I love London. I sign things London. London is the key to my heart – it deserves some writing.

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.

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notting hill kitchen
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In Review: Jamies Italian, Westfield Stratford

jamies italian 7
I had one million misconceptions about Jamie’s Italian before I ever set foot in one.

Celebrity chef? Probably has nothing to do with it. Prices? Obviously +£10 per dish to cover the celebrity status. Chain restaurant? I can’t even.

I am very happy. I was very wrong.

Last weekend, The Manfriend and I rocked up for lunch after a particularly heavy night with Katy Perry (see previous post). Drowning in the warmth of the sun next to the Westfield Stratford branch‘s open terrace – and their at-window-serving hog roast! – I coukd not feel any further from my preconceived idea of ‘bland chain eats’.

After ordering a few non-alcoholic cocktails (I do not believe in hair of the dog), we perused the menu with delight.

There was FOOD. Real, fresh FOOD. Food-I-would-serve-at-a-dinner-party-if-I-was-an-Italian-model-goddess FOOD!

It took no time at all to decide on starters. With a penchant for great ingredients, I thought I’d test the water with a small Bresaola salad (which came with artichokes, rocket, crumbled Colwick cheese, toasted almonds and aged balsamic) while my very hungry Manfriend dove headfirst into a plate of Crab and Avocado bruschetta (mixed with apple, chilli, mint and lemon).

It also took no time to lick the plates clean.

When our mains arrived, we were entranced. Yet, while staring wide-eyed at enormous plates stacked with feather blade flash steak and crispy soft shell crab was entertaining, our appetites eventually got the better of us. His dry aged British beef – after being pounded with prosciutto and sage – sat nestled under a heritage tomato and basil salsa while my own beast, the buttermilk-fried crab, disintegrated by the forkful. If I could recommend one dish and one dish only, the crab would take the cake. The dish’s plate partners (a chilli, fennel and sea lettuce salad with smashed avocado and yuzu lime salsa) were exceptional.

(As photo evidence proves, we ordered Polenta chips with rosemary salt & Parmesan and ‘Posh Chips‘ with truffle oil & Parmesan before realising quite how large our portions would be. We did not finish them. Not for lack of trying.)

Nailing the final buckle in the belt loop, we wrapped things up with a few bites of raspberry and chocolate-rippled pavlova and Amalfi lemon meringue cheesecake.

Oh, how I wish ‘doggy bags’ were a thing in the U.K. That cheesecake could have fed our household for days.

I wouldn’t even be sick of it.

The best part? Three enormous courses – plus mocktails – for two still comes in at under £100. And I would order everything again.

Please accept my apologies, Jamie O. You’ve done this judgemental foodie proud.

jamies italian
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Hello May

hello may
May feels kind of like a ‘nothing’ month, doesn’t it? While the UK gears up for festival season, sunshine holidays and weddings galore, May just kind of sits there…looking pretty. With your varied interests in mind, I thought I’d drum up a little list of UK-wide (and slightly special) things to do over the month of May…

1. Eat at City Social
On the 1st, Jason Atherton finally crashed into The City by taking over top of Tower 42 (‘the National Westminster Tower’, to some of us). As well as hosting something of a jazz club on Saturday afternoons, the menu reads better than any Atherton restaurant to date; theCumbrian beef tartare, with sour dough crouton, goat’s curd, truffle dressing, and dried vinegar sounds absolutely unreal.

2. Experience West Side Story in Leeds
The Leeds Grands Theatre is being taken over by the gangs of New York’s Upper West Side from the 20th to 31st of May. While I’m obviously talking about West Side Story, the UK revival of what I only know as a very American musical (based on the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet) is too intriguing to pass up.

3. Rock out with Nine Inch Nails
Following the release of Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails are going to be melting faces at The O2 on May 23rd. Literally recording music longer than I’ve been alive, the band’s 30-million-plus album sales say it all: this concert is going to be larger than life.

4. Visit The House of Peroni
The House of Peroni is back again – this time showcasing four floors, three bars, one temporary restaurant and a laundry list of amazing small workshops in an unassuming Holborn townhouse over the month of May. As well as a mix of street food, music, Peroni (obvs), and more, one of the most sold-out events is a recurring fashion workshop that teaches you to own designer-esque silk scarf. Book in while you can!

5. Do al fresco cinema at Spinningfields
Thursday nights at Manchester’s Spinningfields have gone all Hollywood on us. Each week until August 21st, patrons are welcome to pull up a deckchair (provided) and enjoy a classic cinematic experience on The Lawns. Only costing £3 (and surrounded by plenty of food and drink options), Spinningfields have just become date night perfected.

What I Wore – Popcorn

popcorn handbag
Though the promise of sunshine had me wanting to run around Primrose Hill in stilettos and sundresses, I had quite a bit of ‘running around’ to do in London at the tail end of the week. Forgoing my ankle-breakers for a pair of sensible booties, this comfy/lazy outfit won me a few unexpected smiles from strangers. That, or everyone was juiced on sunshine.

(I hacked the handbag into a long strap instead of its ‘popcorn strap’ and it was the wisest decision of the weekend. #handsfree)

What I Wore:
Popcorn handbag from Kate Spade (DIY by me)
Floral jumper from Zara
Striped shirt from TM Lewin
Zipped skinnies from Zara
Cashmere socks (similar here)
Boots from Even & Odd (similar here)
Steampunk necklace (handmade gift)

popcorn handbag
popcorn handbag

Happy Towns

happy towns
This week, Twinings Infusions launched a  ‘Make Work Wonderful’ portal on The Huffington Post. With a few of my Northern friends sharing their opinions about one article in particular, I was quickly sucked into the Britain’s Happiest Workers: 10 Towns Where You’ll Find Them conversation.

Having spent the last four months enjoying the spoils of Leeds (and the surrounding areas), it was no surprise to see a few Northern towns on the list. What I did find surprising, however, was the absence of London. LONDON! Though places like Luton have the fastest broadband in the UK, the fourth-lowest pollution, and high scores in the job satisfaction and work equality stakes, it does not hold a candle to London in my eyes.

I think I brings up an interesting debate. Though I was born and half-raised in England’s capital city, London evokes complete Marmite reactions in people:

You have the lifers: Be they raised in London or not, they would never dream of leaving. They know every secret bar in Soho, their own personal Top 10 list of Best Burgers, and know how to convince a pedal-bike driver into giving them a free ride at 4am. Ahem.

You have the in-betweeners: They live in London but don’t care too much about it. The in-betweeners tend to live beyond Zone 3, will go for drinks ‘in the city’ once a month or less, and are likely to be saving up for ‘the future’ (aka the chance to move out of London).

You have the fearful: Bright lights, big city? It’s just not right for some people. I tend to forget that these people exist until I’m back in Indiana (where I went to high school). Corn fields, little city? It’s just not right for some people.

Until recently, I considered myself a lifer. Now splitting my time between London and Leeds, I suppose I’m an in-betweener. Just not an in-betweener that you’ll ever find living in Luton.

What factors do you believe contribute to making a ‘Happy’ location? Would you trade living in your favourite city for a bit more disposable income?

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