Anything that I feel like contributing two cents to. Fashion and beauty reviews.

In Review: Notting Hill Kitchen, London

notting hill kitchen
Last weekend, one of my favourite ladies and I high-tailed it from East to West for a dinner date at Notting Hill Kitchen. This summer, executive chef Luis Baena completely relaunched the contemporary Iberian menu and I have been awaiting the chance to pop down ever since.

After skipping around Notting Hill like I was Julia Roberts circa 1999, I found my way to Notting Hill Kitchen in perfect time and sat down with Charlie to share a cocktail or two before our appetites were geared up for the experience ahead.

Already salivating over the tapas menu which we poached from the delightful barman, we were taken through to our table and left to take in the menus and the surroundings. Every part of the formally informal Iberian restaurant radiates charm. From the domed floor-to-ceiling street windows to the canvased bread baskets, the magic is in Notting Hill Kitchen’s details.

That and, as you can probably tell from the photos, the food.

Deciding to share our starters, we also opted for a small plate of brioche filled with spider crab mousse from the tapas menu. But first? The tiborna alentejana. As a starter, I was more intrigued than enticed by the flavour combinations, but the thin toasted sourdough curves topped with pata negra jamon, bone marrow, cured papada, and truffled yolk turned out to be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever tasted. It took me straight back to the first time I tasted salmon as a child; that moment when you realise a flavour can exist far beyond expectations. The tiborna is a must-try.

After breaking the starters up with bites of the crab brioche, we then forked through a rectangular plate of diver-caught scallops that took the Iberian influence into the stratosphere. As well as perfectly cooked scallops, the plate held an incredible sliver of pork terrine, tomato & crispy onion, a dusting of ‘vilao’ dressing, and a surprise garnish of Ajo blanco pannacotta. I was tempted to swap my main out for a second serving.

Fortunately, I stuck to my guns and was quickly presented with a generous portion of Bacalao Negro (slow cooked cod & squid ink with chorizo crumble and yogurt dressing). As a savoury meal goes, this dish is as light as it could possibly get, yet packed with flavour. Unfortunately, Charlie’s seared beef tenderloin glisten-winked at me through every bite. A veritable war against willpower and tenderly melting beef, truffled potato puree, Madeira sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and white asparagus (“THIS IS THE BEST BEEF I’VE EVER HAD” still tortures me).

It is impossible to avoid food envy in a restaurant like Notting Hill Kitchen.

Thankfully, Charlie’s addiction to – and my current dislike of – chocolate meant the dessert menu was a safe zone for both of us. Her beautifully presented ‘Ménage à trois’ (white chocolate mousse, toffee parfait, and dark chocolate) and my caramel popcorn-topped lemon cheesecake rounded the meal off beautifully.

I could not imagine an occasion where I wouldn’t want to return. I might even have to invent an Iberian holiday or two to ensure that I do.

notting hill kitchen
notting hill kitchen
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Travel Blog: Food, Mallorca

food in mallorca
The food in Mallorca was a bit of a surprise to me. Though I didn’t really take a moment to consider what it would be like until I arrived, it soon became clear that I would be surrounded by seafood and tapas.

As a semi-Floridian, this was not a problem.

Now, for a round of mini restaurant reviews:

Restaurante Bodega Can Ferra, Puerto Pollensa
can ferra
On our first evening, we dusted the flight from our heads and headed for Puerto Pollensa to scout out an English-friendly restaurant with more Spanish patrons than tourists (the best thing to do to avoid tourist traps when travelling with a group that primarily speaks English). We lucked out at the slightly hidden Restaurante Bodega Can Ferra; jugs of rich Sangria, a mountain of moreish mussels, paella that could feed an entire town (when only ordered for two), and street-side seats to take in the sea air. If it wasn’t for my unwillingness to eat the same place twice when on holiday, I would have returned.

Stay Restaurant, Puerto Pollensa
stay mallorca
Stay was a funny one. Based on good reviews and its dockside location, we ended up dining here for double birthday celebrations.

The service was dire.

A shame, because the food (when it was finally ordered) turned out to be worthy of its reviews. Starting with beef carpaccio with a segue into sea-scallops and prawns marseillaise with saffron sauce, I essentially ate my dream meal.

It is one I would eat again, but would almost prefer making for myself so I didn’t have to deal with the pushy, confused ‘service’ of the restaurant itself.

stay mallorca
stay mallorca puerto pollensa
stay mallorca puerto pollensa

Quince, Porto Cristo
quince porto cristo
Quince is hidden treasure. After the Caves of Drach, we drove to the nearby town of Porto Cristo to soak in some sun and grab a bite to eat.

Quince is nestled in the far corner of Carrer Veri, and it is well worth ignoring the aromas of the restaurants you pass to get there.

Infatuated with great service and the intoxication of its surrounding seafront, we shared a pot of guacamole dip with lime, cheddar cheese, creme fraiche and fresh tortilla crackers while we waited for our mains. It quickly set the tone for a wave of fresh and flavourful dishes: everything from ‘Mamas tomato salad’ (with red onions, goat’s cheese, and a fine herb dressing) to homemade spaghetti (with tomato sauce, meatballs, parmesan, and basil). For myself? A leaf-heavy Caesar salad with parmesan, anchovies, croutons and sliced chicken – the best I’ve ever had.

quince porto cristo
quince porto cristo
quince porto cristo
quince porto cristo
quince porto cristo

S’illot, Alcudia
sillot alcudia
Unfortunately, S’illot comes with another record of bad service. We chose to have lunch here after a full-on morning of paddleboarding having spotted it from the ocean, nestled a short drive away from where we had parked the car.

The only explanation for the service? I simply think they wanted to stay hidden. After a few loud English/American/sexist insults shouted between kitchen and manager (how bizarre it is to assume that speaking to my partner in English means I won’t understand Spanish), we decided to stick around.

They did a solid pa amb oli, an extravagant iced latte, had an adorable stray cat knocking around, and beautiful views. But I wouldn’t return.

sillot alcudia
sillot alcudia
sillot alcudia
sillot alcudia

Port 31, Puerto Pollensa
port 31 puerto pollensa 1
The pièce de résistance! On our last evening it was my job to pick the restaurant and – taking the role much more seriously than one should – I spent a good ten minutes staring at diner’s reactions to the food on their tables along Puerto Pollensa.

It’s a faff, but a faff that paid off.

Port 31 does exquisite tapas. No-one was particularly interested in the ‘set tapas’ menu (which was great value, but quite starchy), so we shared a bottle of house white and ordered everything a la carte. Choosing two tapas plates each, our table was soon taken over by a range of unique and faultless dishes. From tuna tartare to mozzarella and tomato skewers to truffled foie gras ravioli (I can’t even…), everything had a flourish and attention to detail that was just completely unexpected for an unassuming tapas joint. I only dream of finding a restaurant that could recreate this experience in the UK.

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port 31 puerto pollensa 10

Travel Blog: Formentor, Mallorca

formentor mallorca
While in Mallorca, the gang and I were all so excited to explore the island that we got into the habit of waking up at highly unreasonable hours. I mean, seafood and sunbathing at the crack of dawn? Aint nobody got time for that.

Instead, we filled our mornings with activities. One of our first was a hike into the clouds of Formentor.

Formentor – especially the ‘Cap de Formentor’ in peninsula’s Eastern end – is postcard perfect. Starting with 13.5km of winding roads that defy all safety and logic, the peninsula’s lookout points are the real attraction. Though many tourists take the curves and bends straight to the beach or lighthouse, the Mirador del Mal Pas is the all-encompassing ‘destination’.

From Mirador del Mal Pas’ dizzying heights and even more dizzying drops down (this virtual view can’t possibly encompass the fear you feel when a gust of wind blows through the rocks), you actually start to feel very ready for a trip back down to the beach.

formentor mallorca 4
formentor mallorca 9
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In Review: Gaucho, Leeds

gaucho leeds
As The Manfriend wasn’t much of a foodie before dating me (I think we could safely categorise him as a Food Is Fuel connoisseur), it has always surprised me how much he has raved about Gaucho Leeds.

Though he last ate there for his twenty-first birthday (more than a few moons ago), the restaurant had made a lasting impression on him. Frankly, our trip for Sunday lunch was long overdue.

Lured in by their Late Spring Lunch Menu (two courses for £23 or three courses for £26), we descended their secret staircase into a dark and open miscellany of well-furnished rooms to take our seats.

We were presented with two wine lists; one Argentinian-packed plethora of wines (sparkling and still) as well as a charmingly handwritten selection of rare bottles. Knowing we weren’t going to leave without a steak in our systems, I elected a Malbec – a bottle of Domingo Molina Mortero 2010 – to share. This particular Malbec is clean and sharp (the way I prefer my reds) with very pure notes of dark cherry and blackberry, leading into a savoury finish.

It’s a freshly baked bread wine. A pea and mint soup wine. A bruschetta of tomato, basil, and goat’s cheese wine. (Thankfully, those were our starters.) The bruschetta was presented beautifully and was near perfect, barring a slightly overgrilled base. The pea and mint soup, however, was balanced tastefully and was as moreish as soup can get.

In hot anticipation of our mains (the Spring Menu selections of Spaghetti Provencale and Chicken Milanese had to chance of winning out over steak), our 180g medium-rare rib eyes arrived shortly thereafter. Though each was plated with chips and Béarnaise sauce, the ‘sides’ almost disappeared when I bit into the steak. I don’t often choose rib eye when cooking or ordering steak (it might be its American omnipresence in my childhood), but I would happily pay Gaucho the £26 for this course alone.

We slowly drained the Mortero between business talk, planning of our next (BIG!) visit to Gaucho for celebrations later in the month, and indulgent bites of dessert. The millefeuille with fresh strawberries and shortbread didn’t quite live up to the puff pastry versions I have tried in France, but the Manfriend’s ‘Gaucho Eton Mess‘ whipped up a smile so big it didn’t matter.

From maître d’ to our final farewells, service was impeccable and the food – despite a few niggles – was well worth its price. Go, Gaucho.

gaucho leeds
gaucho leeds
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Travel Blog: Caves of Drach, Mallorca

caves of drach
The drive to the Caves of Drach (or Cuevas del Drach) was filled with anticipation. While the five of us had agreed to assign one ‘group activity’ each over the week, we were all pretty negligent to take credit for the idea. In fact, I think everyone suggested the Caves of Drach in the first few days…

…but when something is heavily featured in basic travel guides, it screams tourist trap.

The Caves of Drach were an exquisite exception. Based near Porto Cristo in Manacar, the Dragon Caves (should we be talking literal translations) do welcome a mindblowing number of tourists, but you feel completely unaffected as soon as you enter the caves.

The four – the Black Cave, White Cave, Cave of Luis Salvador and Cave of the French – are joined together and reach depths of up to 25 metres. As you can see, they are also mesmerising – a complete envelopment of stalactites, stalagmites, and a wealth of natural history.

At the conclusion of the cave paths you are welcomed into a stone theatre to enjoy a brief classical music concert (loved by some, slept through by others) before taking a subterranean boat trip across Lake Martel.

Tourist ‘trap’ or not, I would have paid twice as much to even glimpse inside the Caves of Drach.

caves of drach
caves of drach
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