London: wonderful afternoon tea at Berners Tavern!

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When my friend Therése came to visit in April we had a really lovely weekend with shopping, dinner in and amazing sushi out. And the last day we went all out with a trip to the V&A and the dreamy Dior exhibition followed by a wonderful afternoon tea at Berners Tavern, that I will tell you all about now, and some beauty shopping in Liberty’s. Such a perfect girlie day!

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As we walked into Berners Tavern we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the dining room with its pretty chandeliers and amazing ceilings and picture covered walls, which felt both grand and relaxed at the same time.

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We sat down at our table and immediately admired the china (you may know I have a thing for blue and white china!) and were greeted by our lovely waiter explaining the menu in details with us.

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What I really like about an afternoon tea, is of course all the goodies, but also the ceremony around it; the nice china, the silverware, the pouring of the tea and just letting everything take its time.

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With the napkin in my lap I once again admired the china pattern when our kind waiter told me it was especially made for the restaurant, and the pattern is made up of the chandeliers in the ceiling that are originals from when the building was first built. Isn’t that amazing?! I love the attention to detail.

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Just as much attention to detail had been put into the sandwiches, scones and sweet treats for the afternoon tea. Such a stunning spread!

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The savoury spread from left to right; chicken and mushroom mini baguette; smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill sandwich and savoury scone with mild goat’s cheese and herbs. All delicious!!

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The scones were also perfect and came with and without raisins and we got individual silver pots of clotted cream and jam!

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The sweets were gorgeous too! From left to right; strawberry macaron with creamy ginger filling (my favourite!); chocolate and yuzu tart and a creamy raspberry and meringue cake.

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Just look how beautiful the sandwiches are close up! Love that the chefs take such care in the presentation.

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The same goes for the sweets; they were like little works of art! Our whole afternoon here was puree perfection from the service to the tea refills to the food and ambiance. Berners Tavern definitely have that little extra that makes it feel like a special place without being stuffy at all. We could just relax and chat away – which we do so well!

Berners Tavern, 10 Berners St, London W1T 3NP

London: vegetarian lunch at The Gate

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A Sunday in April when the rain was hanging over London like a thick grey blanket, we were meeting up with friends for lunch and to watch The Boat Race. It seemed like all of London was out this day to cheer on the rowers, despite the weather, so the pubs where we thought we would meet were all full and certainly not appropriate for our friend’s baby.

But somebody thought of this vegetarian place nearby, that I hadn’t even heard of, and that’s where they were gathered when we arrived, a bit late. It wasn’t really were we (five carnivores and a baby) expected to have lunch; I think we were all thinking about a nice meaty pub roast, but we were all very happy with the choice in the end.

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Personally I like vegetarian food, and cook it quite a lot at home (without even continuously thinking about that the food I sometimes cook IS vegetarian, I just like nice food) but I am a little bit limited to what vegetables I can eat, due to my stomach condition, so I was a little worried before I had browsed the menu. But luckily The Gate is all about nice upscale vegetarian food instead of super healthy vegetarian food (that’s the category I struggle with) so there was plenty I could have.

I really liked the starters, and ended up having three of them! Two to share with my boyfriend as we couldn’t decide which starters to have, and then a third as my main course because I can never resist aubergine at a restaurant!

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The first two starters; onion quite (top photo) and the mushroom Wellington (middle photo) were both great. Nice pastry, nice filling and certainly not too healthy!

The aubergine (above) was just as sticky and gooey as I had hoped so I was very content with my choices and too full for pudding. Instead we headed to the river and shared some rosé in the rain.

I think was my first visit to a completely vegetarian restaurant, and I really enjoyed it! It was a nice restaurant in general (i.e. nice atmosphere, staff etc.) that just happened to be vegetarian. And I’m sure my veggie friends would love it here, where they can have EVERYTHING on the menu!

The Gate, 51 Queen Caroline St, Hammersmith, London W6 9QL

London: amazing sushi at Dinings SW3

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When my childhood friend Therése comes to visit she always prepares a list of what she would like to do, see and eat. As we both like to plan I thoroughly embrace it and it makes hosting so much easier!

One thing on her list is always the same; sushi. So I book a different restaurant each time. Last year we went to Sushi Atelier and this year we went to Dinings SW3 that’s been on my list forever (well, since it opened).

Dinings SW3 feels very established in a cosy mews near Walton Street and it definitely has that South Ken vibe. It’s on the swankier side, but I love that!

The menu is extensive and although the tasting menu looked amazing we preferred to choose our own dishes. We thought we had ordered a the perfect amount of food, but some of the maki rolls were a lot bigger than we anticipated so in the end it was a bit too much but we almost finished everything. We both struggle to leave good sushi, even if we’re beyond full.

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The first thing we ordered was the tar tar chips with scallops. We only had one each but next time I will order more of these. They’re so pretty and delicious!

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I love miso soup and couldn’t resist this one with lobster, tomato and chives. And to no one’s surprise it is definitely the best miso soup I’ve eaten.

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Next we had a steamed bun slider with tempura prawn each – also really nice, but probably my least favourite out of our spread.

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Then we moved on to the sushi. Wow! The nigiri with avocado and jalapeño mayonnaise was just amazing. And the semi-fatty tuna was equally mind blowing.

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The grilled miso aubergine was delicious too but almost too much to share between two. It was exactly how I expected it to be; soft and sticky with a caramelised flavour too it. So lovely!

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The salmon maki was another favourite, it just tasted so pure. I can’t describe it any other way.

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The next two maki rolls were the big ones. The first one with tempera prawns was amazing but rather filling.

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And the double crab roll was so impressive with snow crab in the roll and deep fried soft shell crab on top. It was huge and so good but we did struggle to finish it.

At this point the table next to us received the lobster maki and I got a small case of food envy, but it was good in a way, because now I know what to order on my next visit!

Dinings SW3, Lennox Gardens Mews, London SW3 2JH

London: Hoppers (finally!)

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I almost went to Sri Lanka on holiday with two girl friends a few years ago. But the plan fell through for various reasons and I ended up going on a lovely trip to Cambodia and Vietnam with another friend instead.

But since almost booking that holiday the dream of Sri Lanka has stayed with me, so I was super excited when Hoppers open the first (at least that I’ve heard of) Sri Lankan restaurant in London.

I tried to go there multiple times but as the Soho outfit was tiny and the place seriously popular the waiting time was always too long for hangry me.

But since they recently opened a second restaurant, still in Central London, but not bang in the hustle and bustle of Soho, where you can BOOK tables I’ve finally been. Yay!

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In cold January I met up with my former flatmate and now friend Daisy for supper here. The restaurant was warm and cosy inside (especially compared to the sub-zero temperatures outside) and although we weren’t rushed the food arrived more or less at the same time so we felt a bit hurried to eat it and leave so they could have the table back. I get it – they’re still hugely popular and of course they want to be accommodating but it would have been nice if it was a little more chilled.

Anyway, we had lots of nice, but quite heave dishes! But while we were choosing from the menu we also enjoyed a really nice gin cocktail and plantain chips.

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First up we had the mutton rolls which were crispy and stuffed with lovely meat. Loved these!

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Next we had the really rather spicy calamari but it was also lovely and crispy!

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Our third dish was what I’ve been most eager to try; their bone marrow roti. Which turned out to be a bone marrow curry (so much yes!!) and the flakiest roti I’ve ever had. Just amazing! And so so filling. (This is where we started to realise that we had probably ordered too much…)

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We also shared two larger dishes, a seafood kari and pork ribs. The curry was again quite spicy but nice but the pork was more interesting with it’s multiple layers of flavours.

We were SO full after this meal and yet we didn’t finish most of the dishes. They were all quite rich as well (which I hadn’t expected!) so will definitely order less next time. Or order a few dishes, eat those and see if we could eat some more.

I will definitely come back for the bone marrow roti (loved that!!) but totally forgot to order the hoppers (which the restaurant is named after) and can’t wait to try one next time. They almost look like a bowl made of thin thin (almost see-through) rice flour dough and it often has an egg or something else in the bottom of it. They look really impressive!

Hoppers, 77 Wigmore Street, London W1U 1QE

London: meat and bone marrow at Pitt Cue

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London restaurants. There are seriously too many to visit, unless you’re a food critic, which sadly I’m not.

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I have so many restaurants on my list to try and it pains me when they close before I got to them. This happened with the very talked about Pitt Cue Co who brought BBQ to Soho back in the day.

But luckily they didn’t close for good, they opened a restaurant further east instead. One where you can book a table – which made it so much easier to go!

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The Soho restaurant was tiny and always had a long queue, which was the main reason I never went. I tried so many times but the waiting time was always around 2 hrs and that’s just too long when you’re hungry.

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The menu here looked great so it was rather tricky to decide on what to order, but I think we did a good job of it! Laura had the grilled aubergine with wild rice and almonds.

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And as you can see, she was very happy with it! Lovely dish!

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For me, the words ‘bone marrow’ jumped out at me and I just had to order the grilled sourdough and bone marrow.

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Look at that beauty! It was just gorgeous; pillowy, salty and full of flavour. Yum!

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For the main course Laura had the Aylesbury duck breast (cooked to perfection) with pickled endive and jus.

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I had the onglet with marinated tomato and it was just perfect! Love this cut of meat! It has so much flavour but is really tender at the same time.

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We also had some sweet potato to share, but half way through my steak I so regretted not ordering the bone marrow mash. (Mainly because I had already had the sourdough with bone marrow, but honestly that’s a silly reason when the food is this good. As somebody once said; you only regret the food you didn’t eat. So true!) So I gave in and ordered it and it was probably my best decision, like, ever. This mash (actually it’s more like a silky cloud of potato purée) is just heaven. The bone marrow on top is to-die-for delicious and I would have been so happy with just this for dinner (although the rest was delicious too!).

Moral of the story; do not not order a dish because you’re trying to be good or think there is such a thing as too much bone marrow. Order, eat and enjoy it and have salad the next day to balance it out.

Oh, and GO to Pitt Cue and eat all the deliciousness without queueing for a table!

Pitt Cue, The Avenue, 1 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4YP

 

London: a night at the Opera (House)

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Having lived in London for more than ten years it was about time I visited the Royal Opera House. I have been to the opera and ballet in London before, just never at this venue, so when I got invited to see The Nutcracker in January I was absolutely thrilled. And it certainly was a magical evening.

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A party of four we arrived with plenty of time to enjoy dinner in one of the restaurants beforehand. 

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We toasted in champagne and then tucked into our starter. Mine was a lovely mushroom soup with a dollop of creme fraîche in the middle. The menu was as classic as the surroundings. (In a good way, in case that wasn’t obvious.)

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Next we tried the main course. I loved my generous portion of delicious smoked salmon with a side of creamy potato salad and all the trimmings (creme fraiche, chopped shallots, roe, horseradish, capers and bottarga). Such a treat!

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The restaurant was so efficient we had time to chat and sip wine before making our way into the theatre. I was mesmerised from the start and enjoyed every second.

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In the interval we made our way back to our table in the restaurant were puddings had magically appeared! My pineapple bavaroise was creamy and delicious and a perfect ending to the dinner.

After the second interval I reluctantly left this beautiful space and walked across the street for a night cap. I just wanted to savour the evening for as long as possible.

Royal Opera House, Bow St, London WC2E 9DD

London: amazing dinner at Hutong The Shard

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What a splendid evening! The birthday dinner (for somebody very dear to me) in The Shard was just as special as I had hoped.

From the moment we were through the metal detectors on the ground floor we were looked after really well! It was a quick lift ride up to the 32nd floor and up a flight of stairs and we had reached our dining spot; Hutong. The interior with dark wood, red lanterns and low lighting felt very cosy and inviting but as we were shown to our table what caught my eye the most was of course the incredible view.

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Hutong has a whole floor to itself so it’s a large restaurant, but it’s very cleverly divided into smaller sections. Not just a bar area and a restaurant area but smaller sections within those areas making it a very intimate dining experience. Out table was facing St Paul’s and after enjoying the breathtaking view for a moment or two (honestly I could look at it all day long) we turned the attention to the menu and our lovely waiter who came with a few good suggestions. The portions are very generous and with his help we didn’t over order.

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We started off with champagne and the dim sum platter. The dumplings were all lovely and nicely presented with their pastel colours. My favourite was the prawn and champagne dumpling but the others (cod; cabbage and mushrooms; prawn and XO sauce) were delicious too.

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The food was served very quickly so almost straight after the dim sum we got the next dish; their signature dish red lantern (I assume the name comes from the lantern like chillies that accompany the crab). The soft shell crab was fried to perfection offering that perfect mix of crunchy and soft with a subtle chilli kick to it. Absolutely delicious!!!

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Next we had lamb ribs off the bone. Another generous portion and deliciously prepared, although I had expected them to covered in a sticky glaze but it was more of a dry seasoning. Still delicious!

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The side dish we chose was egg fried rice with pickled vegetables. So moreish and delicious!

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This was the perfect amount for two people, although we couldn’t finish it all, it was nice with the variety of both meat and seafood and less wouldn’t have been enough. So make sure you come here hungry!

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After all that lovely food we took a break before pudding to drink wine, chat and of course, look at the amazing view some more.

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The Shard has 95 floors and although the restaurants are only on floors 32 and 33 the view is still spectacular.

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We could see Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and more. Just amazing!

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After our little break we had pudding; sesame dumplings with apple and cinnamon and a complimentary mango pudding for the birthday boy!

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After a nice long dinner we moved to the bar area to enjoy the slightly different view from there. And a nice drink.

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It’s simply impossible to leave – you just want to linger some more and take it all in.

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We sat down at one of the tables by the window and just enjoyed the scenery.

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The intrior is beautiful too, with all the lanterns and the dark colour scheme.

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I even lingered in the ladies room; taking in the view from there!

The whole evening was just amazing. Not just the view, but the food, service, wine and interior. The staff looked after us incredible well and made it feel like the special evening it was. Because this is not a place where you pop in for a quick bite; it’s a place for celebrations and special evenings!

33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY