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.

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.

 

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.

Patty and Bun, Liverpool Street

I don’t want to alarm anyone – I think you had better take a seat… BUT I think I have found the best burger in London… and breathe. I thought about this bold statement long and hard but in the end decided, hang on, my tastebuds don’t mess around. I had the ‘Hot Chic’ Chicken burger. Wait, there’s more; it was marinated buttermilk fried chicken with spicy slaw, pickled cucumbers, lettuce and garlic aioli in a brioche bun. HELLO. Need I say anymore?! Well, I do have a bit more to say on the matter actually. It was fricking delicious. My tastebuds dream of the day  I devoured that burger… (the picture doesn’t do it justice)…
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I had a side portion of chips with rosemary salt, dipped in roast chicken mayo & chicken skin salt. If you’re mouth isn’t watering right now… well… I don’t know what to say about that but I’m not happy about it.
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Not only was the food amazing; I loved the atmosphere too. You order at the counter and take a seat. Whilst you can’t book a very nice waiter helped us find somewhere to sit after asking us if we were eating in or taking it away. There were lots of lone diners… you don’t need conversation in this place, it’s a date with a burger (please do not interrupt). A fellow burger fan asked me “How was the chicken burger?” – I loved this! Talking to strangers (in London – what?!) about burgers might be one of my favourite things to do.
Anyway, get yourself to Patty and Bun QUICK. In the meantime, if you know of any burgers you are willing to back like I am with P&B, please do let me know. I would love the opportunity to speak to more strangers about burgers.

Banana Tree, Clapham Junction

I have been to the Banana Tree twice now and both times I have been delighted with the food served. My most recent visit was during the week, yet the place had a lively atmosphere and there wasn’t an empty table in sight. The menu proves for difficult decisions; my mission is to try each dish – mission accepted! After much to-ing an fro-ing I decided on the crispy chicken with mango & sweet lime sauce with sweetcorn cakes, jasmine rice and the Indo house salad (combo meal).
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What an absolute treat for the tastebuds. The chicken was sticky in a wonderful sauce and the meat itself was juicy and tender. There was a little bit of everything one could possibly desire on the plate with this choice. I managed to size it all in – it wasn’t hard.
Sarah had the kajang satay sticks served with a really delicious peanut buttery sauce and steamed palm leaf rice. She also had some of the sweetcorn cakes served with a yummy dipping sauce. Again, the chicken was so tender and the sweetcorn cakes were balls of gooey goodness.
image 4We left with full tummies and happy heads. It will be difficult to not have the crispy chicken on my next visit but I am willing to branch out for the sake of the mission.

The Breakfast Club, Clapham Junction

I’m a big fan of breakfast when it’s done wholeheartedly with no corners cut. The Breakfast Club certainly see to that and provide a huge selection of mouth-watering breakfast and brunch dishes. It was a tricky decision deciding what to have but I pulled through and decided to have the slow roasted pork with BBQ seasoned cannellini and butter bean mix with a fried egg and eggy bread.

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My oh my. Never have I had a brunch so full of flavour. Not only do they serve up a fab selection of food (both indulgent and healthier) but they have a great range of drinks and so I decided to balance out my naughty food choice with a smoothie.

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A yummy Mango Go which consisted of Mango, Strawberry and Orange – wonderfully fresh and zingy. So when you’re thinking of all the places you could go for brunch – here’s the answer, The Breakfast Club. Eat up!

Source, Battersea

After hearing about Source after moving to London it has been high on my list of places to try. So when my Aunt came to visit it seemed like the perfect time to visit! Source offers seasonal, locally sourced food so it has a small yet yummy menu which is constantly changing to reflect the best produce on offer. For starter I had grilled sardines with Isle of White tomato gazpacho, whipped feta, olives & oregano… I’ve never had a dish like this before; it was a light and refreshing and the gazpacho was wonderfully flavoured.
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My Aunt had the Charcuterie Board – Cobble Lane (a british charcuterie maker from Islington) Charcuterie (Fennel Salami, Bresaola, Saucisson) and house cured ham. Served with Balthazar bread, pickled crab apples, smoked tomatoes and pickled beetroot. The meat was flavourful and she really enjoyed the tomatoes and beetroot with them. One happy Aunt.
For main I had monkfish cheeks and cuttlefish thick stew with smoky peppers. It was absolutely delicious; so filling and warming on a cold evening and the fish was lovely and meaty. I need more bread to mop up the stew – I wasn’t leaving anything behind. My Aunt, being a ceoliac was only able to eat two items from the main options so she went for the hake; something she wouldn’t usually have but she was extremely pleased with her decision…
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Source is the place to go if you want real food. Not just real food but carefully thought through wholesome food packed full of seasonal, delicious food. With the ever changing menu I can’t wait to go back to see what is on offer.

Opus at Cornwall Street, Birmingham

I visited Opus at Cornwall Street to celebrate the end of final year exams. I had heard lots of great things about the place and so wanted to check it out for myself. With it being a 2 AA Rosette restaurant with some of the finest, seasonal ingredients it is a top end restaurant with prices to match, but we were celebrating so decided to take the plunge.

 

We were greeted by a gentleman who took our coats set the standard for the service to come. Not only are you paying for the food here but a seamless and professional service. We were offered two menus: the Market Menu and A La Carte. The Market Menu consists of 2-3 dishes per course for a reduced rate that changes everyday. The A La Carte had considerably more choice with 6-7 dishes to choose from. Both menus are tweaked daily to make the most of seasonal produce which I love. After much consideration we decided to go for the A La Carte because after all we were celebrating and several things jumped out at us.

 

We began with a few oysters each. Served with shallot vinegar and fresh horseradish, they were delicious. Wonderful and fresh, they slipped down without a second thought. The dish they were served in (pictured below) meant the table remained clutter free. We had some bread at the same time, which was served warm. The butter was perfectly soft and easily spreadable. A touch I really appreciated; I hate spreading butter fresh out of the fridge onto bread because it doesn’t spread!

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For starters, Danny and I went for the same, pan-fried breasts of quail, confit leg, fresh peas and watercress salad. It was wonderfully juicy and tender. I love the combination with the apple which gave it a really light and fresh taste. My favourite part of the dish was the centrepiece of the dish (see picture below)which was nice and crisp on the outside yet still juicy on the inside. A wonderfully light dish which set the path for the star of the show.

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Now the main… the main was delicious, John Dory, scallops, crushed salad blue potatoes, spiced cauliflower fritters and a spiced cauliflower purée. The John Dory was perfectly cooked and the skin was beautifully crispy. The scallops were huge and meaty and lightly browned on the outside and the curried parsnip purée and fritters were sensational. Finally, the potatoes, were lovely and soft and more BLUE (how exciting!). This dish really was delicious and I will be dreaming of it for weeks to come; an ideal dish as summer draws closer.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this extravagant evening (for a student). I would love to head back soon but fear for my bank balance. Nonetheless, this is not to say it is overpriced, you pay for what you get and that is brilliant service, delicious food and an upmarket but relaxed atmosphere. I would really recommend Opus and would love to go back to try something from the Market Menu.

The Butchers Arms, Priors Hardwick

For this years Mothers Day 13 of us piled into the already busy Butchers Arms in Priors Hardwick (Warwickshire). It had been on my Granny’s list as a place to visit for a while so Mothers Day seemed like the perfect occasion to treat her. In total, our party had four Mothers to celebrate and being a family who love food, the Butchers Arm was a good place to come. From the exterior it seems like a traditional British pub, and it is to some extent… other than the fact that it is run by a Portuguese family and a few other things I shall mention… However, it truly is a family run pub with at least two generations waiting and chatting with guests.

There was a huge selection of starters. After settling on whitebait my Aunt declared that I must try something different. “I rather fancy some nice whitebait” I thought (in my head) but gave her the benefit of the doubt and chose Duck the Oriental Gressingham Duck Salad – two duck cakes served with sweet hoi sin sauce and tossed dressed leaves.

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I have been having a bit of a hankering for duck recently, however, I wish I had stuck with my initial choice and gone with the whitebait. Even more annoying was looking across the room (we had two tables because apparently it’s bad luck to had 13 people to one table) to see my Dad munching on a nice piece of whitebait looking very happy with himself. My brother had the same problem as me and we found the duck cakes to be quite dry, it really did need the sauce on the side… and more. However, everyone else was happy with their choices (especially Dad).

With it being Mothering Sunday there was a choice of a roast (chicken, lamb, beef, pork) and two fish dishes (sea bass and halibut). I went for the halibut which came with prawns, spinach, an asparagus creamy sauce and some delicious buttery potatoes. The asparagus seemed a little dull in colour but nevertheless tasted good. This was my first time having halibut so I would like to try it again before coming to a firm judgement but I couldn’t help but think it was a little dry.

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After delivering my fish, and for the rest of my family, their meat, potatoes and yorkshire puddings, waiters came round with carrots and broccoli, serving it straight onto our plates. I really liked this little touch and the waiters were really chatty and friendly. These veggies were buttery and cooked to perfection. I had a taste of my Aunts beef and it was delicious but the gravy was already served onto the plates and my cousin who only likes a little gravy was a tad disappointed.

Puddings was something else. A waitress reeled off pudding after pudding – probably around 10 in total – which were served straight from a pudding table in the centre of the room. Usually the puddings go round on a trolly but the pub was so crammed that it had to be stationary. I went for a simple plate of strawberries and cream, the strawberries were huge and I would have liked some clotted cream but the double cream served did the trick. Others had meringues with caramel and strawberries and some had traditional Portuguese puddings.

The pub has lots of seating areas, indoors and out for coffees after eating which was just what we needed to kick back and let the meal go down. Dotted around, on the walls were signed photos of celebrities who had popped by for a meal at the pub. There was a huge amount of them and from what I gather, people have a real connection to the family who run the pub. This really makes for a great atmosphere; the service was quick and friendly and the staff were passionate about the food. I would like to head back here soon to try the à la carte menu as they have some great fish dishes that I hope are as good as those served in Portugal.

I would recommend The Butchers Arms for a relaxed and friendly meal. Despite my reservations I will be returning to order that whitebait!!!

Chop & Wok

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I was drawn to the idea of Chop & Wok after hearing ‘takeaway’ and ‘healthy’ in the same sentence. What really should have been said was, a ‘healthier’ alternative to your standard Chinese takeaway. Mainly because you order your one box of goodies and that’s you done. No dibbling and dabbling in a bit of this and a bit of that… after all I come from a family who orders a selection of dishes and then we all share. I am very aware that this infuriates some people. Well to them I say, Chop & Wok is your place. It took bang on an hour to arrive, as stated it would on the website. We ordered on a Friday night at around 8pm so we were ready for the wait. One thing I loved about this takeaway was the fact that there was NO washing up at the end, nothing, not even a fork. The delivery arrived with chopsticks, plastic forms, wipes and of course came in the iconic Chinese takeaway boxes. Also, we got a freebie with our order, a free side! With every order over £15 Chop & Wok give you a free side. No choice so it’s pot luck as to what you get. Luckily I’m not fussy so this wasn’t as issue. Personally, I thought we should have got 2 free sides because we spent over £40 but that’s me being greedy. Plus, they forgot our prawn cracker which we paid for!!

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The online menu is really cool, letting you choose from a huge selection of goodies. I went for rice noodles, black bean sauce, salmon, prawns and pak choi. They were pretty stingy on the salmon, prawns and pak choi so it was pretty much a huge pile of noodles with a flake of salmon here and there. I wouldn’t choose the rice noodles again as it was a little mushy. The annoying this was that I tried my friends ones and there’s tasted MUCH better. They all either had egg noodles or rice, had meat (duck or chicken) and had Tokyo honey and lime sauce. Isn’t that the worst… when you’re bitterly disappointed with your own meal and the next person is munching away having a brilliant time.

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So, I’m willing to give Chop and Wok another go. I’m sure I got the rotten end of the stick on this occasion (I hope anyway – I don’t want too many more rotten sticks). If you’re going to give Chop and Wok a go, learn from my mistakes… get something meaty! No flimsy noodles or fish.