Taste of London 2016

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The week before last, Taste of London, the restaurant festival I visit every year, was on in Regents Park. It was nice like always, but I was still a bit disappointed. Some of the restaurants were not as exciting as previous years and didn’t deliver amazing dishes. Previous years it’s been a higher standard on the whole, so I hope it gets better again last year. With that said, I still tried some great dishes, but also a few disappointments. Reviews below.

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Parmesan and polenta croquetas with truffle dip from Duck & Waffle: crispy, seriously cheesy, far too rich and not enough truffle flavour. Pretty dull actually.

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Fettuccine with broad beans, Grana Padana and black truffle from Sartoria: nice pasta and generously sprinkled covered with black truffle it still didn’t impress.

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Barbecued lamm cutlet from Roka: really nice!

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Grilled pork belly with miso marinade, also from Roka: very nice!

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Soft shell crab taco from Champor Champor: not very nice, but like the idea.

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Baked scallop with mustard, chilli and cheese, covered with puff pastry from Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen: nice and different! But very filling.

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Raw red prawns with black curry and coconut crème from Restaurant M: nice flavours but the curry slightly overpowered the lovely sweet prawns.
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Bao with duck from Chai Wu: alright but now wow.

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Hotdog with truffled mac ‘n cheese bites from Bubbledogs: nice hotdog but couldn’t really taste the truffle (oil).

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Lamm meatballs with sheep’s curd from Seacontainers: OK, but nothing spectacular.

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Fried chicken burger with Asian slaw from Chicks ‘n Sours: nice!

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48 hr short rib with lovely trimmings from Restaurant M: absolutely lovely and in a class of its own!

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Bacon and cheddar burger from Shake Shack: nice enough but it doesn’t beat their Shackburger.

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SASA roll from Sushisamba: really nice! I’ve had it lots of times already, but it’s still great!

Restaurant M was a nice acquaintance, and having had the (two) SASA rolls I can’t wait to go back to Sushisamba soon, but some of the other restaurants were a bit disappointing. Hope it gets better again next year.

Taste of London, Regent’s Park – annual restaurant festival

Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce

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I’m a very seasonal person. Despite the mainly chilly weather at the moment I can’t face putting tights or warm jackets on. Because it is summer. Instead I layer up on my upper body but keep my legs bare (if I’m wearing a skirt or dress for work). I’m used to this approach but people in the office think I’m a little strange. Fair enough, I think.

But when it comes to food it’s harder. Sure, I incorporate as much asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes and new potatoes into my diet as I possibly can, but instead of craving salads I still want warm filling food. So while this autumnal recipe of gnocchi with a lovely creamy butternut squash sauce with both cream and parmesan may suit the post-bikini season better it’s what I fancy eating right now. Until summer arrives. Then bring on the salads!

Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce, serves 2 

1/2 butternut squash

olive oil

salt & pepper

approx 300 g gnocchi, cooked according to the instructions on the packet 

50-100 ml single cream

finely grated parmesan

a few sprigs of thyme (sage works too!)

Peel the squash and remove the strings and seeds. Cut into even-sized pieces and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Stir to coat all the pieces with oil. Place in the oven and roast until the pumpkin is soft, approx 35 mins in 200C. 

Cook the gnocchi and keep it warm.  

Purée the roasted squash with a stick blender. Add (cold) cream until you have a nice thick sauce. Season with salt, pepper and grated parmesan. Heat up the sauce in a non-stick saucepan while stirring, if needed. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi, top with more grated parmesan and some thyme leaves. 

Breakfast at The Wolseley

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Despite having lived in London for 8 years now (yep, time flies) I haven’t had the pleasure to eat breakfast at The Wolseley until this year. Bad planning on my part, obviously. But at least I’ve been there for several lunches, dinners and afternoon tea. But there is something special about breakfast in this fabulous art deco space with perfect eggs and perfect service. If you fancy reading up on the subject (and get the recipes), I highly recommend A.A. Gill’s book Breakfast at The Wolseleyit’s very good.

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For me, this is the ultimate breakfast experience because it’s so different from having breakfast in your own kitchen. There are lots of waiters and they’re there to pour water, take your order, serve the food and fetch you whatever you want. Their attentive and efficient and together with the perfectly executed food it makes it such a special experience.

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I had breakfast here with two of my best friends from Sweden when they were visiting. We needed some morning luxury and thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast here with Eggs Florentine (spinach, poached egg and hollandaise sauce on a toasted English muffin) and an excellent bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

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We also enjoyed cappuccinos and freshly squeezed orange juice, and to finish this lovely basket of pastries. My favourite was the plain croissant, wonderfully buttery and flaky. If you also need this breakfast experience in your live (you do), I urge you to book a table well in advance as it’s a very popular weekend treat.

The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EB

Churros with chocolate sauce

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The first time I tried churros was at the Malmö Festival as a child. For a week Sweden’s third largest city has a festival with lots of stalls, a square filled with food stalls from around the world, live music and much more. I haven’t been to it since I moved to the UK, but it was great fun as a child, and already then my favourite part of it was all the food. It’s where I had langos for the first time and I still think of the souvlaki my dad introduced me to.

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A while ago, I realised I had seen Nigella make her own churros on her Nigella Kitchen show and I decided I wanted to try it to. The first time I made it was when two of my girl friends from home came to visit. They’re used to being my guinea pigs but this recipe is so easy to make you don’t have to trial it first (unless you prefer to do it that way). I used Nigella’s recipe for the churros but made my own chocolate sauce and it was just amazingly good! The girls couldn’t stop talking about the churros for a whole week, which is very high praise!

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Churros with cinnamon sugar and chocolate sauce, serves 4

Adapted from Nigella’s recipe.

60 ml / 50 grams caster sugar (1/4 cup)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Churros:

190 ml  / 115 g plain flour  (2/3 cup + 2 tbsp)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp olive oil

237 ml (1 cup) freshly boiled water

473 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil

Chocolate sauce:

80-100 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

80-100 g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

100-150 ml single or whipping cream

Mix caster sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish and set aside. 

Mix flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Beat in the olive oil and water. Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat up the vegetable oil in a small saucepan. When the oil seems hot, toss in a piece of bread, once it’s golden the oil is the right temperature. 

Melt the chocolate together with the cream in a non-stick saucepan on low to medium heat. Once all melted and combined set aside and let cool. Pour into four small bowls or ramekins to serve. 

Stir the churros dough and transfer it to a piping back fitted with a large star nozzle. Squeeze short lengths, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches, of dough into the hot oil, snipping them off with a pair of scissors as you go. Fry a few at the time and fish them put with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towel. Once dry, toss the churros in the cinnamon sugar and serve with the chocolate sauce.

Meat feast at Zelman Meats, Soho

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The team behind the amazing meat restaurants Goodman (and Beast and Burger & Lobster) opened a new meat restaurant in the space where the fish restaurant Rex & Mariano (also owned by the same company) used to reside. In fact, they still use the Rex & Mariano crockery.

Zelman Meats (after the founder Mikhail Zelman) is a mid-market steak restaurant offering “All we do is beef, and we stick to what we know best” according to the website.

The menu is simple, with just a few starters, four different cuts of beef, sides and a few puddings. I like this simple no-fuss approach, which also makes the ambiance relaxed. It’s not white table cloths like Goodman, just good steak and sides in a relaxed restaurant.

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This is where to go to pig out on great steak, because the bill won’t be that bad and the meat is just as nice here as at Hawksmoor or Goodman. Take your date or a group of friends and just let your hair down. The staff is really friendly and relaxed but with a sincere passion for steak so they can guide you through the cuts and let you know what’s best served rare or medium.

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I came here with two colleagues for lunch, and as only one of us has a big appetite we ordered modestly to begin with, some delicious picanha and amazingly smoky and tender short rib. Once that was demolished we ordered more of the same and enjoyed it with crispy chips, salad and the two sauces on the menu. It was great and even the least meat eater out of the three of us (obviously not me) loved every bite!

Zelman Meats, 2 St Anne’s Court, London W1F 0AZ 

 

Pizza with fillet of beef and bearnaise sauce

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It may seem a strange pizza topping, but I assure you it’s not. Most pizzerias in Sweden offer this and it’s probably the best hangover cure in the world, right up there with a kebab pizza. Yes, that’s also a thing in Sweden!

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You see, most pizzeras in Sweden are not authentic Italian ones but conveniently located in small towns, even villages and the go-to place for a takeaway. The menu is often eclectic and most have one called ‘pizzeria name’ + special, which is their take on the beef and bearnaise sauce pizza. It’s rarely you get nice beef though, it’s more similar to kebab meat but it’s still nice.

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Since bearnaise sauce on pizza is not a thing in the UK (sob), I made my own the other day. With proper rare fillet of beef. It was so delicious and I can’t wait to have it again. Because although the Swedish pizza with beef and bearnaise sauce have a special place in my heart and something I have to have at least once a year when I go home, this was SO much better.

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I was tempted to make my own bearnaise sauce to put on the pizza, but was afraid it might split on the hot pizza base so I decided to play it safe and use a store bought, more stable version.

Homemade pizza with fillet of beef and bearnaise sauce, per pizza

1 batch pizza dough (makes 2 pizzas, or halve it if you only want to make 1) 

Tomato sauce:

1 garliv clove, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes

salt and pepper

5 chestnut mushrooms, sliced

1 buffelo mozzarella

oregano

70 g fillet of beef

butter for frying

a few spoonfuls good quality bearnaise sauce (I imported mine from Sweden)

Make the dough. When it’s raising, make the tomato sauce: Fry the garlic in the olive oil in a non-stick saucepan. Add the chopped tomatoes, some water and the tomato paste. Cook for 15 minutes while stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. Season to taste and put aside. 

Once the dough has risen, roll out a pizza. Spread with tomato sauce and distribute torn chunks of mozzarella on the pizza. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with orgeano. Bake in 225C oven for approx 10 minutes until cooked through. 

Season the beef and fry it in butter while the pizza is in the oven. It only needs 1-2 minutes per side. Let the meat rest for a few minutes, then slice it thinly. 

Remove the pizza from the oven. Add the beef and bearnaise sauce. Serve immediately!  

Rosendahls Garden Café, Stockholm

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Our last day in Stockholm was sunny and warm, so our plan of spending the first part of the day at Djurgården was perfect.

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We took the ferry there from Slussen, walked around and then stopped for fika and rosé at Rosendahls Trädgårdscafé, a lovely garden café. I had a roll with cheese while mum and dad had a cinnamon bun each. Sadly, we were too full to have the proper lunch as we were still full from the hotel breakfast buffet of bacon, scrambled eggs and pancakes. But at least we had room for rosé! It was so lovely to sit outside enjoying the sunshine and sipping wine in beautiful surroundings.

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We had a look in the nice shop and walked around the garden before heading back to central Stockholm with the tram.

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We still had some shopping to make before heading to the airport. It was such a lovely long weekend and I recommend anyone thinking of visiting Stockholm to go during spring or summer when the weather is (generally) nice.

Rosendahls Trädgårdscafé, Rosendalsvägen 38, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden