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Cafe Review: Brew, Clapham Junction

Just a quick post about an amazing cafe on Northcote Road in Clapham Junction, Brew, because you all deserve to know it exists.

Good brunch cafes are few and far between over here, especially right in the heart of London. It’s strange, because if the long line of people waiting for tables outside Brew Cafe is anything to go by, it’s clear they’re well-sought after.

When we turned up at 11am on a Sunday and joined the queue of 10+ people standing outside Brew and waiting for a table, we expected to be there a while. And we were willing to wait. A friend had recommended (or raved about) this cafe a while back and I’d been determined to try it.

But we weren’t waiting long - within 20 minutes we were seated by a fantastic waiter who’d kept us to date with table availability and dealt amicably with a few angry customers who were unhappy about having to wait in a line (#gosomewhereelse).

Now, before we go any further I should mention that my tick list for a good cafe is not short. Some may say my expectations are high, but I call them valid. I expect free range eggs and meat, organic ingredients if possible but very high quality at the least, and as locally-sourced as you can possibly get (hint: look for cafes and restaurants whose menus change seasonally). I look for well-thought out menus that chefs can deliver in a reasonable time, even when a cafe is at full capacity. I expect eggs to be perfectly cooked (#ifyoucan’tcookeggsdon’townacafe), innovative but simple flavour combinations, good service and of course great coffee. One thing I will not miss about London is the screaming jugs of frothed milk that are pocked with air bubbles and are roughly splashed into a cup in badly-made-cappuccino fashion (#learnhowtomakeaflatwhite).

More often than not, I leave cafes disappointed.

Brew was not one of them.

Both Si and I ordered pan fried field mushrooms with aged balsamic & pesto with a side of poached eggs. They were absolutely flawless. The eggs were perfectly poached and the mushrooms were rich and creamy.

Our dining partners both ordered the turkish pide melt with ham, gruyere, vine tomato, poached eggs and pesto - for which I was meet with wide-eyes and enthusiastic nods when I asked how they were.

We each had smoothies to go with our mains and they fell nothing short of what you’d expect in a good, freshly-made smoothie. Although, if I’m honest with you, I was much more tempted by their range of milkshakes - Oreo, Malteser, Crunchie… (#notbeforebreakfast my mother always said).

The coffee was fantastically made and equally well presented and it left me wired enough to know I’d had a decent hit of caffeine.

The service was good, and intentionally fast to keep up with the demand for tables, which meant we didn’t wait long for drinks or food. However, I couldn’t help but feel we were expected to eat and leave as quickly as possible. If I’d had another 15-20 minutes for my food to settle I perhaps would have ordered a second coffee and one of their delicious sounding treats - we were drooling over their peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. I can’t blame them for being popular, but perhaps they should consider opening a second cafe - a shorter waiting time and a more relaxed atmosphere would definitely tempt me back more often.

The bill came to around £60 for four people: 4 breakfasts, 4 coffees and 3 smoothies.

Overall a fantastic brunch experience, and I highly recommended a visit to Brew.

PS. #sorryaboutthepassiveagressivehashtagsinthispost

Filed under allthingskai all things kai food blog cafe reviews london cafes best brunch restaurant reviews recipes brew clapham junction mushrooms on toast turkish pide good coffee pesto mushrooms oreo malteser crunchie milkshakes northcote road cafe

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Recipe: Mini Passion Moments

I love Annabel Langbein. How can you not? She’s an incredibly inspiring cook and a national treasure in the New Zealand foodie world. I love her natural approach to food and her passion for simple, homegrown, free range, organic produce. If you’re unfamiliar with her I highly recommend delving into her ‘The Free Range Cook’ book, or in the very least checking out her detailed website: http://www.annabel-langbein.com/

I follow her regularly on both Facebook and Twitter and drool over her Pinterest pictures. A most recent drooling episode occurred when I came across the picture of her Mini Passion Moments, which was published in the NZ Life & Leisure Magazine. I just had to make them. I’ve included her picture, as well as my own, so you can experience the same food crush as I did. 

Photo source

The filling stays reasonably soft, unlike your standard custard cream/melting moment type biscuit. I’m not sure if I prefer one to the other. All I know is that these are delicious.

The colour of the biscuit depends on the type of custard powder you use. I used Birds Custard Powder in original flavour.

Oh, and here’s the recipe. Go on, make them, and don’t forget to thank Annabel x

Ingredients:

220g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1¼ cups plain flour
4 tablespoons custard powder

Passionfruit filling:
100g butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
1½ cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp

Method:

Preheat oven to 150°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence together until pale and creamy. Sift in flour and custard powder and combine to form a very soft dough.
Roll small teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on prepared baking trays. Flatten slightly with a fork dipped in flour. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely. 
To make filling, beat butter and vanilla essence together with an electric beater until pale and creamy. Add icing sugar, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp and beat until smooth.
When biscuits are cold, sandwich together with passionfruit filling, using about 1 teaspoon of filling for each pair of biscuits. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Filed under allthingskai all things kai custard creams biscuits moments passionfruit custard recipe recipes baking food blog annabel langbein free range cook mini passion moments nz life & leisure magazine birds custard powder london new zealand

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Restaurant Review: Suze in Mayfair, London

Because of its Kiwi connections, Suze in Mayfair had, understandably, been on my list of London restaurants to try.

The owners, Tom and Susan Glynn, both hail from New Zealand and have previously been awarded “New Zealanders of the Year” for their promotion of NZ food and wine products in the UK.

So, to celebrate the arrival of some Kiwi friends in London we booked a table for the four of us on a sunny Wednesday night.

We arrived at the surprisingly quiet restaurant at 6pm and were promptly shown to a table on the second floor. We were the only ones seated upstairs, and remained so for the entire night. I concede that it was a Wednesday night, but for a brilliant summer’s day in the heart of Mayfair, I expected the place to be brimming with suits - or at least steadily busy.

Our drink orders were taken. Simon ordered a Mac’s Gold and was thoroughly disappointed when told they’d run out. His second option was a Steinlager Pure. Without a chance to look at the menu, I simply asked for a house white wine, a Sav. Unfortunately an error on their website has prevented me from downloading the wine list so I cannot tell you exactly what I had.

The restaurant tagline is “taste sensations from  Australasia”, and the menu did deliver on that front. With options of New Zealand Green Shell Mussels, Chilli and Yogurt Marinated New Zealand Lamb Kebabs and Grilled Australian Rib Eye Steak, I was impressed.

Simon, predictably, ordered the mussels and hand cut chips. They were big NZ-sized whoppers, the kind I’ve really missed since being over here, and came in a bowl of Noilly Prat, shallot and double cream sauce with parsley. The sauce was a lot thicker and creamier than you’ll find in most European mussel dishes over here, and was incredibly rich and tasty. A lot less salty than many of the mussels in broth type dishes that appear on most European menus.

I went for the small Seafood platter with NZ Manuka Smoked Fresh Salmon, NZ Green Shell Mussels, Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid and Marinated Prawns, which was an absolute steal at just £8.50. Upon ordering I asked if the platter came with bread and I was told “No” and then very quickly told “actually, yes you’ll get bread with it”. I assume our waitress was referring to the table bread that came out at the start, as that is all we received. However, the seafood was absolutely delicious and the particular stand out of the platter was the squid, which came sprinkled with slices of sharp, fresh red chillies and green onion.

One of our dining partners also ordered a seafood platter in the large size (£12.95 - not much bigger than the £8.50 and not as good value), and the other ordered the Open Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich on Toasted Baguette with Brie and Beetroot Chutney. All went down well, until halfway through the chicken sandwich we discovered the meat was raw. Not just a little bit pink… not just a wee bit undercooked… completely raw. The worst dining faux pas imaginable. To avoid the risk of salmonella I don’t order chicken dishes at cheap pubs and the like, but it should not be a concern at an award-winning restaurant in Mayfair. I was quite embarrassed - I was the one who’d suggested the restaurant, raved about its high standards, and ultimately made the booking for the four of us.

We called the waitress over to our table whose response was “oh no, I’ll talk to the chef”. A few minutes later she returned to tell us a new dish would be out shortly, and that our guest was welcome to a free dessert.

Understandably put off by the raw chicken, our friend didn’t touch the second meal and none of us were particularly interested in dessert. 

Our table was cleared and we requested the bill, which came without a charge for the chicken meal. The very least they could do after such a dining disaster.

In summary, apart from the raw chicken, the rest of our food was good. Selling out of options on the drink menu was disappointing, but forgivable. The service was… just service, really. There was nothing more to it; we were given water, our orders were taken, our food was delivered. It could have been improved with an apology for the raw chicken.

Sorry Suze in Mayfair, but I won’t go back, and I won’t be at all surprised if our friends don’t.

Photo source

Filed under Mac's Gold Beer Steinlager all things kai allthingskai bond street kiwi food kiwis in london lamb london mayfair mussels new zealand new zealanders of the year north audley street nz food oxford circus places to eat restaurant reviews restaurants susan glynn suze in mayfair tom glynn

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Recipe: The ATK original Honeyed Pear Velvet Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

I look back at previous blog posts and think “man, I talk about the weather a lot”, and then I vow not to do it in the next one.

But I always end up back there again. Like, right now.

I blame England. It’s all everyone talks about over here (it’s even a key feature in Olympic opening ceremonies!).

But I think the reason why we reference it so much here is because it’s such an enigma.

For example, we set out for beautiful beach-side Cornwall for August Bank Holiday weekend in summer (I bet you’ve got a really nice summer holiday picture in your head right now), and we end up with rain (…and that picture’s gone). ALL weekend rain. And wind. And cold.

See? Puzzling.

But it’s okay, because it gave us an excuse to make it another food-oriented holiday, with plenty of time spent in pubs and cafes. My favourite. Definitely worth a mention is the Yacht Inn in Penzance for its incredibly fresh seafood and Rhubarb’s Cafe in St Ives for pretty much everything on their menu, but especially the portobello mushrooms stuffed with feta and sundried tomatoes.

A group of us went down together and stayed at a friend’s house in Penzance, and as per usual I arrived armed with treats. I went a step further this time and created my own original cupcake flavour.

How it came about is that I have a bit of a fascination with salted caramel at the moment (mostly in the form of macaroons) and because I had some uneaten pears sitting in the fruit basket. From there I adapted Hummingbird Bakery’s red velvet cake to make a vanilla velvet cake and voila: Honeyed Pear Velvet Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting.

The recipe is all yours.

They take a bit of fiddling round but I can assure you, they’re well worth the effort.

Makes around 16 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

Vanilla Velvet Cupcakes:

- 120g unsalted butter, softened

-300g caster sugar

- 2 large eggs

- 1 tsp vanilla essence

- 320g plain flour

- 1 tsp salt

- 240ml buttermilk

- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the Honeyed Pears:

- 3 pears

- 20g unsalted butter

- 60g runny honey

- 40g caster sugar

Salted Caramel Frosting:

(If you’re not keen on “salted caramel”, opt for plain old caramel by using unsalted butter and cutting out the added salt).

- 125g white caster sugar

- 80ml double cream

-1/2 tsp salt

- 1 tsp vanilla

- 160g salted butter, softened

- 200g icing sugar

Method:

Make the honeyed pears first. Peel and core the fruit and cut into small, bite sized pieces. Place the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and melt over a low heat. Add the pears and cook until the fruit is soft and golden, and it has soaked up all of the syrup. Cool completely - you can put them in the fridge while you make your cupcake batter.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift the flour and salt together in another bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour/salt and 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix thoroughly. Repeat 2 more times. In another bowl, stir the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda together to cause its reaction. Once settled add it to the cake butter, mixing well. Lastly, gently fold in your honeyed pears.

Spoon the batter into cupcake cases - filling them 2/3rds of the way to the top. Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes.

Make the frosting. Heat the caster sugar and four tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and cook the caramel for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the cream. Allow to cool completely.

Cream the butter and icing sugar together for at least 5 minutes, then beat in the caramel. When combined pipe or spread the icing over the cup cakes. I used a palette knife for mine.

Filed under allthingskai all things kai food blog recipes caramelised pears honeyed pear salted caramel frosting velvet cake recipe restaurant reviews vanilla cupcakes hummingbird bakery penzance cornwall

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Recipe: Warm Organic Roast Vegetable Salad

Summer decided to visit London this weekend. Finally!

We’d already bought tickets to the Battersea Park Foodies Festival so we had our fingers crossed that, at the very least, it would not rain.

The weather gods pulled through and gave us 30 degree weather and clear skies. A perfect day for an outdoor food festival, so off we went, equipped with sunblock, sunglasses and rumbling stomachs.

Now, don’t you hate it when you go to these kinds of events and cave at the first sight of something delicious as soon as you walk in? Only thinking afterwards that perhaps you should have had a better look around at what was on offer?

Well, this time I did the exact opposite. Despite being tempted by food stalls as soon as I walked in, I decided to check out all the stalls before eating so I could make a fully informed decision.

2 hours, 20 tasters, a salted caramel cupcake, raspberry apple and mint juice, a few of Si’s garlic mussels and a fruit sorbet later, I still hadn’t had lunch. And I no longer had room for it.

But I had a whole lot of delicious things to take home with me, so I was happy.

My haul included a mature cheddar and chilli pork pie by the Posh Pork Pie Company, some vanilla and caramel fudge by the Fudge Kitchen and a delicious raspberry and mustard salad dressing by Cotswold Gold.

I couldn’t wait to try the dressing and it was a perfect coincidence that I still had some veg leftover from Thursday’s Riverford delivery. So on Sunday night we whipped up a summery salad for dinner.

For those of you who don’t know, Riverford is an all organic farm that delivers fresh, local fruit and veg to your door. It’s 20% cheaper than supermarket produce, and that’s without taking into account the free delivery.

I’m obsessed with them. Their produce is restaurant quality and tastes like it’s been picked fresh from the garden on the same day it’s delivered.

I usually order one of their vegetable boxes and a fruit bag. Both come with a few varieties of seasonal vegetables and recipes to give you ideas on what to do with them.

And the reason I love Riverford so much is because we can start with this:

And this:

And turn it into this:

An absolutely fresh, organic salad topped with Cotswold Gold’s Raspberry and Mustard Drizzle.

Delicious.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy x

Ingredients:

(preferably from Riverford Farm, or at least high quality organic ingredients)

- 1 large kumara

- New potatoes

- A bunch of beetroot

- A bag of mixed salad leaves

- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced

- Cherry tomatoes, halved

- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced

- 1 avocado, in bite size chunks

- Garlic Aioli

- Cotswold Gold Raspberry and Mustard Drizzle

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Scrub dirt from beetroot, potatoes and kumara and chop into bite-sized chunks.

You’ll need two roasting trays - one for the beetroot and another for the potatoes/kumara. Lay the veg out on each tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and dried mixed herbs (if you have them). Toss gently to cover.

Roast at 180 for one hour or more - until cooked.

In the meantime, prepare the salad ingredients as advised above and toss together in a large bowl with the Raspberry and Mustard Drizzle.

When the vegetables are roasted, toss plenty of garlic aioli through the potatoes and kumara only. The heat of the vegetables will soak up the sauce quite quickly and you’ll get a soft, rich garlic flavour.

Add the vegetables to the green salad while still warm and serve immediately. Serve with some warm bread rolls.

Filed under allthingskai All Things Kai Food blog roast vegetables salad recipe recipes roast beetroot summer salad riverford farms organic fruit veg vegetables london posh pork pie company fudge kitchen foodies festival battersea park cotswold gold raspberry drizzle raspberry salad dressing restaurant reviews restaurants london

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Restaurant Review: The Honours, Edinburgh

It was perhaps unwise on my part to make a dinner reservation for The Honours for our very first night in Edinburgh. It tainted the remainder of the trip, because nothing else could possibly compare.

It was certainly one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had.

I usually choose to dine at places with a low-key ambience and I rarely opt for anything in the realm of fine dining, but The Honours offers the best of both worlds.

Opened only last year by Michelin chef Martin Wishart, his aim was to provide “just the right balance of ambience, design and style”. And it does. They’ve skipped the pretentious white tablecloths in favour of clean wooden tables in this beautiful and relaxed French brasserie style restaurant. The menu, a collaboration between Wishart and The Honours head chef Paul Tamburrini is a mix of traditional French cuisine with the flavours of the Scottish market and you’ll be tempted by dishes such as Confit Duck Leg with Orange and Lemon Sole Veronique with Sauteed Spinach.

The highly professional service we received from our waitress, and most memorably the restaurant manager Steven Spear, was immaculate. The staff treated us no differently than if we’d walked in jingling a Mercedes Benz key chain and holding a Chanel handbag. And call me old fashioned, but that’s just how customer service should be.

The restaurant was fully booked, but there were no issues when we asked to be relocated to a window table. Both our wine and water glasses did not fall below the halfway line all night. We were given sound advice on the different dishes and the expert knowledge and recommendations swayed us on our main choices, and gratefully so. And finally, when we asked for directions to the cocktail bar we had planned to visit after dinner we were given accurate directions in both verbal and written form, and a recommendation for another bar that Spear thought we might like.

We weren’t overly hungry, so for starters we shared Potato Gnocchi which came smothered in a brown butter and sage sauce and topped with grated parmesan. We picked a hint of orange in the sauce, which gave the deliciously rich sauce a lovely sweetness.

For the mains I had the Sauteed Fillets of John Dory with leeks and mussels in a sauternes sauce. I’m fussy when it comes to fish - if it’s less than fresh then I won’t like it, and if it’s even slightly overcooked then I won’t like it either. This was neither of those. Both the John Dory and the mussels were so fresh and so perfectly cooked that they melted in my mouth. Our waitress suggested we get a side of fries, for dipping in the leftover curry sauce and I’m glad we did - not a drop of its creamy goodness deserved to be wasted.

Simon chose the Rabbit à la Moutarde after originally being drawn to a steak. Their steaks, I am told, are from the award-winning supplier Donald Russell. This is what we stock our own home freezer with so I can vouch for the quality. But the rabbit was just a good a choice. The intense flavours of the creamy mustard sauce worked well with the tender meat and thick cut sauteed potatoes. 

I had an inkling for a refreshing but sweet white wine to compliment my seafood main and Si wasn’t bothered. We considered the £29 German bottle of Riesling but in the end we settled on the Pinot Gris from Argentina which was just £16 for the bottle and which promised “bright citrus and green apple flavours”.

For dessert we shared the very decadent Honours Sundae with toffee and caramel icecream, pecan mousse, crunchy honeycomb, and rich caramelised banana hiding beneath it all.

The bill came to just £70 total. Yes, we shared the starter and dessert but with the mains averaging mid-teens dining at The Honours is an absolute steal. I recommend booking well in advance, especially during the Fringe Festival month, as this place is very popular.

The Honours is named after the Scottish Crown Jewels (the crown, sceptre and sword which are housed in the Edinburgh Castle and is well worth a visit on its own to read about the jewels’ incredible history), and rightly so. It was simply nothing less than you’d expect from a top restaurant in a global city - it is an asset to Edinburgh.

Filed under allthingskai All Things Kai Food blog restaurant reviews recipes The Honours Edinburgh Places to eat Fringe Festival Edinburgh restaurants Martin Wishart Paul Tamburrini French cuisine Scottish cuisine restaurant best places to eat dinner