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…?
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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.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Clapham Junction

The GBK menu is one that filled me with confusion and despair. I have never seen such a long list of delicious sounding burgers. Do not fear though, it was a Saturday afternoon and I had all the time in the world to decide which burger to choose. After a lot of deliberation, writing up pros and cons of my favourite sounding burgers I went for the Camemburger. Want to know more… it had camembert, hash brown, truffle mayo, onion jam and relish all in a brioche bun.  Want to see more…
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Don’t tell me that isn’t one fine looking burger. Well I can tell you it sure tasted like a large helping of heaven. The Camemburger had it all. Juiciness, crispiness, cheesiness and just great old tastiness. Naturally I had to have a side of chips. I went for the sweet potato fries with baconnaise. BACONNAISE. Why haven’t I heard about this before? Why isn’t it next to the mayonnaise in the supermarket because that stuff is out of this world. It’s freshly made in the GBK kitchens which means we may have to wait a little longer until we can stock it in our own fridges so for now get yourself to GBK to try this taste sensation.
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I don’t want to seem over dramatic or anything but I walked out of GBK that day feeling great. Yes, I had just eaten my bodyweight in not-so-healthy food but YES it was brilliant and I don’t regret it one little bit. I can’t guarantee you’ll get this sense of achievement too but I would like to say it’s pretty dam likely.

The Orange, Victoria

I had the weekend from foodie heaven last weekend. My parents came to visit and  there’s only one thing beef farmers’ like more than a good plate a beef and that’s a good plate of beef they haven’t had to cook. We went to The Orange before heading to see Billy Elliot (which, by the way is incredible, you must see it!). The bar was heaving as we entered, whilst this was a good sign we where glad to be ushered upstairs to enjoy a more peaceful meal. It had a great atmosphere – a family feel and the waitresses were relaxed and chatty. We skipped straight to mains…
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Proper grub. Becky had the pork belly (with rosemary white beans, kale, apple & saffron chutney and brandy jus) which she said was delicious and not too fatty. It certainly looks good – you can’t tell me it doesn’t look good (?!). I had the Chorizo, Fivemiletown goat’s cheese, spinach & red onion jam wood fired pizza. There was just the perfect about of goats cheese as it was quite rich and the chorizo was light yet really flavoursome. It arrived… “you’ll never eat all of that” was the general consensus around the table. 15 minutes later, not one slice left. Not impressed? I also finished off a side of the truffled macaroni cheese which was glorious.
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Still not impressed? I had only had brunch 5 hours beforehand. STILL NOT IMPRESSED? Well I give up. Anyway, back to the food (as if it was ever not about the food). I was IMPRESSED by the food offered up by The Orange. Five of us dined and we were all more than happy with our choices. My Dad, the classic steak eater had a funny turn and had the mussels with a side order of chips. The slurping noises from across the table assured me he was happy with his choice and thank god otherwise we wouldn’t have heard the end of it. 
So, book Billy Elliot and go for lunch/supper at The Orange. I can guarantee you will have a fantastic time. What better combo than good food and good entertainment? I can’t think of one.

Mama Wangs Chinese Street Food Cookery Class

When I think of Chinese food I think of millions of ingredients, most of which I have no idea what they are or where to find them. Jessica, the founder of Mama Wangs Kitchen quickly changed my mind after we made three delicious meals during one of her street food cookery classes last weekend. Taylah and I have been to a few cookery classes now and the Mama Wangs class certainly did not disappoint.
We began with Duck Jian Bing (classic Chinese breakfast crepes with roast duck)… Minimal ingredients, quick to make and absolutely delicious.
image 2It had a cracked egg on top and was smothered in hoisin sauce. Unfortunately it didn’t last long as I quickly demolished it. The class was really hands on and we were given the chance to make everything from scratch. Whilst we were a little short for time, I’m glad Jessica managed to cram three dishes in as they were all so different and tasty and I will certainly be making them again. Next we started making the Jisi Liangmian (tossed chicken noodles with a creamy sesame paste sauce). A cold, lighter dish crammed with fresh vegetables…
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Finally we made Roujiamo (Chinese flatbread sandwiches with red-braised pork belly) which was so rich and decadent. We even made the flatbread ourselves and then ate them in about two mouthfuls. We cooked the pork belly in a sauce that quickly turned thick and sticky.
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We left feeling full to the brim. The only thing I would have liked was the opportunity to sit down to enjoy our food. As the class over ran we had to shovel it down quite quickly and the food was so delicious that I would have liked the time to really enjoy it. We could have taken some home with us but we weren’t told to  bring tupperware and none was provided so we stored it in our stomachs.
Jessica was a fantastic host and kept an eye on us all to make sure we made the best possible food. I learnt some truly great dishes that I hope to share with others – I’ve already bought the duck so WATCH OUT I’m making crepes!