Looking back on the last week of February, one of my least favourite months usually, I realise what a lovely week and month it was. How lucky we were going about our ordinary lives, not thinking about illness and death (as much at least), not worrying about when we could see our loved ones. Oh, how I miss it. Will we get back there, has the world changed now, with no going back to the “before”? Or maybe, it will be better going forwards, because we will be so much more grateful for the things we used to take for granted? Only time will tell…
But back to the last week in February, when the Coronavirus still seemed far away. On the Monday I watched the film Judy about Judy Garland and loved Renée Zellweger in it.
Tuesday lunch looked a little like this! Love a fried egg on toast with ketchup. Yes, the ketchup is a must! In the afternoon I got lots of errands done, which is always such a nice feeling.
In the evening I got spoiled with pancakes, both savoury and sweet, for Pancake Day.
I don’t know how I did it, but I managed four (!) pancakes; two savoury (with ham, cheese and mushrooms) and two sweet ones.
One with just sugar and lemon.
And one with Nutella, whipped cream and berries. So yummy!
The following day was a regular work from home day, and in the evening I watched Boy Erased. Such a gripping story!
The following day I worked down in The New Forest and had a bagel I bought at the train station for lunch. So good!
Back in London that evening I met up with my friend Gaby for supper in Brixton. We had lovely food at the Tiger and Pig and afterwards we went to a bar nearby for a spritz each (mine had elderflower and lemon in it!) and doughnuts for pudding.
Such a lovely evening!
On Friday we drove north to stay with my boyfriend’s mother and arrived in time for supper.
We got lots of dog cuddles and went for a lovely walk the next day.
We stayed for a lovely supper and then drove to Norfolk in the night.
It was absolutely freezing when we got there so we made tea and drank it in bed under the covers.
As London restaurants are preparing to open next week, I thought it appropriate to post a restaurant review from a visit pre-coronavirus. I’m so looking forward to eating out again, but sadly some restaurants have had to close their doors for good following the pandemic. So don’t take your favourite restaurants for granted, support them. Now more than ever, as I’m sure we’re all roaring to get back to normal.
Back in regular life pre-lockdown Gaby and Ro and I had a lovely girlie night out one Friday. I walked through the city doing errands and taking photos of new to me places before meeting up with Gaby for a drink while we waited for Ro to finish work.
So when Gaby and I arrived at OPSO we took our time and studied the menu properly. And the wine list, which had the funniest wine descriptions in it, and checked out the whole space. The airy interior and mix of high and low tables felt more New York than London, but in the best possible way, and I really liked the modern Greek food idea. I adore Greek food (despite never having been to Greece, which I need to remedy as soon as we can all travel again) but there aren’t many high-end or modern places around where you can sample it.
Enter OPSO. Where you can have the chicest (and most garlicky!) tzatziki you’ve ever come across and enjoying the most delightful small plates while sipping Greek delicious wine. It felt like we were transported to Athens for the evening, and the wine descriptions came in especially handy since neither of us had any knowledge of Greek wines. But I liked the authenticity. And I like trying new things!
All the small plates and starters that we had (we shared everything!) were absolutely delicious, but of course some stood out more than others.
We saw our table neighbours enjoying these little bagel inspired breads and they looked so good we had to order them too! They’re called koulouri and are much fluffier than bagels in texture, but really nice, especially with the fresh goat’s curd it comes with.
Next we had the famous tzatziki and it was amazing! So lovely with to scoop up with the flat bread. Yum!
We also had the dakos salad which was fresh and plump with olive oil. The pitta bread and olives in the background were delicious too. So fluffy!
There were two delicious sounding feta dishes on the menu, but we felt like we could only really have one and decided on the one with honey and kataifi. It was warm and crispy and salty and sweet all at ones and so gooey and lovely, but it almost felt more like a pudding than a starter because of the sweetness.
We made the error of ordering another dish of melted cheese, which was also delicious, but it was too much with two! This one was smokey and melty, but also paired with something sweet so it felt a little bit similar to the feta.
Next we had two main courses to share, which was the perfect amount after all the smaller dishes we’d had. We couldn’t actually finish them but we enjoyed them both!
The lemon and oregano chicken with mash, feta and charred baby gem was really nice, but didn’t feel as interesting as the starters and small plates we had.
The moussaka looked more impressive and was really nice! But my absolute favourite dishes were the tzatziki, the salad (surprisingly as I didn’t even think to order it) and the milk buns with goat’s curd.
Really want to go back and try the other feta dish, the saganaki. And sample the rest of the menu of course!
Can’t recommend enough if you want to try something different! Opa!
OPSO, 10 Paddington St, Marylebone, London W1U 5QL
I received a comment and a request on my Swedish blog, to write about my cooking now, in lockdown. Something I of course have addressed on my instagram accounts, which are more ‘in the moment’ than the blog.
I completely understand it might not be of interest for you readers to read my reviews of restaurants from before lockdown, that are now shut. But the reason I have carried on ‘as normal’ (or as normally as I can right now) is because I think those good restaurants that I didn’t have time to write about before lockdown need to be mentioned. My blogs don’t have a huge following, but they are read by a few of you and if I could have some influence on where you spend your money when all this is over of course I want to contribute to that. To cast a limelight on restaurants I really like, large or small. Regardless of what kind of backing some restaurants had before lockdown, I think all business owners are now in the same boat; worrying if they can bounce back. If they can afford to take this hit or if it’s better to throw in the towel.
But I hear you; that’s the past, and the present is strange and can be tricky to navigate, especially when you’re forced (more or less, depending on where you live), to cook more at home, to come up with new dishes, while maybe not having access to all the food items you’re used to.
I feel quite equipped for this, strangely. Maybe because I taught myself how to cook when I lived away from home for the first time (with a patient mamma at the end of the phone guiding me when I got stuck), or because I made sure I would enjoy cooking for one after a breakup when I was around thirty, or because I loathe throwing food away and get immense satisfaction out of using up every single little morsel leftover; be it a quarter of an onion, a small piece of chicken or a little hunk of cheese. I use them all up and have come up with some interesting lunches over the years. And maybe also, because I love to cook for other people.
You see, the first three weeks of lockdown I utilised all my cooking for one tips, as I was alone in London making sure I didn’t develop the virus. At this point it was hard for people to get food in general so I relied on my freezer stash, my ability of using up food and coming up with good substitutions and to buy food where the regular person wouldn’t shop. I felt this was a small thing for me to do, but could mean that somebody else (maybe a whole family) could access that delivery slot or those groceries, because frankly they needed it more than I did. I waited for Natoora, one of my favourite vegetable and delicatessen shops, to open up their restaurant slots to the general public and bought lovely things like British asparagus, burrata and dolce latte. This might seem extravagant in a crisis, but my thinking was that I get more satisfaction out of these more luxury food items than the average person, I can afford it, and I don’t eat very much and can therefore stretch the produce quite far if I need to. And I wanted to support a wonderful business that with restaurants closing had a huge excess of food they needed to sell. Which I, of course, was oh so happy to take off their hands.
So I ate very well those three weeks. But I didn’t eat much meat, because they don’t sell it (other than in delicatessen products), and I made sure to buy some flour (any flour!) so that if I couldn’t get a delivery slot at least I could make bread, pasta or pizza. I wanted to avoid shops as at this point they were still crowded which scared me!
Then after those three weeks, feeling safe enough I didn’t carry any nasties with me, I went out to the countryside to join my boyfriend and his mother, who were in the midst of moving house. So I put on my apron and started cooking for them. Which was very different than cooking for just myself. But very helpful to both them and me. I have invented new dishes (so satisfying), come up with different ways to cook something because of a lack of ingredients (also very satisfying) and although the food look (and taste) great it’s not as glamorous as instagram suggests of course (check out my stories to see failed experiments, substitutions and lots of leftovers). Yes, all the leftovers get eaten!! Sometimes reimagined as something else and sometimes just reheated as they are.
So in the coming weeks I will try to share some helpful recipes where I’ve had to think differently, using what I’ve had to hand. Being in the countryside has proved a lot easier when it comes to food though. Two small local shops carry necessities like eggs, milk and bread. And one of them is a greengrocer too! The village farm sells eggs like they always do, and we have managed to get slots to pick up food from supermarkets (some far away, but we could get slots) and since Ocado opened up more slots a couple of weeks ago I have used them too. So I realise we’re very lucky. But I hope most of you are too. That if you can’t go out somebody can deliver to you or a neighbour could do the shopping for you.
PS. Moving house in lockdown was really hard work, so I haven’t been able to post very much, but I hope I will have more time in the coming weeks.
February’s second week was with hindsight really lovely. Like every pre-coronavirus week of my entire life. It gives you perspective, this pandemic…
Anyway, back to February this year. The Monday passed by quietly. I didn’t even document what I had for supper. So I will assume I worked and went to bed early, which is my preferred way to handle the start of the work week.
The next day I made broccoli cheese for lunch and went out for supper in the evening. My friend Amy and I decide to meet up somewhere on the tube line in between our homes, and I thought Parsons Green with its many pubs and restaurant was a safe bet.
We went to Megan’s near the station and had a lovely time even though the restaurant was quite quiet this Tuesday evening. I had halloumi and aubergine to start and a lovely chicken kebab as my main course.
Wednesday I worked from bed (I remember it being cold outside so under a blanket was the only place to be).
For lunch I had a toasted bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill. So lovely!
On Thursday evening I ordered a poke bowl for supper and watched TV in bed.
But on Friday night (also known as Valentine’s Day) I cooked properly! To start we had Toast Skagen because it’s easy yet delicious.
And for our main event I cooked Côte de boeuf with skin-on oven fries and bearnaise sauce. Yum!
And for pudding I made another crowd pleaser; heart shaped molten chocolate cakes with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce. So much yum!
The next morning I made our usual eggs and pancetta and topped the eggs with the leftover bearnaise sauce. A perfect start to the weekend!
In the afternoon we went to see Parasite in the cinema and we were blown away by how good it was. A must see if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. And before that we had Five Guys for lunch.
In the evening I made our favourite crab pasta for supper. So yummy!
On the Sunday we met up with two sets of friends and their kids in Pizza Express for late lunch/early supper and although completely chaotic (apparently only families with young children visit Pizza Express at this time) it was so lovely to see everyone and hang out.
I love discovering new restaurants, especially in my own neighbourhood. One evening earlier this year I was meeting up with my friend Daisy for dinner. We had planned to meet around South Ken but as things got moved around we ended up meeting near Victoria instead. We hadn’t booked anywhere to eat but wanted to eat somewhere nice, so popped into A Wong to see if they had had any cancellations. Sadly they hadn’t. But closed to it was Lorne looking all cosy and full of happy people. So we went insid and tried our luck. Lo and behold, they had a table for us in about 20 minutes time. So we popped across the road for a quick drink and as we came back to the restaurant we were seated by bar stools by the door looking out onto the street.
Quite a cosy spot as it was a bit tucked away from the rest of the restaurant, and we could chat undisturbed!
We ordered a few dishes to share straight away, because by this stage we were both quite hungry! The deep fried mac ‘n cheese bites were really delicious and paired well with our cold bottle of white.
Next we shared two starters; crispy egg with haddock and curry sauce (above) and roast quail with butternut squash, pear and hazelnuts (below).
They were both really delicious! Quite delicate in flavour, but lovely combinations and really well prepared. Our waitress was lovely too recommending the quail to us and going through the whole menu and describe the dishes so I could figure out which ones I could have. So helpful!
Our last dish was a main course that we also decided to share, and knowing that the kitchen prepared a smaller plate each for us! So lovely and nice! And the dish; seabass with confit chicken wings, Jerusalem artichoke and pancetta was also utterly delicious!
We had such a lovely evening and felt like we literally stumbled upon a gem! In my own neighbourhood nonetheless. I will definitely go back as soon as I am allowed as this is the type of restaurant everyone should have in their neighbourhood and they so deserve the support.
The first week in February was a really nice one (every week pre COVID-19 seems pretty good right now though!). I mainly worked and chilled at home but was a bit sociable at the weekend. On the Monday I made egg salad for lunch that I ate on Finncrisp. So yummy!
In the evening I had burrata with tomatoes and pesto together with leftover crostini from the weekend. Also yum!
The next day I tried a new yoghurt for breakfast and it was absolutely delicious and the passionfruit flavour worked well with the leftover blueberries too!
In the evening I made my favourite noodles and topped them with crispy chilli flakes in oil. Love this simple dish!
The next night I wasn’t in the mood to cook so ordered Shake Shake. It’s always a winner in my book!
On the Friday we had a quick supper before going to a concert, at a place in Brixton my friend Gaby recommended. The food was yummy and I will write the review soon!
On Saturday, a bit tired after the concert the night before we went over to some friends for lunch and got treated to roast chicken and a really yummy pasta salad! We even stayed for dinner and had a lovely day playing with the kids and catching up.
On the Sunday we just chilled and watched The Irishman. It’s long but really good! For supper we had a caprese salad with crispy baguette, followed by…
… pork fillet, dauphinoise potatoes, red wine sauce and vegetables. Always yummy!
Any week that starts with a cooked breakfast on a Monday is a good week in my book, but looking back from where we are now, in the middle of a UK Coronavirus lockdown, this week at the end of January, beginning of February looks particularly good.
The rest of the day I worked as normal, and in the evening I ordered sushi from Sticks ‘n Sushi for dinner and watched a film I missed when it was on at the cinema; A Private War, based on the true events in journalist Marie Colvin’s life. So gripping!
Tuesday after work I met up with my friends Chris and Debs for dinner at a cosy pub. I had been picking up their post while they were away and they gave me really sweet gifts as a thank you. So nice to see them again too!
Wednesday night I ordered pizza for dinner. Sometimes when I have a lot of plans in a week I struggle to cook for myself on my nights off from socialising. Definitely I want to work on!
On Thursday my friend Ria officially became a UK citizen which we celebrated with bubbly and a nice lunch! I had chicken liver parfait with brioche to start…
… and for our main course all three of us had steak! Yum!
On Friday I had another lunch out, with a dear ex colleague. So much fun to have a proper lunch (we hardly did when we worked together) and it also gave me an opportunity to finally try Aquavit. Spoiler: it was great! Review to come.
In the evening I took the train to Norfolk for a weekend with my boyfriend there.
The next morning we had our usual breakfast and while my boyfriend went to a meeting I braved the cold, but sunny, outdoors for some pictures. Then we settled in front of the TV in the afternoon and watched the rugby.
In the evening I cooked for us. Easy but delicious dishes. First up bruschetta bar with burrata caprese. We used a supermarket burrata, which was surprisingly good!
For the main course I made the delicious shrimp rolls with oven fries. We had lots of brioche hot dog buns left over from the Christmas party so decided to use some up.
We were actually really full after the first two courses so watched some His Dark Materials before we had pudding. Vanilla pannacotta with blueberries in lemon sugar. Yum!
On the Sunday we went for a lovely, but quite cold, walk on the beach in Brancaster, working up the appetite for lunch.
We were still really full in the evening so instead of another big meal I used up some leftover and made us tomato bruschetta and mini shrimp rolls. It was the perfect snack while watching the last episodes of His Dark Materials. Loved it!
It already feels weird looking back at ‘normal weeks’ but I’ll continue like normal, hoping to provide you with some cooking inspiration, restaurants to try after all this or just a little escapism.
The fourth week of January this year was so normal it just passed by without much thought, but that’s what I long for now; normality. I guess we now have a new normal and we’ll just have to do the best we can to get through these difficult times together (in spirit).
I had my usual Greek yoghurt with honey and fruit (in this case kiwi fruit) for breakfast and on the Monday we both got a new dishwasher installed and a new sofa delivered.
On the Tuesday I made puff pastry pizza, which is such a great shortcut creating something yummy!
On Wednesday I saw an old colleague for lunch at Smith & Wollensky. We both had their excellent burgers! And in the evening I went to a leaving party for a dear friend.
Thursday I worked from the New Forest. I had cold puff pastry pizza for breakfast on the train (so yummy!) and an egg salad and bacon baguette and fruit from Pret for lunch.
Friday I walked through central London in the evening, doing some errands on my wait to meet friends.
Two of us, that managed to get out of work at a decent time, had a drink before all three of us, Gaby, Ro and I, met up for dinner at a new for us spot.
Which was super chic and had really yummy food. Restaurant review to come!
On Saturday I pimped my scrambled eggs and they turned out so well I will give you the recipe soon! Love eggs for breakfast (or brunch it was probably after midday) at the weekend.
In the evening my boyfriend and I decided on an impromptu steak dinner out near his. We both had the ribeye, fries and bearnaise sauce. And some creamed spinach to share. Yum!
On the Sunday I made roast chicken for dinner. With broccoli cheese, roast parsnips and potato wedges with carrots, peppers and red onions. And gravy for my boy (I’m less of a fan but enjoy making it). Such a lovely week!
The third week in January started with a not so healthy, but very delicious, breakfast. This Nutella-ish spread on toast!
My friend Tobias gave it to me when I was home in Sweden for Christmas and it’s so good! Like a malted chocolate spread with crunch in. Addictive!
For dinner I had my “Friday night pasta” with browned butter, parmesan and truffle oil. Yum! Other than that I had a quiet night in watching TV.
Tuesday night was the same. The weather was terrible and after a sociable few weeks it was nice to hibernate. I had a cheese toastie for dinner, watching Netflix and cosying up inside with candles and tulips.
Wednesday I went for a walk at lunch time soaking up some sun. So nice!
And in the evening I met up with a friend for dinner. We tried a new restaurant and chatted away all evening. So lovely!
Thursday night we braved the rain, did some quick shopping and had Shake Shack before going to the cinema to see 1917 at the IMAX. It was amazing. Especially at the IMAX. I still think it should have won best picture at the Oscars, it was definitely THAT good!
Afterwards we went to Café Monico to sit down with some wine and talk through the film. Almost as important as going to see it!
Friday night I went to the cinema again, but this time on my own, to see The Gentlemen. Such a great film! Loved seeing Hugh Grant and Michelle Dockery in different roles to what we’re used to. And Matthew Mcconaughey was brilliant too!
Saturday I had a lie-in and spent most of the day reading.
On my way home I picked up some goodies and had a baked camembert with baguette, salami and nocellara olives for supper.
Sunday I also took it as easy as I possibly good, but didn’t go to the cinema. Instead I read, watched TV and ordered Greek for supper. A much slower week (but still had some lovely nights out!) which was so needed.
The second week of January – and the first week back in London for me – was back to business straight away. I was back at work on Monday, unpacked and tidied up in the evening, made myself some noodles and read a good book.
Tuesday was pretty much the same, while also doing errands, buying gifts and getting organised.
On the Wednesday it was my darling boyfriend’s birthday, so I took him out for a night on the town! First champagne (and a cheeky G&T!) at Sky Pod Bar, taking in the lovely view!
Followed by dinner (and more drinks) at Sushi Samba with more amazing views. Can you sense the theme?!
Thursday was head down working and putting things away at home. I always stock up on everything from cheese to body lotion to mouth wash when I’m in Sweden and it takes me a while to find space for all these extra items.
Friday night we had our usual burger before going to the cinema to see Cats. Not that we expected it to be good (it wasn’t!) but we wanted to make up our own mind. A little bit entertaining, but a total car crash of a film, but mostly it was just REALLY WEIRD! If you’ve seen it you’ll appreciate this little video – it’s spot on!
We stayed in on Saturday night and I cooked. Prawn cocktail in lettuce leaves (this recipe + avocado) followed by…
…homemade Dover sole a’la meunière which was absolutely delicious and so much fun to make! Will post the recipe soon.
For pudding we had Gino with vanilla ice cream. Yum!
On Sunday we had a lie-in and our favourite breakfast and then we decided to go for a refreshing walk on Wimbledon Common.
It was lovely to be outside and get some fresh air and check out the swans and the ducks in the pond. Little pleasures!