Brindisa Tramontana, Shoreditch

Brindisa, Shoreditch

Now that I’m finally over norovirus and a cold, I’m so ready to make up for lost time and start eating my way round London again. On Saturday we finally got around to visiting the new(ish) Tramontana Brindisa in Shoreditch. I was pleased when they opened up nearer home, replacing the sadly overrated raw vegetarian place Saf and meaning we don’t have to chance getting a spot in their small London Bridge restaurant any more. The new place is much bigger, and was almost empty on a Saturday lunch – I assume it’s busier on weekdays and for dinner.

Brindisa, Shoreditch
Brindisa, Shoreditch

The temptation is to go nuts with tapas and order way too much, and I might have done that. But everything was sooo good. A little bowl of soft, sharp goats curd was drizzled with honey and served with crunchy little breadsticks, and vivid green padron peppers were moreishly salty and smokey.

Brindisa, Shoreditch
Brindisa, Shoreditch

I loved the DIY pan de coca, which came with a perfectly ripe tomato, olive oil, salt flakes and cut garlic ready to rub on.

Brindisa, Shoreditch

Josh ordered the ‘Patatas Tramontana': oven-baked potato stuffed with sobrasada – a chorizo-type sausage paste – and cheese with a crisply fried egg on top. It looked amazing: he practically inhaled it and I’m plotting a way to cook a DIY veggie version at home.

Tramontana Brindisa is at 152 Curtain Road, Shoreditch.

Tramontana Brindisa on Urbanspoon

Copenhagen eats

I found there were good eats to be had in Copenhagen -if you forget your wallet wincing painfully in your pocket. Yup, it’s as expensive as everyone warns you. But there’s a pleasing array of traditional Danish food alongside plenty of international options too.

Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen

On our first night we popped to Madklubben on the next street to our apartment. It’s modern Danish with a bit of Italian in style and quite afforadable at 200kr (about 22 quid) for 3 courses. We sat at the bar with a view of the open kitchen, and ate delicious rye bread and salted butter followed by gorgeously rich and buttery gnocchi with matsutake mushrooms and the heady scent of garlic and truffle. Our first-night meals on holiday are traditionally terrible so it was nice to break the habit!

Continue reading Copenhagen eats

Corner Room, E2

Corner Room, E2
Corner Room, E2

Bethnal Green is a funny place: studded with gems like Hurwundeki, the V&A Museum of Childhood and the lovely Gallery Cafe, but still rough enough for me to spot a man snorting coke off a bus stop in broad daylight (yes, really). Nestled amongst all of this is the Town Hall, a decidedly upmarket hotel and boutique apartment complex which also houses two restaurants from ex-El Bulli Portugese chef Nuno Mendes: the fine dining Viajante and its baby sister, the more informal Corner Room. Since it was mine and Josh’s five-year anniversary we popped there for dinner on Friday.

Corner Room, E2
Corner Room, E2
Corner Room, E2

The small restaurant is beautifully done out with white subway tiles and vintage wood furnishings with stunning statement lighting. There are no reservations taken so we were prepared to wait for a table, but we got seated immediately at 7pm and the restaurant filled to a buzzy three-quarters full as we ate.

Corner Room, E2
Corner Room, E2

You know it’s a good sign when even the free bread and butter is mouthwatering: I think the bread must have been freshly baked and the butter tasted hand-churned and properly seasoned with lots of salt and pepper. The cheapest bottle of white wine – a French sauvignon at £28 – was absolutely delicious, and unlimited filtered water is offered for £1 a head.

Corner Room, E2

There was only one vegetarian option for each course so my decision of what to order was easy. Starter was beetroot with goats’ curd, accompanied by crisp spring green leaves and a grassy-tasting green puree. It was beautifully presented and tasted cold, fresh and zingy, perfect for the summers’ night.

Corner Room, E2

My main course was Jerusalem artichoke with enoki mushrooms and asparagus. I think it was my first time trying Jerusalem artichokes: they had been charred which left the skins tough but gave the insides an amazing smoky barbecued flavour. The sauce was a wonderful combination of silky mushroom with acidic lemon cutting through it. A really clever, exciting dish.

Corner Room, E2

The portions, though flavour-packed, are small, so we had room for a dessert each. Rhubarb with buttermilk sorbet and mint was good, but the star was the stewed apple with frozen pannacotta, which contained surprise chunks of apple jelly and fudge – wonderful. They even make a good coffee – rare for any restaurant!

Corner Room, E2
Corner Room, E2

We both agreed it was one of the best, most interesting meals we’ve had lately. At around £50/head for 3 courses with wine it’s great value for high-end dining in a lovely informal setting with charming service. Brave Bethnal Green and visit it.

Corner Room on Urbanspoon

The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras

The Gilbert Scott

I was invited to try the Gilbert Scott, a new London restaurant from Marcus Wareing housed in the glorious St Pancras station. It was a treat just to visit place and have a peek at the adjoining Renaissance hotel – it’s breathtakingly grand, although sadly we couldn’t nose much as most of it is ‘for guests only’ and prowled by security. Instead we were ushered into the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail.

The Gilbert Scott
The Gilbert Scott
The Gilbert Scott
The Gilbert Scott

The bar is so decadent and ornate, you feel like you’ve stepped back to the Twenties. The cocktails are not the typical offerings – I had a concoction of green tea, ginger and lemon, with some smoked popcorn to nibble.

The Gilbert Scott

The dining room is equally grand, but comfortable and cosy. I’d describe the menu as refined comfort food – fish and chips, artichoke tart, sides of mash and homemade baked beans, that kind of thing. Vegetarians are very well catered for with several options for each course and a host of side dishes.

The Gilbert Scott

I found it tough to choose what to have, but went for courgette flower and tomatoes to start. The tomatoes were fresh and full of flavour but I wish the flower had been filled with some kind of cheese – those things beg to be stuffed!

The Gilbert Scott
The Gilbert Scott

For main, Josh had lamb neck with broad beans, asparagus and a rich sauce. I went for mushroom cobbler which was extremely flavoursome, rich and creamy, topped with melting cheese-infused pastry discs. Yorkshire puddings were a hit but the kale was gritty – big no no.

The Gilbert Scott

Prices at the Gilbert Scott are high (£16-20 for mains) but I think the wonderful setting, generous portions and charming service justifies them. I’d love to go back to the bar for a cocktail or afternoon tea!

I was a guest of the Gilbert Scott for my visit

The Gilbert Scott on Urbanspoon

Caravan & Exmouth Arms

I used to work around Exmouth Market, and I quite miss it: it’s got cute shops and cafes and several outstanding pubs and restaurants – Moro, Medcalf, The Easton, The Wilmington Arms…

Caravan is probably my favourite, though:

Caravan

It’s an all-day Antipodean eatery in the vein of Workshop (previously St Ali), with those small sharing dishes of food that I can’t get enough of. The head chef is ex-Providores pedigree, and they take the coffee seriously too, with a roastery in the basement.

Caravan

I’ve been here for dinner before with my parents (who are always wildly impressed with these trendy London eateries we take them to) and for their fabulous brunch a few times, but when they started tweeting some amazing-sounding new veggie dishes I knew it was time to head back again.

Caravan

I love getting ‘freebies’ in restaurants and this aperitif of cold garlicky gazpacho went down very well indeed (fish eaters get miso soup instead).

Caravan
CaravanCaravan
Caravan
Caravan

We ordered aubergine and onion bhaji; asparagus and baked manouri cheese; spicy tofu; deep-fried duck egg with morcilla (black pudding, for Josh) and the standout dish of mushrooms with creamy cheesy polenta with a red wine sauce. I love when I don’t feel that I’m missing out as a vegetarian and you certainly don’t here – the little dishes give such a flavour punch and I love having a small taste of lots of different things in one meal.

Caravan

It’d be rude not to finish with a freshly-roasted coffee!

Exmouth Arms
Exmouth Arms

After dinner, we went just over the road to the Exmouth Arms. Under new management since November and previously somewhere I hadn’t thought of stepping into, it now boasts tons of craft beers and a nice USA-inspired food menu of sliders (mini burgers) and sides like coleslaw and deep-fried pickles. Try the Odells if you go, it’s a classic American IPA. Happy Friday!

Kopi: coffee by post

Kopi coffee

Kopi is a new coffee subscription service which delivers a new gourmet coffee to your door every month. They asked me to try out their January blend, and of course I was happy to oblige.

Kopi coffee
Kopi coffee

The coffee comes nicely packaged in a resealable bag alongside a beautifully-designed booklet explaining the origins and tasting notes of the month’s blend. This month’s is a Geisha tree coffee from Malawi which is supposed to have notes of jasmine, lemon and lavender.

Kopi coffee

Brewing up in the cafetière, it certainly smells good – floral and acidic.

Kopi coffee

The tasting notes suggested it goes well with chocolate, as the acidity cuts through the richness, but I had it with my Saturday breakfast. I’m no coffee expert, but the sharp lemony-ness was very clear and it had a roasted fruitiness that reminded me of Square Mile‘s signature blend. Personally I found it a little too sour – my taste is more for chocolatey caramel notes like some of Monmouth‘s blends. It gave me a pleasing jolt of morning wake-up feeling though, and I also think it’d be nice as an after-dinner drink with a square of chocolate.

Kopi coffee

Is Kopi for me? Probably not, because I have a certain ‘type’ of coffee that I know I like, and I also don’t brew an awful lot of coffee at home so wouldn’t get through the 250g bag in a month. But I loved the whole experience of getting a blend from a specific area and learning about the origins, and it’s clear that a lot of expertise and care has gone into selecting and packaging the coffee. I’d definitely recommend Kopi‘s service if you’re interested in trying lots of different high quality coffees and learning about where they all come from. Membership starts at £9/month, going down to £7 if you buy a year in advance.

Spuntino, Soho – review

Spuntino, Soho

Spuntino has been on my to-try list for ages, and what better time to go for it than on my birthday weekend? It’s been getting rave reviews since it opened last year for its speakeasy-come-diner brand of American comfort food, and the length of the queues to get a space in the tiny 25-seater restaurant are almost as famous as the grub. But don’t be put off by the miminal-bordering-on-pretentious website: this place might be achingly hip but the staff were extremely friendly, in a laid-back kind of way. On Sunday lunchtime, we only had a short wait to seat our party of five (including my aunt and 13-year-old cousin) at the bar.

The menu is full of tempting tasting plates designed for sharing. Amongst the meaty sliders and steaks, there are loads of veggie options so I had quite a tough time choosing what to pick. Given I was still full from my previous night’s birthday dinner at Pollen Street Social, I went straight for the must-have truffle egg toast, along with a side of fried eggplant. My sister ordered steak & eggs, my cousin got a cheeseburger and Josh went for mac ‘n’ cheese with a side of shoestring fries.

Spuntino, Soho

Eggplant chips with fennel mayo was amazing: crunchy and soft inside with the aniseed-y dip providing an interesting flavour contrast (whoops – we ate most of them before I got to photograph them!).

Spuntino, Soho

What was described on the menu as just ‘Egg and soldiers’ turned out to be an almost Heston Blumenthal-ish visual trick, the egg having been soft-boiled then de-shelled and rolled in a crunchy edible deep-fried wrapper. Very clever.

Spuntino, Soho
Spuntino, Soho

Mac and cheese was gorgeously decadent: creamy and gooey, served sizzling in a skillet with strong Gruyère flavour punched up with leeks and mustard. One portion (£9) was enough to share, along with a tangle of crispy shoestring fries to mop up the sauce.

Spuntino, Soho

The truffle egg toast was a dreamy combo of thick toasted bread slathered with melty cheese, with a pool of egg yolk in the centre, all generously scented with truffle. Luckily I just about had room for pud, a brown sugar cheesecake with ‘drunken prunes’, which tasted deliciously creamy and adult with the tang of booze.

Spuntino, Soho

Everyone in my party loved their food, and my cousin was asking when they could come again! I’m already planning to go back very soon and sample more of the menu, perhaps in the evening so I can try a cocktail from their extensive list too. At roughly £20 a head for 2/3 dishes and a soft drink each it’s good value for a slice of American comfort food done really right.

Spuntino on Urbanspoon

SF: Dinners & drinks

San Fran food

Back to San Fran posts, even though the holiday feels like a long time ago now…

A large part of our reason for visiting SF was the food and drink – it’s known for great Mexican food as well as a thriving microbrewery scene and of course the local Napa Valley wines. All my favourite things! Luckily we were not disappointed…

San Fran food
San Fran food

First stop, Tacolicious on Chestnut & Fillmore. A fantastic friendly laid-back Mexi-eatery with brilliant heavily-stuffed tacos, tasty sauces (killer pico di gallo) and lovely mocktail mojitos.

San Fran food
San Fran food

A tasting flight of beers at Rogue Ale‘s brewpub – a mere sampling of their 40 beers on tap!

San Fran foodSan Fran food
San Fran food
San Fran food

I loved Fat Angel, a tiny, cosy local place with a charming barmaid and delicious rustic sharing food – flatbreads, cheeses and even flavoured butters. They also had the longest and most impressive beer menu I’ve ever seen (sorted by taste, from Smoky through Sour and Malty), and delicious wines to match. If this was in London, I’d be hanging out there quite a lot.

San Fran food

Oooh, dirty oozy nachos. At the hipper-than-thou (it’s in a converted launderette, to give you an idea) Brainwash Cafe in the SoMa district.

San Fran foodSan Fran food
San Fran food

Drinks and roasted spiced nuts at Two Sisters Bar & Books in the cute Hayes Valley area.

San Fran food

Great Japanese bites at Nojo – mayonnaised roast potatoes, soft sesame tofu and lemon & vegetable tempura. Almost like being back in Kyoto.

San FranciscoSan Francisco
San Francisco
San Francisco

Farm Table‘s tiny (when they say ‘table’, they really mean one table) but adorable eatery. There’s a new menu every day of comfort food done proper, from meatball-stuffed challah sandwich to silky potato soup. – and great coffee.

San Fran foodSan Fran food
San Fran food

More beer at Social, very fresh from their on-site brewery. Super sweet potato tempura fries, too. We then bar-hopped to Magnolia around the corner, where I had an amazing rose-flavoured brew.

San Fran food
San Fran food
San Fran food

The holy grail of West Coat eating: FOOD TRUCKS! We went along to the Haight evening eat-up organised by Off The Grid, which comprised about 15 trucks serving everything from Mexican tamales to Korean sliders, Chinese steamed buns to American mac ‘n cheese. It attracted a diverse crowd including lots of families and an awesome dude with his pet budgie on his shoulder (who he shared all his food with, aww).

San Fran food
San Fran food
San Fran food

I had an amazing paneer tikka burrito from Curry Up Now followed by a salted caramel cupcake from Cupkate’s, and was then sad to be too full to eat any more. I also dropped and broke my camera in all the excitement, boo. Worth it, though.

All of these places can be found on my SF Google map.

Brunch & coffee

San Francisco

Where better to start talking about San Francisco than with breakfast? There’s a real brunch culture in SF, with nearly every cafe on our nearby Fillmore Street full to bursting with chatting couples or people on their laptops come 9am (for some reason our body clocks became attuned to getting up pretty early every day, which was novel). I think it’s my first holiday where breakfast has been the most varied and exciting meal of the day. I didn’t even miss my usual Marmite on toast too much. Here are some of the choicest noms:

San Francisco
San Francisco
San Francisco

The BEST toasted sourdough egg, cheese and roast tomato sandwich, at Jane on Fillmore. Not ashamed to say we ate this twice in a week, and popped back to Jane a few times more for its pretty monochrome decor, good coffee and huge cream-cheese-frosted cinnamon whirls.

San Francisco

A lovely – huge – bowl of granola, yogurt and fresh fruit at La Boulange (they have branches all over town). I’ve been craving granola ever since getting back; must make my own some time.

San Francisco
San Francisco

My healthy option of tofu garden scramble and fruit cup, and Josh’s face-sized pancakes with a ‘side’ of bacon and egg, at Sweet Maple. This place is famous for a concoction called ‘Millionaire’s Bacon’ – i’ll let you guess what that entails…

San Francisco
San FranciscoSan Francisco

Black bean cakes, corn bread and potato hash at the legendary Dottie’s True Blue cafe, where I met the lovely Bee for a late lunch. Pro tip: get there just as it’s closing at 3pm (or opening at 7, if you’re an early bird) to avoid the queues. And say no to the constant free coffee refills, my stomach did not thank me afterwards!

San Francisco
San Francisco

Myriad yogurt toppings – and the perkiest service ever – at Fraiche on Fillmore.

San Francisco
San Francisco

Huge (sense a theme here?) French toast and an egg bagel at The Grove on Fillmore.

San Francisco

Not strictly breakfast, but Loving Cup‘s specialty is frozen yogurt, freshly churned in a choice of mix n’ match flavours and toppings (including gummy bear!). They also have a sideline in rice pudding for the colder weather.

San Francisco

SF is also known for a good coffee culture, and we weren’t disappointed here either. Check the latte art porn!

San Francisco
San Francisco

San Francisco
San FranciscoSan Francisco
San Francisco

Sightglass‘s sexy warehouse-y location…

San FranciscoSan Francisco
San Francisco

.. and Blue Bottle‘s little space, which we queued for about 25 minutes to get into.

All the places mentioned here can be found on my SF Google map.

St Ali, Clerkenwell

S Ali, Clerkenwell

There seems to have been an Aussie/NZ invasion in the London food scene of late: a slew of laid-back eateries popping up with a focus on fusion food made for sharing, great ingredients, and good coffee. Of course I’m totally in favour of this because it’s produced some brilliant new cafes and restaurants – Caravan and The Providores to name just two that I’ve sampled the delights of recently.

St Ali, Clerkenwell
S Ali, Clerkenwell

One of the latest is St Ali on Clerkenwell Road, sister cafe to the original one way over in Melbourne. It’s got the decor that seems to have become the standard for this kind of place – lots of wood, tick, caged industrial lighting, tick, exposed brickwork, tick… but still nicely done and well laid out, with the bonus of a huge coffee roaster out back – always a good sign.

S Ali, Clerkenwell

Considering I didn’t think anyone actually lived in Clerkenwell, the place was packed and we had a short wait for a table – a good indicator of the buzz this place has generated. The coffee was indeed excellent, smooth and rich with proper fine cane sugar to stir in. The food menu is large and brunchy, a mix of salads, breakfast dishes and sandwiches, with tempting little cakes and pastries alluringly displayed on the counter.

P6053832

Unfortunately the amazing-sounding Mexican corn fritters were sold out, so I went for spicy beans with poached egg, ricotta and sourdough – a big hearty plate of good flavours, though it could have done quite happily without the greenery – the addition of mint especially jarred with the spicy tomatoes. Managed to squeeze in a little ginger and vanilla friand afterwards to wash down the last of my coffee, which was delicious and well priced at jut £1.

St Ali is currently open every day from 7am to 6pm, though soon they’ll be open for dinner too with a good selection of beers to sup – I’ll be back for sure.


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