As Bloody Mary-worthy mornings come, it is a task to power through one feeling anything more than…awake. Let alone glamorous.
Thank Strand Gods for Eneko.
One Aldwych’s subterranean dining quarters not only swallows you into a luxurious underbelly but offers the best Bloody Mary – a “Golden” version that swaps the basic ingredients for spiced vodka, golden tomato juice & celery foam – in London.
That and a brunch to write home about.
Settling into one of their open-air booths, my dining companion instinctively raised her phone to share the room’s lush aesthetic with Instagram.
You can only imagine the digital exploitation of the food itself. Acclaimed chef Eneko Atxa (whose three-Michelin Azurmendi restaurant is #16 in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants) pulls off brunch like very few can; Traditional Talo (with heritage tomatoes & fresh herbs), duck breast (with green Gernika peppers & super-thin fries), Txuleta (prime rib with a spring onion salad), et al.
From start to Cava-clinking (brunch includes a complimentary glass of Mas Macia Cava brut per person) finish, the Basque benefaction tickled every tastebud tenable.
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There is little I love more than a staycation and – as a woman who takes very little time for herself – I have felt more than a little overdue one from the second the clock struck 2017.
When an event celebrating International Women’s Day presented an opportunity to stay in a Grade II listed building I have walked past for over ten years, I knew I had to spend a night in its modern interior transformation – Dorsett Shepherds Bush.
(Trigger warning: a super chic hotel lies within.)
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As you may remember from staycations past, Victoria is one of my favourite (and most convenient) places to “holiday” As a foodie, a saunter in SW1 provides much more than theatres and access to what feels like every train and bus in London.
It is a mecca for culinary exploration and, currently, home to the best brunch in London: Saturday’s bottomless brunch at Aster.
I have had my fair share of bottomless brunches in my day (some more recent than others) and Aster’s version takes the Almond, Runeberg, blood orange, and lemon meringue cake.
From 12-4pm, the brand new glass-walled restaurant/cafe/deli/bar invites guests to luxuriate over two (£21) or three (£26) perfectly crafted courses, listen to live music, and drain them of bottomless bubbles (£15 extra).
And that we did.
Over three hours, Kate Threlfall and her string quartet crooned sweet, jazzy nothings to us while we indulged in “Eggs Victoria” (lobster, seeded rye & truffle hollandaise), a flat iron steak (with café de paris butter & remoulade, wild reindeer sausages (with caramelised onions & lingonberries), a chocolate tart, and the aforementioned almond cake.
For a newborn (the restaurant opened January 2017), Aster’s brunch implies a very successful future.
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There is something bittersweet about promoting restaurants I love. Especially when they’re hidden gems. But Tank & Paddle is a little too brilliant to keep secret.
It lives up to (and yet somehow defies) every expectation of a “pizza and beer” place. Though it is situated in the centre of The City, it is virtually impossible to “stumble upon” (below ground in Minster Court) and is significantly more affordable than its surrounding banker-seducing restaurant alternatives.
Yet the food is just as good.
With an absence of the postcode’s notorious white tablecloths and sommeliers, you get bar service (perfect for large groups), cosy corners, killer cocktails, and outright feasts at the cost of a dessert somewhere else.
After a round of Porn Star Martinis (my #sorrynotsorry pizza companion of choice), my dinner date and I split a Billy Goat’s Stuffed pizza (Rosary Goat’s Cheese, spinach & red onion chutney), pepperoni & chilli filled mac and cheese (a gooey-as-they-come delight called “The Hot One”), a gargantuan Greek salad, and savoury dough sticks with Garlic & Herb Butter and Chilli Butter (they also do a Nutella-filled option for dessert – your skinny jeans are forewarned).
It was a banquet that took us all the way through our Martinis, a bottle of bubbles, and more than a handful of dance breaks.
For its location, food, drinks (everyone around me was cooing over their beers), pricing, vibes, and deals (ie “Any regular pizza for £5 on Mondays”!), Tank & Paddle might just be the City’s greatest hideout.
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Conceptually, dining in department stores once felt as naff as naff gets. I’ve spent twenty-plus years as a shopper watching tired families shove “Cafe” fish fingers into tired toddler mouths while people-watching OAPs hoard enough teacups to start department stores of their very own .
I subscribed to a state of non-partisan (or participative) acceptance.
Then, as per hedonistic usual, Harrods changed me.
Their Food Hall’s Pan-Asian counter restaurant – Pan Chai – was everything I needed to be convinced otherwise.
After a hardcore dance class, my dance ‘n’ dinner date and I settled in to the booths for a well-needed refuel and had our proverbial socks knocked off.
Pan Chai serves a menu as creative, decadent, and pure as ‘fusion’ comes. Every dish was a genuine delight; a mouth-watering snow crab salad (with avocado, caviar and seaweed), spicy squid tempura, tofu steaks (two deep-fried ‘steaks’ served with teriyaki sauce and asparagus), an avocado roll (enough for two), and the most exquisite grilled Wagyu Beef Bulgogi you could ever imagine (in Korean barbecue sauce with Japanese mushrooms, asparagus and steamed rice).
All washed down with some Daiginjo (Shirakabegura sake) – the smoothest premium sake I’ve ever tasted – for good measure. It was the best thing I’ve tasted since discovering Masottina.com.
A lunch or dinner may come with a Harrods price tag but will also come with a Harrods supremacy.
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