Parrillan

Overall: 4/10

Price: Approximately £45-£50 per head for 3 courses

Parrillan is an outdoor, terraced restaurant in the newly formed Coal Drops Yard area of Kings Cross (basically a large warehouse like space with a bunch of supposedly cool restaurants).  I say ‘supposedly’, because for me, Parrillan was a bit of a let down. Oozing chicness from the outside with its massive terrace and vegetation encircling the vicinity, my first impression was that of a glamorous haunt which you might find on the French Riviera. However, once we settled down I realised there was more to it than first meets the eye.

Parrillan is the sister restaurant of my favourite tapas restaurant in London, Barrafina, so I had visions of it being just as great. However, firstly, it’s pretty unwise to build a solely outdoor restaurant in a place like England. It was a fairly windy day, and the heaters cleverly don’t cover the entire dining area, so we spent the evening frozen, and eating quickly to get back home to warmth. An indoor area and heaters covering all areas probably would have been more sensible in a city that is cold most of the time!

Things perked up around the starters, which were the only saving grace of the meal. In fact, I’d recommend solely ordering starters, as they were miles ahead of the mains. The escalivada was a highlight, featuring smoky aubergine on crostini, and the tomato based dishes were made from what tasted like super fresh ingredients.

Tomato salad to start

Escalivada to start

Pan con tomate

The main event was the parilla – a grill used to barbecue your own meat, fish and vegetables at the table. I suppose for the novelty factor, this could be considered fun. However, the meat and fish was unseasoned and cost a bomb (£9 for 2 scallops that you have to cook yourselves?!?). They give you sauces on the side but it’s not great value for money and didn’t taste particularly special.

You’ve also only got yourself to blame if you end up poisoning yourselves. The staff don’t really provide instructions on how long to cook the meat so if you’re new to the bbq watch out!

The parilla

So, should you visit? If you have cash to splash and want an alternative dining experience I’d recommend giving it a go. Go heavy on the starters and bring a jacket. Otherwise buy a BBQ from Asda and a couple of sausages and it will probably cost less than a meal for 2 here.

Location: Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, Kings Cross, N1C 4PW

Website: https://www.parrillan.co.uk

Salmon Sumac Salad

This salad is my go to dish for a summer picnic or for a packed lunch. I discovered sumac at a Lebanese restaurant a few months back and have been obsessed ever since, it adds a lot of flavour to lemoney dishes but isn’t overly spicy. The quinoa means it’s a salad that is actually filling, unlike most! It keeps well in the fridge for a few days so it’s also a great option for meal prepping.

Overall time required: 20 minutes

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 50g quinoa
  • Half a cucumber, chopped into chunks
  • Handful of rocket leaves
  • 3 radishes, sliced
  • 5 tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil for cooking and 1 teaspoon for dressing the salad

Method:

    Prepare your quinoa according to the packet. I like to cook it in vegetable stock rather than boiling water for added flavour
    Whilst your quinoa is cooking, pan fry your salmon fillet in olive oil and salt and pepper until cooked through. This shouldn’t take too long, around 4-5 minutes.
    Toss all your vegetables and leaves into a bowl and add the cooked salmon , chopped into chunks. Add in your quinoa once ready.
    Drizzle the olive oil, sumac and lemon juice through the salad and toss so all the ingredients are coated.

Apple and Oat Pancakes with Sambazon Acai Compote

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 6 medium sized pancakes

I was gifted a packet of Sambazon’s acai compote and asked to prepare some delicious pancakes with it.  Sambazon have found that traditional syrup is full of a lot of sugar, so they’ve added some superfood punch to a fruity compote to use as a pancake topping.  The acai bowl has recently become insta-famous worldwide, and their packets can be used to recreate them yourselves at home too. If you’re wondering where their interesting name comes from, Sambazon takes its name from its core goal: Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon. It aims for and represents a positive future of global food consumption that makes a positive impact on local communities and protects the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest.

The pancakes are oat and apple pancakes, full of the same warming flavours of an apple pie. I found these went well with the fruity flavours of the compote.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Sambazon Original Superfruit Pack
  • handful of fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 45g oats
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 egg

Method:

  1. To make your pancakes, put the cinnamon, coconut oil, oats, sliced apple, honey and egg into a food processor and blitz for around 1 minute, until a sort of paste forms.
  2. Spoon on to a frying pan on a medium heat in round circles and cook for about 1-2 minutes and flip and repeat.
  3. To make your berry mixture, in a sauce pan, add blueberries/blackberries and Sambazon Original Superfruit and cook down on medium heat, stirring often until you have a thick syrup.
  4. Spoon on to the pancakes and enjoy!

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