Posts Tagged ‘London’
Notting Hill. Its pastel painted houses, Bohemian Chic feel, its independant boutiques… And yet, most people stay on Portobello Road. Next time, head for Kensington Road instead: jewel gardens, an explosion of flowers, Edwardian architecture radiant in white paint.
Further down the street, you will find a blue and white tiled mosaic, a patchwork of designs, reminiscent of the gorgeous azulejos in Porto. This is the Notting Hill Kitchen, serving authentic Iberian cuisine. Chef Luis Baena plays with both Spanish and Portuguese influences, adding a pinch of modernity. Add to this his own creativity - it is not simply about beautiful dishes here but designing whole palettes of flavours.
Choose your room. One is nicely dimmed, the other more private, the last two open up on the street through admirable arched windows. Sunshine filters softly through, makes glasses twinkle, echoing on the sculpted contour of the ceiling. Foodies will nod at the salted flakes in their liège box, the olive oil on the tabel. Why not start with a glass of Quintaluna 2012, a white Spanish wine produced by Ossian. Its hues might look like a Sauternes but this is deceiving. Crisp, refreshing, pure as spring water, a fantastic minerality (the rain is filtered by sand before reaching the roots of the vines), citrus and vanilla. Indulge in a few tapas too. I recommend the spider crab brioche, sprinkled with cumin and warmly spiced, filled with the tender flesh mixed with a silky, enchanting mayonnaise… and the Oyster croqueta, an inconic recipe created by the chef in 1982, still having the same success today. Crispy outside, creamy heart, all the flavours of the sea are there. Close your eyes, you will almost feel the salty mist around you. And look, see that edible leaf? It’s all in the name. Oyster leaf, tastes exactly like it.
Coming back from the US inspired by surf’n’turf, I decided on the Octopus Rice, a traditional risotto in Portugal. The rice, you see, is cooked with red wine, infusing its very fiber, bringing the red fruit across, sharpened by fresh coriander. Chorizo adds the pepperiness, spicy, full of sunshine vibe. The octopus was very tender indeed, very theatrical in presentation, rising up, wrapped in the crunchiest batter you can imagine.
No hesitation for dessert - I stopped right at the words olive oil sorbet, bringing the chilly, velvety, fruity emulsion to absolute perfection. I will take this over chocolate any day. The cake brought juicy grapes and dulce de leche like caramel together, another slice of heaven. Even better with a glass of tawny or a nice espresso.
A quiet, soothing atmosphere, away from the touristy crowd. Refined cuisine - a different side of Spain… Ideal for romantic dinners. And brunches, they do brunches, my friends!
Notting Hill Kitchen
92 Kensington Park Rd
London W11 2PN
Hema has saved me more than once. The Dutch brand is my favourite treasure chest – hundreds of colourful, fun, adorable accessories. More importantly, perfectly prices. Not too expensive, not too cheap – exactly what I would have paid had I been asked what the value was. With no guilt in mind, you fill entire baskets! This is where I find inspiration for photoshoots, nice touches to highlight a picnic, a brunch table, kids parties (from the organisation to the birthday presents), even rather cool office supplies. Little nothings that make such a huge difference.
I first discovered the brand in Antwerp. I knew it was popular, got curious. The result? I filled half a suitcase with melamine plates, T-shirts for the children, funky sweets. Later, they set up shops in Paris and in my hometown, Bordeaux. Each time I go back, I stock up. Closer to me, not close enough. But hey, this is it, Hema has finally opened not one but two shops in London. A third is on the way!
Why so happy? It just makes my life so easy. My daughter wanted to plan a sleepover with her best friend. She’s 8 but these days, it almost means they are teenagers. Pop songs and neon colours, dancing and singing, giggling and whispering. But still on the sweet side – there are still hugs and My Little Ponies, modern version. And so we made cupcakes with a twist, baking them in ice cream cones instead, adding rainbow sparkles. On the table, paper umbrellas, sugar confetti, doilies turned into favours and filled with treats, I recall them jumping in joy. I also got them notebooks and stickers, turned within minutes into secret diaries. Add a manicure session with sorbet-coloured nail varnish (at that price, the fact that it would have to disappear before Monday morning barely mattered. We’re all princesses at heart). And you know what? It cost me less than taking them to see a movie with popcorn and sodas.
As addictive as Ikea.
Victoria Place Shopping Centre
115 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 9SJ
24 Clarence Street
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 1NX
An elegant brunch that could be enjoyed with kids? Yes, at One Aldwych, of course, this sublime hotel near Covent Garden. Leave the buzz of The Strand and step down a spiral staircase, leading you to the soothing atmosphere of the Axis restaurant. Dimmed lighting, a crescent shape to the room, lined with silver birch like tree trunks, sculptural orchids, the quintessence of elegance. And, by the way, a dessert buffet. Yes, you can have as much as you like and that is enough to make anyone’s eyes sparkle with delight. As if Christmas had come early.
Most often, a smart restaurant with kids is a nightmare for parents. You have to keep them occupied, plan a few non-noisy toys, crayons, entertain them, keep them in their chairs. You would like to appreciate the magic of a well-deserved delicious meal. The little ones want some exploring on the menu. One Aldwych chose to treat the children as adult guests. Meaning my 8 year old daughter was treated like a princess. She was spoilt with attention, made part of the decisions when usually, the discussion is mainly with the parents. She liked the focaccia so much, the salt flakes melting on her tongue, that she was brought some more in a basket, just for her. With blueberry jam just because it made her so happy. She could choose between cold or warm milk, hot chocolate, including a Valrhona one, even homemade milkshake. Dishes could be made as smaller portions for her. What more could a mum ask for? She felt so proud of being a little in charge her cheeks took on a lovely shade of pink.
But let me make your mouth water. There is something for everyone on the menu, whether you fancy a refined dish like these juicy asparagus spears, grilled to perfection, tips melting beautifully on the tongue, matched with destructured deviled eggs and a few capers… or whether you have a sweet tooth and wish to indulge in blueberry pancakes with their irresistible crunchiness on the side, the fruit caramelised a little, the heart reminding me a of a summer flan. Topped with maple syrup or blueberry coulis, it proves irresistible. Just distract your friend or child and steal a piece or two!
My daughter decided on an English Breakfast next, digging in with great passion – the quality of the sausage and bacon remarkable indeed. The egg yolk was rich, silky too, wrapping each mouthful perfectly. I preferred the risotto, cooked to perfection, tender butternut, sage refining and intensifying the taste of the rice, the feta adding a pleasant creaminess. Bonus points for the chopped walnuts!
Keep your Prosecco for dessert as this is truly a celebration. The table is impressive. I think I circled it 3 times before even being able to begin making a choice. The kind of feast you expect in fairytales… Mini-treats all around to be able to taste a little of everything: crème brûlées, red velvet cupcakes, brownies, rhubarb trifles… cheesecakes with mango coulis, sprinkled with crunchy caramel… almond eclairs topped with popped rice… fresh fruit including a mountain of strawberries… jars filled with caramel bite cookies, popcorn, flavoured marshmallows… Generous cakes calling your name. And under a silver bell to keep it warm, bread and butter pudding. Willy Wonka must be around right? You could skip the rest of the meal entirely and just enjoy the buffet. Whenever else will you have a chance to delight in that many sweet gems?
To make the most of the magic, finish the afternoon at Somerset House, a minute’s walk from One Aldwych. The kids can happily play in the water fountains while you sip a coffee, read the Sunday papers and regret not having filled a third plate of cakes…
Details of the brunch this way. £30 per person (3 courses including the dessert buffet. Add unlimited prosecco for an extra £15)
Created on an old railway line, the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a real peace haven. It’s surprisingly huge too. Half planted, half wild. A Stik mural. Calling to be explored. There is even an allotment on the side, complete with a shed AND a disco ball. Here and there are kids’ works of art. And toys – this is a family friendly place. You’ll find a café and they do bread and pizza in their clay oven each Sunday afternoon. So brilliant you’ll consider moving to this neighbourhood!
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
Next to the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural
13 Dalston Lane
London E8 3DF
The steps of the hotel welcome you, already dressed up with a colourful pop-up installation by Ricky Paul Flowers. The Chelsea Flower Show is near and to celebrate the event, The Ampersand has re-invented its afternoon tea, making a delightful edible garden with delicious floral notes…
All around you, the Drawing Room adds discreet botanical touches. Roses and peonies on mirrored tables, reflecting them infinitely, opening blooms painted in black and white on the wallpaper, intriguing birds printed on the armchairs fabric. In the background a counter loaded with glass domes, cakes, meringues, delicacies making your mouth water. Champagne? Well… It’s Monday, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and my lunch will be mostly composed of sweet treats. Yes, this does call for bubbles!
The three-tiered-tower proves a petite merveille. No sandwiches here but gougères. Like chou buns, but savoury, nice and light, generously filled: cheese and fruit chutney… rich smoked salmon and melt-in-the-mouth cream cheese… thick, gorgeous ham with gribiche sauce… the most wonderful coronation chicken highlighted with paprika…
On the middle plate, a Chelsea Bun, an upgraded version of my beloved pain aux raisins as it includes a warming spiral of cinnamon. No, do not ask me to choose. It would be an unfair question! The scone rather surprises me also. The expected perfect crunchiness… but with white chocolate chips, a divine combination with the homemade strawberry jam.
And then, the highlight of the show. So prettily put together that it took me a good 15 minutes to convince myself to take a bite… Elderflower flavoured rice pudding, cut with a rhubarb compote. A layered cake, more angel cake than sponge, with rose cream. A violet macaron, its strength surprising, like a freshly cut bloom. And my favourite, biscuit base, dome of jasmine mousse, overwhelming, mixing with the powdery matcha finish, superb, mind blowing.
Quick, quick, the Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea is only served till May 25th!
Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea
£32.50 / person, £44.50 with champagne
10 Harrington Road
London, SW7 3ER
Being a little too early for the Feel Good Café on Hoxton Square (do try it, the two course menu is free until May 23!), I indulged in a street art safari in Shoreditch. The neighbourhood seems even more vibrant with it than usual…
The Feel Good Café has just opened on Hoxton Square. It’s free and only open until May 23 so do go and try. Why? Because it’s surprising. This pop-up is in fact an initiative by Weight Watchers. The brand asked a chef to create menus (breakfast, lunch and dinner) showcasing their products. Simply because people like me expect any diet related product to taste like cardboard and are reluctant to compromise on quality. But this… was good, really good.
The point is not to serve only their product on a plate but to incorporate it in a modern, daily-life menu that you can easily recreate at home. And trust me, if you do not mention the name, I doubt your friends would guess you have served them a WW product. The chef and his team have really enjoyed the experience, praising the quality, even for sausages!
I liked the crème fraiche used in the salad dressing with lemon and olive oil. The coleslaw, much better than any supermarket brand I had used, fluid and sweet but still with a tangy kick. The pizza was brilliant too - the flatbead, sauce and cheese were all WW. Amazing. I am doing this tonight at home. Even the coconut Greek yoghurt was fantastic, very tasty, super creamy… but guilt free.
Go and try. You will get two courses for free and a drink. Try their wine too, the grapes are picked earlier in the season to limit the sugar and alcohol percentage. It’s more a light picnic wine than a grand cru but perfect for summer days. Much more pleasant than you expect.
In a hurry? The team has a take-away menu too!
The Feel Good Café by Weight Watchers until May 23, 2014
16 Hoxton Square
London N1 6NT
These days, new restaurants are all about following a trend, being fashionable, adding a touch of design. Alternatively they bring a modern touch to classic ingredients. London loves to be surprised. It has to be new.
Yet, rushing through Soho, Kirazu stopped me in my tracks. Counter-current. So tiny, like the places you imagine in Japan. Shelves neatly piled with clay dishes. Fascinating collections of traditional tea and sake cups, some with amazing glazes. Wooden counter and benches. A refreshing, authentic feeling.
I only stopped for a matcha latte. A real one. The green powder patiently mixed with a bamboo whisk. And a milk foam worthy of Italian cappuccino. Delectable. You truly do not feel in London any more.
Head chef Yuya Kikuchi warmed my heart – so sincere, so humble when he obviously has an incredible talent. Passionate, he focused on learning the essence of Japanese cuisine, even mastering the fugu technique (the blowfish one!). He designs beautiful bento boxes, sushis, sashimis, ramen, sauteed lotus roots and it smells soooo good. One of those little addresses you really wish all the best. Kirazu deserves it.
47 Rupert Street
London W1D 7PD
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!
Limbo is back at London Wonderground. It’s amazing. It’s hypnotising. It’s fabulous. Super skilled circus acts mixed with burlesque – you will want to clap from start to finish. On the ground, in the air, with extraordinary dance moves and live music that makes your blood pulse even faster, you will be in awe, I assure you.
And hey, we have two tickets for you to win for the date of your choice in May. Have a look at the trailer and just leave us a comment below with the adjective that describes it best in your opinion. The lucky winner will be selected at random on May 20 at noon.
Limbo at London Wonderground – Until August 17, 2014