Today’s Catch: Shrimpy

Mentions

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.

London’s China Town and the Year of the Dog

Places

London’s China Town isn’t too different to what you’d expect from any China Town.

DSC_0201But what I love about it is that it is so easy to navigate as it’s not large, yet has the advantage of providing everything Chinese.

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Expect amazing dim sum and Hong Kong-styled Cantonese roast duck, with your occasional bubble tea and bubble wrap shop, baked goods including fish-shaped custard-filled wafers and groceries selling delectable Asian fruit and vegetables, including Durian!

Here are some of my favourite pictures from London’s China Town.

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Chinese Roast Duck

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Cha Siu Bao

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Taiyaki Shells

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Taiyaki filled with custard

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Taiyaki filled with custard

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Chinese Buffet

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Fresh Durian and Jackfruit

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Chinese New Year Cakes made out of Sticky Rice

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Pokémon-themed Soft Drinks

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Elaborate cakes from China Town Bakery, London

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Fresh Dumplings

After spending too much time watching other people eat, life began to feel unbalanced, so I got myself a place at Joy King to eat some traditional Chinese. Food was great, service not so much as they pressure you into ordering without giving you ample time, and they serve you the bill before you’ve even finished. Also, they could do with friendlier waiters. Overall, I would rate it a 6, because the food was delicious but there’s room for improvement elsewhere.

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Dim Sum

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Roast Duck Broth with Noodles and Bok Choi

Fischer’s Café and Konditorei

Mentions

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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Marylebone High Street

Places

London. One of those places that you’ll never keep up with. Or could you?

With new restaurants and shops popping up in every nook and cranny, London may forever seem in motion. But there are a few neighbourhoods which retain their charm. It is this yin-yang sense of familiarity and flux, this sense of recognising the characteristics of specific London areas and how they metamorphose, that allows me to recognise and appreciate how spoilt for choice Londoners are.

One day, I might wake up feeling like I need to don my favourite Keds and hit the bars in Shoreditch or I could wake up wanting to flaunt my little black dress in the fashionable district of Kensington. Sometimes, I just want to wake up to Marylebone High Street – a place that occupies that sweet spot between trendiness and class.

Marylebone is an area that boasts of being sought after by residents as an attractive residential location, and by tourists for it’s landmarks – Madame Tussauds’ waxwork museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s central, a stone’s throw away from the regal Regent’s park, Mayfair and Fitzrovia. Teeming with Georgian houses, it prizes a Georgian mansion that houses the Wallace Collection of art and period furnishings, which typify the area’s elegant architecture. It dumbs down its commercial vibes, as it leaves most of that to Bond Street, which it borders. And it’s also got its own flair, with its modish Marylebone High Street. I’ve left a few suggestions below for those keen to explore.

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Plan ahead and visit with an empty stomach. Head to The Providores and Tapa Room, a Kiwi establishment that took London by the storm following the birth of its Turkish Eggs. I’ve also had a wonderful time at Fischer’s, a Viennese restaurant, evoking 20th-century dining, which I will be reviewing in my next blog post.

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For a cheeky one, try The Marylebone known for its quirky cocktails, a polite crowd and a retro popcorn machine with popcorn you can help yourself to. What’s not to like? For a cheeky second, you’ll want to do this in secret, so head to the prohibition-style basement bar Purl. Think leather sofas, dim-lit lamps, vintage accessories and a menu consisting of cocktails that come with mini-portioned nibbles purposely paired with your drink of choice.

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After you’ve wined and dined, I would suggest two non-food related places  (WHAT?!) to pit-stop by, on Marleybone High Street. Although you’d best be sober because these places are sure to induce some serious spending.

First, for some mindfulness, head to Daunt Books – a brilliant bookshop established at the beginning of the 20th c. housed in a spectacular Edwardian building with oak galleries and skylights. Specialising in travel, Daunt Books arranges its sections geographically, with guides, phrase books, travel writing, history and fiction grouped by their relevant country. Check out their website for news on talks and it’s annual festival held in March.

DSC_0965DSC_0963DSC_0961 For obsessive browsing, visit the Conran Shop – a shop that covers everything from furniture to lifestyle and wonderful gift ideas. It is delightfully bright and colourful, cluttered with all things intriguing.

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When you’re done with Marylebone High Street don’t miss out on Lamb Conduit Street, which is just as lovely.

DSC_0931I, as are many others, am ineptly in love with La Fromagerie which, as you may have guessed from the name, are especially known for their farmhouse cheese, hosted in their delectable Cheese Room. As if cheese wasn’t enough, they also sell fresh produce, baked goods and dry store ingredients.

Their Cheese Room is an experience in itself. As you enter the carefully controlled climate, you’ll be unsure where to feast your eyes – every sort of cheese you can think of is available, with eager staff ready at your beck and call, to tell you cheesy tales of wonder.

DSC_0948DSC_0947DSC_0946They also have a cafe at the back so that you can take a break from browsing and start your marathon of indulgement. I mean, you owe it to yourself, right?

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Hopefully if all went well, you’ll be leaving Marleybone considerably poorer, with a few precious books from Daunt, a colourful thing or two from The Conran Shop and a wheel of cheese. No, make that five.

Killer Tomato

Mentions

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!

A day Spent In-and-Around Portobello Road

Places

Notting Hill became known to a lot of us due to its appearance in films such as Notting Hill and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. which gave great visibility to its antique market and rows of colourful houses.  It is now also famous for its carnival.

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***P O R T O B E L L O   R O A D***

Portobello Market took its name from Porto Bello Farm which was built in the area known as Golborne Road. The farm was named after the town of Porto Bello in Panama, captured by the British from the Spanish in 1739.

Up until the 1940s, Portobello Road market was like many other London markets and mainly sold food and other essential items. However, in the 1940s, the market expanded to antiques, with Saturday being the main trading day. In recent history, the market has expanded to include all sorts of stalls – from beauty products past their stock date, to bric-à-brac, vintage clothes and food.

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The number of stalls can be nauseating to navigate, but many of these stalls also sell the same stock. My recommendation to you is that you prioritise those stalls of interest to you.

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Today, I would only face the throngs of people if I know there is something specific I need to get from the market, such as a vintage camera or vinyl records.

Here is some useful information on how the five sections of the market are spread across Notting Hill.

  • Secondhand goods – Golborne Road to Westway
  • Clothing/fashion – Westway area
  • Household essentials – Westway to Talbot Road
  • Fruit, veg and other food – Talbot Road to Elgin Crescent
  • Antiques – Elgin Crescent to Chepstow Villas

If you’re not one for crowds, I would recommend passing by during the week or on Sunday when the market is not in full swing. Avoiding the crowds is not the only advantage if you pass by during the week, as you will also be able to pop by Books for Cooks. Just off Portobello Road, Books for Cooks is a bookshop that also provides a 3-course menu for less than a tenner, as part of their test kitchen. On Tuesday’s they test vegetarian recipes, Wednesday to Thursday meat recipes and Friday, fish. Their advice is to arrive at the kitchen by 12pm sharp, as it gets booked up pretty fast.

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If you head there in the evening, it is nowhere near as crowded, yet alive with passerby visiting trending bars. Two of my favourite bars are Portobello Star known for its London-made Portobello Gin.

DSC_0290And Trailer Happiness – an underground cocktail bar with surfer vibes. If you’re up for a movie, do visit the Electric Cinema which, whilst pricey, is an experience you’ll only understand once you sink into those plush armchairs, after you’ve ordered yourself a hot dog from the retro, American-themed bar. Just don’t get too comfy as you’ll easily snooze before you know it.

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Notting Hill has become rather affluent, something you will begin to sense as you wander about the side streets off Portobello Road. You will find plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops and bars. Check out Biscuiteers Boutiques & Icing Cafés, for their lovely biscuits – a perfect gift or treat.

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The Spice Shop has a pretty impressive collection of single and mixed spices.

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Although Portobello Road is it’s most famous, I would recommend you detour to two other nearby destinations worth exploring – Golbourne Road and Westbourne Grove.

*** G O U L B O U R N E    R O A D***

Goulbourne Road is definitely worth visiting. It is nowhere near as crowded as Portobello Road although there are a few stalls out on the street. It appears to be one of the many London areas that is experiencing gentrification. If you head there via Westbourne Park station, you will catch a glimpse of the historical landmark – Trellick Tower. I recommend breakfast at Lisboa Patisserie, a famous local Portuguese bakery. I would highly recommend their most popular pastry, Pastéis de Nata, which they have many varieties of.

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Just opposite you will find the Lisboa Delicatessen selling local produce. If you enter the back of the shop, you will notice a room dedicated to salted cod.

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You will say many Portuguese cafes and shops along the way but Scandinavian outlets are also sprouting too. We had breakfast at Snaps and Rye – a Norwegian restaurant tempting customers with smørrebrød and warm plates. They also sell liquorice chocolate balls, with the Christmas edition out now.

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***W E S T B O U R N E    G R O V E***

Westbourne Grove is ideal if you ready to fork out the sums of money on designer labels and high street brands. It has the feel of Kensington although perhaps a little more down to earth. As you keep walking, you will notice that there are fewer shops and more restaurants. In other words, this is not only a fashionista’s paradise but a foodie’s too.

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***N O T T I N G   H I L L    C A R N I V A L***

Notting Hill Carnival is a good amount of fun. The spectacles are great, the crowds less so but it is something you would expect. Plenty of opportunities to join in the fun as you move along the parades, but planning is recommended. You will notice that people offer their toilets for the measly sum of £1, although public toilets are available. Consider both.

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Kew Gardens in Autumn

Places

There is potentially nothing more autumny than visiting Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Boasting to have the “largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world”, it has plenty of deciduous trees shedding their leaves during the Autumn season.

Recognised as a World Heritage Site, the Royal Botanical Gardens houses more than 30,000 living varieties of plants, while the herbarium has over seven million specimens and is one of the largest in the world. It also has a library which contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. It hosts seasonal workshops and seminars given by experts and also showcases themed exhibitions.

As the Gardens are so large, I would recommend that you head there early. We decided to make our way just before lunchtime, to grab a bite before spending the greater part of the day walking along the many available routes. Kew, the suburban district that is known for the Gardens is a quaint little town with a few eateries and shops. There is a quaint street called Station Approach, minutes away from Kew Gardens station, where you can find a shop or two.

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Along that street, we came across an Australian brasserie called Antipodea. Antipodea is well suited for its environment, in that it is rustic and botanical. It’s decorated with terrariums, hanging plants, botanical tiles and has mix n’ match furniture and cutlery to add to that homey feel. It has plenty of tables indoors, but also offers seats in an open narrow passageway, connected to the building and it also has seats outside the entrance. They offer you blankets in case it’s chilly and there’s a fireplace inside when the cold begins to bite.

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Antoipodea’s menu is varied, offering specials as well as a brunch, lunch and dinner menu.  I went for the special: Chargrilled chicken with kimchi and gochujang dipping sauce for £15.

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The portion was sizeable as there was half a chicken on the plate and it was moist and well seasoned. The kimchi was different to the Korean kimchi I am familiar with as it was crunchier and less saucy but it still had a nice bite to it. Perhaps, a little more of it would have balanced out the plate, as it looked out of proportion in relation to the chicken.

After a satisfying meal, we headed off to Kew Gardens. And as you can see, it’s so pretty in Autumn.

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Not to mention the many sculptures dotting the park as part of Sculpt at Kew exhibition.

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And the wonderful Lake and Sackler Crossing, with great vistas of numerous trees, shrubs and bushes as you cross the lake.

DSC_1256And be sure to spot the plentiful squirrels and parrots on the lookout for chestnuts.

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You can get an excellent view of the parrots from the Treetop Walkway, which is 18 metres high and gives you a bird eye’s view of Kew Gardens.

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And of course, there aren’t just outdoor activities. You MUST visit the many greenhouses that are home to a massive range of plant species. Our favourite was the Palm House.

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Lastly, make sure you pass by the Hive, another key attraction. The Hive is designed by artist Wolfgang Buttress, inspired by the life of bees!

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And it’s not only the bees that will be rumbling. Watch out for all the planes overhead!

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If you’re not able to make it time for the Autumn special at Kew Gardens, the winter edition kick from the 22nd November of this year to the 1st of January 2018.

Either way, you’re spoilt for choice!

Kew Gardens is open daily at 10am, so go early because there is plenty to see.

Currently, grounds close at 4.15pm with last entry at 3.45pm until 20 November. Tickets at £12.

Morso – New Kid on the Block

Mentions

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

Mentions

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.

A Speedy Visit to Stoke Newington Church Street

Places

Stoke Newington Church Street is one of those rare bits of London where you can get utterly lost for hours in independent shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants. It is hard to not come across a bakery selling delectable goods that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are to the stomach. And food is not the only thing you’ll be feasting your eyes on because, by some glorious design, the street’s food spots are alternated by shops selling all things cool – from nifty gifts to leafy commodities and artsy artefacts.

Before getting to Stoke Newington Church Street, I walked through Clissold Park which has everything from an aviary to a skatepark. As with any park in Autumn, you don’t have to go far to feel the magic of the autumn leaves crunching beneath your feet.

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As soon as you exit the park at St Mary’s Church onto Stoke Newington Church Street, it won’t be long before your indie journey begins.

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***F O O D  &  D R I N K ***

Hungry? Good – you’re not going to run out of choices to line your stomach, as you’ll find eateries and watering holes dotting the street. I certainly didn’t. Although choosing was difficult, I finally took the plunge and decided to give Andi’s a try.

Andi’s interior is quaint with a set of dried flowers hanging on one wall, a bar lit by numerous decorative hanging shades, and a small, leafy garden at the back. Coming to think of it, I’ve noticed a running theme on Stoke Newington Church Street, where practically every restaurant and cafe has embellished itself with hipsteresque pendant shades and leafy interiors. Millenials ahoy!

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Back to the point, Andi’s only has a brunch and dinner menu and as I was there at lunchtime, I had brunch. Their menu includes a variety of options, cold (cereals, cakes and pastries including the ever so popular cronut) and warm (energy bowls, baked eggs and sides). The energy bowls and baked eggs include a base such as green herb (which is a saucy bed upon which the eggs lay) and a choice of ingredients to pick from (up to three included in the price, with more ingredients at a cost). That way you can customise what you’re eating. In the end, I went for baked eggs with a roast garlic and onion cream base topped with halloumi, roast tomatoes and a spicy North African lamb sausage called Merguez. The flavours complimented each other (not sure if this counts a compliment to myself having chosen the ingredients). Recommendation: a slice of sourdough to mop up the sauce would have been nice!

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***B O T A N I C A L***

Plants are so IN on Stoke Newington Church Street. I came across Botanique Workshop which was absolutely magical. It had a good mix of plants, bunches of dried flowers, and lovely botanical-themed handmade gifts.  They also take flower orders and I bought myself the sweetest pot.

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If you’re flower hopping you could also pass by the Green Room cafe. They sell a range of plants and flowers and have a large open dining area. I had been a while back and the service wasn’t too good. Hopefully, it has improved since then! The food was also a little lacklustre but the ambience was great, particularly on a lovely day.

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***D E S I G N  &  G I F T S ***

If one thing’s for sure, is you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice with gift shops and design stores.

I was particularly intrigued by Search and Rescue, packed with curious little items, from shelves lined with candles and cushions to dining sets, stationery and cosmetics.

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Another inspiring gift shop is the Nook Shop, which also sells kitchenware, plants and useful gadgets.

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Well, as the title suggests, this was a speedy visit to Stoke Newington Church Street. Next time, I’ll be giving it the time it deserves.

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