Tuesday, 31 August 2010

London Town

More holidays! This time 6 days in London. Had breakfast at the hotel (mmmm, more pancakes, maple syrup and bacon, while being intently watched by a couple of Italian women, in both disgust and fascination!) so tended to eat lunch quite late and then had a quick tea as we had a play to attend every night! Phew, needed a holiday to recover from the holiday!! But we saw Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act!!! Woo! Not to mention Jeff Goldblum and Meera Syal in 2 other plays. I'll start with our visit to the Southbank. We weren't hungry till we reached the Tate Modern so we decided to have a go in their restaurant. What a good choice. A bit expensive but completely delicious. My mum had the Cornish crab with mimosa dressing and sourdough toast, as seen below. We didn't realise it would be a whole crab so it was a lovely surprise when it arrived at our table. The drink was an apple and honey iced tea which was equally lovely.

I chose the cured Iberico meat plate with pork rilette, Catalan tomato bread, caper berries and sweet guindilla, with an apple, mint and ginger cooler which was incredibly fiery!! The meats, as I knew they would be, were yummy and there was plenty of it. I felt a little short-changed by the little mound of rilettes but actually there was plenty as it was so rich. The Catalan bread was gorgeous but wow did that garlic stay with me for the rest of the afternoon!! And as for caper berries, I've wanted to try some for a while as I love capers but I'm not so sure about all the crunchy seeds inside. Think I'll stick with pretty little capers! Each dish was £9.95, I think the crab was probably better value but then I know how expensive Iberico meat can be. It was a good treat meal and the staff were really nice.

One tea consisted of a slice of tarte fromage blanc and a puff pastry tart with salmon and spinach from Paul's. A taste of Paul's in Paris just wasn't enough for me. I wish we had a Paul's in Manchester, their food is quick and delicious and the choice of bread from there is great. Had to have a bacon fougasse as I'm quite sure it's the law when passing one of their bakeries! They do bread making classes which I'm sure would be really good to attend.

Salmon and spinach puff pastry tart:

Another favourite in London is Wasabi. I think there are quite a few branches there but they haven't filtered through the rest of the country. They have a really nice selection of individual sushi so you can make your own choice according to what you fancy at the time. Makes it a good time to try out different flavours without the commitment of a whole dish. Wasabi also make gorgeous broth soups with different meats and seafoods.

Can't quite remember the kinds I picked but I know there was a katsu chicken one and a salmon and mango one. All very nice anyway!

I'd been on the lookout for some diner food for the whole trip and had written a few addresses down (blame my obsession with Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) but we were never in the right place at the right meal time. I finally got some on the way home outside Euston station at Ed's Diner.

I loved the look of the place and everyone seemed very happy with their order, just a shame it took an age for them to acknowledge me as I wanted to order something to take-away. Grrrr. That put me right off, I was obviously standing right there but oh well. Eventually my order was taken, a classic burger and some fries.

The burger was very nice. I have to admit I prefer the flavour of the meat from my Paris McDonalds trip (shock horror) but you could tell it was good quality, and there was the very welcome addition of pickle, my favourite bit of a burger. Not sure I'd go out of my way to eat here again next time I'm around but it was ok. Didn't like the fries very much as they were really thick and I strangely don't like the taste of potato that much so I like them nice and thin!!

But on to the most important part of this entry - the thorough cupcake testing!

Tried out 4 different cupcake eateries to try and find the best place. First up was Lola's, purchased in Topshop on Oxford Street where they have a little stand for the summer. Got a peanut butter one for my mum and a red velvet for me.
Cute box. The peanut butter one got the big thumbs up and the red velvet was light and had a really nice flavour. A good example of a tasty cupcake. £2.25 which is a bit much but worth it.

Next was Ella's Bakehouse in Covent Garden. A tiny little shop which used to be another brand of cupcake last year. I'd been looking forward to trying out this shop as I'd read great things about them.

Boo, major disappointment. Another peanut butter one and I chose a 'designer cupcake' flavour - maltesers. Should have been wonderful but it was so heavy and I could only really taste maltesers when I ate the one of the top. And at £2.75? Not again. Lola's winning so far. Peanut butter the same heavy texture, at least it was cheaper.

Third was the one I had the highest hope for - the Hummingbird Bakery. Not the friendliest and most helpful of staff but hey, you get your cupcakes and you leave.

Got another red velvet as I wanted to compare with Lola's, and my mum chose the violet special of the day - so pretty and a much more exciting option compared to the two previous bakeries.

The violet had most of its flavour in the little violet pieces of top but the cake was really light and the frosting wasn't too sweet. My red velvet was absolutely gorgeous. Just enough chocolate to make it taste rich, the colour was beautiful, light as anything in texture and I really like cream cheese frosting. The winner thus far but Lola's isn't too far behind at all. The packaging is the prettiest too! £2 I think but can't quite remember.
Lastly - Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden. There wasn't a massive choice and there were no labels on the cakes so you had to ask what each flavour was, not great. I wanted an unusual flavour to end my trip with but there was nothing that took my fancy, a rose one would have been nice. So I ended up with nothing but my mum thought it would be wise to try out another peanut butter concoction!
Another heavy texture. The frosting I'm told was nice and a nice amount of peanut butter in the cake itself but it didn't compare to Lola's or Hummingbird Bakery. Disappointing.

So final placements are:

1. Hummingbird Bakery


3.Primrose Bakery

4. Ella's Bakehouse

Monday, 16 August 2010

Paris in food

Ah, lovely Paris. I hadn't been since I was very young (and quite frankly I was far more excited about going to Euro Disney at the time!) so it was nice to see everything with fresh eyes. Don't expect any restaurant reviews or anything high-brow! I eat supermarket food in hotel rooms and eat in places I'll be left alone! But I eat well.

Found a really great food court underneath the Louvre - Le Carrousel Du Louvre. It's apparently the biggest food court on the continent, not sure about the size but it's certainly the best choice of food I've ever seen in a fast food setting. Different outlets with similar meal deal, ie. a drink, main dish and a dessert for about 14 euros. There is Moroccan, Labanese, Japanese, French, Spanish and Italian then a sandwich place, an ice cream outlet and the obligatory McDonalds (more on that later).

We decided to go for French as the ham looked completely edible. Got massive wedges as the girl behind the counter admitted she wasn't very good at carving! The french beans were gorgeous, cooked with garlic and mushrooms and the ratatouille reminded me that I should eat it way more often.


For later on I visited the Italian counter and bought myself a cannoli. I've always wanted to try one of these having seen them in loads of New York Italian delis, except last year when I was ready to buy one and couldn't see one anywhere! I was very glad to finally try one. The pastry was really crispy and the filling was really creamy, almost mousse-like in texture and the candied orange peel cut through everything. Lovely, and one to seek out again though not sure if I'd bother to make some myself. Will check out a recipe to see how much of a faff it is!

As it was August rather a lot of bakeries were unfortunately closed for the month so I didn't come across as many cakes as I'd have liked. We glanced longingly at fine creations in Laduree and Fauchon but the prices were just stupid and I'd have felt guilty about every mouthful! I think I'd rather have clothes anyway. Things did look beautiful though and I'll go back when I win the lottery!! (I can dream)

I did however take a photo of the Fauchon window - oooo, pretty but about 20 euros for just one of those cakes - eek!

We did buy a bit of bread from there though, seemed reasonable! Nice parmesan, tomato and black olive mini bread. I've had things just as nice from other places though.

Looking in the side streets near our hotel we found a gorgeous bakery which was closing for the summer a couple of days later. They were selling equally pretty eclairs as Fauchon and for a third of the price. I couldn't resist the rose eclair and my mum chose the pistachio. Oh yum, the rose eclair tasted like turkish delight. I would have gone back for one everyday if they weren't closing. Oh well, it saved me a few calories!

Pretty and delicious.

Had some lovely steak hache from Galeries Lafayette in their 6th floor casual restaurant and some lovely steak hache from Casino Cafeteria - notice a trend?! I love steak hache and always had it growing up, either with chips or with half rice and half buttery rice. It always had to be cooked through thoroughly but now I'm a grown up I'm having it 'au point', still maybe a little bit raw in the middle but at least you get served quicker! No pics but I'm sure you can imagine a plate of beef and chips!

One major suprise was McDonalds in Paris - have you ever seen a McDonalds in Britain that looks like this?!:

They have created McCafes, don't know if they exist everywhere in France but there were loads in Paris. They looked gorgeous! And they sell macarons! There was apparently a lot of controversy about this as it was seen as cheapening the art of pastry making. But it was a useful place for breakfast, the coffee was made properly and the croissants were completely fresh and crisp - and most importantly they were open in August! I wish we had them over here.

And I have to admit that we did eat a couple of times in McDonalds but with very good reason, you got these little ceramic cups free with a meal and a coffee:

So cute! They did exist in some gorgeous colours but we didn't find ourselves there on the right day. Boo, I really wanted a blue or purple one. They are made by Revol, a famous brand in France and I found these cups in a department store for 8 euros so a great bargain in McDo. And actually, hamburgers are rather delicious aren't they?!

And holidays don't stop - off to London this week for more restaurant avoidance, cupcake eating and plenty of theatre going. So excited to be seeing Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act! Woo!