Posts Tagged ‘cocktail’
TGIF - Thanks God It’s Friday. The happiest hour of the week is definitely when you leave the office for 2 days. Cherished freedom, let me toast your name! This opens one of my favourite themes, week-end celebration. Every Friday, I’ll tell you about a new gem, a love at first sip to try with your friends. Maybe a liqueur, a spirit, a nice crisp wine, a cocktail or sometimes an address to go for apéritif.
Are you a G&T lover? Forget the tonic and try Opihr. This oriental gin is marvellously velvety and can be drunk on the rocks. Pepper corns, juniper, cumin, coriander, orange peels… and the power of green cardamom, putting a spell on you from the very first sip. A journey in the land of spices, even if you are not flying away this weekend. It will be ideal in a Red Snapper (Bloody Oyster, if you do read me…) or served like a Colonel dessert over lemon sorbet.
The Chelsea Flower Show, May 20 – 24, is almost sold out already. Not to worry, we have 10 rather sweet ideas to find floral happiness in London…
1. How about an afternoon tea? The Ampersand Hotel has created the most adorable one with a green tea and jasmine blossom mousse in a gingerbread garden, violet macaroons and raspberry and rose layered cake. And there will be an eye-catching pop-up flower stall created by Ricky Paul Flowers too.
2. The InterContinental London Westminster has created its afternoon tea around the idea of an edible garden. Chocolate pebbles, lavender scones, mini Chelsea buns with lemon curd, violet macarons, floral teas.
3. On the cocktail side, try the Grand Union. Priced at £5 each, cocktails include the Carrot Negroni (gin, carrot juice, sweet vermouth, Campari, garnished with carrot and orange slices) and Country Garden (gin, pressed cucumber, soda and a splash of elderflower and decorated with edible flowers).
4. Where to eat flowers in London? Here is a whole list of places to try. From gardenias to nasturtiums via tulips.
5. We loved the Saatchi Gallery‘s restaurant - indeed, the Gallery Mess’ afternoon tea was a delight. For the Chelsea Flower Show, they are showcasing a dedicated menu inspired by the beautiful English country garden. Dishes include chilled English Pea and Watercress Soup with Rose Petal Cream; Cured Salmon Apple and Lemon Verbena Jelly and Heritage Beetroot; Heritage Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella and Melon Salad with Citrus and Nasturtium Dressing.
6. The Fable too will have a floral menu. At just £30 per person, the menu includes dishes like Globe Artichoke with Foraged Truffle-infused Dipping Butter Sauce & Violas; Roast Lamb Rump with Heritage Carrots, Beets & Dandelion; & English Forced Rhubarb Fool; Shortbread Biscuits with Honeysuckle & Pansies. And all with a tree posy from beautiful on-site florist Bottles & Blooms. No one can make it more poetic than this…
7. Indulge in a floral Bellini at Quaglino’s, to be matched with the Meringue girl’s sugary treats. French violet? English rose? Orange blossom?
8. Gelupo, our favourite gelato parlour in the heart of Soho, will serve a new range of flavours from May 16: petunia, pansy, rose, vanilla & lavender, pollen, with all the edible flowers sourced from New Covent Garden Flower Market.
9. For a touch of la vie en rose, go to the Sofitel Saint James. The afternoon tea served in the Rose Lounge is dedicated to this flower, from the jam to the pastries. Even the cocktail is Ispahan inspired!
From a 3 week trip to Vietnam, I remember tiny cafés, tables thrown together on the side of the road, superb food made on the spot. I did not care for restaurants. I wanted to be in the streets. Most often, I followed a superb scent until I found the chef, ordered from a well used wok, the best ones, was given some chopsticks and happily ate sitting on a few bricks on the pavement.
But House of Ho recently opened in Soho and I was quite curious to see what the very skilled Bobby Chinn – who already has a restaurant in Hanoi and another in Saigon – would bring to the menu. Vietnamese food of a different level.
The experience starts with a smile. We’re in London, there has to be cocktails! And so the first page opens on the 10 stages of drunkenness… Invisibility was tempting but we settled on the more civilised Witty and Charming. For a very fruity drink, try the Rum Yum Dragon, a waltz of pomelo, red berries and the tanginess of passionfruit all wrapped in heart warming rum. Impressive presentation, piled up high in a mini ice cup. If you are feeling adventurous, go for the Ho’rny Devil. The very pure coconut water was heightened by Vietnamese chilli, refined by lemongrass vodka… just enough to make your cheeks a pinker shade. No worries, though, the sugary coconut on the side of the glass makes it a real treat, very snowflake like, fire beneath frost…
The dishes are also rather spectacular. Have a look at the first one, Bobby’s Duck’s ‘a la banana’ blossom salad, served in a real banana blossom! A deconstructed piece of heart, beautifully balanced. Shredded confit duck (with some crispy bites too), gizzard pieces, noodles, spices, carrots. Each forkful brings the crunchiness of shallots, sesame seeds, crushed peanuts and the lemony touch of shiso leaves. So many ingredients coming together perfectly.
We also quite loved the Crab Pomelo Salad. Same principle but more refreshing. Thin ribbons of vegetables, cabbage and carrots, peanuts and shallots but with the tender flesh of crab, mint, just a drizzle of olive oil and juicy pomelo. Zestier. With the added crunch of the traditional prawn crackers.
The Lemongrass monkfish with a fish caramel sauce intrigued and proved a must-have. One of those dishes you guess before they arrive, their divine perfume precedes them. The caramel mixed with the fish juices and lemongrass has an addictive sweet-savoury quality, yet is quite fluid, wrapping each morsel perfectly. I know the instinctive choice is to get some rice but do try the Heavenly Flowers, tiny blooms, lovely spring flavour, a slight natural bitterness that complements the stir fried pak choi and really works well with that sauce. Let alone it comes with crispy shallots and, like fries – you can never have enough of these.
Another signature of the House of Ho menu is – and you will find it again and again on online reviews – the Apple Smoked Pork Belly, Braised Cabbage and Egg. Was it worth it? You bet. The meat is so tender it comes apart just with the tip of the chopsticks. Gorgeous. Smoked and salty, crunchy on top, a layer of fat, a very tasty broth linking the cabbage, the egg yolk, peppery. If the cocotte dish had not been so hot, I would have drunk it, that says it all. It reminds me of the French potée in a way, chimney fire quality, comfort food for a rainy day. Delicious Asian version.
Desserts are more classical but well mastered. Like the sugar crunchiness on the crème brûlée (it has to be just the right depth, make the right noise, it’s an art!). This one is lemon scented, as creamy as lemon curd, a very long note on the palate. Chocaholics can get their fix with the superb chocolate cake with its melted heart. The superb ganache is a mix of Belgian and Marou, a Vietnamese brand (yes, Vietnam does grow cacao) using the very refined Trinitario beans. To make it more exotic, add a scoop of intense lemongrass ice cream, really enhancing the nuttiness of the dessert. The best of both worlds.
Verdict? Vietnamese cuisine en finesse et en beauté. It could do with a more daring bite on ginger and chilli, which I expect has been toned down for a European palate. But this is definitely one of my favourite places in Soho. There are quite a few friends I can’t wait to take there!
House of Ho
57-59 Old Compton St
London W1D 6HP
Happy moments, in love, do not need huge bouquets of red roses nor expensive restaurants. Is Valentine’s commercial? Of course it is. Of course romance should be spontaneous. But I like the idea of a set day too – it’s so easy in the daily marathon to be taken over by routine, work, tiredness. One day, one evening to stop, listen, remember. Sometimes it’s just nice to stay at home and forget about the chores. Cook something nice but more refined than usual, snuggle on the sofa, sip a cocktail. You do not need to be a mixologist – often a shaker is enough, and I favour recipes that can be adapted to your taste rather than set quantities. It brings a lot of complicity and often a few laughs!
Remember, last summer, I told you about the new Pimm’s Blackberry and Elderflower. Gorgeous purple, juicy berries and a honeyish floral note. How about using it for your cocktails? I tried an exotic version: pear juice, a few fresh litchees, fresh mint and champagne for that nice frothy finale, irresistible. 50ml Pimm’s is enough to get that bright colour – leave to infuse for 30min before adding the champagne, it tastes even better. This proves a good base for a fruit salad too. You could add roasted plums, star anise, lemongrass, lime, fresh pears, verbena…
Do try… the Blackberry Bliss (Pimm’s blackberry and elderflower, ginger beer, lime, ginger cordial), Apple of my eyes (Pimm’s blackberry and elderflower, maple syrup, apple juice, lemon juice) or the Blackberry Decadence (Pimm’s blackberry and elderflower + apple juice, warmed, a little double cream on top for a white layer, chocolate curls on top).
‘Tis the season to be jolly. And with all that cheerfulness shouldn’t we toast to the good things in life? A comfortable sofa, a mountain of cushions, a warming log fire or just the dancing fairy lights on the Christmas tree, a few friends or even a romantic time with the love of your life. How about a glass of sherry? Less heavy than a whisky or Cognac, it just sweetens the evening nicely, making your cheeks flushed, your gaze dreamier. Go on. Try the Harveys Bristol Cream: silky, candied orange, grilled almond notes. Cream? This bottle, made of the famous blue glass of the city, doesn’t contain any. Sherry used to be called Bristol milk you see, as it was drunk in the morning. A visitor, trying Harveys’ new creation exclaimed “If that is milk, then this is cream!” and so the name stayed.
You can drink it as-is, chilled from the fridge. Add a slice of juicy orange. Or make it even more festive, turned into a cocktail inspired by mulled wine. Warm it just for a minute with a cinnamon stick, star anise, clove, some tangerine zests. Top with home-made maple syrup cream, so easy to do: Just mix 18cl single cream with 6cl syrup, whip until you get the right consistency. Just like a little iceberg, cool and sugary hiding a sea of liquid raisins and nuttiness… Cheers, my friends!
I had succumbed, a while back, to the most delicious brunch at Cuccina Asellina – the best way I can think of to start a Sunday morning. I recently had the occasion to stop by to try their aperitivo and catch up with a good friend. What is this? The French apéritif time but Italian style… Ah, such pleasure to see that elegant, glistening room again with a whole transparent wall displaying a wine cellar!
This time, we settle at the bar. With our overloaded agendas, it proves so difficult to find time to see each other so a full dinner was out of question. And yet, we have so much news to share! The aperitivo proves a less formal option, savoury snacks to nibble on, relaxing you immediately, leading straight into conversation. And of course – cocktails!
We started with La Bianca White Sangria (Absolute peach, lime, lychee, moscato d’asti) highlighting nicely the Italian wine and a Vesuvio (Bacardi superior, martini bianco, lemon, sugar, egg white): Delicate, easy to drink but will add a nice blush to your cheeks. The waiter also brought us an antipasti assortment: Generous Nocellara olives, artichokes-ham-mozzarella skewers, brushettas topped with cheese and melt-in-the-mouth courgettes or sardines rillette. And the coup de théâtre: Cheese made with beer to be dipped in truffle honey. It takes over all your senses, such an intense scent and taste, refining the cheese, multiplying the strength of the flavours… You will vow to find such a honey (and you will, by the way, at the Borough Market and at Selfridges).
Laughs, cheerfulness, finger-food making conversation easy, in the end we stay longer than planned. Following the bartender’s advice, we now sip a Caupona that wakes up the tastebuds (Cuervo Golg, pineapple juice, green apple, lemon, black pepper even on the rim) and a poetic Delicata (Ketel One, Bombay Sapphire, Lillet Blanc et St Germain) with an enticing elderflower note. We could not resist a few more treats. Why not the calamari infused with marjoram and a drizzle of lemon juice, to the perfect crispiness? Or the mini-mozzarella balls, the melted cheese so comforting, a perfect match for the red pesto dip?
Tick-tock, time to go, delighted, our appetite satisfied, yet still the promise of a full evening at home… A perfect alternative – give it a try! The aperitivo is served from 17.00 to 19.00.
Sra Bua, Thai musical words to describe a pond blooming with lotus. In Asia, this flower is the essence of perfection, reflecting creativity and purity. Quite a challenge then for Chef Tim Taue (remember, we also tried his second signature address in Berlin, La Soupe Populaire). In the heart of Hôtel Adlon Kempsinki, this restaurant took inspiration in the luxurious temples: Stone animals, vintage vases, richly sculpted walls… while still offering a soothing comfort, velvety banquettes in gold and green, chimney fire, daylight softly dimmed. A wonder for photographs, clicking away happily. I remain hypnotised by Stefan Szczesny’s art works, sepia pictures weaved with Matisse and Cocteau themed drawings.
Make your way to the bar first – the mixologists are fantastically skilled. You may fall for the Spanish Ice (Bombay Sapphire, home made thyme and rosemary cordial, aperol, bitters, lemon juice), unctuous, a liquid version of a summer afternoon. Or the Basil Leaf (sake, Lillet, ginger and basil syrup, lime), crisp, frank, tangy. My love at first sip was for the Basilic et chocolat (white chocolate liqueur, vodka, apple liqueur, ginger), surprisingly fluid, so very aromatic. All cocktails are served with naturally marbled beetroot crisps, sugary, lip-licking good.
Tim Raue reinterprets here Pan-Asian cuisine with his European flair. Understand – a link between the two cultures, traditions enhanced by haute-cuisine. You could call it a culinary odyssey. To fully savour this journey, go for the tasting menu… 6 starters, 4 mains, 3 desserts. Be warned, skip lunch!
It starts with an amuse-bouche, served in elegant ceramic dishes. In one, roasted cashew nuts flavoured with red curry, in another lotus roots, crunchy but refreshing, on a smooth coconut and coriander cream. Close your eyes, sip on the ginger and honey tea and dream!
The waitress comes back and the table suddenly fills up. Yes, 6 starters and no, these are not tiny versions. Let the feast begin, let your senses awaken. And since pictures often are better than a thousand words, I’ll let them speak for themselves:
Super-thin and crunchy pizza base, avocado cream, rich salmon, very natural, splendid sashimi indeed.
Koh Samui – heritage tomatoes, each with its own texture and flavour, fruity or sweet, or lemony. Tender avocado, a touch of passionfruit for the twist, shiso leaves.
Som Tam – a favourite classic Thai. Thin ribbons of papaya and carrots, cashew nuggets, chilli to put a little fire in the plate.
A destructured maki, rice, tuna, hamachi, avocado cream and Japanese mayonnaise to lengthen the flavours.
Irish beef sashimi, so, so very tender, Sichuan pepper, soya and ponzu sauce, reminding of yuzu.
Hamachi ceviche, melon, apple, lemongrass, Thai pepper, a hint of elderflower. What a gorgeous palette!
After these gourmet poems come hot dishes, more consistent, more intense, a beautiful progression. They were matched to divine jasmine rice and steamed pak choi to nicely rebalance the palate.
Ikarimi salmon, no knife necessary, just a fork is enough to cut it, tangerine salt subliming the fish flesh.
Yellow curry, velvety, spell binding. Sweet potato, pumpkin, pickled onions, cashew nuts, the spiciness of cloves and cinnamon flowers as a finale.
Red curry with perfectly cooked duck. Creamy, fragrant sauce, coconut, mellow fruit laced with chilli, pineapple, lychee, suprising salt-sweet match, red bell pepper…
Extraordinary beef, sesame seeds and fresh ginger. Just wow.
As dessert – well, you just cannot leave without a sugary conclusion, can you? The choice is yours in the pastries of the day. Superb French style cakes, a real comprehension of its structure, of the cream and ganache texture.
Matcha macaron (I have a love affair with these), a marvellous green tea flavour, thin crunchy biscuit, and a heart of passionfruit (Tim Raue, the Berlin version of Pierre Hermé?)
In the background, a banana cake, light as cloud, moist, decadent chocolate ganache and cacao spirals.
Last but not least, a verrine in two levels, passionfruit topped with a creme fraiche-like cream made with coconut and lemongrass. Ah, really, it would be worth doing a Tim Raue afternoon tea special…
An absolute must-stop for the gourmet or, in fact, anyone who fully appreciates elegant and intense flavours.
Hotel Adlon Kempinski
Unter den Linden 77
Whyte and Brown dares a new concept. A single theme, declined in 21 recipes. Chicken. Free range, a must for these food passionates. And yes, not only does this work fabulously, it is absolutely scrumptious as Roald Dahl would say! The decoration alone is worth a detour and reminds me of Anthropology. Make sure you have a look at the first floor – beautiful space, gorgeous curved chairs, some half painted in a design effect, the back wall coming alive with feathers of paint, even brioche tins light up!
It was a Friday, sure, but at only 17.00, the place was already pretty busy, obviously word of mouth worked pretty well for this address. To give us time to read the mouthwatering menu and celebrate the week-end, we ordered two cocktails. The Whyte wine spritz is a clever mix of white wine, rhubarb bitters with rose lemonade. Unusual, mmmh? That is such a better Friday drink than a Pimm’s, sparkling and zesty and floral all at the same time. Now, being a Nika fan, I could not help but order the Hefty Japanese Max, matching this gorgeous Japanese whisky to a plum sake. Beautiful contrast of the ice, the warmth of the whisky, the quiet strength of the sake, vanilla an tobacco notes finishing on juicy plum.
Service was incredibly quick. Just the time to take a few pictures of the deco and our starters had arrived. Around us, the team butterflies, smiling and checking the guests are enjoying their meals – rarely had I seen such an efficient care of customers. We treated ourselves to those delicious arancinis made with chicken and oh, those are extraordinary, Lots of melting cheese, a touch of bechamel and fresh coriander. The dip sauce is superfluous, really. For the French touch, there is a poulet confit, so tender, pepper berries, fresh herbs, thin crisp lemon slices to give it a lick-your-lips bonus, all presented in a jar. So very cute and so very comforting, the perfect picnic food. It would be superb in a salad but here it is upgraded to toasted sourdough bread with coriander, pickled onions and a dash of fruity olive oil.
A look at the picture gallery on the web site left me no choice. It had to be the chicken and langoustine pie. Many customers, like me, order it just to take a picture – the sight is so cute. Under the butter puff pastry cover, a succulent casserole of chicken and langoustine tender bites in a light bechamel addictive, caramelised onions, fennel, celery and the out-of-the-ordinary samphire which gives this tangy twist to the dish. A must-try. If you fancy something more classical, the leek-chicken burger is quite impressive too but make sure you are really hungry, look at the size of it! But be warned, beef patties will taste much blander in the future, this is very elegant in taste, much more satisfying too. We matched these with a glass of Vina Cascarela Ruedo (lemony, pear, passionfruit, exotic) or – my favourite – of Govone Gavi di Gavi which offers the honeysuckle touch of the Piedmont wines.
There was no hesitation for dessert. Whyte and Brown’s Eton Mess is the best ever. Generous in fruit, rich bit not sickening cream infused with orange, fresh mint, melt-in-the-mouth meringue. But really, this is a treat you hear before you taste it: it is sprinkled with popping candy, like a little firework on your tastebuds. And that is not to be missed.
Verdict? If you thought fast food at the word chicken, think again. Service is absolutely perfect and the chef has preferred time, simmering for his recipes to give them maximum taste and textures. The best of comfort food with innovative touches. Bravo
Whyte & Brown
London, W1B 5PW.
If Brick Lane offers many restaurants, one has recently really amazed me. Fika puts forward the Swedish culture but also has created a gorgeous, pretty unique universe. At the moment, the decoration is inspired by Wes Anderson’s movies – there are so many references on the shelves, everywhere around you. Mismatched tables, flowers in vases, fun little objects to make you smile, fairy lights, messages, screen printed cushions by Goodwin + Goodwin, illustrations by Dani… No way you can get bored, it takes at least 30mn to absorb it all. I loved the shark on the tv, the diver swimming against the bricks, the hidden corner for lovers, the reindeer sipping on a cup of tea!
Cocktails too are out of the ordinary. Kiss the teacher marries milk, Absolut vanilla and gingerbread snaps. Life Aquatic dill vodka, elderflower and lemonade. We could not resist The Inventory which you can mix yourself. The mention of candyfloss got me. But look at the presentation, each ingredient in its bottle, down to the tiny teapot. And so you pour, using the retro paper straw to swirl, finishing with the candy on top, dissolving in a pink cloud. So refreshing, then the warmth of cognac and vodka, the sweetness of caramel and the touches of chilli. Bliss.
The menu is presented in a rolled map designed by Dani, as if you were going on a treasure hunt. No endless list here, the chef focused on a focused selection, cooked to perfection and each with a fabulous twist. Intrigued I ordered the Foxy Doughnut. Forget oily pastries, this one is biscuity, vanilla touch, slightly dusted with sugar. On top, a crown of intense chicken liver pâté with grated juicy green apple and just a little honey. It is such a surprising harmony of sweet and savoury. Admire the purple too – delicately brushed beetroot purée… Try the Darjeeling Gravad Lax, a rich salmon presented in spirals matched with a melt-in-the-mouth, jewel like tea jelly finishing on vibrant black pepper.
The so famous Swedish meatballs also are on the menu and clearly are a favourite of the regulars. But I was too curious of everything else. We decided on the Tenenbaum’s Dinner, a selection of 3 sliders: superb meat crowned with brie, applewood cheddar, goat’s cheese. We asked these without the usual buns and the chef wanted these to look as pretty as possible and added edible flowers. Wow. I tried the Campfire steak, another must, very tender, marinated in a Hickory sauce and you can taste the sugary, the spices, the smoked notes. It is served with unctuous grilled mash and apple cider sauce. Such a lovely comfort food and this peppery note at the tip of your tongue makes it splendid. Being a froggie, I usually do not go for British wines (sorry) but recently Chapel Down really changed my mind. The wine list mentions Lyme bay flavoured wines and the strawberry really gives you the full juiciness and summer taste of it. Go for the elderflower white and elderberry red too: we had a quick taste and gosh, are they splendid.
We thought we could not eat another bite but when offered the traditional sticky chocolate cake, the Kladdkaka, well, it would have been rude to refuse. It took us a few minutes to dig in: how can you destroy such a sweet little flower? A rich brownie texture, mellow and melting at heart and wrapping the whole palate. Yep, no need for conversation. The cake says it all.
Verdict: this was full of suprises. I had always thought it was a little café with simple dishes. I was proven wrong – it is so much more an atmosphere, a place with personality and the chef has worked admirably on each recipe, cocktail and even the wine list. This one is to be followed, trust me!
161 Brick Lane
London E1 6SB
|161 Brick Ln London E1 6SB|
Ramen. The word alone makes my mouth water. I remember, as a teenager, reading mangas, intrigued at these characters focused intensely on their bowl of noodles, the chopsticks rolling them with skill. I finally got to try them at Shoryu - one of the best addresses in town, really. Such a large dish, so complex in flavours and yet… you will devour it.
Shoryu has just opened a new address in Soho, mixing beautiful traditional decoration and design lights, zen curves, soothing hues… and even better has a sake bar. Never had I seen so many bottle of that wine before. Makes you realise how little you know about it and even more curious to learn.
The launch evening started on a gorgeous, floral cocktail perfectly names Geisha Fizz. Imagine the alliance of Asia and summer: Gekkeikan sake, fresh lychee (what a difference this makes!), prosecco and lavender cordial. Exotic yet as sparkling as an August day.To celebrate the opening a special barrel of sake is opened, even a tasting set engraved. See those wooden cubes? You pour the content of your glass and drink from it. Now this - have a look below – is a very festive sake called Honjozo gekkeikan junkinpakuiri,shining with hundreds of gold flakes. It’s hypnotising, rich, semi-dry and highlights the creaminess and saltiness of dishes. The tasting session also included 2 other selections. Quite fascinating how different they are, how clearly you can separate the tastes. Now, the one in the little black cup is a Tokubetsu Junmai Gekkeikan Yamadanishiki, round on the palate, frank, slightly lemony, a hint of pepper, brilliant with spicy dishes. The last, in the clear engraved glass is a Tokubetsu Honjozo Gekkeikan Nouvelle, a longer feel, very refined that matches perfectly bbq and pork flavours.
On the menu, appetising choices including two signature ramen dishes. One is the Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu Ramen prepared with thin noodles and a clear miso broth. Pork in a bbq sauce cooked gently in this for hours, infusing it. Have been added kikurage mushrooms, beansprouts, spring onions, sesame, nori, ginger and my favourite a nitamago egg (poached in a mix of miri, soya sauce and sake). So intense in flavours!
The Karaka Tantan Tonkotsu Ramen uses the same base but the pork was grilled in spices first and the dishes enhanced with chili oil. It wakes you up in a gently manner, makes you go wow. Why not use of the special sesame grinders on the tables if you fancy more nuttiness? Do try the Hirata Bun too – slightly sweet bun, pork so well cooked it melts in the mouth and a spicy sauce. I am totally hooked on this.
Pssst! Until July 19 2013, all ramen dishes are £5 only. Such a deal!
2-3 Deman Street
London W1D 7HA