5 August 2016

Date night at Duck & Waffle

Every night is date night, right? Not always. Although P and I do spend an inordinate amount of time (and money) eating out (I've actually lost count of the places I wanted to write up and then just ran out of time on). We just can't help ourselves at the moment.

We're planning to curb our enthusiasm a little when we move in together in just over two weeks (eek!). I am already dreaming of all the amazing meals we're going to cook up in our kitchen (with the cutest open shelving) and avoid the temptation to order in every night. But there's one place that I will never have a problem about going back to time and time again and it's the perfect date night destination - Duck & Waffle.

Doubtless you've seen all the selfies and sunsets on Instagram. With it being 40 floors above the city and open 24 hours all year round, the views are astounding and the gastronomic possibilities are endless.

We started yesterday's evening with a Woodland Negroni and a Daily Grind. Nestled in a moss-lined wooden bowl with a heady fragrance of ferns and meadows, this smoother than smooth campari was a dream. Cocktail genius Rich makes it with 'damp gin', campari and sweet vermouth and slow drips it through all sorts of flora as part of this season's 'Urban Foraged' collection. P, whose drink choices always tend to come in the most feminine of glasses, wasn't quite as keen on his cocktail which came topped with crushed coffee dregs (but that's only because mine was better).

No biggie though as D&W never disappoints. Just look at the guanciale and Welsh goat's cheese bread. Cured pork cheek is layered onto the dough and baked to order and oozing with tangy saltiness. Cutting into the still hot from the oven loaf, we always have to fight over who gets the last tear.

Particularly useful for finishing the last of the foie gras creme brulee. This small pot contains one of the most delectable dishes, worth hankering over with its smooth, meatiness. The cracked shards of sugar cut through the silkiness to add crunch and the heavy brioche with its pork crackling top serves as the perfect vessel from table to mouth.

We also had the seared octopus with raw fennel and chilli. I was too busy eating to take a photo but it was sharp and fresh with citrus and salad, complementing the meatiness of the cephalopod which had the lightest of smokes and crisps.

Next up was the pea and mint ravioli with brown butter crumble. I'm still trying to work out quite how they got this bowl of pasta quite so light and fresh tasting; no carb comas here but sweetness from the fresh peas and an undertone of buttery richness. Predictably, this was swept up and devoured.

We finished the last of our beautiful bottle of Ribeauville Gewurztraminer wine along with a British cheese plate. No time to waste, putting this new found love of Alsacien wine into practice.

So, another delicious date night. Normally I'd be aching to get another booking in the diary to do it all over again. This time? I don't have to wait - next week, we're showing off to clients and introducing them to a world of pig's ears, smoked eel and that duck and waffle dish.

2 August 2016

Five places in five days

It's been a bit of a mad few days but I wouldn't change any of it for the world. P and I celebrated our six months anniversary (is that even allowed?!) on Friday and we spent the weekend in France meeting his family. Getting back to the daily grind this morning was a bit of a jolt to the system - especially when my heel snapped on my shoe at Clapham North station - so here's to a precis of the last five days in three different countries.

1 Client debauchery at Chiltern Firehouse. We took some clients out to the place to be seen on Thursday night. We kicked off with bottles of champagne in the bar where there's lots of plush fabrics, barmen in white jackets, flowing greenery and a well-groomed dog or two. Coupled with a celeb spot of Zoe Kravitz, Lisa Bonet, Jason Mamoa and Michael Fassbender, it was always going to be a good evening, right? We ate at the Kitchen Table - ordering round after round of seasonal martinis while devouring the bitesize crab donuts, carrot blunts, chicken wings and chunky tuna tartare. I had steak tartare for main and it was silky and smooth, with lashings of seasoning. No selfies but a quick sneak into the secret garden was worth the hype.

2 Anniversary eating at Bob Bob Ricard. Faced with mammoth hangovers, we contemplated cancelling our long-awaited table at London's finest English-Russian collaboration but after some stern words to ourselves and some bloody good Red Snappers at Mark's Bar, we made it. We made ourselves comfortable in the bluest of blue booths and naturally, pressed for champagne. Then we moved onto caviar and ice cold vodka, then indulged in the purest comfort food of lobster macaroni and cheese. An oozing, melting baked St Marcellin finished us off.

3 Wine tasting in Riquewihr. It was then up at a blisteringly early 3.30am to catch a flight to Basel to then drive to Strasbourg to meet the in-laws. But first, we stopped off at the beautiful village of Riquewihr, renowned for its cobbled streets and chocolate box buildings. And wine. The finest producers of Alsacien wine are based in Riquewihr with acres of vines circling the town. We headed to Hugel & Fils where Loic took us through their very best bottles. From Riesling to Muscat, Gewurtztraminer to Pinot Gris, I am now a total sweet(er) wine convert and I'll be eschewing the tired old Pinot Grigio for something a little different.

4 Tartes flambees and cheese on cheese and cheese.
Then came Strasbourg proper and more Aperol Spritzes than you could shake a stick at. One night, we headed for late night tartes flambees at Binchstub. An achingly hip hangout with industrial scaffolding seating and the most laissez-faire waiters you'll ever meet. For the uninitiated, tartes flambees are a regional speciality akin to white pizzas - crisp bases topped with cheese and a variety of toppings. We went for the comte, nuts and lardons; the munster (a very strong regional cheese just like Stinking Bishop), and the tommes aux vaches with nettles. So hot it'll burn the roof of your mouth but perfect when washed down with light, chilled Pinot Noir and a digestif of Ron Zapaca 23 before a slow wander through the tiny, stunning Strasbourg streets.

And of course, a weekend in France wouldn't be complete without the fullest cheeseboard you've ever seen.

5 Al fresco swimming at Resort Barriere, RibeauvilleWhat better way to end the weekend than two hours in an outdoor thermal spa looking over the Vosges mountains? Naturally heated to 34 degrees, the pools and jacuzzis washed away all our traffic-related angst and set us up for the inevitable easyJet delays and the torrential downpour that awaited us in London. It's open all year round and is set to be spectacular in winter when the mountains are capped with snow and the flakes settle around you in the darkness. Return flight, anyone?

12 July 2016

Two songs that just won't leave me alone

You know the ones. The ones that stick in your head and you can't get enough of. The ones where the sheer lyrical and musical genius just takes your breath away.

First up is Rationale. His whole Fuel to the Fire EP is one of my go-tos. I fell in love with Tinashe's beautiful voice, teeming with soul and perfectly accompanied by the electricity of the synths. Fast Lane's my first choice but Fuel to the Fire is a very close second.

Second up is local boy Tom Odell. He's a pretty big deal these days (Brits, Ivor Novellos and the like) and I adore this track from his third album, Wrong Crowd. This super sultry song begs to be played very late on a Friday or Saturday night, lights down low, an Old Fashioned in hand and someone to dance with.


30 June 2016

Where to stay: Mykonos

It seems like the entire universe is in Mykonos this summer. Endless blues and whites across Instagram. Sunsets and swimming pools. Beaches and beach clubs. A month ago I was there too. Soaking up the glorious sun in late May, just before the season kicked off, on the annual mother-daughter holiday.

We stayed a week at Mykonos Ammos Hotel; a 5 star boutique hotel listed in the Small Luxury Hotels of the World guide. A pristine white complex of forty rooms, it's the perfect mix of calm relaxation (around the pool) and then upbeat beach bar a few short metres away. Loungers aplenty, there's lots of people-watching to keep you occupied on Ornos Beach - one of the less busy but still vibrant parts of the island. Deep house and club chill out on just the right side of low volume brought the holiday vibe without making us want to tear our hair out.

The rooms were well-sized with decent enough beds (twins, natch, but we heard the doubles were roomy) and enough pillows to sink into. The ground floor rooms, like ours, let you spill out onto the balcony with wine which you can then oh-so-easily take onto the daybeds or hold above your head as you swim about (civilised, of course) in the pool.

Two restaurants are open for business all day from breakfast to after dinner cocktails. Brunch includes a breakfast chef and enough cheese, ham, local pies, fruit and cereal to keep you going back for seconds, thirds and sometimes fourths. Lunch was easy too with Greek cuisine sitting easily alongside Japanese sushi (Kuzina is the only restaurant on the island to use black sushi rice at dinner, there are Japanese chefs at work), and dinner was always going to be a 'roll me out of here' affair. Don't even mention the deconstructed millefeuille. Portion sizes in Mykonos are favourable, to say the least, which is good bearing in mind that prices tend to be around the London mark.

The staff, as you'd expect, swish serenely around the place in sleek grey uniforms. Incredibly friendly and chatty, we saw everyone falling in love with the waiters and hostess Esmerelda has some very good beach and yacht trip recommendations (more on that later). Mykonos Ammos is a real gem and somewhere we wholeheartedly recommend - it's probably a little crazy (like the rest of the island) now it's high season but go either side of the busy months and you're in for a treat.


21 June 2016

My Dad Wrote A Porno

My 'to write' list is as long as my arm, it's my birthday tomorrow, we're viewing a house tonight and I'm off to Paris at the weekend. But I just wanted to drop in because I just had to share a podcast that's been brightening up my commute every day.

'My Dad Wrote A Porno' is exactly what it says. Jamie's dad wrote an erotic novel - under the pseudonym Rocky Flinstone - and he's teamed up with pals James Cooper and Alice Levine to read it chapter-by-chapter and discuss it in detail. The book's called 'Belinda Blinked' (you can buy it online if you so desire) and it follows the sexy shenanigans of Steel Pots & Pans newest Sales Director.

It is definitely not safe for work, not safe for kids but definitely safe for you - if you can manage to stop yourself from crying with laughter on the Central Line.

It's free and you can download it from wherever you get your podcasts from. Plus, it's coming back for more on 4 July!
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