ZeeZain

Overall: 6/10
Location: South Kensington

My Thoughts:

I was invited to try out the newly refurbished ZeeZain, a casual and modern Indian restaurant in South Kensington.  As you walk in, you’re greeted by an elegant decor.  The restaurant was busy, which is unsurprising given it’s location right by the museums, in a tourist hot spot, but it’s definitely not a tourist trap restaurant.  A window seat is perfect for people watching. It is a family run business with a long history in the area that is owned by Akhtar Miah and is named after his two sons – Zee and Zain.

The menu is wide ranging, there’s something on there for most people (curries, kebabs, vegetarian food). Compared to the other modern-Indian spots that keep popping up in London, the food is much more traditional – think classic curries, and mixed grills. For an Indian restaurant, the food isn’t overly spicy. Considering you’re in the heart of South Kensington, on one of the most touristy streets in the city, the prices are really reasonable, especially for the large portions.  It’s a great place for sharing a meal, family style.

To start, I was given a mixed grill starter with samosas and lamb and chicken kebabs. All were simple, yet tasty.  I then tried a few curries – the lamb curry and the fish bhunna.  I’m not a massive fan of tomato-ey curries (I generally as a rule never cook with tomatoes in my own curries!) so wasn’t a huge fan of these, the ingredients are definitely high quality, but I think they needed more flavour to counteract the overpowering tomato taste.  The highlight of the meal for me, was the garlic naan, they were light and fluffy and perfect for dipping into curries.

The service was good, the staff were friendly and attentive and we got to know them well throughout the meal, which is always nice.  We ended up sitting next to an American couple and got chatting to them, they actually thought the service was a bit slow, I suppose this comes down to cultural differences, the service in restaurants in America is always exceptional!

In my opinion, ZeeZain has all the foundations for a great restaurant – the location, decor, menu and vibe, the food just needs a bit of improvement in terms of flavour. It has the potential to be a great addition to the usual touristy restaurants in the area.

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Website: www.zeezain.co.uk
Address: 38 Thurloe Pl, Kensington, London SW2 7HP

Tahini & Turmeric Granola Bars

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The Groovy Food Company have developed a new coconut oil, infused with turmeric, which seems to currently be the nation’s favourite spice! This combination makes their coconut oil perfect for adding to curries, stir fries or even granola bars, as I tried myself.  I was sent a jar of their coconut oil and asked to try out a recipe their team have developed for these tahini and turmeric granola bars.  Tahini and turmeric are both ingredients that have traditionally been used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, but is gradually becoming more and more popular in the UK.  I must admit, that when I initially read the recipe, I was slightly apprehensive, as these are not ingredients that I’ve commonly used to prepare granola bars! However, the end product was great, you are left with a granola bar full of warming spices, that is not overly sweet.

The Groovy Food Company also have a whole collection of other great recipes on their website using their products.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes approximately 30 granola bars

Ingredients:

  • 400g rolled oats
  • 100ml agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons The Groovy Food Company Organic Virgin Coconut Oil infused with turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 100g pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread oats evenly on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine agave nectar, tahini and turmeric infused coconut oil in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, coriander, salt and black pepper and mix well. Add dates and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine toasted oats, pistachios and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add agave and tahini mixture and mix well to ensure the oats are well coated.
  4. Grease the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish and line well with parchment paper. Transfer oat mixture to the lined dish and flatten using your hands (compressing the mixture helps the bars hold together better).
  5. Bake for 25 mins and leave to cool for 15 before transferring out to a wire rack. Allow a further 10 minutes before cutting.

 

Asian Style Pork

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I was recently invited to the Taste of London Festival to sample a 4 course menu developed using Lee Kum Kee’s new sauce range. My favourite dish of the night was easily the sticky BBQ pork dish, and the best bit is, you can buy their sauces and whip up this tasty meal at home.  Compared to the other supermarket brands, Lee Kum Kee’s sauces taste more authentic, and are still reasonably priced. For example, their Premium Oyster Sauce (used in this recipe) is sold at most supermarkets (it’s £2.75 at Tesco).

I’ve adjusted this recipe slightly from the original, as I’ve found this method to be a bit more user friendly when you’re pressed for time, and you still get the same great flavours.  Don’t eat pork? I’ve also tried substituting the pork for salmon or chicken and it works really well too.  The recipe below uses a barbecue, but feel free to pan fry or grill your pork instead. I’ve tried all methods and they all work well.

Prep and cook time required: 20 minutes (plus marinade time)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

500g thinly sliced pork belly
2 tablespoons soy sauce
thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce 
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce

Method:

  1. Marinade your pork. Place your pork belly into a bowl and coat in the soy sauce and the ginger. Leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To cook, light your barbecue.  If you are using charcoal, make sure it is fully lit and all the flames have died down, as you want your barbecue to be as hot as possible.
  3. Put the pork slices on to the grill and cook for 2 minutes before turning.  Repeat this process for approximately another 4-6 minutes, or until almost cooked.
  4. At this point you want to add your Char Siu and Oyster Sauce to the pork and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until charred on both sides. Serve with any remaining glaze.

Zzetta

Overall: 8/10
Location: Canning Town

My Thoughts:

I was invited to try out Zzetta last week, a brand new pizza spot in Canning Town. When I arrived, it was the busiest spot on the high street, and I could smell their wood-fired pizzas as I approached, so we were off to a good start.

The staff were super friendly and welcoming, and knowledgeable about the menu and restaurant. This is really important to me, I like to know what the most popular dishes are, and if there are any particularly great ones to look out for.  Our waiter explained that the name ‘Zzetta’ came from the Italian word ‘pizzetta’ which means mini pizza. The idea behind the restaurant was initially to have a menu consisting of mini pizzas, served tapas style.  Personally, this would be perfect for me as I love trying out several dishes at once, but market research suggested London wasn’t quite ready for this!! So they went with normal sized pizzas.

Their menu features a range of pizzas, for vegetarians and meat and fish lovers. I particularly liked how innovative the toppings were. For example, I tried the smoked salmon and ricotta pizza, which was a very unusual pizza combination but tasted light and fresh.  Also featured on the menu was a yellowfin tuna topping, something I’d never seen before! They source their ingredients locally from Billingsgate, Smithfield and Covent Garden markets, and you can definitely taste the quality in their dishes.

For the vegetarian option, I tried the porcini mushroom pizza. Our waiter explained that they had gone with porcini mushrooms due to their meaty texture. As a mushroom lover, this was right up my street. The pizzas on the whole are generally affordable, in line with London prices, but the freshness and quality of ingredients give them an edge over competitors.  The pizzas also have a nice smokiness to them.

Their drinks menu is small but they have a bit of everything – wines, beers, soft drinks and hot drinks. They don’t serve traditional soft drinks, but rather have a selection of ‘bio’ sodas (the cola, lemonade) as well as juices.  These soft drinks are the healthier alternatives, with less caffeine, to their main branded counterparts.  The lemonade tasted very fresh in comparison to the usual brands on offer, but as a firm Diet Coke lover myself, I would have loved for that to be on the menu!

I like that they have intertwined with the local community, purchasing their ingredients from local markets, and having placards hanging from the ceiling with quotes of former local residents and workers at Rathborne market.  I’d definitely recommend to anyone living in East London for sure (and it’s worth the journey even if you’re not local!)

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Website: www.zzetta.co.uk
Address: 110 BARKING RD, RATHBONE MARKET, LONDON E16 1EN

 

Aussie Tukka & Truckstop Today

Location: They move regularly! Visit www.truckstoptoday.com to keep track (and check out a huge range of food trucks in the UK)
Price: £6 – 8

My Thoughts:

I was invited to try out Aussie Tukka’s lunch menu by CK, the founder of Truck Stop Today –  the UK’s first online library of food trucks. It’s definitely worth checking out their website if you are a street food lover! There are loads of trucks serving a huge range of cuisines dotted around the country, a lot of them outside office blocks.  The schedule changes regularly and is updated on their website. I had lunch with CK at Aussie Tukka’s truck not too far from my own office, and heard all about his journey building Truck Stop Today, born out of his love of (street) food having worked at toptable.com for 9 years and from loving Americana and loving his regular New York visits in the states – pretty much the home of Food Trucks!

Aussie Tukka serve a range of barbecued meat, fish and veggie options, in true Aussie style. On the day I visited, halloumi was on the menu and was served with a rainbow slaw and salad leaves which can either be rolled up in a big wrap or served as a salad in a box.  The highlight for me was a drizzle of their handmade red pepper sauce, which is made with fresh roasted red pepper, garlic and creme fraiche – you can really taste the freshness!  They also added a dollop of home made chilli sauce from the Peckham Sauce Co., which again, tasted super fresh.  It was perfect for a light and healthy summers lunch.  Their menu ranges in price between around £6 – 8 per dish, in line with London prices, but the wraps are quite substantial and should keep you going throughout the afternoon. Overall, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go if you’re a BBQ lover like me!

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Cooking with Comté

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I was recently invited to a cooking class at L’atelier des chefs on comté cheese.  The class began with some wine and a little introduction to comté and it’s production methods. Comté is a French cheese originating in a fairly remote region in the mountains of Eastern France where there are over 2500 family farms dedicated to producing the raw milk that is used to create comté.  The cows used for producing the milk are only fed with natural feed and their milk has to be processed within 24 hours so it’s extremely fresh.  It is then taken to one of the 150 small village cheese dairies in France that specialise in producing comté, where it is looked after for at least 4 months, and is regularly turned, salted and rubbed in a cheese wheel with brine solution.

It’s a hard cheese that’s from a similar family to gruyère cheese and has over 83 natural flavours that can be detected when tasting it, making it a very versatile cheese that can be added to loads of dishes.

We then had the opportunity to taste three different ages of comté.  In general, the darker the cheese is, the older it probably is, and the older it is, the saltier it is.  Our cheese tasting was followed by a demonstration by chef Laura Pope, of two dishes that she has developed using comté.  First we had the freekeh salad with charred pears, rocket and comté and for the main she made bubble and squeak with melted comté and a fried egg (the recipes can be found below).  We then split off into groups and had a go at making (and eating!) the dishes ourselves.

Freekeh salad with Comté, charred pears & cinnamon, rocket & toasted pecans

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes
Serves 4

The freekeh salad was honestly one of the best salads I’ve ever tried! There are so many flavours and textures involved, the freekeh itself has a delicious smoky, earthy flavour, the pecans offer a crunch, the pears a sweet twinge and the lemon a citrusy element.

Freekeh originates in the middle east and is green durum wheat that has been roasted, rubbed and then cracked.  You can buy dried freekeh and prep it yourselves, but we actually cheated slightly and used ready made freekeh by Merchant Gourmet to save time.  It was really delicious and I’d probably buy it again in future because it cuts down prep time but still has a great flavour!  Laura mentioned that we could substitute the freekeh for bulgur wheat or quinoa if required.

Ingredients:

  • 250g freekeh (either ready made or cooked according to the packet instructions if cracked)
  • 2 to 4 just ripe pears (depending on size – you want about 400g in total)
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 50g rocket leaves
  • 100g pecan nuts (without shells)
  • Zest of ½ lemon and juice of 1 lemon
  • 45ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g 12-14 month aged Comté, cubed

Method:

  1. Toast the pecans: heat oven to 160℃ fan / 180℃ normal and lay the pecans out on a baking sheet, then toast for about 10 minutes, until they give off a rich aroma – but do not let them burn. Let them cool, remove a handful to leave whole and then roughly chop the rest.
  2. Add the freekeh to your salad bowl.
  3. If the skin of the pears is rough and thick, peel them – if not, you can leave it on. Cut them into eighths and cut out the cores. Toss the pears in the oil, cinnamon and a little salt and black pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat for a few minutes and then char each side of the pears so that they have griddle lines and are warm all the way through – you don’t want to overcook them or they will fall apart. Chop half the pears into cubes and leave the rest for later.
  4. Mix the lemon zest, juice and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Mix this through the freekeh and mix in the rocket leaves, the chopped pecan nuts, the cubed pears and most of the Comté. Lay the pear slices on top and scatter over the remaining Comté and pecans.

Bubble & squeak with melted Comté and fried egg

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes (depending on whether you have leftover mashed potato)
Serves 4

Bubble and squeak is a great way to use up leftover potato and vegetables.  It’s also warming and comforting so is the perfect meal for winter (or most of the year if you live in the UK!!) We added cavolo nero and comté which tasted delicious melted! We topped the dish with a fried egg.

Ingredients:

  • 400g cavolo nero
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, for frying
  • 900g cooked mashed potato
  • 8 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 200g 18 to 24 month aged Comté, coarsely grated
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Cut out the central rib of each leaf of cavolo nero and discard, then cut the leaves into wide strips. Melt 30g of the butter in a saucepan and add the cavolo nero, a splash of water and season with salt and black pepper. Turn heat up high and stir the cavolo nero to coat it in the butter, water and seasoning, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, until it is wilted, giving the pan a shake every now and then. Drain off any excess liquid.
  2. Heat the remaining 30g butter and about ½ tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, then tip in the potato and spring onion and fry. As it cooks, you want it to brown and char slightly – make sure to spread it out over the base of the pan and keep breaking it up and scraping the bottom of the pan so that the lovely, crunchy brown bits are mixed in.
  3. Mix in the cavolo nero and then the Comté and turn the heat down to medium. When the Comté starts to melt, stop turning the mixture over – just press it down every now to flatten the surface and cook over a low heat until it is golden brown on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil and fry the eggs over a medium heat so that the whites are set but the yolks are still runny – season each egg with a little salt and black pepper as they are cooking. Place the four fried eggs on top of the bubble & squeak and serve in the frying pan for everyone to help themselves.

I was sent home with a slice of the comté cheese wheel and have been adding it to salads, pastas and several other dishes, it’s such a versatile cheese and I’m glad I discovered it!  If you want to get your hands on some comté, it is sold in several cheesemongers and supermarkets in the UK (such as Waitrose). See their website for more details at www.comtecheese.co.uk

Miss Foodie’s Guide to New York

I visited New York for the first time a few months ago.  I was SO excited, mostly because it is often labelled as the Foodie capital of the world, so I was eager to see if it would live up to its reputation.  I’d been given tons of recommendations from both locals and previous visitors, and read a million food blogs with tips before my trip, so the list below really does feature some of the best of the best spots in NYC.

Where to have pizza: Rubirosa

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Rubirosa was so good, that I actually went twice during my 5 day trip! They serve HUGE, thin crust pizzas. You can even do half and half pizzas, so it’s perfect for sharing.  It’s very relaxed inside, with a simple decor – exactly what you’d expect of a Soho pizza parlour.  They also serve a range of side dishes and pastas – although the pizzas are their main showstoppers so I’d recommend trying those.  The menu even boasts a pizza with a vodka tomato sauce – perfect for any Bloody Mary fans!

The only downside is that it’s notoriously difficult to get a table.  They take reservations during certain hours, although you’ll need to book a few weeks in advance.  Otherwise, if you’re up for queuing you can just visit on the day (at peak times the queues can be 2 hours +).

The ‘smaller’ pizzas (that still feed 2 people) come in at around $20. So it’s fairly affordable, given their deliciousness.

Location: 235 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012, USA
Website: 
www.rubirosanyc.com
Price: 
$15 – $30 per person

Where to eat in the Upper East Side: Uva

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Uva was recommended to me by a friend, a born and bred New Yorker.  I hadn’t seen it listed on any of the mainstream New York food blogs and magazines, so it really is a hidden gem, and my dinner there was quite possibly my favourite meal in NYC.  It’s a cosy, rustic Italian spot right near Central Park.  The wine list is affordable and the food menu extensive enough to feed all types of eaters, and includes pasta and a wide range of meat and fish.  It’s classy enough to visit for a special occasion, whilst still maintaining a casual vibe.

The food inherits a typically Italian flare with hints of non-conformity – such as their gnocchi made from beetroot (which was actually my favourite dish even though I’m not normally a fan of beets).  Another favourite was the Carciofi Fritti – panfried, crispy baby artichokes, unlike anything I’d eaten before.

Location: 1486 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10075, USA
Website: 
www.uvanyc.com
Price: $50 – $60 per person

Where to have brunch: Jack’s Wife Freda

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Jack’s Wife Freda is somewhat of an institution amongst New York Brunchers.  Naturally, I had to try it.  It’s a simple, cute and small cafe that was opened by a couple who met whilst working at Balthazar – so they know what they’re doing when it comes to brunch. The food is an eclectic mix of brunch classics with Middle Eastern and Israeli twists, making it a truly unique experience.  Their food is also on the healthier side – a welcome break after my 5 day food binge!   The menu is hand-drawn and it has an overall homely feel.

It lived up to the hype, and I even celebrated my birthday there.  They also take reservations, which is a bonus amongst New York brunch spots.

Location: There are two branches at 224 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012, USA & 50 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014, USA
Website:
www.jackswifefreda.com
Price: 
$15 – $20 per person

Where to grab a bagel: Best Bagel & Coffee

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I couldn’t have left New York without having a classic New York bagel.  Luckily, there was a bagel shop right opposite my Midtown hotel which had queues out the door, so it had to be good. It’s called ‘Best Bagels & Coffee’, and they really are the best bagels.  You can select your preferred bagel, and customise your filling.  They have everything from smoked salmon to ham and cheese and many veggie options.  I must warn you, they are MASSIVE.  I ate half a bagel for breakfast and was full until dinner time!!

It’s a fast food joint and most people grab and go but there is some seating inside.  It’s not too far from Bryant Park, so if the weather’s good you can just pop it in your bag and walk over and enjoy your bagel in the park.

If you’re on the other side of town, Black Seed Bagels is another favourite bagel shop amongst New York Foodies.

Location: 225 West 35th Street New York, NY 10001
Website: www.bestbagelandcoffee.com
Price: 
Approximately $10 per bagel

Where to have sweet stuff:

Head to Boqueria for NUTELLA CHURROS!!

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‘Nutella churros’ are in capitals above, because this is quite possibly the best combo of ingredients ever invented.  Boqueria, a little tapas place in Soho, serve warm churros filled with Nutella.  It gets pretty busy inside, in which case you can ask for them to go.  This was easily my favourite sweet treat in NYC!

Location: 171 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, USA
Website: www.boquerianyc.com
Price: 5 pieces for $8 or 9 pieces for $13

Head to Dominique Ansel’s Bakery for Cronuts & Cookie Shots

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Dominique Ansel’s bakery in Soho is just down the road to Boqueria on Spring Street – that street is a foodie’s heaven!  Dominique Ansel is a must visit not only as an eatery, but also as a tourist attraction.  This bakery is the site where the world famous cronut was invented, by Ansel himself, back in 2013.  Thousands of foodies queued up overnight to try this new pastry that was a cross between a donut and a croissant.  The cronut flavour changes monthly, and there is still a daily queue down the street to get your hands on one!

This place is more than just a bakery, it’s almost like a food lab, where the team are always cooking up new, inventive bakes.  The kitchen is open 24 hours a day to prepare freshly baked goods for the next day!  The cookie shot is my personal favourite,  this is a warm cookie in the shape of a shot glass, it’s interior covered in melted chocolate and filled with sweet milk.*

*Cookie shots are only served from 3pm daily.

Location: 189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, USA
Website:
www.dominiqueansel.com
Price: 
Approximately $5 per item

Head to Union Fare for ALL the croissants:

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Union Fare is a cute cafe (think tons of fairy lights hanging from the ceiling) but their most impressive offering is their croissants – I’ve never seen so many different types of croissants in one place.  There were funfetti filled croissants, red velvet, matcha and apparently there’s an Oreo filled one which is sometimes on the menu.

Location: 5 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003, USA
Website: www.unionfare.com
Price: Approximately $5 per pastry

Head to Grom for the best gelato

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Grom is my favourite Italian gelato chain, they only have a few branches around the world, and most of them are in Italy, but four are in NYC! Their gelato is super creamy, and basically transported me back to Italy.   It’s a must try.  One of the branches is by Columbus Circus, next to Central Park with outdoor seating, so on a sunny day its great for some people-watching and watching the world go by!

Locations: 4 locations in the city – click here for details
Website:
www.grom.it
Price:
Scoops start at $2 – 3

Where to have drinks with a view: Rainbow Room

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This place is without a doubt my favourite place in New York.  It’s truly magical!  New York is full of rooftop bars, but this one is exceptional.  It’s located at the top of the Rockafeller Centre and it’s pricy, but it’s worth the investment.  Considering it costs a whopping $34 to get to the Top of the Rock viewing platform, a couple of floors above, you’re probably better off grabbing a drink or two at the Rainbow Room instead. Cocktails start at $10 a glass and are delicious, so you get the same great views AND can enjoy a drink or two them from a window-side seat, away from the crowds, in this classically designed dining room, dripping with chandeliers and class.  They also serve food.

The views are spectacular, you can see the whole city and the Hudson River.  I went just before sunset, so I got daytime, sunset, and nighttime scenes.   The dress code is smart, and reservations are essential.

Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor, New York, NY 10112
Website: www.rainbowroom.com 
Price: 
Cocktails start at $10

Where to have fries: The Renaissance Midtown Hotel

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Whilst staying at my hotel, the Renaissance Midtown (by Marriott), I was lucky enough to stumble across the most delicious fries I’ve ever tried – GARLIC fries. I am a firm believer that garlic makes (most) things taste better, and this dish was no exception.  I’d seriously recommend popping in to the bar to try these, it has a nice relaxed vibe with lots of seating, so you can also grab a cocktail or two.

Location: 218 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001, USA
Website: 
www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/nycsg-renaissance-new-york-midtown-hotel/ 
Price: 
Fries are under $5

Where to have a picnic: Central Park with food from The Plaza Food Hall

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If you’re lucky enough to have great weather when you visit New York, a picnic in Central Park should be on your list.  Conveniently, the Plaza Hotel is located right opposite the park, and they have an incredible food hall serving all sorts of freshly prepared food to eat in or takeaway.  So if you fancy a ‘posh picnic’ you can find anything from pizza and pasta, to sandwiches, hot dogs or cupcakes.  Prices vary, and despite being part of a five star hotel, prices are not extortionate and there are plenty of cheap options available.

Location: 768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019, USA
Website: www.theplazany.com/dining/the-plaza-food-hall/
Price: Varies, cheaper items and snacks start at $3-5

Where to have a swanky dinner:

Tao, Balthazar, and ABC Kitchen were my favourite, higher end spots for a special occasion.  All three have very different atmospheres.  Tao turns into a nightclub late in the evening, ABC Kitchen has more of a relaxed vibe and pretty interior, and Balthazar is like your typical Parisian brasserie.  All three are very popular so it’s best to book in advance as they all take reservations.

1. Tao

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Tao is one of the top Asian restaurants in New York, it’s super trendy and basically becomes a nightclub late at night (though is perfectly pleasant to dine in at dinner time!). They serve all sorts of dishes from sushi to stir fries.  In particular the vegetable fried brown rice really stood out, as did the duck spring roll starter.  As with most Asian restaurants, it’s a good place for sharing dishes and eating family style.

Location: There are 2 branches – Tao Downtown at 92 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, USA and Tao Uptown at 42 E 58th St, New York, NY 10022, USA
Website:
www.taorestaurant.com
Price: 
$50+ for three courses per person

2. Balthazar

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Balthazar is styled as your typical Parisian brasserie, it’s got high ceilings and an elegant vibe.  They serve Modern European style dishes and all that I tried was really tasty.  It’s nestled in Soho on Spring Street amongst all the great food spots.  It’s buzzy and fairly loud, so bear that in mind.  They also apparently do a great brunch.

Location: 80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, USA
Website: www.balthazarny.com
Price: $50+ per person for 3 courses

3. ABC Kitchen

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ABC Kitchen serve European style dishes but also include things like pizza, so it’s a good place to suit all tastes. It’s quaint, dimly lit and pretty inside, so is a good spot for couples. They also serve a great brunch.  If you do end up going, the salted caramel ice cream with popcorn dessert (pictured above) is a must try! It was easily the best dessert I had in NYC.

Location: 35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003
Website: 
www.abchome.com/dine/abc-kitchen/
Price: 
$50+ per person for 3 courses

Where to exercise: Soul Cycle

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As a keen spinner, I was SO incredibly excited to try  out the mother of all spin classes: Soul Cycle.  I visited on my birthday and the team at their Bryant Park branch bought in a cookie with a candle in it and sung me happy birthday at the end of the class! They even captured it on camera and gave me a Polaroid to keep. It was very special, and one of the highlights of my trip. What I love about spin classes in general, is that they suit all fitness levels as you can go as fast or slow as you like, and the instructors at Soul Cycle are all super energetic and motivational.  Their studios are also amazing, they provide everything including shoes, towels and toiletries so you only need to bring yourself and your gym gear along.

I am on a quest to visit as many spin classes around the world as possible, so far I’ve been to Pyscle in London, Soul Cycle in New York, XYZ in Hong Kong, Motion in Dubai and Rocycle in Amsterdam, and I’m looking forward to discovering many more!

Location: Several branches throughout the city, see their website for further information.
Website: http://www.soul-cycle.com
Price: $34 per class (with an intro offer of 2 classes for $34)

Where to stay: The Renaissance Midtown

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New York is full of amazing hotels!  There are too many to list.  When I go on a city break I’m usually out exploring most of the day but I still generally like to stay in a clean, comfortable, mid-range hotel in the city centre as I don’t like to spend time and money commuting.  New York hotels fitting this criteria can be a bit pricey, so I try to book as early as possible in advance to get the best rates.  The Renaissance Midtown fit the bill perfectly.  It was right in the centre of Manhattan and walking distance to loads of great restaurants and Central Park.  The beds are SUPER comfy, the rooms and bathroom are fairly big by NYC standards, and it has a great bar to relax in.

Location: 218 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001, USA
Website: www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/nycsg-renaissance-new-york-midtown-hotel/ 
Price: Room rates start from $200 per night

My top things to do:

New York is full of fun things to do, you’d probably need a few weeks to squeeze them all in! But here are a few of my faves and must-sees, including a bunch of free attractions.

Times Square

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Super touristy, but obviously a must see when in New York! It’s definitely best to go for a walk through at night to get the full ‘bright light’ experience.  There are no entry charges, you can just have a wander round.

Location: Manhattan, NY 10036, USA
Price: 
FREE

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

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A walk across Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny day is very iconic, and you’ll get some great views.  Ideally, you’d probably want to walk towards Manhattan, coming from Brooklyn, to catch a glimpse of the famous Manhattan skyline.  To arrive by subway, get off at ‘High St. – Brooklyn Bridge’ and walk up the stairways to get up to the bridge.  The walk across should take around 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how many photos you stop to take! It’s an amazing architectural structure in itself and is not one to miss.

Price: FREE

Statue of Liberty

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The Statue of Liberty is located on Ellis Island, and you’ll need to catch a ferry from Battery Park in Manhattan to get there. Although it’s not a particularly long journey (under an hour), it’s extremely popular and therefore wait times for the ferry can as long as two hours, so it’s good to either arrive early, prebook, or use a tour company like Viatour who often arrange queue jumps.  Alternatively, there are a number of helicopter tours that will give you a great view of the statue.

On the island itself, you can see the statue, visit the museum which gives some history, and you can even climb the pedestal/the statue (but reservations are required in advance).  You can also catch some great views of the Manhattan skyline.

Location: Ellis Island, New York, NY 10004, USA
Website: www.nps.gov
Price: The ferry fee starts from $18.50 but prices will vary depending on what attractions you want to see on the Island and whether you visit with a tour group.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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New York is full of loads of great museums and art galleries, so if you’re pressed for time it’s difficult to decide which is best to visit.  For modern and contemporary art lovers, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is probably you’re best bet, but for a more rounded view of art spanning the last 5000 years, the Met is a great option, particularly because the building itself is pretty spectacular.

Location: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, USA
Website: 
www.metmuseum.org
Price:
For visitors outside New York State admission is $25

Ground Zero

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The 9/11 memorial is often referred to as one of the most remarkable in the world, serving as a tribute to the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 1993 bombing.   It’s made up of twin reflecting pools and waterfalls, marking where the towers once stood.

Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, USA
Website: 
www.911memorial.org
Price: 
FREE (to visit the memorial, but there are admission costs to the museum and One World Trade observation deck)

The High Line

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The High Line is a great walking spot, it’s an elevated linear park that was built on a former railway in Manhattan.  As you walk along, you’ll get some pretty views of the city. When we went there was even a little art exhibition going on, it’s very buzzy and is a great place for a stroll.

Location: West side of Manhattan, New York, NY 10011, USA
Price: FREE

The Friends Building

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For any fans of the hit TV show, you can see the exterior of the iconic Friends Apartment. It’s probably best to try and tie it in when you’re in the area around Greenwich Village, as it’s just the building, and you can’t go inside.  Sadly there’s no ‘Central Perk’ on the ground floor, but there is a highly acclaimed restaurant called the Little Owl where you can stop for a bite.

Location: 100 Bedford St, Corner Grove, New York City, NY 10014-5304
Price: FREE

Fifth Avenue

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New York’s Fifth Avenue is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world.  It features everything from high end designer stores to high street brands like H&M and Victoria’s Secret.  The lavish window displays of stores such as SAK’s Fifth Avenue and Barney’s are updated every season, so even if you’re not looking to spend, it’s still great for window shopping.

Location: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Price: 
FREE (note – dependent on what you buy!)

So, do I think New York is the world’s Foodie capital? Although I ate some delicious, weird and wonderful food out in the Big Apple, I think I’d have to conclude that London is still, my favourite city for food, with New York now a close second.  There’s a lot more variety in cuisine in London and although New York does take food to inventive new levels, I was definitely craving some healthy comfort food by the end of my trip!