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

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My Stockholm weekend in pictures

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I spent the first May bank holiday weekend in sunny Stockholm with my parents. It was lovely to see them and do Stockholm with them. Since they live in the south of Sweden (where I grew up) they have Copenhagen around the corner so visits to the Swedish capital don’t occur very often.

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I arrived late on the Friday night so our weekend started on the Saturday morning with a lovely hotel breakfast before we headed out to a nursery called Zetas trädgård. My mum is very into gardening so she was the one who wanted to go, but my dad and I enjoyed the beautiful surroundings too and especially the lovely café.  In the afternoon we came back into the town centre and did some shopping before we had dinner in the old town.

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The restaurant we went to is a very classic Swedish one, called Den Gyldene Freden, and one my dad had been to before and really liked. The food was lovely and it was fun to be in a restaurant were everybody were drinking snaps. Old school!

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After dinner I met up with my friend Carina for drinks at Tweed, also in the old town and we had a lovely evening catching up over cocktails. Such a great bar!

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On the Sunday we walked around the city in the sunshine and made sure to see the cherry blossom in Kungsträdgården. It’s such a lovely sight and a must-see this time of year.

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We then walked to Gamla Stan (old town) and did some sightseeing.

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We happened to be at the Royal Palace at the time for the changing of the guards, so by chance we were proper tourists!

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That afternoon I met up with my friends Mirja and Linus in the afternoon for fika and ice cream outside. So lovely!
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On the Sunday night we went to a great restaurant I have wanted to try for ages; Rolfs Kök. And it was even better than I expected it to be!

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The bank holiday Monday we took the ferry to Djurgården and walked around.

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We had a nice walk around the island and stopped at the café at Rosendal for some rosé and fika. It was nice and warm and lovely to sit outside in the sunshine.

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We took the tram back to the town centre for some last minute shopping before heading to the airport. I like the mixture of nature, water and city life Stockholm has to offer. It really is quite relaxing to go here for a city break!

Sponge with elderflower liqueur, ice cream, whipped cream and blueberries

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This is more of an assembly job than actual cooking, but a really nice simple dessert to pull out when you crave something sweet after dinner or throwing a last minute dinner party. Make a sponge at the weekend, cut into slices and freeze and you can make this any time with just a few minutes notice.

Sponge with elderflower liqueur, ice cream, whipped cream and blueberries, served 3

3 slices sponge cake

3 tbsp St Germain elderflower liqueur 

3 scoops vanilla ice cream

3 spoonfuls lightly whipped cream

150 g fresh blueberries

Place the sponge slices in bowls. Pour the liqueur over the cake. Top with ice cream, whipped cream and blueberries. 

Dulce de leche ice cream (with a little salt)

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Since I was a little girl growing up in Sweden I have had a love affair with ice cream. Growing up my favourite scoop flavour was daim and daddy and I would see who could finish their ice cream first, every time. To be honest we sometimes compete now as well.

You may think Sweden is too cold for ice cream, but to that I say a) the summers are really nice and warm and b) it is never too cold for ice cream.

I still entertain this love affair although I am a bit pickier as an adult. I don’t like artificial pear ice cream for example or ice cream with lots of strange ingredients. When it is so easy to make delicious ice cream at home, I don’t understand the need for stabilizers and odd ingredients. I want natural proper ice cream made with full fat cream and milk.

This recipe certainly is of that variety and the dulce de leche flavour definitely comes through (shame if it didn’t since I used a whole can) and I’ve added a little salt to cut through the sweetness, which I think makes this work –  dulce de leche is very sweet!

I like ice cream on its own but you can of course make a sundae with whipped cream, chocolate chip cookie and dark chocolate sauce or maybe serve with alongside a dark chocolate fondant, the possibilities are endless.

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 Dulche de leche ice cream (with a little salt), makes about 1 litre

4 egg yolks

2 tbsp caster sugar

400 ml double cream

200 ml whole milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 pinch (about 1/2 tsp) Maldon sea salt

400 g (1 can) dulce de leche

Beat yolks and sugar until fluffy. Meanwhile heat up the milk and cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Incorporate the cream into the egg mixture little by little while continuously stirring. Add vanilla and dulce de leche and combine. Pour into a large bowl, place over a pan of boiling water (like a bain marie) and whisk slowly over while the mixture thickens. Leave to cool. Place in the fridge over night to thicken further. Place a plastic container in the freezer and pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and let it stir it for approximately 40 minutes. Pour into the plastic container and freeze for two hours before serving.

Gelupo Gelato, Soho

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Across the road from Bocca di Lupo is Gelupo Gelato, a gelateria from the team behind the restaurant.

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The interior is cosy and feels a bit Mediterranean with white wooden floors and simple decor.

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And the ice cream?! Absolutely wonderful! I tried the pistachio ice cream which was divine tasting and a luscious green in colour. But the salt caramel ice cream with pecans was even better – just extraordinarily tasty! I could see myself trying every flavour and loving them all (well, maybe except for my nemesis the coconut).

Gelupo Gelato, 7 Archer Street, London W1D 7AU