food blogger
The unlikely string linking a decade of dinner parties? The hysterically diverse threads I’ve worn to each of them.

When I’m fortunate enough to be invited to a friend’s, I go all out; sparkles, heels, and a bottle to match.

When I throw my own, I tend to go all…well…in; a onesie, an empty bottle, and the closest thing to a smile I can muster after having compulsive meltdown in the kitchen.

I am the keenest of home chefs. And I love hosting. But the combination can be a nightmare for a perfectionist.

Discovering La Belle Assiette was a game-changer.

The service offers Londoners a choice of affordable private chefs for any and all culinary needs; dinner parties, romantic surprises, birthdays, et al.

It sounded like the ideal exploit for catching up with friends after the holidays.

After long days at work, five of my most discerning foodie amigos arrived to an out-and-out feast without so much as a consideration to what they might want to eat that night.

Chef Ali, who arrived two hours prior to prepare his menu, curated a four-course banquet of dining room dreams; a herbed chicken amuse bouche (with shaved parmesan, sherry vinegar anchovies, parmesan croutons & a caesar dressing), wild tuna Salade niçoise (with soft-boiled eggs, served with English new season potatoes, green beans, heritage tomatoes, red onions & wild rocket), chicken stuffed with smoked tomatoes & goat’s cheese (with beetroot puree, smoked garlic, crispy mint fondant potatoes, roasted baby onions, carrots, Himalayan salt, &jus), and a white & dark chocolate tart with peppermint cream & fresh berry confit.

It was a roaring success.

With nothing to deliberate beyond which wine we wanted with each course, La Belle Assiette truly put the party in dinner party. Right the way through to the discovery of a spotless kitchen (with zero washing-up!) after the world’s most mutinous game of Monopoly.

The entertainment, of course, is rather deliciously left up to you and the merriment of your tribe.

I would live the entire evening again in a heartbeat. For the opportunity to crack out every thread of sparkle in my wardrobe, alone.

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beer afternoon tea
As far as London’s prosecco postcodes are concerned, Hyde Park is at the top of chain. It would have been the last place I expected to find a beer afternoon tea.

Truth be told, the idea filled me with dread. Afternoon tea has always held a place in my heart as an opportunity to sip bubbles and feast on crustless finger sandwiches. An afternoon on beer, on the other hand, has always become a meal in itself. The combination hardly seemed a peanut butter and jelly kind of match

Nonetheless, I put faith in the inclinations of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and headed for some weekend indulgence in their Rosebery Lounge. Can an afternoon tea ever be had?

No. Not really. But it can be unexpectedly wonderful. As it was here.

The hotel restau’s new offering pairs unique beers from the UK, US and Belgium with their prestigious afternoon tea treats.

We’re talking sushi-style sandwiches (slow-roasted turkey with cranberries & sage butter, Cotswold egg & black truffle, confit tuna with sweet piquillo peppers, black olives & oregano, et al) with Thornbridge Chiron (a spicy and balanced Pale Ale with a deliciously juicy malt). We’re talking hand-made maple snow balls and Mandarin mont blancs with Kriek Boon (a Lambic almond-tinged beer fermented with 400g of whole cherries per litre of beer). We’re talking infallible freshly-baked scones (plain & cranberry with Devonshire clotted cream, strawberry jam and rose petal jam) with Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar (a moreish Brown Ale made with Rogue Farms hazelnuts).

Struggling to find a last-minute Christmas gift for a beer enthusiast? It doesn’t get much better.

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diy coffee liqueur
Whether you’re hosting or guesting this Christmas, sharing an interesting bottle or two with your loved ones will never go unappreciated. This festive season, I’ve been conducting a little alco-haul to sample and select something for everyone’s tastes. A handy little Christmas Drinks Guide, if you will…

For the gin loverGin Mare.
A herbaceous Mediterranean gin with a noticeably unique flavour profile, contrary to many gins on the market. It’s a gin worth Hendricks’ notoriety and destined to become a big-hitter as the years go by. It is also Amazon Prime-able, which is excellent for last minute shopping.

For something that will blow everyone’s mind1800 Tequila.
This silky little number is, hands down, the tequila that turns the wary into the obsessed. Not only that, but they’ve released a beautiful limited edition bottle featuring the ‘Gherkin’ for Christmas (designed by Enoc Perez and available to purchase exclusively from the London branch of Selfridges while stocks last).

For the cocktail aficionadoSolerno Blood Orange Liqueur.
A citrus sensation for those Winter warmers. Solerno’s blood oranges are hand-picked from the sun-drenched slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna and make for a delicious addition to a Negroni or Old Fashioned. Get yours at The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt.

For a toast with the most…Echo Falls Summer Berries Vodka.
I am relatively averse to anything vodka-related, but this new arrival received rave reviews when I taste-tested my colleagues. It also adds great balance to cheaper (read: far too sweet) Prosecco, which would be ideal for a pocket-conscious Christmas toast.

For a bottle of wine that will impress everyone…Borough Wines & Beers.
Though it’s not a particular bottle, I respect wine and diverse palates too much to suggest only one. Instead, head to Borough Wines with an open mind and their insanely passionate staff will guide you to something special for your desired budget. If you can’t get to their physical shops, their website features the best of the best.

For bonus pointshomemade coffee liqueur.
While it normally takes a couple of weeks to brew your own booze, this delicious coffee liqueur only takes three days ’til perfection! With your coffee cold-brewed into 1 1/4 cups of water (I’d give it around 12 hours), you simply create a syrup (with the sugar and 1 cup of water), let it cool, then add it to the coffee with the rum and vanilla bean.

After three days, all you have to do it remove the vanilla bean and your liqueur is ready to be served!

1/4 cup fine ground espresso (I used Starbucks’ Christmas blend, natch)
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups light rum (you can go cheap as chips here, but a great rum will offer more complexity to the final liqueur)

Happy drinking and Merry Christmas, gang!

how to make sushi
After four hours of OCD disquietude, my naive ‘how to make sushi’ Google sinkhole resulted in force-feeding my frustrated and starving eighteen-year-old self a bowl of hard rice, unripe avocado and inconceivably expensive Ahi.

It foreshadowed a decade of failed sushi attempts.

I took sushi for granted from my very first mouthful of maki; the demanding rice recipe process, the art of the roll, the balance of flavours. Sushi is, unequivocally, an art. Then Hashi Cooking changed everything.

Owner and teacher Reiko Hashimoto is not only the first Japanese chef to teach sushi in the UK but has been doing so for 17 years in London. If anyone could turn my incompetence around, it would be her.

With desperately low expectations for myself, I headed to The Club at The Ivy for one final attempt at successful wok and rolling.

For the afternoon, Reiko was joined by Oliver Hilton Johnson (sake educator and director of Tengu sake) and 19 other sushi chefs in the making.

To make a long story short, I can genuinely make sushi now. I know the tips. I know the tricks. I know the tactics and I understand them in a way my previously fruitless Googles couldn’t teach me. I can inside out roll, create beautiful omelette nigiri and sake pair my creations to perfection.

I even left with enough sushi to gift a friend for his birthday.

If you have ever considered a crack at the fine art, Hashi may be just what you’ve been looking for.


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w london perception bar
I have treated W London‘s Library and Room 913 as a makeshift members club for over five years. I frequently danced myself into the next day under its titanic disco ball, made my way through a myriad of martinis while people-watching over Leicester Square, and nestled into back rooms for private film screenings with loved ones.

But I had never consumed more than an olive on any visit.

In all fairness, hotel restaurants typically hold little clout when I’m looking for somewhere to eat. Especially in Central London. With every cuisine conceivable available within a five minute walk, the W had little chance to enter my laundry list of must-eat adventures.

Then they decided to get all gastronomic on me.

This month, the W unveiled their face-lifted bar (now called The Perception) alongside a new dining series set to introduce emerging chefs to gourmands both local and en voyage.

The series has launched with the delicious genius of Magnus Reid (owner of C.R.E.A.M and Legs – the latter of which gained a Bib Gourmand after just four months of business). Magnus has long debunked any misconceptions that culinary success requires qualifications – having none – as one of the most unconventional and exciting chefs in the city. And his residence at The Perception only further proves it.

The sharing-friendly menu is a twisted Mediterranean-European triumph. It pairs burrata with chilli jam and fried garlic (addictive), celeriac carpaccio with buckwheat and gremolata (trust me on this one), and mussels with nduja and fennel (some of the best I’ve had anywhere in Europe).

In my presence, the pasta (see: pappardelle with crab, chilli & breadcrumbs and tagliatelle with sausage/fennel ragu & parmesan) has also been multi-Italian approved and the dessert (the chocolate pot with mint granita, in particular) turned a dessert-hater on his head.

If my Granada Gunpowder (Woodford Reserve, Campari, Disaronno, Carpano Antica Formula, Angostura Bitters) idée fixe wasn’t reason enough to return, this luxury dining experience at a Hackney price tag sealed the deal. I can’t wait to see who Team W London decide to champion next.

w london perception bar
w london perception bar
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