Tag Archives: meatballs

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

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

Tapas Touring in Seville

Seville is home to some of Spain’s best tapas bars, the world’s largest gothic cathedral, fantastic food markets and lots of beautiful orange trees. So, I’ll never understand why it’s such a pain in the bull’s backside to get to.

Thankfully, after taking one of the few scheduled flights to the Andalusian city, I made it. And, in just three days, managed to eat at five different tapas bars, some more than once. To my friends, it may have felt like a military tapas tour, but I’m fairly confident they thank me…deep, deep down.

Each place was either recommended by journalists, bloggers or locals. On the list was El Burladero (Gran Melia Colon), Casa Morales (García de Vinuesa 11), Boudequita Casablanca (Adolfo Rodriquez Jurado No. 12), Las Teresas (Calle Santa Teresa 2) and La Azotea (Calle Jesús del Gran Poder), each bringing something different to the table (mind the pun).

At expensive El Burladero, we dined on Salmorjo a tomato cream similar to Gazpacho, sprinkled with Iberian cured ham and a quail’s egg – oozing ‘Grandma’s Homemade Croquettes’, succulent skewered beef, roasted octopus on garlicky potato puree and Burladerdo (bull’s tail). It was a delicious feast all round and perfect if you fancy treating yourself to something special.

Casa Morales, Boudequita Casablanca and Las Teresas can easily fit into the same  evening, if you’re feeling energetic. Morales dates back to 1850, so takes tradition and authenticity to the next level, both in the food and decor.

The tapas we went for were aromatic Garbanzos Con Espinacas (chickpeas and spinach), pork Albondigas (meatballs), Habas Con Jamon (broad beans and serrano ham) and Ortiz Ventresca (tuna belly), all happily washed down with a large glass of Verdejo Blanco.

Casablanca was all about pijotas – crispy, fried baby hake, eaten like corn on the cob, from head to tail. That, coupled with a fantastic view of the cathedral when standing outside, makes for a very happy fish loving tourist. Just like me.

At Las Teresas, the chosen tapas was what us Brits would call ‘traditional’. Calamari, Anchovies and Chorizo were devoured as we sat on a cobbled street, wondering why we don’t take ‘City Breaks’ more often.

Across town at La Azotea, we settled in for the night. The queue that ran out the door made us pleased we’d arrived as the restaurant opened. As we were sitting at a table, tapas was unavailable, so we picked four half plates and two portions of dessert.

Everything from the croquettes and prawn stuffed filo triangles, to the beef carpaccio, clams with artichoke and chocolate pudding was lovely. And, the 25 Euros per head with wine was even lovelier.

So, if you’re prepared to be flexible with your flights and travel with Ryan Air or Easyjet (double yuk), I couldn’t recommend spending a few days in Seville enough…and that’s not just because of the food.

Meatballs, Faringdon Road

‘On top of spagheeeetti, all covered in cheeeeese, I lost my poor meeeeatball, when somebody sneeeezed’

Did anyone else use to love that advert? Well, if the song still plays in your head from time to time, I’ve now found the perfect place to sing it out loud – Meatballs in East London.

Located slap bang in the middle of five surrounding stations, this is the restaurant to go to if you like your meat round as they serve five different types of meatball, as well as a weekly ‘guest’ ball. Unfortunately for veggies, they are left with the questionable choice of courgette balls with a mild curry sauce, which in my opinion, is enough to turn anyone into a meat eater.

Inside, Meatballs has kept the same rustic interior as the old Chop House that use to inhabit the building. Now, even though you might flock to the booths for an ‘intimate’ setting, I’d advise against it if your group is more than four or you’ll be in for an uncomfortably cramped meal that isn’t helped when someone starts fanning their face with a menu.

When it came to the food, my selection of the pork and rosemary, beef with ricotta and Greek lamb meatballs served on a bed of egg pappardelle with a parmesan cream sauce was incredibly moreish and satisfyingly meaty, with each ‘ball having its own unique flavour. I’m sure this is mainly down to the recipes, but Meatballs certainly doesn’t scrimp on ingredients as all its ‘balls are made with quality organic meat from local butchers, Barratts of Englands Lane.

Even though each portion could, and would, have been enough, we also ordered peas with lettuce, spring onions and cream, honey and thyme roasted carrots and creamed spinach. You certainly wouldn’t see a child rejecting this selection of veg due to the clever additions of cream and honey, but the fussy little girl inside me wasn’t complaining as I happily devoured more than my fair share of each one (sorry friends, you know me).

I rate the restaurants I go to not only on quality of food, but also value for money as many Londoners are like me –  broke most of the time. Therefore, I’m giving Meatballs a LLE Rating of 7/10, which might have been higher if it wasn’t for the dreaded booths (perhaps it’s time for a refurb eh Meatballs?).

Meatballs, The Quality Chop House, 92-94 Faringdon Road, London EC1R 3EA

The Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland

As I took in the breathtaking scenery en route to Gleneagles last week, and imagined what lay in store for me over the next 24 hours, I had one of those ‘I love my job’ moments. During my very short stay in this gigantic 5 star hotel (I arrived at 4pm on Thursday and left at 8am on Friday), I was lucky enough to enjoy a dram of whisky in the snow, eat my body weight in mouth watering food, sleep in a room fit for a king and go swimming in a luxurious spa.

After checking into my room, I headed to the newly opened Blue Bar for a pre-dinner whisky tasting  – a bar with a difference as it has enough indoor qualities to stop you feeling cold (heated leather sofas, a roaring fire, a small roof and blankets), whilst being outdoors enough that you can legally smoke a Cuban cigar if it took your fancy.

On this occasion, I stuck to the creme de la creme of blended whisky, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which slipped down my throat like syrup, warming my body as the snow fell around us. So we didn’t get too hungry (or, I presume, too drunk), we were also offered delicious canapés, such as Comrie shitake and squash ‘spring rolls’ and Assam smoked queen scallops & fennel pollen spoons. The canapés were tasty, but in my opinion couldn’t rival the moreish truffle popcorn, which popped into my mouth far too easily.

Next stop was Deseo, a Mediterranean food market restaurant that, in translation, means ‘desire’. Before sitting down at our table, we had a quick look at the ‘market’, which had the feel of a mini Selfridges Food Hall with its delicatessen, meat and dessert counters.

Our meal started with tapas that ranged from undeniably good ‘Mountain Cured’ Jamon Serrano, and melt in the mouth Esparagos y Verde flavoured with truffle oil…

…to juicy Gambas al Pil Pil with chilli oil and a squeeze of lime (they were eaten pretty quickly, hence the lone prawn in my picture)…

…homemade meat balls with Olorosso sherry, tomato and toasted almonds…

and the only slight let down, tuna filled Empanadas, which could have done with a sauce to avoid dryness.

After eating my fair share of canapés at the whisky tasting, plus numerous portions of tapas, you might have thought I’d slow down when it came to the ‘main’ course. Sadly, that’s just not in my nature, so when the smell of Pollo Riojana wafted towards me, I greedily tucked in.

The dish brought back memories of my mum’s chicken casserole, which often graced my plate as a child. Served with rice seasoned with rucola, roquette and pecorino, the overall effect was hearty and satisfying, with tender chicken and juicy peppers covered in a simple white wine sauce.

Despite feeling stuffed, I couldn’t turn down dessert when in front of me sat everything from cheese and crackers, Flan de Naranja and Panna Cotta, to what was quite possibly the tastiest Tiramisu I’ve ever eaten.

I slept well/passed out in my bed that night, but had to get up early to catch the train back to London. Feeling a little guilty about how much food I’d eaten, I managed to squeeze in a quick pre-breakfast swim, before heading to the best buffet in the world – yes, they actually had poached eggs, hand carved smoked salmon and proper mushrooms that hadn’t turned insipid, despite sitting in a heated tray.

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Perthshire, and have more than a few pounds to spare, I would highly recommend a visit to Gleneagles. I wish I’d been able to stay longer, but as I seem to suffer from ‘eyes too big for my stomach’ syndrome, it’s probably best I left when I did.

The Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF Scotland