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 

Palatino

Overall: 4/10

The open kitchen, Palatino, London


Palatino is a new, Roman inspired eatery by Stevie Parle in the heart of Clerkenwell. I visited during their soft launch last week with high hopes, after all, Parle has an excellent reputation in the industry. However, the food was slightly disappointing and not up there with the best Italian finds in London. There are SO many amazing Italian’s around at the moment, Cicchetti and Padella, to name a few. So the competition is fierce.

The Pear and Radicchio salad


The flavours in every dish sounded exotic and revolutionary on paper (fried sage for example, could this revived traditional Italian dish be the new zucchini fry?) but in practice, most didn’t really work. The deep fried sage mostly tasted like deep fried batter, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think it’ll be replacing the zucchini fry any time soon. The polenta and fried gnocchi also had a strange aftertaste. 

Deep fried sage


The quality of the ingredients cannot be denied, for example the pasta is made fresh and tastes like it. The cacio e Pepe was the highlight. Plus the dishes are elegantly presented, but there’s a case of style over substance here.

Cacio e Pepe


Another highlight was the faro, beans, chard and porcini soup. This an example of the kitchen’s experimentation done right. It was basically a thick warming lentil soup with hints of mushroom, perfect for what was definitely one of coldest days of the year when I visited.

Faro, beans, chard and porcini soup


On the plus side, the interior itself has a lovely elegant vibe, encompassing Parle’s belief that dining out should not be solely based on the food itself, and the room design and attitude of the staff are equally important. The open kitchen makes the place appear warm and welcoming (and also makes you a little bit hungry!) The restaurant has everything in place to be successful – extremely friendly and welcoming staff, a great atmosphere and decor, and a team of talented chefs serving high quality ingredients, but they haven’t quite nailed their flavour combinations. Hopefully this will improve after their soft launch!

Deep fried gnocchi

Address: 71 Central Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 3AG
Website: http://palatino.london 

Dominique Ansel 

Verdict: 9/10

Location: Belgravia

Price: £4-10 per item 


Last month I was one of the hundreds that queued up for the Dominique Ansel London opening in Belgravia. In case you hadn’t heard, Ansel is the inventor of the world famous and trademarked Cronut (a hybrid of the donut and the croissant). The flagship store in Manhattan opened in 2013 and the Belgravia branch is the first to open in London. Rumour has it, some eager cronut-lovers had set up camp outside at 5am (probably for the best, by the time I got there at 7pm all cronuts had sold out! Sob sob). This was despite customers being limited to purchasing a maximum of 2 butterscotch and cacao nib cronuts each!

So instead I tried another one of Ansel’s signature bakes, the cookie shot. As the name suggests, this is a warm cookie in the shape of a shot glass, coated in its interior with melted chocolate, and filled with milk. It was great! 


What’s particularity commendable is Ansel’s customised approach. The company have never repeated a cronut flavour in the last 3 years as the flavours are changed every month and there’s even a different dough for summer and winter. The menu at their new London branch has also been tailored to British tastes. For example, the typically British Welsh rarebit croissant. There’s even talk of an afternoon tea opening soon! 


The interior is modern yet elegant and has a courtyard lit with fairy lights and a retractable roof. The team really excel in quality and freshness, which is achieved by a 24 hour operational kitchen. Although the items are not cheap (the cookie shot was £4.85 to eat in), the taste and quality is reflected in this price, everything is made from scratch. It’s definitely a must try! 

Restaurant details:

Address: 17-21 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP
Website:  www.dominiqueansellondon.com