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: Muse of London

muse of london
Ater using some at-home hair colour treatments for a few months, it seemed as good a time as ever to make my first trip to Muse of London; a concept salon from colour genius Jason Cocking (he’s tended to the tresses of the Olsen stwins, Nigella Lawson, and many more hair goddesses).

I was stoked. And a tad late (eye surgery and London street signs are a hellish cocktail), so called to say I would be ten minutes behind.

Rushing in, I realised that the last time I was in the building was when it played home to the Lisa Shepherd salon. Same set-up, same waiting area; it was like I had stepped in the Twilight Zone for a second.

With a complimentary latte and a chair to chat to Jason in, we briefly discussed my hair hopes (a light and muti-dimensional ginger) before getting straight to the dye process.

Roughly twenty minutes later, I was taken to the hair sinks, processed and washed. When Jason came to look at the colour, I was informed he also didn’t have time for a blow dry but would rough dry my hair so I didn’t have to leave with a wet mane.

I’m not sure if it was because of my ten-minute delay (which I apologised to virtually every staff member for), but the service seemed quite impersonal and rushed.

The kicker? I adore my hair colour.Depending on the lighting, my hair looks everything from auburn, to strawberry blonde, to red (those photos were only taken two days apart). Though I felt the salon experience had room for improvement, the colour skills are undeniable.

In comparison to my other salon experiences, I would recommend Muse of London to anyone in the market for superior colour services, but would have to have a better overall experience to recommend it as a general salon stop. Fingers crossed for beginner’s bumps!

muse of london
muse of london
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Travel Blog: Postcards from Paris – a 48 Hour Vlog!

paris video vlog
I knew that the 48 hours Tiffani and I planned to spend in Paris were going to be all sorts of manic. Though I am by no means an expert, it was my chosen responsibility to deliver her an amazing weekend (after all, it was her first-ever visit to a language-diverse country).

After an eventful overnight coach trip from London, we arrived in Bercy and logged in to the Hotel Tonight app just in time to secure a fantastic deal for Hotel O (a gorgeous, central, and Pantone-hued design hotel).

The following two days were an unforgettable blizzard of adventure, carbohydrates, discovery, accidental seduction, Frenglish, and more.

But enough chat, there’s a vlog to watch…

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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What I Wore – Bleu

bleu
To satiate your international appetite before I share my video postcard from Paris, I think it might be time to pause for an outfit post.

Though I’d ideally be running around patisseries in a beret and stilettos, tackling miles upon miles of city streets in under 48 hours calls for a more practical ensemble. Casual pleats, bows, and tailoring it is.

What I Wore:
Blue tie-back pleated dress from Closet via House of Fraser
My trusty handbag
Bejewelled city sandals (old, similar here)

bleu
bleu