A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

Before boarding the train to Boardmasters (England’s closest-to-Coachella idea of a surf and music festival on the Cornish coast) I hadn’t thought much about what I would be doing. In fact, having recently spent some time getting to know Cornwall, I thought it would all be a piece of clotted cream cake.

It wasn’t. By the end, I was entertained, delighted, horrified, surprised, and severely unshowered all the same. For your viewing pleasure, I now present…

Click here to watch my Boardmasters Festival Vlog!

A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

little nans afternoon tea 9
Over the last few months, I have bored everyone to death with my constant praise of Little Nan’s Rio Bar (remember?).

The underground bar is the stuff of 90s childhood dreams and has proved to be endlessly fun every visit; teapot cocktails, a garish & prop-heavy photo booth room, the Millenial throwback playlist, free pick ‘n’ mix, popcorn…

…and now, afternoon tea.

The teas aren’t an everyday option (they announce them on their website/social and mostly occur on Saturdays) but are well worth keeping an eye out. Once cozied up in their unseemly lounge furniture (all part of the charm), £25 will afford you a selection of sandwiches (smoked salmon & cream cheese, egg mayo, ham & mustard, and jam & veggie), home-baked scones, and mini pastries before snapping your waistband with an enormous slice of Victoria Sponge. Teapot cocktails included.

If you are looking for an afternoon tea a little less “using the right spoon” and a little more “forming a conga line to My Heart Will Go On with anyone that will join” (true story), Little Nan’s is your girl.

little nans afternoon tea 4
little nans afternoon tea 7
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grain store london
Last month Maille hosted an incredible Fête de la Gastronomie celebration on the Thames which gave 150 foodies the opportunity to enjoy an eight-course tasting menu of mustard-infused delights from the likes of Grain Store, Fink’s Salt and Sweet, Bibendum, and more.

Because I had a conflict on the evening, I was severely bummed to miss out on the evening’s unique festivities so booked it down to Grain Store as soon as I was tipped off – they added their ricotta and Maille Wholegrain Mustard-stuffed courgette flowers to their specials menu!

Starting with a round of non-alcoholic French Blonde cocktails (Grape juice, elderflower cordial, lemongrass, and verjus), my lunch dates and I took longer than ever to make menu decisions. The offering is that unusual intrigue, to say the least…

During our lunch, we trialled the incredible courgette flowers (obvs), beetroot, ricotta & parmesan ravioli (with rocket, fried breadcrumbs, and sage), a hot seaweed sushi bowl (with glazed pak choi, black garlic purée, hake à la plancha, and vanilla butter), and my personal favourite – the mushroom & celeriac scotch egg (paired with fermented chilli & miso paste, asian greens, and master stock quail)

In hopes of every dish being as good, I have promised myself to make my way through the menu over the next few months. Grain Store is ambitious in both size and price point, but when London is rife with pulled pork hangovers, a restaurant where meat is an accessory to vegetables – and even condiments – might be just what our city has been looking for.

The Recipe

(Because there are very few dishes as spectacular…)
Grain Store’s Ricotta and Maille Wholegrain Mustard Stuffed Courgette Flowers with Potato and Parsley Velouté
Serves: 2 | Preparation time: 25 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
Stuffed courgettes
4 tbsp good olive oil
60g shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
50g semi-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp black olives, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to season
150g ricotta cheese
8 baby courgettes, with flowers attached
1 handful of parmesan, finely grated
2 tbsp Maille Wholegrain mustard

Velouté
150g Desiree potatoes
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 handful flat parsley
100ml whole milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Edible flowers to garnish

Method:
Courgettes
1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/356F/gas mark 4.
2. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and gently cook the shallots. After a minute, add the garlic, tomatoes, oregano and olives.
3. Season with pepper before cooking on a low heat for another minute, gently stirring.
4. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl to cool down. Once cool, add the ricotta, parmesan and Maille Wholegrain mustard and mix well.
5. Carefully separate the flowers from the courgettes, twisting lightly. Open the flowers and, with the help of scissors, snip off the stamen inside and discard.
6. Place the baby courgettes one by one on a chopping board. Use a thin sharp knife to make 3 cuts in the length leaving it attached at the top. The courgette should be fanned when cooked.
7. Fill a piping bag with the ricotta mixture and pipe equally into each courgette flower before tightly closing by twisting the end.
8. With a pastry brush, brush the bottom of a roasting tray with olive oil then lay out the courgettes and the flowers. Brush them with the olive oil on top.
9. Season the courgettes (not flowers) with salt and pepper.

Velouté
1. Peel the potatoes and dice. Place in a small casserole dish and cover with water and a pinch of salt. Cook them on the stove until soft enough to mash.
2. Blanch the parsley in boiling, salted water for 20 seconds before draining. Refresh under cold water. Squeeze out the water, pat dry and cut finely.
3. Heat up the milk and butter in a mug in the microwave. Remove and add the parsley. Pour into a blender and mix to get a smooth texture.
4. Mash the potatoes and add to the blender. Give a quick blitz to blend it together – but not too long or it will make it gluey.
5. Bake the courgettes in the oven at 180C/356F/ gas mark 4 for 8-10 minutes or until they feel hot in the centre. Taste with a thin knife blade.
6. To dress, spoon the velouté equally on the middle of each plate.

Lay 2 flowers on each with the courgettes fanned the opposite way. Sprinkle some edible flowers and drizzle with olive oil.

grain store london 2
grain store london
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gin afternoon tea
I have been fortunate enough to (over)indulge in a number of afternoon teas over the last few years, but nothing has been as experiential as the G & Tea at Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour.

Launched just in time for National Afternoon Tea Week (my Christmas), the Mr Fogg’s team have set up a real afternoon delight; your traditional tiered treats alongside a gin & tonic, gin cocktail teapot, and taster session of two wildly different botanical mixes.

The Parlour itself has a selection of over 300 varieties of gin and leads into the ultimate Phineas-inspired lounging area; tophats, foliage, ‘bar wench’ and all. It is the perfect little hideaway to enjoy sandwiches, savoury treats, and a few updated Victorian sweets. Though a little off expectation, the lack of monster scones (my usual highlight) was made up for with a mini banoffee pie and a pot of Green With Env-tea (rose & cranberry green tea, Tanqueray London Dry gin, bergamot, honey, lemon & grapefruit).

The original will always be my go-to, but the Gin Parlour makes for an excellent escape from real-tea.

gin afternoon tea
gin afternoon tea
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pizza fold gif
Donna Margherita: when a restaurant is so good you’re scared to write the review for fear you’ll never get a table again.

Where do I even begin?

Donna Margherita doesn’t look like anything special from the street. Without an insider tip, I would have passed it without a second thought.

It would have been a real mistake.

Donna Margherita is personified in Gabriele Vitale – its owner, Head Chef, and authentic-as-they-come Italian. From the second my dinner date and I sat down, Gabriele flooded us with warmth, excitement, and a menu so genuinely Neopolitan we couldn’t help but order a little bit of everything.

Honestly, if the food wasn’t so incredible I’d probably go for the family feels alone.

Over the course of a few hours, we indulged in freshly-baked Focaccia (smothered in their house Sicilian olive oil & balsamic vinegar), Gaetan l’aulive, fried polenta, bruschetta, the world’s best aubergine parmigiana, an al dente pasta to rival the freshest of south Italy, and quite honestly the best margherita pizza I have ever had the pleasure of tasting…

Quality tomatoes, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan and fresh basil folded like it would be in Napoli. Simple. And fiercely delicious.

Intoxicated by the kitchen’s continually fresh aromas (ones you could likely smell from 100 feet away), it seemed sensible to honour the restaurant’s incredibly broad wine menu with savoured sips of Albente Feudi Di San Gregorio which – like Donna Margherita – is world-class yet modest to potential fault.

Take everyone you know. And tell Gabriele I sent you.

donna margherita london
donna margherita london
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