London: The Best Croque Monsieur!

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I have been to The Wolseley numerous times. It’s my favourite place for breakfast, but I have also enjoyed many lunches, dinner and even afternoon tea here. But it took me the better part of eleven years to discover their amazing Croque Monsieur!

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One early Saturday evening in December, tired from Christmas shopping and in need of a bite to eat since I had skipped lunch, I passed The Wolseley and thought that would be an excellent place for an early solo supper. They are always fully booked but keep several tables available for walk-ins and I was lucky enough to nap one in the café area. It was actually the first time I’d been in that part of the restaurant and it was cosy and cute and had plenty of people eating by themselves, just like I did.

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Eyeing up the menu the Croque Monsieur caught my eye (always in the mood for melted cheese!) and it was just as perfect as I had hoped. The bread was crusty and thick, filled with melted cheese and a nice slice of ham and topped with béchamel and some more cheese. It was very cheesy but in the best possible way and different textured made it such a treat to eat.

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Sitting there full and happy, resting my tired legs and watching the world in the restaurant go by, I was so content. A perfect London moment. And a perfect meal.

The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EB

London: Burgers at the Theatre

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Before I met my boyfriend I didn’t go to the theatre a lot. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I thought it a bit weird to go by myself and none of my friends seemed that keen to go. I had no problem going to the cinema alone, dining solo, or even travelling and I went to lots of exhibitions on my own. But the theatre, for some reason it was harder to face this alone.

So I’m so grateful I now have somebody to go with. Someone who likes the theatre even more than I do myself. But because we go quite often, it’s become less of an event and often we meet up straight from work without much time to eat before the play starts. So quite often we tend to skip the pre-theatre set meal (because we simply cannot fit it in; dining at 5pm for a play that starts at 7pm) in favour of some good old fashioned fast food.

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And that’s why we were so happy to discover that they now have a burger restaurant actually IN the National Theatre. Amazing!

We had our first burgers there with a mere 20 minutes to spare before the play was about to start but it was no problem getting served and eat in that time; they were so speedy! But of course it would have been lovely with a bit more time to spare next time.

The pop-up burger restaurant is called Burgerworks and can be found on the ground floor in the café area (walk through the main entrance, head straight in and then left). It’s set up like most burger places: you order by the till and wait for your food until it’s ready.

They have a variety of burgers (beef, chicken, vegan…) to choose from but also salads and a halloumi sandwich,  but we settled on a classic beef burger. A the beef one for him and a little beef one for me. And of course fries and cokes too. The holy trinity.

The burgers were really nice, and felt more pub-y or restaurant-y than fast food chain-y, which was nice. The patty was juicy, the bun nice and chewy (in a good way) and the fries nice and crispy!

I really hope this pop-up becomes a permanent fixture so that we can now grab a burger and a play all in the same place!

Burgerworks at National Theatre, Upper Ground, Lambeth, London SE1 9PX

London: Trinity years later

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Most of  you long time readers will remember that I used to eat at a restaurant local to me in Clapham when I lived around there; Trinity, A LOT several years ago. I loved that restaurant so much. I had the best ever risotto there and their bread is to die for. I’ve taken most friends there, my parents and have many happy food memories from this lovely place.

But as I moved a way from the area I got other good local restaurants to try out and I didn’t make it back. Then it was closed for refurbishment for a long time and a while ago now it opened up its doors again, with an additional more informal restaurant upstairs, and they got a Michelin star for the downstairs restaurant.

So pretty much everything has changed, but I was still very curious to go back and try the new Trinity (still with head chef and founder Adam Byatt at the helm) and see how it compared to the restaurant I forever keep in my memories.

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What I noticed first was how the space has changed. The address is the same and the building looks the same from outside but the layout inside is very different with an open kitchen and a more austere decor. It’s more modern and a little less cosy. But I definitely like the open kitchen!

The dining experience has changed too; from a semi upscale neighbourhood restaurant to more of a fine dining experience. But it’s still not stuffy, which I like, and the waiters are all lovely and relaxed while keeping it professional.

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We got two amuse bouche to start and they were both delicious! The little tartlets with pea and parmesan were utterly delicious and the little cigars with olives were nice too!

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The menu has changed too, from three courses to an optional four, but we asked if we could do three each (as I know how full you get here!) and stagger them as we were sharing everything. It was no problem at all, so we shared a first course, two second courses, two third courses and one pudding! That was the perfect amount for us (I was sooo full!) especially with all the added things like amuse bouches and petit fours. I could only take tiny bites of the last sweets which felt like a waste!

But back to the savoury dishes. The tuna tartare with apple and almonds was really lovely. The fish was just perfectly cooked and the mellow flavours accompanied it really well.

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Next we had pasta with langoustines and petit pit which was really nice, but it tasted completely different to how I had pictured it in my head. More earthy than light. But still nice.

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The warm Norfolk asparagus with smoked beurre blanc (we went here before the summer so it was totally seasonal!) however was the star of the show. Please put this back on the menu next year and I’ll be there! LOVED it! We both did.

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For the third course we had one of the specials which was the glazed lamb sweet breads with more petit poi and lardon. Really nice!

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But this was the winner! Wild sea trout with cucumber and white burgundy. Such delicate lovely flavours. Love!

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And for pudding we had another cracker; their salted caramel tart with salted caramel ice cream, because there is no such thing as too much salted caramel. And wow, it was AMAZING! Just perfect in every way.

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We also had a nice bottle of British wine which I think it’s worth telling you about. I love getting introduced to interesting wines in restaurant and this was was quite different but so lovely (and at a good price too!).

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Then the petit fours came pouring in and I had to take a little breather. We were so slow but also greedy and wanted to eat it all. Lovely little almond cakes.

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As well as macarons and truffles. So generous and although I’m sometimes too full to fully appreciate them I love these little extra touches. You feel so well looked after and it elevates the dinner a lot!

So the verdict? I like both old and new Trinity. I’m sure I will be nostalgic about old Trinity for quite a while, but I like this new version too. And I can’t wait to try the upstairs bit which might be similar to the old vibe as it’s supposed to me more casual. Only one way to find out! Race you there!

Trinity, 4 The Polygon, Clapham, London SW4 0JG

London: birthday dinner at The River Café

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It seems very fitting that the hottest day in the UK, probably ever, also happened to be my birthday. As my boyfriend will tell you, when it comes to body temperature and sun worshipping I have more in common with lizards and humans.

But even I was a little warm this day. At least indoors. The whole week it had been around 33C, sunny and humid and I think most people were hoping for a thunder storm to clear the air.

Of course I wasn’t, as I was hoping we could sit outside for dinner at The River Café, and luckily the birthday girl got her wish (after a quick downpour earlier in the evening but sans thunder and lightning) and we had the most wonderful evening on the beautiful terrace overlooking the Thames.

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It was a lovely balmy evening and we immediately ordered champagne and plenty of water while we browsed the menu and tried to decide what to order – because I honestly wanted to eat every single thing on the menu – but we settled on a nice selection.

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First we had the most wonderful fritto misto with scallops. The perfect starter for a hot day and we thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity and the perfection of it.

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As I can never ever resist pasta (or carbs of any kind) we shared two half portions of pasta; the buffalo ricotta ravioli of dreams and the most delicious girolle pasta.

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For the main course we shared the sirloin with various beets and rosemary potatoes. Wonderful flavours (although I would have expected the meat to be a bit more tender at a restaurant like this)!

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And of course we had to order the famous chocolate nemesis cake for pudding, but also had some roasted almond ice cream on the side.

Even though we shared everything we were so full after this feast of a meal! And it was just perfect for a low key, but still special, birthday celebration.

As much as the food is wonderful here (and it really is!), I think what makes this restaurant so wonderful is the combination of the food and the ambiance. You’re in a beautiful spot in London by the river surrounded by fun and interesting people all enjoying themselves, and I think that is part of the allure of some restaurants. They have ‘it’ even though as you break down each element they may not all be perfect, but together they work so very well.

The River Cafe, Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, London W6 9HA

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