Posts tagged london
Posts tagged london
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.
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.
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
220g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1¼ cups plain flour
4 tablespoons custard powder
100g butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
1½ cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp
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.
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.
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 turn it into this:
An absolutely fresh, organic salad topped with Cotswold Gold’s Raspberry and Mustard Drizzle.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy x
(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
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.
Many of you food blog readers (I’m one myself) must often wonder why there are so many positive reviews of “great” and “fantastic”, even “the best ever” restaurants out there.
Surely not all restaurants are all of the above?
In truth, they’re not. But, I love food and I generally don’t part with my money in exchange for terrible food. I do my research first, I read other blogs and I look up restaurant ratings before I bother to invest time, effort and money into a night that revolves around eating their food.
Through both careful planning, and sometimes luck, I’ve managed to choose wisely so far and have never had to post a negative restaurant experience on here before.
Don’t get me wrong… I do eat at chains like Pizza Express and ASK Italian (don’t shoot, I surrender!) when in a large group/on a budget/in an area that I’m unfamiliar with, I just don’t bother reviewing them. We all know what they’re like - it’s like Starbucks; you search for them in a time of need, when you’re looking for consistency and familiarity and trying your very hardest to avoid salmonella.
I should get to the point of this blog post already, and the point is that I ate at a really, really terrible restaurant recently.
It’s called Mythopolis and it’s on 227 City Road in Islington. I really wish I’d taken photos of the food, to really drum the message home, but I hadn’t taken my camera with me (because I hadn’t planned to review it).
Si and I had both planned to be out and about in London this week at expos and work meetings and what not and decided we’d skip the hassle of dinner making for one of the nights. We’d found a Groupon deal (strike one) for a meze of Greek dishes plus a glass of wine each for £12 and figured we’d just do it, without bothering to do our research (strike two) or even look up their menu (strike three - okay so maybe we SORT OF deserved it).
The presentation of the food was poor, the service was poor and the quality of the food was even worse.
We were not asked once throughout the meal how it was, or if we would like anything else. I’d been waiting for their (their being our multiple waitresses throughout the night) attention so I could ask for some water (no, they never offered us any throughout the entire meal) and so I could order another glass of wine (lost profit for them).
I couldn’t figure out who worked there and who was a customer, as they were all dressed in slippers and hoodies, were changing their clothes behind the back counter, were sitting at the tables eating food and rolling cigarettes, and disappearing outside the front of restaurant to smoke and talk.
The meat was extremely dry - I took two bites of a pork shish kebab and didn’t bother eating the rest. Other dishes were not quite right and had very strange flavours - especially the mushrooms which were drenched in a cold, unthickened “cream sauce”.
But, worst of all was the long, curly, black hair in my Greek salad - which already looked vile enough as everything was swimming in a pool of grated feta juices and olive oil.
After we finished eating (actually, it was more like looking at the plates on our table, bravely tasting a few of them, and deciding they were best made for the bin) I had to ask them to take our plates away - after a long period of us sitting there with dirty plates covering our table.
It was interesting to read online that someone else with a Groupon voucher received dessert, because we did not get any. It was also interesting that the “12 meze” count included the three dips that came with the pita breads. That can really only be classified as one dish, and definitely not four.
We couldn’t have got out of there quicker and I will definitely never go back. If you’re considering going there, please reconsider. It was a miserable 2 hours of my time that I will never get back.
Okay rant over, phew! :)
Much love xx