Tuesday, 1 March 2011

London Trip - Food Roundup

Last week I had a great time away in London. It seems to be a 6-monthly visit now which is great, it involves lots of plays, shopping and eating. Lovely! I saw 5 plays in 4 days so needed plenty of delicious food inbetween.

I finally made it to a few places I've wanted to try for ages, and it was interesting to see how the menus compared to their cookbooks if they exist. I tried Leon for the first time http://www.leonrestaurants.co.uk/ at their Great Marlborough Street opposite Liberty. It's a pretty small branch but we were only after a quick lunch. I recognised quite a few things from their cookbooks, including their meatballs and salads. We went for a couple of wraps, the Grilled Chicken with Aioli and the Slow-Cooked Shredded Pork. They were both delicious with lots of raw cabbage and lemon juice. I was worried there would be too much garlic in the aioli but I couldn't really taste it which was a little bit disappointing but it was much better for those around me! I'd definitely grab one of these again.
For one evening before the theatre we grabbed a bento box and a sushi selection from the huge range at The Japan Centre on Regent Street. It's an amazing places with the biggest choice of soy sauce I've ever seen. Miso soup paste is so cheap here compared to normal supermarkets. The bento box was sadly quite lacklustre though, lots of dry rice underneath the goodies which is healthy but pretty boring. The salmon was delicious as were the strips of veg but the potato tempura was just blah. Really affordable though so it was well worth trying something new. You can't go far wrong with fresh sushi though, our other choice was delicious.

These beautiful cakes are from L'Eto Caffee on Wardour Street - my new gourmet food street! Amazing! They have so many gorgeous looking desserts in the window, all very tempting. We went for a Raspberry and Rosemary tart and a piece of Honey Cake. The tart was very interesting. I was afraid the rosemary would overpower the raspberry but it was a really nice combination which I'd like to try myself. The guy serving us told me it was a very good choice indeed! The Honey Cake was equally delicious, like a giant piece of baklava. Mmm! It was a very generous portion but there were certainly no leftovers! There was also a Blueberry Cake in a similar layered fashion in the window. Next time, next time!

More sushi, this time from Wasabi on Oxford Street. Such a gorgeous selection and very affordable. We always seem to end up here after a day of shopping. Their soups are delicious and I feel all virtuous and healthy after eating something from there. I'd really love something like this in Manchester close to my work, it would make lunchtimes much more fun and would keep me away from the biscuits on offer! Well, maybe...

A trip to London is not complete without visiting a branch of Paul, usually the Covent Garden branch as it's close to one of my favourite shops - the Betsey Johnson shop. If I had a ton of money I would stock up on all the garish Betsey clothes and anything that had a skull on it! I had to make do with some leopard print gloves instead.
This time in Paul they had some gorgeous looking choux buns for a limited time, The Grand Choux Collection. We went for a Raspberry and Violet Choux. There was also a banoffe, chocolate and a strawberry and cream one. This sounded the most unusual, plus it was the prettiest. It had raspberry puree at the bottom and then lots of chantilly cream. Wonderful and light. Lovely.

Plus it's just not a Paul visit without bringing back some Bacon Fougasse. I haven't made fougasse in a while, I think I'm going to try the recipe in Lorraine Pascale's book.

Discovered another Hummingbird Bakery on Wardour Street too which was great as we weren't heading towards the V&A Museum this time. I wasn't quite as excited this time round, not quite sure why. There just didn't seem to be that much choice. I thought the little boxes were really cute though.

La Mama chose a Chocolate Malt Cupcake, one of their daily specials. Not quite sure why she chose it as she doesn't like chocolate cake! But it was very light and wasn't too sickly.

I however decided against a cupcake and went for a Frosted Brownie instead. I was very much hoping for the Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie I've seen in their book but despite me popping in everyday they never had them :-( Maybe it's a seasonal thing. This brownie did the trick though. Just the right amount of chocolate and the perfect brownie texture.

Another Wardour Street find was the Princi Bakery http://www.princi.co.uk/ Stunning, simple sandwiches of parma ham and foccacia plus a big selection of freshly baked pizza slices, Italian hot dishes and lots and lots of desserts. I went back twice for a custard filled deep fried pastry, I can't remember now what it was called but it was desperately fattening and delicious, as pictured above!

We discovered a new cupcakery however on the way back from spending up at the TKTS box office - Sweet Couture. A tiny shop as cupcakeries usually are. Service was pretty rubbish but the cakes were great and light. The girl serving was on the phone giving directions to a friend for ages and just blanked us. Almost gave up but there was only one Red Velvet cupcake left! The other one was Peanut Butter. http://www.sweetcouture.co.uk/

To finish off our cupcake trials we got a selection of mini cupcakes from Lola's in Selfridges. So, so cute. From left to right we got Peanut Butter, Rocky Road, Red Velvet and their February special Black Forest. Gone in an instant but all well made.

Even though they're mini you still get all the features of the normal-sized cakes which I was really impressed by. A nice way to try several flavours and not appear too greedy!

I didn't take photos but we also ate at Wahaca in Westfield shopping centre http://www.wahaca.co.uk/ , Thomasina Miers' small chain of Mexican restaurants. I've had her Mexican Food Made Simple cookbook for a good while now but have never had the right chillies to make things, but no more! I have made an online order and I am now the proud owner of 4 kinds of Mexican chillies! I was obviously inspired by my Wahaca visit. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere about it, it was lunchtime and wasn't too busy, plus there were colourful skulls on the wall - brilliant! We chose 4 street food dishes, you don't get a huge amount but it was great to be able to taste 4 different things. We chose 2 taco plates - Pork Pibil and Chicken Mole, and 2 tostadas - Mackerel and the Chicken Guajillo. I did mean to order a taquito plate instead for forgot! It was nice to have 2 hot servings and 2 cold, the dishes come out as they're ready rather than all together which worked fine. The pork dish was really fiery but delicious and the mole sauce was deep and rich. Both tostado plates were light with loads of lime juice, I particularly enjoyed the mackerel one. And to finish - churros! Mmmmm! Some of the best I've eaten. Loads of cinnamon sugar and completely delicious chocolate sauce which I'm not ashamed I tried to drink when I'd run out of churros to dip!! It was so thick that it took a while though! Luckily I was sitting in a corner! The Hibiscus Water was also a gorgeous, refreshing drink and the service was excellent. Very glad I made it here.

Also no photos but we had lunch at the National Dining Rooms at the National Gallery. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting/eat-and-drink/eat-and-drink/*/viewPage/2 I bought the cookbook by Oliver Peyton a year ago but yet again have never used it (so addicted to buying books!) but it compares very well to what they serve in the resturant. There was about a 15 minute wait as it was very busy but once we sat down we weren't bothered by anyone and people could take their time. We chose from the Bakery menu, I had a slice of chicken and ham pie served with a green salad, it had massive chunks of chicken and ham hock and it was lovely. La Mama had a hot salmon and smoked haddock pie, also with a green salad. The dishes came with 2 side salads of your choice but our waiter asked if we wanted a mixture of everything which we said yes to. We were a little disappointed with our green salads - didn't seem much like a mixed salad to us - until our waiter apologised and brought us a massive plate full of delicious looking salad items!! It suddenly felt much better value! There were massive chunks of charred butternut squash with goji berries, stir-fried cabbage with red onion, chargrilled fennel and grated celeriac. Great to be able to try everything. We would definitely eat there again and I'll have to test my book out soon.

Had a lovely meal in Belgo in Seven Dials. Again, somewhere I've wanted to try for a couple of years but it was never a meal time as we were going by! It's opposite the Cath Kidston shop, only bought a cowboy plate this time, quite impressed with my self-discipline! Great menu here and an amazing range of Belgian beers, I would have partaken had it not been lunchtime. I'm not a big drinker but I love all the fruit beers on offer. We went for their Lunchtime Menu, great that it's offered at the weekend too. I had the Spit-Roasted Chicken with Chili and Ginger and Frites. Couldn't taste the ginger but the chicken was beautifully tender and the sauce was fiery. A huge portion too. The chips were great. My mum had the Beef Carbonnade which went down incredibly well. So much so that we had to recreate it when we got home. I think we did a pretty good job.

Recreation of my mum's Carbonnade from Belgo:

1 bottle of Lindemans Kriek Fruit Beer. Could be any darker beer but I think the cherry beer adds such a nice flavour.

8 dried prunes

800g of braising steak

1 onion (we used diced shallot)

a touch of flour to coat the steak when frying

300ml of beef stock

1 bay leaf and some dried thyme

Fry the diced onion in a little oil until translucent. Add the flour coated beef and fry until browned. Then add the rest of the ingredients and cook, cook, cook on a low heat until the meat falls apart. You could also cook it in the oven. As with most casseroles it tastes much better the next day, we cooked it again for another hour. Delicious with rice or mash.

Phew, epic post - I'm off for a rest!


  1. Oh I really want to try the Raspberry and Violet Choux yum!

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