Dinner at The Shed, Notting Hill

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The Shed is one of those restaurants I wish I had on my doorstep. The ambiance is so laid back you just want to come back again and again. And the food? It’s wonderful!

When I was here with a friend a few weeks ago, we decided to share five dishes – the number of dishes recommended by the staff – and that was, as we say in Sweden, lagom (just right). The first dish was hake with mussels and yellow beets which was nice but not wow, and it could have done with some more seasoning. After that the dishes just got better and better.

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The scallops with blood orange, fennel and shallots were lovely and the chopped onions with the blood orange juice made the whole dish – wow!

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The veal cigars with slowcooked veal inside a crispy pastry shell served with mayonnaise flavoured with mustard, tarragon and if I’m not completely wrong; horseradish. A really lovely dish!

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But the pork with broccoli, celeriac and leek ash was probably my favourite – it was absolutely divine!

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But a close second was the lamb with malt potato, artichokes and lovage.

The Shed has actually opened up a restaurant in Chelsea called Rabbit, which is slightly closer to me than Notting Hill, but I do hope Fulham is next!

The Shed, 122 Palace Gardens Terrace, London W8 4RT 

Brunch at Avenue, St James’s

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Several Saturdays ago I met up with Sinead for a very lazy (and late) brunch at 2.30pm in the afternoon, a time that suits me perfectly when there’s unlimited prosecco.

Although brunch is almost a religion in the US and even more popular in my native Sweden than in the UK, London brunches are becoming increasingly popular. We went back to Avenue, where we had dinner a few weeks previously as we thought it would be a fun place for brunch, and it definitely was.

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The other guests were in high spirits (maybe even literally due to that free-flowing prosecco) when we arrived and it was a mixture of smaller parties, hen dos and larger gatherings. It’s table service here (no buffets) and you can choose from the menu and then pay a set price for two or three dishes. We both started off with eggs (as it was at least my first meal of the day), I had eggs benedict and Sinead eggs florentine. Both really nice, although my slice, I mean slab, of ham was the biggest I’ve ever seen.  After the savoury start we continued with amazing waffles with berries and yoghurt.

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And then finishes off our brunch with something very sweet; an chocolate and vanilla icecream sundae. Really nice as well!

We really enjoyed our brunch here and the restaurant is perfect for that type of meal. But if I’m going to be picky (and I usually am) I would have liked some more fruit with the waffle and I still think they need to change the lights (or completely do up) the ladies room!

Avenue, 7-9 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1EE

Chocolate pavlova with maltesers

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I made this wonderful cake for the office just before Easter (hence the chocolate eggs on top) and it became everyone’s new favourite cake! Initially I was using a recipe from Swedish pastry chef Roy Fares but as I didn’t have all the ingredients I only used his recipe for the meringue and ended up trying pastry food blogger extraordinaire Linda Lomelino’s recipe for the filling and chocolate sauce (although slightly adapted) – and the combination was amazing! I’m still really keen to try their respective versions of chocolate pavlova but this mishmash of recipes worked really well!

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I also made this lovely rhubarb cake, served with store-bought (but fresh) custard.

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And these wonderful oat and raisin cookies. But the piece de resistance was definitely the pavlova!

Chocolate pavlova with maltesers and chocolate eggs, serves 8-10

Adapted from Roy Fares’s and Linda Lomelinos’s respective recipes.

Meringue:

75 g dark chocolate

140 g egg whites (4 egg whites) 

220 g caster sugar 

8 g / 1 tbsp corn flour 

4 g  / 1 tsp white wine vinegar  

Filling:

250 g cream cheese

2-3 tbsp caster sugar

5 dl whipping cream

Chocolate sauce:

60 g caster sugar 

3 tbsp cocoa

100 ml water

1-2 tbsp cream

Decoration:

1 bag maltesers

1 bag chocolate eggs

Chop the chocolate and place in a bowl, melt either over boiling water or in the microwave. Pre-heat oven to 150C. 

Beat the egg whites until foamy and add the sugar bit by it while beating until stiff and glossy. Add the corn flour and vinegar and mix carefully with a spatula. Drizzle with the melted chocolate and create a marbled effect by folding the mixture 2-3 times with a spatula. T

Divide the meringue between two baking parchment covered baking trays, shaping round discs, approx 20 cm in diameter. 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 60 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven while its cooling. Let the meringue discs cool completely. 

Mix sugar, cocoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Add the cream and let the mixture simmer for 3-5 minutes. Leave to cool completely. 

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the cream and beat until thick and fluffy (but don’t over-beat it). Spread out the cream in between the meringue discs and on top of the cake. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and decorate with maltesers and chocolate eggs. 

Dinner at Bo Nam Nuong Xuan Xuan, Hanoi, Vietnam

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The last stop on our trip was Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. A city that I felt actually didn’t have much to offer in terms of sights. But I liked the vibe and we had a great time here! The night we got in we had a Vietnamese barbecue at the place probably most famous for it.

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It’s not a fancy place (more plastic chairs) and the only item on the menu is a Vietnamese barbecue (but you can choose between pork or beef) and sides. As usual we ordered too much (one pork and one beef), rice and bread and started barbecuing.

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The dipping sauce served with the meat and veg was mainly salt, sugar and kumquat juice – so nice and fresh!

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When we realised we had, yet again, ordered too much we asked the guy at the neighbouring table if we wanted some more and made a friend while not wasting food! :)

A custom I couldn’t really get used to was to throw everything on the floor in street food places. The waiters sweep the floors and wipe the tables, but it still doesn’t look very nice.

Bo Nam Nuong Xuan Xuan, 47 Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Cooking Course at Gioan, Hoi An, Vietnam

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I had booked a cooking course for our last morning in Hoi An, at a cooking school I almost literally stumbled upon. There are plenty of cooking schools in Hoi An to choose from and I just didn’t like the look of the set menu most places offered. But then I walked past Gioan and peered in and a Swiss man just finishing his coursed started telling me how great it was. That’s the best form of PR so I signed up on the spot and booked my course for a few days later. I also liked that I could do the course on my own and choose my own dishes.

Before we started cooking we (an Australian family who had booked a class for the same time and I) took a tour to the market with a guide who explained what some unknown produce were, showed us local herbs and which vendors he preferred.

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Back at the school my table was set up for me and we started cooking the first of my four chosen recipes straight away. It was quite high pace as the lesson was only 2 hours including the trip to the market but it all went well and the recipes were easy to follow. My teacher was really sweet and loved singing so we sang while cooking – it was great!

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I really enjoyed this peak into Vietnamese cuisine – I feel I get it more now seeing what combinations of flavours they use a lot and having made dishes from scratch myself. All the recipes were great – all my four dishes were delicious and some better than the food we sampled in some of the restaurants!

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One of the dishes the Swiss man was raving about was the fish in banana leaf and after tasting it I know exactly what he means!

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We used yellowfin tuna and although I don’t like tuna cooked through (I prefer it raw or seared) the marinade and the flavours made it delicious!

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I also made country pancake rolls which in my mind beats all summer rolls! The crispy rice flour based pancake with prawns and fried quails eggs wrapped in rice paper with green mango, lettuce and mint were absolutely delicious together with the sour dipping sauce.

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I also made a dish local to Hoi An called Cao Lau, made with thick noodles that contains ash (!) and are only made here, marinated pork and rice paper croutons. So nice!

vn6The last dish was a Vietnamese beef curry which was amazing! It wasn’t as heavy as I had expected because it didn’t contain any coconut milk; instead it was made using coconut water (but regular water is fine too).

I really enjoyed this course and can’t wait to cook Vietnamese food for my friends! I did stock up on spices and rice paper while I was there.

Gioan Cookery School,  95 Bach Dang Str, Hoi An, Vietnam

Dinner at Mermaid restaurant, Hoi An, Vietnam

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Our second stop in Vietnam was Hoi An, a seriously touristy town by the seafront that I actually didn’t like that much. But I think it was mainly being bombarded by sales people selling the SAME stuff that put me off. It definitely has a few things going for it; cooking schools (the one I went to was great!), tailors, beaches nearby and pretty lanterns everywhere.

Restaurant wise it was a bit hit and miss, but one night we had dinner at a really nice place (listed in Lonely Planet); Mermaid Restaurant.

We started our meal with the local White Rose dumplings that every restaurant in town offers but I think we got a good version. It’s rice paper filled dumplings pork and prawns topped with shallots and served with a dipping sauce.

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For my main course I chose a salad with green mango (which I love!) and prawns with a lime-y dressing. It was really nice and fresh!

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Ro had a hot pot with pork (of course), vegetables and noodles. Also really nice!

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We fancied something sweet after our meal and opted for a pineapple pancake each. Either served with freshly squeezed lime and sugar or with chocolate sauce. Delicious!!

After dinner we stepped out onto a completely deserted street. What two hours earlier had been a street full of open shops and street vendors was now all closed up and dark. It felt really surreal and not what we had expected when we were told it was quiet in the evenings. Luckily there were a few bars to go to so we could stay out later!

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Mermaid Restaurant, 2 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An, Vietnam

Dinner at Oc Lac Quan, HCMC, Vietnam

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We only had one evening in Ho Chi Minh City and we arrived late, so our best bet to find a restaurant open late was to go down town and we basically took the first decent place we saw.

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A Western man who had just finished his meal recommended it to us as we walked past so we sat down on the small plastic chairs on the pavement. Apart from us and the Western man the other guests were all locals enjoying shellfish and snails, which seemed to be the restaurant’s speciality. The menu had a few interesting items on the menu but we settled for beef noodles and squid with lemongrass and chilli. Nothing fancy but I really enjoyed both dishes! vn26

This was the first place where we thought it was good to just order two dishes as we always ended up with too much food at previous restaurants due to over-ordering. The portions are a lot bigger here than what we’re used too!

Oc Lac Quan, 73 Rach Bung Binh, Phuong 9, Quan 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam