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?!

Food: Why Buy a Degustabox Subscription?

Recently I’ve been gifted an ongoing monthly subscription to Degustabox* in exchange for some honest reviews – and whilst I’ve not yet reviewed a full box (you can see an overview of July’s box here, as well as in my Instagram Story highlights on my profile) today I’m going to talk about whether the boxes are worth it.

 photo Degustabox August 4_zpszzgwe8gs.jpgSo, what is a Degustabox?

It’s a monthly box containing new releases or loved favourites from trusted big brands, smaller more independent suppliers and upcoming foodie start-ups. At a cost of £12.99 a month you get a fairly hefty box containing a good selection of items (10-15 according to their site). I do get a combination of the alcohol and non-alcohol box, but even so I’ve been pretty impressed with the quantity of items I’ve received. In the latest box (received at the end of August) we received a box of Dorset Cereals granola, some hemp milk from Good Hemp, some Illy instant coffee, 2 Gunna drinks, some Crooked alcholic soda, 2 packs of Maggi noodles (including a delicious Sticky Duck flavour), a tin of tuna fillets, some LioBites dried fruit snacks and some *delicious* cereal bars from Boka. Not bad if you ask me!

But why exactly do I love receiving my box? Read on to find out…

Discovering New Brands

I’m really quite bad at sticking to what I know. If I was buying coffee I’d rarely stray away from brands that I’ve grown up with (despite knowing it’s not the best coffee). If I was looking for an alcoholic treat I’d generally avoid ‘cans’ as it reminds me too much of being a teenager. However Degustabox has introduced me to some fab brands which I’d never have tried otherwise – both the Crooked alcoholic soda in the August box and the Rosie’s Pig Rhubarb Cider in the July box are going to become firm favourites.

By far and away, however, my favourite brand I’ve discovered is Capsicana. We had a packet of their
Brazilian Smoked Paprika & Spices in the July box – we used it to marinate some yellow-sticker steaks before serving with a black bean and sweet potato salad. It was delicious – a tad too spicy given we used the whole of the packet between two, but we really enjoyed the more unusual flavour profile. We’ll be checking out more of their products for sure!

 photo Degustabox August 1_zpsvrzusd6r.jpgForcing Me To Try New Things

Similar to the point above, I know what I like. I stick to the usual cornflakes and weetabix when buying cereal, if I buy non-dairy milk it’s always hazelnut. The Dorset Cereals has opened my eyes to the world of granola possibilities (I mean, raspberries, toasted spelt and popped buckwheat?! Yum!), whilst trying Hemp Milk has been interesting – it might not be something I’d jump at buying again, but it wasn’t too bad.

Trying Exclusive Products

Whether they are new releases not available in shops yet, or products only generally available for retailers to buy in bulk, there’s been a couple of exciting things pop up in my boxes. As a child I LOVED mixing ribena with lemonade, so the bottles of sparkling Ribena in the July box made me smile. Likewise we’ve also received some lower-sugar Rowntree sweets which I’ve not spotted on the shelves yet…

Rediscovering Old Favourites

It’s not all new and exciting products in the boxes – some are old and exciting too! Whilst a pot of Cadbury’s Instant Hot Chocolate certainly isn’t ground-breaking, having a tub on my desk at work is perfect for when a sweet-tooth hits mid-afternoon. In fact given I’ve been exclusively drinking a rather more calorific Swiss hot chocolate for the last year, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this lighter version…

The Surprise Factor

Generally our meals are planned with military precision to avoid food waste and minimise our shopping bill – Degustabox gives us a bit of a surprise and allows us to experiment a bit more. Whether it’s a bag of fancy crisps we would never have otherwise picked up (the London Crisp salt’n’vinegar is lush!) or random spice mixes, we know we’ll have something new and exciting to try.
 photo Degustabox August 3_zpscdejk0e9.jpg

*I received a monthly Degustabox in return for some honest reviews and social media posts, but as always all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wanted to give them a try you can use the code N63R7 to get a cheeky discount!

Are you a fan of trying out new brands and products? Would you subscribe to Degustabox?

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: 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?

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: 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.

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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: 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: 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

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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?