London: New York dumplings at Red Farm

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One Saturday night with no plans, my friend and I after a few texts suddenly had made dinner plans; to meed about 40 minutes later in Covent Garden. Even though I like to plan ahead most of the time, I find it so refreshing to make plans last minute. Especially when I live in a city like London with lots to offer.

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My friend Ro suggested a new place, that still was in it’s soft-launch place, as she’d been to the New York restaurant and loved it. Always keen to try new things I thought that was a great idea and was really happy when we got a table on arrival (although now that they’re properly open I would recommend making a reservation beforehand).

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Located next to another New York satellite, Balthazar, I definitely think Red Farm is here to stay. I really liked their concept of yummy but fun food and wish more restaurants would be creative in that way.

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Like these pork and crab soup dumpling size XXL that comes with a straw! It’s a genius way of eating it, first drinking the soup and then eating the dumpling. So yummy! My only criticism was that the dumpling spoons were a little bit small for that dumpling size.

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Their most iconic dish though, is probably this one; Pac Man shrimp dumplings complete with different coloured ghosts! So fun and very well executed.

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One of the best dishes was this starter though; the marinated and grilled pork belly. It had sweetness, lots of umami and a nice crunch. So moreish!!

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The scallion pancakes with smoked bacon were also really nice, but a little rich.

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Another favourite was the wide rice noodles with roast duck. Again full of umami (seems to be their thing) and lots of earthy flavours. We also had some broccoli on the side, and although nice, it’s not really the vegetables you come here for – it’s the rich satisfying umami dishes, perfect for the autumn ahead!

Red Farm, 9 Russell St, London WC2B 5HZ

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Best burgers in London – updated!

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It’s National Burger Day today (apparently) and a good opportunity, I thought, to update this old post about the best burgers in London.

I’m sticking to my division of thin and coarse/thick patties. I like both, but at different times.

Reading this post made me realise that Soho Diner still hasn’t opened its doors since the refurbishment (?) and I miss their burgers terribly… Sob.

Thin patties:

  1. Shake Shack – This is burger perfection in my world. Thin crispy but not overdone patties, the best burger sauce and those lovely soft but almost chewy buns.
  2. Bleecker Burgers – A very close second to Shake Shack. The patty is nice and thin and pink in the middle, the buns good and the dressing lovely, only thing I don’t love is the fries.
  3. Sophie’s Steakhouse – Great burger, tired fries.
  4. Meat Liquor and Meat Market – This used to be favourite before I discovered Soho Diner and before both Shake Shack and Bleecker had opened (in London). Oldie but a goodie.

Coarser and thicker patties:

  1. Dirty Bones – Really nice burger, but would have preferred a slice of cheese instead of the cheesy sauce.
  2. Tom’s Kitchen – Close second! Great burger, well seasoned, perfectly nice chunky chips and plus points for making their own ketchup!
  3. Bar Boulud – Also very good, but a bit crumbly.
  4. Opera Tavern – The mini burgers with pork and foie gras are still phenomenal!

Note: I haven’t yet been, but I could bet money on that Dip & Flip would make this list.

London: Kettner’s champagne bar

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There are bars, and then there are bars. The champagne bar in Kettner’s Townhouse falls into that latter category; it’s a bar that’s far more than a bar.

It’s dark and cosy (and open late!) and it has that old school glamour that makes me think of a lost time when women wore pearls and fur and gloves.

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Add to that a fantastic list of champagnes, both NV and vintage, to order by the glass (or bottle). To me this is the epitome of luxury; to go here, sit down at a cosy table with its own table lamp, on a comfortable sofa and order a glass of delicious vintage champagne, served in a coupe glass.

The interior has an art deco vibe that I love and the whole townhouse is wonderful. I must plan a staycation here soon. It’s obvious in the details that Kettner’s is part of the Soho House Emporium, but it has a different vibe and feels smaller and more intimate. And a little more decadent.

It’s a treat every time I go here and I will keep coming back. This is hand’s down one of my favourite bars in London!

Kettner’s Townhouse, 29 Romilly St, Soho, London W1D 5HP

London: Champagne + Fromage, Covent Garden

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Having lived in London for 10 years now (eek!) I have accepted the fact that I will never ever feel up to date on restaurants regardless of how hard I try. There are simply too many restaurants opening and changing for me to keep up. Especially since I want to go back to my favourites from time to time too.

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So I love when my friends suggest a new place to try. I had completely missed the arrival of these cute French Champagne + Fromage spots all over town, but luckily my friend Mary-Lou had spotted one so that’s where we went one evening.

We arrived without a reservation (big mistake) but although the place was packed the staff eventually managed to find us a table. That’s great service!

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Other than that the concept is pretty clear; this is where you drink champagne (we tried a lovely Blancs de Blanc that was the wine of the month) and eat cheese. We had a cheese and charcuterie board with lots of bread which was lovely, but there are also some lovely cooked food on offer. The table next to us sampled about half the menu and it all looked amazing!

Champagne + Fromage, 22 Wellington St, London WC2E 7DD

 

London: relaxed dinner at The Ninth

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You have to search far and wide to find a more relaxed Michelin starred restaurant. In London at least. But that’s also what I love about The Ninth; that it (and its staff) seem so relaxed without losing the professional edge. That just sets a perfect ambience for the guests and you feel like it’s just your table there although there are other guests and staff surrounding you.

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It probably helps that The Ninth is situated in Charlotte Street; still central and an area for dining out, but without the worst hustle and bustle of Soho (and yet – it’s still within walking distance).

Arriving a little late, and flustered, for our dinner here – due to the sometimes terrible London traffic, it was like stepping into a calm oasis. We were seated at our table, felt like we had all the time in the world to decide on the wine and study the menu and immediately we lowered our shoulders and took the time we needed.

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Which wasn’t all that much; the only problem was narrowing down what to eat as we’d happily eaten our way through the entire menu had we been able! Instead we started with a light snack of barbajuan, little parcels filled with spinach, pine nuts and cheese (if I remember correctly). They were very good and the perfect start to our dinner.

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Next we had pasta; orecchiette with an egg yolk and PLENTY of black truffle which I love. This was a lovely dish. So simple but perfectly executed.

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Our next pasta dish was fried gnocchi with mussels, which was also very nice but slightly overshadowed by the truffle feast. In the background lovely baked root vegetables with Fourme d’Ambert. Delicious!

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The piece de resistance here was not the pudding (we were too full to even consider it!) but the main course, a beautiful duck breast cooked to perfection, with rhubarb, rainbow chard and granola. The crispy Belle de Fontenay potatoes and the root vegetables were the perfect accompaniments.

It was such a lovely dinner – and evening. Instead of pudding we had champagne at the nearby Charlotte Street Hotel and then ventured into Soho.

The Ninth, 22 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2NB

London: Taco fever!

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Tacos. It’s quite easy to get some decent ones to eat in London, there are chains everywhere, but finding some really good ones is much harder. But the search is over. Breddos Tacos (you can find them in Soho and Clerkenwell) serve up some lovely tacos and lots of nice dishes too!

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I met my friend Daisy here for dinner one night and decided to start off the evening with margaritas. That’s always a good idea, right?!

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This one with passion fruit was absolutely delicious!

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But we were hungry too and ordered some snacks. This corn and n’duja dip was amazingly good!

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And so were the baja fish tacos! This is the real deal, but my easy homemade ones are pretty good too.

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Next we had barbecued onglet which was so tender and full of flavour. Loved this! The charred spring onion and sauce was a nice accompaniment.

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I can never resist aubergine and seeing as it’s a healthy vegetable I think that’s a good rule. This grilled aubergine with tomatillo and almonds was a real delight. Soft and light but with some charred notes from the grill and acidity from the tomatillo.

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We also had the crispy pork belly tacos that were recommended to us, but I didn’t think they quite measured up to the fish ones. Can’t wait to eat my way through all the different tacos. And next time I think I’ll try the crab and bone marrow nachos too. Great menu!

I love all these smaller (although it has two levels so not tiny) restaurants in Soho where you can eat really well without breaking the bank. Most of those have a first come first serve policy but luckily Breddos Tacos take bookings, which I’m so grateful for. Queuing when hangry is hard…

Breddos Tacos, 26 Kingly St, London W1B 5QD

London: burgers at The Fire Station, Waterloo

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I admit, I am sometimes a food snob. Not all the time, but when I go out to a restaurant, cheap or not, I want nice food.

So I am really against bad tourist trap style restaurants which London is littered with in the central areas. To be honest I thought that The Fire Station, a popular watering hole near Waterloo, was a bit like that. A central spot near one of the busiest stations in the country will be busy so long as the drinks are fine, so why would they bother about the food?!

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But, I may have to eat my hat, as I recently visited this restaurant and bar and found their burgers really good. I mean REALLY good.

The patty was nice and juicy, the bun soft but sturdy, the sauce nice and the fries too. Plus they have a great menu for children (even a three course meal including dough balls, a small burger and ice cream – I’d happily order that for myself!) and decent service even though they were rammed with customers. Thanks for proving me wrong! And thanks to my colleague for convincing me to go there with my friends.

The Fire Station, 150 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8SB