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Hotels, London

Vegan Afternoon Tea at La Suite West, London

Afternoon Tea in London is such an indulgent treat, but it can also be light and healthy.  Yesterday, I headed over to La Suite West – a stylish independent hotel close to Hyde Park – to try its new Vegan Afternoon Tea.

La Suite West London

Designed by the renowned Anouska Hempel, La Suite West is a calm urban retreat on a quiet residential street with sleek minimalist interiors and a feeling of zen.  Afternoon tea is served in the hotel’s health-focused RAW Restaurant and on the terrace – a delightful spot to soak up the sun.

La Suite West London

RAW Restaurant has cleverly devised a super-tasty Vegan Afternoon Tea, doing spectacular things with vegetables, nut butters and dairy-free mylks.  While I’m not vegan myself, I’m a fan of healthy food done well and love the idea that almost everyone can enjoy this afternoon tea without the hassle of requesting dietary substitutions (however, note that it’s not gluten or nut-free).

La Suite West Vegan Afternoon Tea

The afternoon tea begins with a selection of colourful finger sandwiches in flavours such as Scrambled tofu with mustard cress, Lemon & thyme tahini with cucumber, Avocado chilli mousse with rocket and Roast tomato with sunflower seed pesto.  I particularly enjoyed the bite-size, moreish savouries – Asparagus tart with pesto and almond cheese and Truffled mushroom pastry.

La Suite West London

Of course, afternoon tea isn’t complete without scones and these ones were moist and springy, accompanied by the most heavenly whipped coconut ‘cream’ – it actually tasted cooler and more luscious than the typical clotted cream.

La Suite West London

Those with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed with the Chef’s Selection of baked and raw desserts.  We tried a sumptuous Carrot cake with vegan frosting, Coconut lemon cake with chocolate nut butter and my favourite Sticky toffee pudding chocolate brownie – pure decadence.

The Vegan Afternoon Tea is accompanied by a glass of non-alcoholic fizz and a selection of fine JING Teas.

La Suite West Vegan Afternoon Tea

RAW Restaurant at La Suite West is perfect for an intimate, relaxed afternoon tea with a difference.  Not only is it very good value but it will leave you feeling light and happy – I can’t wait to go back!

The Vegan Afternoon Tea is priced at £27 per person.  For more information and booking, visit: www.lasuitewest.com

Chérie City was a guest of La Suite West

Photos by Chérie City (hotel images by La Suite West)

Beauty, London

Murad Facial at House of Fraser, London

Facials are one of my favourite beauty indulgences, but I rarely find the time or discipline for regular appointments.  With my New York wedding just one month away, I wanted to get my skin in order and followed the advice of a friend who had weekly 20-minute facials in the run up to her wedding.

To kick-start my skin programme and make up for lost time, I booked a Murad Blemish Control Facial (6o mins) at House of Fraser Beauty Rooms on Oxford Street through Treatwell.

Murad Beauty Room House of Fraser

At the age of 31, I have hardly any wrinkles or fine lines but struggle with break-outs and pigmentation in some areas, so I was after a targeted, clinical facial that would show significant results.

The House of Fraser Beauty Rooms on the lower ground floor are a bit of a hidden gem, featuring two leading skincare brands – Murad on one side and Décleor on the other.  They’re also dangerously close to the very tempting and shiny shoe department – you’ve been warned.

As I was visiting on a quiet Tuesday mid-morning (Treatwell often offers special off-peak discounts), I was pleasantly surprised to have such an experienced, senior practitioner as Natasha De Almeida, Dr Murad Skin Specialist and Treatment Manager.  Natasha has been performing Murad facials for a number of years and was previously a beauty therapist at The Lanesborough.

If you’re not familiar with Murad, it’s an American skincare brand founded by Dr Howard Murad, whose Inclusive Health philosophy promotes a dermatological and also nutritional approach to skincare.

Dr Howard Murad

I answered questions about my skincare routine, skin concerns and desired results before quickly getting started.  Natasha customised my Blemish Control Facial with elements of the Aha Rapid Exfoliator Anti-Ageing Facial to help treat the areas of pigmentation and revitalise my skin.

My facial started with a deep cleanse, tone and massage while the steam kept my pores open.  Next was a glycolic peel, which felt intensely cool and tingly but not at all painful.  Natasha asked how strong it felt on a scale of one to ten and swiftly distracted me with a heavenly head massage before I could consider the leap from five to seven as the acid began to develop.  This may sound alarming if you’ve never had a glycolic peel before, but I knew I was in safe hands and my skin could handle it (if you’re unsure, let your therapist know).

With my skin feeling all icy and fresh, it was time for the flashlight interrogation and plenty of extraction.  I can’t help feeling a touch of guilt inflicting spot goop on my therapist, but it proved a very worthwhile step as Natasha managed to clear a stubborn cluster of hormonal blocked pores around my jawline and other congested areas around my t-zone.

Murad Beauty Room House of Fraser

After all that hard work, a soothing mask was applied and I enjoyed a glorious massage on my arms, hands, neck, shoulders and décolletage.  My face was then finished with eye cream, toner, serum and a light moisturiser and I was ready to go.

There were so many different steps and products used that the facial felt like a real journey and professional experience.  My skin was instantly calmer and refreshed and the results lasted for days.  Even a week later, the tone, surface texture and oil levels are much more balanced.

Natasha prescribed a Dr Murad skincare programme for me – a mix of the Blemish Control range with a few key Anti-Ageing Blemish Control products (this is particularly helpful for those with adult acne or blemishes).  I’ve just started using the Time Release Blemish Cleanser and Anti-Ageing Moisturiser Broad Spectrum SPF 30 and am excited to see the results, given how effective the facial was.

Murad Anti-Ageing Blemish Control

I highly recommend making an appointment with Natasha for a Murad facial – there are so many different ones to choose from and they can also be tailored to your requirements.  It was without a doubt one of the best facials I’ve ever had and I’m looking forward to booking my next appointment.

For more information and booking, visit: www.murad.co.uk and www.treatwell.co.uk

Beauty, London

Thai Square Spa, London

It’s rare to find a spa in London that’s opulent yet still accessible, but that’s the beauty of Thai Square Spa. This well-established spa was previously based in Covent Garden, but recently moved to an elegant building that was once a Victorian bathhouse on Northumberland Avenue, just a few steps away from the River Thames and Trafalgar Square.

Thai Square Spa London

It has the feel of a wellbeing townhouse with an impressive number of facilities – a separate hair salon, nail and make-up studio, 12 treatment rooms and the fabulous Sen Space with hot and cold zones.

I visited on a quiet midweek morning and was pleased to find that I had the Sen Space facilities all to myself for an hour before my treatment.  I changed into a super-comfy Thai Square Spa robe and slippers in the bright red changing room before heading downstairs to start my spa journey.

Thai Square Spa London

The spa was much larger than I had expected with rather grand interiors – a mix of Thai, Roman and Turkish decor elements with hand-painted classical murals, rich silks and hundreds of traditional wood-carved statues.

Thai Square Spa London

My favourite Sen Space facility was the high-powered jet jacuzzi covered entirely in shimmering gold mosaics – what could be more decadent than that?

The sauna is immaculate and has a subtle eucalyptus aroma while the steam room is large enough to really kick back and enjoy the heat.  There’s also an active ice fountain to cool down and rainfall showers with excellent water pressure.

Thai Square Spa London

My therapist Nina came to collect me when it was time for my treatment and showed me through the softly-lit maze to the cosy treatment room.  I experienced the So Sen Uplifting Ritual Massage – 60 minutes of pure bliss and deep relaxation.

Thai Square Spa London

It began with a soothing foot cleanse and was followed with a brisk yet very gentle squeezing of pressure points around my body to get the energy flowing.  Nina then worked on my back, using a number of techniques to knead out the knots and tense areas with a light, comfortable pressure.

She also gave my legs and arms an invigorating massage and I almost drifted off a few times when my shoulders and head were given attention.  By the end of the massage, I felt rejuvenated and stress-free and my skin was ever so soft and nourished from the light jasmine oil – Thai Square Spa has its very own iMantara range of products.

Thai Square Spa London

Making the most of my dreamlike state, I enjoyed a hot cup of secret blend Thai tea and grazed on banana chips and nuts on a lounger in the plush relaxation area.

I left feeling supple and energised and was impressed with spa experience and the quality of my treatment. Thai Square Spa offers a wide range of tailored treatments, but I highly recommend the So Sen Uplifting Ritual Massage as a reviving treat for the whole body.

The So Sen Uplifting Ritual Massage is priced at £80 for 60 minutes.  For more information and booking, visit: www.thaisquarespa.com

Chérie City was a guest of Thai Square Spa

Photos by Thai Square Spa

Bars, London

Sakura Season at ROKA with Suntory Whisky

London is at its prettiest in the spring, when the trees are adorned with tumbling, soft pink cherry blossom (known as Sakura in Japan).  Of course, you can find it in abundance in Kew Gardens, Regent’s Park or lining the streets of Notting Hill, but why not experience it over cocktails and bites?

Sakura Season at ROKA

Suntory Japanese Whisky brings the Sakura season to London at the Shochu Lounge, the subterranean cocktail bar with manga-style murals by artist Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl and Gorillaz) at ROKA Charlotte Street.

Sakura Season at ROKA

Guests can engage in Hanami – observing the transient beauty of flowers – under a stunning cherry blossom installation by floral designer Veevers Carter and sip on Sakura-inspired cocktails:

Match a Rack – an elegant fusion of matcha-infused Arrack and Hibiki Japanese Harmony, umami spirit and mango cordial, served straight up in a nick-and-nora martini glass.

Suntory Blossom – a short concoction of Hibiki Japanese Harmony, ume sake, blood orange and Sakura tincture. Served in a rock glass with carved ice, garnished with a dry blood orange wheel and Sakura blossom.

Happo Harmony – a sweet and spicy, refreshing amalgamation of oriental flavours, combining Hibiki Japanese Harmony, rhubarb and ginger syrup, soda water and sprayed lemon flower essence. Served in a highball glass with carved ice, garnished with a rhubarb twist.

Sakura cocktail at ROKA

The Match a Rack cocktail is paired with a small plate of Hokkaido snow crab with tapioca crisp and nori, created for the occasion by Hamish Brown, ROKA Group Executive Chef.  However, just one taste will leave you wanting more, so I recommend ordering some grazing plates to accompany your drinks. 

Hibiki Whisky at ROKA

At the buzzing launch party, the cherry blossom was electrified with pink lighting, free-flowing whisky and a seductive house and disco set by Portuguese DJ Rita Maia.  What could be better for a stylish (and highly Instagrammable) night out in London?

The Sakura Cocktails are priced at £10.90 and are available until 30th April at ROKA Charlotte Street and its three other locations – Aldwych, Canary Wharf and Mayfair.  For more information and booking, visit: www.rokarestaurant.com

Photos by Benjamin Eagle

London, Restaurants

Made of Dough Pop-Up at Market Yard

Authentic Italian pizza is one of my major weaknesses and I’m always on the lookout for new ones to try. Last week, I got my pizza fix at the launch of the Made of Dough six-week residency at Market Yard Kitchen in Shepherd’s Bush.

It’s not easy standing out when London foodies are firing up some pretty amazing pizzas, but founders Ed and Henry are doing something different – proper Neapolitan pizza with a nod to southern Spain. Growing up on a Mediterranean diet, they found inspiration from their heritage (Campania and Andalusia) and eating their way around Europe.

Made of Dough pizza

The 2015 London Pizza Festivals Champions have a permanent home at Pop Brixton, but they’ve taken their trusty Raffaela oven truck on the road to offer the full sit-down pizzeria experience in west London.

I usually test how good a pizza is with a Margherita, as there aren’t any toppings to distract or hide behind.  Made of Dough’s Margherita has a bubbly, chewy and lightly charred base and is topped simply with crushed San Marzano tomato, silky fior di latte, basil, extra-virgin olive oil and Parmesan.  The pizza was cooked to perfection with a woody, smoky taste and pure flavours from clearly top notch ingredients.

Made of Dough Nutella Pizza

I also loved the simple and delicious Serrano pizza with cherry tomatoes, mature serrano ham, fior di latte, peppery wild rocket and creamy stracciatella.  Most indulgent of all is the rich Truffle pizza bianca with portobello mushrooms, fior di latte, fragrant white alba truffle oil and velvety burrata.  A nice touch is the selection of gourmet dipping sauces for the dough crusts – Olive and anchovy tapenade, Spicy romesco and Basil aioli.

Wash your pizza down with a sunny Amalfi Negroni, Blood Orange Sangria, Staibano Spritz, Prosecco, Peroni or San Pellegrino.  If you have any room left, end the night in chocolate heaven with a hot and gooey Conchiglia a Nutella.

Made of Dough London

Made of Dough pizzas not only look the part, but they’re super-tasty, very filling and reasonably priced (from £6.50 to £12).  Make a pizza date right away, you don’t want to miss this one!

Made of Dough is at Market Yard Shepherd’s Bush from Wednesday to Sunday, until 1st May 2016.  For more information and booking, visit: www.madeofdough.co.uk

Photos by Made of Dough

London, Restaurants

Dalloway Terrace at The Bloomsbury Hotel

Early March may seem like a crazy time for terrace dining, but the newly-launched, toasty warm Dalloway Terrace in Bloomsbury is a delight all year-round.

Located in the chic Bloomsbury Hotel, Dalloway Terrace has the feel of a charming secret garden but with the comforts of powerful outdoor heaters, stylish wool blankets and of course, a retractable roof.  It definitely wins the prize of London’s prettiest new restaurant and I love the reference to Virginia Woolf’s literary heroine Clarissa Dalloway (I can’t count how many times I read Mrs Dalloway at university).

We visited for a sneak peek before its opening and it was already a slick affair with friendly, attentive staff and a warm ambiance.  The all-day, seasonal menu is filled with a good selection of tempting dishes and there are also daily specials and small plates for sharing.

Our meal started with some delicious cocktails – a refreshing jasmine tea and elderflower cocktail for me and a potent, sophisticated Honeycomb Old Fashioned for Steven.

I thoroughly enjoyed my starter of Grilled tiger prawns, harissa aioli and lime (£15/£22).  Four plump, succulent whole tiger prawns were perfectly grilled with a slightly smoky taste and served with a subtle, aromatic harissa aioli that wasn’t overly heavy on the garlic.

Steven’s Longcut organic smoked salmon, Guinness bread and lemon (£9) was ever so tasty and flavoursome. The high quality smoked salmon had an oaky flavour and was well complimented by the springy, sweet Guinness bread and punchy capers.

To follow, I tried the Grilled poussin with lemon and rosemary (£18) with a side of mashed potato (£4.50). The tender, juicy poussin had a golden, well-seasoned skin and I loved the creamy, comforting mashed potato.  The dish could however be improved by adding a light salad or vegetable garnish for a contrasting flavour – it definitely requires ordering a side.

Steven went for a classic with a twist – London Meantime beer battered sea bass and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce (£16).  The seabass was so fresh with a more distinctive flavour than the typical cod or haddock and the batter was crispy and light.  The slim home-cooked chips were so moreish and the dish was finished perfectly with tasty mushy peas and an intense tartare sauce.

I couldn’t resist a final bit of indulgence with the Valrhona dark chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream (£3.75).  The freshly-baked fondant had a yummy cake texture with a decadent oozing centre and was presented nicely with smooth ice cream, biscuit crumble, chocolate sauce and nut brittle.

Steven’s Bloomsbury Bakewell tart and pistachio ice cream (£3.75) was just as delicious, with buttery pastry, fluffy almond frangipane and sweet strawberry jam.  We finished our (well-priced) desserts with pots of Earl Grey tea, which were served elegantly in pretty china cups with a silver tea pot.

Dalloway Terrace is a real hidden gem in historic Bloomsbury and I can’t wait to go back for breakfast or lunch, hopefully while basking in the spring sunshine.  It’s also a prime spot for a quintessentially British afternoon tea with sweets by pastry chef Mariatu Kargbo (formerly at The Dorchester and The Lanesborough) – see you there!

For more information and booking, visit: www.dallowayterrace.com

Chérie City was a guest of Dalloway Terrace

Photos by Chérie City (interior images by Dalloway Terrace)

London, Restaurants

Lunch at Frenchie Covent Garden

It’s rare to find a restaurant that manages to tick off everything on your dream wish list.  Not an easy task, but that was my first impression of Frenchie Covent Garden after visiting for lunch a few days ago.

It’s safe to say that Frenchie has been one of the most anticipated new openings in London this season. Nantes-born chef Gregory Marchand and his wife Marie opened the original Frenchie in Paris’ hip Marais neighbourhood in 2009 and with just 26 seats, it’s still quite a mission to get a reservation.  A mini empire on the Rue du Nil followed with Frenchie Bar à Vins and Frenchie To Go, before bringing their innovative bistronomy concept to London.

Gregory Marchand knows the city well, having made his name at Savoy Grill, Mandarin Oriental, Electric House and Fifteen, where his mentor Jamie Oliver gave him the nickname ‘Frenchie’.  He has also cooked around the world in Hong Kong, Spain and at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern in New York.

Frenchie Covent Garden occupies a prime spot on Henrietta Street, just off the Piazza, and the interiors are unbelievably gorgeous.  Emilie Bonaventure designed the inviting two-floor space with white-wash walls, exposed brickwork, sleek marble bar, brass highlights, parquet flooring and comfortable seating in soft grey and rose pink fabrics.

I visited with a friend at lunchtime and as soon as I stepped through the door, I felt instantly welcome and well looked after.  We were seated at the counter and were brought a bottle of chilled water while deciding which of the three dishes to order from the daily-changing set lunch menu, which is designed for sharing (two courses for £22/three courses for £28).

Carrots & vadouvan, barley and medjool date was a stunning dish, elevating the simple beauty of heritage carrots with modern Indian flavours.  The sweet, slightly firm carrots were roasted in aromatic, gritty vadouvan (a blend of masala spices) and accompanied by a smooth carrot and cumin purée, springy barley doused in a lighter carrot sauce and a punchy date gel.  It was a visual delight with rich colours and exotic flavours, though a little spicier than I’d imagined.

Basque black pudding, bramley apple and stracciatella was a complete contrast to the carrots with cool, zingy flavours.  The velvety, rich black pudding was lightened with creamy stracciatella, tart bramley apple purée and tiny apple cubes.

Lincolnshire chicken, button mushroom, shiitake and Meyer lemon was an absolute joy to eat.  The succulent roast chicken was exemplary with a crispy, golden skin and a farm-fresh, matured taste.  However, it was the accompaniments that really excited – thin slices of button mushroom dusted with Iranian black lemon powder, herb-infused shiitake mushrooms, wilted greens, a buttery mushroom purée, a lusciously uplifting Meyer lemon curd and a garlicky meat jus.

It was quite possibly the most creative chicken dish I’ve ever tasted, with umami-rich surprises at every turn – it was so good I really didn’t want it to end.

Elwy Valley lamb pappardelle, Kalamata olives and espelette was presented in a more low-key, homely style but the flavours were sophisticated.  The fresh egg pappardelle was perfectly al dente and silky, topped with juicy, tender lamb, fragrant black olives and plenty of espelette pepper, which gave it a sumptuous, smoky taste.

The modest portion sizes meant that we could comfortably indulge in the Bitter sweet chocolate tart, Maldon sea salt & bacon ice cream.  Now, I love chocolate but a simple chocolate tart has to be really special to pique my interest and happily, this one was absolutely heavenly.

The thick chocolate ganache was like velvet and went well with the thin, rustic pastry and sticky salted caramel.  The ice cream was delicious, but I could only detect the slightest hint of smoky bacon – it was enjoyable but didn’t make a big impact on the dessert.

New season Yorkshire rhubarb and Brillat-Savarin was so pretty and fresh – I can’t help gravitating towards pink desserts.  Mouth-watering rhubarb sorbet sat atop sweet poached rhubarb and smooth, whipped vanilla-scented Brillat-Savarin (a soft white cheese) and crunchy biscuit crumble.

One of the most remarkable things about Frenchie is the staff.  They’re just so charming, knowledgeable and genuinely interested in their guests, particularly Head Sommelier Bastien Ferreri who took the time to chat with us between each course.

Gregory Marchand was cooking downstairs in the open kitchen while we were there and is present almost every day, living nearby on Neal Street.  This dedicated direction and fine attention to detail has made Frenchie a huge success already, just a few weeks after opening.

Frenchie Covent Garden is certainly more accessible than the Paris restaurant, but following quick word-of-mouth and rave reviews, it’s already becoming difficult to get a table.  So go quickly, as Frenchie is a restaurant you won’t want to miss.

For more information and booking, visit: www.frenchiecoventgarden.com

Food images by Chérie City and interiors by Virginie Garnier

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

London, Restaurants

Le Valentin hamburgé at Big Fernand London

They say the French are the best at romance, so why not leave Valentine’s Day in the capable hands of those Gallic charmers at Big Fernand?

Last night, we spent a pre-Valentine’s evening at Big Fernand in Fitzrovia and the flat-capped chaps managed to lure me away from my favourite hamburgé – Le Bartholomé – to try limited edition Le Valentin.

This decadent burger features a signature Big Fernand patty of freshly minced Charolais beef, topped with wild mushrooms, sweet mayonnaise and heart-shaped cheese Neufchatel, served in a sesame-seed bun and finished with chives and truffle oil.

My burger was cooked perfectly medium with a lovely smoky taste and I loved the addition of the strong, gooey Neufchatel.  This Normandy fromage has the appearance of Camembert but is much more pungent and mature.  It was well complemented by the buttery wild mushrooms, tangy home-made mayonnaise, fresh herbs and a very subtle hint of truffle oil (without overpowering the other flavours).

Steven tried Le Philibert – a delicious burger with succulent seasoned chicken, mild Tomme de Savoie cheese, juicy grilled peppers, fresh tarragon and home-made mayonnaise.  We accompanied our burgers with some delicious French chips sprinkled with home-made Cajun-style seasoning.

I usually pass on dessert at Big Fernand but what a mistake that is…they’re délicieux!  The enormous Financier Pistachio was moist and rich with golden, crispy corners and a delicate pistachio flavour.  Another top choice was the Apple and Cinnamon Tart with fine, buttery pastry and thin slices of sweet, caramelised cinnamon-scented apple.

You can wash it all down with a bottle of wine from France’s Pays d’Oc, a blonde beer or our choice of pink fizz – L’Elixir D’Archibald Fernand Pomegranate, Peppermint and Lemon.

Of course, Le Valentin is too good to enjoy only on Cupid’s day of love, so it’s available until the end of the month.  Allez…allez…treat your amour to an hamburgé!

Chérie City was a guest of Big Fernand

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: www.mapleandfitz.com

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

London, Restaurants

Kanada-Ya Ramen Bar Haymarket, London

Kanada-Ya made a big impact when it launched on St Giles High Street last year and it has remained my preferred London ramen bar since.  It hasn’t always been easy to grab a walk-in seat due to its popularity and petite size, but thankfully, Kanada-Ya has met demand and earlier this month opened a second ramen bar on Panton Street, just off Haymarket.

Kanada Kazuhiro’s new ramen bar is thankfully larger and set across two floors, with two bookable tables for groups of 5-7 as well as the usual walk-in tables and counter.  Designed by Spaced Out Ltd, Kanada-Ya Haymarket has a casual, minimal feel with simple light wood furniture and red accents.  It’s comfortable enough, but is definitely the kind of place for a quick and tasty refuel, rather than lounging over drinks.

The menu has also been modestly expanded to include two more side dishes and Japanese ice cream for dessert.  The focus remains on the ramen, which is quickly served up piping hot in large bowls with a number of extras, so you can customise it to your own taste.

We visited on Monday evening just before Christmas and arrived to find an orderly queue forming outside. It didn’t take long to be seated and we started by ordering iced Oolong tea – a lovely, refreshing drink in a can without any added sugar.  For something stronger, Kanada-Ya serves a good range of bottled cocktails, Japanese craft beer, rare Japanese whiskies and wine selection.

I was excited to try Kanada-Ya’s spin on one of my favourite Japanese bites – Chicken Kara-age.  The tender chicken thigh was well-marinated in ginger, garlic and soy and fried with a little more batter than I’m used to, but still delicious and satisfying.  It was not at all greasy nor in any way spicy but the seasoning certainly packed a punch.  There’s also a side of Paolo’s Spicy Kale to choose from, if you’re after something healthier.

To follow, Steven went for the Original Ramen, which made such an impression on us the first time we visited Kanada-Ya St. Giles.  It was exactly how we remembered, with a rich, creamy 18-hour pork bone broth, plenty of springy, hand-pulled noodles, earthy wood ear fungus, finely-sliced spring onion and a large sheet of flavoursome nori.

Of course, the star of the show was the chashu pork belly with a deep honey barbecue flavour and a silky, melt-in-the-mouth texture.  This house-marinated pork really is rather special and sets Kanada-Ya apart from other from rest.

I wanted to try something new and happily, the Chashu-Men was just as tasty and comforting as I’d hoped.  The ramen base was exactly the same as the original, but the bowl was lined with generous slices of succulent chashu pork collar.  The slices of pork were larger and leaner, with hardly any fat at all, and the portion size was almost double.  The pork collar still had that sweet chashu flavour, but it was much more subtle than the intense pork belly in the Original Ramen.  Both types of pork are absolutely delicious, it just depends on your mood and hunger levels.

It’s essential that you save some room for the dreamy Matcha Soft Serve.  The smooth, not overly sweet whipped ice cream was packed full of matcha green tea, giving it a bold flavour without any bitterness.  It’s the perfect light dessert to cool down after a bowl of hot ramen and leave you with a bit of a matcha high.

There are still so many ramen bars to work my way through in London and beyond, but Kanada-Ya has set a standard that will be hard to beat (although I’m up for the challenge).  If you’re in the mood for a ramen fix, or want to see what all the fuss is about, Kanada-Ya is where you need to be.

For more information, visit: www.kanada-ya.com

Chérie City was a guest of Kanada-Ya Haymarket

Photos by Chérie City and Kanada-Ya Haymarket

Kanada Ya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

London, Restaurants

Dinner at Hawksmoor Knightsbridge

With so many renowned London institutions to strike off the list, it’s likely that a few will slip through the net.  After visiting this weekend, I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t experience the beauty that is Hawksmoor much earlier!

When I first started blogging in 2009, Will Beckett and Huw Gott’s British steakhouse Hawksmoor was on the lips (and keyboards) of London foodies, who raved about its superior steaks and burgers punctuated with small nuggets of bone marrow.  It’s fair to say that this grassroots acclaim has paved the way for Hawksmoor to expand to six locations across London and one in Manchester.  The original restaurant is based in Spitalfields, appropriately named after Nicholas Hawksmoor, the architect of nearby Christ Church.

After a leisurely afternoon of Christmas shopping, we arrived at Hawksmoor Knightsbridge for an early dinner.  Usually Saturday night dining in central London needs to be organised with military precision, but just a few days ahead, I secured our spot easily with Bookatable, dining from the set dinner at 5pm.

Subterranean Hawksmoor Knightsbridge is discreetly tucked away on Yeoman’s Row, just a short walk from Harrods, V&A and Hyde Park.  Designed by Macaulay Sinclair, the restaurant has a retro clubhouse feel with reclaimed walnut panelling, brass lamps, touches of grey marble and stunning amber-hued Art Deco windows.

It’s a slick, polished operation yet the ambiance cultivated is unpretentious with a cool indie soundtrack and friendly staff mostly dressed in plaid shirts and glasses.  There’s also an intimate cocktail bar away from the main dining room where you can graze on burgers, steak sandwiches lobster rolls.

Dining at the pre-theatre time of 5pm may seem early, but since Hawksmoor Knightsbridge is a popular restaurant, it was already buzzing and filled up quickly.  The set lunch or dinner is an excellent way to get a taste of Hawksmoor’s signature dishes at a very reasonable price – two course for £24 or three courses for £27.

I started with a very generous portion of Tamworth belly ribs with vinegar slaw.  The pork was so tender and flaky, with lean meat packed between layers of melt-in-the-mouth fat.  They were nicely charred on the outside and coated in a punchy dry rub with aromatic flavors of cumin, star anise and chipotle chilli.

The paper-thin ribbons of red cabbage doused in a tangy vinegar added freshness and helped offset the unexpected spiciness – my mouth was left tingling after I finished.

Steven tried the Potted smoked mackerel, which was a simple classic done well.  The mackerel had a bold, clean flavour with a layer of clarified butter on top and served with dill cucumbers and crispy toasts.  The other dish on the set menu was Roast beetroot salad with goat’s cheese, which looked colourful, fresh and inviting.

For the main course, I was happy to find two steak options, avoiding any potential squabbles over who would order the meat.  For a £5 supplement I enjoyed the most heavenly, medium-cooked Fillet tail (200g). The presentation was minimal without any leaves, herbs or garnish in sight, but that didn’t really matter, as the steak certainly impressed.

Fillet is my favourite cut of steak and this one was excellent with a pink, succulent centre graduating to smoky, chargrilled edges and with a pure, natural flavour.  I always ask for my steak medium, but with this thick cut, you could easy go down to medium-rare for a little more juiciness.

The set dinner also includes one side and I highly recommend the Baked sweet potato.  The potato flesh is so soft and tender, it simply falls off the buttery skin and is the perfect accompaniment for the steak.  The only thing missing is a choice of sauce, but you can order a side of Béarnaise, peppercorn or Stilton Hollandaise for an additional £3.

Steven’s Rib-eye (250g) was just as tasty and beautifully-cooked with a mature, aged flavour.  The layer of fat and softness of the meat gave it richness – well-suited to those who prefer a more complex taste.  The thick-cut Triple cooked chips were golden, hot and crispy and served with a delicious home-made tomato ketchup that had a sweet hint of cinnamon.  Other options are Hake or Ricotta dumplings with autumn vegetables, but really, it’s all about the meat.

We found the steaks to be just the right size for a filling, satisfying meal, however the steaks on the main menu go up to a whopping 500g!  You’ll need to loosen your purse strings a little more, but then again the quality is undisputed, with steaks from ethically-reared traditional British breeds.

For dessert, I went all out with the indulgent Peanut butter shortbread, which was even better than I expected.  A freshly-baked pastry star was filled with molten dark chocolate sauce and velvety peanut butter, finished with salted caramel ice cream and crushed peanuts.  It was simply heaven on a plate, ending my meal on the sweetest note.

Steven’s Lemon and yoghurt cheesecake was zingy and refreshing, but I found it too creamy.  The whipped cheesecake filling was a bit overwhelming and lacked the tartness that a cheesecake should have, plus the biscuit base was mixed in so there was no crunch.  Go for the Peanut butter shortbread (or perhaps the other option of Passionfruit pavlova) instead.

I can safely say I’ve been initiated into the cult of Hawksmoor and am already planning our next steak jaunt, perhaps to the Spitalfields restaurant closer to home.  The set dinner is excellent value with a great selection of winning dishes and you’re sure to leave feeling happy and well-fed.

For more information and booking, visit: www.bookatable.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of Bookatable

Photos by Chérie City and Hawksmoor Knightsbridge 

London, Restaurants

Weekend Lunch at The Richmond, Hackney

A truly memorable pub lunch isn’t always easy to find, but Hackney is hiding a little gem that you need to know about.  Opened just this year, The Richmond is nestled between Dalston, Haggerston and London Fields – slightly off the beaten path, making it a bit of an insider’s address.

Its previous incarnation was an eccentric Egyptian-themed restaurant, but now co-owners, Australian chef and restaurateur Brett Redman and stylist and fashion consultant Margaret Crow, have turned it into a stylish, cosy hotspot.

Not only is The Richmond a welcoming bar and restaurant with an exciting menu, but it’s also east London’s first raw bar.  It offers fresh, light seafood dishes such as tuna tartare, scallop carpaccio and Portuguese prawns, but its speciality is oysters sourced from across the UK.  There’s even a £1 oyster happy hour from Monday to Saturday, so you can easily sample them all.

Far from a typical boozer, The Richmond has a dining room set-up with an open kitchen and a cool bar for cocktails and bites.  Its period features have been lovingly restored alongside contemporary furnishings by interiors designer and antiques dealer Adam Bray (without a hieroglyphic in sight).  Even on the bitterly cold Saturday afternoon that we visited, it still has a warm atmosphere (and thankfully some heavy velvet curtains to keep out the chill).

We started with a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail of elderflower, lime and soda, however you can go all out with a detox-retox Kale Mary, Quince Bellini or Irish coffee.

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than a warming soup, so I started with the Crab bisque, samphire and aioli (£7).  The velvety smooth bisque was full-bodied and packed with plenty of juicy crab, punctuated with salty sprigs of samphire.

The creamy, potent aioli on top made it even more luxurious, although I didn’t stir in all of it for fear of overpowering that bold seafood flavour.  Every last drop of bisque was mopped up with slices of springy, crusty sourdough boule from a little bakery in Borough Market – definitely the best I’ve ever tasted in a pub.

Steven went for one of the raw dishes – Smoked salmon with avocado, creme fraiche and pickled onions (£9).  The oaky smoked salmon simply melted in the mouth and was perfectly matched with silky avocado, tangy pink onions and a light emulsion.

I followed with Spit-roast poussin, pumpkin & sage stuffing, marsala gravy (£18). The poussin was ever so succulent and flavoursome, with a crispy, sticky skin.  The pumpkin and sage stuffing was aromatic yet subtle and the rich, meaty marsala gravy brought everything together nicely.

Equally delicious and autumnal was Steven’s Hampshire pork, delica pumpkin, trompettes and port.  The nicely browned pork fillet was complimented by caramelised pumpkin and smooth pumpkin purée, slow-cooked trompettes and slivers of soft shallot with dots of port reduction.  Both main dishes were so delightfully tasty, with portion sizes that satisfied while leaving a little room for dessert.

Desserts stray from the typical pub formula into French territory and our waiter recommended the two hot desserts to keep us toasty warm.  I got my sweet fix with the Apple beignets with caramelised apple and ricotta sorbet (£7).  The warm, golden choux fritters were light as air and filled with a sour apple compote and rolled in powdered sugar.  While beignets are usually paired with a dipping sauce, I liked the sweet and sour apple contrast and the tartness of the ricotta sorbet.

The dessert with the slight edge, however, was the Brown butter financier, cinnamon poached pears and crystallised almonds (£7).  The heavenly financier had a moist, dense texture with an extra treat of whisky sugar syrup poured over the top.  The juicy, fragrant pears were dusted with sweet candied almonds and the dish was finished with a glossy crème anglaise.  The portion sizes may appear on the small side, but these desserts really pack a punch.

The Richmond is a real asset to Hackney’s dining scene, offering exceptional, creative food that is worthy of the high praise it receives.  I’m thrilled to make it my new ‘local’ and can’t wait to see what’s in store at Brett Redman’s new Dalston yakitori restaurant, Jidori.  Hopefully an east London restaurant empire could be on the horizon.

Lunch is served at The Richmond from 1pm-3pm on Saturday and 1pm-4pm on Sunday.  For more information and booking, visit: www.therichmondhackney.com

Chérie City was a guest of The Richmond

Food images by Chérie City and interiors by Ed Reeve

The Richmond Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato