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 

Padella

“PASTA HEAVEN!”

Verdict: 8/10
Location: London Bridge/ Borough Market
Price: £20 for two courses and a drink

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After my trips to Venice and Rome earlier this year I’ve become a massive fan of Italian pasta bars – small and crowded with a minimalist interior, but serving simple, fresh pasta with a limited choice of maybe 5 sauces, all cooked to perfection! So I was super excited to hear that a pasta bar of similar concept was opening in London.

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Padella is great, it’s a tiny restaurant with a relaxed yet elegant vibe. The menu is small, with maybe 6 starters, 8 mains and 2 desserts. The pasta and all ingredients are really fresh – if you’re lucky you might even get seated at the bar stools overlooking the open plan kitchen so you can watch the chefs at work.

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The plates are small, so perfect for sharing or trying multiple dishes. And VERY reasonably priced. A glass of prosecco at £4 is almost unheard of in London!

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I tried the pici with marjoram and golden garlic, and the taglierni with slow cooked tomato sauce. The first was particularly delectable, featuring a very cheesy and garlicky sauce.

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This was followed by the chocolate tart, which had a soft and crumbly biscuit base. We weren’t too sure about the cream on the side, but the tart itself was delicious all the same.

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The staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, which changes regularly. However, like most high-demand and small restaurants these days, they have a no reservation policy so it’s best to arrive early to avoid the queues!

This place is about as close as I’ll get to my favourite pasta bars in Italy for now, so I’ll definitely be back!

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Restaurant Details:

Address: 6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ

Website: http://www.padella.co

Hoppers

Verdict: 9/10
Location: Soho
Price: £20-25 including drinks

I’d recently seen Hoppers listed on Time Out’s top 100 London restaurants of 2016, and it is definitely deserved of that title! The restaurant is great, and brings an under utilised cuisine to the heart of soho. Hoppers features Sri Lankan and South Indian inspired dishes.


My first introduction to South Indian cuisine was at my best friend, Priya’s, wedding in Chennai. Our meals were served on banana leaves (which as a bonus means no washing up!!), the rotis were divine, and the curries were so delicious! Yet so simple. Definitely up there with some of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. It was such a special weekend… Made even better by the amazing food!

Banana leaf dinners at Priya’s wedding

with the beaut bride!

Sri Lankan food is pretty similar in flavour and style – full of creamy coconut curries. Deeelish.

So once I was back in London I was obviously keen to visit Hoppers, the latest venture of the Sethi siblings, who are also responsible for Gymkhana and Bubbledogs. It did not disappoint.

The Hoppers are made from a batter of fermented rice and coconut milk. In simpler terms, they are basically bowl shaped savoury crepes. They are served on a thali (lined with a banana leaf, even!) with several fresh chutneys and complemented with a Kari (curry).


The cashew curry is creamy and coconuty, and the bone marrow oozing with flavour. These were my two favourite dishes of the menu, though everything I tried was delicious! The menu is simple and limited, but all dishes feature carefully paired flavours, which work really well together. It’s a true example of quality over quantity!

Bone Marrow kari

It’s also hugely good value for money. A filling meal would not set you back more than £20/£25, including drinks – something that’s largely unheard of in soho.


The interior is colourful, featuring glossy wood, a rattan ceiling and vintage Sri Lankan posters dotted around the walls, reminiscent of Tamil roadside shacks.

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The only downside… You will most definitely have to queue. The restaurant is tiny, with perhaps a maximum of 50 covers. And no reservations. I’m talking 3 hour waits here. I’ve even arrived at 6pm and been told that they are taking no more names on the waiting list for the evening. It’s just THAT good!

Restaurant details:

Address: 49 Frith St, London W1D 4SG

Website: www.hopperslondon.com 

Email: info@hopperslondon.com

 

Miss Foodie’s Granola Bars


I’ve always considered those store bought granola bars to be the healthy alternative snack to a chocolate biscuit, but after reading what was actually in them I realised they weren’t so healthy at all! So, I’ve come up with my own recipe for a tasty AND healthy granola bar.
These are packed with flavour, and are made from dried ingredients, so they keep really well for a few weeks and can be made in big batches. They’re perfect for taking to work as a snack or for an on-the-go breakfast!

Prep time: 30 minutes 

Makes 12 granola bars 

Ingredients:

  • 175g Rolled oats
  • 50g dark chocolate – cut into small chunks 
  • 10g Fresh ginger, finely chopped 
  • Zest of one lemon 
  • Zest of one orange 
  • 30g Dried blueberries 
  • 30g Raisins
  • 30g Dried apricots – cut into small chunks 
  • 125ml runny honey 
  • 8 medjool dates (pitted)
  • 100g mixed nuts – I use cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts 
  • 2 tablespoons Sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Chia seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon water


Method
:

1. Blitz the medjool dates in a food processor until they bind into a sticky dough forms. Then place in a mixing bowl. These are what will bind your granola bars together.

2. Put the nuts in the food processor and blitz for a few seconds. You don’t want them to be very finely chopped, but rather still a bit chunky. Once done, place in the mixing bowl with the dates.

3. Add the oats, chocolate, dried blueberries and apricots, the raisins, ginger, and the orange and lemon zests to the mixing bowl. Stir all the ingredients using a wooden spoon so they are mixed well


4. Add the runny honey and water and stir again. Try to make sure the honey and date mixture are evenly incorporated throughout to ensure the mixture sticks well together.

5. Line a square or rectangular baking tray with baking parchment. 

6. Spoon the mixture into the baking tray. This is where a bit of elbow grease is required! Pat down with the back of a spoon until it is tightly compact. This part is very important in making sure the bars glue well together. 

7. Throw in the oven at gas mark 3 for 30 minutes. The top layer should be golden brown once removed from the oven. 

8. Remove after 30 minutes and leave to cool. Then, cut the mix into bars. 

9. Store in an airtight container for 2 – 3 weeks (Though they’re so tasty they probably won’t last that long!)

Gunpowder

Overall rating: 3.5 stars
Price: £30 approx.
Cuisine: Indian
Location:  Liverpool Street

After at least 50 visits to my favourite Indian spot, Dishoom, I was eager to head down to it’s rival, Gunpowder, to see what all the fuss was about.   Its clever name, ‘Gunpowder’ alludes to the area’s history as the Old Artillery Ground, as well as the traditional indian spice. 

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However, there is nothing traditional about the menu. The flavours are a fusion of Bengali palettes from owner Harneet Baweja’s native background and Head Chef Nirmal Save’s Mumbai heritage, but presented in a truly European style – I doubt you’d find a whole grilled broccoli at your average curry joint!

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We had the paneer (the best dish by far), the okra fries, the aloo chaat and the kale and aubergine salad.  The first 3 were great, the aubergine salad was a bit of a let down and didn’t really work as a salad.  The dishes are small and great for sharing. It would have been nice to see some bread options on the menu for variation.

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Overall, it was enjoyable, the cocktails were great and even feature Indian spices too. The downside?  The restaurant is walk-in only and is TINY (and always full).  The seating is not so comfortable and there’s hardly any room for movement.  Be prepared to queue, but its worth the wait.

www.gunpowderlondon.com

Address: 11 White’s Row, London E1 7NF

Phone: 020 7426 0542

Dinner at HKK

Overall rating: 4 stars
Price: £150+
Cuisine: Asian
Location:  Liverpool Street

Last week I was kindly invited to a blogger dinner at HKK by Square Meal.  The Michelin starred restaurant is unusual in the fact that there is no ‘a la carte’ option – diners simply have a choice of 8 or 15 courses.

Typical of the Hakkasan Group, HKK oozes elegance and luxury.  We were seated in a private dining room with full view of the chef’s kitchen and even the duck oven! (Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee’s specialty)

Menu

To begin, we were served a foie gras croquette.

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This was followed by a Duke of Berkshire pork belly mantou.  It was typical of Tong’s cooking – a burst of flavours, including some unexpected truffle.

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Next was the Chrysanthemum seafood soup – with the flowers arriving on the spoon itself, ready to be dipped into the soup.  The broth was light and fragrant.

My favourite part of the experience was the presentation of each course – the dim sum basket was even innovatively served with a paintbrush to brush your dumplings with soy sauce!

Dim sum

Next up was HKK’s signature roasted cherry wood Peking duck – which we had eagerly seen roasting in the duck oven next to our table throughout the meal!

Table duck

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to view the carving of the duck with a huge meat cleaver, which was almost an art in itself, with the chef ensuring that each plate had a piece of skin, leg and breast.

Duck carving

The duck was served with hoisin sauce, peppery salad, a spoonful of sugar and a pancake.  We were instructed to eat the skin, sugar and hoisin sauce together, the breast on its own with sugar, and then the breast inside the pancake.  The skin was crispy and rich and was complemented well with the salad.

Duck plates

My favourite dish has to be the Sea Bass – served with black truffle and balsamic vinegar, a combination of flavours that chef Tong has really made work.

Sea bass

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The service was exceptional, the waiters were knowledgeable about the menu and happy to modify any of the courses to suit your tastes or dietary requirements, so don’t let the idea of a set menu put you off.  Chef Tong has put together a unique blend of Cantonese flavours that, although is often exotic, really works.  The meal is made even more enjoyable by the high quality of the ingredients, with the consistency of the buttery pastry in the dim sum basket, particularly paying testament to this.

The tasting menu at HKK is more than just a meal, it’s also an experience.  It is certainly worth visiting on a special occasion, though I’d recommend coming with an empty stomach to enjoy the full 8 courses!

Square Meal: www.squaremeal.co.uk

HKK: www.hkklondon.com

Address:

88 Worship Street
Broadgate Quarter
London, EC2A 2BE

Phone: +44 (0)20 3535 1888

Email: reservations@hkklondon.com

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Fera at Claridges

‘Fera: (Adj.) Wild’

Overview:

Overall rating: 4 stars
Price: £35 for a 3 course set menu & a glass of champagne – Fera via Bookatable
Cuisine: British
Location:  Mayfair

My thoughts:

Simon Rogan recently earned the title of ‘one of the most innovative chefs in the country’ (The Guardian, 2014).  Fera, meaning ‘wild’ in Latin, certainly reflects Rogan’s unique culinary style.  Renowned for his locally foraged and seasonal ingredients, Rogan’s menu brings together an unusual blend of textures and flavours.

A curtain-lined rotunda acts as the restaurant’s entrance.  Guests are then greeted by staff and led to the main dining room, designed by Guy Oliver.  The architecture exudes art deco luxury in typical ‘Claridges’ style, with touches of modernism.  Interestingly, Oliver’s design reflects Rogan’s distinct culinary flair, through emphasising natural elements such as natural wood tables (left bare without table cloths) and a colour scheme featuring soft, natural shades.

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The meal began with an amuse-bouche: a chickpea wafer topped with blue cheese foam, a dash of elderberry and wild petals.  These delicate flavours colluded fittingly, and the wafer had a nice crispness to it.

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This was followed by a slice of warmed stout bread served with Cumbrian butter.  The bread had a soft centre and firm crust, and a slight bitterness.

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The set lunch menu offers enough variety.  To start, I had the cured salmon with pickled mushrooms.  The plate brought together an interesting blend of flavours, and was wonderfully presented, though the portion was slightly sparse.  The stylistic unity of each plate accentuates the enchanting experience that Rogan creates.  My friend, Sajni, had the ‘Grilled Salad’, comprised of vegetables cooked using Rogan’s signature ‘smoking’ technique, to produce a truly unique type of salad.  This was drizzled with truffle custard which enhanced the smoky flavour.

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For the main course I sampled the Cornish cod served with gem lettuce hearts and leaves, and jersey pearls.  The sauce tasted fresh, and complemented the cod well.

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The celeriac main was served with a range of vegetables.  The pickled beetroot worked well with the earthy celeriac.  Although tasty, the mains could have been slightly more filling, or at least served with side dishes.

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The smoked chocolate cream desert was presented with peanut ice cream and verjus caramel.  The smoky flavour of the chocolate cream was slightly overpowering and took time to adjust to, since the peanut ice cream wasn’t really strong enough to combat its smokiness.  The bramley apple cake, served with cinnamon ice cream, was moist and delectable.

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We ended the meal with some herbal teas and petit-fours.  The presentation was exceptional – the teas were served with an hourglass that ensured the perfect brew.  The mint leaves in my tea were especially fresh.

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The service was great, the staff were very attentive and welcoming and were knowledgeable about the menu.  My only grievance would be my communication with the restaurant prior to arrival.  The restaurant requires a credit card to confirm your booking, but it was extremely difficult to speak to anyone by phone, and emails offered confusing and conflicting information about the cancellation terms.

The set menu was definitely value for money, considering all the added extras in between. Fera’s clientele ranges from couples, to business-people.  It is definitely worth trying at least once, however, the atmosphere lacks a certain vibrancy that would encourage people of my own age group to visit repeatedly. Having said this, one cannot fault the presentation, technical ability of the chefs, and Rogan’s intriguing menu which is unlike any other.

Fera is exactly what you’d expect of a fine dining restaurant, offering class and elegance in décor and service, along with high-quality ingredients.  What distinguishes the meal from other restaurants of similar calibre is the unifying theme based on a close affinity to nature, offering a unique dining experience that was consistent throughout the food, décor and atmosphere. The dishes were often served on creative crockery, for example, a bowl mimicking the design of a tree bark.  Rogan is the most notable exponent amongst a broader culinary movement, where chefs seek to use their plates as a means to tell the story of the nature that surrounds them – a concept that is particularly favourable in Northern Europe.  The irony of a ‘farmer-forager’ from up north being responsible for running the restaurant at the paragon of British establishment and tradition is often noted by critics – but Rogan has certainly proved his excellence.

Restaurant details:

Fera, Claridges
Brook Street
Mayfair
London W1K 4HR

Tel: +44 (0)20 7107 8888

E: reservations@feraatclaridges.co.uk

Opening Times:
Lunch: 12:00 – 14:00 daily
Dinner: 18:30 – 22:00 daily

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