In Review: The Hotel Chocolat Blogger Dinner Party

hotel chocolat blogger dinner
As part of my digital PR agency, I have launched a new service so entertaining I almost feel like it shouldn’t be called a service: blogger dinner parties.

The first event (of many!) was in partnership with Hotel Chocolat’s celebrated Leeds restaurant, Roast + Conch. The evening brought a bevy of carefully selected blogger babes – from all niches – together for an evening of hilarity and chocolate.

Mostly chocolate.

We kicked #BlogChocolat off with introductions over Prosecco-swishing glass-clinking and settled in for a private chocolate tasting masterclass, courtesy of Hotel Chocolat’s very sweet and very passionate master chocolatier, Dan.

After learning not to scoff the sweet stuff (at least temporarily) and grilling poor Dan on the health benefits of chocolate (you’ll be pleased to find out a lot of Hotel Chocolat’s ‘lighter’ chocolates are as healthy as your supermarket ‘darks’ based on their natural cacao content!), we headed upstairs for dinner.

Like every visit prior, the ol’ R and C didn’t disappoint.

Though we all went for a variety of courses, not a single plate of food was left un-Instagrammed. My own beautiful starter – cacao gin cured salmon in a tart apple-radish-endive salad (served with white chocolate horseradish dressing) – packed the tangiest of punches.

Then, among a cacao-infused sea of curries, fish, meats, and veggies, my main stole the show. A few of us ordered the medium-rare chopped rump steak burger with aged cheddar, cacao beer-braised onions, potato chips, and creole chutney, and we were all swooning, tweet after tweet.

Though we were all too stuffed to attempt dessert, I made a note for my future orders (I’m coming for you, Prosecco-poached new season rhubarb, white chocolate cheesecake, spiced biscuit, and cacao pulp sorbet extravaganza) and took the ladies down to the bar for truffle nibbles and cocktails.

Our delightfully intimidated bartender (imagine: 10 big personalities armed with SLRs and camera phones) then talked us through their latest cocktail previews, Hotel Chocolat’s incredible homemade cacao syrups, and poured us all a few drinks to cap off the night.

All in all, an evening I’ll never forgot.

hotel chocolat blogger dinner
hotel chocolat blogger dinner
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In Review: Bob Bob Ricard, London

bob bob ricard review
For almost three years, I have identified Tom Aikens as the best restaurant in London; the restaurant I recommend to every tourist, Londoner, and acquaintance in between…

I’ve swapped camps. My sadistically pre-emptive ‘last meal’ will now have to be taken at Bob Bob Ricard. To be frank, it kicks some luxurious ass.

In the middle of London Fashion Week, three of my nearest and dearest joined me at the Russian-influenced restaurant for a spot of lunch between shows. A caviar-topped, triple-coursed, and champagne-fueled spot of lunch, that is.

Cheersing over a bottle of Ayale Rosé Majeur NV (a fresh and fleshy champagne – in my opinion, as drinkably refined as it gets for rosé), we chose to leave our starter selections in the hands of our waiter, hoping it would be a strong indicator of the restaurant’s strengths and weaknesses before it came time to order our mains.

Unfortunately, every dish was as delectable as the next.

In a frenzy of visually-triggered starvation, we rushed to feed each other a feast of Oysters de Gaulle (grilled with Bearnaise sauce and chervil), Oysters Brezhnev (baked with parmesan and black truffle), lobster Pelemeni (served with Salmon Roe), truffled potato and mushroom Vareniki dumplings (served with crispy onion and Shimeji mushrooms), seabass ceviche with avocado (made with cucumber, tomato, coriander, jalapeno peppers and lime), and a small glass of vodka to wash it all down.

When in Rome.

Tortured by the idea of missing out on a spectacular dish, we agreed to share as many bites as we could spare and order from different sections of the menu.

Naturally, I still managed to throw a metaphorical lock and key over my venison steak tartare as soon as it arrived. Steak tartare is my number one comfort food (try to ignore the psychological profile that gives me), but Bob Bob Ricard’s version – with raw quail egg and double-bite croutons – was, essentially, The King of Tartare.

Not that the other dishes don’t deserve their own distinctions, my friend’s chicken, mushroom and champagne pie was a monogrammed masterpiece, the Filet Mignon Rossini (28-day aged Scotch beef with seared foie gras and confit apple, served with truffle gravy) was the most indulgent and rich plate of food I’d ever laid eyes on, and the Fresh lobster macaroni and cheese (specifically, swiss and parmesan cheese) was a comfort food dream come to life.

Even the carrots and parsnips (roasted in beef dripping with honey and thyme) made my difficult-to-please, carnivorous male friends swoon.

Feeling it was time to finally play with the Press For Champagne button (Bob Bob Ricard is almost infamous for their indulgent button system), our waiter promptly sashayed over with a bottle of Ayale and topped our glasses up. A gimmick to some, but a gimmick too rewarding to deny

By our waiter’s suggestion, we paused to share 30g of Alverta Imperial caviar (absolute salty perfection and known for its larger eggs and lighter colour), already planning our next visit.

As I become less and less of a ‘dessert person’, I made sure to enjoy my share of Alverta and went – once again – with our waiter’s recommendation for dessert. While my friends made marriage proposals to their Dulce de Leche creme brulees and strawberries and cream souffles, I took a bite of my friend’s Eton Mess en Perle (lime meringue, strawberry sorbet, raspberry, marshmallows, and cream) and had an epiphany.

When dessert shows up looking like this, I am absolutely a dessert person.

One pour of mint creme anglaise of chocolate and mint souffle later and I was sold: Bob Bob Ricard is the best restaurant in London.

Ding ding ding ding ding ding!

A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

bob bob ricard review
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In Review: Chess-Inspired G & T Afternoon Tea, Le Meridien Piccadilly – London

le meridien piccadilly afternoon tea
As far as concepts go, the chess-inspired G & T afternoon tea from Le Meridien Piccadilly ranks second to none. Combining my two favourite British traditions (tea and gin), the afternoon tea – which is held in the hotel’s Terrace Grill & Bar – has something for everyone.

The special part? As the restaurant’s art exhibitions change, the afternoon tea themes follow suit, meaning Francesco Ridolfi’s chess-themed portraits will be hanging above restaurant patron’s chess-themed afternoon teas until April 1st.

You can have the sandwiches, pastries, and scones served with hot tea or opt for your choice of ‘G & T’ herbal or fruit-infused gins and tonic syrup. I think it’s all too clear which one The Manfriend and I went for.

A pot of vanilla and chilli-infused Sloane’s (a gin-lovers treat) and rose buds and fresh raspberries-infused Martin Miller (suited to a sweeter palate) for two, please.

As we poured our gin like alcoholic debutantes, we nibbled our way through the scones and sandwiches; Scottish Smoked salmon with dill and citrus crème fraiche on wholemeal, roast beef & rocket with horseradish on caraway seeded bread, free range duck egg mayo and cress on wholemeal, and cucumber cream cheese & chive on white.

Naturally, the chess theme went full-force on the pastries; mini crown-topped Queen’s opera cakes, Pawns’ coconut & pistachio frangipanes, chequered bitter chocolate tarts, and Knights’ sable biscuits.

To my own taste, I preferred the savouries to sweets but can’t wait to see what the hotel’s following art exhibition inspires!

le meridien piccadilly afternoon tea
le meridien piccadilly afternoon tea
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In Review: HKK’s Chinese New Year Menu

hkk london
Since my last trip to HKK, I have awaited an excuse to return. 15-course meals call for an occasion, to say the least.

Thankfully, the restaurant chose to celebrate Chinese New Year with a ten-course culinary journey through the country’s most influential provinces and traditions. Hello, occasion!

With eight courses and two desserts awaiting approval, my multi-continental best friend and I settled in with a glass of champagne and began a three-hour feast. As we launched to regale months of travel tales, the first dish arrived: from Suzhou (Jiangsu), marinated Duke of Berkshire pork with Osmanthus wine jelly.

Reality very rarely meets expectations, but this dish surpassed them. I had forgotten just how good the food really was. Even the next plate – a revival of the cherry wood roasted Peking duck from Beijing (Shandong) – seemed more delicate and flavourful than I remembered.

Shortly thereafter, I paused to meet my soulmate: the rhubarb margarita. I wouldn’t typically go for cocktails with a tasting menu, but I had to make an exception for HKK’s blend of Tapatio Reposado tequila, rhubarb, lime, vanilla and Falernum liqueur (finished with a vanilla and chilli rim). It is, dear reader, even better than it sounds.

Next up for consumption? The paintbrush-accompanying dim sum trilogy (from from Guangdong). Similar to the version I obsessed over during my last visit, this menu’s offerings were as moreish as they come.

Keeping things light as we worked through the middle of the menu, ‘Monk Jumps Over The Wall’ soup (from Fujian) and pan-grilled Chilean seabass in Sha Cha sauce (from Hunan) followed, leading into jasmine tea smoked poussin (from Anhui) before landing on The One: from Zhejiang, braised King soy Wagyu beef with Merlot. A heartbreaker.

Knocking another one out of the proverbial park, the savouries finished with chargrilled New Zealand scampi (from Sichuan), quite seriously securing the entire menu a 10/10 rating. Perfect portions, unusually sumptuous flavours, and a variety of techniques executed to perfection. It doesn’t get any better.

To finish? A trio of dark chocolate dumplings with yuzu and ginger infusion (a devilishly good treat), followed by a cacophony of white; sheep’s milk mousse, pandan curd and caramelised puff rice.

As we wrapped up our tales with the meal itself, I was once again making a mental note to find creative excuses to return. Clients, expect one hell of a lunch meeting coming your way.

hkk london
hkk london
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How To Stop Wasting Food

stop wasting food
We’ve got to waste less food, babes.

As of last year, food waste became detrimental to much more than our wallets. In fact, food scraps are currently the biggest contributor to landfills and greenhouse gasses.

I’m pretty set on keeping my planet and bank account as healthy as they can be, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite food wastage tips to anyone who feels the same!

1. Shop more frequently. Rather than spending hours meal planning and grocery list making, take a few 10 minute trips throughout the week to stock up on things you’ll need in the next day or two. This way, you buy fresher, healthier, and end up with much less waste when life and sell-bys get in the way of meal plans.

2. That said, make a grocery list. A small one. And don’t shop outside of it.

3. Avoid the inside aisles and corner deals. Most supermarkets put their ‘2 for 1s’, multipacks, and general temptations on the ends of aisles and away from fresh produce. Sticking to the greener parts of the supermarket will save both your waste and waistline.

4. If you stock up, stock up on frozen fruit and veg. Being frozen often means they skip out on preservatives of canned alternatives, and they last for ages.

5. Buy organic, soya, or almond milk. It lasts longer and treats your body better. (I make my own almond milk and never waste a drop!)

6. Know which fruit and vegetables should be kept in the fridge and which will last longer at room temperature. (See photo above!)

7. Store leftovers in a clear glass container. We eat with our eyes and tinfoil does nothing for our tastebuds.

8. Create separate areas for fruit, veg, and meat. The closer they are, the faster they spoil.

9. Keep your fridge clean. Air needs to circulate around food to keep it clean. An overstocked fridge will spoil much faster than an organised fridge, doubling up on food wastage.

10. Remember, one can spoil the bunch. When it comes to apples, berries, potatoes, and onions, check for rottens before storing a bunch and remove them before you lose the rest.

11. Break your bananas. Quite simply, break each banana off from the group at the stem and they’ll last twice as long. (And if any do get brown before being eaten, use them in banana bread!)

12. Put a celery stalk in your bread bag (or basket/bin). It will stay fresh for well over a week.

13. Wrap your cheese in wax paper, then a plastic bag. Fresh as it gets.

14. Turn your vegetable scraps into frittatas or vegetable stock. Easy peasy.

15. Pickle everything. If you don’t know what to do with it but don’t want to waste it, pickle it. It’s the garnish that keeps on giving.

16. Don’t waste wine. If you and a friend can’t get through the bottle, simply pour the rest into an ice tray and use the cubes in any wine-friendly recipes.

17. Don’t trust the sell-by date. Often, it leaves 3-4 days before the food is actually unsafe to consume (1-2 days if left uncooked).

18. Donate what you don’t want! Bought far too much poultry, sauce, and nibbles over the holiday season? Find a food shelter!

19. Make your dog happy. While things like coffee, chocolate, grapes and milk are dangerous for dogs, other perishables like eggs, sweet potatoes, and apples are great for them!

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