Today’s Catch: Shrimpy

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It’s really not hard to stumble across a burger joint, but you almost can’t avoid it in London.

And why would you?

In London, you’ve got all sorts of burgers for all sorts of tastes. I’ve probably had burgers from more places than I can count on my fingers (and there’s some serious burger lovin’ competition out there).

I began to think about my all-time favourites and one that made it to the top is Shrimpy’s – a stall amongst many at Broadway Market. Having a weakness for seafood, the idea of juicy, grilled prawns was too good to miss.

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Passionate about seafood, Shrimpy has been selling their signature prawn burgers for a solid 4 years and is now doing rounds across the UK. They are mainly feeding hungry market-goers at Broadway Market and Southbank, but are also invited to festivals, to the delight of many festival-goers looking for more than your run-of-the-mill festival food. Recognising that most burgers are not seafood based, they are looking to set up more stalls across London. They currently serve two versions of their burger – one with chargrilled prawns and the other with deep fried prawns (only served at Southbank). I had the burger with chargrilled prawns but I really can’t wait to try their fried version.

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The burger comes with chargrilled prawns coated in a sticky marinade, caramelised onions, samphire, pickled cucumbers, and as an option, avocado. You are also given the option to choose between two sauces. The end result is one which involves a variety of textures from the tenderness of the prawns contrasting against the crunchiness of the salty samphire. The caramelised onions and pickled cucumber give it a subtle sweetness ,whilst the avocado neutralises the flavours.

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All in all, I’m really glad they’re rocking the seafood burger boat and shrimping up the lives of hungry people such as myself.

Fischer’s Café and Konditorei

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On one of the many days spent in Marylebone High Street, we decided to pop by Fischer’s Café and Konditorei.

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What makes Fischer’s interesting is that it serves typical Austrian food — an common occurrence in central London; and it’s designed to evoke 20th century Austria. You’ll notice they’ve done this well when, as soon as you’ve set foot in Fischer’s territory, it feels like a whole new era.

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You’ll quickly find yourself in a dim lit environment, with dark cherry wood, gold embellishments and dated paintings. You’ll notice two in particular: one which adorns the bar and another which dominates the main dining area, accompanied by Fischer’s very own branded clock.

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Open all day, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, waiters clad in a black and white uniform, dash from one table to other with plates of schnitzels, sausages and strudels.

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The last time I had schnitzel was a while ago, when I visited Austria. I had a ballot ticket for the prestigious New Year’s concert performed by the Viennese Philharmonic opera, in the grandeur of the Musikverein. In the winter cold, which bit like hell, we sought refuge in Austrian comfort food and relished the Austrian cakes and creamed coffees at our every turn.

When in Vienna, the one thing you can’t avoid is Weiner Schnitzel, Austria’s national dish – a pan fried dish (in lard) made from pounded veal (otherwise known as escalope), covered in breadcrumbs, served with lemon. You’d expect an Austrian restaurant to have nailed the national pride, so we decided to put our faith in Fischer’s and ordered the Weiner Schnitzel served with jus parisienne. As a side, we went for the Austrian Potato Salad, consisting of boiled potatoes with a mustard dressing, garnished with parsley. Both were very good, the Schnitzel cooked to perfection and the potato salad fresh yet creamy.

DSC_0898DSC_0902And whilst we were at it, we recognised that we could do with a second helping of potatoes!  Serving Gröstls und Röstis for brunch, we had a good feeling about the former, so we went for the classic bacon gröstl with a fried egg. Turns out this seemingly unpretenious dish had all the ingredients for contentment — it was a crunchy, savoury, egg-topped delight —  so much so that, it’s inspired me to cook it, one frosty morning. Watch this space for more on how to make the perfect bacon gröstl.  

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Killer Tomato

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I was craving some Mexican whilst visiting Notting Hill and happened to stumble upon Killer Tomato on Portobello Road.

Killer Tomato‘s unique name is also characterised by its mystical graffiti walls and dark interiors. It’s menu consists of Mexican fare with a twist. In other words, don’t expect traditional tacos or burritos, but well thought-out fusion.

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The menu contains what you’d expect from a Mexican restaurant, in that it has burritos, tacos, tortilla chips and the lot. However, these will be filled with meat options such as Korean sticky fried chicken or vegetarian options such as tempura aubergine, raisin jam and courgette. Not quite what you expected right?

After plenty of deliberation, we opted for a starter – the brisket croquettes with sriracha mayo. They were tasty and meaty, with a crunchy crust, albeit a little greasy. The sriracha mayo complimented the croquettes well and wasn’t too spicy.

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We then had two house tacos, which were absolutely delicious. We decided to be daring by going for the crumbed anchovy, bacon and Mexican Caesar dressing, and it was the best by far. I wouldn’t have imagined the flavours complementing each other so well. It was just a mouthwatering ordeal and would have had second helpings for sure!

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We also ordered the peppered squid and citrus salsa taco, which was well cooked and well seasoned, and tasted great with the corn taco.

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Last in line, was the fried chicken thigh burrito, which wasn’t too different to a regular wrap although this was packed with fried chicken, cabbage and a sauce of your choice. You can go mild or very spicy! Tasty and filling, with a good balance of crunchiness and melt-in-the-mouth chicken.

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Killer Tomato also does bottomless tacos and drinks, including their margaritas. Something I’ll be considering next time I’m very, VERY, hungry.

They don’t take reservations and don’t accept cash so make sure you’ve got your credit card (or phone) on you.

Check out their branches in Shepherd’s Bush and Notting Hill!

Morso – New Kid on the Block

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Recently, I was invited to Morso’s Autumn pop-up event. Morso is an Italian restaurant serving ‘Pasta, Small Bites and Grappa’.

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Our welcome drink was a Grappa cocktail that had a Halloween angle to it: it was a vivid green and had silver particles swirling around, which reminded me of a witch’s brew. Whilst I wouldn’t choose this drink if I had to because I simply prefer the purity of ingredients, my take is that Morso is leaning towards a playful and informal vibe which takes in its stride, festivities such as Halloween. I’ll be looking forward to what they have in store for Christmas.

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Whilst waiting for our 5 course menu, we were provided delicious, fresh sourdough bread and juicy, Cerignola olives, which I thoroughly enjoyed with a glass of Nero D’Avola – a typical, Sicilian red wine. Soon after we were served with our first dish – Pumpkin Arancini with Pea and Pecorino Cream. The arancini were bite-size, which I liked. They were also not greasy, instead  having had a thin, crisp coating, enough to contain the filling within. The taste was very delicate, I suspect because pumpkin itself is not too strong in taste. The pea and pecorino sauce was for that reason, crucial, as it complemented the simplicity of the arancini. Overall, I really liked this dish and would only suggest to up the garlic or spices of the arancini to create a bit more complexity in the flavour.

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Next up was the Organic Egg Yolk Raviolo. This was a lot of fun and very satisfying to see the egg yolk spill as I cut through the ravioli. The fresh raviolo was filled with homemade ricotta (win!), baby spinach and egg yolk, served in a butter and sage sauce and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano. I really like the idea behind it, as its not commonly found – at least, I’ve not come across it in London. This dish also was simple in that the ingredients were complimentary without competition amongst the flavours.

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Third dish was the Beef Carpaccio, which was one of my favourites. The not-so-secret recipe behind a good carpaccio, is the quality of its ingredients. The meat has to be prime  and the rest of the ingredients, well, should follow suit. Morso’s carpaccio consisted of thinly sliced raw beef rump with rocket, mustard, lemon mayonnaise and Parmegiano  Reggiano, aged for 30 months. A real delight to eat and a favourite amongst many present.

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Fourth came the Gnocchi with Beef Ragu. I enjoyed the fresh potato gnocchi, a far cry from what you get in the supermarket – as with anything fresh. The Beef Ragu was different to what I expected as I was taken by surprise by the resemblance to a beef stew, where I was thinking more along the lines of bolognese. Then again, that is my own misconception as you can most certainly have Beef Ragu with shredded beef and not mince, for instance. And it was great! Really savoury and warming. Definitely one for a cold day!

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Last came dessert. And just like the opening, Morso was playful and themed. We had the Potted Tiramisu enriched with dark chocolate crumbs and sweet Marsala wine. It was served in a little pot with a sinister look, as it was decorated with a  paper gravestone and candy skulls. But this didn’t mark the END of the night.

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To finish off the evening, I had my first ever Grappa flight which included a range offered by the Grappa distillery – Nonino, Friuli. The flight included the likes of Tradizione to the Cru Fragolino. A fun way to get yourself started on Grappa and give the old whiskey flight, a break! And if you’re not keen on straight shots of grappa, they’re also providing grappa cocktails (as well as beer and wine).

You can find Morso at Gail’s Bakery, Bloomsbury from today. They will be serving food and drinks every Thursday and Friday from 5pm.

Gökyüzü

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For those who don’t speak Turkish, the word Gökyüzü means ‘sky’. After visiting this restaurant, I realised how aptly named it was. The flavours were nothing short of rich, succulent and uplifting. I’ll be surely paying another visit to taste more of what Gökyüzü has on offer, because one visit is nearly not enough.

***B E G I N N I N G S***

Gökyüzü was founded by the Yayuz family 18 years ago and the business has been growing since. They currently have two branches, one in Harringay and another in Chingford, with a third opening in Walthamstow. I decided to visit the lovely Green Lane in Harringay, a street lined with Turkish restaurants and shops, most of which are family owned. Gökyüzü, Harringay also happens to be the first restaurant opened in 1999. It has been refurbished since, and has taken on a modern and trendy look, which singles it out from the neighbouring Turkish delis.

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***F O O D***

And just like any family-run business, Gökyüzü excels in hospitality and stays true to its culinary roots.  I found that not only were the dishes honest (also matched by honest prices), but that they were representative of Mediterranean cuisine in their vibrance, depth of flavour, and fresh ingredients. They also make their own bread, served straight out of the oven.

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Their menu provides lots to choose from, from typical sharing appetisers such as baba ganoush and kisir to Turkish pizzas, seafood and chargrilled meat. They provide complimentary starters, my personal favourite being Haydari, which is a delicious, savoury dip made of strained yoghurt, feta and dill. It is served with their homemade pitta bread. They also serve a bowl of salad, which, whilst simple, focuses on the quality of its ingredients. And as if that’s not enough, you even receive a complimentary cup of Turkish tea. As far as Mediterranean hospitality goes, Gökyüzü embraces putting it in practice.

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Whilst we were there, we tried several mezes – a selection of small dishes, which were great to share. We tried Kisir, a vegetarian dish consisting of crushed wheat, celery, mint, herbs and tomato sauce, topped with a stuffed olive. The kisir was one of my favourites, because the combination of the herby tomato sauce with the wheat, really delivered a savoury and satisfying dish which melts away in your mouth.

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We also tried another vegetarian dish called Mucver, which is grated courgette, feta cheese, parsley, egg and flour, deep fried and served with yoghurt topped with parsley and pomegranate.

Which brings me to my exaltation of pomegranate: before my visit to Gökyüzü, I was very sceptical of pomegranate. There was something about how it’s bitter aftertaste snatched away that momentous sweetness too quickly for my liking. But I consider myself to have had an awakening at Gökyüzü because the pomegranate seeds complimented the dishes so well, I now can’t begin to imagine them without.

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Another warm meze we really enjoyed, was the Karides – pan fried prawns with cherry tomatoes, spices and herbs. The cherry tomatoes were so sweet and plump that they burst into your mouth.

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We also loved the Hellim (grilled halloumi), this being another instance where the pomegranate seeds made the dish all the more special.

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I also have to give credit to the incredible dips which we often take for granted because they are so readily available. The hummus and baba ganoush were divine. The baba ganoush in particular was different to what I’m accustomed to. I usually find that baba ganoush can have a bitter or smoky undertone. However, this version was creamy and rich due to the addition of yoghurt, and once again, it was delightful to try it with pomegranate seeds.

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As you can see from our table, we had a wonderful selection, some of which I haven’t mentioned above, including stuffed olives, a range dips, fresh herby Turkish bread, and Acılı Ezme Salata, a spicy tomato and green pepper salad.  And of course, Turkish mint tea, followed by Turkish coffee accompanied by a Turkish delight.

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I also witnessed their full platter intended for sharing, which is a meat feast consisting of lamb shish, chicken shish, adana kebab, lamb ribs, chicken and lamb doner, chicken wings, served with rice and bulgur. Will definitely be trying this next time!

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Gokyuzu, Harringay is open everyday from 9am till midnight during the week, including Sunday, and 9am till 1am on Friday and Saturday. You can find their full menu HERE.

It’s a Cheese Proclamation

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Attention all crazed cheese fanatics. This coming Sunday (October 1st), Chapel Market, Islington will be hosting it’s second pop-up Cheese festival called Cheese Street N1.

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In the same spirit as Chapel Market’s London Farmers Market (which is one of the 22 weekly markets they run), it will feature local and sustainable food traders and will include many award-winning cheese makers and mongers including, Quickes Dairy, Blackwoods Cheese and Wildes Cheese.

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The market isn’t just about selling a range of stellar British cheese. Whilst the bustling stands do the job of wetting your appetite with their cheese samples, your hunger pangs will be obliterated by London street-food cheese champions such as the Raclette Brothers, Mac to the Future, Grill My Cheese, The Cheese Truck and The Poutinerie.

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There will also be tastings, masterclasses and talks with artisans by the likes of La Fromagerie.

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I passed by the market at around 12.30pm and the queues were well underway. I recommend you go as early as 10am, when the fest starts. Not only do you beat the queues, but if you’re one of the first 50 to arrive, you will receive  a complimentary bottle of the world’s first pure milk vodka, courtesy of Black Cow Vodka.

I wish I knew that in advance of going there. Now you do, so make the most of it!

Cheese Street N1: 10am-3pm Sunday 24th September & Sunday 1st October 2017, Chapel Market Islington N1 9PZ

The Barbary

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The Barbary, Covent Garden is definitely one of my top five London restaurants.

What makes the Barbary special, you ask?

First, I love Neal’s Yard, where The Barbary is located. It’s this playful culinary and shopping gem that takes you away from the busy roads of Covent Garden.

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I love its informal 24 seat sit-up bar, facing an open kitchen, not unlike it’s parent restaurant Palomar (but which also has a regular seating area). Whilst not everyone likes to sit by the bar and perhaps its not ideal for groups as you’re unable to face your foodies-in-crime, it is perfect for a date night or an outing with your BFF (who could also be your date). If you ever have a chance to pause from your conversation, its also great fun to watch the Barbary chefs toy with chunks of meat on the grill or pull out perfectly oblong, perfectly coated sesame Jerusalem bagel from a clay oven.

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And without doubt, I love the food.

Serving Berber-inspired food (including Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, Israelite influences), the flavours are as indulgent as they are simple.

The Jerusalem bagels: not too unlike the vendors in Jerusalem, they serve za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix) for dipping in a paper bag – whereas in Jerusalem it’s wrapped in newspaper pouch. Served straight from the clay oven, they are delicious with condiments.

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Condiments: we ordered a side of Baba Ganoush (right) and Zhug (Yemenite hot sauce with parsley coriander), Harissa (Maghrebi hot chili pepper paste), Burnt & Pickled Chilli. I really liked both dishes. They were uncomplicated, rich in flavour and depth, and fuss-free – a perfect accompaniment to the Jersualem bagel. Both sides were priced at £5.50, with the bagel at £4.50.

The menu:  sees a range of small plates grouped into categories Sea (Fish), Earth (Vegetables), Land (Meat) and Heaven (Desserts). These categories are grouped under the heading A-LA-ESH, which I suppose is coming from the Hebrew word Al ha’esh which literally means “on the fire”.  We ordered one from each, except for Land.

We were recommended the Cauliflower Jaffa Style from the Earth section. This dish is composed of a deep fried cauliflower head topped with finely chopped tomato, lemon and coriander. It was tasty and had a nice texture to it. (£7.50).

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We also tried the octopus mashawsha (a style of hummus with whole chickpeas) from the Sea section, which included a charred octopus tentacle topped with this type of hummus. Whilst delicious, this price of this plate is steep, at £17.50. You have to be mentally prepared to fork out two tenners for a tentacle.

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Dessert: Whatever you do, you cannot, just cannot leave without dessert. Well, we ordered two, just in case: the Smoked Cigars with Goat’s Cheese Ice Cream (left) and the Hash cake (right).

Both were divine, confirming that there was absolutely no exaggeration in placing them in the Heaven category. The Smoked Cigars were similar to a Turkish baklava in taste, with the delicate savouriness of the goat’s cheese pairing excellently. The hash cake was the most incredible density of pistachio goodness, served with a dollop of cream.

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There are no bookings so be prepared to queue unless you’re eating slightly before everyone’s off work. We went at 6.15pm and we found seats straight away.

The Barbary is  open Monday-Friday, 12pm-3pm, 5pm-10pm, on Saturday from 12pm-10pm and Sunday from 12pm-9.30pm and you can see their entire menu HERE.

Location: The Barbary | 16 Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP

Dishoom

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I had heard a lot about Dishoom, so when my family happened to be visiting me in London, I thought that it would be a great opportunity to give it a try. I was excited to be sharing with them a place I heard was akin to typical Irani cafes in Bombay, India. I was told that not only was the food tasty and true to Bombay cuisine (with a modern twist), but that the decor was also to be marvelled at.

And the hype was not unfounded.

I fell in love with the food (and drinks) as were my parents (and a little less so my little sister who wasn’t prepared for the level of spiciness of some of the dishes.)

Not unlike most popular restaurants in central London that don’t take bookings (unless you’re a certain number), we had to wait in a queue (in the rain). Cleverly, Dishoom recognises the lack of appeal in standing in a queue full of equally hungry customers such as yourself; so they pass by with a tray of drinks on the house, including their house chai. If you are lucky enough not to have to wait in a queue, you can still count your lucky stars, as the house chai features on the menu. And I would certainly recommend it as its authenticity took me back to my chai days in India. I would also recommend trying the chocolate chai if you’re into both chocolate and chai (what could possibly go wrong).

The Dishoom branches all share a similar theme: large spaces turned cosy with retro fittings, sepia portraits, Sanskrit verses, patterned tiles and traditional tunes. I’ve been to most of Dishoom’s branches and recently even made it to the Edinburgh one (unashamedly three times – once for breakfast, another for take away chai and another for lunch).  Each branch has a Permit Room which is described on Dishoom’s website as recalling the Bombay Prohibition Act of 1949, which states that all tipplers are required to have a permit to consume alcohol (if only ‘for preservation and maintenance of one’s health’). And with drink, comes music in the form of ‘everything eclectic and rootsy – carefully curated soul, vintage R&B, new wave gems and funky retro Indian beat’.

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Edinburgh’s Dishoom Branch

It’s safe to say that I can recommend a number of delicious drinks and dishes and don’t worry, I’m not going to continue ranting about how great the chai is (even though it is).  I would recommend you give the cocktails a try. I’ve had the Bollybellini – with raspberries, lychee, rose, cadamom mixed with prosecco. I’ve also had the Chaijito which is a twist on the Mojito, infusing rum with their signature chai syrup muddled with ginger, mint, coriander and lime.

If you’re not up for an alcoholic beverage, you can try their lassis. I’ve tried all four: Mango and Fennel (with mango pulp and fennel seeds), Rose and Cardamon (which they describe as sweet and subtle as a perfumed love-letter),  Salted lassi with crushed cumin and Bhang which is traditional holi drink served with mint instead of hemp and does not come with cannabis. Yes, weed. Bhang Lassi in India is a drink that’s made of yoghurt or milk, nuts, spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, rose water, and – weed – ground and mixed with water, then formed in the shape of balls. At Dishoom, you are given the option to add a shot of rum instead.

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Bhang Lassi

As the last time I was in Dishoom, was in Edinburgh only last week, we decided to opt for the Chef’s Edinburgh Special – a delicious dish of lamb braised in gravy finished with crunchy thin crisps and served with a buttered roomali roti. We also ordered the Dishoom Chicken Tikka with rice. Both very flavoursome, both mouth watering and both appropriate in portion size. And the prices very agreeable too!

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Chef’s Edinburgh special (left) and Dishoom Chicken Tikka (right)

Ottolenghi

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When someone utters the word Ottolenghi, the first two things that come to mind are gorgeous looking salad platters and tempting patisserie. You often find passerby snapping photos of the colourful assortments of sweets, whilst many customers ponder for  moments on  whether or not their choice was a wise one.

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Ottolenghi has branched out since it opened in 2002, with restaurants in Belgravia, Notting Hill, Islington and Spitafields. It also has a sister restaurant called Nopi (reviewed earlier on this blog).  Writing this review got me realising that I’ve been to all restaurants barring the one in Belgravia. Now that I’m an Angel resident, I’m lucky enough to be able to pop by for a quick treat (more often than I dare to think).

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Ottolenghi is a deli inspired by Mediterranean flavours, it’s founder being Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi, an Israeli-British chef. You can eat at their restaurants, shop their products, or get yourself take-away – a valuable option as it’s usually so busy in the weekends. And that’s what I’ve done today.

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Since I couldn’t be bothered with preparing lunch or breakfast, I got myself the small take away box which included a mix of two salads — one with roasted aubergines, yoghurt, spices and pistachios and another with chargrilled broccoli, almonds, chilli and garlic. Considering it was a little pricey for the portion (£11.90), it was enough for two, as we also took home two of Ottolenghi’s pastries.

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Yes!! Needless to say, I wasn’t leaving without dessert. Today I treated myself to Ottolenghi’s signature financier with berries, pistachios and cream and a passion fruit tart topped with burnt marshmallow.

 

And they were gone…in a minute.

◊◊◊ Follow me next week for my recipe inspired by Ottolenghi ◊◊◊

Nopi

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Nopi is the brainchild of Ottolenghi (which I will also be reviewing in a fortnight). Also serving Mediterranean cuisine, the concept of Nopi differs from Ottolenghi’s delis in that it exhumes finesse. Whilst Nopi is divided into two floors, with the intention of offering two diverse environments, I will be talking about the ground floor, Nopi’s more formal sitting.

DSC_0721As you enter Nopi, you are struck by glossy, white marble tiles, exposed white brick walls, and touches of golden brass. You’re greeted by very polite staff, with an emphasis on attentiveness and formality. However, the formality is subdued by certain Ottolenghi trademarks such as displayed salad platters and bread loaves, not too far from the entrance.

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The food and drinks menu is intriguing, clearly paying homage to Middle Eastern flavours. You have the option of choosing plates to share, or mains and sides. We decided to go for sharing plates and two sides. This review will cover the two sharing plates which intrigued us the most: the Quail with miso, braised chicory, chicharron and verjus and the Burrata with peach, coriander seeds and verjus. 

The Burrata was interesting although I found that the flavours weren’t as well integrated. You’d have a bite of burrata with coriander seeds which created an interesting texture, the latter being crunchy and the former being creamy. However, there were instances when you would get bites of burrata which would taste of little more than milk. The peaches were delicious, however I felt that they too were separate from the rest of the dish.

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The quail was accompanied by a medley of flavours and textures: from the slightly acidic taste of the verjus to hints of sweet grapes and miso, to crunchy bits of savoury chicharron (or pork scratchings). I felt that whilst the burrata had similar intentions in that it paired sweet with savoury, and crunchy with smooth textures, the pairing of the ingredients for the quail dish worked marvellously well.

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Overall, the dining experience was very good but considering the price, I would have hoped for a little more. I would still love to go back to try the Valdeón cheesecake and the Koji rainbow trout!

As the quail was my favourite dish, I chosen it as my next source of inspiration. Look out for my quail recipe next week!!

The Surf and Scallop Project

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Have you ever wondered why some people get so obsessive about food?

For me it goes beyond simply being hungry – it’s more about curiosity: curiosity to try different flavours, different textures and different interpretations of food.

I was always one to explore food – my friends would reprimand me when I’d pop something I had little clue about, into my mouth – ready to take the risk. But I wouldn’t turn back as this is one of the best ways to acquire a food memory.

In big cities like London and during my many travels, I am constantly faced with every cuisine imaginable. But it’s hard to keep up with all that the world has to offer – it can become exhausting and at times, daunting.  And unsustainable.

So I’ve set myself an objective: to keep my mind set on exploring the world’s food spots but most importantly, to make my discoveries easy to achieve in the kitchen.

That’s right. I’ll be making my newly discovered, favourite dishes at home.

I do hope my blog will give you inspiration for where to eat, what to eat and if you’re up for it, what to cook. My easy recipes are inspired by some of my favourite places but I’m open to requests.

Enjoy!