Street Feast, Dalston Yard

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Getting into Street Feast was a five stage process. 1. finding Dalston Yard (not as easy as planned); 2. locating a cash point (the vendors don’t take card); 3. having our bags searched (they weren’t looking for hip flasks); 4. paying a £5 entry fee (obligatory after 7pm); 5. receiving a black stamp on the back of our hands (something I learnt to love over the next three days).

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Fortunately, this slightly frustrating process was well worth it as we were soon standing with happy East Londoners in a smaller than expected space, debating where to start our street food journey.

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Over the next three hours I drank too many glasses of Prosecco from easy-to-find-with-blurry-eyes Street Vin, whilst keeping my balance with delightful grub from Clam Bake, Breddos, Yum Bun and Sorbitium Ices.

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To give you a bit more detail, this meant a perfect Steamed Hirata Shrimp Bun (£4) from the ladies at Yum Bun – definitely my dish of the night – along with an interestingly flavoured Crunchy Nut Fried Chicken Taco with Raspberry Hot Sauce by the Breddos’ clan (2 for £6).

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The chicken couldn’t be faulted, but with each bite of the small, yet perfectly formed taco, I questioned the raspberry sauce – something wasn’t working for me. That said, the taco itself took me back to Mexico with its unmistakable wheat and corn aroma.

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Last on my savoury list was a Lobster Roll from Clam Bake (£7). The well baked brioche overflowed with beautiful meat, but the overall effect was a bit of a let down. For one, I expected it to be warm, and secondly, I really wasn’t keen on the powdery paprika sprinkled on top.

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Around me, friends devoured hunks of meat from the 4.5 tonne BBQ Smoke Train that is Smokestak, Kreole from Vinn Goute, Margheritas by Pizza Pilgrims and many a burger from Slider Bar. It was a happy, foodie affair.

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I finished my four course meal with a Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream from Sorbitium, coated with chocolate sauce and caramelised nuts. It was a fitting end to a special evening, giving me yet another reason to love our eclectic Capital.

Street Feast, Dalston Yard, Hartwell Street, London E8 3DU 

The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead

Keats, Byron, Dickens, Stoker, me. No, I’m not trying to compare myself to these great writers and poets. As if. Instead, I’m including myself in the ever-increasing list of punters that have visited The Spaniards Inn.

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Built in 1585, this pub of literary dreams is filled with ladies, gentlemen and children from London and further afield. We went on a sunny Sunday, so rather than sit in the dark, cosy dining room, we found a spot in the huge, beautiful garden.

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Garden diners have to order at the bar, so after a brief look at the menu, we went for a Scotch Egg with Picalilli (£5) and Cornish Sardine Fillet (£7.50) to start, followed by good old Fish & Chips, or Sustainably Caught Cod in Cider & Tarragon Batter as they call it (£14).

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The sardine stole the starter show. Sitting on toasted sour dough, it had a lovely smokey flavour that was brightened by sweet and juicy confit heritage tomatoes. The Scotch Egg was fine, but I found the meat casing a tad mushy and couldn’t help but compare it to the pulled pork and chorizo wonder I’d devoured in Brixton Village the day before.

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The Fish & Chips were great. The batter was light, the double cooked chips crisp and the pea puree fresh as a daisy and laced with summery mint. No complaints there.

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We skipped dessert, deciding to wander round the Heath with an ice-cream. Had I relented, Orange Meringue with Raspberries & Strawberry Coulis would have been the obvious choice.

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I’ve already planned my next visit, so unsurprisingly, I’ll give The Spaniards Inn a LLE Rating of 8/10. Go with friends, family and out of towners who love great pub grub with a side of history.

The Spaniards Inn, Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London NW3 6JJ

Spaniards Inn on Urbanspoon

KERB, King’s Cross

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King’s Cross is enjoying a foodie revolution…or so I’ve been told. A train full of restaurants are due to open over the next year, which will join the likes of Shrimpy’s, Grain Store and Caravan. And then there’s KERB – a weekly concrete food market made up of stalls, bars and an old man playing summer dance tracks.

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Yesterday was one of the hottest days of the year, so an afternoon of eating, drinking and sunbathing was in order. KERB King’s Cross ticked all the boxes, so we headed there to stuff ourselves with yummy street food and lie by the canal.

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There are around twenty stalls at KERB, which boarder Granary Square. In the middle there are over 1,000 individually lit, choreographed fountains – a fancy concept that’s particularly popular with children looking to cool off.

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We did the rounds, before deciding on lunch. Heartbreaker Burger caught my eye, but I chose Vermicelli Vietnamese Noodles with Tofu (£6) from Hanoi Kitchen and a side of Sweet Potato Chips from Yu Kyu (£3.50).

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The chips were incredible – crisp and sweet, there wasn’t a trace of grease in sight. I’d gobbled each and every golden wonder before starting on the noodles, which combined fragrance, texture and heat, along with a little too much salt (possibly an overzealous helping of soya sauce).

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Miss Crump Eats had the same, but R decided on a pork and duck bap from Bill or Beak, which lived up to its long, long queue. She also chose a brightly coloured Whoopie Pie from Kooky Bakes (£3) – a pie so tasty, it put a smile on her face from the first bite.

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We sat on fake grass steps by the river and spent at least five minutes talking about how fantastic our city is. Cheesy yes, but true none the less.

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There are a few KERB Markets in London, but we chose KERB King’s Cross, Granary Square, London N1C 4AA. 

Rotorino, Dalston

I’ve always liked Stevie Parle’s face. He looks like one of the good guys; someone who enjoys life and isn’t afraid to show it. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this – even I am a bit – but I truly believe people’s personalities are reflected in their work. So, how could sunny, optimistic looking Stevie do any wrong?

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Because of Stevie’s face, The Dock Kitchen has been on my restaurant bucket list for the past few years. It’s still on there today, but at least I can now say I’ve eaten at his new, slightly cheaper restaurant Rotorino, which opened a couple of months ago on Kingsland Road.

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A diamond in the ‘no longer rough’ Dalston, Rotorino is made up of a large rectangular dining room that’s blue, brown and white all over, filled with wooden tables, black plastic chairs, a row of booths down one side and bright, loud patterns.

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I was right about the face; Stevie’s food is lovely. Inspired by gorgeous Italian cuisine, the menu is split into First, Second and Third courses, followed by the all important ‘Sweet’.

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We shared courses, which covered off refreshing Watermelon & Tomato Salad with chilli, mint and ricotta (£6), Buffalo Mozzarella with smashed broad beans, mint and a giant, claw like pod  (£6.50) and lightly battered Mixed Small Fish & Squid with Monk’s Beard and grease cutting fried lemon (£6). Nothing blew me away, but at the same time, not a crumb was left on the pretty, rustic plates.

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Second was a small bowl of Pistachio Casarecce (£7.50) and Sausage Gnochetti Sardi (£8). I often find restaurant pasta boring, but this was not the case here. The first creatively combined crushed pistachio, basil, garlic and olive oil (YUM), whilst the latter delightfully combined slow-cooked sausage, red wine, chilli and breadcrumbs.

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For Third, we shared Sasso Chicken (£14.50) and Pork & Veal Meatballs (£9.50) from the ‘stove’, with a side of Chickpeas topped with fried breadcrumbs (who could resist!).

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The meatballs were tasty enough and my favourite part of the bird was the juice drenched bread that sat beneath it. But it was the chickpeas that stole the show – so simple, they reminded me how satisfying vegetarian living can be.

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I must pause to tell you that there were three, not two of us at this dinner. I wouldn’t want you trying to tackle this much food, believing they’ll be room for pudding – something that should never be missed.

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It was L’s birthday, so a candle topped Chocolate Cake (£5) was quietly ordered on a trip to the bathroom. It was divine – chocolate, honeycomb, pistachio and soured cream should get engaged, married and live happily ever after.

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Stevie did me proud, just like I knew he would. I enjoyed each and every dish, although some stood out more than others. The restaurant was buzzing and will now be my little oasis of calm (and tasty food) in bustling Dalston. I’m giving Rotorino a LLE Rating of 8/10.

Rotorino, 434 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AA

Rotorino on Urbanspoon

The Blue Legume, Crouch End

When I move to a new part of town, I play a game of ‘what’s the nearest’. What’s the nearest pub, supermarket, restaurant and – for slow, sleepy Saturdays – place for a much needed brunch.

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By day, Crouch End is a yummy mummy paradise, so bruncheries aren’t hard to come by. The Blue Legume is my nearest – a chain of three North London ‘cafe’ restaurants known for its breakfasts.

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I went yesterday to revive my body after a late night of dancing. The long list of Soya beverages tempted me to try a Soyachino, which came with a sneaky amaretto biscuit. Frothy, creamy and sweet, it made me question cow’s milk for the first time in my life.

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The menu is crammed with sweet and savoury dishes. I was tempted by the halloumi stuffed Meditteranean Breakfast (£6.95) and French Toast with poached plums & yoghurt (£6.45).

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But I picked Mushrooms on Toast (£4.95) to satisfy my stomach. That, and a poached egg ‘extra’ (£1.15) resting on top. The egg was cooked to perfection and glistening mushrooms covered the brown toast, making it deliciously soggy in places. I’d have liked a greater variety of mushrooms, but couldn’t fault the flavour of what I had.

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Around the table, my friends were guzzling Welsh Rarebit (£5.95), Eggs Royale on gluten free bread (£6.95) and a Vegetarian Sausage Breakfast (£6.95). My fork wasn’t welcome on their plates, but I did manage a slurp of N’s Banana Smoothie (£3.95), which was wickedly sweet.

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I will no doubt return to The Blue Legume – probably next weekend. The variety and quality of the food, combined with the price and friendly staff, gives it a LLE Rating of 7/10 from me.

The Blue Legume, 130 Crouch Hill, Crouch End N8 9DY

Typing Room, Bethnal Green

In April, Lee Westcott must have been the most stressed chef in London. He not only opened a restaurant under the watchful eye of Jason Atherton, he boldly filled Nuno Mendes’ shoes after the master chef packed up Viajante for The Chiltern Firehouse – a place so annoyingly popular, you’re unlikely to find it here.

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Fortunately for Lee, stress levels diminished as the reviews came in. Faye Maschler called it a ‘triumph’ and I, for all it’s worth, struggled to find fault with much other than the price (a drunken look of shock swept across our faces when we got the bill).

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We entered Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel and took a right into the Peg & the Patriot. Here we had an obligatory aperitif (we make our own rules), before moving across the hall for dinner. As we walked into the dining room, we were struck by the attentiveness of the many, many waiters, along with the decor, which was fresh, modern and streamlined, dotted with quirky artwork and vases of wild flowers.

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The menu had – thank goodness – ignored the stale ‘sharing’ trend, instead adopting a traditional three course approach, or a six course tasting menu for £55. Over complimentary brioche smothered in chicken skin butter, we decided to start with a £5 ‘snack’ – Cumin Lovoche, Crab, Sweetcorn & Curried Egg.

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Then, ‘To Begin’, we had Mackerel (£10), Langoustine (£15) and Veal Sweetbread (£15). The Mackerel was lovely and light, served raw with a fresh medley of passion fruit, burnt cucumber and radish. The rich, soft Sweetbread was richer, but balanced by a summery bed of crunchy raw pea, white asparagus and buttermilk.

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The Langoustine was my favourite of the three. Fat and juicy, the shellfish paired wonderfully with carrot, coriander and nutty pistachio. That said, even with my cold, I knew each dish needed a touch more seasoning.

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‘To Follow’ we were all about the meat. Pink, succulent lamb (£24) came with aromatic accompaniments of smoked aubergine, wild garlic, creamy yoghurt and sweet onion, reminding me of one of my favourite Ottolenghi creations.

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Pigeon (£26) was smoked in pine (something I probably wouldn’t have realised if it weren’t for the waiter) and the Suckling Pork Belly (£22) didn’t last long on the plate - crisp on top (good) and served with a sweet combination of peach, mustard and lettuce (better).

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‘Treats’ were a must, so we ordered three between three (you do the maths). Counting down, Green Tea with Yoghurt & Sesame (£8) came in third; the flavours were unique, but I always crave chocolate. Strawberry, pistachio & white chocolate (£9) was up next – an intensely fruity dish, it was like summer in a bowl.

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But the winner had to be Chocolate, Amaretto & Almond (£9), which won over our hearts and stomachs with its multiple textures and delightful flavours.

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I really enjoyed Typing Room and would certainly recommend it – just watch the price as it’ll creep up on you like the Candyman. I hope Lee Westcott has received a well deserved pat on the back from Jason, but either way, I’m giving his restaurant a LLE Rating of 8.5/10.

Typing Room, Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2 9NF

Cooking with Rachel Khoo

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Ever since I watched the first episode of The Little Paris Kitchen in 2012, I’ve been a fan of Rachel Khoo. I admired her brave decision to leave her job, friends and family in London to become a chef in Paris. I also loved her quirky style and amazing ability to make the most of a kitchen so tiny, you’d struggle to boil an egg in it, let alone cook dinner for the world’s smallest restaurant (which also happened to be in her sitting room).

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Fast forward two years and she’s published four cookbooks (two French, two English), landed herself a column in the Evening Standard and made two successful TV series, with not one, but two new shows due to start tomorrow night (details below). As you can probably tell, I’m a little bit in awe of this lady, so you can imagine my answer when invited to join a group of bloggers to cook with Rachel Khoo on Thursday night.

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We had a brilliant evening, making two Swedish dishes taken from Rachel’s new show -Spatzle and Smörgåstårta (three days on and I still can’t pronounce either). Rachel was exactly as I expected her to be – vivacious, funny, very pretty and not afraid to speak her mind, despite the backlash it might ensue. She’s also extremely passionate about food, making you want to rush home and spend the weekend cooking dish after dish in your very own London kitchen.

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And so, without further ado, here’s a little video so you can see what we got up to on the night…

 

Rachel’s new shows – Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London and Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: Cosmopolitan Cook – both start on Monday 9th June at 9pm and 9.30pm on the Good Food Channel (Sky 247 or Virgin 260). Bon appétit!