Bluebird Café, Chelsea

You rock up to a restaurant to find they’ve finished serving brunch and you think WHY GOD WHY? But then you see their lunch menu and you think life isn’t so bad after all. First thing to note, brunch finishes at 11.30, lunch starts at 12.00. Second thing to note, this isn’t a bad thing, the lunch menu is pretty dam great. Third thing to note, the waiting staff are great and super chilled.
As you might have realised, we arrived just as brunch was finishing. Nevertheless, we were shown to a table and looked after until lunch was ready to roll. I went for the shrimp tempura with kalwanji seeds (what the hell are they?)  nori and spicy mayo, SEE YA LATER brunch you’re  not needed. Just me and the shrimp…
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The lack of brunch really got to us so naturally we had to have dessert…
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Apple crumble. The love of my life. What can you say about apple crumble other than it was warm, delicious, unhealthy and perfect? Nothing. If you want a chilled meal with options galore then Bluebird Cafe is ideal. I can’t comment on brunch but I’m going to go ahead and say it’s probably pretty fantastic too.
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The Ivy, Covent Garden

 The first hurdle was getting in but after several laps of the building we found door that was very much so a door. How did we not see it sooner? We were greeted warmly and shown to our table. Set in a beautifully furnished room and sat right next to an incredible bar our hopes were high for the food to come. You might know The Ivy as being rather expensive and you wouldn’t be wrong but there is a very reasonably priced set menu (two courses for £21.75). I was umming and arring but when I caught a glimpse of the food buzzing around me, my mind was made up. For starters:
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Fried duck egg, black pudding bon bons, girolles & toast. It was the perfect starter – hearty enough to not feel like you’ve been served a plate of fresh air but not so feeling you feel threatened by the idea of a main. The egg was cooked as an egg should be and beautifully runny and rich. For mains:
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Cornish cod fillet, creamed spinach, cauliflower, trompettes & bacon. Trompettes? What a great word. Well it’s a kind of mushroom and a tasty one at that. In fact they were possibly one of my favourite parts – big up to the trompettes. The cod had a lovely crispy skin and flaked away like a dream come true.
So don’t rule The Ivy out if you’re not up for splashing the cash. The set menu provides a good selection and is kind on the wallet. Granted it’s still a tad bit more expensive than your standard 2 course menu but you pay for great, attentive service as well as some mighty fine loos.

Comptoir Libanais, Soho

The most dangerous places are those that serve great food AND sell the recipe books telling you how to bloody well make it. Am I in a dream or a nightmare? All I know is my soul is happy about it but my waistline is yelling NOOOOO. Well no fear, back off waistline, I don’t care about you. The vast menu of words I have never heard before left me fearing for my soul but our great waitress answered all our questions; she showed us pictures from the recipe book and bought us little bits and bobs to try to help us make up our mind. We got some Baba Ghanuj to share which was really tasty and got our tastebuds ready for the delights to come.
IMG_5427In the end I went for the Fattet Lamb Kibbeh (minced lamb wheat parcels with pine nuts, warm tahini yoghurt, garnished with crispy pita & fried onions) and my oh my I’ve landed in yoghurt heaven.
IMG_5432The waitress told us we wouldn’t need any sides and she was right. The fattet was so rich with the hot yoghurt that we were bursting at the seams. The crispy onions and pomegranate were delicious on top of the lamb and yoghurt and balanced it out nicely. Head to Comptoir Libanais for tasty, heart-warming food with great service! What more could you want…?

Home Sweet Home, Manchester

Can we just take a minute to think about breakfast and brunch and lunch and cake and dinner and coffee… Good. If you’d like to think of all these things whilst being in arms reach of them all, Home Sweet Home is your place. Alright, may be not all at once and you might have to pitch a tent in the place but I SAY WHY NOT?! It’s definitely on my bucket list. On a quick trip to Manchester last weekend my friends said “is there anything you want to do whilst you’re here”. Approximately 0.25 seconds later “HOME SWEET HOME” violently erupted from my mouth and trust me, you don’t mess with a case of food based torrets. It’s not clever and it’s certainly not safe. So my friends happily obliged – who wouldn’t? It’s not exactly a chore.
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Serving up all meals of the day including an incredible selection of extravagant cakes, the tex mex twist spoke to me and my greedy greedy soul. We shimmied on down for brunch… I HAD – Sun Devil Scrambler (house hash, taco sauce, chorizo, scrambled egg and chipotle sour cream). Could I think of a better brunch? No I could not. It was everything I ever dreamed of. And if that wasn’t enough, get a load of these CUTE mugs.

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Gazette, Battersea

A few weeks back my aunt visited London. This meant one thing, food everywhere. She came armed with curly wurly brownies from Borough Market as well as cheese. Brownies for us lot, cheese for some other lucky buggers – don’t touch the cheese, I didn’t touch the cheese, I knew better than to touch cheese than didn’t belong to me (I really wanted the cheese though OK?!). Anyway, this post isn’t about cheese.

We headed to Gazette which is right by Wandsworth Bridge. Whilst it’s a cosey French restaurant, it actually seats quite a few but the service felt personal and quick. We went on a Wednesday so it was ladies night (a free cocktail or pudding – since we had the brownies at home, we went for the cocktails). I had a mojito…
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It was a super tasty mojito with an added swirl of strawberry puree at the top. It was a pleasant surprise and it went down far too easily. For starter I had Cocotte Meurette – fried eggs and toast with pancetta and mushroom in a red wine sauce. It was absolutely delicious but perhaps a little large. No one needs three fried eggs, especially in a starter. “too big?! Don’t eat it all then”… IMPOSSIBLE. I can’t control myself when it comes to food, especially food that tastes this good.

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The eggs were perfectly cooked and the flavour of the mushroom and pancetta were delicate.  Next up I had Le Burger Gazette – now we don’t need to speak French to work that one out. It came with cheese, a warm tomato relish and salad. Of course there were chips – crispy but chunky (one of the few places you don’t have to buy chips at an additional cost).

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It was a very tasty burger but I was left feeling a little jealous of my fellow diners steaks. With the competition of burgers in London the Gazette burger could not compete. It lacked the real juiciness packed full of flavour I have tested in rival burgers, this is not to say it was dry!

Overall it was a delightful meal, the starter was outstanding, the main less so. The drinks were quick to arrive and a little different (in a good way).

Amsterdam – food finds

I spent last weekend in Amsterdam. It rained and it rained and then rained a little bit more. Trekking from one food spot to the next was a damp experience, but worth it on every count. Here is a chronological account of the noteworthy things I ate in Amsterdam…
The Ice Bakery by Nutella

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image 6If you like Nutella paired with more sweet, sugary goodness then the Ice Bakery is a must. I had the ‘Nutellone’ which was like a doughnut, crammed full of the chocolatey goodness. I also had a Nutella hot chocolate which was so good and something I will try to replicate ASAP. My friends had waffles topped with whipped cream/bananas/Nutella (of course). This is certainly a must for an afternoon snack, they even have Nutella macaroons!

 

 

Frites
image 7We got our humungous pile of chips from Chipsy King; there are three dotted around Amsterdam. There are plenty of places to find these delicious chips, just looks for ‘frites’ or ‘patats’. I got mine slathered in Dutch mayo which is pretty much mayo but has more of a sour cream taste. If you love your sauce then you’ll get your fair share with a portion of these…

 

 

The Pancake Bakery
image 11 image 2image 10       The Pancake Bakery was one of my favourite places that we visited. We had to queue for a little while but it was worth the wait. The cosy interior is full to the brim with tables. Each table has a selection of syrups to accompany your choice of pancake. We started with the poffertjes which are like mini, thick pancakes. We ordered them with butter and icing sugar. They were hot and sweet and tasted amazing. A perfect sweet starter. Next I had a banana and bacon pancake which I topped with syrup. It was cold and wet outside but after this meal we left feeling cosy and warm.
Brasserie Harkema
image 8We stumbled across this place whilst exploring. The menu was more fine dining than any of the other places we ate. My friends had burgers which were nice but a little odd as they had meatball-style tomato sauce in them. I went for the cod which came with fresh gnocchi, tomatoes, spinach and courgette. It was a light lunch which was packed with flavour. Until this point, and afterwards we ate a lot of sweet, heavy dishes so this was a welcome change.

 

 

Van Stapele Koekmakerij

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Make sure you locate this amazing place. A bakery that only sells one type of biscuit – a chocolate cookie which a gooey, white chocolate centre. We queued for a little while to put in our order. We then had to wait for the fresh batch to cool down before they were dished out. If you want a large amount it is worth calling ahead as they will put some aside. They are around €2 each.
 The Lobby
image 13A place great for brunch, it was a lovely vibe. It feels like you’re sat in someones cosey, but decadent sitting room. Make sure you book ahead, especially on the weekends as they get very busy. I had the Flammkuchen which is a special pizza with a super thin base and covered with an even thinner layer of creme fraiche. On top was goats cheese, honey, thyme and pecans. It was light and flavoursome, a truly unique pizza.
Amsterdam is full of tasty treats. For my next trip I would like to go The Butcher and Burgerlijk. I would also like to try to stroopwaffles which are sold on the street. Overall, if you’re after a food filled few days then Amsterdam is the perfect destination. Be prepared to queue for places where you can’t book but try to book ahead if possible.

Dishoom, Covent Garden

The rule that if a place looks busy then it must be good is a rule I like to live by. When I saw the the long queue forming outside of Dishoom I thought, well, this is a place I need to visit. We shipped in some friends straight after work to get us a table and joined them a tad later. The smells coming from the open kitchen on the ground floor assured me we were in for a treat. Treats all round! For main I had the Chicken Ruby – ‘a good and proper curry redolent with spice and flavour. Tender chicken in a rich silky ‘makhani’ sauce’ according to Dishoom. With it I had garlic naan and basmati rice. It sure was a treat and made for a fantastic Monday night.

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The curry was packed full of flavour, the sauce nice and thick. It had a slight kick but it didn’t overpower the dish. The chicken was so tender it just fell apart in my mouth. And let me tell you, dunking that garlic naan in the curry was a dream come true. I was full to the brim but decided whilst I was here, a dessert was in order. I had pineapple and black pepper crumble… tangy fresh pineapple infused with black pepper and Keralan vanilla, bedded beneath a layer of crumble topping. Served warm, with custard on the side. I do love a good crumble and this one was up there in my crumble rankings. The pineapple wasn’t too sharp, a delicious crumble filling I have to say!
image 4By this point I really was ready to burst. The food overall was heart-warming and true in true comfort food style tasty yet plentiful. I really want to head back soon to try the Dishoom brunch menu which looks fantastic. So get in line and try Dishoom. It’s a comfortable and warming place to eat with really friendly staff.