Tag Archives: bread

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

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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

Lyle’s, Shoreditch

When Lyle’s opened a month ago, it offered 50% off the bill to all Tea Building residents. A great idea…until I showed up with ten colleagues one Friday afternoon.

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The staff did well to smile when we arrived twenty minutes late, ruining any chances of seeing the sunshine before evening service. We settled onto a long table in the light, spacious dining room, making it clear we were in for the long haul.

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After a few bottles of fizz and more than our fair share of almost fresh bread (it’s not made on site, but will be soon), we ordered two of every sharing dish, ignoring the random fish and meat main, which seemed out of place on the menu.

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As plates arrived in swathes around me, I quickly identified my favourites. Semi-soft Gull’s Eggs (£6) were sitting pretty on whole shells, sprinkled with seaweed salt that really enhanced the flavour, whereas Asparagus (£8.50) was lightly grilled before being dipped in a nutty walnut mayonnaise.

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We ordered extras of these, as well as beautifully presented Raw Highland Beef covered in shavings of Cured Sea Urchin (£9), and Lamb’s Sweetbreads (£8.50), which I found slimy, but my colleagues raved about.

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The Hispi Cabbage with Mussels & Seaweed (£7) and thick, cheesy Cauliflower, Riseley & Lovage (£5.90) were also tasty, but we didn’t get on with the Mutton Broth & Turnips (£6.30), overly rich Blood Cake with Chicory (£6.50) or the two uninspiring salads.

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The smaller plates were…erm…small, so despite ordering extras, we had plenty of room for pudding. Plates of cheese – Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire & St James (£8.50) – went down a treat, especially when gobbled up with a piece of honeycomb or fruity chutney. Our non-cheese-eater J went for Treacle Tart & Milk Ice Cream (£5.90), which finished the meal on a high point.

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Lyle’s is a lovely looking restaurant that couldn’t be more convenient for us Tea Builders. Its friendly staff easily managed our rowdiness (who wouldn’t be excited on a Friday?!), but a few dishes felt insubstantial, so perhaps the waiters should push the mains a little more.

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That said, it’s not a bad local to have and the discount was particularly generous, so I’m giving Lyle’s a LLE Rating of 6.5/10.

Lyle’s, Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ

Lyle's on Urbanspoon

The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

When Tom Kerridge opened The Hand & Flowers, he put pretty Marlow on the map. It’s a gastropub with two Michelin stars. A gastropub that’s been on my restaurant bucket list for well over a year.

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We booked at Christmas and went three weeks ago – something the hungry punters at the bar should have done. Our square, wooden table was at the back of the charming restaurant, complete with exposed beams, white-washed walls and wild flowers.

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We chose from the Michelin priced menu, whilst munching on complimentary white bait and bread. The homemade sourdough and soda was delightful and the lightly battered fish was dunked and devoured in an instance. We were off to a great start.

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Pumpkin soup from the very reasonable set menu (two courses for £15, three for £19.50) was velvety, nutty and made all the more special with aromatic truffle.

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Crab Ravioli (£11.50) had a wonderful flavour, but the best part sat on top – sweet, chargrilled calcot onion smothered in smokey butter. Delicious.

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Mains were Cornish Monkfish smeared in a peanut crumble and served with roasted cauliflower (£29.50) and a Half Beer Roast Chicken with Glazed Celariac and more of that tasty truffle (£28).

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The chicken was succulent and, much to my surprise, blew the monkfish out of the water. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the fish – who knew it went so well with peanut?

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Across the table sat pork belly from the set menu. The verdict was clear from the mmms, ahhhs and ‘this is the best crackling I’ve ever had!’ statements. Another hit.

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We couldn’t refuse a couple of sides (all £4.50 each), so chose Curly Kale with Crispy Ham Hock (a meal in itself) and the Hand & Flowers Chips – a staple for any good gastro.

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Dessert was a must. Sweet Malt Gateaux with Malted Milk Ice Cream (£9.50) wasn’t my usual choice, but Lent made chocolate off limits. It was presented beautifully, but for me, didn’t have as memorable a flavour as the other courses.

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Tom Kerridge – aka Mr Gastropub – deserves a handshake and a bunch of flowers. This bloomin’ marvellous pub gets a LLE Rating of 9/10 and a strong recommendation to anyone visiting or lucky enough to live in Marlow.

The Hand & Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2PB

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, The Savoy

Kaspar is not just any cat. He’s is two foot high, shiny black cat that’s been The Savoy’s Fourteenth Guest since 1926.

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He’s reassured superstitious diners at a tables of 13 for almost 100 years. I won’t go into why – a simple ‘Google’ will fill the gaps – but I shall say that his job’s so important, The Savoy named its river restaurant after him following the multi-million pound restoration of 2010.

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The restaurant is Art Deco fabulousness, just like Kaspar. Overlooking the Thames, it’s bustling, vibrant and relaxed – a stark contrast to the prim and proper Thames Foyer next door.

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Covered in mirrors, turquoise chairs, a chequerboard marble floor and brass railings, everything circles the central seafood bar, which has stunning stalagmites of glass hanging precariously above busy waiters serving Champagne, oysters and other oceanic delights.

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I’ve been to Kaspar’s twice – once for breakfast and the other time at lunch. The breakfast menu is enormous, covering off the classics, the continental, Kaspar’s more unusual Breakfast Favourites and a Japanese and Chinese selection if you fancy something exotic.

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I was drawn to Cornish Crab on an English Muffin with a Fried Egg (£17), but settled with a less adventurous, but absolute favourite, Salmon Royal (also £17). Oozing poached eggs fell on thick cut salmon and lightly toasted muffins, covered in a golden, lemony sauce. On the side, an endless supply of orange juice, fresh strawberry & raspberry tea and rye bread smothered in fruity jam filled my stomach. I was in breakfast heaven.

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Lunchtime was all about the fish, starting with a cured platter from the central bar (£22). Beetroot Cured Halibut, Peppered Monkfish and Star Anise Cured Salmon all had enormous flavour, needing nothing more than a vessel of toast and a squeeze of lemon.

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Dover Sole came ‘from the grill’, covered in a brown caper butter sauce (£35). The simple white meat was succulent and rich, accompanied by well executed sides of Sautéed Spinach and Chilli Garlic Fried Sprouting Broccoli (£4 each).

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If I’m as lucky as Kaspar, I’ll get to dine at his restaurant for a third time – perhaps in the evening when the Thames is aglow with our city’s lights. Until then, I’ll give him a pat on the head and a very well deserved LLE Rating of 8/10.

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill, The Savoy, The Strand, London WC2R 0EU

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Pieds Nus, Marylebone

Quick! Pieds Nus is open for business, serving some of the most innovative food you’ll find in London. The problem? It’s a pop-up, so won’t be there for long.

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For the time being, you’ll find it next door to Big Sister restaurant, L’Autre Pied. Inside, it’s small and simple, with rustic white walls and exposed bulbs hovering above each wooden table.

Michelin restaurateur David Moore outside Pieds Nus

Pieds Nus is the brainchild of Michelin restauranteur David Moore, run by Head Chef Ed Dutton from Tom Aikens in Chelsea. The concept is ‘little or no cooking’ – ‘barefoot’ dishes that deliver fresh and simple combinations with intense flavours. An ambitious idea…good thing it worked.

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We started with a basket filled with gorgeously warm bread – Bacon & Onion Brioche, Black Onion Seed Flat Bread and a soft Milk Loaf, served with a tiny bowl of hummus (£4.50). That, and a wooden block draped with melt in the mouth Paleta Iberica (£10.95) and a couple of Pieds Nus Cosmopolitans (£7.50).

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The dishes that followed were made to be shared. But rather than arriving all at once, were enjoyed one by one so each got the attention it deserved.

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Salt Baked Jerusalem Artichoke with Wild Mushrooms and Sea Purslane was a delight, combing sweetness with a touch of sour (£7.50), but the Slow Cooked Duck Egg with Potato and Belper Knolle was the star of the vegetable dishes (£6.50). An egg was hidden in a heap of finely grated potato and cheese. Once mixed, we were left with a  creamy, subtly flavoured paste that focussed wholeheartedly on the egg.

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Next up was Scallop Ceviche (£12.50). Our noses were filled with a fresh aroma from the fish, cucumber and fennel, which only enhanced our experience eating the light, pretty dish. 42˚ Confit Salmon was heavier, but no less sublime with its intense crunchy cauliflower and sharp pink grapefruit (£8.50).

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From the meat section, we chose the aromatic 60˚ Gressingham Duck Breast (£11.50), the clean Rose Veal Tartare with generous truffle shavings (£12.95) and the 98˚ 12 Hour Slow Cooked Pig Belly (£11.45). Each dish showcased the chefs’ attention to detail and skill. I loved the Pig Belly and its perfect crackling. Couldn’t have been better.

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We finished with Banana Financier with Maple Syrup & Banana Ice Cream (£6.50) and the Chocolate, Chestnut Frangipane & Caramel Ice Cream (£8,95). It was the perfect end to pretty damn perfect meal.

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The food, the service and wonderful wine list makes me sad to say goodbye to Pieds Nus. Perhaps it’ll pop up elsewhere, but for now, I feel lucky to have been and give it a LLE Rating of 9/10.

Pied Nus, 19 Blandford Street, Marylebone, W1U 3DH

Pied Nus on Urbanspoon

CUT at 45 Park Lane, Mayfair

Wolfgang Puck is the celebrity chef. He has 18 restaurant chains across the world, has written seven cook books, sells his own range of cookware, appliances and gourmet food, and caters for weddings of the rich and famous. Oh, and then there’s the app, website and social media channels. What a busy motherpucker.

45 Park Lane Entrance

CUT at 45 Park Lane is the start of his London empire. The luxurious steak restaurant smells of money, from the mahogany and leather furniture, to the clientele (I’m pretty sure there was a James Bond villain sat next to us). It also serves bloody brilliant food, even though that comes with a hefty price tag.

Wolfgang Puck and David McIntyre, Executive Chef- CUT at 45 Park Lane

A friend told us not to bother with starters. ‘We’d be too full’, she said. So, we moved straight onto mains, enjoying complimentary cheese puffs and beautiful bread along the way.

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So beautiful, I’ve decided to spend a paragraph talking about it. There were four  types, but the pretzel knot stood out. Sprinkled in salt, it pulled apart like mozzarella and had a flavour that would make Paul Hollywood question his career.

Meat Presentation - CUT at 45 Park Lane (7039)

Before choosing our CUT, the waiter talked us through the options, using his handy prop – a giant plate of raw beef. We nearly went for Wagyu, but couldn’t justify the £84 price tag. So, decided on two cuts of USDA Prime Black Angus Beef, aged 35 days.

CUT at 45 Park Lane

Mine was a medium rare 6oz Petit Cut Filet Mignon (£34) and The Boyfriend went for a rare 10oz New York Sirloin (£38). Both steaks lived up to expectation – they were precisely cooked and had the consistency of butter.

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For sides, we ordered the signature Creamed Spinach with Fried Organic Egg, Rapini (a type of broccoli) with Chilli & ‘Fiore de Sardo’ (an Italian sheep’s milk cheese), and an impressive stack of French Fries (all £7). The creamed spinach was particularly moreish, but a richer accompaniment than we needed.

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Sauce wise, we went for Argentinian Chimichurri, Shallot Red Wine Bordelaise and Béarnaise. At £1 each, they were the most reasonably priced items on the menu, but we were a little annoyed to find béarnaise served with the fries – something they could have pointed out.

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We (I) homed in on the Warm Dark Chocolate Valrhona Soufflé for dessert (£11) – an excellent choice as it turned out. More than enough for two, the waiter poured whipped creme fraiche over the ginormous soufflé, before making a hole in the middle for a neat scoop of Toasted Hazelnut Gianduja Ice Cream and covering the lot in chocolate sauce. It was a beauty to behold.

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As it was The Boyfriend’s birthday, a candlelit Baked Alaska made its way to our table. The white chocolate buttermilk cake with strawberry sauce was a yummy touch by CUT and one that went down very well. Much better than the Petit Four, which we didn’t need, but ate to soften the blow of the bill.

Other than the price, I can’t find fault with CUT, so give it a very respectable and well deserved LLE Rating of 9/10. Time to start saving for my next visit.

CUT at 45 Park Lane, London W1K 1PN

*First exterior shot ‘borrowed’ from the telegraph.co.uk 

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