have again. Sweet but not overly so, it was almost like a light and fruity white wine.

There’s no scones served with the afternoon tea at Dandelyan, which may disappoint purists. However I quite often find they are my least favourite part of the experience, as they are quite often stodgy (I’ve been spoilt with my mum’s scones!), and they are also super-filling. Here, you are served an exquisite slice of Blackcurrant & Lemon Verbena Battenberg Cake. The Lemon quarters are zingy, the Blackcurrent sharp and fruity. It was quite honestly like nothing I have eaten before – but something I’d certainly want to eat again. The cake was fresh and moist, the icing sweet without being cloying.

The pastry plate was just as delicious. We felt the only slightly lack-lustre option was the Pine Scented Baked Alaska with Berries, as the two flavours didn’t quite merge together as seamlessly as we’d hoped, with the berries being overly tart and the pine slightly too strong. The rest were wonderful.

The Earl Grey Chocolate Mousse & Candied Grapefruit was almost like a posh Jaffa Cake. Chocolatey and zingy, slightly bitter, wonderfully creamy. I loved it. My highlight was the Custard Tart, which was topped with a runny caramel. It was slightly nutty and one of the most delicious little desserts I’ve eaten in a while – although a harder set to the caramel might have made it slightly easier to eat! My mum’s favourite was the Rose Blancmange & Caraway Shortbread. The biscuit base was actually quite salty, which went perfectly with the sweet rose cream on top. A stunning set of pastries!

We finished with our final cocktail, a fruity number. The Bankside Swizzle was a sweet and tart combination of Bacardi Carta Oro, Aperol, Pineapple Cordial, Citrus, and Lemon Balm. We took our time to sip on this one, still catching up with each other.

The Wyld Afternoon Tea at Dandelyan might have been my first foray into luxury afternoon teas, but it won’t be the last! This would be the perfect option for a more relaxed hen party (indeed, there were two there whilst we were), but it was also the most wonderful spot for a mother-daughter date.

Are you an afternoon tea fan? Where would you recommend? 

Review: Modern Thai Food at Yum Sa, Putney

I watched Yum Sa being put together every day for months, walking past it on my way to/from East Putney station twice a day. To say I was excited about it opening is perhaps an understatement – Thai food is one of my favourite treats, and not something I indulge in very often.

We visited one Friday evening and found the restaurant pleasantly full, but the layout meant it was fairly quiet and intimate for most tables – although unfortunately we felt rather squeezed into one corner, to the point the couple next to us had to move slightly so we could squeeze in. A point made repeatedly by my fiance was that his chair was decidedly uncomfortable (I had no problems), to the extreme that we actually left before ordering dessert and he’s still going on about it a few weeks later. His complaints aside, I loved the look and feel of the restaurant. It was modern without being stark, relaxing music played throughout and everything seemed well thought out. The bar area is utterly Instagrammable too, I’m just gutted it was too busy to take a decent photo!

Service was – ok. Nothing to write home about, a bit brisk and efficient for my liking, a bit lacking in character. One point to note was that despite our cutlery being placed on our starter plates, it was removed and left with us for our mains. The food was also a tad lack lustre, though I think I had very high expectations.

Hoisin Duck Gyoza were completely and utterly delicious. I really enjoyed them, with the rich and tender duck being perfectly balanced by the sweet and complex flavours of the hoisin. Likewise, the Crab & Chicken Roll was also good, with the sweet chilli style dipping sauce being particularly excellent. However the texture of the latter was a little rubbery, and the delicate flavour of the crab completely lost. My biggest issue was the price. The two starters came to just under £19 and yet the portion sizes were, frankly, disappointingly small. I’d have happily paid a bit less for the two dishes and probably raved about them, but as it was I felt a little short changed.

It turns out this theme continued with the mains. My Lamb Massaman was a fine example of a massaman (though could have arrived at the table slightly hotter, as it quickly become luke-warm). The sauce was creamy, aromatic and with a delicate hint of spice. The rice it came with was some of the nicest rice I’ve had at a Thai, sticky without being stodgy. However, and I don’t exaggerate here, my pot of curry contained only two pieces of lamb, and not particularly sizeable pieces either.

W went with the Yellow Curry, and our servers suggestion of King Prawns. He at least fared slightly better in terms of portion size, but still received only 5 or 6 prawns. Again, the sauce was wonderfully creamy and well-spiced, the flavours absolutely spot on.

And this is my issue with Yum Sa. Everything was delicious, the food nearly perfect. But we left still feeling slightly peckish. And at £80 for two courses, water and service charge, that has left a bad taste in my mouth. That said, I do have my eye on their Brunch deals (which sounds like a far more purse friendly way to indulge my love of Thai food) and I’m sure I will be back to visit on occasion. I’ll just maybe have a slice of toast before hand…

Do you have any recommendations for Thai food in London?

Review: Doughnut Workshop @ Bread Ahead Bakery, Borough Market

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s ever visited Borough Market will have ooh-ed and ahh-ed at Bread Ahead’s doughnuts. Possibly bought one, possibly snapped a picture of these utterly-Instagrammable pillows of joy. They are a bit of an icon in London, and rightly so. Sure, we’ve had a few more doughnut shops pop up over the last year or so, but these aren’t sickly-sweet. These are made over two days, with a well-flavoured dough and perfectly thought out fillings. They’re super-freshly made, with thousands being made a day. And I highly, highly recommend you pick one up the next time you’re in Borough Market.

We, however, went one step further than just buying the doughnuts.

Yep, we went to one of Bread Ahead’s workshops and learnt how to make them. Justin Gellatly was our tutor for the class, so that caused a massive fan-girl moment by yours truly!

It might take a full two days to produce one of these doughnuts, but the course is very cleverly squeezed into a few (delicious) hours. We first use some dough that has been ready-made by the team, and learn how to roll the perfect doughnuts. All Bread Ahead doughnuts are rolled by hand, and it’s definitely harder than it looks… We popped them on to prove, and then go going with actually making a batch of dough.

As someone who shies away from enriched dough and kneading in general (there’s a reason I love Jame’s Morton’s bread recipes, and it’s that I rarely need to get my hands dirty!), I was nervous about making this dough – however it has actually made me a lot more confident. Who knew a pinch of lemon zest could prevent the dough from getting overly greasy?! With the dough popped in the fridge, we got on with fillings – some of the 14 strong class demonstrating how to make honeycomb and custards. We then got to sample a doughnut cooked in from of us by Justin, still hot from the fryer. I’m not sure doughnuts will ever, ever be the same again…

After a quick coffee break, we got on with frying our own shaped doughnuts, before sugar bombing them in the largest bowl of sugar I’d ever, ever seen. It was then time to pipe in the fillings, a process that got messy, sticky and ended up with an awful lot of the caramel custard ending up in my mouth rather than my doughnut (#sorrynotsorry). We left the class with a bag of goodies each – 6 freshly made doughnuts (plus an extra we’d squeezed out from some leftover dough), a pot of dough for another six doughnuts, and 2 big bags of honeycomb.

Oh, and we bought a deep fat fryer on the way home purely for making more doughnuts. We’re nothing if not committed!

At £80 per person this class was far from cheap, but it was without doubt the best cookery class I’ve ever, ever done. It was very hands-on, we got lots of delicious goodies, and we came away feeling confident in making enriched dough, in deep-frying, in making custard, and with a doughnut addiction. I’d highly recommend a class, though they book up wayyyy in advance!

*Disclaimer – this workshop was paid for by myself as part of my fiance’s birthday present, and I wasn’t asked to write a review (we just had a fab time and I wanted to share!). I am, however, due to be working with Bread Ahead on a little review opportunity over the summer as a result of my Instagram posts following this workshop. All opinions, as always, are my own!

Are you a doughnut fan? Have you tried a cookery class?

Restaurant Review: A Seasonal British Dinner @ Home SW15, Putney

A few new places have popped up in Putney over the last six months or so, and this is the one I was most excited about. Home SW15 boasts a welcoming atmosphere, modern interiors and yummy seasonal food – sounded like a winner in my books!

And seasonal it certainly is! We actually visited a while back in January, so as a result the menu has completely updated leaving me to guess what we actually had. Whoops…

We started with cocktails, and this is where Home SW15 is really exciting. The front of their restaurant is more of a drinking lounge, with a decent cocktail menu – added to which they also do some interesting seasonal cocktails. As I type the ones on the menu feature rhubarb, but when we visited? Parsnip cocktails. That’s not a typo. I went for a sweet one involving white chocolate and aniseed flavours, W’s was fruitier and sharper – both delicious.

On to starters – around the table we had mackerel served with beetroot (which went down well), then W had a bruschetta with goat’s cheese and red onion which was much more than the sum of it’s parts. I went down the heavier route, choosing a game sausage roll with quince ketchup. It was meaty, it was flavourful, the ketchups sharpness offsetting the richness of the game and the buttery pastry. Definitely a winner.

The mains were a bit of a mixed bag. The Confit Potato with Mushrooms was found to be a bit over-heavy, and W thought his Guinea Fowl was lacking a sauce (though it was very well cooked, and the lentils nicely flavoured – a sauce would have made it perfect). I had some of the sharing dish – a whole Treacle Glazed Ham Hock, served with mash and cabbage.

This was delightful. The meat was fall-apart tender, with fattier bits and crispier bits, and a lovely sweetness coming from the glaze. The mashed potato was impossibly buttery – so smooth and creamy that I could have bathed in it. The cabbage was well cooked, nicely seasoned, and burnt a little to add an extra dimension. If it hadn’t have been such a rich dish I could (and would!) have carried on eating it for hours.

Puddings were all good. The Brioche Doughnut with Banana Cream went down very well, and my Chocolate & Hazelnut Mousse with Salted Caramel was delightful. Full of chocolate flavour, with a hint of Nutella-ness about it, crunch from whole nuts and a really salty caramel to offset the sweetness, it was the perfect end to a lovely meal.

As an additional note, the night before we visited they’d actually suffered a break-in, yet the staff were in remarkable spirits. Cheerful and welcoming despite what must have been a horrific day. By far the friendliest staff I’ve experienced in a while!

With Home SW15 only being up the road from me, I really have no excuse as to why I don’t visit very often. I need to try their brunch menu asap!

Where’s the best seasonal menu you’ve eaten?

Food: Where to Eat in York (My Top 5 Places)

A year on from my trip to York (almost to the day, I believe!) and I’ve finally gotten round to getting this post live. Whenever we head off on any trip food is at the very front of our minds, and it was no exception when we went to York – albeit with the exam stress I planned a bit more last minute that I usually like to! I asked for recommendations, read plenty of blogs and reviews – and we ended up eating some wonderful meals. Here’s just the top 5…

Pig & Pastry

Highly recommended by Amanda, this was high on my list for somewhere to visit. It was a tad over-busy for my tastes (it’s popular with mums and buggies, and it’s titchy-tiny) but we sat outside in the Spring sunshine which was really rather pleasant.  W ordered the Chorizo Scrambled Eggs and, whilst the portion size wasn’t huge, it was good value for the price. The eggs weren’t the creamiest we’ve had, but far from the worst, and the chorizo was both perfectly tasty and perfectly cooked.

My breakfast, however, was better in terms of both portion size and taste. I went for a special, involving a toasted muffin, a spiraled Cumberland sausage and creamy Hollandaise sauce. It was buttery, herby and absolutely delicious. Even the slight over-charring on the sausage failed to put me off scraping the plate clean.

Betty’s

No trip up to York is complete without a trip to Betty’s, and I finally posted my full review earlier this month. We avoided the usual Afternoon Tea, instead sampling a selection of dishes from Betty’s Swiss heritage. In essence it was a lunch of cheesy carbs – can’t get better than that!

Skosh

We completely lucked out here, as I only heard of the place the week before our trip – and somehow managed to grab a table at the last minute. One of my best meals of 2017, it was utterly delicious. We had a selection of small and larger plates shared between us – it’s a seasonal menu, mainly British ingredients but with clever twists. Highlights were a cod, pineapple, coconut and lentil dish, and I also loved a mackerel and melon combination.

Read my full review here.

Pairings

This is the kind of place I really, really wish existed in London. We spent a good few hours in here, with a wine flight for me and a port flight for him, chatting about everything and anything. We also put together our very own cheese and meat platter – which was excellent value and the perfect size for a meal for two. Everything was beautifully fresh, even the bread. It also introduced me to Old Winchester Cheese (it’s a kind of cross between parmesan and cheddar and is my favourite cheese ever). The only downsides were the desserts which, whilst yummy, were rather overpriced.

 

Brew & Brownie

Despite my brunch at Pig & Pastry being super yummy, this turned out to be my favourite place in York. Perfectly located for a pit-stop for coffee and cake (or a brew and brownie!), the breakfast we had on our final day was also really good – and the portion size so generous it even defeated W.

Their Brownies were excellent, with a variety of flavours available daily – my personal favourite being the Terry’s Chocolate Orange one (something about that combination of flavours is just so delicious). Hot Chocolates were both rich and light at the same time, though the lightness was perhaps diminished at my insistence of having cream and marshmallows. I highly recommend you visit here, if just for cake.

Breakfasts were also excellent. I went for the pancakes, and a year on they remain some of the best I’ve ever, EVER eaten. They were served with syrup, yoghurt and a perfect tart fruit compote – and nope, I couldn’t finish them. I enjoyed trying though! W also couldn’t finish his (a very rare occurrence!). He had ordered the Black Pudding Stack (black pudding & smoked back bacon stacked with fried hen’s egg, cherry tomato, mustard dressing, toasts). It didn’t sound overly filling on paper, but it was huge. It looked absolutely delicious, but with roasted tomatoes I obviously couldn’t steal a bite…

Have you ever visited York? Where did you eat?

Review: An Alpine Lunch at Betty’s, York

Now, Betty’s is well known for it’s cakes, it’s pastries, the Afternoon tea. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that their heritage actually encompasses not only Yorkshire, but also one of my most favourite countries – Switzerland. The founder of Betty’s was indeed Swiss and their influence still shines through on the menu today. From luxurious chocolates to a hearty rösti to traditional Bircher muesli, there’s hidden Swiss delights throughout the menu.

And with it being a bitterly cold afteroon and our trip to Switzerland still a few months away (our visit was shamefully nearly a year ago!) it would have been rude not to indulge…

It was a tough decision, but in the end we were both happy with our plates of food.

I went for the Swiss Alpine Macaroni, with Penne pasta, dry-cured bacon, new potatoes and a rich cream
sauce, with copious amounts of melted Raclette cheese. Oh my. This was good. However first thought of putting potatoes into a cheesy pasta dish deserves a medal. The bacon was thick, so that it was both crisp and juicy. The pasta was perfectly cooked. The cheese sauce strong, but not too overpowering. I’d happily eat this again. And again. And again.

W ordered the Bacon & Raclette Rösti – A Swiss speciality of grated potato, Gruyère cheese and cream,
pan-fried with bacon and topped with melted Raclette cheese. This, with the addition of the cream, was richer than the ones we’ve tried in Switzerland, but delicious none-the-less. I’ve just checked their current ‘specials’ menu and there’s a glorious sounding Turkey & Cranberry Rösti (yes, I am writing this review on my Christmas break, Lord knows when I’ll actually get round to posting it).

We’d planned to order a small selection from the Cake Trolley for pudding, but these mains were rib-busting (in a good way!) and we were far too full. Another time that Engadine Torte will be mine!

Have you ever been to Betty’s? Did you stick to tea and cake, or try some of their Swiss dishes?

Review: The Olney Pancake Parlour, near Milton Keynes

A bonus of being a foodie blogger is that is gives you the perfect excuse to visit new places. And when a pancake parlour popped up in a charming little town not too far from my parent’s, welllll I just couldn’t say no! Olney is a favourite place of ours to go for a few hours – cute little shops and boutiques, an excellent monthly farmer’s market and a nice country park nearby to take the dog. Now this place has opened there’s yet another reason to visit.

Olney Pancake Parlour was the venue for a mum-daughter-sister date, and what a choice it was. Yes, it was insanely busy on a Saturday afternoon and, yes, service was a little slow. It was noisy with sugar-high children but that was all part of the charm. I do think perhaps table service would work slightly better, given the dishes were a little cold once the server eventually located the correct table, but that’s my biggest gripe.

With Olney being the birthplace of the pancake race, there’s already a fair bit of pressure on them to get their pancakes right, and thankfully they do. You can choose between a traditional Olney-style pancake (a little bit like a less sugary, less buttery version of a French crepe in my opinion) or a stack of fluffy American-style ones. There’s a whole host of savoury or sweet options, and vegan pancakes are available on request. Sounds good, right? The toppings were even better.

I went for the Terry’s Chocolate Orange (chocolate orange ganache, Terry’s chocolate orange, mandarin and chocolate sauce) on a traditional-style pancake and it was DELICIOUS. The orange flavour came through perfectly, cutting through the chocolate to ensure it wasn’t overly rich or sickly. The small scoop of ice-cream was just the right amount, and the addition of Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments on anything are fine by me.

My mum also join me on the traditional pancake front, going with an Apple & Blackberry Cinnamon Crumble. I really liked this, although she felt it was perhaps a tad overpriced, a little too sweet and far too much cinnamon. Well, I guess you can’t please everyone! Personally I loved the texture-combo, with the silky pancake, soft fruit filling and buttery biscuity crumble.

And then there’s was my sister’s Triple Chocolate Brownie American Stack (brownie chunks, chocolate sauce, Maltesers and Smarties). This was absolutely huge, and well worth the premium for the stack. I, quite predictably, had to help her out in order to finish it and can vouch for the fact that these were some of the best American pancakes I’ve eaten. Light, fluffy and just the right tough of sweetness. I definitely enjoyed this, though perhaps not the right choice for the faint-hearted!

Oh, and if you’re not in a pancake mood then there’s a whole host of other options – salads, breakfasts, sandwiches, paninis, jacket potatoes. But quite frankly if you’re not in a pancake mood I’d perhaps suggest you go elsewhere and leave a table spare for me! Now all that’s left is for me to return and try their pancake-themed Afternoon Tea…

What is your favourite pancake topping?