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

 

London: dinner at my new favourite pub!

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I’ve already told you about the lovely Sand’s End pub that I lived near for several years. They have a sister pub (and restaurant) in Chelsea, and as I suspected it to be just as good, I took my friends Maria and Daniel and their children there for dinner when they were visiting.

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And I couldn’t have found a better day to show off this cosy gem of a pub! It was absolutely freezing this Saturday and as we walked into the warmth of the pub and the saw the roaring fire and the water bowls for the dogs we felt right at home.
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All of us (apart from maybe the toddler) were cold and hungry so we quickly ordered drinks and some deliciously lemony hummus and toasted foccacia.

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Then we had a hard time choosing from the menu, and in the end decided on the burger for all of us – to avoid food envy! But the rest of the menu looked great too.

It came with lovely triple-cooked chips and had a celeriac remoulade in the burger, which was lovely, but I would have liked a little bit more sauce. Otherwise it was great; nice patty and a good brioche bun.

The Cross Keys, 1 Lawrence Street, Chelsea, London SW3 5NB

London: The Palomar, Soho

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The Palomar in Soho is a snug little restaurant serving up dishes from the Jerusalem of today and has been around for a while. It’s still as popular as when it opened and I had a fab dinner with my friend Felicity here quite a while ago that I’d like to tell you all about.

Arriving on a weekday after work the small restaurant was of course full (always expect a popular Soho restaurant to be full unless you go very early or very late) so we put our names on the list and when in search of a drink.

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About an hour later our seats at the bar were ready and our enthusiastic water welcomed us and started to recommend dishes from the menu. The kabaneh, a Yemeni pot baked bread with tahini and a tomato sauce was a must and we loved dipping the fluffy bread in the different sauces.

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Next we had a special for the day; crispy Jerusalem artichoke with tuna rillette and duck fat which was amazingly good. Loved loved loved this one!

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The burnt courgette tzatziki was another favourite. It also pairs very well with the bread!

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Another special, the bonito carpaccio, savoury cookie crumble was also really nice! And full of freshness.

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The Jerusalem style polenta with asparagus, mushrooms, parmesan and truffle oil was pure indulgence (I wish I could cook polenta like that!!) and a real treat.

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But the deconstructed kebab with minced beef & lamb, yoghurt, tahini, cured lemon and harissa disappointed us a little. It was still nice – but lacked a bit om oomph compared to the other dishes.

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So did The beets go prawn with smoky beetroot, labneh, prawn jus, basil and chilli but it was still a nice plate of food. Just lacking a bit of wow factor.

All together we had a fantastic evening here, chatting with our waiter, the people next to us and of course each other, enjoying some excellent food and lovely wine! This is what Soho is all about for me; the informal yet amazing dining experiences.

The Palomar, 34 Rupert St, London W1D 6DN

London: New York Italian at Hai Cenato?

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Jason Atherton’s empire continues to grow and the latest restaurant to open was this New York-y Italian restaurant in the new Nova development by Victoria. It’s in goof company with Rail House Café, Aster, Franco Manca etc. nearby.

The first time I came was early one Sunday evening with my friends Helen and Pete and their son Eddie. We’d had a lovely Sunday afternoon exploring the Natural History Museum, had eclairs and coffee at wonderful Maitre Choux and a walk to Buckingham Palacea and were happy to sit down and tuck into some food just as the skies opened.

Hai Cenato? (means ‘Have you had dinner?’ in Italian) certainly feels New York-y with it’s high ceilings, long bar counter, sketched portraits and cosy feel. It’s nice but relaxes and the menu echoes that with pasta dishes, rosso and bianca pizzas and meats from the grill.  and modern yet cosy interior.

They also have a kids menu and children eat free on Sundays, which is a nice touch.

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Eddie chose a pasta with tomato sauce and plenty of grated parmesan from the kids menu  and was very pleased with his choice.

Helen and I both chose the corzetti pasta with bolognese sauce sage, browned butter and grated Berkswell cheese. It was absolutely delicious and felt very indulgent. The sauce was really rich and could have done with a bit more pasta because of the richness but it was a nice size portion. We also shared a side of amazing crushed potatoes that soaked up the last of my bolognese.

Pete chose a lovely vibrant green risotto with oeas, broad beans and crab that was just perfectly executed.

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We were certainly full after our main courses but still fancied pudding and after a quick browse on the (excellent) dessert menu I chose the brioche with salted caramel ice cream. I just love salted caramel and expected a dainty dessert, perfect to finish off my meal but instead I got a large (burger size) brioche bun and THREE scoops of salted caramel ice cream (insert surprised emoji here). The flavour combination was spot on of course but the portion size ridiculous, especially after such starchy food as pasta or pizza.

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Helen’s chocolate and coffee fondant with creme fraiche, puffed rice and caramel was more the size we had expected and absolutely delicious!

We had a lovely dinner here, but also experienced some (I hope they are) teething problems like slow service and I got poured a flat glass of prosecco which just shouldn’t have left the bar and it took ages to get a new one. It’s not the end of the world of course, but I expect an overall smooth and lovely experience when I go to a restaurant, especially when it’s a quiet evening.

I went back last week with my friend Nick for pizza and a glass of wine and the service was a lot better (i.e. smooth) and the place buzzing with people. Oh, and the pizza? DIVINE!

Hai Cenato?, 2 Sir Simon Milton Square, London SW1E 5DJ

London: relaxed brunch at Rail House Café

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Another restaurant to open in the new development by Victoria is, Riding House Café, cleverly calling this branch Rail House Café.

I love the original restaurant on Great Titchfield Street, as much for it’s wooden interior and cosiness as for the food. This new restaurant is all modern with large glass windows but is still cosy in the same way.

I came here a while ago with my friend Daisy for brunch one Sunday and it was so lovely I would happily go back every weekend. The interior is really relaxed with sofas as well as proper tables, inviting you to take it easy and not rush. We had coffee and a proper brunch dish each. Daisy went for an avocado toast with additional poached eggs and crispy bacon, whereas I chose a version of Eggs Benedict but with crab cakes instead of ham.

Both dishes were really well executed and lovely, and really substantial. Such a great brunch spot!

Rail House Café, 8 Sir Simon Milton Square, London Victoria SW1E 5DJ

 

London: Scandi lunch at Aster

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The building works near Victoria station has been going on for years, but now some parts of the development are finally ready. The rest is still a building site but the whole Nova area is brand new and quite exciting. There’s a Shake Shack (yum!), Franco Manca (yes, please!) and lots more restaurants to explore. The Scandinavian one was the first one I tried out, with my dear friends Gaby and Rowena for lunch one weekend.

Aster, as the restaurant is called, has a very nice interior (like all D&D London restaurants) and has a café area, restaurant area, bar and deli.

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We had lunch in the café area but it still felt restauranty enough for a lunch.

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With lots of familiar items on the menu it was difficult to choose but we got there in the end.

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Gaby had the meatballs with potato mash, cream sauce and lingonberries. Really nice and I got a small case of food envy (even though my homemade meatballs are really nice too!).

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I went for the smørrebrød (open-faced Danish sandwiches). One with pork belly, apple sauce and lovely crackling on rye.

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And one with prawns and mayonnaise. The pork sandwich was lovely and ticked all the boxes but I was disappointed with the prawn sandwich. It tasted nice, but I would have expected at least the double amount of prawns. Smørrebrød always have more toppings than bread but here that wasn’t the case.

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Rowena had the Aster Caeser salad with prawns, smoked vendace and rye croutons, but it arrived without the fish on the plate (!) and we had to ask for it. Then it took quite a while until the complete salad arrived and it was also smaller in size than the first one.

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The food was nice though (not wow – but nice) so we had pudding as well. Rowena had the apple cake with custard above which was really nice.

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And Gaby and I had a cinnamon bun each which was amazing. Still warm, buttery and lovely. We also spied people around us having afternoon tea which looked great so definitely want to go back and try that.

There are definitely a few tweaks to be done here, both when it comes to food and service (it was rather slow and wobbly) but hopefully it was all teething problems and it’s fixed now.

Aster restaurant, 150 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5LB