EatStreet at Festival Place, Basingstoke

This weekend, Basingstoke’s shopping centre, Festival Place, turned into a celebration of international flavours thanks to EatStreet, an event dedicated to showcasing cuisines from around the world, and offering free samples from the restaurants from the centre. Free samples, demos… yes please!

The star of the show was Levi Roots – restauranteur, inventor, inspirational speaker, and musician, who is a passionate spokesman for Caribbean cuisine. Bringing his charm and cool to the stage, he demonstrated a variety of recipes including home style jerk chicken wings, hot and fruity Caribbean fruit slaw and Martinique coconut chicken curry, all the while regaling the crowd with stories and insights into the rich culinary heritage of the islands.

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Dining at WestQuay: Wagamama, choccies, and samples galore!

Today I popped down to WestQuay for the launch of their revamped upstairs dining section, and a look at their cooking demonstrations – and to try some samples, of course! Earlier in the day, celebrity chef Aldo Zilli was on hand for some demos, but I caught the later cooking displays from the team at Wagamama, who made some delicious Asian-inspired dishes.


The team put together a variety of dishes, and being a greedy pig I got to try all of them!


This is the goma wakame salad, which is a new dish on the autumn menu this year – a nice, refreshing dish with a toasted sesame seed oil and vinegar dressing. IMG_6064

Chilli squid, which is one of their starters – delicious, crispy and spicy!


The squid is seasoned with sea salt and shichimi, which is a Japanese red chilli. It was served with a vinegar-based chilli, garlic and coriander dipping sauce. IMG_6069

I really liked this dish! Nom! IMG_6071

This was chicken and prawn cha han, which is usually served with miso soup and pickles (incidentally, my favourite Japanese breakfast!). It’s not usually the kind of thing I order in restaurants because it’s not really exotic, and seems a little plain, but I really enjoyed this – it was very savoury and the special Wagamama dressing they poured on really gave the rice a great flavour. I also loved the addition of the prawns and the egg.


This was the chicken and prawn Wagamama pad Thai, made with rice noodles, chicken, prawns, egg, beansprouts, garlic, ginger and chillies. I was surprised by the addition of mint, but it was actually a really nice addition that gave it a fresh taste.

There were also some samples from other companies at WestQuay, who all got a chance to come and give a little pitch about their products before we got a taste. IMG_6074

This lovely lady was from Hotel Chocolat, and dispensed samples of Raspberry Smoothie, a delicious milk chocolate truffle with a raspberry creme filling (made with real raspberries!).


It was actually really delicious – I don’t usually go for fruit-filled chocolates, but this wasn’t too sweet or artificial tasting at all. Well, of course it wasn’t, it was made with real fruit!

These two girls were from Harry Ramsden’s and hilariously, neither of them liked fish… A good advert for the diversity of the menu, I guess?


Either way, Sara was happy because they gave out free chips (and she’s allergic to fish, so I guess proves Harry Ramsden’s really is more than just battered cod!).


We also took a wander upstairs to check out the new Dining area, and I have to say, I was really impressed with its makeover!


Maybe it’s just because I love the Christmas decorations, but it looks really good up there! Actually, it’s not just the deccies, the furnishings and design is much nicer than it was before – very contemporary and in keeping with the newer, higher end brands that have set up shop now.


Even older brands have had a new look, and Cafe Giardino looks great in its new home under the stairs – making way for Ed’s Easy Diner in its place (which still hasn’t opened yet!).

We’re so cosmopolitan now we even have a Mexican place, Tortilla.


My husband will be pretty happy about that! They even do margaritas (not that I’ll be having any of those – tequila and I don’t get on!).


All in all, I was really impressed with the new look and brands at WestQuay – I never usually eat in the food hall but this will definitely tempt me back – although what it’ll look like on a Saturday at lunch time, I dread to think! But for now, with the Christmas decorations and cool new tables and chairs, it looks pretty inviting, don’t you think?


Serving Up Food Heaven: Dining at WestQuay, 22 November

If you’re from Southampton, or regularly visit our big shopping centre, WestQuay, you may have noticed some building work afoot over the past few months! Tomorrow, on 22 November, all that hard work is officially paid off as the centre launches the new Dining at WestQuay – a wider range of restaurants available for customers visiting the mall. New restaurants will include Pizza Express (yes!), noodle restaurant Wagamama (yes!), Southampton’s first Café Rouge Express (YES!), Mexican eatery Tortilla (yes!) and the American-inspired Ed’s Easy Diner (OH GOD YES!).

To celebrate, there will be a day of culinary delights, led by award-winning chef Aldo Zilli, who will be showcasing his Italian-inspired cuisine live on stage!

From 12pm, shoppers will be treated to 3 demonstrations, which feature dishes such as pasta chitarra with four tomato sauce, baked cod with black olive crust, and a panettone dessert. Chefs from some of the other new dining companies will also be demonstrating their dishes – including Wagamama, so expect some Asian-inspired dishes as well!

Of course, if you really want to get the crowds in, you have to offer samples, so you’ll be pleased to know many of the food outlets are planning just that, from Hotel Chocolat, Nando’s, Marks and Spencer, Starbucks and Café Giardino. There will also be prizes, special offers and discounts up for grabs!

Check out the site for more info at WestQuay’s site.

Green bean, sweet potato and soy and balsamic vinegar chicken bento

I love the penguin pick in this bento. I bought it from J-List in a pack of sea-creature food picks, but I think the penguin is my favourite.

Inside this bento is a mixture of different recipes I was trying out for the first time. I think the sweet potato was a recipe from Wagamama, and included a honey and lime juice dressing. I’m not big on sweet potato, to be honest, and this one didn’t really sway me to the cause. This bento picture was actually taken over two years ago, and as you can see, I’d still not really perfected the art of packing onigiri… Ah well.

The orange bento box is from Daiso, and even though it’s one of the cheapest ones around, it’s still my favourite because it’s such a nifty oval shape. The front tier contains soy-balsamic chicken and spicy green beans, both adapted from Harumi’s Japanese Cooking – both of her English cookery books are great, although I prefer the second one!

Green bean, sweet potato and balsamic chicken bento

Spicy green beans


  • 150g green beans
  • 75g minced pork
  • 1 tbsp garlic oil (or use olive oil and some garlic puree)
  • Pinch dried chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar


  • If making for the bento, trim your green beans (or French, or fine…whatever you call them!) into halves or even thirds, so they can be picked up easily by chopsticks.
  • Boil for about four minutes, then drain and refresh quickly in very cold water. This is to retain their colour. Drain again, and shake off excess water.
  • Heat the garlic oil in the pan and add the pork, stirring to break up. Now add the chilli pepper and stir well to coat, then add the soy sauce and sugar.
  • Mix well, ensuring the sugar has dissolved, and then serve the beans with the mince on top.


You can increase or decrease the chilli powder according to your tastes, just ensure it’s all mixed in well or someone will be getting a surprise in their bento box…

Soy and balsamic vinegar chicken


  • Six chicken thighs
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil


  • Mix the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and sugar in a pan, then simmer. Allow to cook for several minutes, reducing the sauce until it’s thick and glossy.
  • Now wash and dry your chicken thighs, and place them in a hot pan with the oil, and allow to brown on one side. Turn them over and pour over the sauce, then cover and cook for five minutes, taking care not to let the sauce burn over too high a heat.
  • Remove the chicken and test it’s cooked by slicing a piece in half. Return to the heat if it needs longer.
  • For a bento, allow to cool before slicing and dressing with some extra sauce.


You will need about one or two chicken thighs, depending on size, per person for a bento lunch.

These recipes originally appeared in 501 Bento Box Lunches, published by Graffito Books.