Hunter 486 at The Arch

Nestled in a quiet residential area just off the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street lies The Arch, a 82 room, five star hotel situated in a Grade 2 listed building. When Madonna lives over the road, you know you’re in good company! Seven town houses have been combined to create this gorgeous boutique hotel with a chilled out vibe, incredible art, and a child- and dog-friendly policy. You can’t ask better than that! (I’m holding out for a reservation…)

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The hotel’s restaurant, Hunter 486, has an open kitchen and wood-fired oven in which they cook incredible dishes like braised lamb shank, monkfish, and goat’s cheese tart. We were invited along to sample the new wine menu, which boasts 24 wines and champagne by the glass (which you can also enjoy in their gorgeous booths, too!).  I love the fact that you can order by the glass, as not only does it give you the opportunity to try new varieties, but it also means you can ensure each course has a matched glass – and the wait staff will be more than happy to offer you recommendations! Hunter 486 has a fabulous menu that celebrates British produce and flavours, making it a great shout for tourists as well as hardened Londoners.


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To start we had homemade olive and soda bread, served with unsalted butter and olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The olive bread was light and chewy with a crispy crust, while the soda bread was satisfyingly dense, malted and sweet with an aftertaste of deep, dark treacle. In fact, this was so good I ordered another round! I can never resist the bread basket…

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For our starters, Michael had French onion soup from the express menu, and I had dressed Dorset crab with apple and fennel and curry mayonnaise. The soup was deep, rich and full of umami flavours, topped with a golden disc of gooey cheese – a truly classic dish cooked with confidence and style.

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The crab was fresh and light – contrasting with the crisp, sweet apple and rich curry mayonnaise. I loved the combination of textures and flavours – I’d definitely recommend this as a delightful, light and complex dish, and the curry mayonnaise is a gorgeous addition. The caramelised crouton was fabulous too! To accompany the crab, I enjoyed a light Villa Maria Clifford Bay Reserve Sauvignon blanc, which was beautifully effervescent on the tongue and a fabulous match to the fresh seafood dish.

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Onto the next course, and I ordered the Hunter fish stew with saffron and garlic mayonnaise. It catapulted me back to Marseille thanks to its rich, oily tomato base, adorned with a crispy round crouton topped with wobbly, smokey, garlicky yellow mayonnaise. The stew was studded with perfectly poached mussels and clams, which shared the dish with nuggets of salmon and cod, and the combination was absolutely gorgeous. It was paired with the Venetian Passori Rosso, which has a rich, deep plum flavour and dried fruit notes that lifted the dish and really made it sing.

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Michael had the Hunter burger medium rare, which was served with a sweet, chewy brioche bun and fries on the side in a wire basket. The fries were brittle in their crispness and seasoned to perfection – like I always say, the sides are key when it comes to steak and burgers! The burger was cooked to order exactly – maybe more seasoning could have contributed to the depth of flavour (but of course, salt and pepper are freely available on the table!), but the meat was coarsely ground and harmonised with the sweet onions marmalade that was slathered on the bun.

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On the side, we had braised peas and roast root vegetables, as well as the fries (which came with the burger). The peas were simmered with sweet onion and stock – actually one of my favourite sides, this would be perfect with chicken. Meanwhile the root vegetables were sweet and tender, finished in that wood-fired oven with a caramelised edge.

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Are you ready for dessert? Hunter 486 gets massive props from me for the addition of this picture-perfect dish, which consisted of an orange, pomegranate and mascarpone sorbet on top of thinly sliced fresh orange, adorned with a brittle, crisp slice of tangy dried orange, and scattered with sugared almonds. I adored this light, sweet dish and the contrast between the soft sorbet, the zingy, juicy citrus, and the crunchy nuts – a gorgeously balanced pud.

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Michael ordered the chocolate fondant, which came with a malty, unctuous salted caramel ice cream and some toothsome peanut brittle. Darkly rich and sticky, this achingly sweet fondant was cooked to perfection with a runny interior that flooded the dish when broken open with a spoon. Perfection!

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If you thought that was the end – you’re wrong. Delicate petits fours accompanied tea and coffee – the perfect way to end a fantastic meal!

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Hunter 486 is a fantastic British bistro with a warm atmosphere and a totally relaxing vibe. Head to their site here to see the menus, and to book your table!

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My meal at Hunter 486 was complimentary for the purposes of this review. My opinions and photography are my own.

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Itsu Gyozas: A Taste of Japan At Home

I’m a massive fan of gyozas, so much so that I own three gyozas presses, have written my own published recipes for them, and have spent an excruciating five minutes in a ramen joint in Tokyo trying to work out how to pronounce the word properly so I could order some from the waitress (disclaimer: I still don’t know. But I just pointed in the end!).

Although gyozas aren’t exactly the mysterious food item for UK consumers that they used to be ten years ago, you’d still be hard-pressed to find any ready-made in supermarkets outside of Asian speciality stores. That’s why I was so excited when I found out that Itsu were launching their own cook at home gyozas, ready frozen and available in Tesco and Waitrose in three flavours:  Vegetable Fusion, King Prawn and Sesame Tuna. The packets cost £3.50 per pack and contain 20 dumplings, and dipping sauce.

Itsu Gyoza packet

You can boil, pan-cook or microwave these in around five minutes, or you can steam-fry them in the classic way (add oil, fry until browned on the base, add water to the pan and steam until evaporated, then fry again until crisp).

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I love to serve these simply with the dipping sauce and some edible flowers from the garden – you can have them with rice as a main course, or as a starter for a larger meal like teriyaki salmon. Or, they’d make a lovely light lunch!

Itsu Gyoza dipping sauce

As you may have already gathered, traditionally in Japan they’re served with ramen, because they’re actually considered to be a Chinese dish, along with the big hearty bowl of broth and noodles. Itsu provided me with this recipe for a veggie-packed ramen fusion dish to make at home, so I thought I’d share it with you!

Itsu gyozas and crisp veggie ramen for one

  • 400ml of vegetable stock
  • 10g of grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of rice vinegar
  • Splash of sunflower oil
  • 6 itsu Vegetable Fusion Gyoza dinner dumplings*
  • 100g of pre-cooked rice noodles
  • 1 small carrot (ribboned using a peeler)
  • Handful of bean sprouts
  • Handful of mange tout
  • 1 tbsp of finely chopped chives

*sub for any flavour of gyozas you’d prefer!

In a medium saucepan gently heat the sunflower oil, add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add 400ml of vegetable stock, the soy sauce, rice
vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes.
Strain the ramen stock through a fine sieve, discard the ginger and garlic and pour back into the saucepan.
Bring the ramen back to a gentle simmer, add the gyoza and simmer for 3 minutes.
Lift the gyoza out of the ramen into a serving bowl.
Add the pre-cooked noodles, carrot ribbons, bean sprouts and mange tout to the ramen broth and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Ladle the ramen broth & vegetables over the gyoza and sprinkle with chives.

Let me know if you make it! It’s packed full of good things, and a fantastic way to enjoy these gorgeous little parcels of flavour at home!

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Disclaimer: blog posts may contain sponsored content, affiliate links and mentions of products which have been provided to me for the purposes of review. My opinions are my own and I never feature something I don’t genuinely like or recommend.

Top Tipples: Pinkster Gin

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It’s rapidly heading into gin and tonic season (she says, as though gin and tonic wasn’t an all-year-round drink…), so I’ve been doing my research to discover the best gins, the best tonics, and some great gin-based cocktail recipes, all so I can share them with you. Now, isn’t that generous of me?!

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You might remember me mentioning Pinkster gin way back in my Taste of London post, where I mentioned how much I loved the brand. Pinkster is not only a delightfully delicate and gorgeously pale shade of pink thanks to the natural addition of raspberries, but it’s also made in Cambridge with locally grown fruit – how can you resist that?! Pinkster is dry, with that hint of fruit delivered by juicy, fresh raspberries, plus that all important juniper which warms the palette. It has a fabulously smooth finish and a soft, stealthy, subtle flavour.

Pinkster makes for a unique G&T if you garnish with some raspberries and a nice bit of spanked mint – just clap it in your hands to release the aromatic oils. If you want to kick it up a notch, though, I heartily recommend making a Gin ‘n’ Jam cocktail with Pinkster’s own Gin Jam!

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Created by Grant, the bar manager at Fistral Beach Hotel bar in Cornwall, this is a simple cocktail but it packs so much flavour, and it’s juicy and sweet… and deadly! All my favourite things! I do love a cocktail but I hate having to stock a host of obscure liqueurs just to make them. All you need for the Gin ‘n’ Jam is 50ml of Pinkster, 10ml of lemon juice, a large spoonful of raspberry jam (extra points if it’s Gin Jam!) and crushed ice!

Simply add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, and shake well. Add crushed ice to your glass (mine is one from Oliver Bonas, one of my many homeware weaknesses…), and a spoonful of jam on the top of the ice. Then, pour the cocktail over the top and enjoy in the garden on a sunny afternoon. I find it’s even sweeter if you’re making your other half do some weeding – because you can supervise and get tipsy at the same time. HELPING!

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Nab yourself a bottle of Pinkster here – and check out their Gin Jam and Boozy Berries too (drizzle them both over crushed meringue and softly whipped cream for a boozy Pinkster Mess!).

Disclaimer: blog posts may contain sponsored content, affiliate links and mentions of products which have been provided to me for the purposes of review. My opinions are my own and I never feature something I don’t genuinely like or recommend.

April’s End: Round-up

April has been an insanely busy month for me, with a massive birthday celebration at Centre Parcs for a friend, plus a holiday to Manchester, a visit to London with my parents, and ongoing kitchen renovation. It’s been stressful but fun!

Look out for an upcoming post on Pinkster gin – I’ll share this super simple but utterly delicious raspberry gin cocktail recipe that’s going to be on my must-make list all summer long!

Right now the cherry blossoms are in full swing across the country and I’ve been enjoying watching the petals fall. I love the tradition in Japan of cherry-blossom watching parties, where they arrange a blanket under the trees in the park to eat and drink and celebrate with friends, family and workmates.

My Centre Parcs visit was so much fun – there were so many amazing activities, but my favourite was field archery! We walked through the forest shooting at rubber animal targets, and I actually did pretty decently with my score!

We visited the Longleat park and because I’d literally travelled straight from Manchester (on a 9 hour coach trip with no wi-fi – thanks National Express!), I had no opportunity to bring my own, so I had to hire a bike for the weekend. My own bike is a hybrid so it was fun to cycle on a mountain bike – but it showed up how terribly unfit I am!

We also visited the spa in the final afternoon – first Pimm’s, then three hours of relaxing in hot steam rooms filled with gorgeous scents… bliss!

On departure day, we headed to Longleat Safari ParkLongleat Safari Park – it was incredible! You get up so close to the animals, and there are an amazing array of different exhibits too. My favourite was the river boat cruise where we got to see sea lions, hippopotami and gorillas (including the joint oldest male gorilla in the world, who I saw when I was a little girl many years ago!).

Of course, the meerkats are always a favourite, and you could walk right through their pen where they ran backwards and forward across the pathways to dig industriously in the sand.

I can’t even remember the huge number of animals we saw, but other highlights for me were the penguins, the butterfly house, and the bat cave, where the bats flew centimetres away from our heads to feast on apples and bananas hanging from branches inside the dark enclosure. Adorable!

One thing I didn’t get to see was the house, but we literally ran out of time! Considering we got there very close to opening and left right as it closed, I’m impressed at how much there is to do. If you get a chance, you should definitely visit!

I also had a blast in Manchester the week before, visiting the Coronation Street set and meeting some of the actors, plus heading out a few of the filming locations as well. If you’d like to know more about that, you can download the podcast I co-host with my husband, which is called Conversation Street!

One of those places is Ryecroft Hall, where we had a decent afternoon tea for £3.50 each – I’ve paid more for a cup of tea in some places in London!

We also visited CAU in MediaCity for a restaurant review, so look out for that, coming soon on the blog!

Another fantastic place I visited was Troia, a Mediterranean restaurant located near Westminster Bridge in London. The owner was kind enough to offer free meals to the emergency services who responded to the attack there last month, so I wanted to give him my custom as a way of saying thank you. We went for the tapas menu and the food was absolutely incredible – I highly recommend the lamb casserole!

Also look out soon for my post about Itsu gyozas, now available to purchase in the frozen aisle at Tesco and Waitrose in a range of gorgeous flavours!

And, finally, I’ll leave you with this handy infographic I was sent by Jamie’s Italian – a buyers’ guide to olive oil! I thought this was so useful as I usually just buy a bottle of the supermarket’s own label – but now I’ll be able to step up my game!

Olive Oil Guide

Disclaimer: blog posts may contain sponsored content, affiliate links and mentions of products which have been provided to me for the purposes of review. My opinions are my own and I never feature something I don’t genuinely like or recommend.

Drinks at Thai Silk? Yes Please!

Bars have an unfortunate habit of being fairly samey – same old cocktails, same old theme, same old bar snacks. Thai Silk, on the other hand, offers a unique experience – a bar attached to the restaurant of the same name, which offers a range of gorgeous drinks, plus some fab Asian light bites too!

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The bar and restaurant are set in a great location, very close to London Waterloo and just a couple of minutes from Southwark Underground station. The whole area has a fantastic, buzzing vibe and was rammed with people when I visited, making this an easy recommendation for anyone who wants somewhere cool to have drinks after work.

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I always gravitate to the cocktail menu, and there were some great alcoholic and non-alcoholic options, including the gorgeous Silk Berry (fresh strawberry, raspberry, lime, passion fruit and lemonade) and the Silk Royale (Bacardi, fresh lime, cranberry juice) – both highly recommended. There are also short, shot style cocktails, and champagne based ones, as well as some great special offers throughout the week.

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One of the main draws for me, though was the intriguing Thai tapas bar snacks you can order, including the street food menu which includes Thai sausages, crispy dried pork or beef, beef salad and more.

Prawn dumpling Dim Sum bar snacks at Thai Silk

You can also choose the Thai Silk Platter (which serves two) and contains chicken satay, Thai fish cake, crispy noodles, butterfly wontons, stuffed chicken wings and vegetarian spring rolls. There are even a range of dim sum, including prawn and chive dumplings! Calamari is on offer, as are samosa bites – and if you’re not feeling adventurous, you could just stick with the Thai Silk fries, which are dusted with a spicy seasoning and served with ketchup and mayonnaise.

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Another great thing about Thai Silk is that it’s also a karaoke venue! I adore karaoke – I’ve even done a pilgrimage to the bar in Lost in Translation (Karaoke-kan in Shibuya – and of course, we visited the New York Bar in the Park Hyatt as well…) and celebrated my hen party with a session (after afternoon tea at The Ritz, naturally…). So I’m itching to make my next visit to Thai Silk and spend time in one of the two private karaoke rooms, where they have over 100,000 songs, in English, Thai and Chinese. You can even have food served there, which makes it a fantastic venue for parties!

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Check out Thai Silk yourself at www.thai-silk.co.uk. The bar and restaurant are located at 94-95 Isabella Street, Southwark, London, SE1 8DA.

Spring roll bar snacks at Thai Silk

Photography, food, and drinks were provided for the purposes of this review. My opinions, as ever, are my own.

Be The Hostess With The Mostest: Easter Desserts and Wine Pairings

Easter is fast approaching, and if you want a couple of great chocolate recipes to wow for dessert on Easter Sunday, you’ve come to the right place! Bordeaux Wines got in touch with me with some fab recipes from chocolatier Laurent Favre-Mot, and wine pairings to match, to make you look like an effortless, chocolate-bestowing goddess this weekend. I’ve tried them both, and they are divine!

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First up is Tarte de Mémé, which translates as ‘Granny’s Tart’, which is a rich chocolate torte on top of an almondy, biscuity pastry base. Pair this with the Château des Perligues Graves Rouge 2014 (£14.99, Averys), which creates a rich, smooth velvety backdrop to the cool, dark creaminess of the tart. The wine has vanilla notes, as well as black fruits too – and I’m sure it’d go great with your lamb if you’re doing an Easter roast!

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Tarte de Mémé

Ingredients
Pie crust:
120g butter (remove from fridge 10 mins before making the crust)
90g icing sugar
30g ground almonds
250g pastry flour
1 whole egg

Dark chocolate ganache:
300g dark chocolate
200g single cream (i.e. 20cl)
3 whole eggs

The accompaniment:
60g nuts (almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc.)

Method

Make the pastry by cutting the butter into pieces into a mixing bowl, then mixing with the icing sugar and ground almonds. Make into small crumbs by rubbing them together, then fold in the flour and egg, and bring the pastry together so you can knead it by hand. Shape into a ball and wrap in clingfilm, then store in the fridge for around two hours.

Make the dark chocolate ganache filling by breaking the chocolate into small pieces in a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a pan, then pour it over the chocolate and mix until the chocolate is smooth. Break in the eggs one by one, and blend each time. Then set aside at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to  170°C. Roll the crust out and place in a large tart pan, around 10 inches in diameter. Prick the base so it doesn’t rise, then bake for 10 mins. Remove, reduce the heat to 120°C, and pour the filling in. Bake for 30-40 mins, then allow to cool. Serve with nuts and a glass of Château des Perligues Graves Rouge 2014!

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Next is the chocolate mousse, which I made without the granola finger and grapefruit listed in the original recipe, here. This was accompanied by one of my favourite wines of all time, Tesco Finest* Sauternes, (£12.00, Tesco). This is a classic dessert wine, which I buy every Christmas, and tastes like nectar and honey in a glass. It’s the perfect addition to just about any dessert course, in my opinion – but you do need a sweet tooth!

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Mousse Chocolat

Ingredients
90g milk
90g single cream
110g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
2 egg yolks
30g of caster sugar

Method

Break the chocolate into pieces in a large mixing bowl, and in another, combine the egg yolks and sugar and then whisk until the mixture is silky and smooth.

Boil the milk and cream in a pan, then pour it over the egg yolks, mixing like mad. Pour the mix into a new pan on a LOW heat and stir until mixed at 85°C. If this goes wrong and lumpy, don’t worry, take it off the heat and sieve out the cooked egg. , the cream is ready.

The original recipe uses a cream siphon, which I don’t have, so I just spooned the mixture into tiny espresso cups and egg cups! A very cute presentation for an Easter meal! Serve with a glass of yummy Sauternes.

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Visit Vins de Bordeaux’s website here to find more information about the wine pairings for these desserts, and find more chocolate recipes from chef Laurent Favre-Mot!

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Recipes reproduced with permission. Wines were complimentary for review purposes, photography and opinion my own!

FFF’s Fashion Stories: March On!

March is a weird month – it’s still freezing, but the sun is shining… from inside it looks warm enough to frolick coatless in the grass, but when you finally get outside you realise you might just need to add a scarf as well…

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My dieting and workout regime is continuing well – I’ve currently lost a stone and a half, despite all my restaurant reviews… To keep myself motivated I’ve been creating fashion flatlays with some of my old clothes, because I know it’s just a matter of time before they fit me again. This is an old ASOS dress (seen on me here), paired with my beloved Chloe Drew, and a new pair of shoes from ASOS. These were purchased as a pretty good replikate for the Duchess of Cambridge’s Gianvito Rossi Suede d’Orsay Pumps. As of writing, the Penalty pumps are still available in most sizes, for the bargain price of £32!

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I also arranged my Gerard Darel blouse with this gorgeous black Carven skirt I purchased on Depop (from the lovely Briony from A Girl A Style), and my trusty Mulberry ponyhair flats. I love preppy fashion, and I wish I could live on the set of Gossip Girl. Except it finished ages ago. But I can’t let go…

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Another purchase this month was the Jane jumper from online French retailer Sezane. This was an extravagant buy, but I just fell in love with its intricate pattern and tassling.

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I paired it with this beautiful bronze Furla Metropolis crossbody bag, which I sadly returned when I realised I couldn’t really justify buying another bag when I already have dozens of them. Sad times. I’ll always have this photo to remember it by…

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The Next sale started, and I couldn’t help but pick up this pretty jacket for summer evenings. It gave me such a Chanel vibe I paired it with these quilted flats from French Sole which always reminded me of the brand too!

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Speaking of Chanel, I visited the Harrods branch to get my pearl earrings fixed and spent a good half an hour pining over the clothes. My absolute number one lusted after item of all time is a black caviar leather Chanel flap bag, and I rummaged through their collection and dreamed a little dream.

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Zara is more my budget, and I recently purchased this elegant pearl buttoned double -breasted jacket, after I saw it modelled by the effortlessly stylish Anneli Bush, here. There are so many pearl-studded items in Zara right now, and I want to buy all of them. Instead, I browsed through the store and took some snaps of my favourite pieces right now, to share with you! How generous!

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The final piece I originally saw on Instagram user budget_duchess, and I agree with her that this totally looks like a piece that the Duchess of Cambridge could add to her wardrobe! What do you think?

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Here’s my final purchase of the month – these beautiful, lustworthy embellished backless mules – another piece I stole from Anneli’s style! I told you I was obsessed with pearls…

What’s made its way to your closet this month? Share with me below!

Wahaca Arrives In Southampton

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to the press launch of Wahaca in Southampton. Sometimes I need to pinch myself – I really am so grateful to every restaurant kind enough to throw open their doors for me to share their delights with you all!
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Wahaca has a special place in my heart because it was co-founded by Thomasina Miers, who won MasterChef in 2005. I adored watching MasterChef, and I also loved Thomasina’s incredible cooking, so as soon as she opened Wahaca in Covent Garden in 2007, I visited as soon as I could. In fact, she spurred my interest in Mexican cooking to the extent that I took a cooking class on honeymoon in Mexico! (Yes I know it’s a tourist trap, but I don’t care! I had fun, as you can see…)

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Since that first visit I’ve been dying to return, so when I found out that Wahaca was coming to Southampton, I genuinely couldn’t believe my luck! And when I was invited to the press launch, of course, I couldn’t have been happier to attend.

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Wahaca is one of many new restaurants who have made WestQuay’s Watermark their home, and Wahaca really stands out as one of the most enticing to me. I love the bold, fresh flavours of Mexican cuisine, and I also absolutely love tapas-style eating, so to combine the two is like special kind of witchcraft designed to entice me in and fatten me up, ready to slam into the oven like Hansel and Gretel’s witch…

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To start off our meal we tried the fresh tomato salsa and guacamole – a classic for a reason. My husband is an avocado hater, but our lovely waitress convinced him to try some – as she said, it was the only thing that’s ever been able to convert her to the way of the big green… Well, it worked, because not only did he like it, but he kept scooping more as the evening wore on. I have to say, I was impressed. You really can’t give better praise to a guacamole than declaring it’s converted an avocado hater…

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But you know, look at that green goodness… I can’t resist a good guac and chips…

To review the menu, we selected a variety of dishes from the Street Food menu – and believe me when I say it was agony to choose. If you want to take all the guessing out of it, you can order the Wahaca Selection or the Mexican Feast (£23 / £36 for two to share), which is a curated selection of incredible dishes. But you know me, always go off piste where possible!

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First up, and a genuinely impressive dish, was the Mexico City style salmon sashimi tostada – an absolute revelation! I love sashimi so I was keen to get Wahaca’s take on this classically Japanese dish. The soft, creamy texture of the salmon went perfectly with the crispy tostada, and the deep fried onions on top added a brilliant punch. The chipotle mayo gave a taste similar to a California roll. It’s this streak of rebellious inventiveness that makes Wahaca such a fantastic place to eat.

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The riot of flavours continued as we devoured hibiscus glazed wings (satisfyingly sloppy, mildly spicy, fried and glazed with a sweet sauce), pork pibil tacos (soft corn tortillas with velvety black beans and tender braised pork, topped with zingy red onion), and carnitas tacos (crispy, chewy, deeply flavoured pork with a gorgeous caramelised edge, offset by silky guacamole and scattered with spicy chunks of raw red onion).

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And it didn’t stop: chicken taquitos – addictively crispy and satisfyingly crunchy corn tortillas rolled into tubes with succulent poached chicken, topped with cheese and fiery salsa. Grilled steak tacos with crisp grilled cheese, accompanied by tomatillo salsa – a fresh and citrusy fruit similar to a tomato. With the crispy, rich cheese and cut with the bright, zingy salsa, this was fabulous!

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We rounded off the gluttony with a pair of quesadillas. My favourite was the chorizo and potato quesadilla – a lovely crispy tortilla encasing an unctuous blend of diced potato (firm and waxy, my favourite!) with fried chorizo, married together with a sinful helping of cheese. My husband preferred the smoky chipotle chicken, with a rich, deep savoury flavour.

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But wait, there’s more! You didn’t think I’d leave a Mexican restaurant without eating churros, did you? Ha ha ha, never!

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A good churro needs no introduction or explanation. It’s simply perfection: brittle, crisp dough fried to a golden hue, and dipped in molten chocolate. Our waitress urged us to try the caramel sauce and I’m glad I did, because it was utterly divine.

Wahaca means an incredible evening of inventive Mexican food, a giant spread you can share with your mates or your family, a celebration of life and happiness. It’s one of my favourite places, and I hope you’ll try it soon!

Visit Wahaca here to see menus and to find your nearest branch.

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My meal was complimentary for review purposes, my opinions and photos are my own.

Snackage of the Month: March Edition

I told you guys before that I’m the queen of snacking  – and if you’re going to snack, you better make sure it’s healthy. Okay, I like to chow down on chilli crackers and pork scratchings (sorry), but sometimes you want to reach for something a bit more wholesome.

When I was asked to try out these Wellaby’s Simple Bakes I was pretty intrigued, because not only are they wholegrain, but they’re also 100% free from most common allergens including gluten, dairy, nuts and eggs. Although gluten-free has become a bit of a hipster buzz-word, I know plenty of people with gluten intolerances and allergies who have benefited from the sudden craze in these products.

These snacks prove the effectiveness of people power, because not only are they gluten-free, but they’re really addictive and super-tasty. In fact, dangerously so. I opened the salt and pepper and spicy chilli sharing packs ‘just to try’ and ended up mindlessly devouring most of them ‘for research’. These would be so good with dip at a party – but they’re also really good on their own! They also have 70% less fat than leading potato chips, so I guess… you can eat 70% more? Don’t ask me, I barely scraped a B in Maths at school.

Head to their site here, to find out more and to find your local stockist – Sainsbury’s and Morrisons carry them!

Here’s a product I never thought I’d get on board with. Bone broth. Like, beef stock? Like, an ingredient you add to soup and casseroles, but as a meal? Psh. But now I’m an enthusiastic participant – I think it was Pret a Manger carrying bone broth that finally prompted me to give it a go. I purchased a pouch of ready-made beef bone broth and some beef bones to make my own from Coombe Farm, which is a great place to buy because the beef is organic and grass-fed (and they also sell some really nice and fairly reasonably priced organic meat… and I MUST try their lamb bacon at some point!)

Beef broth isn’t devoid of calories, but it is packed with great electrolytes, essential fats, and collagen, which is great for your skin. Sometimes you fancy a snack but you’re really hankering after something savoury – and this hits the spot! I’ve been alternating between bowls of this and miso soup to get me through my afternoon slumps. I freeze it in 250ml quantities in freezer bags – I always remove all the air from liquids and stack them flat to freeze, which makes storage easier. Top tip! Then, just defrost, heat, and serve!

What have you been snacking on this month? Tell me in the comments!

(I was provided with samples of Simple Bakes for review purposes. Opinions and photography are my own.)

Bordelaise, Tooting: A Plateful of France in the Heart of London

At some point during this meal, I realised I had hit the jackpot. Not only is Bordelaise truly authentic French cuisine, but it’s affordable, and it’s a short Tube journey from my usual London haunts. I challenge you to find me a more decently priced and bona fide steak-frites inside the M25. No, really – if there’s better French food for this price somewhere else in London, please do let me know!

Bordelaise window

Bordelaise is situated inside Broadway Market – a location which some might refer to as modest, or charming, or perhaps full of local colour. In fact, it’s an eclectic and exciting affair, with ethnic food stalls, pet shops, and hairdressers, all rammed together in the kind of chaos that makes grand cities like London so great. If you’re expecting elegant and refined surroundings, this is definitely not the place. But if you’re in for a fantastic meal with high quality food, prepared in a classically French manner, here you go.

Bordelaise exterior

I’ve often mentioned the fact that my husband lived in France for a year when he was at university. France and French food are two of my favourite things, and I try to visit Normandy whenever I can – it’s not glamorous and it’s not on postcards, but it’s honest, great fun, and I feel really at home there, despite my atrocious French language skills. Whenever we visit, I plan our meals meticulously, visiting as many of our favourite places as we can – tiny cafes with eccentric Engrish menus, hole-in-the-wall bistros, fondue restaurants, and our favourite buckwheat galette place – all of them with a decided lack of curb appeal and a laisse faire approach to decor. They don’t need fancy linen or crystal glasses – this is a certain kind of French chic that doesn’t try too hard, or focus on the small things. The big picture here is the food – quality ingredients, expertly prepared. And that’s what you get with Bordelaise.

Bordelaise interior

So, that sets the scene for our visit. I was already charmed by the bijou interior and the classically French menu, so it’s no wonder I came away from this meal with stars in my eyes. It kicked off as most civilised meals do, with olives to nibble on (and these were fantastic: juicy, green olives with a gorgeous garlic flavour), along with dark, chewy, nutty-tasting sourdough bread from the Elephant Bakehouse, served with Lescure butter topped with crisp flakes of sea salt. Plus a glass of Prosecco, of course. We were well looked after by the manager, Angelo, a lively Italian with a passion for French cheese and a flair for warm and friendly hosting.

Bordelaise green olives

Because I am a massive French cheese fan (Angelo and I hit it off right away) I also decided to start with the Bordelaise cheese platter. You can select three or five pieces of cheese from their generous cheese board heaped with eight different varieties when we visited – Livarot, Morbier, Comté, Brie, Roquefort, Bleu D’auvergne, Tomme de Savoie and St Marcellin. What a fantastic range!

Bordelaise cheese

It was hard to narrow it down, but eventually we plumped for Tomme de Savoie, Comté, Livarot, Brie and Morbier, which was served with a delightful chutney, and more scrumptious bread.

Bordelaise cheese board

What can you say about such a beautifully curated selection of cheeses? All of these are top-notch quality cheese – Livarot being a particular favourite of mine! I’d never tried Morbier before and that will definitely be making it onto my future shopping lists. It’s a great middle-ground between blue and non-blue, because it just has a small streak of blue in the centre. If you prefer mild, smoother cheeses, definitely try the Tomme de Savoie and Comté.

Bordelaise table spread

And here’s the pièce de résistance – a beautiful spread of steak, frites, sides, sauces and a lovely bottle of Roget Sabon Le Sabounet to wash it all down with! In the interests of scientific enquiry, we tried a variety of side dishes, all of which were utterly delicious.

Bordelaise flat-iron steak

We decided to try both of the two cuts of steak on offer. I’m a massive fan of ribeye because of its meaty taste and hearty texture, while my husband prefers more tender cuts. Bordelaise had us both covered, with a nice slab of ribeye for me, and a smooth flat-iron steak for him.

Bordelaise rib eye

We also tried each of their sauces, as they offer both the signature Bordelaise sauce, as well as the perennially popular Béarnaise. The former is a loose red wine based sauce (bottle me some up and I’ll drink it all day long!), while the former is a wobbly, rich cousin to Hollandaise, flavoured with tarragon. It goes without saying that both were superb – and you can even order extra helpings of both sauces for a small charge of £1.50 if you wish!

Bordelaise table spread 2

I absolutely adore steak-frites, but I have to admit there are times when the meal can be a little disappointing. Limp, under-seasoned fries, poor quality, flavourless meat… Bordelaise delivered beyond my expectations in both categories, and I was completely unsurprised to see they take their steak seriously, sourcing Scotch grass-fed beef from the Rare Breed Meat Company.

Bordelaise side dishes

Onto those sides… We tried all of the four sides that Bordelaise has to offer. Obviously the classic beef dripping French fries were the stand-out classic. The sautéed broccoli and almonds provided a pleasant crunch, and a welcome addition to the menu if you’re trying to cut out carbs or boost the healthiness of your meal. I’m always a fan of creamed spinach, and this was lushly rich and soothing. Finally, the caramelised Madeira shallots were a fantastically inspired addition to the menu; juicy and bursting with flavour.

If you’re not a steak eater, Bordelaise will still try to cater to you, with a vegetarian dish of truffled mac and cheese which is raved about on the online reviews, or braised ox cheeks with Bordelaise sauce and mashed potato, or a salad of green beans, heritage tomato and shallots with a Dijon dressing. But let’s face it, the main attraction here is that utterly delicious steak!

Bordelaise chocolate fondant duo main

And now we reach the bittersweet finale – the meal is nearly over, but there’s still time for Bordelaise to impress with its finesse. The choices for dessert include chocolate fondant, dessert of the day, and Coupe Colonel, which is lemon sorbet with a vodka shot. We went for the chocolate fondant and didn’t regret a thing – silky smooth vanilla ice-cream, melting luxuriously over the top of a perfectly cooked fondant with a melting centre. I was in heaven.

Bordelaise is a fantastic place – a real gem – and I’ll always be jealous of the residents of Tooting for having such an authentic French Bistro right in the heart of the high street. Check out the Bordelaise menus here on their site. Currently, they’re offering a Steak Bun for weekend lunchtimes, and the seriously tempting French Sunday Roast, which is served with Dauphinoise potatoes and green beans for £14, or with bottomless bubbly for £24. Now that sounds like the perfect way to end le week-end! Keep an eye on their Twitter, too, because they often announce truly incredible-sounding specials – it’s @BordelaiseSW17.

My meal at Bordelaise was complimentary – photos and opinions are my own.