Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Amico Bio, a friendly eco-eatery

Let us get rid of stereotypes straight away: you can be a vegetarian and still be a gourmet. Not adding any meat to your daily diet does not mean you have killed your tastebuds in the process.

Yet, do propose to your colleagues/friends to have lunch in a veggie place and the hesitation is quite palpable… They already picture a lonely salad or a plate of grilled tofu and expect to walk out particularly hungry.

My advice? Cheat. Take them to Amico Bio. Instead of pronouncing the V-word, present the concept of eco-eatery. Great Italian dishes prepared with organic seasonal products. Very few would say no to a plate of just cooked pasta, cheese and rice croquettes or moist risotto.

This address is just behind the Smithfield market, in one of the narrow historic streets, particularly charming at that tie of the year when leaves get this vibrant green shade. 5 mn from the Barbican tube station and here we are.

Just after stepping in, before one of the waitresses welcomes you with a smile, your attention is distracted by the day’s selection: foccacia, Italian cheese, tarts and pastries… Talk about whetting people’s appetite!

Decoration is pretty simple with wooden tables and chairs. No pretentious glossy effect – just a relaxing atmosphere.

The menu is organised the Italian way: Stuzzichini, Antipasti, Pasta et Risotti, Secondi and Dolci. 2 pages of choice and I’m feeling pretty hungry by now. Italian food certainly is fab at making you forget there is not a single piece of meat – the ides of pasta, of rich sauces, of satisfying textures filling your mouth is enough to make smile in happiness. You will barely see the word tofu – but what do you say of gnocchettis with tomato, olives and caper or vegetable tempuras with a sweet and sour sauce? Dishes will differ from one day to the other as it depends what surprises the market will bring along.

Still trying to make my mind, I see a plate of ravioli (£7) going to another table. The aroma of basil is seducing: same for me, please! The pasta really are a nice size and are filled with smoked cheese, and come with roasted red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Amazing how these two varieties differ in taste, the latter like a firework in your mouth. Add a piece of foccaccia (£3.50) to soak the juices!

The restaurant also lists a number of organic drinks: juices, cola, wines and even gin and whiskies (quite a discovery for me!). I will go for a glass of La Raia 2009: Barbera grape bring sunny, round notes which remind me of the South of France black cherries.

My second dish arrives, wraps with a lovely hazelnut touch around a beautiful selection of colourful roasted vegetables. An equivalent to raita (yogurt and cucumber sauce) is served on the side and adds a fresh note to the mix. Quite an assortment: broccoli, onions, cauliflower and a slight aniseed not with fennel. I hope they will follow Carluccio’s idea and will propose picnic sets for the summer – this would be a perfect treat to take along, especially with the Barbican terrace being so close…

I never ever resist zucchini frittas (£2.50 for a sizeable portion), the best I have eaten so far. For once thet are not heavily oily, nor too rich, nor too cooked. On the contrary, the chef has made them crunchy on the outside but kept the heart mellow, adding just a pinch of salt to make them addictive.

And there, on the desert page, what do I see? Baba (£5)! I haven’t had one for years. And after all, the ingredients are all organic so that would be… good for me, right? It is served warm as the rum has just been warmed and poured. I would have preferred the vanilla cream more liquid to spread it better on each spoonful… The extra touch is, of course… the amarena cherry on the cake! Be warned: you may not walk so straight after this

Verdict ? I like the idea of getting my 5 the day without thinking about it. Easy healthy option, as pleasurable as a “normal” restaurant, moreover guilt free! I never once missed the absence of meat. To be fair, I did not think much about it during the meal.

The very relaxed atmosphere was the best for me – I can picture coming back with the kids (they do have fresh cut fries on the menu) before taking them to the Barbican gallery (since I always moan about their overpriced café!)

They also propose a few vegan and gluten free choices – ideal to get everyone around the same table!

Amico Bio
44 Cloth FairLondon
Closed on Sundays

Teatime in Wonderland was a guest of Amico Bio

Post-it for the week-end: Feb 18-20, 2011

A few tips for the week-end. What about you – found any fun place you’d like to share?

- Travel through time via pictures of London at the London Museum or at the National Portrait Gallery… You can even buy some here!
- Even though your mother told you not to, telling stories is just the thing to do these days…
- No budget to upgrade your clothes collection? Try swishing @ the V&A!
- Dr Who fan? This way for the interactive exhibition
- Live vintage style
- A really royal tour of London… And mouthwatering ones!
- Find inspiration for your future birthday cakes
- Book all your 2011 week-ends with the help of the Happiness Project

Pssst, keep your eyes open for those:
- An underground restaurant that makes you feel like dancing
- Vegetable cupcakes @ Selfridge’s…
- A curious but fun café near Paddington…

A yummy bite to eat in Chinatown

An easy treat while walking through Chinatown – after so many glimpses at restaurants, I just feel a little elevenish but never enough for a whole meal.

On Little Newport St, a street vendor proposes lovely steamed buns filled with pork, chicken, veggies… for £1.20! Ideal if you are in a hurry, have only a few coins in your pocket and need to defreeze your fingers.

Do try their oyster pancakes 9£1) and rice & pork or chicken dumplings, steamed in a banana tree leaf (£3). Yummy!

Why not go and drink a bubble tea since you are in Chinatown?

More cupcakes: Soho style, with Cox, Cookies & Cake

Take a famous shoe stylist, add a celebrity pastry chef, shake, cool down… Tadaaaa: here is your new cupcake boutique!

Patrick Cox and Eric Lambard teamed up to open this new shop in Soho. The neon colours fit perfectly in, er, the local background. Ready for pop, gothic and sexy cupcakes?

Flavours are pretty classic, they’re a bit too sugary and chemical for me but hey, they look fun and make a perfect gift to take to a party. You will be amazed at the number of passers-by stopping to come and have a look then giving up on diets…

Do try their excellent pecan nuts brownies and the crunchy toffee-almond cookie.

Pssst: don’t miss the waiters’s Tshirts. Bite me… Also exists as Better than sex. Sorry, they do not sell them!

Cox, Cookies and Cake
13 Brewer Street
London W1F 0RH
Classic cupcakes £2.50, signature ones £4, brownies and cookies £2.50
The best remain Ella’s @ Covent Garden

Vintage Patisserie

The secret of a lovely afternoon tea is not only in the quality if its scones. It has to provide an atmosphere, take you away from your routine.  You need to feel a touch of luxury, to feel transported to another time and space, to be charmed away… The moment is to be suspended in time somehow, nothing else should matter but the very moment. Though not as sacred a tradition as a japanese tea ceremony, each object does have an important place and role: the trio (cup, saucer, pastry plate), the elegant cake stand, the teapot. Whether you go for splendind china or shiny silver, this is cause for celebration, for beauty in each detail. Whether you are two or 10, it just calls for chats and confidences…

This afternoon, head to the Fashion Fete in Covent Garden. Vintage Patisserie has a little party for you there: real lawn, white laced garden tables and chairs, teapots turned into colourful vases,  an extraodinary collection of vintage china, at the same time mismatched and dancing along wonderfully… You will meet Angela Doree, in 1920ies fashion, gorgeous red hair elegantly curled, smily divinely. She is so passionate it only takes you seconds to fall in love with her world. On the side is a suitcase with hats and boas to add a final touch – I haven’t seen a guest not going for those, giggling along!

For a mere £5, you can enjoy a cup of Tea Palace brew (the Lavender Earl Grey is a gem -  took me right back to those memories) and a cupcake from Ella’s with their lovely sparkles signature. What a bargain!

Don’t have the time today? Not to worry -  you can book a proper afternoon tea on their website. Vintage Patisserie proposes a few secret locations in London and for £35, you will get more atmosphere than a 5 * hotel could provide and more of a cocooning experience… 1920ies feel, jazz music, beautiful food, gorgeous table, plenty of dress up accessories to try on and even a gorgeous touch! How could any girl resist this? You can even upgrade to workshops, tasting experiences, personnalised cupcakes and chocolates… Have a look at this article to fall even more for it….

The Vintage Patisserie
Until 18.00 @ Covent Garden’s fashion fete, this Sunday Sept 19, 2010
Or book the experience on their website

Sweet heaven @ Bea’s of Bloomsbury

Well, all roads really seem to lead to cupcakes. Even the most improbable ones.

My friend Celine, a street art specialist, took me to the Whitecross St festival. Artists had transformed the street, painted entire walls, decorated a roof with a monster,  arranged a giant washline between two roofs… Amidst this creativity show, stalls were proposing yummy food and my radar for sweets quickly settled on this:

Litterally: the cherry on the cake! Very chocolatey base with a real ganache on top, first class cacao.

It took me seconds to wite the address down. I just had to see more of this.

Step in Bea’s and you are immediately faced with a dilemna: how to choose from the counter loaded with cakes? The piles of cookies, the scumptious tarts… Or would you go for an afternoon tea? For only £9.90, you can have a signature cupcake, a marshmallow, a mini Valronha brownie and a brioche looking scone.

But it is the cupcake you will particularly fall for. Their weakness usually lies in the icing: too sugary, too chemical, too heavy, too sickening, too dry… It is easy to be disappointed. But here, no cream cheese, butter or sugar icing base. Oh  non, this is a real treat: a lemon or raspberry mousse, so very light and tasty! Now, this is a real hit and you’ll go back for more (just being professional, right, you really need to make sure the quality is equal for each flavour…)

Do try their red chai latte -  such a better alternative to the classical darjeeling. Perfect with the afternoon tea.

Only a handful of tables are available – do book if you do not want to take a chance. We were close to the kitchen and could watch the mini-meringues being prepared. Lovely!

Bea’s also proposes a great assortment of salads and sandwich during the week -  I do not think I can resist trying those much longer…

Bea’s of Bloomsbury
44 Theobald’s Road
London WC1X 8NW

Are you hunting down London’s best cupcakes? Then you need to try those:
- Ella’s
- The Primrose Bakery
- The Hummingbird bakery
- Lola’s

Around the world with Fire & Stone pizzas

I am a pizza addict (well, I have tried but you cannot live on chocolate and cupcakes alone). Let me to it and I probably would feed on those rwice a day. When Fabienne asked whether I wanted to come with her to the launch of Fire and Stone’s new address in Spitafields, I think my stomach answered first.  A tasting event for food bloggers? Yes, yes, yes!

We had just stepped in and the staff welcomed us, friendly handshakes, have a seat, would you like a drink, but also sat with us for a chat about life, blogs, London. Yes, of course it’s their job to make us feel loved and comfy but still it’s only 10.00 on a Saturday morning and they are so enthusiastic and sincere…

The restaurant is not yet open to the public, everything is sparkling new, lovely bay windows for a maximum of natural light, counter overlooking the kitchen for you to spy on the pizzaiolis…

On a table are presented most of the ingredients they use. Fire and Stone prefers to limit the number of suppliers, and use the same for their 5 addresses (3 in London, 1 in Oxford and 1 in Portsmouth). quality comes first obviously but as importantly will be the same in each restaurant. The chorizo, especially is a gem -  so tasty, a little peppery -  and comes from Brinsida, my favourite tapas place (a deli is also open @ the Borough Market). First class!

This is also the first restaurant to propose a windowed workshop – you can watch the dough being prepared, brought into shape, a little semolina underneath to add some crunch, olive oil on top…

I can hear you think. Well, yeah, another good pizzeria, there’s plenty around. Ah, yes, my friend, but this one has a difference, you see. It got its inspiration from the 5 continents and it is a culinary travel. Take the Koh Samui: thai yellow coconut sauce, roast sweet potato, fried Thai shallots, mozzarella, red chilli, mange-tout, baby sweetcorn and basil, toasted sesame seeds. Amazing! The Melbourne even proposes sweet roasted butternut squash and brie. It just triggers curiosity.

To convince us further, we are invited to choose on ein the menu and prepare it ourselves. Apron, hat, go, go, go! Oh, what a collection of ingredients. Here it goes in the oven. You get it back on a warm plate and no matter how many wonderful meals you have cooked before, you cannot help but smile… The waitresses bring samples of the different home-made smoothies and we’ll even get to taste the wines -  the white one is particularly nice, light and sweet, very refreshing. The kind of bottle you have finished in no time.

But that’s not it! Now come the deserts. Brownies, ice cream, lemon tart, a vanilla pannacota with a red berry sauce you are just bound to love… everything is fresh, melts in your mouth. Perfect from start to finish. There is no way we can consider another meal in the coming 24 hours…

But this is a launch party. Of course, everything would be impeccable, guests spoilt rotten, the service quick and easy. It just has to. What about real life? Would it be as perfect?

It wasn’t difficult to convince Mr Chocoralie to come and give it a try – I just had to mention their number 1 pizza, New-York: bacon, mozzarella, tomato and basil sauce (takes them five hours to cook every morning),  garlic and rosemary roastes potatoes, caramelized onion jam (also home made as all their sauces and marinades), sour cream and paprika. Starving, it did not take much to drive him to the F&S in Westfield. Now, that is a busy place, especially on a Sunday, how will they fare? Perfectly. The staff was amazing, the dishes were on our table extra quick, my husband even went for one of their smoothies (we’re talking of a Coke fan here) which was proposed with or without yogurt, not a word was spoken as we were too busy enjoying our pizza, the pannacota was as lovely as the previous day. 20/20.

A fab address with friend or as a family!

Fire and Stone
Horner Square,
Old Spitalfields Market
London E1 6EW

For the opening, all pizzas are at £3 on Wednesday august the 04th, £4 on Thursday August the 05th and £5 on Friday August 06th. Enjoy!
Pssst: even better, children up to ten eat free until Sept 05, 2010…

Post-it for the week-end: July 30 – August 01, 2010

Oh well, I have tried and tried but my thoughts keeps strolling from my work files but they do keep straying towards the week-end…

- Fancy a free haircut on Friday? Check this way…

- The Natural History Museum will stay open late. Jazz? Glass of wine on the Darwin center terrasse? Night walk in the wildlife garden?

- Party @ the V&A Summer Camp. Bombay Sapphire will have a design cardboard bar with stylised cardboard glasses (but real cocktails). A great way to enjoy their late evening.

- You can even go on to the Serpentine pavillion and sleepover… Midnight feast, films and even breakfast in the morning…

- I really must try to find a free Saturday morning and do this guided tour of the Somerset House!

- The extraordinary Chilly Gonzales will be @ the field day on Saturday…

- Latin fever @ the Carnaval del pueblo!

- Even more music with the Croydon festival

- A classic, but have you done it yet? Buckingham Palace is open for the summer….

- Have a spooky evening

- Saturday, head for Brick Lane: free cocktails, demo of Urban Art and even a tattoo session! You might also decide to stay around and go bowling in this fab diner… Perfect for Sunday’s festival: bowling but British, music and dancing!

- It’s open air cinema season! A whole programme @ the Somerset House… Act crazy for Mamma Mia and choose funky colours… The Wapping Project proposes a barbecue with your movie…

- You already knew routemasters could ne recycled as veggie restaurants (the root-master is my favourite). Well, one of those goes around, proposing German food!

- Oooooh, as soon as I’m on holiday, I am going to book myself one of those fab afternoon teas… Now, chocolate or pink? (vegan and gluten free versions are proposed)

-What about the kids? Little ones will love the teddies picnic @ Covent Garden on Saturday… Teenagers will much prefer to go to the underage festival!

- Give! Exchange!

Pssst, heads up for next week! There will be a maze @ Trafalgar (with dragons and Chinese cooking on Tuesday). And Selfridge’s is to open their Xmas shop too…

Hey, anyone has a great address for a roof terrasse for cocktails?

Rococo, a chocolate heaven

British are not know for their chocolatier, bur believe me my friends this one steps aside.

Instinct usually guides me to complex, poetic, floral alliances: jasmin… orange and geranium… basil… Moroccan mint… Here you’ll also find starwberry or fig marshmallows. Enought to get your radar mad! But classics are a little piece of heaven too.  Do fall for the chocolate and liquid salted caramel. Oh, I have to close my eyes even now.

Decoration is retro, comforting. A bunch of flowers made with colourful sugared almonds here, chocolate laybugs there. The packaging was inspired by an French engraving of 19th century chocolate mould an declined in different colours – butterflies cut out of it fly away on the walls.

As Petra from the Choc star van, Chantal Coady was led by her passion for chocolate. A punkish art sudent, she just jumped for adventure in 1983 – only with a few weeks experience at Harrod’s. Well, that’s a lesson: always follow oyur dreams, especially if they’re 70% cocoa made.

Do prefer the Knightsbridge boutique.  A window in the floor gives a view of the workshops going on. You can take chocolate lessons here, whether you’re a grown-up or a junior chocoholic.

This is one of my secret hideaways. There is a tiny garden behind -  a lovely court, only a handful of tables, white walls, mosaics and a few white roses… Blue sky above you, round mirrors reflecting details… So peaceful! Get rid of your watch and iphone, get a coffee and one of their marvelous truffles and just forget everything.

Rococo Chocolates
5 Motcomb Street

Vegans will find their heaven here too.
Cross the street and gasp at the huge meringues and splendid tarts from
Macaron-fans will be delighted to learn Pierre Herme will be opening his boutique a street away from here in September 2010. You’ll have to beat me there!

Paxton and Whitfield: say cheese!

Ask any Froggie where his cheese heaven is in London, and he will answer Neal’sYard Dairy, La Fromagerie or la Cave a fromages.
Alternatively, the Borough Market is quite an experience (especially if like me, you do stop at every stall to taste).

For a more picturesque time, I love Paxton and Whitfield. They hold a quaint shop in the gentlemen’s quarters, Jermyn street. And trust me, it hides wonders. It used to only be a stall @ Aldwych market in 1742… Thanks to the partnership of Mr Paxton and Mr Whitfield, it could settle here in 1797. So chic royalty fell for it too -  Queen Victoria appointed them official cheesemongers in 1850. And they still have the honour of servir her Majesty the Queen and Prince Charles.

XXth century proved harder – competition of continental cheese, two world wars… Still they made it -  switching to grocery style, adding cream, eggs, milk, butter to their shelves. Even Winston churchill was a fan, swearing that A gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton and Whitfield

Just step in and smell… How wonderful! You’ll find here the very best of French and British spcialties… The inside is adorable, the counter is covered with delights, here and there a touch of another time… The team is also so very friendly (even though you’re only taking pictures) and are happy to make you taste this or that novelty.

Fancy a different celebration / wedding? Try this, order a cheese – pyramid!

Sliding to modern times -  you can now order online.  Or join the cheese club for £35 a month and get a special delivery of 4 cheese by courrier…

Paxton and Whitfield
93 Jermyn St
St James


This Week End in London

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