Sunday, 28 August 2011

London Eating

It's been a pretty busy August, first Whitby, then I went to visit my friend in Edinburgh and had a jolly good time at the Fringe (I urge everyone to see Alex Horne in a venue near you!) and then I went to spend a week in London seeing shows and binge-eating cupcakes and sushi! I was so sad to read that Betty Blue Eyes was closing early after seeing the show the night before, it was so good. As were the 5 other shows I saw! Phew! Very busy! A new Laduree shop opened in Covent Garden in May, a fact I didn't know till we were walking past. A nice discovery! It was pretty impossible not to walk away with some macarons.From left to right we got: pistachio, raspberry, salted caramel, lemon and thyme, rose, liquorice, blackcurrant and violet and orange blossom. La Mama thought the pistachio, liquorice and orange blossom were the best flavour but found the cream centres a little sickly. I however preferred the cream ones and liked the rose, lemon and salted caramel ones the best. It's inspired me to have a go again at making some. I really wanted to try their seasonal strawberry and mint macaron but I was told it was too warm for them to sell it. Not quite sure why they could sell the others.

Also saw some beautiful flavours of macarons at the Real Food Festival on the Southbank from Cafe On, really interesting combinations.

We ate sushi everyday, there are so many great places in London and we needed quick and filling food between shopping/gallery visiting and shows. This lovely lot came from the Japan Centre. Such good prices and really popular.

Delicious salmon sushi.

A new obsession - soft shell crab tempura. Not the prettiest thing but gorgeous.

Walking back from Waterloo station after seeing The Railway Children (and then seeing Marcus Brigstocke again at the Comedy Store that night!) we came across the Real Food Festival at the Southbank. I wish we'd found it on the friday instead of at 5pm on sunday, I would have tried loads if we hadn't been rushing. I did find the time to drink a delicious fresh apple juice from one of the stalls and then try a coley fish taco from Luardos - fried fish, red cabbage, avocado, special sauce and mango with lots of lime. Amazing. It was great to see all the pretty food vans too.

Decided to have lunch at the National Dining Rooms again as it was so nice last time. Not so great this time around. Big plus was that we walked straight in, but they were obviously down on staff as it took an absolute age to order. I had a chicken, tarragon and leek pie which was quite small but filling. It was really nice but at almost £10 it's a bit too much. And I think our lovely waiter made a mistake last time by giving us a massive mixed salad in addition to our dishes as we certainly didn't get anything else this time :-( And I don't like that they add a 12.5% 'discretionary' service charge. Don't think I'll go again next London visit.

More sushi, this time from Wasabi. Had this selection twice as it was so yummy. The chicken katsu had a gorgeous chili sauce and the edamame and french bean salad was a nice addition to the sushi.

Also had a seafood noodle soup from them, lots of goodies inside including two mahoosive green-lipped mussels.

Then, after all this healthy sushi it was cake time! I visited The Hummingbird Bakery everyday as I wanted to try out all the sweet shop flavours! Greedy yes but I felt it had to be done! My days were slightly ruled by getting to the bakery on Wardour Street before all the cupcakes sold out but we made it! On the first day I saw the Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie which I've wanted to try for 2 years but they never baked it when I was around. It was nice but it didn't live up to my huge expectations, the flavours altogether were great but individually they weren't the nicest brownie/cheesecake/mousse. Oh well.

The first sweet shop cupcake to be had was the Rhubarb and Custard. The frosting was unexpected as it was actual set custard with a slight skin which was slightly disconcerting!! The flavours were great though.

There was some rhubarb compote in the middle which was nicely sweetened and also tasted like it was slightly spiced. It looked really pretty too.

The second day, as well as getting my Hummingbird fix I also bought a cupcake from Cox, Cookies and Cake in Soho. Have to say I felt quite dirty doing so, it's a pretty dark and seedy looking shop! They guy serving wasn't terribly forthcoming and there were no explanations of what the flavours were so I just went for the most Nathalie one on offer - the skull!

The frosting was a little runny so it didn't completely survive our day but it didn't do too badly. The flavour was chocolate and raspberry - chocolate cake with a raspberry centre and the frosting tasted like white chocolate. The skull was made of chocolate too with loads of glitter added which was cool. £4.25 though - ruddy hell! I kept the box for that price! I didn't really think it was worth it. The sponge was very moist and it was really difficult to eat. Shame as I really like Eric Lanlard. I've got their book from the library but haven't decided if it's one I'd want to buy yet.

Saturday was Flying Saucer day which was a lemony sponge with a sherbert frosting. I couldn't really tell there was sherbet in the buttercream but I found lovely bits of lemon zest and it was really tasty and a light flavour. I think their sponge is second-to-non and always consistent. I'd love to be able to produce cupcakes like this, mine are way too hit and miss.

Sunday was Sweet Peanut. This was La Mama's winner of cupcake of the week and I have to say it was up there with me too even though I'm not really keen on peanut. This was a lighter version of a usual peanut cupcake which was great, not so sickly and little nuggets of peanut in the mix.

Monday brought us Blackcurrant and Liquorice which I thought would be a favourite as it was so different to the usual cupcake fare but it was a little disappointing. The cake was supposed to be liquorice but I couldn't taste any hint and I don't particularly like blackcurrant so the jam in the middle wasn't the greatest for me. Shame as more liquorice would have balanced the flavour. Still a well made cake though.

I was looking forward to the Mint Humbug and it didn't disappoint. The sweet had melted a little on top by the end of the day but that was fine. It was a caramel and mint fest in both the sponge and frosting. Granted it was a little toothpastey but in a good way! Very refreshing and tasted exactly like a humbug. I'd like to try and make something like this myself.

I brought home the last cupcake I could try, the Chocolate Lime, along with a red velvet (which never, ever disappointments me, completely delicious). It wasn't my best, the chocolate cake was nice but the frosting was a little strange, a bit fake tasting. The cake and the frosting were nice together but I just couldn't put my finger on what made it taste a little odd.

The flavour I missed out was Rosy Apple which I'm sad about as they're my favourite sweets along with Pear Drops (I think they missed a trick there!). I don't think I did too badly on the cupcake front though, maybe one more cupcake would have made me burst in some sort of horrendous cake-eating explosion! Nice!

And finally I just had to include this eaterie I walked past one day - Herman Ze German!! It reminded me of German at school where the one word remembered for the rest of time was Currywurst! They sell them here! The name just made me giggle, maybe I'll try it next time.

No more holidays planned for a while so I can get back to my cookbooks - already made a start on Simon Hopkinson's The Good Cook for next time.


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