Browsing Category


Cafes, Paris

Café Kitsuné Paris at Palais Royal

One of my favourite things about a short break in Paris is having the time to sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.  Of course there is no shortage of cafes to refuel in Paris, whether you’re after a traditional espresso at the counter of a tabac, a chic café crème on the terrace at Café de Flore or a chai latte and vegan cake at a hip place near the Canal St-Martin.

Café Kitsuné Paris at Palais Royal is rather special and a joyful blend of all of the above.  Best of all, it was right on our doorstep when we stayed at the beautiful Grand Hotel du Palais Royal for two nights.

Created by Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki in 2002, Maison Kitsuné is a music, fashion and lifestyle brand that’s always ahead of the rest.  I became a fan of Kitsuné soon after its launch from seeing the label’s bands and DJs play at their gigs and club nights.  I also can’t resist the modern-classic, well-cut clothes – one day that luxurious lambswool fox sweater will be mine.

So, I was pleased to find that Café Kitsuné lived up to expectations and is the perfect place to sip a matcha latte in the heart of Paris.  It’s a tiny cafe in the Galerie de Montpensier with simply a mirrored counter to stand and drink.  However, there are plenty of tables outside where you can watch the ebb and flow of the Palais Royal gardens.

We ordered a chai latte and an almond milk matcha latte and browsed the Maison Kitsuné products while waiting at the bar.  The extensive drinks menu also includes coffee using Daterra Santa Colomba beans from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil (roasted in London), artisan teas and cold-pressed juices from Parisian favourite Bob’s Juice Bar.  For something to munch on, there are slices of cake, cookies and cute foxy shortbread from nearby organic, gluten-free bakery Noglu.

My almond milk matcha latte was so dreamy and delicate (the trick is not to burn the matcha with boiling water) and Steven’s chai latte was punchy and aromatic, made with proper spices rather than syrup.

There is a a larger, colourful Café Kitsuné at Filles du Calvaire which I’m planning to visit on my next trip, but the Palais Royal cafe is a must for its picturesque, inspiring location.  What better way to spend an hour or so in Paris?

Photos by Chérie City

Cafes, London

January Detox at maple&FITZ, London

January is the month when we tend to think about detoxing and ‘eating clean’ that little bit more seriously, but I can see my love affair with maple&FITZ lasting all year-round.  If like me you’re always on the hunt for quick and healthy meals that are wholesome, filling and super-tasty, this little Fitzrovia cafe and counter should be top of your list.

Canadian Cordon Bleu-trained chef Adria Wu opened healthy eatery maple&FITZ just last year and already it’s become a hotspot for health-conscious Londoners.  Her philosophy is all about happiness, balance and nourishment, whether it’s refueling the body with a cleansing cold-pressed juice or indulging in a guilt-free treat.

Walking into maple&FITZ, my eyes lit up when I saw the counter laden with colourful, tempting dishes.  Everything is made fresh from the kitchen throughout the day using high quality seasonal ingredients, so you know it’s only full of good stuff.

Noticing that I was struggling to choose just one salad, the lovely staff suggested a large box with room for a few different tastes.  I enjoyed a rainbow of three salads – Julius Caesar, Sweet Caroline and Blackjack, topped with a few slices of grilled halloumi for good measure.

My favourite salad was Sweet Caroline – a crisp kale base, studded with vibrant shredded beets, juicy roasted sweet potato, celeriac and toasted pecans, finished with a tangy, sweet maple balsamic dressing.  This went exceptionally well with Blackjack – a warm, comforting salad of hearty black rice and roasted squash with winter sea salt, baby spinach and cinnamon, garlic and lemon dressing.

For something really light and zingy, try Julius Caesar – shredded kale, romaine, mangetout, toasted buckwheat, cabbage, toasted pumpkin and sunflowers seeds, Pecorino and Dijon-lemon tahini dressing.  It really complimented the other two salads, but if you’re going for a smaller pot, it’s worth choosing a salad with those glorious pieces of roasted sweet potato or butternut squash – they’re just so good!

I also recommend adding a protein for that extra bit of indulgence.  Grilled halloumi with sage was an absolute winner, but you can also add grilled chicken, turkey meatballs, grilled salmon, tofu or a poached egg.

I accompanied my salad box with one of two delicious soups – Take My Broth Away.  This light vegetable miso broth was subtle and not at all salty, filled with plenty of silky gluten-free buckwheat noodles, baby spinach, mushrooms and small pieces of smoky tofu.  If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, there’s the Love Root soup with carrot, sweet potato, toasted spices, green apple, onion and garlic.

To finish, I couldn’t resist a highly-recommended Gluten-free brownie with dark chocolate and salted caramel swirl.  It was absolutely divine – rich and sticky with a pleasant texture and an intense chocolate flavour.  It was the perfect match for my gorgeous Choco Dream raw cold-pressed drink made with almond milk, raw cacao, honey and sea salt – so decadent yet nourishing.

maple&FITZ is one of my favourite new discoveries and I was amazed at how much it energised my body and lifted my spirits.  I know I’ll be back soon to work my way through the salads and try the matcha energy balls and banana loaf.  Breakfast also sounds yummy with sunny dishes such as Maple porridge, Salted date caramel toast and Avocado chili toast.

To help you keep those New Year’s resolutions, maple& FITZ is offering a January Resetting Package including a choice of soup, salad and cold-pressed juice for £10.  For more information, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of maple&FITZ 

Photos by Chérie City (interior by maple&FITZ)

Maple & Fitz Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Berlin, Cafes, Restaurants

Where to Eat in Berlin

Berlin may be best-known for its signature currywurst, schnitzel, fresh pretzels and Berliner doughnuts, but its thrilling food scene has an international outlook.

With such innovative food, cool design and mostly affordable prices, you will be spoilt for choice on a city break in the German capital.  My list of Berlin dining hotspots is ever-growing, but here are a few top places that you won’t want to miss…

Yumcha Heroes

This petite canteen in hip neighborhood Mitte serves top notch dim sum from 12 to 12 every day.  It’s a contemporary take on the traditional Chinese tea house, offering a wide selection of steamed and fried dumplings, as well as soups, salads, grilled meats and chef’s signature dishes.

Yumcha Heroes is in a family of celebrated, design-led Chinese restaurants in Berlin, including Long March Canteen, Toca Rouge and Soya Cosplay, so you know you’re in good hands.  In fact, it’s such a popular place that we counted ourselves very lucky to score a corner table as a walk-in at around 9pm – I didn’t realised at the time that they do in fact take reservations.

We started with a few dim sum, which are offered either steamed in a bamboo basket or grilled with pak choi.  The generously-filled, hand-minced Black Beef Dumplings were punchy and well-seasoned, while Orange Prawns boasted whole, plump king prawns and a subtle ginger flavour.  My favourite Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai dumplings filled with hot broth) were a real joy to eat and Cho You Bao – an enormous steamed bun filled with sweet pork – was fluffy yet substantial and ever so moreish.

Yumcha Heroes does dim sum in its own unique way, and that’s hearty, high quality and big portions.  Be sure to get a table close to the open kitchen, so you can watch your tasty parcels being hand-wrapped.


Israeli chef Haya Molcho’s debut restaurant NENI regularly tops ‘Berlin’s best restaurants’ lists and it’s easy to see why.

Located on the 10th floor of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, NENI and the adjoining Monkey Bar offer spectacular, panoramic views of the Berlin Zoo.  However, it’s the home-style cooking inspired by Haya’s nomadic travels that draws the crowds.  Her signature cuisine – with a focus on small plates for sharing – is an eclectic blend of Persian, Russian, Arabic and Israeli with a few Spanish, German and Austrian influences.

While daytime at NENI (the initials represent Haya’s four sons), is like dining above the treetops, the evening is a slick, sexy affair with dimmed lighting and a lively atmosphere.  As such, it’s essential to book far ahead – even then our slot was restricted to 9pm.

We started with a litre carafe of home-made iced tea and grazed on the most amazing Classic hummus, served with two large pieces of warm, freshly-baked pitta bread.  Another delicious small plate was NENI-style Kebab – home-made beef and lamb patties with cilantro tahini and oven-baked vegetables.  This dish was just like the Persian food of my childhood, so by this point I could tell that the cuisine was more than just a fashionable melting pot of cultures.

We were both tempted by the Chicken breast strips in a crispy almond coating with sweet potato fries and sweet chili sauce, so we ordered it as a large plate to share.  The chicken was succulent and tender with a flavoursome, crunchy coating and the sweet potato fries were exemplary.

I highly recommend NENI for a stylish, sociable night out in Berlin – it really is a restaurant that you won’t want to miss.

Princess Cheesecake

I found my happy place in Berlin and it’s a small boutique and cafe called Princess Cheesecake.  I’m pretty sure that Berlin’s favourite cake is cheesecake over strudel (from my extensive research on this trip), and here you can find any flavour and style under the sun.  German cheesecake…Austrian cheesecake…New York cheesecake…Russian cheesecake – you name it, they bake it!

Once you’ve deliberated over which mouth-watering, luxurious cheesecake to sample, grab a seat in the Marie-Antoinette style tea salon or take in the sun on the pretty, highly Instagramable terrace.  We shared a slice of Dancing the Meringue cheesecake – a delicate and fruity option with a cool, creamy layer of cheesecake studded with tart redcurrants, lightly-as-air meringue and a spiced, crumbly biscuit base.

We felt rather virtuous as we sipped on our lovely Samova Earl Grey tea, however cake envy soon ensued as the schoolgirl sitting next to us wolfed down a whole wedge of dense, brick-like New York cheesecake all to herself.  A lesson learned – restraint is not a quality to encourage when at the temple of cheesecake!

Michelberger Hotel

Since I discovered Fountain of Youth coconut water last summer, I’ve been dying to check out its creator’s home – the Michelberger Hotel in edgy Friedrichshain.  Unfortunately the restaurant was closed on the evening we visited, and we already had our hearts and bellies set on Yumcha Heroes, so we parked up at the lobby bar for some low-key drinks.

I wanted to get my Fountain of Youth fix, but Steven went for a whisky sour, which was nice and strong and perfectly mixed.  In the summer, the courtyard is the place to be, or if you’re in the mood for a indie sing-along shenanigans, finish the night next door at Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke.

Where are your favourite places to eat in Berlin?  Which restaurants are on your foodie wish list?

All photos by Chérie City

Cafes, London

Melt Room Soho, London

When the week starts with weather as dismal as this, the most appealing mood elevator is gooey, melted cheese – and a lot of it!

Luckily, this craving can be indulged quickly and efficiently at Melt Room in Soho.  The petite grilled cheese sandwich shop brings the New York deli classic to London and believe me, it’s more than just a posh toasty.

Melt Room has a seriously tempting menu of gourmet toasted sandwiches including Pastrami with porcini mushrooms, horseradish & sparkenhoe red Leicester and BBQ Chicken with red cabbage slaw and coastal cheddar.  Or, you can also keep it simple with the classic sandwich – a special cheese blend on sour dough bread, which I imagine would go well with the home-made vine tomato soup.

On my visit, I couldn’t resist the Pulled Pork Shoulder with Pommery mustard, real ale and apple chutney & sharp cheddar (£5).  The sandwich was filled with a good amount of juicy, slow-cooked pork, which was perfectly complemented by the rich, oozing cheddar and the sweet, tangy chutney.

Another favourite was the Slow & Low Lamb Shoulder with Romaine lettuce, Pommery mustard & melted Swiss (£5).  The lamb was ever so tender and Swiss cheese was a well-considered choice, so the flavours weren’t too overwhelming.

Of course it’s all about the melts, but there’s also a tempting daily special of mac and cheese as well as soups, salads and healthy breakfast dishes.

It’s an absolute must to finish with a sweet Nutella & Mascarpone Melt (£3.50).  This combination of velvety chocolate, nuts and cream sandwiched between thin slices of milk bread is just heavenly.  It would also work well as a decadent breakfast or an afternoon treat, although I do believe Nutella is a good idea at any mealtime.

Melt Room is a fun addition to Soho and it definitely hits the spot for a yummy cheese fix at any time of the day (it’s open until 9pm most nights).  It has a quick ‘in and out’ feel, but with decent prices (nothing is over a fiver) and good quality ingredients, I can see it becoming a local hit.

For more information and the menu, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Melt Room

Photos by Chérie City

Melt Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafes, Dublin, Shopping, Stores

Things To Do On A Weekend In Dublin

Last weekend, I took my mum on a luxury girls’ trip to Dublin, filled with sightseeing, shopping and plenty of eating.

It was our first time in the Irish capital and we were both absolutely charmed by the city’s culture, elegant architecture, friendliness and of course, the craic!

Our stylish base at The Westbury is well-located to see lots of the city, but there are still plenty of things on our list to bring us back.  Here are a few fun things to do on a weekend in Dublin…

Trinity College

Taking a stroll around Dublin’s impressive Trinity College is an absolute must.  Founded in 1592, Trinity College is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland (in good company with my alma mater, University of Glasgow).

It’s home to the Book of Kells in the beautiful, wood panelled Library of Trinity College and notable alumni include literary greats such as Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and more recently actor Dominic West.

Ideally, visit on a Sunday afternoon when the students are away studying (or nursing hangovers) and absorb the history and atmosphere of the classical buildings in the open quadrangles, Parliament Square and Fellows’ Square.

Drinks at The Temple Bar Pub

Temple Bar is a lively, historic part of town close to the River Liffey, known for its traditional Irish pubs.  On the weekend, it’s cobbled streets are filled with revellers and buskers, and the sounds of live folk music can be heard from the pubs.

Before visiting Dublin, my mum told me that she rather enjoys Guinness.  I wanted to put this to the test, so we popped into the famous Temple Bar Pub for an aperitif before heading back to Balfes for dinner.  True to her word, my mum ordered half a pint of Guinness and I played it safe with a suitably Irish Baileys on ice.

The Temple Bar was established in 1840 and named after Sir William Temple, the provost of Trinity College, whose house and gardens were built there in the early 17th century.  The pub has an extensive selection of rare and interesting whiskeys – you can even order a whiskey flight to taste three different kinds.

Shopping at Avoca

Avoca is a glorious lifestyle store with 11 outlets across Ireland only, so it’s a real hotspot for shopping.  Avoca is Ireland’s oldest handweaving mill, established in Avoca, Country Wicklow, back in 1723.  When the three Wynne sisters inherited the mill, they revolutionised weaving in Ireland by adding colour to their designs.

Today, the family-run business produces the most beautiful, striking throws and blankets alongside clothing, perfume, ceramics, glassware and gourmet food.  I discovered Avoca in Belfast and was delighted to find out that the 7-floor Suffolk Street Avoca store was just a short walk from our hotel.

At the top of the store is the Avoca Cafe with an all-day menu and vintage-chic interiors (it feels more like a restaurant than cafe) and there’s also the more informal food hall on the lower ground level where we had lunch.

The food hall has a deli, salad bar and counter full of baked goods as well as a separate rotisserie.  I enjoyed a tasty chicken Caesar wrap and my mum went for a spicy chickpea and quinoa cake with carrot salad and antipasti from the salad bar.  For dessert, we couldn’t resist sharing a slice of scrumptious lemon curd cake – one slice was more than enough for two.

To bring a bit of Avoca back home (along with as many scones as we could carry), we picked out a stunning wool throw each – so pretty and so cosy.

South Georgian Area

The Georgian area at the bottom of Grafton Street on the South bank was my favourite part of Dublin.  This elegant, affluent part of the city is characterised by its rows of townhouses with handsome doors and tall windows.

It’s home to Merrion Square, where artists sell their works on the railings on a Sunday and also the fantastic National Gallery of Ireland.  I fell in love with the ivy-covered Boston College on St. Stephen’s Square and enjoyed strolling around the tranquil St. Stephen’s Green with its duck pond and pretty gazebo.

Lunch at Fallon & Byrne

Dublin is a real foodie city and Fallon & Byrne is a great place to find the best Irish produce, delicious meals and fine wines.  The top floor features a popular restaurant while the food hall has a small cafe for lighter bites.

After a long walk in the cold, we were ready for a bowl of delicious carrot and coriander soup, served with thick slices of freshly-baked brown soda bread and butter.

You can also get meals, salads, cheese and cured meats from the deli to eat in at the cafe or do a spot of posh food shopping.

Have you visited Dublin?  Where are your favourites spots and things to do in the city?

All photos by Chérie City

Cafes, London, Shopping, Stores

Mast Brothers Chocolate Arrives in Shoreditch, London

Brooklyn-based chocolate makers Mast Brothers is finally here in Shoreditch and what better time to launch than on Valentine’s Day?

Brothers Rick and Michael Mast teased us with a chocolate pop-up at the nearby Ace Hotel and now London has the full experience at their sleek, minimal chocolate factory on Redchurch Street.

I made a pilgrimage to Mast Brothers London on its second day of trading after strolling around Spitalfields and Brick Lane to see what else is new (its neighbour T2 Tea is also not to be missed).

The factory window resembles an art gallery installation with ‘Mast Brothers is making chocolate here’ lit up in neon above stacked sacks of cocoa beans.  As you walk in, you notice the rich, malty aroma of hand-made chocolate that subtly fills the air.

Mast Brothers is London’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker and you can watch the magic happen in the open factory behind a floor to ceiling window.

The chocolate brand is also a pioneer in chocolate drinks, which are offered at the cool chocolate bar, or to take away.  Instead of a flat white, try a signature Brewed Chocolate, using house-roasted cocoa beans and served either hot or cold.

There’s also a decadent Hot Chocolate or non-alcoholic Chocolate Beer to try, plus sourdough with chocolate spread if you’re feeling peckish.

The full range of Mast Brothers chocolate bars are neatly presented, as though they were accessories in a designer boutique.  The display is so perfect that I found myself instinctively reaching to rearrange the bars after they’d been ruffled!

Not only is the packaging beautiful, but reading the labels is like taking a tour of the world with cacao from some exotic destinations.  The Origin Collection includes Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Dominican Republic, Peru, Belize or the original Brooklyn Blend.

Other interesting bars are Stumptown Coffee, sheep’s milk, vanilla and smoke, cacao nib, sea salt and almond.  The samples Belize and vanilla and smoke were fantastic, but it was a bar of Maple Chocolate that we bought to enjoy at home.

The 70% cacao dark chocolate has real depth of flavour with fruity tartness and a pleasantly grainy texture from the maple sugar.  It’s pure indulgence and definitely a treat to be savoured – we made ours last for three nights.

£8 is the most I’ve ever spent on a bar of chocolate, but the quality, design and artistry makes it a cut above the rest.  I’m sure I’ll work my way through the other bars gradually, but top of my Mast Brothers list is a cup of hot chocolate at the bar.

For more information, visit:

All photos by Cherie City 

Art, Cafes, Cruises, Miami, USA

Wynwood Arts District, Miami

Miami’s Wynwood Arts District was high on our list of sights to see and even a tropical storm couldn’t deter us from visiting.

Wynwood is a semi-industrial neighbourhood north of Downtown Miami where derelict warehouses have been given a new lease of life as art galleries, artist studios, restaurants, cafe-bars and shops.  It’s become known for its riotously colourful, large-scale street art and is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon discovering local talent.

Wynwood is a huge part of Art Basel, hosted annually in Miami, with a number of gallery events, parties and open studios.

The best time to visit, however, is for the Wynwood Art Walk on the first Saturday evening of each month, when there’s a real party atmosphere.  There’s even a direct shuttle bus from South Beach to make getting there even easier.

On Sunday afternoon, we crossed the enormous Julia Tuttle Causeway from our base on South Beach and started from the top at North 36th Street and 2nd Avenue.

Immediately we encountered cool graffiti, vintage clothes stores, coffee shops and a number of Puerto Rican shops and restaurants (Wynwood has been known as ‘Little San Juan’ since the 1950s).  If you hadn’t already guessed, Wynwood is Miami’s hipsterville.

At the heart of the district is the Wynwood Walls, a permanent outdoor mural exhibition, featuring work by over 50 artists from around the world including Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Aiko, Faith47 and Retna.

Created by the late Tony Goldman in 2009, Wynwood Walls has become a revolutionary platform for street art and the murals now extend far beyond it.

A highlight of our trip to Wynwood was seeking shelter from the storm over lunch at Zak The Baker.  I’d read about Miami born and bred baker Zak Stern before our trip and the bakery was just as good as I’d hoped.

Housed in a converted warehouse with a large open-plan kitchen, Zak The Baker is a rustic-urban bakery and cafe that Zak states ‘happens to be kosher’.

Zak has quite an intriguing background – he turned his back on a pharmaceuticals degree to travel the world and learn how to bake bread.  His travels took him to an ashram in India and farms in South America, Israel and across Europe.

Zak The Baker is a popular spot for lunch and serves hearty stews, home-made soups, gourmet sandwiches and tempting cakes.  I ordered a fantastic sourdough toast topped with sage pesto, roasted calabaza and fontina.  The combination of simple flavours was incredible and the ingredients were of such high quality.

Steven went for an equally delicious toast topped with tuna, cranberry, cilantro and grated carrot.  If we have the chance to return, we’d try one of the more substantial sandwiches and an indulgent chocolate and almond butter toast.

We finished on a sweet note with a double chocolate cookie and a cup of Earl Grey tea. The heavenly cookie had a rich, fondant-like centre and a delicate, crumbly crust – a perfect way to brighten a rainy day.

Another Wynwood hotspot is Panther Coffee – a Miami-based speciality coffee roaster with a second cafe on Miami Beach.  They have some pretty cool coffee-making apparatus and there’s a good selection of bites to choose from.  It’s a small cafe and seemingly home to the laptop brigade, but there’s plenty of space on the terrace on brighter days.

Wynwood is such an inspiring, unique creative hub and it should be high on your list of places to visit in Miami.  Unfortunately Sunday was our only option on this short stay in Miami, so quite a few galleries and shops were closed.

Then again, Zak The Baker is closed on Saturday – and that’s an experience you won’t want to miss – so perhaps visit midweek and take a closer look on the Saturday evening Wynwood Art Tour.

Chérie City started and finished a Celebrity Cruise Eastern Caribbean Cruise in Miami.  Join Celebrity Reflection on a nine-night Eastern Caribbean Getaway fly/cruise from £1,650 per person (based on two people sharing an ocean view stateroom).

Price includes return flights from London Heathrow, transfers, one night pre-cruise hotel accommodation and a seven-night cruise departing from Miami (Florida) and calling at San Juan (Puerto Rico), Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) and Philipsburg (St. Maarten) before returning to Miami for the flight home; meals and entertainment onboard the ship and all relevant cruise taxes/fee.  Price based on 23 January 2015 UK departure.  

For more information or to book, call 0845 456 0523 or 

All photos by Chérie City

Cafes, London, Restaurants

Dinner at L’ETO Caffe Brompton

L’ETO Caffe is a boutique chain of cafes that I always recommend to friends looking for a stylish, cosy place to enjoy exquisite tea and cake in London.

There are now six branches across west London and central and the latest opening – L’ETO Caffe Brompton – is perfectly located for a leisurely refuel when visiting the V&A, Natural History Museum and Harrods.

The eye-catching display of colourful salads and tempting cakes is enough to lure you in, but that’s not the extent of L’ETO Caffe’s offering.  The main menu boasts some creative, mouthwatering dishes and the cooking is truly accomplished.

We visited on a chilly evening just before Christmas and watched the skaters beneath the twinkling lights at the Natural History Museum ice rink before heading on to dinner.  This part of London is just so romantic and charming during the holidays.

L’ETO Caffe Brompton has the same elegant townhouse feel as nearby L’ETO Caffe Kings Road, with homely furnishing and cosy nooks.  The new menu launched that evening, so we had the chance to try the chef’s latest creations.

I started with Burrata, heritage carrots, olive crumble and basil oil (£12.95).  The very generous portion of burrata was cool, creamy and silky while the rainbow of lightly pickled heritage carrot ribbons added a fragrant, sweet and sour flavour.  The varied tastes made the dish exciting and the olive crumble took me back to summer in the Mediterranean.

Steven tried Tomato and mozzarella stuffed gnocchi, pesto and pine nuts (£8.90).  The gnocchi was light and fluffy with a rich, smooth filling and served with the most delicious fresh pesto.  It was beautifully presented and was just the right size for a satisfying starter.

For my main course, I couldn’t resist the Slow-braised veal cheeks, lemon-potato crème, butter shallots and five-spice jus (£16.95).  This dish was an absolute delight and winter comfort food at its very best.  The slow-braised veal was so tender, flaky and plentiful, covered in a rich, meaty jus with a very subtle hint of five spice and topped with sweet caramelised onions and pistachio dust.

The smooth lemon-potato crème worked surprisingly well, with a good amount of zest, and the butter shallots finished it off nicely.

Steven went for the lighter option of Black leg chicken supreme, giant cous-cous, Putanesca sauce (£17.95).  The succulent, juicy chicken was cooked on a charcoal grill, so it had a lovely smoky taste.  The giant cous-cous cooked in the chicken juice was a fantastic accompaniment (one I’ll now be trying at home) and the puttanesca sauce added a spicy, fragrant kick.

It would be crazy not to leave room for dessert and bespoke tea infusions at L’ETO Caffe.  The traditional Russian Honey Cake is the cafe’s signature dessert (it really is heavenly), but we went for something different this time.  My dreamy Strawberry Napoleon was pure indulgence with layers of soft pastry and vanilla custard, topped with fresh strawberries.  The cake was so big that I had the remaining half packed up to enjoy later at home.

I accompanied it with a calming Fresh Mint and Lemon Tea – how pretty are the glass teapots!

Steven’s Rose and Lychee Cake tasted just as good as it looked.  The golden sponge cake was layered with rose raspberry jam and fragrant lychee buttercream frosting.  He washed it down with a potent, warming infusion of ginger, honey and lemon.

L’ETO Caffe Brompton is a fantastic addition to this historic, cultural neighbourhood and it’s sure to make a trip to the V&A that little bit sweeter.

For more information, visit:

Chérie City was invited by L’ETO Caffe Brompton

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by L’ETO Caffe)

Barcelona, Beach, Cafes, Cherie Soleil

Eyescream and Friends, Barcelona

Eyescream and Friends in Barcelona is one of the coolest ice cream parlours that I’ve ever seen.

Nestled on the Paseo Joan de Borbo – the main street leading down to the Barceloneta beach – Eyescream and Friends is a tiny concept store with minimalist, laboratory-style interiors.

Designed by Estudio m Barcelona, the slick space is brought alive with colourful eyescream monsters and a counter of little pots filled with tempting toppings and sauces.

Eyescream and Friends opened in 2012 and is inspired by the shaved iced desserts that its owners experienced when visiting Taiwan.  However, the ice cream served here is based on artisanal Italian gelato and frozen yoghurt.

Ordering is simple – just pick up a stylish, eco-friendly tray and fill it with two topping pots, then choose the ice cream base.

The staff take a block of ice cream and use the high-tech machines to shave the ice cream into slim shards.  The ice cream is shaped to look like the characters and is finished with a pair of crunchy meringue eyes.

There are seven flavours to choose from with occasional new ones to try.  I ordered the fruity, silky mango ice cream with sides of sweet strawberry sauce and gummy bears.  Steven went for a more indulgent cheesecake ice cream with crushed Oreos and nutty chocolate sauce, which tasted like liquid gianduja.

Both ice creams were delicious and generously sized, plus the shaving gave them a light, airy consistency.

There isn’t any seating available inside, but you can make a dash to the beach or one of the many nearby benches to dig in.  The clever cardboard packaging comes in handy when the sun is scorching, avoiding any messy melting.

Eyescream and Friends is a fun spot for cooling down by the beach – the only hard part is deciding which flavour to go for.

For more information, visit:

All photos by Chérie City

Cafes, London

GAIL’s Artisan Bakery Ice Cream Sandwich Pop-Up

The sun may be hiding right now, but GAIL’s Artisan Bakery is keeping the summer vibes going with its ice cream pop-up at its Soho bakery.

From 20th August for just two weeks, GAIL’s will become a stylish ice cream bar with plenty of sweet treats to stay cool.

‘Ice cream sandwich’, always makes me think of the classic American scoop wedged between two chocolate chip cookies, but GAIL’s also offers a more European dessert option.

GAIL’s baker Roy Levy has created a short menu of tempting ice cream sandwiches.  Choose from cinnamon brioche toast with vanilla bean ice cream, caramel or chocolate sauce and salted peanuts or a fruity cinnamon brioche toast with creme fraiche ice cream, mixed berries and raspberry coulis.

Then there’s Roy’s favourite – fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, toasted pistachio ice cream, a dollop of sour cherry compote, fresh cherries and chopped pistachios.

Morgan Cannon will also be bringing summery tunes to the ice cream bar with a live DJ set every evening.

Roy’s monster two-scoop ice cream sandwiches look so tantalising and yummy – definitely a decadent treat come rain or shine.

GAIL’s Artisan Bakery ice cream sandwiches are priced at £6 each.  For more information, visit:

Photos by GAIL’s Artisan Bakery

Cafes, London, Restaurants

Persian dishes at dindin kitchen, Holborn

dindin kitchen is the new Persian ‘fine fast food’ restaurant in Holborn that I’ve been raving about to anyone who will listen since visiting recently.

Being Persian, I’ve grown up on a diet of slow-cooked stews and Basmati rice studded with vegetable or dried fruit.  Typically, I have the Persian obsession with making the perfect rice in my genes, so I was curious to see whether dindin kitchen would be able to serve up great rice in a quick dining environment.

Dubbed as ‘the Persian Itsu’, dindin kitchen is a slick affair with fridges of bright meze pots and healthy juices, clear menus noting the dishes simply in English and arty shots of pomegranates adorning the walls.

The force behind dindin kitchen is Persian entrepreneur Vida Tayebi, who saw a gap in the market for home-cooked Middle Eastern food served quickly.  In fact, no one in London is doing what she is to the same professional level.

 Before visiting, I carefully planned what to order to get the best overview of dindin kitchen.  Little did I know that Vida would bring us a spectacular feast of pretty much everything on the menu – that’s the Persian way.

We started with a rainbow of delicious meze pots served with chewy, airy Persian Flatbread and a fresh, bitter Endive, Pomegranate and Walnut Salad (£2.80).  My favourites among the selection were the moreish Aubergine and Lentil Salad (£1.60) and a rich, flavoursome Smoked Aubergine and Tomato Salad (£1.60).  Other tasty meze pots include Beetroot and Parsley Yoghurt Dip (£1.60), cooling Baby Spinach, Dill and Yoghurt Dip (£1.50) and a traditional Persian Chicken Salad with mayonnaise, pickles, peas and egg (£1.95).

The meze pots make perfect starters or light bites and it’s best to order a few different ones to share.

To follow, we tried a Sweet and Sour Pomegranate Soup with added meatballs (£3.95).  The soup was thick and comforting with tangy, mouthwatering flavours and soft pieces of meatball crumbled in the soup.  The Noodle Soup with lentils and fresh vegetables (£3.50), known as Ash-e Reshteh in Farsi, was herby and aromatic with plenty of spinach, mint and parsley.

Chicken and Lemon Saffron Soufflé (£3.80) is a must-try dish, either as a starter, side or accompanied with rice.  The large soufflés were packed full of shredded, marinated chicken breast and the saffron gave them a slightly sweet, fragrant taste.  ‘Soufflé’ is the best English description for the classic dish known as ‘kookoo’, however the filling is usually the main part and the texture is less airy than a regular soufflé.

Stuffed Meatballs with split peas and barberries (£4.95) were juicy and substantial with sweet dates at the centre.  The tomato sauce was deliciously rich and slow-cooked with flavours of zesty dried kaffir lime – I really enjoyed this dish.

The grilled dishes at dindin kitchen are really fantastic and quite a healthy choice.  Chicken Skewers (£6.75) were succulent and tender, lightly marinated in yoghurt, lime and saffron and cooked on a charcoal grill.  The Lamb Fillet Skewers (£6.95) were also lean, flavoursome and substantial.

Mostly importantly, the accompanying rice was out of this world.  The delicate Basmati rice was steamed with saffron and plenty of barberries.  Often these little red berries can be very sour and sharp, but dindin kitchen managed to soften the flavour, making the rice ever so slightly sweet and rather addictive.

Both dishes came with some saffron mayo and a side of mild pickles and a tomato, red onion and cucumber salad.  The grills were perhaps my favourites of all the dishes we tried – it’s quite hard to beat good charcoal-grilled meat.

We were feeling rather full by this point, but managed to squeeze in a few wraps, which are available on their own or as a daily deal with soup for just £4.95.

The Minced Lamb wrap (£6.25) included a tasty flatbread filled with well-seasoned, smoky meat, sumac, tomatoes, pickles, fresh parsley and saffron mayo.  The Beef Falafel wrap (£4) is also worth trying, particularly if you like a wrap with a slightly spicy kick.

For dessert, we were excited to finally try a CroDough (£3.95) from Rinkoff Bakery.  There were four flavours to choose from and we went for the raspberry CroDough, filled with jam and topped with fresh raspberries.  It was pleasing enough (if a little underwhelming) and is a fun sweet item to offer, but I much preferred the more Persian-influenced Raspberry and Pistachio Cake (£2.35)

The dense, fragrant sponge was studded with chopped pistachios and pieces of dried raspberry and was a delightful end to the meal.  We finished with cups of fine Earl Grey tea, however a glass of typical Persian brewed tea would have been a welcome addition.

dindin kitchen is without a doubt my favourite new casual dining opening this year.  For me, it’s the ultimate childhood comfort food and for those who haven’t yet tried Persian cuisine, it provides an authentic yet uncomplicated introduction.

The food is excellent, prices are very reasonable and everything is available to take-out and eat on the go.  For something completely new in London, dindin kitchen should be top of the list.

For more information, visit:

All photos by Chérie City

Chérie City was invited by dindin kitchen

Dindin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Afternoon tea, Cafes, Istanbul, Restaurants

Dining in Istanbul

A highlight of a trip to Istanbul is the fantastic food.  The streets are filled with the mouthwatering aromas of delicious ocakbasi chargrilled meat, honey-drench fresh baklava and freshly-pressed pomegranate juice.  Here are some top picks for eating out in Istanbul…


Tucked away on a side street in Asmalimescit, Antiochia is an intimate, low-key neighbourhood restaurant that offers dishes inspired by the city of Antakya in Turkey’s sourthern Hatay region.

Owned by celebrity chef Jale Balci, Antiochia attracts a hipster crowd and the interiors are as unfussy as the simple menu (just around ten meze dishes and a few kebabs).  The restaurant is tiny with less than 20 covers, so we were very lucky to score a walk-in table.

We started with two amazing meze dishes – Houmous and Aubergine with Yoghurt and Garlic – served with the most delicious, seemingly unlimited, flatbread rubbed with chilli.  If you’re extra peckish, or are dining with a bigger group, a mixed meze plate is a good choice (the staff tried to push us towards this).

My Chicken Shish was marinated in spices and fresh herbs, then grilled to perfection on the charcoal grill.  It was served on a thin chili wrap with a fresh tomato and sumac salad, a grilled tomato and green chili.  Steven’s Beef Durum Wrap was filled with tender pieces of beef, onion and grilled tomatoes with a good dose of spice.

Having already filled up on sugar with afternoon tea earlier that afternoon, we thought it best to skip dessert.  However, Antiochia is the place to try some authentic Turkish sweets such as Künefe (a cheese pastry soaked in syrup) or a walnut and eggplant dessert served with home-made ice cream.

Otherwise, you could grab some baklava or mastic ice cream from nearby Istiklal Caddesi, where cafes and sweet shops are open into the late evening.

Mama Shelter Istanbul 

Staying and eating at Mama Shelter Paris was one of my favourite hotel experiences, so obviously we just had to check out Mama Shelter Istanbul.  Located on a side street just off the bustling Istiklal Caddesi, Mama Shelter Istanbul has all of the eccentricity and character that you’d expect from the forward-thinking brand with cool interiors by Philippe Starck.

Alain Senderens and Jérôme Banctel’s Franco-Turkish menu is full of innovative yet comforting dishes and there is also a pizza menu.

The stylish restaurant features a number of dining areas with a centre island bar and an outdoor terrace.  As we visited during a religious holiday, it was very quiet, however I imagine it is the place to be in Beyoglu during the summer months with the open roof terrace and weekend DJ sets.  There is even a glass cabinet of musical instruments to really get the party started.

I started with a zingy Mama Lemonade (9 TL) and Steven tried a punchy Gingerapple (13 TL), which were both served long and topped with fresh apple and strawberry.

Refusing to break my Istanbul food habit, I ordered the Marinated Chicken Skewers with Carrot Puree (33 TL).  The two large skewers of chargrilled chicken breast and thigh were tender and succulent (though less spicy than others I tried in Istanbul) and I really loved the smooth, rich and tangy carrot puree.

Steven tried the Yoghurt Kebab (34 TL) – tasty chargrilled lamb patties in a spicy tomato sauce served with torn pieces of flatbread, a hot green chili and cool saffron yoghurt.

With fond memories of the indulgent chocolate fondant at Mama Shelter in Paris, we couldn’t resist trying Mama’s Chocolate Souffle (19 TL).  Served in a mini cast iron pot, the Chocolate Souffle had a soft cake texture with a gooey, molten middle and was accompanied by light vanilla ice cream and a peanut brittle crisp – so decadent and delicious.

Miyako at Swissotel The Bosphorus

Miyako is a great choice for authentic Japanese food in Istanbul.  I recommend starting with some Ebi Tempura and Beef Tataki, followed by teppanyaki Grilled Chicken or Beef Tenderloin.  Be sure to leave some room for Chocolate Pudding with Coco Banana Sauce and a glass of Umeshu Plum Wine.  Read the full review here.

Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge at Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah

Afternoon tea in Istanbul is an absolute must and the grand dame of tea and cake is the historic Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge at Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah.  Enjoy a fabulous buffet afternoon tea in splendid surroundings to the sounds of a live pianist.

Tea is served in elegant silver pots and the selection of exquisite cakes, sweets and biscuits is so overwhelming that it’s almost impossible to try them all (a challenge for the most die-hard afternoon tea fans).  Read the full review here.

Karaköy Lokantasi 

Istanbul’s hip Karaköy neighbourhood is not to be missed and we were delighted when the brilliant concierge at Shangri-La Istanbul was able to secure us a reservation at the immensely popular Karaköy Lokantasi.

Owned by Aylin Okutan and Oral Kurt, and designed by Autoban, Karaköy Lokantasi is a casual, affordable eatery with the boutique guesthouse Karaköy Rooms above.  The atmospheric two-floor restaurant features pretty turquoise tiles inspired by the Topkapi Palace offers traditional Turkish meze and kebabs with a contemporary approach.

Of course, we had to start with some Houmous, which was smooth and full of flavour, topped with fresh chick peas and mint.  I was a little disappointed that they serve wholemeal sliced bread rather than traditional Turkish flatbread, but it was tasty nevertheless.

Fried Shrimps (18 TL) were plump and ever so fresh, cooked in the most delicious chili, garlic and olive oil sauce – absolutely divine.

My Grilled Meatballs (15 TL) were tender, satisfying and nicely charred on the outside.  I found the small slice of potato rather dry and uninteresting, particularly as there was no sauce or yoghurt to perk it up.  Steven’s Grilled Chicken (15 TL) was juicy and smoky, marinated with spicy chili and herbs.

Service had been swift throughout, but tailed off towards the end of the meal, so we ended up missing out on the chocolate pudding.  Instead, we settled for the Semolina Cake with Cream (7 TL), which was a light and grainy sponge soaked with delicious sugar syrup.

Bej Karaköy

We found ourselves back in Karaköy at lunchtime and had heard good things about the Bej Karaköy.  The cosy interiors are cool and arty and it seems to attract a creative crowd taking a break from visiting the nearby art galleries.

My Chicken Schnitzel (22 TL) was absolutely delicious, served with chunky fries and a slice of lemon.  Steven’s Grilled Cheese, Pesto and Tomato Sandwich (12 TL) was tasty and simple, served with a fresh green salad and cherry tomatoes.  We washed them down with some Turkish tea (6 TL) served in a small glass on a pretty blue china saucer.

Service at Bej Karaköy was unfortunately rather charmless during our visit, which I hope was a one-off, as the place itself is great.

ADA Cafe & Bookstore

We spent our last few hours in Istanbul picking up some Turkish tea, baklava and Turkish delight on the Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu.  Having spotted ADA Cafe & Bookstore earlier in the week, we stopped there for a quick bite before heading to the airport.

ADA Cafe & Bookstore is a slick book and music store with a casual restaurant serving Turkish and international dishes.

We ordered two Turkish teas and were served quickly by the friendly, efficient staff.  My Chicken Shish (21 TL) was succulent and nicely charred, served with some average potato wedges, tasty Asian style vegetables and BBQ sauce.

Steven’s ADA Cheeseburger (18 TL) was cooked Turkish style on the charcoal grill and came with American cheese, potato wedges and a fresh sweetcorn and black olive salad.

ADA Cafe & Bookstore is a handy spot in Beyoglu’s busy shopping area for a relaxing lunch or afternoon Turkish tea and cake, plus there is a selection of English language books available.

Shake Shack 

Why go to Shake Shack when Istanbul does grilled meat so well?  Well, Shake Shack happened to be useful when we needed something quick and easy for a very late lunch after getting lost in Sultanahmet.  Shake Shack hasn’t quite yet invaded Europe at present, with outlets only in London, Moscow and Istanbul, so it’s worth visiting if you want to try the now famous New York burger.

We visited the Tünel branch on Istiklal Caddesi, just a few minutes away from our hotel, and there was no queue so we were served immediately.

As expected, our ShackBurgers pretty much the same as the others we’d tried in Manhattan and London, but there are some fun local touches such as the Pistachio in Tünel and Tramway Treat concretes.

Perhaps because of the exchange rate, but it’s also somewhat cheaper than the London branch, so it’s not a bad bet for a speedy lunch fix.

Are you a fan of authentic Turkish food?  Where is your favourite dining spot in Istanbul?

All photos by Chérie City