Category Archives: Little Lady Eats London

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly

A few months ago, Afternoon Tea was something I’d never experienced…out of choice. Brunch I could handle, but an over priced feed that disrupted lunch and dinner? No thank you.

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But then I tried it and fell in love. Little did I know how much I’d enjoy the decadence of Afternoon Tea. Little did I know about how much I could indulge. Yes it is expensive, but it’s also unlimited.

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The Afternoon Tea that broke me took place at Fortnum and Mason one Saturday before Christmas. There was a beautiful tree, a man serenading us on the piano and more cake than any little lady could eat. It was glorious. My sister even wore pearls.

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We sat on plush green chairs as waiters glided around filling endless cups of tea. I ordered a savoury tower of gorgeous treats (£44 per person) and a magnificent bottle of Champagne. I felt like Alice in wonderland and could have sworn I saw Mary Poppins laughing on the ceiling.

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The top of my savoury tree was adorned with a stunning Oeuf Drumkilbo, Carpaccio of Venison, Smoked Salmon Blinis and Goat’s Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot.

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Then it was a selection of sumptuous scones – Wholemeal Cheese with Walnut & Raisin Butter (the butter was the best bit) and a Caramelised Onion variation. And it didn’t stop at that as I moved onto sandwiches fit for a queen – Coronation Chicken, Cucumber, Egg and Roast Beef. Yum Yum Yum. Give me more.

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After a couple of rounds, I moved onto a large slice of chocolate cake with the smoothest ganache. It was a classic choice for me and one I didn’t regret from the first to the last bite.

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So I went from being an Afternoon Tea virgin to an Afternoon Tea junkie. I couldn’t get enough, so now must restrict myself to one sitting a year. It’s for the best and at least I have the memory of my day of decadence.

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER

Food 5/5 – Price 5/5  (it’s unlimited) – Staff 4/5 – Atmosphere – 5/5

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason on Urbanspoon

Stelle di Stelle, Harrods

I rarely take selfies, so I’m glad one of the few was Annie Feolde – the first female chef to be awarded three Michelin stars in Italy. Turns out it was Annie’s first selfie, so I can safely say it was a special moment for all of us.
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Special, but not the highlight of the night. That was saved for the London debut of Annie’s exceptional food. Oh yes, her exquisite Tuscan restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri had landed in Harrods and I was there for the launch.
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The three course meal started wonderfully with a pretty plate of poached egg, Alba white truffle and Grana Padano cheese fondue – three of my favourite things. We were also treated to fantastic Italian wines, washed down with S. Pellegrino’s sister Acqua Panna, which had recently released a restyled bottle to reflect its Tuscan roots.
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Next up was Fusilli al Ferretto with artichokes, scampi and liquorice powder. The simple, yet distinctive flavours wrapped themselves around the homemade pasta in a way that made me want it to last forever. So far, so very very good.
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We finished with a gorgeous dessert inspired by a traditional Italian pudding given to children. Chocolate soaked bread was juxtaposed with oil and salt to create a sweet dish with a savoury nudge.
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I plan to go to Tuscany in 2015 and have told Annie I’ll be paying her a visit. Her food was too good to only have once in my life and she was too sweet not to meet again.
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What we had was just a sample, so if you want to enjoy the whole hog at Enoteca Pinchiorri in London, get to Harrods before the 31st December for a six course tasting menu priced £115, or £140 with matching wine.
Stelle di Stelle, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1X 7XL

Tanya’s Cafe, Kensington

As the rudest, most obnoxious man pushed and shoved his way onto the train last week, I wondered if a world without men would be a better place. Especially those that fall into the angry face, big arm category.

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Perhaps that’s a step too far, but time out from men certainly isn’t. So, I’m pleased to share Tanya’s Cafe in Kensington – the perfect place for man down time as no male would voluntarily visit due to its ultra girly raw menu.

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Set up by holistic coach and editor of Better Raw Tanya Mayer, Tanya’s Cafe was born out of a popular supper club and focusses on all things raw. I went a couple of weeks ago and was pleased to find the place heaving…with women.

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The cafe itself is an oasis of calm. A light conservatory filled with clean, white tables and chairs, wooden panels and flashes of colour from fresh fruit adorning the counter and bright green plants hanging from the walls.

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We ordered two My Alkaliser juices (£6.50 each), Lasagne (£15) and Tacos (£15.30). My Alkaliser combined kale, spinach, apple, lemon and cucumber to create a juice my body thanked me for. As for the Lasagne, well that was a pleasant surprise…

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Pasta and meat was replaced with courgette and mushrooms, creating a light, tasty dish that would have been perfect on a warm, summer day, but didn’t go down quite so well in our current climate.

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The Tacos were along the same lines – walnut oyster mushroom meat sat on soft shell tacos with guacamole, soured cream and salsa. Again, this dish was delightfully presented and made a lovely light lunch.

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We finished off with a slice of blueberry cheesecake. This was by far my favourite dish as I love anything that feels like a treat, yet is actually rather good for me.

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I enjoyed my visit to Tanya’s and felt inspired by her creativity. My only real criticism was the cost. I know we were in Chelsea, but £15 for a raw veg lasagne seemed a little excessive. But, perhaps that’s the price you pay for lunch in a man-free environment.

Tanya’s Cafe, myhotel Chelsea, 35 Ixworth Place, London SW3 3QX

Food 4/5 – Price 2/5 – Staff 4/5 – Atmosphere – 5/5

STK, Westminster

I rarely crave meat, but when I do, only the best will suffice. I was having a ‘carnivore moment’ just as an invite to dinner at American steakhouse STK arrived in my inbox. My foodie fairy godmother was working her magic once again.

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The dinner had a name and that name was RED on RED. Three courses of red meat paired beautifully with glass after glass of glorious Penfolds – one of the best things to come out of Australia, along with Macadamia nuts, Tim Tams and Liam Hemsworth (I’m a bit of a Hunger Games fan).

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We sat in the private dining room, entertained by Head Chef Barry Vera, who enthusiastically introduced us to each dish as they arrived. For him, it was a real treat to experiment ‘off menu’. We also heard from the charming Penfolds Ambassador, who explained why the wine tasted so darn good, especially when savoured with a spoonfuls of the yummy food in front of us.

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The three meat courses were outstandingly good. Steak tartare was topped with a  pretty poached quails egg and caviar. It was drunk with a 2009 Pinot Noir that had notes of dried fruit, adding an extra layer to the delicate meat.

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Next was a gorgeous Japanese Wagyu Ceviche with poached pear puree and large slices of truffle. This was followed by the most substantial of our dishes – USDA sirloin with smoked bone marrow, crispy parsley and caramelised garlic.

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STK is the only place in London to use this cut of prime beef. Take it from me, this steak didn’t need chips, mac ‘n’ cheese or any other steakhouse side to beef it up. It was fantastic on its own.

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Before dessert, a plate of creamy Cornish Yarg, salt bread and cherries were served. It was Vera’s take on a Black Forest Gateaux and one I enjoyed very much (even if my stomach screamed ‘please Sarah, no more!’).

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But I didn’t listen to my stomach and instead ate Head Pastry Chef Sarah Barber’s fabulous Chocolates BFG and ‘Sweet Treats’, whilst sipping sweet Penfolds Grandfather Fortified wine. I was in heaven and nothing was going to take that away from me.

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Now I realise I was getting special treatment that night, so I’ll briefly tell you what STK is like outside the realms of our private room. It’s boisterous, fun and – from what I’ve heard – allows dancing on the tables if the mood takes you there.

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As for the food? Well Vera’s daily menu doesn’t disappoint. Even if you don’t feel like a heavy steak, you can take it from me that the fish dishes are delicious. Scallops were delicately cooked to perfection and Coconut Fried Halibut melted in the mouth.

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The Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese is also worth a try, as are the Wild Mushrooms with Truffle. But I will leave you with this – don’t take anyone hard of hearing. The music is LOUD, which is brilliant for a night out with friends, but inappropriate for dinner with the grandparents.

STK London Steakhouse, ME London, 336-337 The Strand London, WC2R 1HA 

STK London on Urbanspoon

Cicchetti, Covent Garden

The Cheers theme tune sang in my head as I entered Cicchetti last Friday. Everyone was smiling and everybody knew our naaames. We were family. It was the Italian way.

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There were plenty more treats in store when it came to the food. Just like a good steakhouse parades its cuts of meat, our waiter / brother / friend showcased Cicchetti’s beautifully bulbus truffles.

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We smelt them long before they arrived at our booth, located to one side of the bright, marbled dining room. Two black funghi and one, rarer, White Alba truffle that would be used to make my dish of the night.

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Plates of antipasti, primi, carne and pesce appeared in front of us over the course of two and a half hours. I was struck by how fresh the ingredients were – tomatoes that sat like jewels on top of crisp Bruchetta (£4.85) could have been flown in from Italy that morning, and as for the creamy Burrata (£9.95), well I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a buffalo downstairs in the kitchen.

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Most impressive was the White Alba pasta, which came from the daily list of ‘specials’. Homemade ribbons, golden butter and large shavings of truffle were all this dish needed. It melted in my mouth, transporting me to my ‘happy place’.

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That’s not to say the Lobster Risotto (£12.95) and Squid Ink Ravioli stuffed with crab (£8.95) wasn’t divine, but when you taste nectar, you never go back…

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I couldn’t resist ordering a bowl of crisp, sweet, Zucchini Fritti (£4.90) and a couple of Queen Scallops (£10.95). Sitting pretty in their shells, they were lightly fried in olive oil with just a few, simple accompaniments – garlic, lemon and breadcrumbs.

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We weren’t all that impressed by dessert – probably our fault as we greedily ordered a mixed plate of puddings, which were far to heavy for our already overwhelmed stomachs.

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So, to finish on a high, I’ll leave you with the Funghi Crostini, also knowns as my second favourite dish of the night. The dark, meaty mushrooms glistened with butter, perfumed by fresh parsley. It was begging to be demolished, which is exactly what happened.

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If you want good, Italian food that you can afford on pay day, but not by the end of the month, Cicchetti is for you. It’s not as cool as Polpetto, or as pretentious as Bocca di Lupo, but it does serve lovely Italian food with a bright, friendly smile.

Cicchetti Covent Garden, 30 Wellington St London WC2E 7BD

Food 4/5 – Price 4/5 – Staff 5/5 – Atmosphere 4/5

San Carlo Cicchetti on Urbanspoon

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, Bethnal Green

The word that best describes Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is ‘surreal’. You pay a £5 entry fee (the NHS doesn’t cater for small, furry animals) to spend two hours hanging around cat obsessed ladies and gents, who pat, play and photograph the 11 resident cats. To put it bluntly, it’s a cat brothel.

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We went to research (don’t ask), drink tea and eat cake. The selection of cakes is pretty impressive and, after waiting a good ten minutes, my brownie was as chocolaty and fudgy as I’d imagined. In hindsight, we should have gone at lunch for a tasty Brick Lane Bagel, Filled Croissant or Platter – choose between The Kitten, The Housecat or The Platter. It’s the Londoner’s Circle of Life.

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It was hard to think about anything but cats during our visit. Everywhere I looked, another fluffball was either asleep, running round a giant hamster wheel or being taunted by customers. Even the shelves were clear for cats to roam above our heads. It’s an ailurophobiac’s nightmare and a cat lovers dream.

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Before I finish, I must remind you of the Emporium’s House Rules. If you don’t follow them, you will be taken down on social media (yes, these cats have their own twitter handles):

  1. Don’t pick up the cats (they hate it)
  2. Don’t give the cats any food or drink (they’re getting too fat)
  3. Don’t wake sleeping cats (they apparently need 18 hours a day – what the hell?!)
  4. Don’t use flash photography (they have sensitive eyes)
  5. Don’t disturb eating cats (kitty doesn’t share)

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So there you have it. If you’re obsessed with cats, go. If you hate cats, don’t. As for me, I’m holding out for the puppy café.

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, 152-154 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6DG

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