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Events, London

Taste of London Winter 2015

Taste of London Winter brought plenty of festive spirit and merriment to east London’s Tobacco Dock over the past few days.

I visited on the opening night and was curious to see how it would compare to the outdoor festival atmosphere of the summer event in Regent’s Park.  In fact, I ended up liking the winter edition even more, as it felt cosier and more sociable (being conveniently located in my part of town also helped).

Our first stop was T2 Tea at its slick, colourful pop-up store – we were lured in with samples of hot, spiced chai.  As I’ve said before, T2 is my happy place and I was pleased to see the friendly staff from my local Redchurch Street store.

Just like the T2 stores, there were a number of freshly-brewed teas on hand to sample – Lamington, Crème Brûlée, White Rose and many more – and the staff shared new recipes and tea combinations for some inspiration.  I took home a box of smoky London Breakfast Tea and will be indulging in a pot or two with cake to stay all warm and fuzzy this week.

One of my favourite parts of Taste of London is meeting food producers and hearing the stories behind their companies.  We took some time to browse the stalls and discovered artisan cheeses at Snowdonia Cheese Co. Ltd, colourful Indian-inspired Sari Cakes, tasty cured meats at Bellota Spanish Foods and a sunny taste of the south of France at Le Saint Tropez Rosé Company.

Meanwhile, esteemed chefs Steve Groves, Anna Haugh and Tom Kerridge were sharing their top tips for the festive season at the Taste Theatre.  Another highlight was a chef demonstration at the roaring Fire Pit, set to the sounds of DJ sets from Club de Fromage and live music from the brilliant Kelvin Jones.  There really was so much going on that it was difficult to squeeze it all in.

Of course, Taste of London wouldn’t be complete without grazing on some tasting dishes from the city’s top restaurants.  This year, it was a tough choice with tempting menus from the likes of maze Grill, Pont St, The Truscott Cellar and Michelin-starred Ametsa with Arzak Instruction.

Tom’s Kitchen Truffled Macaroni Cheese was posh comfort food at its best with perfectly-cooked macaroni, a silky truffle cream sauce and crunchy, herby breadcrumbs.

At Taste of London in the summer, I ran out of time to try any dishes from Kurobuta, so this time we scheduled our slot with military precision.  Hot Crispy Duck Ramen was an absolute dream – right up there with my favourite pork belly ramen at Kanada-Ya.  The rich, meaty broth was so intensely flavoursome and packed with springy noodles, a generous amount of succulent roast duck and topped with spicy crushed peanuts and sliced spring onion.  Based on this yummy dish, Kurobuta has made it to the top of my foodie wish list.

After being plied with slices of hot sourdough pizza and copious amounts of cheese walking around the halls (yes, people want to feed you at Taste of London), we ended our foodie adventure with a HIX Sugar Pit Beef Rib Slider with kimchee slaw.  It was bigger and even more tasty than I expected, with juicy, tender flakes of beef topped with a subtle, fresh kimchee slaw packed in a glazed brioche bun.

Taste of London Winter is such a delight for foodies, with so much to discover and plenty of surprises.  Now the countdown is on for the summer edition!

Chérie City was a guest of Taste of London Winter

All photos by Chérie City

London, Restaurants

Dinner at Tapas Revolution Shoreditch

Tapas is such a joy when it’s done well, especially when grazed on leisurely in the sunny climes of Spain.  London has some fantastic tapas restaurants, but there is certainly a lack of neighbourhood drop-in tapas bars that are such an integral part of Spanish culture.

That’s where Omar Allibhoy comes in, bringing a taste of the Madrid tapas bar scene to London with the excellent Tapas Revolution Shoreditch.  This boutique group of casual, modern tapas bars had humble beginnings in Westfield and Bluewater shopping malls (stay with me here), but the latest outpost is its first standalone tapas bar, occupying a prime spot in between Shoreditch High Street and the top of Brick Lane.

Chef Omar Allibhoy excelled in the world of innovative fine dining at elBulli under Ferran Adrià and at Maze with Jason Atherton before joining Elpirata in Mayfair as executive chef and then opening Tapas Revolution.

I visited on a mid-week evening and immediately liked the warm design and lively yet chilled out atmosphere at Tapas Revolution.  You can park up at the spacious bar or grab a table overlooking the open kitchen and counter.

The friendly, welcoming staff explained the menu to us and made some good recommendations.  We chatted about Spanish gastronomy with our waiter and he told us that everything is made completely from scratch in the kitchen.

The meal got off to a great start as we were presented with the most visually-pleasing Gambas a la plancha (£7.95).  One of my favourite indulgences when in Spain is fresh seafood, so this dish brought back memories of happy days in the sun.  The majestic king prawns had a lovely smoky taste and were doused in a punchy garlic, herb and olive oil sauce.

I can never resist Croquetas de jamón (£5.50) and these ones were very authentic and moreish.  The golden, hand-rolled croquetas were filled with oozing, silky bechamel but only a few tiny flecks of jamón, so that flavour was rather muted.

Patatas bravas (£3.75) are a must-order staple of any tapas meal, in my opinion, and these ones were exemplary.  I’m not a fan of the spicy ketchup breed of patatas bravas, but here, the fried potatoes had a naturally sweet flavour and were drizzled in a bold, piquant tomato sauce and a yummy, intensely garlicky aioli.

Tortilla de patata (£5.25) was served as its own lightly golden cake, rather than a large slice.  It was filled with layers of soft potato and caramelised onion and had a typically runny centre that made it even more of a comfort dish.  It could’ve been seasoned with a little more salt, but the aioli made up for it.

Carne a la parrilla (£6.75) was a tasty dish of succulent, medium-grilled flank of beef with slim slices of crispy potatoes on a bed of juicy roasted red peppers.  The acidic red peppers brought out the rich flavours of the beef and the herby potatoes were a perfect accompaniment.

Albóndigas en salsa (£5.50) was a beautifully-cooked, homely dish with the kind of recipe that you can imagine a Spanish grandma would pass down through generations.  The tender, melt-in-the-mouth beef meatballs were coated in a sweet, slow-roasted tomato sauce studded with soft carrots and peas, topped with fresh chives.  Be sure to order these meatballs for the table and mop up the heavenly sauce with some bread.

Tapas is a crafty kind of cuisine – the concept of small plates can make you feel virtuous but in fact, the dishes tend to be rather rich to make a lasting impression.  Napoleon complex, perhaps?  Of course, I always find a tiny spot of room for dessert and there can be none greater than Torrijas.  This traditional dessert, usually eaten at Easter in Spain, is similar to French Toast.  A thick slice of brioche is soaked in milk and fried, then topped with orange blossom-scented Crema Catalana and a generous dusting of cinnamon.

It’s the most delightful sharing dessert to end the meal, but would also work well as an indulgent afternoon treat.  I’m definitely tempted to try and make it at home, or better still, go on a hunt for the perfect Torrijas in Spain!

Tapas Revolution Shoreditch is a great spot to enjoy authentic Spanish bites over a few glasses of Sangria with friends.  With a nightly happy hour and menu rapido including a drink for just £7.95, there’s no reason not to!

For more information, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Tapas Revolution

Photos by Chérie City and Tapas Revolution

Tapas Revolution Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beauty, London

HPM Scent School with Annick Goutal

Fragrance is one of my favourite indulgences, so what better way to spend an evening that discussing scents with some of the industry’s most esteemed leaders?

Last week, I attended Handpicked Media’s debut Scent School in partnership with The Perfume Society and PR gurus Kenneth Green Associates, held at the shiny Condé Nast College in Soho.  For this very special event, we were treated to an audience with Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen – the brains and noses behind quintessentially Parisian perfume maison, Annick Goutal.

Handpicked Media’s Krista Madden kicked off the evening, as we finished refueling on Zeo and Propercorn (the new smooth almond and peanut butter flavour is so addictive), and introduced Jo Fairley, co-founder of The Perfume Society.

Jo has had a dream career – magazine editor, co-founder of ethical chocolate company Green & Black’s and Judges Bakery, as well as brand consultant and inspirational public speaker.  In person, she is warm, down-to-earth and speaks about perfume in a refreshingly accessible way.

The Perfume Society is an online fragrance appreciation community that hosts workshops and events for members and offers Discovery Boxes and the Jasmine Award-winning e-magazine, The Scented Letter.  Jo led us in a special ‘How to Improve you Sense of Smell’ workshop that is available complimentary to members up and down the country.

Fragrance blotters were handed out and we were encouraged to write down our thoughts and feelings about the scents, rather than trying to detect the notes.  What was most interesting about this fun group activity was the diverse spectrum of emotions and memories incited through the fragrances – it’s true that we all experience aromas differently.  I was particularly drawn to the luxurious Cartier La Panthère, which transported me to nighttime in Paris, partying with Yves Saint Laurent and Pat Cleveland on the Left Bank.

Having trained our noses with the workshop, we were prepped to listen to Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen in conversation with Nicola de Burlet, head of press at Kenneth Green Associates.

Camille shared anecdotes about her late mother Annick Goutal, who was a pianist, top model and antique shop owner before falling in love with fragrance on a trip to Grasse and founding the perfume house on rue de Bellechasse in 1980, at the age of 30.

Annick’s philosophy was to create emotions through fragrance like a puzzle and her perfumes have become timeless classics.  The curvy, elegant bottles adorned with touches of gold are staples of every well-heeled Parsisienne’s boudoir.  Annick’s disinterest in fleeting trends and big marketing campaigns has kept the brand forever relevant and something of a luxury insider’s secret (outside of Paris, as least).

We explored a few signature Annick Goutal scents, beginning with the much-loved Petite Chérie, created as a gift to Camille.  It’s a gourmand fragrance bursting with luscious, juicy pear and reminds me of childhood innocence and happy times.

Next up was Eau du Sud, a chypre inspired by Annick’s birthplace Aix-en-Provence, where she grew up among the intoxicating aromas of her father’s chocolate shop.  We then travelled to Italy with Ninfeo Mio, a sun-kissed yet earthy blend of fresh figs and quince, inspired by Camille and Isabelle’s trip to the Ninfeo Gardens.

We finished with an invigorating Middle East-inspired fragrance – 1001 Ouds from Les Absolus d’Annick Goutal.  Camille has strong opinions when it comes to ouds, explaining only a few of these woody, aromatic fragrances on the luxury market bear resemblance to the natural oud that she is familiar with as a perfumer.

1001 Ouds is a unique, authentic take on the classic oud scent – it’s deeply spicy and has prominent equestrian leather notes that reference Camille’s love of horseriding.  Most interestingly, it resists the temptation of being too sweet, but develops a soft warmness that makes you dream of the mystical Arabian Nights tales and wandering through spice markets.

The inspiring evening ended with a few helpful words from Nicola on the relationship between beauty bloggers and PRs – how to form lasting connections, impress their brands with your writing and manage expectations on both sides.

A thought echoed by all of the experts was that it’s easy to overthink writing about fragrance.  Any old website can list the fragrance notes and state whether it’s in the illusive chypre or fougère family, but articulating your unique emotional connection to the scent is golden.  As Camille explained, ‘no one buys a fragrance based on the notes, it’s all about how it makes them feel’.

In our goody bag, we were generously given a year’s subscription to The Perfume Society, as well as their latest Discovery Box packed full of new and classic fragrances, instructive postcards, blotters and a stylish notebook for recording our fragrant thoughts.

Also included was a stunning Annick Goutal gold purse fragrance – mine is the divine L’Ile au Thé.  It’s a clean, fresh, calming scent that immediately made me think of springtime and my travels in China and Hong Kong.  In fact, the citrus fragrance was created following Camille and Isabelle’s trip to the Korean paradise island of Jeju.

The fragrance paints an idyllic fragrant landscape of mandarin tree orchards, tea plantations and beautiful osmanthus in bloom – a real treat for lovers of Asian tea ceremonies and delicate, almost celestial scents.  I can’t wait to take this fragrant to Paris next week and will definitely be paying at visit to the Annick Goutal boutique.

For more information, visit: and

Photos by Annick Goutal, The Perfume Society & Chérie City

London, Restaurants

Dinner at Bombay Brasserie, Kensington

Curried Thoughts by Isabel Dexter

 After fish and chips, and possibly roast dinners, Indian food is the most British food you can think of. Although I feel that’s not complimentary enough to India. My favourite restaurant in Weston Super Mare is an Indian. And when I go back to see my parents in Derby I always petition to go to the BYOB Indian where my mum, sister, our astrologer friend Gill and I always went for girls’ nights. Apparently the Pisces-with-Leo-ascendent means worldwide cuisine is top of my list. That and an identity crisis apparently. Personally I never liked fish anyway.

Bombay Brasserie in Kensington is just that little bit fancier. And by a little bit I mean a whole lotta fancier. Blending the diverse cooking styles of Goa, Bengal and Gujerat with imperial Mughal, Raj and Portuguese influences the actual Bombay (now called Mumbai), is considered India’s financial and entertainment capital.

Meanwhile, Bombay Brasserie the restaurant has been an iconic eating destination since 1982 and it has all the swank and plushness of a five star dining experience. We went on a Friday night and it was pleasantly busy but not overwhelmingly so. The clientele was happily varied, with everything from families with well-behaved yet excitable children to business entertaining, groups of well-heeled friends and dates. This would be a great date restaurant actually, it’s impressive looking and the menu is varied and appealing. It probably has a Good Sense of Humour too.

I arrive to find The Blond Mr Bond-ing it up in the luxe bar area. Low lighting, a roaring fire and brightly lit bar with a frankly mesmerising spirit wall were a good distraction from my tardiness. There was a good cocktail selection too and it would be a perfect place for after-work drinks or pre-date cocktails. The Blond was impressed by the beer choices, which is no mean feat. This Man Knows Good Beer. All those cocktail bars and craft beer establishments in Shoreditch could take note. A bar that wants to give Members Club vibes needs to be like decent cashmere. Expensive-looking but also laid back. There’s no need to try hard and Bombay Brasserie’s bar looks like the lovechild of a Rolling Stone and an Upper East Side supermodel. The sort of place that you go for one drink and end up cuddled up in front of the fireplace four martinis later. Four? Who am I kidding? One martini. No shame in being a cheap date.

The Blond salivates at the mere mention of ‘curry’ so despite the cosy ambiance we pretended to saunter (read jog) into the restaurant area – separated by huge wooden doors and much more brightly lit. We agreed that it was a little too bright, although nice to be able to see the food, which was incredibly visually pleasing.

For starters I had Malai baby corn and  broccoli, which was a simple griddled baby corn and stem broccoli topped with a cheese sauce. Nice and al dente but would have worked better as a side dish. There was a certain awkwardness in ploughing through them as a starter but that could be because I’m a die-hard carnivore and generally think vegetables are like the colour-coordinated window displays at Selfridges. Fun to look at and they certainly brighten things up but I don’t actually want to consume them.

The Blond had the Khada Masala scallops, which were (and I quote) ‘delicate’ and ‘clearly expertly done’.

For mains I happily devoured the Tandoori Raan, a braised lamb shank with cinnamon, black cumin and vinegar. The lamb was perfectly cooked and gorgeously succulent. The sauce was delicious and super smooth. The Blond went for the Goa Halibut curry with coconut, red chillies and tamarind, which was rich and complex in flavour although he said he’d have preferred it a little more ‘roughed-up’ in texture. Daniel Craig rather than Sean Connery I presume. The heat level was excellent and the fish was perfectly meaty and thick in texture but still very fresh-tasting.

To finish, we shared (and I mean that euphemistically. He ordered it. I ate it. Gender stereotypes are alive and well in South Kensington) the Trio of desserts. Cue a very indulgent raspberry chocolate, chocolate samosa and chocolate brownie all stabbed with a crackle of orange. I couldn’t fault it. The service was excellent too and the general mood was fun rather than formal, despite the starched white table cloths and five star cutlery. Sometimes the world is enough.

For more information and booking, visit:

Isabel Dexter was a guest of Bombay Brasserie

Photos by Isabel Dexter and Bombay Brasserie

Bombay Brasserie - Millennium Gloucester Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars, London

Cocktail Chapter at The Royal Horseguards Hotel

Horsing Around by Isabel Dexter

I have a confession to make. Despite sipping my first cocktail on a cruise ship with my grandparents at the tender age of 12 (it was a Grasshopper by the way and I chose it because I thought the green would make a nice contrast to my purple silk Topshop dress) I only really got into cocktails in the last year.

A combination of reasons conspired to make this the case; the fact that I have the alcohol tolerance of a small woodland creature, low funds and the misguided belief that if a drink didn’t come in a pint glass it wasn’t really a drink. Oh youthful naivety. Suffice to say, I am now eating (or rather drinking) my words.

So when the five-star hotel The Royal Horseguards invited me to review its new seasonal ‘cocktail chapter’ menu I obediently trotted along in heels and a trench coat. I’ve always felt that something about a hotel bar demands heels and a trench coat. Don Draper meets Audrey Hepburn, you get the vibe. I brought The Brunette because she has proper taste buds that recognise things like elderflower infused vodka and grounded sage leaf spices rather than Tracker bars and Pernod. She also appreciates elegance and has finally forgiven me for making us habitually meet in a pub with sticky carpets in New Cross that I love.

Greeted by an abundance of candles in the majestic lobby of the hotel we were led to the dark and seductive Equus Bar with the quintessential baby grand piano and lowly lit shelves of liquor.

There’s something about hotel bars that huskily whispers illicit sex and this was no different, although I’m sure the international business men and women talking deals and (in one case) the merits of various brands of carry-on luggage had no such thing in mind. Indeed the hotel has always had an air of mystery as the former headquarters for the British Secret Service and filming location for Bond films Octopussy and Skyfall.

Anyway, there was plenty to keep us amused with the cocktails, priced at a very reasonable £7.95 for such a luxe London location. The Aperol Sorbet Spritz was possibly my dream date in cocktail form. An Aperol and prosecco mix with a delicious orange Cointreau sorbet in the middle of the glass, it was half-dessert, half-kiss.

The Brunette’s fave was the Inverness, an intriguing combo of lime, kraken and plantation rum with fresh coconut water, ginger beer and orange bitters. I thought it was strong, she said it was actually mild but perfect. The ginger and coconut pairing gave it an LA twist. Probably best enjoyed by a pool with a David Hockney aesthetic but also, it has to be said, damn good in this moody, chic bar.

While The Brunette got her kicks from the elderflower infused vodka (told you) mixed with tequila, soda water and freshly muddled blackberries in the Berry Crush, I indulged my inner 10 year old (the one who didn’t care about Topshop dresses or Grasshoppers) with the adult equivalent of eating the jam straight from the jar.

The Royal Horseguards Hotel’s Gin & Jam is probably the most English cocktail you’ll ever taste. Served in a large jam jar-style glass with a stripy straw, it’s a fizzy, strawberry sensation. It’s also very sweet, which is fine if like me you never outgrew the thrill of strawberry sherbet but if you like your drinks on the bitter side then try the Berry Crush instead.

Now at this point in alcohol consumption I would probably have outdone the Dalai Lama with my love for the entire of humanity but I maintain that the staff at this hotel are some of the nicest in London. And that makes all the difference when you’re craving a few hours of cocktail indulgence in a city where sometimes ordering a drink seems like an exercise in survival-of-the-fittest guerilla tactics. For an after-work hideaway or a pre-dinner drink, you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth (sorry I couldn’t resist).

Also, look out for the new Seven Deadly Sins cocktail collection available at Equus for the month of October.

Photos by Jessica Butler and The Royal Horseguards Hotel

London, Restaurants

Supreme Saturdays at Yauatcha City

Yauatcha City is the hottest restaurant to open in the City this summer and is without a doubt the jewel in the crown of new Broadgate Circle dining destination.

Living east, I’m thrilled to have the likes of Yauatcha City, José Pizzaro, Aubaine and Shoryu Ramen almost on my doorstep, without having to venture into central London.

While it’s likely to be suitsville during the week, Yauatcha City is all about leisurely indulgence on the weekend, hence the launch of its exquisite new Supreme Saturdays menu.

It’s a real feast – and a boozy one at that – highlighting Yauatcha’s most luxurious dishes.  Not only is it insanely good value (not exactly cheap, but what I would call a ‘clever splurge’), it’s an ideal introduction to Yauatcha with a number of different tastings.

We were seated at a cosy table in the centre section of Yauatcha City’s striking crescent-shaped dining room and warmly welcomed by the immaculately-presented staff.

The meal starts with a pre-lunch cocktail of a Thea martini, Lychee martini or a Negroni, followed by half a bottle of wine.  I wasn’t quite ready to drink on an empty stomach at noon (I know, letting the side down), so instead we sipped on delicious Strawberry and vanilla iced jasmine tea packed with fresh fruit and vanilla seeds.

Our waitress humorously warned us that we were in for a lot of food and she wasn’t wrong, as the Steamed dim sum platter was presented with six piece each.  We were literally in dim sum heaven!

The traditional Pork and prawn shui mai and Har gau were my favourites, however I also appreciated the comforting, autumnal flavours of the Crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin and pine nut.

Black pepper and wagyu beef dumpling was a parcel of pure decadence, balanced out with a simple and tasty Wild mushroom dumpling.  I wasn’t crazy about the Vegetable and truffle wrap as I found the winter melon casing and glossy sauce made it a little too juicy.

Of course there was still room for more light bites – this time a Fried dim sum platter each.  Venison puff, a Yauatcha speciality, featured buttery, glazed pastry filled with tender venison in a sweet, rich gravy.  I found the Lobster roll pleasant with small chunks of fresh lobster and scallop in an interesting sauce that was both creamy and tangy, while Mushroom spring roll was a vegetarian-friendly classic done well.

I particularly enjoyed the Sesame prawn toast, which was a big juicy prawn ball covered in sesame seeds with just a slim piece of toast – I’ll definitely be ordering a plateful of them next time.

For the main course, there is a choice of three dishes – so, the only one that we didn’t try was the Foie gras diced beef, which appears to be garnished with an oversized pastry puff.

Lobster vermicelli pot was a luxury take on the typical Chinese hot pot, cooked slowly and served fresh out of the oven.  There were copious amounts of succulent, high quality lobster that had to be extracted from their shells.  I knew the day would finally come when I’d be presented with a lobster cracker and attempt to hide my inexperience, hoping to avoid a re-enactment of the restaurant scene in Pretty Woman.

Once I had my lobster under control, I tucked into the thin, glass-like vermicelli noodle, which had a dry, springy texture and absorbed the seafood flavours, punctuated with a slight hint of curry spice.

A much easier dish to navigate was the Truffle pork belly rib.  The gloriously sticky, lacquered pork ribs were ever so tender and the meat elegantly slipped away from the bone.  There was a good mix of flaky lean meat and melt-in-the-mouth fat and the glaze was sweet enough without being cloying.

They were topped with uniformly lined-up enoki mushrooms and truffle crumbs and I regret being too distracted by the pork to sample those lovely little asparagus spears.

The accompaniments of Jasmine steamed rice and steamed Chinese vegetables worked well with both dishes, although we were too full by this point to finish them.

Yauatcha is famed for its exquisite French-Asian patisserie and it’s impossible to walk past without admiring them sitting majestically in the glass cabinet.  The best thing about this menu is that you can choose any of the desserts (no fooling around with exotic fruit plates) and take a much-needed stroll over to the counter to see which catches your eye.

Is it wrong that I tried to choose the most Instagrammable cake?  They all look like works of art, but the Raspberry delice tempted me with the promise of raspberry, Madirofolo chocolate and lychee – all of my favourite dessert flavours.

I was later told that this dessert won an award for ‘best tea cake’, so it was definitely a good choice. Velvety bitter-sweet chocolate mousse sat atop a layer of light chocolate sponge and was covered with a fine layer of highly-pigmented raspberry dust.  The final flourish was the secret filling of rose-scented lychee gelée at the centre – desserts don’t come much better than this.

Steven went for another showstopper – the elaborately-designed Malted milk.  This included layers of smooth milk chocolate mousse flavoured with malt and caramelised honey, slim chocolate discs and a crunchy, nutty Anzac biscuit base.

With full stomachs, we savoured these sweet gems with a pot of jasmine tea, however if you’re not already on the floor, you can wash them down with the included digestif – a Manhattan, Amaretto Sour or an Espresso martini.

Yauatcha City was everything I hoped it would be and this fabulous Saturday offering is sure to draw in the crowds.  It was such an overwhelming foodie experience that we walked all the way home in the sunshine – a weekend well spent!

Supreme Saturdays lunch menu is available every Saturday from 12pm to 5pm and is priced at £49 per person for a minimum of two guests.  For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Yauatcha City

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Yauatcha City)

Yauatcha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Bars, London

Chambord Chapter Eight Games, East London

Summer lives on in London Fields this weekend with the rather fabulous Chambord Chapter Eight Games.

Last night, fresh from my Berlin flight, I headed to new rooftop and bar Proof at Field Works for croquet, cocktails and flamingos aplenty.  The open-air space has been transformed into an Alice in Wonderland-inspired croquet lawn complete with golden pineapples and flamingo mallets, a Chambord bar and cosy pods.

Test your ball whacking skills with a half-hour game of croquet, or simply cheer from the side while sipping a complimentary Chambord Royale cocktail.

Chambord has long been one of my favourite liqueurs (not only because its opulent gold bottle appeals to my inner magpie) and I loved the specially-created Chapter Eight cocktail – a refreshing mix of Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur shaken with gin and fresh grapefruit.

Of course, you’ll need a gourmet refuel and who better than street food favourite Le Bun?  The signature French-American duck confit burgers really are out of this world!  Slow-cooked, tender duck confit is piled up with tangy red cabbage on a glazed sesame bun, finished with a generous slick of fresh tarragon Bearnaise sauce – literally food heaven in a bun.

So, why not add a little je ne sais quoi to your weekend with some tipsy sportsmanship at Chambord Chapter Eight Games in Hackney.

Chambord Chapter Eight Games runs until 13th September.  Tickets are available here and include a complimentary Chambord Royale cocktail per person.

Chérie City was invited by Chambord

Art, London

Red Dog, Black Wolf. Will You Remember Your Name?

A few weeks ago, I attended the opening of cool new art show Red Dog, Black Wolf. Will You Remember Your Name? – the second of three exhibitions in the summer programme at the London outpost of Yesim Turanli’s Istanbul gallery, Pi Artworks.

Curated by Isabel Dexter, this striking exhibition features works by British artists Rae Hicks and Charles Sandford, as well as one site-specific collaborative piece – a red and grey chequered carpet.

The show’s intriguing name is inspired by the French phrase ‘entre le chien et le loup’, denoting a curious time during dusk when a dog cannot be distinguished from a wolf.  It’s a moment of almost supernatural uncertainty and ambiguity, bringing an anxious state where not everything is as it seems.

This concept unifies the exhibition, which includes a mix of painting, installation, sculpture and performance.  Rae Hicks’ paintings, such as Double Glazing (2015) take a different look at everyday domestic objects that we often take for granted.

Through Hicks’ art process, the objects – a gas cooker, TV and books – adopt a different function to what we expect of them.  They become two dimensional, purposely limited models of themselves.

Charles Sandford explores the theme broadly with installations including a small single bed covered with a duvet print of an aristocratic huntsman and a theatrical red velvet curtain moving erratically to suggest sinister, clandestine fumbling.

At the private view, a hearse was also parked up outside.  The formally-dressed driver meticulously polished the shiny black car and anticipated his next fare.

Red Dog, Black Wolf. Will You Remember Your Name? is a thought-provoking, highly conceptual exhibition that challenges how the viewer perceives objects and processes eerie, uncomfortable sensations.  I’m looking forward to seeing what these talented London-based artists come up with next.

The exhibition runs until 3rd September at Pi Artworks.  For more information, visit:

Photos by Pi Artworks and Chérie City

London, Restaurants

A Taste of Ling Ling Mykonos at Hakkasan Hanway Place

Summer in Mykonos just got even hotter with the opening of Ling Ling, Hakkasan’s hip new nightspot.

It brings Asia’s popular izakaya concept to Greece’s chic party island and is the place to indulge in dining, drinking and dancing.

Ling Ling is a lighter take on Hakkasan’s renowned Chinese fine dining and is complete with an open-air restaurant, bar, private dining and lounge.

I would need no excuse to hop over to Mykonos for a night of dim sum and sundowner cocktails, but conveniently, Hakkasan Hanway Place is offering a taste of Ling Ling Mykonos right here in London.

I visited the one Michelin star Hakkasan Hanway Place for the first time last week and was wowed by the heavenly food, cool design and superior service.  Hakkasan really excels in creating a seductive atmosphere with moody, dimmed lighting and a cool soundtrack curated by the restaurant’s London resident DJ Pathaan.

We started our foodie journey with a Ling Ling Collins – a long cocktail made with Beefeater Gin, Green Chartreuse, cranberry, grapefruit, elderflower and lemon juice poured over crushed ice.  It was refreshing, summery and very easy to drink with a tart, zingy citrus flavour.

The limited edition Ling Ling menu is offered with three set menus to choose from – fish and seafood, meat and seafood or vegetarian.

We both went for the meat and seafood menu  and were presented with a Trio dim sum platter served piping hot in a cute little basket.  These high end dumplings were truly mind-blowing and definitely the best I’ve ever had.  Our selection included Prawn har gau, Scallop shumai topped with red tobiko and Chinese chive dumpling with prawn and crabmeat, finished with a goji berry.

The large parcel were tightly packed with fresh, well-seasoned seafood and coated in a delicate, moist dumpling skin.  I sometimes find that dim sum can become overwhelming quickly if the dough is too thick or steamed for too long that it becomes sticky, but Hakkasan’s dim sum were exemplary – I can’t stop raving about them.

Jasmine tea smoked organic pork rib was a real highlight and without a doubt the best I’ve ever had. Carved ceremoniously at the table, the ribs were so succulent and tender with a generous amount of meat and a layer of fat that simply melted in the mouth.  The glaze was very pleasant and subtle with just the right amount of smoky sweetness (no flavours were overstated).

Spicy prawn with lily bulb and almond was an unexpectedly piquant yet moreish main dish.  Five plump, juicy steamed prawns sat atop an aromatic, slightly creamy curry sauce studded with yummy toasted almonds and cooling, sweet lily bulbs.  The chili kick made my lips tingle, but I couldn’t resist adding more and more sauce to my bowl of fragrant jasmine rice.

Hakkasan is renowned for its exquisite desserts and our menu ended on a simple and sweet note with a Selection of macarons.  We grazed on the most delicious rose, pistachio and vanilla and jasmine macarons, beautifully served in a dim sum basket and adorned with a pretty orchid flower.

The macarons were freshly-baked with a light, crispy meringue shell and velvety smooth ganache – my favourite was the delicate vanilla and jasmine which had a lovely hint of white chocolate.

The Ling Ling menu at Hakkasan Hanway really was spectacular and a great way to taste a good range of signature dishes in one delightful meal.  With Hakkasan’s cool atmosphere, creative dishes and fine attention to detail, I can’t wait to see what Ling Ling Mykonos has in store.

The Ling Ling menu is available at Hakkasan Hanway Place until 31st August and is priced at £35 per person.  For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Hakkasan Hanway Place

Photos by Chérie City and Hakkasan Hanway Place

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Hotels, London, Restaurants

Dinner at Min Jiang, London

Min Jiang has been on my foodie wish list for a while, so I was delighted to visit with a small group of food and lifestyle bloggers for a photography masterclass and dinner.

This fine dining Chinese restaurant on the tenth floor of the Royal Garden Hotel Kensington opened in 2008 to rave reviews, particularly about its wood-fired Beijing duck.

Really good Chinese food is one of my favourite indulgences, so I was looking forward to sampling some of Min Jiang’s signature dishes while marveling at the panoramic views over Kensington Gardens.

But before we could pick up our chopsticks, we had some snapping to do with professional photographers Rafe Abrook and Oli Sander.

We took over Min Jiang’s gorgeous deep red private dining room to talk all things photography.  We took away plenty of expert tips for improving our food photography and had some time to practice shooting Min Jiang dishes with guidance from the pros.

Rafe and Oli recommended investing in a portable camera light to combat the yellow glare of the tungsten lighting usually found in restaurants.  The super cool light sabre may be a bit intense for the dinner table, but the smaller box size can fit in your handbag for a quick lighting fix on the go.

We then moved into the main dining room for a cosy dinner – cameras still out, of course!  First up was the Steamed Dim Sum Platter in four different flavours.  The delicate parcels were cooked perfectly and generously filled – my favourite was the prawn Har Gau.

Bi Feng Tang Soft Shell Crab with Garlic and Chili was crunchy and flavoursome with crispy fried onions and large pieces of red chili.  I’d expected it to be a fiery dish, but it was actually quite subtle and utterly moreish.

Min Jiang’s Legendary wood-fired Beijing Duck is indeed worthy of high praise.  The meat was tender and juicy with a good amount of fat and crispy, lacquered skin.  It was served with light and airy pancakes, a mouth-watering hoisin sauce, extra pieces of scorched skin and all of the usual trimmings.

Thankfully a second plate was brought out, so we could continue rolling these exquisite pancakes.  It’s certainly hard to exercise restraint and any kind of etiquette when sharing such a special, luxurious dish with hungry foodies, but I think we’re all still on speaking terms.

For the main course, we shared a few signature dishes.  Sauteed Gong Bao Tiger Prawns were covered in a deliciously sticky ginger glaze and punctuated with roasted cashews and chili.

Diced Rib Eye of Beef with Black Pepper Sauce had a smoky, chargrilled taste and was ever so tender, doused in a rich, mellow sauce.  It went perfectly with the steamed, wilted Pak Choi with Garlic.

Our individual bowls of Fried Noodles were super tasty, but the portion size was a bit small and I found only a sliver of the second serving of roast duck.  It was a taster dinner though, so the typical set menu noodle servings may be more substantial.

The Seasonal Fruit Platter was beautifully presented and refreshing but not the most exciting dessert to end the meal.  Min Jiang does actually have a rather tempting dessert menu, so you can look forward to trying treats such as Poached Black Sesame Dumpling, Mango Cream with Sago Pearls and Pomelo or the Chilled Orange and Ginger Soup.

Min Jiang is a great destination restaurant for a celebration with exceptional food that matches the impressive views.  It has a grown-up, contemporary-classic feel and is likely to become a London institution for top notch Chinese fine dining.

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Min Jiang

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Min Jiang)

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London, Restaurants

Dinner at Pizza Union, Kings Cross

Pizza Union has become my ‘go to’ place for a quick pizza fix and I’ve stopped by many times since it opened its first restaurant in Spitalfields last summer.

The fire-baked Roman-style pizza is always tasty, the quality is consistent and I’ve never had to wait long for my pizza to arrive fresh out of the oven (it usually takes just three minutes to cook).

Pizza Union’s newly-opened second restaurant on Pentonville Road, Kings Cross, is just as conveniently located as the first – close to a major station, offices and student halls (these guys sure know what they’re doing).  The restaurant was already busy on an early Monday evening, even though it had only been open for a few weeks – perhaps due to word of mouth and its central location.

Its urban-cool design is familiar and slick, with marble counters, wooden tables covered in Italian tiles and splashes of neon.  It’s also well air-conditioned, so it’s the perfect place to escape the summer heat and refuel with delicious food and an ice cold Peroni or San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa.

I have a few favourite toppings at Pizza Union, but on this occasion I decided to try the gluten-free pizza for something a bit different.  I don’t have a strong gluten intolerance but try to avoid large portions of wheat and the thought of leaving without feeling bloated seemed appealing on that particularly hot day.

Since I was going gluten-free, I went for the classically Italian Reine (£5.95 + £1 for gluten-free) – tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, cotto ham, mushrooms and black olives.  The pizza base, made using rice flour, was surprisingly good with a light, chewy texture that was made crispy by the pizza oven.

The high quality Italian toppings, natural sunkissed tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella made for a satisfying, flavoursome pizza.  Of course, the original pizza base is impossible to beat, but I would definitely order the gluten-free pizza again if I was in the mood.

It’s worth noting however, that if you have a severe allergy to gluten, it’s best to avoid the pizzas altogether (instead try the Pizzeria Salad) since they are all cooked in the same pizza oven – the helpful staff pointed this out when ordering.

Steven went for the super-spicy Manzo (£5.95) – tomato sauce, mozzarella, beef, garlic, green chillis and rocket. This is the pizza to order if you want an intense taste – the spiced minced beef goes very well with the fresh, peppery rocket.

Pizza Union Dolce warm dough rings filled with Nutella, coconut and chocolate or salted caramel and peanuts are so heavenly and indulgent, but we couldn’t quite manage one this time.  I’d quite like to go back and try one of the new flavours as an afternoon treat with a cup of tea rather than attempt to squeeze one in after a big pizza.

Instead, we grazed on a selection of delicious bite-size Cannolis in chocolate, white chocolate and pistachio. They seem to be smaller and less generously filled than when I first tried them, but they’re ever so tasty and perfect for a touch of sweetness to end the meal.  It’s also impossible to pick a favourite, so just order them all.

Pizza Union is a real game-changing restaurant that has the potential to eventually become a national chain. With such excellent pizza, cool style and affordable prices, who could resist?

Chérie City was invited by Pizza Union

Photos by Chérie City and Pizza Union

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