Lunch at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

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The weekend before last my foodie friend Anna was in London and we had a lovely long wine-fuelled lunch at quaint Petersham Nurseries in Richmond on the Saturday.

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It was my first time there but I love the greenhouses made into a restaurant and tea room with plats, and nice furnishings every wear. So rustic and so lovely!

We started our meal with a delicious rhubarb bellini and had a scallop each; marinated in olive oil, rosemary, lemon and chilli.

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Anna then had a very springlike salad of rabbit, radicchio, polenta cubes, prosciutto and violets as her starter. It was wonderful and pretty as a picture.

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I had the nettle soup which was lovely too. Just look at that colour! It was served with a dollop of thick tangy creme fraiche which was the only sidekick needed.

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Four our mains we both chose the same whole lemon sole stuffed with creamy spinach, spiced butter and brown shrimps. The flavours worked really well together and we thoroughly enjoyed it – and the side of purple sprouting broccoli.

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After a little wine break (much needed after all the food) we were ready for some cheese and tried these three (one was a Cornish Yarg but I’ve forgotten the others), all delicious and a perfect end to our meal.

Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 7AB

Lunch box inspiration

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The days I forget or don’t have time to prepare a lunch box for work are sad days. I work in the London’s West End with plenty of lunch places on my (office) doorstep but I still fail to find something I want to eat for lunch. Sure, sometimes I’ll go the taco route or succumb to a nice burger, but most of the time I just get bored looking in Eat and Pret A Manger. And all the healthy food places are a no no for my stomach as I can’t have wholegrain anything or any cabbage, and it seems, cabbage is in EVERYTHING.

So without actually doing much cooking, especially if I’m short for time, I try to come up with simple yet delicious lunch solutions I can bring to work.

The salad above is a great example of lunch dishes I love to eat. The only cooking involved was to slice courgette and aubergine and bake them in the oven with some oil and herbs. While that was cooking I made the feta crème (feta, creme fraiche, salt & pepper, thyme and a bit of olive oil) and the next day I just assembled it at work with spinach, cherry tomatoes and serrano ham straight from the supermarket. I never ever mix a salad before I’m about to tuck into it, instead I keep each ingredient in its own little container. It makes it so much fresher!

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When it’s too cold for a salad this warm Jerusalem artichoke purée (boil artichokes, drain and mix with butter, salt and pepper) with some fried leek, mushrooms and pancetta.

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This couscous salad with fried leeks, roasted sweet potatoes and fried halloumi is another quickly made lunch I can eat again and again and apart from the roasting time for sweet potatoes it’s quick to prepare.

The time I struggle the most to make lunch is when I have several nights out in a row, but the night before I try to prep a few lunches and even if I don’t have time to prep for all the lunches at least I don’t have to buy lunch many days either. A good compromise.

Dinner at Rex & Mariano, Soho

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It’s a few weeks ago now, that Daisy, Rowena and I had a lovely dinner at the fairly new addition to the Soho restaurant scene; Rex and Mariano.

This is a seafood restaurant with great produce but very reasonable prices. And they still have oysters, tartares, ceviche, prawns, mussels and plenty of fish.

The interior goes with the less is more price-setting. It’s simple and scaled back but still nice.

After being seated at our table, we’re told we order everything on the table’s iPad. The software is very easy to use and you can order one or a few things at the time. The waiters’ job is from here on in just to bring the food to the table and answer any questions from the diners. Very efficient!

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Just like in many other restaurants, Rex & Mariano encourages sharing the dishes, which I also enjoy as it’s the best way to avoid food envy. Our first dish was burrata with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. It was nice but not the creamiest burrata I’ve ever had.

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We then had an oyster each, and they were really big and juicy. And delicious!

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After that we shared this seabass ceviche with coriander, yuzu and red onions.

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The grilled red prawns with lemon, olive oil and sea salt were amazing! So simple but great produce.

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Also the tuna tartare with avocado, chilli and lime was very nice.

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But my favourite that evening was the mussles. We had them as a main with fries and tenderstem broccoli, and what I liked about this dish apart from the mussels being top quality (they were big, sweet and juicy), I loved the sauce. It wasn’t the usually creamy Mariniere type sauce, instead it was a light buttery emulsion.

After all of this I was quite happily full, but the girls fancied a pudding and enjoyed a lovely chocolate mousse with pistachios. The pudding menu wasn’t large and they all seemed to be prepared ahead of time, but they were still very nice. But you can tell the focus here is on the fish and seafood.

Because of the efficient ordering process on the iPad the service charge is as little as five or six percent, which also contributes to the value for money track this restaurant is already on.

Rex & Mariano, 2 St Anne’s Court, London W1F 0AZ

Burger delivery with Chosen Bun, London

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It was thanks to a flyer through the letterbox that I found about about a company that specialise in delivering burgers in London. So one day when I really wanted a burger but was too tired to make my own, I ordered one on my mobile on my way home from the tube. It was really easy, but I wish I could have paid with PayPal instead of putting in all my credit card details.

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Approximately 20 minutes after ordering there was a knock on the door and my burger was delivered. Great stuff! Chosen Bun gets plus points for the very thought-out packaging (with air holes to let your burger breathe and not become soggy in transit) and for the imprint of their logo on the bun. I like the little touches.

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I had The Patty burger with caramelised red onion chutney, lettuce, ketchup, mayo and pickle and my own addition of cheddar.

I thought the patty itself needed more seasoning, especially salt, and the chutney was too sweet and overpowering for my liking. The bun was great though and I liked the texture and how the patty was cooked and the pickles were delicious. The chunky chips with rosemary were enormous, crispy and very nice!

All in all a nice burger, but next time I will omit the, for me, too dominant chutney. The idea of getting a burger delivered in sensible packaging is genius though, keep up the good work!

Chosen Bun, 647 Fulham road, London, SW6 5PU

Creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in tomato sauce

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The weekend before last I enjoyed an ice cream in the sun in Berlin (without a coat on) so there is hope that spring is on it’s way to London too, even though it is a little too cold for my liking at the moment.

But before it’s all barbecues and salads, let’s indulge in the comfort food of colder seasons, like this very creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in a rich tomato sauce. Yes, let’s!

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Creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in tomato sauce, serves  2

Tomato sauce:

a little olive oil

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes

1/2 aubergine, peeled and cut into cubes

1/2 chorizo ring, peeled and sliced

oil for frying

Polenta:

600 ml chicken or vegetable stock 

150 g polenta

50 g butter

150 ml finely grated parmesan

2 garlic cloves, pressed

salt, white pepper

Fry the pressed garlic in some oil in a non-stick saucepan on medium heat for a minute. Add the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes and a splash of water. Let the sauce cook for 15-20 minutes until it’s thickened nicely. Stir occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Fry the aubergine cubes in oil until golden. Remove from pan and fry the chorizo slices. Add to the tomato sauce when it’s done. 

Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the polenta bit by bit, stir with a wooden spoon while it thickens (this happens pretty quickly). Remove from heat and add butter, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. Serve with the tomato sauce. 

 

Sweet potato fritters with coriander yoghurt and chorizo

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I really like this kind of lighter dishes for my supper. It’s still cooked food so feels like a proper dinner, just not as heavy. The coriander yoghurt is a nice, fresh contrast to the sweeter and earthier flavours of the fritters. Get in!

Sweet potato fritters with coriander yoghurt and chorizo, serves 2

1 large sweet potato, peeled and grated

70 g plain flour

1 egg

60 ml milk

1 tskp cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or chilli flakes

salt, black pepper

10 cm chorizo, chopped

Sauce:

250 ml thick Greek yoghurt

1 decent bunch coriander 

1/2 lime, the juice

1 tbsp olive oil

salt, white pepper

Mix yoghurt and coriander with a blender. Add olive oil. Season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper.  

Mix eggs and flour in a bowl. Add the milk and whisk until no lumps. Add the grated sweet potatp, spices, salt and pepper. Fry in butter and oil on medium heat until golden brown and cooked through. Remove and fry the chorizo pieces until crisp. Plate up and serve with the coriander yoghurt and chopped coriander.

Dinner and cocktails at Solar, Berlin

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On the plane from London to Berlin I asked the woman in the seat next to recommend a nice bar in to me, and thanks to her Emma and I ended up in this fabulous restaurant and sky lounge in Kreuzberg.

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The restaurant was really nice and although we had booked a late table (that was all that s available) they could fit us in around 7.30pm, which was great as we were already starving.

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After ordering prosecco we received this lovely bread basket with thick still warm slices of dark and white bread, a grassy olive oil and a sweet potato crème.

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Emma loved her cod with chickpeas, leek, pickled lemons and smoked fish broth and a side of creamed spinach.

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I had fregola pasta, which I’ve never had before. It’s little pearls of pasta from Sicily that looks very much like giant couscous but is a little chewier. It was prepared like a risotto and was served with coppa ham, salted almond’s, olives, lamb’s lettuce and soft goat’s cheese. Delicious!

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After dinner we walked up to the sky bar with great views over the city and had cocktails and prosecco.

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Solar, Stresemanstrasse 76, 109 63 Berlin, Germany