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.

hkk london
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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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vapiano soho london
The well-reviewed Italian ‘chain’ restaurant Vapiano recently opened their third UK site on Wardour Street in Soho.

Try as I might to avoid chains, my intrigue finally got the better of me.

Dragging my best and hungriest guy friend along for the ride, we decided to spend a long lunch hoisted on the bar stools of Vapiano’s least-busy location (the Great Portland Street restau is always heaving with The Lunch Crowd).

The concept, in theory, is ingenious: upon entering, you’re given a Vapiano card that gets charged every time you order an item from one of their various food and drink stations. When you’re ready to leave, you simply hand the card over to the F.O.H. team and settle your bill.

The issue? There is something lost in translation. Do you wait for your food to be made and take it back to your table? What if you have an issue with your food? What if you want multiple items – or courses – but don’t want to leave a conversation or wait in a queue? What if you’re in a large group and other people get their food much quicker than others (I saw this happen a few times between antipasti lovers and patient pizza lovers)?

Regardless of the card hoopla, I really enjoyed Vapiano. I found it to be great value, fresh, and a lovely atmosphere to dine in. The card system is simply not being executed in a way that does the food justice.

Lucky enough to arrive before the lunch rush, I got through a gorgeous strawberry and fresh spinach salad (dressed with goats’ cheese, red onions, pine nuts and homemade raspberry maple dressing), a plate of carpaccio, and the ‘death by chocolate’ cake – all of which totalled under £20. While my friend opted for a carby mix of bread-based antipasti, an ‘internationally inspired’ barbecue chicken pizza (topped with smoked cheese, red onion, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and barbecue sauce stripes), and a classic baked vanilla and lemon cheesecake, his feast was equally cheap and equally delicious.

My advice? Avoid the lunch rush, go with no more than three friends, and stagger your ordering. The food is worth it.

vapiano soho london review
vapiano soho london review
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take away afternoon tea
My last trip to The Park Tower Knightsbridge was almost five years ago. 2009 – and The Park Tower – mark my first-ever business meeting with a designer brand.

Having had so much change, bewilder and humble me since that meeting, The Park Tower holds a very special place in my heart. When welcoming one of my close friends and recent London transfers to the city, it seemed more than appropriate to take a pit stop at the hotel and take away their afternoon tea for a picnic in Hyde Park.

Their ‘Take Away Strawberry Afternoon Tea‘ – as you can see – is beautifully ingenious.

In their three tier cardboard tea platter, The Park Tower include:
– London smoked salmon and green asparagus (sushi style) with keta caviar on nori bread (IT. IS. UNREAL.)
– Norwich farm chicken caesar with baby gem chiffonade on carrot bread
– Surrey peppered beef pastrami with horseradish cream on malted grain bread
– Silver Hill duck egg mayonnaise and mustard cress on viennoise briochette
– Scones with strawberry and rhubarb marmalade
– Strawberry Valrhona white chocolate truffle
– Strawberry marshmallow
– Whole strawberry dipped in Valrhona milk chocolate and nibbed sugar (
– Strawberry pâté de fruits
– Strawberry and crème chantilly pavlova
– Strawberry Victoria sponge cake tennis court and lemon tennis ball
…and…the most amazing pastry I have ever laid eyes on…
– Strawberry petit choux pastry swans with pistachio cream mousseline.

Truth be told, stretching out in the sunshine, listening to an insane Beatles cover band, and devouring the petite platter between us was the most gratifying way we could have spent an afternoon. Quintessential London luxury.

The takeaway afternoon tea is priced at £19.50 per person or £69 for two with a half bottle of Moët & Chandon Rosé (GO FOR IT) and available through August 31st. I advise booking 24 hours in advance (by online form or phone) to ensure availability.

take away afternoon tea
take away afternoon tea
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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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