drunch london
Due to its uber-Central location, I must have sped past Drunch hundreds of times before stopping in for a bite to eat.

‘A bite’ which transformed into ‘a feast’, natch.

The compact lounge turned out to be the ideal Central space for informal lunches and brunches; sensing this, I roped my hungriest male friend in for a catch-up between midweek meetings.

Settling into a booth, the first thing that struck me was the versatility of the menu and – having one of those all too common breakfastless mornings – how much I wanted try try a bit of everything.

With a fresh and handmade feel to their varied options, I ended up sampling Cecilia’s Detox & Cleanse smoothie (a sublime mix of green apple, pear, kiwi, ginger, lemon, avocado, mint, parsley and curly kale) while tucking into a small plate of crispy squid with seasonal szechuan peppers, garlic mayo, sweet chilli and spring onions. On a similar seafood wavelength, my lunch date chose the butterfly tiger prawns in a mild garlic and butter sauce alongside his banana, date and coconut milk smoothie.

A strange mix? Perhaps – yet this is the kind of menu that begs you to sample far and wide. This became blatqntly obvious by the waiter’s bemused reaction to our mains…

…post smoothies and seafood, we ordered breakfast food and burgers.

Specifically, the sweetly simplistic and flavourful Drunch Cheeseburger (served medium with salad and french fries) and Scrambled Eggs & Smoked Salmon because no respectable human can refuse a fluffy plate of fresh muffins,crème fraîche scramble, salmon and chives.

With my next meeting approaching, I decided to wrap things up with a signature latte (mad props for being the first place to incorporate an animal into their latte art) before being persuaded – by my gluten free brownie-stalking companion – that my day wouldn’t be quite as amazing if I left without trying the RIP Diet Cheesecake.

For a tombstone, it is rather dreamy.

And for Drunch’s unassuming reputation and demeanour, the lunch far exceeded my expectations. After all, anywhere that allows me to order like a mad glutton gets my vote.

drunch london
drunch london
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wagamama review
I am not really one for ‘fast food’…let alone reviewing it. I have friends who can praise the heavens for a golden french fry or fried chicken, but it’s just not my – fried – bag.

I had swept wagamama into the ‘fast food’ category until seeing their jazzy little Way of Wagamama recipe video (below). I mean…Thai freshness hasn’t really delivered in the UK the way it did on the streets of Bangkok, but I was willing to take a chance on my tickled tastebuds.

Fast food/chain-restaurant/mall-food or not, wagamama has my seal of approval.

Kicking things off with a tangy ‘Super Green Juice‘ (apple, mint, celery, lime juice, and a whole lot of healthy), The Manfriend and I ran through their astronomic list of fresh gastro delights and settled on a Chicken Katsu Curry and Prawn + Chicken Pad Thai (obvs), along with some sides.

If kimchi is ever on a menu, I order it on impulse. wagamama’s was perfectly spicy with just a slice of the sour fermentation, just the way I like it. To balance the spice we shared a plate of Duck Gyoza which – when paired will their spicy cherry hoi sin sauce – was deliciously moreish (if not a tad pastry-heavy).

Our mains were, unexpectedly, the real winners. The Manfriend’s Katsu was completely man-friendly; chicken breast deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs and covered in a honey-tinged curry sauce with sticky white rice, dressed mixed leaves and red pickles (sneaky veggies = my favourite). My own Prawn + Chicken Pad Thai was a perfect blend of lean proteins with ginger, peanuts, garlic, spring onion, red onion, amai sauce, chilli, and lime. Though most of my noodles were left behind (personal taste), the portions were also extremely generous.

The combination of editing these photos and re-watching the video has, in fact, resulted in mad hunger. See you in 10, wagamama.

wagamama review
wagamama review
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Sonnys Kitchen London
Last year the Michelin star-collecting team of Rebecca Mascarenhas and Phil Howard (Kitchen W8 prodigies, to refresh your memory) took charge and revamped Barnes’ culinary wunderkid, Sonny’s Kitchen. Last week, I stiletto-stomped my way south of the river to finally get in on the action.

Surprisingly, Sonny’s Kitchen was no way near as ‘city’ as the duo’s previous projects. With eclectic art lining the walls and a sunken dining area creating an intimate dimension, the tablecloth-free environment was both exceptionally welcoming and relaxed. Fellow patrons included young and old, couples and friends, families and free-flying foodies: all smiling.

Smiling is rather contagious around dishes like these (come on – LOOK AT THE PHOTOS!). The Fiancé turned into something of a Cheshire Cat as he tucked into his warm wild mushroom, onion and thyme tart, pausing sporadically to tell me ‘this is going to be the best…this is going to be the best…’ like some sort of deranged mushroom fanatic. With that said, I’m almost positive I got googly-eyed over my starter of foie gras and chicken liver parfait. When layered with rhubarb and blood orange jelly on top of perfect slices sourdough toast, a blast of rich flavour coated each bite.

After taking a few incredible chomps of The Fiancé’s faultless steak, I focused my attention on my own plate. My main – an ugly composition of roasted veal atop thyme spatzle, jerusalem artichoke and chanterelles – could be the tantamount example: you do not judge a book by its cover. In fact, I could only reiterate Giles Coren’s tweet while he dined at Sonny’s in 2012: ‘I am having one of the meals of my LIFE’. Caps and all.

Desserts, as you would be right to assume, were equally excellent. First – a crème fraîche tart with wafer-thin fresh pastry that practically vanished into thin air. Second (but in no way second best) – a creme caramel with golden raisins and Sauternes which offered a succulent, fruity, and nutty layer to what is usually my least favourite pudding. Not this time.

Hidden gem alert.

Sonnys Kitchen London
Sonnys Kitchen London
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the pig new forest
The Pig (in the Forest) was the highlight of my yesterweek. Known also for its rave-reviewed and shabby chic hotel, the real magic lies in its cuisine; The Pig is a self-identified ‘restaurant with rooms‘.

What first appears to be a contemporary country escape hidden in Victorian clothing is, in fact, much more. At the helm you will find Head Chef James Golding (Soho House New York, Mark Hix, et al) setting the tone and calling the uncomplicated shots of a restaurant that boasts an incredible British menu based on the micro seasons of the forest. In the truest sense of the phrase ‘home-grown’, everything on the menu comes from The Pig’s walled gardens, surrounding grounds, or suppliers within a 15 mile radius.

Starting our day with a tour of the gardens, it was impossible to be unaffected by Golding’s infectious love for his work. While my house in London would be lucky to sprout a mushroom, James’ extensive fruit and vegetable beds feature unusual and impressive ingredients – from sea beet to lemon chilli – which we were encouraged to touch, smell, and build a Pig-sized appetite for. With the culinary experience being so dependent on the gardens, in fact, the menu can often be changed by the hour.

Obviously, our menu was saturated with fresh, fine food. Settling into the gorgeously vine-clad conservatory dining area, we were welcomed with a selection of ‘Piggy Bits‘ (£3.50 each); Saddleback crackling & apple sauce (the lightest I have ever eaten), crispy lardo & smoked chilli sauce, and Brock eggs & Colman’s dressing.

Insider tip: When you feel you could eat a lunch of £3.50 dishes alone, you are guaranteed a phenomenal dining experience.

The menu did not disappoint one foodie at the table. As a starter I opted for home-made black pudding & a poached hen egg with garden apple, red watercress, and Perry dressing (£7). The texture, flavour and simple warmth of the dish was exactly what a starter should be; the foreplay. The exciting build-up – with a handful of twists and turns – that you would happily enjoy on its own.

By the time the mains arrived, our table of seven was titillated. One brave companion ordered the Whole Roasted Bath Chap (on a board) with Nasturtium mash and homemade apple sauce (£14.50) – a dish so fresh the teeth were left in. Others opted for plates erring on traditional; a 24oz Double Romsey Pork Chop (£20) which arrived with onion rings, sprout tops, and a creamy mustard sauce and ‘The Pie @ The Pig‘ (£15.50) with Hampshire lamb, minted potatoes and garden chard. Plates stacked with love and technical genius.

My own main, hand-dived Lyme Bay scallops & crispy bacon with creamy mashed potato and monk’s beard (£19.50), has become an all-time hero dish. My tongue is rather judgemental when it comes to the individual ingredients in this dish, so I was eager to see how everything would tie together (and, critically, what would let the dish down). Nothing let the dish down. Savoury and fresh, the scallops came out at a perfect consistency and – alongside the creamy potatoes – offered a delicious taste between strong flavours.

After our meal, we took an ever-so-slightly merry trip to the new baby of The Pig Family, Southampton’s ‘The Pig in The Wall‘ – a boutique hotel with the same kitschy luxury of The Pig In The Forest. Quite literally a stone’s throw from your next ferry to the Isle of Wight, the bed and breakfast has everything you would need for a short stay, including a complimentary shuttle to ‘The Pig in The Forest’ for your dietary delights.

Who knew I could ever feel such affection for a Pig? (Barring micro pigs. Hello.)

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