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: Pollensa Town, Mallorca

pollensa town
The first of two trips to Pollensa Town (or ‘Old Town Pollensa’) was for a leisurely grocery run at the Pollensa Town Market. Though the Sunday market is said to be in its peak in the late morning hours, we found that the square was bustling throughout the afternoon. In addition to the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and flowers concentrated in the square, the outskirts were dotted with everything from three euro bras to ‘Rooibos Cannabis’ tea (which none of us dared to sample). Culturally, it was a lovely experience. There was definitely a large number of locals milling around, playing music and doing their weekly shop, which was lovely to see in such an attractive destination.

On our return – a few evenings later – we decided to tackle the 365 Calvari steps. I would call them a step and a half, each. The long steps lead to the Chapel of Calvari (Eglesia del Calvari) and offer the most beautiful views of the city below. In fact, I found the process of turning back towards the city to take photos and admiring the quaint homes that lined the steps more enjoyable than the view from the top.

Pollensa. Mission: accomplished.

pollensa town
pollensa town 6
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The Secret to Easy, Amazing Sangria

easy sangria
For quite some time, whenever I found myself in the mood to make Sangria I would head straight towards Google in hopes of finding a recipe that would make my friends weak at the knees (in a non-paralytic fashion).

The ‘Best’ Sangria, according to Google, comes down to everything from purees, to shots of cava, to herbs, to multiple types of wine combined in a single jug. Ick.

I just want something easy, amazing, and – after quite some time testing out different theories – I’ve figured out the secret.

The wine. It seems obvious, but the right selection of a medium-bodied and floral bottle is the key difference between drinkable and delicious. So far, a (very cheap!) bottle of Pagos Del Rey Rioja Castillo Albai 2012 has been my most well-received experiment. The cherry red vino is intensely fruity but very fresh, dense, and naturally spicy (hooray for the Tempranillo grape!).

So, what makes it amazing after the wine?

Oranges. Just oranges. Choose the freshest, largest orange you can get your hands on, cut it, squeeze the juice into the wine, pop the full rinds in, then chill the jug in the fridge for as long as you can.

The acidity, tannins, and sweetness pair together perfectly to make the easiest Sangria around. At most, I would garnish with a bit of mint or berries, but there is absolutely no more flavour required.

(For a lower cal version, topping it up with 1/3 glass of Sodastream Free From Lemonade has gone down really well!)

easy sangria
easy sangria

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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