1 July 2015

The Amalfi Coast

I turned 26 last week and spent a glorious week on the Amalfi Coast. From bathing in 38 degree volcanic rock pools to climbing to the top of Positano, dining at the foot of a castle to sampling authentic Napoli pizza, I think we did it right.









I now have a killer tan and another perfect destination crossed off my list.
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13 June 2015

Juma Kitchen


I've now been to Clapham a grand total of three times in my life. The first was to Chicago Rib Shack, the second and third trips The Jam Tree. Whilst I can't stop thinking about their Confiture cocktail (deliciously, wickedly sweet), it wasn't that that brought me back but instead a 50-strong supper club with a difference. I'd interviewed Phil Juma of Juma Kitchen a couple of months back for TryThisFor and he invited me down for an evening like no other. 

I wrote about my introduction to Iraqi cuisine over at TryThisFor - head this way for a crash course in five courses of incredible Middle Eastern fayre.
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11 June 2015

Vintage Salt, Selfridges


A few seasons ago, Selfridges had the bright idea of opening up their prime real estate rooftop and introducing themed bars and restaurants for shoppers, tourists and locals alike. Last winter it was Le Chalet with Alpine wooden panelling, blankets and more hot chocolate than bloggers could shake a stick at. This summer, it's Vintage Salt and inspired by Cornish fishing villages all decked out in blues and Breton striped servers.

After a brilliantly boozy brunch one Saturday at Pachamama (read about it here) and some attempts at shopping, Soph and I ventured up for a drink. An unsuccessful and frustrating 30 minutes later, we left empty-handed as four attempts to order drinks had been ignored. Ouch. We managed to catch Simon, the manager, on our way out and he later invited us back for a bottle of sparkling wine.

With that in mind, we returned last Thursday on a warmish, sunny evening just perfect for catch ups. Soph had just celebrated her one year anniversary with her boyfriend so the English sparkling wine was a nice little treat (whilst I, on the other hand, recently celebrated a six month anniversary with mine and now it is no more, so slightly less of a celebration there).


The weekly printed menu tells you the weather forecast and the food is heavily fishy, which is right up my winding little Cornish alley. We decided to kick off with the London particulars fritters, made from pea and ham hock and served with a light mustard mayonnaise. The batter was light, the seasoning was good and the mayo had the right amount of kick to complement.


Mains next and Sophie went for the Josper grilled spring chicken. A huge portion (it has to be at £18.50), it's smothered with a tangy barbecue marinade and finished on the grill du jour to combine that charcoal taste with the surety of an actually cooked piece of chicken. It came served with a spicy slaw which lifted the entire dish completely and was eagerly mopped up by both of us.


I chose the sea bass a la plancha which came with surf clams and wilted beach greens - in my case, samphire. It was well pan-fried with a lovely colour but a little underseasoned and a little dry on the whole. Swiping some of the slaw from the chicken was a brilliant idea and those truffle chips? To absolutely die for and hugely worth ordering.


We finished on the brownie sundae dip (although were very tempted by the chocolate burger) and a deliberately upturned ice cream cone spilling with marshmallow, brownie pieces and chocolate crumb arrived at the table. Scooped up with plenty of chocolate ice cream and the obligatory cone, this was a finale that wasn't overkill. It was also, perhaps, the most authentic Cornish village dish of the day.

All in all Vintage Salt was great, but a little underwhelming ultimately. The staff are friendly and attentive when you need them but the food didn't blow me away. It's busy and popular and the ideal place for people-watching but if you're after the fishy wow factor, I'd suggest trying one of these fine fisheries.

Top photo via
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6 June 2015

Pachamama


The two biggest things on the London foodie scene have finally come together under the skilled eye of chef Adam Rawson: enter a British brunch Peruvian style. I'll admit, I wasn't sure how ceviche and cornbread could compete with firm favourites such as avocado toast and eggs Benny but Pachamama is really turning things on its head.

A beautiful basement bar tucked a few streets behind Oxford Street, Pachamama is a real beauty to stumble into on a Saturday morning. Combining rustic tables, rambling plants and even a full-size horse light fitting with a welcoming wooden and tiled bar, the attention to detail here is reassuringly good and it continues through to the food and drink.


Of course, we kicked off with the mostly pisco based cocktails, reassuring ourselves it was midday somewhere in the world. I was drawn to the Rosa del Inca (pisco with pink peppercorns, coffee beans, vermouth, campari and orange bitters) and had to order a second, it was so good. A South American twist on the negroni, this had real warmth and depth and the obligatory kick of booze to start the day. Sophie had something floral with flavours of raspberry running through it that was simply divine.
Then came the food. We were presented with a few of the chef's favourites which led to a bit of guessing as the smiley waiter sort of mumbled the dish then left us to it. First up were the bacon and cheese tacachos - a sort of combination of a croquette and an arancini with roasted banana all up in the mix, these were brilliant. Oozing cheese paired with smoked meat and a fresh mango salsa is now the key to my heart.



Then came towering sliders of pork belly with a lightly pickled slaw and a spiked mayo, and a large skillet of baked eggs with avocado, samphire and 'farmers cheese' in a rich tomato sauce. This was quite similar to shakshuka, a definite brunch favourite, and while Soph wasn't convinced by the cheese ('it's like paneer') I was too busy spooning it on to my plate.



The last two dishes were even better than the ones that came before - the salmon ceviche with beetroot and avocado simply sang. The tiger milk cut through the hearty flavours of the baked eggs and the earthy beetroot was a lovely accompaniment that I would fight anyone for, just you wait. Soph's favourite was the smoked brisket with plantain hash, corn and an HP aji (that's the British bit making a reappearance!) - big enough for the both of us to simply not be able to finish.


Desserts were breathtaking. A mazzamora morada cheesecake with a spiced berry sorbet and edible flowers was quite possibly the prettiest thing I've ever eaten. With a baked cheesecake consistency and a rich base, this was the heavier pudding while the suspiro de limena got my vote. A meringue with a basil and lemon sugar/sorbet crumbled over the top hid a custard and a strawberry heart. This was pure genius and the right combination of sweet and cleansing.

Brunch by way of Peru might not be the most obvious combination but by god, is it a winning one. Pachamama is one hot mama worth waking up for. Five out of five.
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29 May 2015

TryThisFor: the best basement bars and restaurants

Underground's the last place we want to be in the summer when there's so many parks, terraces and rooftop bars to be exploring instead but over at TryThisFor, we think going underground has its plus sides - especially when it involves food, drink and great company. Perfect for disguising any sunburned bits.

Check out my list of the best basement bars and restaurants to hit up this washed out weekend.
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