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

In Review: Portrait Restaurant, National Portrait Gallery, London

portrait restaurant london
Holy hidden gem, you guys.

I have yet to hear a single foodie friend talk about Portrait Restaurant at The National Portrait Gallery in London. Why? The logic escapes me. I haven’t had such a lovely, friendly meal (with portrait-ready views, to boot!) in quite some time.

Before heading off for a weekend in Paris, I wanted to tick a tourist spot off of Tiffani’s casual traveller list by taking her to Trafalgar Square. While I rate very few restaurants in the area, the lure of Portrait’s simple menu (and the Portrait Gallery’s Virginia Woolf exhibition) sealed the deal and took our reservations for our the last few hours in London.

After an afternoon trawling the visual centuries, we made our way to the top floor of The National Portrait Gallery and instantly lost ourselves in the views  (pictured below).

From the London Eye, to Big Ben, to Nelson’s column and more, the views are just ridiculous. If you don’t request a window seat, you are going to regret it.

Of course, we weren’t only there for the views..

Reading through the menu while we drank in the views (and our fair share of champagne), my dining companion settled on three dishes from their original menu, while I chose options from their collaborative Summer menu with Herbfest.

For my dining companion, Gnocchi Romana with prosciutto and sage butter, followed by corn fed chicken breast, summer vegetables, and herb creme fraiche, and a chocolate cheesecake with salted caramel and Chantilly cream for dessert.

On the herbier side of the menu, I opted for Dorset crab with fine herbs, avocado, cherry vines, and brown crab dressing, followed by an impeccable slab of sea trout with shaved fennel, radish & baby spinach salad, and tomato & herb relish. I even managed to make room for the British cheese selection (‘managed’ as in ‘I can’t say no when it comes with fruit bread crostini and quince jelly’).

Flitting between bites of each other’s dishes, both sides of our small table were met with infallible, low-key, high-quality plates and the most attentive, charming service for miles around.

As hidden gems go, I feel like it’s my duty to get you to Portrait. In my opinion, you cannot see London in a better way.

portrait restaurant london
portrait restaurant london
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In Review: The 15-course tasting menu at HKK, London

hkk london
I wasn’t expecting to discover my all-time favourite beef dish at a Chinese restaurant, but it happened. It happened at HKK.

At the helm, Michelin-starred Chef Tong Chee Hwee has turned the Hakkasan Group’s abbreviated sibling into a banquet-style celebration of Cantonese cuisine. While HKK does offer a la carte options, the tasting menus are the restaurant’s pride and glory.

Two SLR-strapped women and a 15-course tasting menu each? It had to be done.

Knowing we’d have to table our cocktail habit to make our way through all fifteen dishes, we decided to kick things off with the horrifically named (but truly scrumptious) ‘Washing Potatoes’ – a zesty blend of kiwi, ginger, coriander, lychee and apple juice – before sticking to some good ol’ H20.

Now, the feast.

Priced at £98 per head, I had very high expectations of the tasting menu but was blown away by the delivery of each course. Every bite is a careful and intricate selection of flavours and textures that far exceeds all preconceived ideas of ‘Chinese food’.

Verbally, the introduction to the 15-course tasting menu reads a bit like heaven: whelk salad with Shaoxing wine jelly, then roasted Poulet de Bresse, foie gras and mandarin confit, the ‘HKK supreme’ seafood soup (a truffle-infused life changer), cherry wood roasted Peking duck (hand-carved tender flesh, crispy skin, and a moreish blend of salad and pancake), a dim sum trilogy (some of the best in London, served with a paintbrush to ‘paint’ your soy sauce onto each ball), chargrilled quail and Mui Choi rice, then a light sugar snap, lotus root and water chestnut salad.

Seven down, eight to go.

Before moving on to Number Eight, HKK pause to serve a Da Hong Pao tea ceremony and light palate-cleansers. As China is currently celebrating its mid-Autumn festival, Chef Tong Chee Hwee has specially created two exquisite moon cakes – a sweet moon cake with a lotus seed and red date enveloped by delicate pastry and a savoury and sweet snow-skin moon cake with a nutty, lotus seed centre – to be served with the ceremony until September 13th.

After nibbles, sips, and the feeling that The Force might indeed Be With Us, we pushed through to the next stage of the tasting menu.

For the ‘mains’, we were presented with an incredible plate of grilled New Zealand scampi in truffle miso sauce, Hong Kong style steamed lotus leaf halibut, seared Wagyu beef with Enoki mushrooms (absolutely, definitely the best beef dish I’ve had anywhere, ever), and Chinese-spiced Rhug Farm organic lamb. Almost definitively, each course was a gastronomic work of art.

Unable to retrain ourselves from leaving a single morsel behind over two hours, we were feeling 100 types of exhausted by the time we reached dessert. Alas, beautiful layers of strawberry, verbena cream and almond brittle still preceded a raspberry and dark chocolate delice with cocoa nibs and, dutifully, we attempted to fork our way through to the very end.

Staring (defeated) at our selection of petits fours, we took a second to reflect on the meal and go through my standard review of noteworthy positives and negatives (aka The ‘Is It Blog-worthy? Test’).

There were no negatives. Not a single one. HKK’s food, service, and atmosphere is immaculate. To be quite honest, I might consider moving within walking distance.


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In Review: Uni, London

uni london
Though I once considered sushi to be my ‘favourite food’, years of easily accessible lunch sushi has taken a little bit of glitter away from the Japanese speciality. When something becomes your ‘lazy lunch’ go-to, it is hard to count it as a favourite.

Thank heavens for UNI.

Though Uni can be pigeonholed into ‘sushi’ territory, it is actually a vibrant melange of Peruvian and Japanese fusion. Situated in the quiet backstreets of London Victoria (where food takes a backseat to tourism crossroads), the Andrew Martin-designed restaurant is as impressive as its interior design relations.

UNI was created by former Nobu chef Rolando Ongcoy and, in my opinion, trumps the Michelined Old Park Lane hangout on multiple levels.

First? The service. While UNI is designed to haute perfection (the bottled lightshades were a personal highlight), it is not stuffy or unfriendly. In fact, the staff deliver perfect knowledge, etiquette, and charm with each dish.

Of the dishes themselves? I’m not sure a careful compilation of words and photography could endear it as well as experience. Though we started modestly with edamame and a goma-dressed Kaiso seaweed salad, every plate – from the the yellowtail tiraditos (with kizami wasabi, yuzu, and fresh mint) to the Wagyu beef (with rock salt and chilli) – was an intoxicating blend of delicate, moreish, and unusual flavours. Flavours and ingredients so fresh it had me feeling like I was in a chewing gum commercial.

For this review, I feel it would be unjust to talk you through each dish. Rather, I simply hope you visit UNI and order at least one item from each section of the menu. It’s a divine exploration that even a sushi skeptic would gush over.

(Tip: Just, you know, don’t miss out on the crispy yuca seabass ceviche with chilli, amarillo, red onion. #CANTHELPMYSELF).

With pencil skirts tightening, my companion and I chose to leave dessert for a future visit, but I imagine it won’t take much of an occasion for me to return.

uni london
uni london
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In Review: Drunch, London

drunch london
Due to its uber-Central location, I must have sped past Drunch hundreds of times before stopping in for a bite to eat.

‘A bite’ which transformed into ‘a feast’, natch.

The compact lounge turned out to be the ideal Central space for informal lunches and brunches; sensing this, I roped my hungriest male friend in for a catch-up between midweek meetings.

Settling into a booth, the first thing that struck me was the versatility of the menu and – having one of those all too common breakfastless mornings – how much I wanted try try a bit of everything.

With a fresh and handmade feel to their varied options, I ended up sampling Cecilia’s Detox & Cleanse smoothie (a sublime mix of green apple, pear, kiwi, ginger, lemon, avocado, mint, parsley and curly kale) while tucking into a small plate of crispy squid with seasonal szechuan peppers, garlic mayo, sweet chilli and spring onions. On a similar seafood wavelength, my lunch date chose the butterfly tiger prawns in a mild garlic and butter sauce alongside his banana, date and coconut milk smoothie.

A strange mix? Perhaps – yet this is the kind of menu that begs you to sample far and wide. This became blatqntly obvious by the waiter’s bemused reaction to our mains…

…post smoothies and seafood, we ordered breakfast food and burgers.

Specifically, the sweetly simplistic and flavourful Drunch Cheeseburger (served medium with salad and french fries) and Scrambled Eggs & Smoked Salmon because no respectable human can refuse a fluffy plate of fresh muffins,crème fraîche scramble, salmon and chives.

With my next meeting approaching, I decided to wrap things up with a signature latte (mad props for being the first place to incorporate an animal into their latte art) before being persuaded – by my gluten free brownie-stalking companion – that my day wouldn’t be quite as amazing if I left without trying the RIP Diet Cheesecake.

For a tombstone, it is rather dreamy.

And for Drunch’s unassuming reputation and demeanour, the lunch far exceeded my expectations. After all, anywhere that allows me to order like a mad glutton gets my vote.

drunch london
drunch london
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