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

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

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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Health(ier) Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep time required: 15 minutes
Makes 15 medium sized cookies

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I broke my foot 7 weeks ago and was put on a strict ‘no-gym’ regime for a minimum of 3-4 months.  This means no running, cycling, swimming and even no walking initially. As someone who usually hits the gym 4-5 times a week, I’m ashamed to say that the first thought that crossed my mind when I was diagnosed was ‘what will this do to my waistline!!!’.   I initially tried to cut out chocolates and biscuits, but found it required a lot of willpower when you’re sat at home, resting your foot and doing mostly nothing all day.  All I really wanted to do was reach for the nearest hob nobs packet!

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with ‘healthy’ baking, so I could have some treats and feel less guilty.  My healthy carrot cake was my first stint at this, but if you prefer something more chocolatey I’d recommend these double chocolate chip cookies.  I can’t say that they are 100% free from refined sugar, as they do contain a teeny bit of dark chocolate, but they are healthIER than their sugar filled alternatives.  They’re great as an afternoon treat or snack for work.

Ingredients:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 85g dark chocolate chips (50g melted and 35g keep aside for mixing in whole)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees/gas mark 4.
  2.  In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla essence and coconut oil and honey and beat until incorporated.
  3. Melt 50g of your chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a boiling saucepan of water.  Stir into your mixing bowl.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until combined.
  5. Cover a baking tray with baking parchment.
  6. Scoop tablespoon sized portions of the batter into balls and place on the baking tray.
  7. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

 

Venerdi

Overall: 8/10
Location: Homerton

Venerdi (meaning Friday in Italian!) is a bright and airy Italian restaurant situated on Hackney’s bustling Chatsworth Road. It’s such a lovely place to sit and have lunch, with large French Windows and a waft of wood fired pizzas and garlic hitting you as you enter the room. The restaurant has recently undergone a renovation, and now has a relaxed, yet elegant vibe.

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To start we were served warm bread with an olive oil, balsamic vinegar and rosemary dip and a side of olives, which all tasted super fresh. This was followed by the calamari which was another top starter, and was served with a home-made sweet chilli sauce. What really stood out at this stage was the freshness of the ingredients, which made every dish particularly delectable.

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The menu is well priced, with pizzas starting at £9 they also serve fresh pasta and INCREDIBLE desserts! The chocolate fondant was one of the best I’ve ever had, it was crisp and crumbly on the outside with a warm melted centre.

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The starters and the desserts really stood out for me, the pizza main and salmon in lemon butter were also delicious but nothing can beat that chocolate fondant! Everything was well-presented and I cannot fault the food, which tastes super authentic. Even their coffee rivals some I’ve tried in Italy! I’d also recommend sampling one of their cocktails, the mojito was a favourite at our table!

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The staff are super friendly and welcoming, making my overall experience at Venerdi super positive. In the summer, this will be a particularly lovely place to visit, with heaps of natural daylight and also outdoor seating.  This place is a must visit if you’re ever in the Hackney area!

Website: http://www.venerdi.co.uk

Address: 9 Chatsworth Rd, London E5 0LH

Pivaz 

Overall: 9/10

Good for: brunch, casual dining with friends 


Pivaz is an all-day Turkish eatery on the vibrant Chatsworth Road in Hackney. I’d never actually ventured out to that side of London before, but I will definitely go back, there’s so many cute cafes and eateries round there, Pivaz being one of them.


The food is a modern and British take on Turkish food, with dishes such as burgers and English breakfast plates with a Turkish twist featuring on the menu. 


They have a great cocktail list, I had the elderflower fizz which was a mix of prosecco with subtle hints of elderflower. 


To start I had the calamari and for the main I went with the veggie burger which was MASSIVE! And stacked with halloumi, portobello mushrooms, red pepper, aubergine and hummus, and served alongside sweet potato wedges which were seasoned to perfection. 


But the star dish of the day was definitely the prawns. They were served in a white sauce alongside some rice, which is undoubtedly the best rice I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t even realise it was possible for rice to taste that good! According to our waiter, it was cooked in a Turkish butter, which made it so delectable. 


Another highlight was their home made chilli sauce, it was super fresh and is testament to the kitchen’s high quality ingredients.


For dessert we had the sticky toffee pudding – it was just as amazing as it looks in the picture below!


The interior is cosy and relaxed, I LOVED the decor featuring patterned top tables and teacups hanging from the ceiling. The staff were kind and welcoming and overall it was a great experience, definitely worth travelling across London for! 


Pivaz currently have 2 branches, one in Hackney and one in Epping, with a third branch in Brentwood opening soon!

Address: 35 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LP 

Website: http://www.pivaz.co.uk