Thursday, 27 August 2015

Don't choose a fast-food restaurant for a slow-food catch up!

Eating out is one of life’s great joys but occasionally, I find myself in a restaurant which I just don’t feel comfortable in.  Either, I’m not cool enough or too old or perhaps want more from a dining experience but DF Mexico in the Old Truman Brewery just didn’t float my boat.

And it was a huge shame as the food is excellent!  But let me explain, I arrived with one of my best girlfriends bent on putting the world to rights over a bottle of wine into an industrial space with a hint of Mexico.  A bit bright and shiny but I had had a day when I needed to escape from harsh light [which weirdly didn't help the photos] so it wasn’t their fault.

With thanks to

We were seated within 2 minutes and then the dreaded question came – ‘Have you eaten here before?’  Personally, I find that this never bodes well [unless it is at the temple of Nandos] but we both shook our heads and enquired what we needed to do.  It was 8:30 and I would have done the chicken dance if they promised to feed me.

We were instructed to look at the menus, remember our table number, trot to the bar over there [wave of the hand], order and pick up our drinks before awaiting our food.  Okay!  A bit complex after a long day but we both decided to put our big girl pants on and deal.

The very well-priced menu ranges from Mexican standards such as tacos to burritos to tortas to grills and salads – o glory be, something I can eat and enjoy!  The wine list has red, white or pink as an option plus a selection of Mexican drinks, beers and margaritas.  

Getting up to order, I found the counter bare of humanity and faced using the automatic touch screen system.  The fear set in!  Had I tapped something too hard?  What did they mean do you want to make the Burrito Mexican?  I can be a bit of a techno-phobe but I do prefer ordering from a real live person rather than fighting with a machine.

Order placed, the nice man behind the bar asked me if I needed help and then handed me a bottle of well-priced white Pino Grigo which was actually really rather nice.  We had gone with Guacamole and Tortilla [blue and white] chips to start and it didn’t disappoint – although a little salsa might have been nice.

The veggie burrito [Roasted vegetables. Habanero and pumpkin seed mayo] arrived shortly after and my friend said it was really good.  In fact, she was delighted with the vegetarian offerings and did have a moment of menu paralysis as she contemplated numerous choices.

My steak arrived [I wasn’t asked how I wanted it done but it was nicely medium rare] with chilli fries and a pot of Chipotle hibiscus salsa.  The salsa was a revelation and I WANTED MORE as the portion was a little small for my portion of chips.

Having set the world to rights [and potentially blocked a table for a bit], we wandered off into the night, full of glorious food and annoyed that we had chosen a fast-food restaurant for a slow-food catch up.  Don’t get me wrong, if I needed a quick meal, I would go again but it probably isn’t the place to solve the worlds problems.

L xx

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DF / Mexico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A Bonny Gull in Fitzrovia

My name is X and I am a recently converted fish fan!  Yes, that would be my introduction to fish fanciers anonymous if such an organisation existed.  I should have been a lifelong fish fan but having been born in Cape Town, I arrived in London and found that in the late 90s, the quality just wasn’t there.  So, I wandered off to pastures new [or rather chose pastures with cows in and looked at beef as my favourite food].

However, the quality has improved and with the UK food renaissance, some of the dishes are really lovely.  Therefore, when I had to meet up with a contact for lunch, I chose the Bonnie Gull on Foley Street which went down well as apparently my guest comes from ‘fishing folk’.  It says it’s a shack – and in a world with Unicorns and Fairies, it may well be - but I would suggest it is a charming bright restaurant done out in ‘faux fisherman’.

With thanks to

We were seated by the windows [there is outside seating but it is summer in the UK so not a hope] and we chatted away as we perused the menu.  Bonnie Gull uses only fresh fish from British Day Boat but the menu doesn’t stick to our green and pleasant isle – no, it veers across continents focusing on ‘what makes seafood great’.    Seafood platters and oysters are also available for those who prefer their seafood less sophisticated.

Sipping on a very pleasant white Albarino, we finally made our choices – starter and main course as neither of us are sweet fans.  Along with some excellent bread, we were brought what is hands down one of the weirdest amuse bouches I've ever had - it looked like crisps threaded onto a skewer with marie rose sauce - not easy to eat at all.

O heck, I thought, what is next but it really did improved.  My guest started with ‘Isle of Man Queen Scallops, Oak Smoked Bacon, Sweetcorn Hollandaise’ which looked very pretty indeed.  Not being a fan of sweetcorn, I didn’t taste it but the flavours were apparently well balanced and the scallops cooked perfectly.

Instead, I chose ‘Seared Brixham Squid, Spinach, Aioli, Black Olive Crumb’.  I love squid but it isn’t a dish which less specialist restaurants have much success with so I save it for special occasions.  And this was very special indeed, the squid was melt in your mouth tender and the Aioli was just the right side of pungent.  Now I get the need to add a little texture but I’m not sure black olive crumb is ever going to float my boat.

The main course arrived in a timely manner with ‘whole Looe Lemon Sole Almondine, Dorset Cockles, Almonds, Capers, Samphire’ being enjoyed by my guest.  Samphire is something I recently discovered and added the salty taste of the sea to a well thought out dish.

Aware, I was about to de-carb my life shortly, I chose Scottish Langoustine & Lobster Ravioli, Hispi Cabbage, Lobster Bisque.  The pasta was good with a firm filling what was quite obviously crustatian and the bisque was very tasty [so tasty in fact,  I sneaked a chip off my companions side order and enjoyed it as a sauce].   Not being a cabbage connoisseur, the Hispi aspect to this brassica passed me by but I’m sure it was an excellent example of the variety.

Finishing with coffee and a final drink in the summer sunshine, we agreed that the food had been excellent, the staff charming and a good polished all round experience.  Would I go back if I was in the area?  Probably but it was perhaps just a little too polished for a restaurant which bills itself as a shack.

L xx

Don't forget to follow me on twitter @littleofwhatyou

Bonnie Gull Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Old Tea Warehouse

As I work in PR, I get to eat out often.  Quite obviously the ideal profession for someone as food obsessed as me but I need to cater to the audience so when I had lunch with two male unassuming business contacts, I though PUB. 
I’m fussy when it comes to this UK institution – the floors can be wooden but only, if it has character rather than being a cookie cutter clone.  And, while I don’t mind music, if it is before 10 and I can’t hear myself speak then we need to have a word.
So, trawling the options in the City, I found Old Tea Warehouse which lives in the shadow of the Gherkin.  It was hidden down a little alley – tick!  It could trace its history back to the 1500s –tick!  And, it served real artisan beer [tell two grown men that and there is a sad display of dad dancing].
Arriving, down a little alley, we found a character filled pub that could have hosted Dickens and the building may well have been designed by an utter nut.  Several bars, a games room with a pool table down stairs and a toilet that you need a compass to find – now I know I could spend a good evening here.
With thanks to
Perusing the menu, it looked to cater for the city lunchtime crowd with a selection of UK classics.  Not ‘Hestoned’ classics but honest to gosh, good solid staples that taste really good.  Between discussing pensions [yes, we are sexy like that] we ordered a gin & tonic as well as two lovely lagers – not that the wine list wasn’t good but well, we were in a pub.
I ordered Roast lamb rump, crushed Jersey Royals, truffle minted peas, wild garlic & beetroot jus with my companions choosing Pan fried salmon, green beans, olives, new potatoes, tomato, cucumber, anchovies & soft egg and Chicken Caesar salad, pesto croutons, parsley crumb, anchovies & shaved parmesan.  Okay, the menu is a little wordy for a pub but it is in the city and I’m sure someone knows what truffle peas are.

When the food arrived it didn’t disappoint!  The lamp was perfectly cooked offset by the sweet peas and lovely meaty potatoes.  I’m sure the wild garlic and beetroot jus added an earthy flavour but was too busy eating to notice this.  My beautiful companions reported that the salmon was ‘great’ as with the egg cooked just right and the Caesar salad was a ‘pleasant surprise’. 

Apparently, he had ordered it to be good and it was rather more than the normal sad arrangement of dry chicken on tired lettuce.  Dessert was a final tipple before we headed off to be adults again.

If you want posh, don’t visit the Old Teahouse as you will be blocking the table for someone like me who just wants a great meal in a lovely environment.  But do find out where the loo is before you have too much to drink as I’m sure there are some poor people still merrily trotting around from the 1500s.

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Old Tea Warehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Fresh Spring Farm Drop - Good All Year Round

Foodies are a little subculture!  We know that if everyone would just put down the takeaway and cook local ingredients from scratch then the world would be a better place, so if the rest of you would get with the program, it would be most helpful.
So when I was invited to try the Farm Drop Spring menu at The Chequers [a gorgeous pub on Walthamstow High Street], I did the happy dance.  Farm Drop is a fantastic service which allows small producers to share their produce via a convenient ‘veggie box’ style delivery offering. 
I arrived at the Chequers [a gastro hipster pub with an endearingly old soul] to a Woodford and Warner sorrel & hibiscus bellini.  One of the features of the evening was that producers were on hand to talk about the passion they put into their products which was a great touch.
I’ve never had hibiscus before but it added a sweet floral note to the bellini which was very refreshing [and moreish – note to self, could be dangerous].  We were seated at a long table and the debate started, covering everything from allotments to the social good cooking can provide to the vulnerable.
The starter arrived Calabaza globe artichokes, Oliveology shallot vinaigrette!  Silence descended and there were the happy noises of foodies grazing.  The artichokes were incredibly fresh and tasty complemented by the sharp vinaigrette.  Gosh, I really wish I had the patience to do artichokes at home.

We returned to Woodford and Warner for a sorbet to clean the pallet, this was becoming addictive and the intro from the founder made me smile!  Yes, local and passionate – tick.

Almond crusted Park Farm lamb cutlets, Wild Country sorrel, Chegworth charlotte potatoes & Calabaza radish chutney followed.   Andy Clarke from Park Farm explained his philosophy around raising animals and well – being shallow – he was rather nice looking but sadly, did mention a wife.   O well, I’m a city girl at heart!

The meat was free-range and you could tell.  It was complemented by the potatoes and sorrel but the radish chutney did rather pass me by.  Obviously being nosey, I looked at my seat-mates meal - La Tua ravioloni with new season Chegworth Valley asparagus, asparagus sauce & Montgomery Cheddar crisp.
Quietly sobbing inside as a gluten-intolerant lactose-intolerant weirdo, I ate her meal with my eyes.  It looked lovely and the sheer passion when one of the La Tua founders spoke about his products went to the heart of all assembled.

The meal finished with Calabaza rhubarb fool, Ivy House cream which was sadly so good, that I didn’t take a photo but loved it.  Sharp rhubarb, little dabs of cream [blasted lactose] was the perfect end to the meal.
And as I staggered off into the night [my easyjet flight had been delayed by 2 hours the night before so I was a little sleepy rather than tipsy], I did so with a light heart.  While there may be mass production, others continue to produce high quality products with love.
Visit Farm Drop to see what they offer as I can guarantee you will find something that helps you find your inner foodie.
L xx

Don’t forget to follow me @littlebitofwhat

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Welcome to the House of Ho .....

Okay, I admit it!  I have the sense of humour of the average geeky-16 year old boy [but in my defence, so do most of my friends] so when I chose to visit the ‘House of Ho’, it was the name that initially attracted me but it was the menu that intrigued me.

Vietnamese Tapas?  The opportunity to try lot of different options while enjoying a pretty decent cocktail list?  Bring it on.   Thus I found myself on Old Compton Street watching life wander by as I waited for my dining companion.  House of Ho is decorated in the ubiquitous dark wood, non-fussy clean lines of many modern Asian restaurants but it does have touches of whimsy to remind you that this restaurant has a sense of humour.

 We were seated in the window and following a chuckle at the intro to the menu got down to the serious business of choosing the food.   At around 3 to 4 dishes each and from £5 a dish, it isn’t cheap but you only live once so we dove in.

First to arrive was the Morning Glory [again it made me snigger] with shallot oil and crispy garlic which was cooked to perfection with the crispy garlic adding a satisfying crunch to the experience.  Then the dishes started to arrive thick and fast ..............

Hot crispy rolls with pork, mushrooms, cellophane noodles and herbs which are far better than spring rolls and much healthier [she devoutly hopes].   Smoked Chilli Glazed Chicken Wings which were glorious although [heathen] a little blue cheese dressing might have worked]

With thanks to the Motleyspicer

Seven Spiced Quail with Lime and Kumquat seasoning [tasty but a little too gamey for me], Crispy Vietnamese 5 spice marinated squid [lovely crunch but could perhaps have done with a little more 5 spice but I am an addict].  

I pretty much lost count as each glorious Vietnamese dish flowed into another and then the Smoked Aubergine with warm scallion vinaigrette finished with scallions and crispy shallots arrived.  It was lunch with a business contact and after one mouthful I seriously considered stabbing him with my fork [before demanding satisfaction] as he reached for it.  I’m not sure ‘back off buddy’ is quite the right way to make friends and influence people.

With thanks to Cocktails and Caroline

To finish, we tried the glorious selection of tea on offer and then trotted back off into the hustle and bustle of SOHO.  A little poorer but wiser in the understanding of Vietnamese Tapas!

Definitely worth a visit!


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The House of Ho on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Cross Dressing Squirrels and Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Cake and I have a relatively dysfunctional relationship!  I don’t like to eat it and don’t like to make it but I do want to master it.  Yes, I am like one of those neurotic Disney Princesses – “I know you are a cross-dressing squirrel with nut neurosis but you will love me [until I get bored that is]” - determined to have what I don't want/need.

However, I work in a company with a variety of men who like cake and having been born on Machiavelli’s birthday, I am aware that a well-placed chocolate offering can get the wheels turning slightly faster.  So, last night I made a Middle Eastern Chocolate and Beetroot Cake …..

250g raw beetroot [I cheated and bought cooked without vinegar and the world did not end]
200g dark good quality chocolate
180g butter [softened]
200g soft brown caster sugar [I used coconut sugar which was good]
4 free range eggs
220g plain flour
80g cream cheese
0.5 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp stem ginger [I used a ginger date flax seed topper instead]
2 tbsp dates, finely chopped
Pinch of salt

  • Pre-head the oven to 180 and crease your tin.  I used a bundt tin but they suggest a 24cm springform cake tin.  Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave.
  • Blend butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy [use a mixer as no-ones upper arms need that much of a work out].   Then add the eggs one by one beating until smooth.

Blend the chocolate into the mixture and sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder into the bowl.  Stir in the beetroot which has been finely grated/blended as well as the dates and ginger.

  • Pour into the greased tin and say a little prayer to the cake fairy before putting into the oven for 50 minutes to an hour.  Have a large glass of wine as you inspect the devastation which is your kitchen [sob quietly]
  • Remove from the oven and the tin when it is cool enough.  Do not leave it to get too cool in the tin or you may find yourself hitting a tin against your kitchen surface swearing like a sailor

250g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
Coco powder to taste and colour [about 25g]

Mix all ingredients together and when the cake has cooled, use it to hid any cracks.  Sprinkle with something like nuts or stars or something!

Reward yourself with something that makes you happy [honey bourbon but sadly not at 8 in the morning want I was icing this thing]!



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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Wicked Key Lime Pies

I would not recognise a ‘key lime’ if one danced the hula in front of me.  So when we had a Valentine’s cook-off at work, this was not really the natural choice.  However, I had some spare limes [courtesy of a brief flirtation with Thai last month] so I decided on the American classic ‘Key Lime Pie’.  However, not having a right dish [btw. Does anyone ever have the right dish?  Unless you happen to live in John Lewis] I made individual pies in muffin tins.

  • 200g of ginger nut gluten free biscuits [I’m gluten free but I assume that the other ones would work]
  • 100g to 125g of unsalted butter 

  1. Take all your frustration out and whack the living fluff [it’s a family blog] out of the biscuits.  Either in a bag or at the bottom of a bowl until they are crumbs.
  2. Melt the butter and mix into the biscuits.

  3. Press into the greased muffin tins and bake for 10 minutes at 160 C then set aside.
  4.  I left it to cool for a day and then popped on the filling.
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 396g Evaporated milk
  • 1 cup of lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of lime zest

  1. Fiddle around with the limes – swearing – until you have the required juice and zest
  2. Beat the yolks and then add the condensed milk slowly.

  1. Slowly whisk in the lime juice and then the zest.
  2. Pour on top of the base and then bake for 180 C for about 15 minutes [i.e. until it is set]

  1. Remove from the tins or they stick [and there is crying].  If you forget, gently reheat the dish and they will come out fine.
  2. Set aside and let it cool then set.

Wake up early [post awards with a tiny hangover due to Duck and Waffle overindulgence] – melt about 150g of chocolate and then smear on top of the filling.   Leave to set.

Look mildly nonchalant once people ask for your recipe.

L xx

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @littlebitofwhatyou