22 August 2015

Morden & Lea

If you think of food in Leicester Square, your mind is instantly drawn to queues outside KFCs, Burger Kings and McDonalds and the incessant stream of people making a beeline for M&M World. But if you venture a stone's throw away, towards Chinatown, you'll find a fantastic little addition to the British restaurant scene in Morden & Lea.

Watch out for the powder blue frontage among the sea of maroon Irish pubs and Chinese restaurants, and step inside to a slick, tiled brasserie. A flank of booths leads you towards the industrial styled bar at the back, where you can sit on high tables, before heading upstairs to what they call their more 'refined dining experience' (although you can get just as good lighter snacks downstairs).

We started off with a couple of cocktails (half price between 4pm and 7pm) and boy, were they good. I went for the East India Cocktail, a heady mix of vermouth, eau de vie, raspberries, curacao and maraschino cherry. Fruity without being overly sweet, the dry depth shone through and who can resist anything that comes topped with chocolate? Emma went for the Halah with citrus sharp with pink grapefruit and bitters.

And then upstairs into the serene dining room that was both elegant and yet relaxed. Lots of art on the walls and the friendliest of waiters who swept delicious bread and oil on to the table and were experts at spying a near-empty water glass. The genius Mark Sergeant has made all men equal here with a set menu: 2 courses for £29 and 3 for £35. Which makes decisions both deliciously easy and difficult.

In the end, I went for the rabbit tortelloni with peas, pommery mustard sauce and bacon. Having only eaten rabbit for the first time earlier this year (as buttermilk fried), this could have been my downfall but I think I'm a total convert. The parcels of pasta were perfectly cooked with the meat inside tender, and perfectly accompanied by the slight bite of the mustard sauce. Salty lardo added an extra dimension and the peas brought some sweetness to the plate. 

I was too busy wolfing down my pasta to try Emma's mackerel rillettes on prawn toast with cucumber white grape gazpacho but empty plates are good signs, right?

For mains, we did the bad thing and ordered the same fillet of cod with crispy, crunchy black rice. Lifted by sweet vegetables, this time in the form of courgette, and brought back to another plane with salty, smoky squid and chorizo, this dish was exquisite. 

We washed these down with another cocktail (this time with whisky, grain, tobacco and bitters) and a glass of red each and went the whole hog with puddings. Emma's gypsy tart was devilishly sweet and sumptuous while my set chocolate with hazelnuts, mocha sherbet and praline mousse was one of the smartest ends to a meal I've ever had. Top marks for total defeat. 

Seriously though, I was seriously impressed with Morden & Lea. It's shot straight into my recommendations list and would be back in a heartbeat. Hats off.

20 August 2015

Social Wine & Tapas

There are many many opinion pieces on whether the whole no reservations scene works in London and there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer. It works both ways and can be a bit like the two second rule in a car park, sometimes it's totally in your favour and other times you're left seething in anger.

But it seemed the former a couple of weeks ago when Jason Atherton's newest London opening Social Wine & Tapas opened up its books and we snapped up a late Saturday lunch. Bar, restaurant and wine shop all in one, there's a pretty laidback feel here which was great for a mother-daughter catch up and perfect for sharing. We sat on one of the corner tables in the upstairs Tapas Bar; there's more seating downstairs but it was pretty quiet, and also nine stools at the open kitchen to pique your curiosity. All dark woods, gold features (including walls) and green tiles, this is a far cry from the bright and airy Pollen Street Social.

There are over 100 wines to choose from, and several by the 125ml glass thanks to the Coravin wine system. We opted for a bottle of the Costiere de Nimes but if you were feeling particularly flash, there's a Jeroboam of Chateau Latour for a snip at £6,500. 

Food kicked off with the szechuan fried chiperones - tiny bites of squid in a spicy togarashi batter with squid ink aioli to dip them into. Decently salty and garlicky, the small mound quickly disappeared to be replaced by a glorious heirloom tomato salad with truffled burrata. This was my 'died and gone to heaven' dish of the day (nothing to do with my burrata obsession, of course) as the sweet red and yellow fruits mixed with the tart bite of the gazpacho vinagrette and the earthy yet creamy cheese. I would have ordered this again and again had my mum not been the sensible party at the table.

And then on to the jamon and cheese selection because who can choose just one? Meat wise, you get a slice or two of the Iberico bellota, Teruel Lomo, Chorizo Magno, Salchichon, Teruel Serrano and Cecina and then a glorious nose of the five cheeses: a creamy Bosworth Ash goat's cheese, a gooey Sharpham, a tangy Cornish Yarg, reeking Stinking Bishop and a sharp Beauvale. As I'm the kind of person who could exist on this fare alone, I was pretty content, although I would have liked a few more crackers and more of the quince jam but I am a bit of a loader.

Staff were friendly, greeting us by name at the door and attentive until it came to pay the bill. The only disappointing thing was seeing a kitchen porter take several trips across the restaurant to stock up supplies and carry out rubbish, but let's hope that was just a one off.

Evidently, it's another great string to Atherton's bow. I'm now three into his outposts and each are charming. Check out what I made of Pollen Street Social and Social Eating House.

9 August 2015

There is so much more

And I was shaking. There it was. The one thing I didn't want to see because it confirmed what I had thought. The catalyst. The reason. The replacement.

It had been happy. We had been happy. From even the first few dates, it was on. We fell into the easiest relationship, fast at times, but it felt right and good. Perhaps it was a whirlwind, but it was a wanted whirlwind. Whispers and stories and all the most brilliant memories that I've since had to block out (the nights, the days and every single little moment in between), and pretend never happened because it was just too raw. How someone who had been so in love just all of a sudden...wasn't. I still have all but one of his declarations of love - from the smallest note I'd found in my coat pocket to the stories he wrote each week for me (although I have quite literally been rewritten out of one), and the text from New York less than a month before we ended where he asked how I felt about doing something crazy? I had my own work trip to New York the weekend after and as I walked from 21st to 51st, across from 2nd to 10th, I wondered what it'd be like to be here. Together. The two of us. Partners in crime. You and me, tiny bones, you and me.

Two weeks later, it was our anniversary and his words scrawled across the pages, filling them all, reiterating the past months together. His happiness. His luck. His love. Our future. Our forever. A week on, it all came crashing down and I found myself crying on Shoreditch High Street, barely able to breathe.

Another two weeks after that, my world was still hollow and he returned my record player while I piled all the things he had at mine into his arms; he had to take two trips to the car where his friend was waiting. I'd expected him to stay longer than the cursory 20 minutes, but perhaps that was just naivety. I gave him back the ring he'd surprised me with at Christmas; his late mother's eternity ring. All but one of his declarations of love. All he gave me this time was lies.

And since then, it's been a slow and steady process of reclamation. Reclaiming me, myself and I. And I was doing so well until that photo, which affirmed what had brought my world crashing down, who had inexplicably changed our relationship. And that day, the shock came flooding back in waves that washed over me, sadly and resolutely. My housemate said that this revelation didn't change anything about it and she's right, it doesn't twist the knife in any harder, it doesn't make it any easier, it just is. And I'd been doing so well and I would be just fine.

I bought and read a book - a book called The Book of Brave - on the way to work, had it up on my screen whilst I rewrote something for a client. Some chapters were a little close to home and I disguised the rise of tears with stifled yawns, and then steeled myself in others, the words were what I needed to hear.

Later that day, I sat in the park and I was recounting other memories. From before. I felt a little like I was bragging, all these things I've been fortunate enough to do and see and experience, and then a second later, I told myself off for thinking like that. These memories have formed me, made me who I am, and I shouldn't be ashamed of sharing them. The time I rode Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's favourite stallion in the Dubai desert. The time I was driven round Silverstone's Formula One track in a 1973 Porsche by a former racing driver, laughing with shock at spinning out at 100mph. When I was 16 volunteering in a hill tribe village in Thailand. Swimming with phosphorescence, trying a strawberry daiquiri for the first time, meeting the family who had built a boat in their back garden and sailed all the way from South Africa to the Caribbean with the cat who caught flying fish, the tree house, the rope swing, watching shooting stars on my car bonnet, living in Paris for a year on my own at 20.

I am so privileged and fortunate to have these memories, these experiences, and able to make so many more. I am not defined by heartbreak, it has built me in just as many ways, but I will not let it define me no matter how sad it was to lose a part of me that was so very much my happiness. There is so much more to me than that and I am worth every little bit.

6 August 2015

The All Saints Hace trench

Do you ever walk into Selfridges with the sole intention of perhaps looking for a bracelet and then come out with an All Saints trench? No? Just me then.

Stepping outside my wholly black wardrobe, I bought the softest oyster trench to transition through to autumn and beyond. I've been throwing it on over riding pants, black shift dresses and leather skirts as the perfect alternative to my companion, the black duster coat. And because it's still within my monochrome, tonal range of colour choices (oyster counts as grey which is in the black family, right?), it lends itself to a perfect bold lip.


4 August 2015


You may have noticed things have been a bit quiet over here. It's not that I haven't had things to say, I've just been throwing myself into other things temporarily following the break up earlier this year. Some of these things involve new places and others not so new, so it's all about claiming them back and new experiences. Like Dandelyan last night.

After a few drinks but disappointing food at The Refinery, we decided to call in at Sea Containers for a nightcap or two. The luxurious bar is perfectly positioned on the South Bank, and best at night when the city lights over the Thames come to life. On paper, the decor shouldn't work - deep greens and purples and crushed velvets mixed with a marble bar - but if Dandelyan was a person, it would ooze charisma, leading the resurgence in good hotel bars, having recently won the 'Best New International Cocktail Bar'.

The drinks are seasonal and 'botanical', the menu divided into ingredients such as 'birch', 'poplar' and 'oak'. Within these are lighter drinks more suited to the daytime, or boozier, richer alternatives for late night escapades. We started with the Iberico Sour (acorn ham mezcal, tapatio reposado, lemon, endive and oak honey) which was deliciously smoky, meaty and bitter with that agave bite, and The Cooper (seaweed-infused redbreast, oak moss, lemon and cucumber) which was the refreshing lighter little sister. 

Next up was the Crimson Waxwork, a tumbler coated with beeswax and topped up with beeswax cognac, bee pollen, cocchi americano and oak bitters. Much deeper and sensual with a lingering smooth finish, this one almost stole the show were it not for the classic Concrete Sazerac. Cognac, fermented peychaud, absinthe and edible concrete, this is one of my favourite drinks in London at the moment. It's an achingly sexy drink that balances all the right flavours.

Topped off with a great mix of music, the impeccable lobby decor and really friendly staff, Dandelyan is the perfect nighttime stop. I'm just dying to check out the rooms above next.
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