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?

Review: Mandira, Covent Garden (London’s 1st Fresh Yoghurt Bar)

Billed as ‘London’s first fresh yoghurt bar’ Mandira is a small, fairly-Instagrammable place just off Covent Garden. Admittedly the concept of ‘yoghurt bar’ confused me and, quite frankly, scared W when I told him where we were headed for lunch. As Time Out say, it’s a slightly bizarre concept!

The USP of Mandira is their pots of natural yogurt with various sweet and savoury toppings, but there’s also soups, Turkish Simit bread (similar to a bagel, but slightly flatter, lighter and topped with plenty of sesame seeds), vegetable latkes, smoothies (the cacao and orange one sounds divine) and authentic Turkish hot drinks. Everything is prepped daily and then assembled to order, keeping it as fresh as possible, but also (perhaps more importantly) keeping the yoghurt toppings crunchy.  Recently, Mandira has added something new to their menu – it’s what I was asked to review, and as it’s my current obsession I couldn’t say no!

Turkish Eggs are my go-to breakfast, brunch and/or lunch option right now. Full of protein, light, ready in ten minutes and super easy, there’s not a single reason to go for anything else. Perfectly poached eggs, on a bed of thick and creamy yoghurt, drizzled with melted chilli butter and served with plenty of bread. Now, I have to say that whilst I *love* the dish, Mandira’s version wasn’t quite to my taste.

The eggs were poached to perfect, the yoghurt was gorgeously thick and creamy. However the yoghurt was cold, and the chilli butter was in fact olive oil, then a shake of dried chillis and paprika. It all led to the dish being served up luke-warm and getting cold quite quickly – and cold poached eggs are not exactly appetising. It’s definitely got promise though, heat the yoghurt and they’d have a winning dish. Especially with some toasted Simit dippers – I’ll definitely be trying to make these by adapting my bagel recipe!

W went for one of their Simits – with Turkish Style Cured Beef, Butter and Kaseri Cheese. This was delicious. Filled with mild and creamy cheese, and plenty of the tasty and lightly spiced beef (similar to pastrami) I did have a bit of food envy! Mainly as it was so cold and this was properly hot and warming…

We were also given a selection of their yoghurt pots (in miniature, so we didn’t have to roll ourselves out!) to try. We picked three savoury and three sweet flavours and got stuck in!

Out of our savoury picks, the Hummus + Za’atar (Hummus + Chickpeas + Toasted Pine Nuts + Parsley + Za’atar + Sumac + E.V. Olive Oil) was our least favourite, as it felt a little underseasoned. The other two were gorgeous though.  Smoked Salmon and Dill (Forman’s Smoked Salmon + Dill + Lemon Juice + E.V. Olive Oil) was generous on the salmon, perfectly seasoned with black pepper and dill, and the whole combination went perfectly with the yoghurt. I can imagine a pot of this and some Simit dippers would make a perfect lunch! The Cauliflower and Green Tahnini with Barley Rusk was also very good. The green sauce was intensely flavoured, the cauli tender and the rusk added a good crunch. A tad garlicky if you were popping out of the office for a quick lunch, but as we shared it wasn’t too much of an issue!

The sweet ones were also good. Sweet enough to round off the meal, without being cloying or leaving us in a food coma. My favourite was the Banana and Hazelnut, which came drizzled with Maple Syrup. There was just enough banana and crunchiness to remind me of a banoffee pie, definitely not a bad thing! W really enjoyed the Quince Compote with Granola. The first time we had eaten a fresh quince (rather than in a jam or chutney with cheese) it was really quite delicious. The Dark Chocolate & Orange was slightly disappointing, though absolutely delicious if you got a good spoonful of everything as the mint leaves made all the difference.

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

Whilst our meal wasn’t faultless, I know I’ll definitely be back. Whether it’s to sip a Turkish tea, grab a toasted Simit or a pot of yoghurt and salmon (I imagine it would be wonderful on a hot summer’s day – though that feels a long way away after the weather this week!), I’m glad Mandira is now on my radar!

*We were invited to review Mandira for lunch, but all opinions are mine (and my fiances!). 

Would you go for a sweet or savoury yoghurt pot?

Review: Posh Pizza at Hai Cenato, Victoria

These monthly pizza reviews could become a bit of a ‘thing’ here – I certainly enjoy writing them at any rate. Any excuse to eat cheesy carbs…

Today’s review is perhaps a little overdue, given that it was another place I visited on my birthday (basically, the day it’s completely acceptable to eat alllll the food). Especially since the pizza was so damn good and, actually, I’d been thinking about it ever since.

Hai Cenato, Jason Atherton’s New York-Italian restaurant and cocktail bar in Victoria, has been on my radar for a while. We met the main man at Pollen Street Social back in April last year, and *really* enjoyed the food there, so I was intrigued to try his take on pizza. With a decent selection of white pizzas I’m only surprised it took me so long to visit!

My beautiful friend ordered the Margherita – with San Marzano tomato, London mozzarella, basil & parmesan. Obviously I didn’t try any, but it both looked and smelt delicious, and it all got eaten so it must’ve been tasty!

And if my pizza was anything to go by, it was certainly tasty. I ordered a pizza with the description “mozzarella, guanciale, egg yolk, black pepper, confit potato.” I mean, egg yolk on a pizza?! How could I resist?! Guanciale turned out to be Italian cured pig cheek, so vegetarians perhaps should be a little wary when ordering, but I have to say it was delicious. A world away from the last potato pizza I tried at Mother LDN, both lighter and more indulgent at the same time. There was just enough potato to be substantial without making me need a nap, the egg yolk was rich and added creaminess and the base was cooked to perfection. I’d put this in my top five pizzas of all time – though the order of which I’m not sure I could commit to paper/a screen.

As for the atmosphere, this seems to have been plagued with criticism in online reviews. I have to say I really enjoyed it. Service was friendly (plus they bought me a complimentary ice-cream with a candle in as I’d mentioned it was my birthday!), the music buzzy without being overly loud. The toilets were also insanely pretty, to the point I regretted not taking my phone so I could Instagram them…

Would I head into Victoria ‘just’ for a pizza again? Yes I would. It’s not going to replace our go-to treat on payday (cheers Dynamo), it’s the perfect date-night spot, and the perfect place to get a ‘special’ pizza. I know I’ll definitely be dragging W there asap!

Have you ever visited Hai Cenato? Where’s your favourite pizza spot?

Review: Brunch at Antipodea, Putney

Having stuck loyally to a certain brunch place in Putney since Summer ’16, my birthday gave me the excuse to branch out a little. Now. there’s absolutely nothing wrong with The Dynamo and it’s probably still my favourite spot (given the fact that it’s significantly closer and also does pizza!) but I kinda fancied something new.

There’s a couple of other places I’ve love to try, but with things to do and places to be we needed somewhere we could book a table and served a decent menu pre-10am. A surprisingly difficult criteria, but Antipodea on the Lower Richmond Road managed to meet it and I’d seen it look cutely decorated with fairy-lights the other month. And so come 9am on the 24th birthday, we were legging it down the road, late for our booking and cursing that it’s a good 25 minutes brisk walk away.

We needn’t have worried about being late – the staff were welcoming and friendly, once they’d stop laughing at the performance I’d made trying to get the folding door open. Shown to a little table tucked in a corner, complete with comfy armchairs, I’d already made up my mind. I liked this place.

Drinks were ordered and arrived swiftly. My Mörk hot chocolate was dark and hearty, without being overly rich. It’s not a hot chocolate for everyone (it’s certainly not thick, sweet or creamy) but I loved it. There was no complaints about the decaf mocha either.

One of the things I love about The Dynamo is their short and sweet brunch menu (though it has now grown and I need to get down there and try some of the new dishes!). Antipodea is the opposite – the brunch menu is HUGE and I deliberated for a good ten minutes between a couple of options. There’s the usual standard breakfast grub, sweet treats and some more unusual items. Turkish Eggs appears to be the new ‘thing’ in London right now and their Instagram suggests these are pretty damn good ones…

In the end, though, I couldn’t resist pancakes. And it was my birthday. Blueberry Pancakes, served with Caramelised Banana, Creme Fraiche and Maple Syrup was exactly the sugar fix I was in the mood for. Perhaps slightly too heavy on the syrup (though better than not having enough!), these pancakes were DELICIOUS. Thick and fluffy, but still decently caramelised on the outside. Not stodgy in the slightest. I could have eaten two platefuls!

W’s breakfast made me wish I wasn’t allergic to tomatoes, though he said he wished it had a bit more of a kick – some more bacon perhaps. Especially as the bacon there was delicious, smoked-in-house and apparently rather yummy. He ordered the Smokey Bacon Boston Beans, which came looking perfectly Instagrammable and with the most delicious sourdough. I’m actually *really* hoping their bread isn’t made in-house as I’d love to be able to buy a loaf for lazy weekend breakfast in beds…

Whilst the food wasn’t anything overly special, it was certainly yummy. But for me it was the atmosphere and service which really made this place. It was relaxed, all the staff had a smile on their face and it just felt comfortable. I wonder if they’ll mind me heading down there for a few hours to study…?!

Where’s your current favourite brunch spot?

Review: Pump Street Bakery, Orford (Suffolk)

Quite clearly this is a post that has been sitting in my drafts for months, seeing as we visited Suffolk way back in September. Whilst this visit was a reasonably long time ago, I couldn’t not share this like gem of a place. Not only is the village of Orford perfectly lovely – quaint cottages, gorgeous countryside and friendly locals that actually smile and say “hello” (can you tell I’m pretty much a fully fledged Londoner these days?!), but this bakery-come-cafe is enough to want to make me move out to the sticks.

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Painted in a candyfloss pink, with a modern yet rustic interior, the main eating area features a large communal table. This is the kind of dining I love. Relaxed, with good conversation. We met a delightful couple who were in the village to dry-dock their boat from the quay for the next year whilst they travelled the world. It was this couple that persauded us to stay for lunch, rather than just a drink and a pastry. I’ll be forever thankful to this couple.

Both of us ordered the hot chocolate. Pump Street Bakery are also one of the limited amount of people within the UK who make their own bean-to-bar chocolate. As a lover of proper, artisan chocolate this really excited me – and we shelled out (£6 a bar) to bring some home with us. I can confirmed it is VERY good chocolate, though the price still makes me wince. The hot chocolate is perhaps a slightly more purse-friendly way of trying it out – rich and chocolatey without being cloying. The homemade marshmallow added just the right amount of sweetness. It was YUM.

But maybe not quite as yum as our actual lunch.

It’s a pretty limited ‘eat in’ menu, but what is there is beautifully thought out. W chose the sandwich. Made with their own sourdough, it packed in local Suffolk salami, roasted fennel, rocket and aioli. The bread was substantial, soft but firm as a soughdough should be, with a chewy crust that wasn’t too hard and dry. The fennel in particular worked so well in the sandwich, adding both a crunch and some freshness. Probably my top sandwich of 2017, if I’m being honest!

I went for the cheese toasty. Having booked a cheese toasty van for our wedding evening food, it’s safe to say I love this snack – and this one didn’t disappoint. A mix of cheddar and Ogleshield cheese, it was both strong and stringy. With shards of crispy cheese and perfectly crisp sourdough, it was rich and decadent and oh so delicious. The date chutney was the perfect foil to cut through the cheese – though perhaps a bit of salad on the side would have made this absolute perfection.

Having been recommended the chocolate doughnuts, we were very disappointed to find them sold out. We grabbed the last jam one, along with a custard version too (y’ano, for the blog!). Eating them later in the car we realised we’d have to make a return trip the next day for a chocolate one! And we did. And I regret it, because no doughnut will ever, ever be the same…

Where’s your favourite bakery?

Review: Adventurous Pizza Toppings @ 400 Rabbits, Gipsy Hill

Another week, another pizza restaurant review.

Despite being allergic to tomatoes, and therefore relatively limited in options, pizza is my go-to food when me and W are planning a casual date-night. Spoiled by having the Dynamo ridiculously close to our old flat (it’s about an 8 minutes walk now which feels terribly far away!), we’re now starting to branch out a little bit. Mother LDN was first on our hit list, but next we ventured all the way out to darkest Zone 3 for a dinner at 400 Rabbits.

Highly recommended by Amanda, I was drawn in by the specials menu (which was unfortunately was out of date on their site, so no salt-marsh lamb or beetroot pesto for me) and rather Instagrammable decor. What I didn’t know about was the rather steep hill I had to traverse from the station – already hangry I can’t imagine I was the best company on that walk!

That said, we were welcomed (puffing) extremely warmly, offered drinks incredibly quickly – with my white wine being really rather pleasant (despite smelling far too sweet and flowery), and W’s foraged fruit and seaweed beer slipping down quite quickly! Pizzas also arrived quickly, perhaps they sensed my desperate need for food…

Looking back, I’m pretty sure W went for the “Aged Rare Breed Beef, Green Chillies, Onion , Tomato And Mozzarella” which he thoroughly enjoyed. I have to say the tomato sauce did look particularly good and rich here!

I took a huge leap out of my comfort zone and ordered the no-tomato special available at the time – Ortiz Tuna, Red Onions, Capers, Crème Fraiche and a Burnt Aubergine Yoghurt. As someone who claims she doesn’t like tuna I was taking a massive risk, but fortunately it paid off.  Everything was well-balanced, and the tuna was a world away from the dreadful tinned stuff I remember. Served in big chunks, alongside juuuusssst softened onions it was perfect. The aubergine yoghurt was a delight, and I wish I’d ordered extra to dip my crusts in. The base of the pizza was pretty perfect, no hint of dryness, over-burning or sogginess. My only complaint was the overwhelming garlic flavour I got from my pizza, which did leave me struggling to finish.

That said, we did managed to squeeze in some Gelupo Gelato too. My Malted Milk & Salted Caramel combo was delish, as was W’s Blood Orange sorbet with Bitter Chocolate. Perhaps not quite as good as my favourite ice-cream place (to be revealed as soon as I’m willing to share!) but delicious in it’s own right!

I’ve tried a lot of pizza places this year, and 400 Rabbits was one of my favourites. Inventive toppings with a seasonal focus, an excellent base and good atmosphere. If only it didn’t take me the best part of an hour to get there!

Where’s your favourite pizza place?

Restaurant Review: Mother LDN, Battersea

If you know me, you’ll know I LOVE a good pizza. I mean, what’s not to love?! Yummy filling carbs, hot melted cheese, endless topping combos. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy pizza is highly suspicious if you ask me…

Rather a long time ago now we headed over to try a new pizza joint over in Battersea. The first UK restaurant from the rather trendy Danish chain, it’s set under the train-tracks in what is supposedly an up and coming area. I’m not a fan of the area, finding it bland and soulless, and indeed I’m clearly not the only one – the restaurant was pretty empty for a Friday night.

It could be the rather strange and wacky pizza topping combos putting people off. Sure, there’s the usual Margherita, but there’s also Nick Says It’s Good (mozzarella, cauliflower, green olives, anchovies, capers, chili, pecorino cheese) and David Says It’s Even Better (tomato, mozzarella, spicy spring broccoli and soft salame). Perhaps not a family friendly restaurant, and with a massive bar and drinks offering I get the impression they were hoping to be drawing bigger and more exuberant crowds anyway.

But onto the pizzas.

Out of a choice of 3 (!) tomato-free pizzas, I couldn’t resist the lure of cheesy carbs on carbs and so promptly placed an order for Burning Love. Made up of mozzarella, potatoes, fried onions, and røget spæk this pizza was insanely rich and decadent. In fact, I’m pretty sure this one wins the title of the first pizza I’ve admitted complete defeat over with a quarter still to go. The potatoes are well cooked, just soft enough to add creaminess, but with enough bite to prevent the whole pizza from being soggy. The onions added much needed sweetness. The cheese was plentiful, stringy and tasty. If anything, I’d say the spæk (ham) was almost unnecessary.

The pizza dough is made with saltwater, supposedly resulting in a tastier and healthier base than usual. Whilst I have no idea whether the healthier claim is true, I can say the base was certainly more flavourful that others I’ve tried. However it also had quite an odd texture – noticeably drier (though not crisp) than other sourdough pizzas. A few weeks on and I still can’t decide whether or not I liked it…

W’s pizza (something involving lots of tomatoes and the same spæk) seemed to go down well – it disappeared rather quickly, although like me he was unsure about the base. And it’s all about that base…

There was nothing *wrong* with Mother LDN, nothing at all. But equally it wasn’t as special as I was hoping for. The pizzas weren’t particularly memorable, the atmosphere a little flat, the service slow. Sure, it was tasty (but show me bread, cheese and potatoes thrown together that aren’t tasty!) but I wouldn’t rush back. That said, I have several VERY good pizza places virtually on my doorstep…

Have you visited Mother LDN? Where’s your favourite pizza restaurant?

Restaurant Review: HipChips, Soho

Old Compton Street in Soho seems to host a good handful of restaurants that I *really* want to visit, and HipChips was no exception. I’d heard about it a while back (okayyyy, I’d heard that you could dip potato crisps into peanut butter…) and it had really piqued my interest. Of course this meant when I was offered the chance to review I just could say no!

They use the “best heritage varieties of potatoes, serving them up delicately fried alongside mind-blowing dips.” You can choose sweet or savoury (or a mix – though as they would be served together I’m not overly convinced this is the way to go) with the sweet being sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Then choose your dips and, well, get dipping.

We went for a Large Sweet box, which comes with 6 dips. The crisps themselves certainly looked good, with various different colours. The cinnamon sugar combo was also extremely moreish – despite some of the crisps being more than a little soft.

The dips were also a mixed bag – out of Peanut Butter & Jam, S’mores, Passionfruit, Chocolate & Salted Caramel, Cheesecake and Blackberry & Liquorice there was two clear favourites, and only another two we really ate. I’d skip the Chocolate & Salted Caramel, as the warm caramel split the cold chocolate dip and just made a not particularly pleasant texture. The Cheesecake was also disappointing, bland and too ‘cheesy.’ Not great. Better was the S’mores, though the menu description of ‘gooey marshmallow’ is overselling it when it’s simply chocolate with mini-marshmallows on top. Blowtorch ’em please!

Blackberry & Liquorice was good when eaten with a spoon, not so much on a chip. However the Passionfruit and Peanut Butter with Jam were both winners. Passionfruit was sharp and fruity. Peanut Butter had the perfect salty-sweet kick and the punchy jam just made it better. I’d have been happy with several pots of both!

The savoury dips sounded good, but I felt a bit limited with the tomato-free options and, having devoured a satay chicken at Leon, was in the mood for something sweet. Even so, as I ate I found myself wishing I wasn’t in the (very modern and just a little quirky) restaurant, but rather at home, in my PJs, watching a film. And that’s what sums up my review of HipChips. The food was okay, some bits we ate were great, but as an eat-in concept I’m not 100% sure it works. If only I was in their delivery range!

*I was gifted a voucher for HipChips in exchange for an honest review – and as always all opinions are my own (or my fiances!) 

Would you go sweet or savoury with your chips’n’dips?

Review: French & Spice Fusion at Bistro Vadouvan, Putney

I could start and end this review right here: this was the best meal, without doubt, that I have ever eaten in London.

A bold claim for sure, particularly as I’ve been lucky enough to eat in some damn good restaurants. But nearly three months on and this meal is still sticking out in my memory, and for all the good reasons. Friendly and attentive, but far from annoying, staff. Gorgeous plates, cutlery and decor. Cosy blankets for the outside tables (it’s just a shame Caluccio’s nabbed the best spot by the river!). All topped off with some of the most inventive and well-cooked dishes I’ve tried.

We started with cocktails – all strong, all delicous, all very well made – before moving onto wine. No complaints about the drinks, although really the stars here are the food. Bistro Vadouvan combines classical French cuisine with Middle Eastern and Asian flavours, creating original dishes that are both pretty on a plate and rather tasty. With views of the Thames, and stunning sunsets over Putney Bridge, it’s a lovely location and I’m rather pleased it’s within walking distance!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 4_zpsmpcrejwv.jpgI kicked off with the Prawn, Crab and Cucumber Salad. At £12 this was perhaps the one dish I felt was a little over-priced, but equally they were more than generous with the crab. It was fresh, light and summery, with the most delightful Mint, Yuzu and Orange dressing. The sharp flavours of the mint and orange tempered the sweetness of the seafood perfectly. It was also clearly made to order, as the cucumber had yet to impart it’s wateriness that comes from sitting around. The red chilli dotted throughout was fiery and I could have perhaps done without it, though due to the large slices I could delicately remove it.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 2_zpscsuvc8lb.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 3_zpsd2ttjh7x.jpgW ordered the Asparagus, Sprouting Beans, Avocado and Kohlrabi Salad, something which I was tempted by (but knew I’d get to try if he ordered!). Not being the biggest lover of avo as it is, I was slightly put off by the description of the “Fermented Sour Plum Dressing” but it really worked. All of the ingredients were at their peak-freshness, with the avocado lending a creaminess to the dish. Nuts added crunch, and the whole thing tasted light, healthy and absolutely delicious. I loved my seafood-based salad, but this came a close second.

The Spiced Bouillabaisse was also enjoyed, the classic French dish livened up with Middle-Eastern flavours.

Onto the mains, and this is where the stars of the show really were. Though I could only fault the starters if I was being really picky (see chill point about), I could sit here for hours and genuinely not be able to complain about my dish. I mean, it says a lot about the menu when we broke our biggest ‘couple rule’ and couldn’t resist ordered the same thing – Sea bass with Celeriac, Cauliflower & Raz el Hanout. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe at the time of our visit this was served with cod rather than bass – I imagine both work equally well!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 11_zpsvvqdjbzh.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 12_zpsxoryaoep.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 14_zpstph7j6hg.jpgHaving eaten some really excellent fish dishes this year (the unusual Cod & Pineapple at Skosh, and an elegant Crab Lasagne at Galvin La Chapelle), this remains the one I’d happily eat again, and again, and again. The chunky piece of fish was cooked to absolute perfection – flaking into moist chunks with the merest press of a fork. It sat on a bed of Celeriac Hummus, which was creamy, moreish and had a depth of flavour all of it’s own, without detracting from the main dish. Give me a bowl of this and some of the flatbread I saw floating around the restaurant and I’d be a happy girl!  The dish was then topped with a generous serving of Spiced Cauliflower. Flawlessly cooked (soft and tender without a hint of the mushiness cauliflower is prone to) and just so fully of flavour. Again, give me a bowl of cauliflower and I’d probably be quite happy! Drizzled with a lemony-parsley dressing which pulled the whole dish together, I was genuinely sad when I’d finished my plate.

Also on our table was the Glazed Salmon, Carrot & Harissa Yoghurt, and a special involving Lamb Belly. Both seemed to go down extremely well – and next on my list to try is the delicious-looking Poussin Marinated In Sage, Maple Syrup, Garlic & Yoghurt.

In fact, the only negative I have is that the side dishes don’t seem to be particularly well-matched to the mains. Chips and cous-cous are all very good, but perhaps not the most imaginative. That said, on our visit they had a ‘slaw’ on offer which we tentatively ordered to share. Finely sliced cabbage tossed in a spiced-yoghurt and lemon dressing, it was actually far more delicious than the dubious description on the menu and went perfectly with both fish dishes.

A slight running theme is possible here, as like the sides the desserts just didn’t seem overly appealing. However we’d heard good things so ordered a few to share.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 18_zps0138jjek.jpg photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 15_zpsnjp2ch4d.jpgThe Exotic Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Creameux was my top pick, and this is coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of cheesecake. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered it in a restaurant before! This was light and almost mousse-like – certainly not the heavy and artery-clogging dish I was expected. Flavours of mango and passion-fruit were strong without being sickly, the plate was garnished with coulis, curd and crispy meringues and the cheesecake topped with an almost gelato-textured sorbet.

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 19_zpsk3kpb1ri.jpgW loved the Luxurious Chocolate and Bitter Orange, although I found it a tad heavy and cloying (and certainly wouldn’t have been able to finish it!).  Flavours were reminiscent of a jaffa cake, with the textures smooth. One for chocolate lovers, and only if you’ve got a big appetite.

Even before we’d paid our bill, we were talking about other dishes on the menu we’d like to try on a return visit. Unfortunately with moving, holidays, exams and other annoying things we haven’t yet made it, but watch this space!
And now I’ll end with another picture of the fish dish. Because it was THAT good!

 photo Bistro Vadouvan Putney 8_zpsit8mhatr.jpg

Where was your ‘best meal’ eaten?

Review: Duck & Waffle

I’d wanted to visit Duck & Waffle for aggessss. I poured over the Instagram photos, quizzed friends who had been – hell it even made it on my London Bucket List (which I really must make more of an effort to tick off!). Luckily someone listened to my whining and Santa surprised me with a voucher in my stocking last Christmas, though despite this it was still July before we headed up to the 40-something floor in the heart of the City.

 photo Duck amp Waffle_zpss9el8ejg.jpg

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

It was pretty difficult to book in for a weekend breakfast. I checked most days for a good month before I found a date that didn’t clash with pre-made plans, exams or deadlines, and still booked a couple of months in advance. Turns out my planning was excellent – it ended up being the day after W handed in his dissertation, and two days after I found out I’d passed April’s exam (the relief is still there!). So we celebrated with a two course brunch, though passing on the alcohol as numerous bubbles had been consumed in the days previous!

Tea ordered (though still the permanent confusion when presented with two pots and no indication of which was the Earl Grey and which was ‘normal’), it didn’t take us long to decide on our ‘mains’ – we both went for the Duck & Waffle. Neither of us could resist trying the signature dish, although we were tempted by the Full English (him) and the Duck Egg en Cocotte (me).

 photo Duck and Waffle 7_zps9rzbxr0o.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 6_zpswy6s4smt.jpgA toasted waffle, topped with a succulent confit duck leg, capped with an oozing duck egg and a side pot of mustard maple syrup, the Duck & Waffle is a combination of flavours and textures that really just have to be tried. Whilst my waffle was pretty perfect (slightly sweet, soft but with a slightly toasted crunch) I’ve hear reviews of stales ones, particularly those who go later in the day. The duck leg was super-crispy on the outer, with soft fall-apart flesh within. I spent ten or so minutes wishing it was acceptable to pick up and knaw on a bone in public, I didn’t want to waste a single bit of meat. The duck egg was again perfectly cooked with a *just* set white and gooey yolk. The mustard maple syrup was verging on too sweet for me with everything else, I’d possibly want more mustard coming through, but I did enjoy it drizzled on lightly. Plus I got the converted drizzle shot…

 photo Duck and Waffle 12_zpsaxwakdde.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 15_zpsrmox7p17.jpgOur ‘pudding’ was to share a sweet waffle, and it did take flipping a coin to decide which! We went for the Caramelised Banana, which came with homemade hazelnut & chocolate spread, vanilla ice cream and peanut crunch. We loved it – the bananas were warm and gooey, encrusted in a thick brulee sugar topping. The ice-cream was super-cream, the chocolate spread rich. Our only criticism was there was not nearly enough of the peanut crunch.

Oh, and we had to spend the rest of the day lying down in a food coma…

All in all, it was pretty damn good. Pricey, but worth it for a special occasion. The views were gorgeous, the interiors rather Instagrammable and the iconic Duck & Waffle dish was delicious. That said, the menu at Duck & Waffle Local looks a little bit more adventurous (that duck burger!) so I know where I’ll be heading next…

 photo Duck and Waffle 3_zpsc8iyqx9i.jpg photo Duck and Waffle 18_zpsai0yghsw.jpg*Note that this is not a sponsored review – my parents kindly got us a gift voucher for last Christmas, and we paid the difference ourselves.

Have you ever been to Duck & Waffle? What did you think?