Raw Press, Mayfair

I never thought I’d say this, but I can now imagine life without meat and fish. Life where fruit and veg rule my diet, along with pretentious pulses and edible seeds.

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I can thank my lovely almost Vegan housemate for this, along with Deliciously Ella‘s recipe app, Yotam Ottolenghi’s incredible salads and cold-pressed juice bars like Raw Press, which just opened in Mayfair.

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Walk into Raw Press and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a hipster cafe in Brooklyn, or how I imagine every LA restaurant to be. It’s shiny, clean and white, with splashes of colour from glass juice bottles and big bowls of salad. It magically makes you feel healthy the moment you arrive.

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I was lucky enough to taste all their cold-pressed juices, which made picking my favourites easy. No. 2 Green is my ultimate thirst quencher, packed with superfood goodness from its combination of apple, cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, Swiss chard and lemon (£5.50/£7.50).

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Then, for something a little naughtier, it has to be No. 7 Coffee & Mylk (£5.50/£7.50). Made with almonds, coconut water, dates, Himalayan salt, vanilla bean and cold brew coffee, it blows any regular flavoured milk out the water.

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Now some of you will be wondering what a cold-pressed juice is. Well, the answer is simple – instead of using a heat inducing centrifugal juicer that lowers the nutritional value of the juice, these bottles of deliciousness are made with a hydraulic pressed juice extraction that’s slow and, best of all, cold.

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But Raw Press isn’t just about the juice. There’s also an amazing range of vegan salads and snacks by the immensely talented Ella Woodward. For less than a tenner, you can order a giant plate of scrumptious Zucchini Noodles with homemade Brazil Nut pesto, Marinated Kale & Sweet Potato Salad, Broccoli & Avocado Salad and Chickpea & Squash Salad. All fantastically tasty and wonderfully good for you.

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And, there’s even a range of sweet treats (I particularly loved Ella’s Energy Bites and Banoffee Pie Pots). But the biggest surprise are her brownies – who knew they could be made with sweet potato and still burst with flavour? Yes the consistency is different, but the feeling of satisfaction when chomping your way through? Exactly the same.

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So there you have it. You can enjoy a varied, delicious diet free from fish and meat, which juice bars like Raw Press inspire. I’m not saying goodbye to sausage & mash, spag bol or fish pie, but vegetables are now playing a larger part in my life – hell, I even threw a vegan dinner party last night.

Raw Press, 32 Dover Street, London W1S 4NE

Fika, Brick Lane

‘Magical’, ‘authentic’ and ‘darkly seductive’. Ambitious adjectives used to describe Fika. Adjectives I chose to ignore, putting them down to pure PR drivel.

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Turns out, the PRs are spot on – Fika is a charming, Scandinavian restaurant that’s well worth a visit. The interior perfectly captures the delightfully unique nature of Brick Lane and the food looks good enough to be served at a banquet for fairies, elves and goblins.

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Em and I sat upstairs on the restaurant’s quirky roof terrace. We drank Prosecco and ate like Queens of an enchanted land, starting with Beetroot & Birch (£5) and Tre Sorters Sill (£5.50).

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Served on a round slab of wood, Beetroot & Birch was made up of a warm, miniature loaf of savoury beetroot bread, goats cheese, foraged wood sorrel and a shot of birch tree water. The flavours were earthy, simple and – even though I left the somewhat superfluous shot – really rather wonderful.

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Across from me sat Em’s Tre Sorters Sill – three flavours of pickled herring on crushed purple potatoes with blobs of dill yoghurt. The potatoes were deliberately cold, so not particularly tasty on their own. But, the overall effect was again very good.

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We chose completely different mains – I went for rich, sweet Swedish Elk Meatballs (£10.20) that I now want to replicate at home (pass the Elk please). As for Em, it was Foraged Salad with Goat Cheese (£12), which combined some unrecognisable leaves and flowers, along with quail eggs, samphire and black truffle potato. Calorie wise, it was nice to know you could be very good, or very bad when dining at Fika.

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My Kladdkaka was hands down the best chocolate brownie / cake / whatever you want to call it I’ve ever had (£4.60). Chewy on the outside, melting on the inside, it was beautifully presented as a flower (in case you were wondering…) with an equally pretty floral shaped scoop of Vanilla ice cream on the side.

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Em had Fresh Mint Granita, which was luminous on arrival (£5). I wouldn’t have traded my Kladdkaka, but the mixture of beetroot, fresh fruit and berries seemed to go down well.

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Fika proves you should never judge a book by its cover (or prologue). It oozed charm and made our eyes light up with every dish (example below). So for that, it gets a LLE Rating of 7.5/10.

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Fika, 161 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

Fika on Urbanspoon

Blanchette, Soho

Blanchette was a dream come true. The waiters were my friends, the food comforting, and the drinks? Well, they just kept on coming. And let’s not forget the company – Crump Eats, The Edible Woman and handsome Steve Jones (sitting on the table next to us).

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I loved it from the start. The pretty dining room was filled with quirky French ornaments, colourful tiling, brushed wood and exposed brickwork. The memory will inspire when I decorate my dream home.

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Everyone had that Thursday feeling, so we started with a round of cocktails, olives and baked St Marcelin with bruchetta and large caper berries. An indulgent start that couldn’t have been more tasty.

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The menu had a ‘French Tapas’ theme as everyone in our city loves to share. We ordered as we ate, starting with succulent Braised Octopus with radish, tomato and a Verjus dressing (£7.50), along with a Roast Quail, Jamon Sec & Herb Croquette (£7.50). The dishes were totally different, but both were matched in impeccable presentation and taste.

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Steamed Mussels were juicy and enormous (£6) and Roasted Beetroot Salad with girolles, Fleur de Marquis and a tarragon dressing (£5.75) was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

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Frites and Béarnaise was a must at £3.75. We all remarked on the flavour of the chips and how well each golden wonder went with the sauce. Could Ketchup and Mayo be a thing of the past?

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At dessert, we were so impressed with Chocolate Marquise, salted caramel puffed rice and pistachio ice cream (£5.95) that we ordered a second pudding – Lemon Pot with Strawberry, Gin & Parsley Sorbet (£5.25). It was a modern take on a traditional French Strawberry Tart, brimming with beautiful creme patisserie and served with thin, crisp shortbread.

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Our last surprise came with the bill. We were stuffed and had drunk more than our fair share, yet only faced a charge of £46 each with tip. There is no doubt in my mind – I will experience this dream again and, for now, leave Blanchette with a LLE Rating of 9/10.

Blanchette, 9 D’Arblay St, London W1F 8DR

Bistro Blanchette on Urbanspoon

Columbia Road Flower Market, Hackney

I’m a single, (late) twenty something girl looking for a tall, dark, handsome man that lives on Columbia Road. My friends call me picky. I call it discerning.

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Go to Columbia Road on any given day and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Go on Sunday between 8am and 3pm, and you’ll soon adopt my criteria list. Because on a Sunday, Columbia Road comes alive with flowers, music and plant loving Londoners.

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I went for the first time last Sunday and instantly fell in love. Although shorter than expected, the market is the perfect place to spend precious free time bartering over fauna and enjoying a bite to eat at one of the surrounding cafes.

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We walked slowly through the market, stopping for a yummy cheese & asparagus bagel at Cafe Columbia and an excellently made coffee in Start Space – a gorgeous contemporary art and furniture shop.

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Both had pretty gardens that made me long for my own outdoor space – somewhere I can entertain whilst feeling secretly smug.

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Next time I go to Columbia Road I’ll have to try one of the local restaurants. Laxeiro looked particularly tempting and would be an ideal spot to spy an unassuming man, who’s just popped out of his house to buy flowers…for me?!

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Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG

8 Hoxton Square, Hoxton

I think I’m suffering from ‘blogger’s block’. Over the past few weeks, I’ve chomped my way through Michelin starred food at Club Gascon, French fancies in Provence, breakfast at Shoreditch House and sharing plates at Blanchette. But have you heard about it? No.

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Well this is stopping, right now. The tonic? My review of 8 Hoxton Square – the newly born sister of 10 Greek Street that made me a meal I don’t mind re-living.

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In a medium-sized, rustic dining room, we shared plates of food over a bottle of Riesling, whilst enjoying a course of fresh air from the open fronted restaurant. I loved the crisp, golden croquetas (£6) almost as much as I enjoyed the fresh, simple flavours of Dorset Crab with a lightly battered courgette flower, roasted cherry tomatoes and salty samphire (£9).

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Fried Goats’ Cheese came topped with peppery rocket, beetroot and large, crunchy walnuts – a heavy ‘starter’, but no less delicious (£5). That said, it was the Shallot Tart Tatin with girolles, goat’s curd and truffle (£14) that stole the show for me.

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The light pastry was stuffed with sweet shallots that balanced the sour goat’s curd. Punchy truffle shavings sat atop watercress and green beans that added  freshness to the buttery girolles. This was a dish that could turn a carnivore.

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We greedily shared three desserts between two. Baked Ricotta covered in crumbled amaretti and a blueberry and grappa compote looked attractive, but was too savoury for my sweet tooth (£6). I far preferred the fun and aromatic Lemon Curd with meringues, strawberries and fragrant basil (£5), and the indulgent plate of cheese, chutney and crackers (£7).

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Aside from the Baked Ricotta, I couldn’t really fault 8 Hoxton Square. Everything from the food to the staff was lovely and more than enough to drag me out of my block. So to say thank you, I’m giving 8 Hoxton a LLE Rating of 8/10.

8 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

8 Hoxton Square on Urbanspoon

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