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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

Paris, Restaurants

A Foodie Trip to Paris

Our recent trip to Paris was a whirlwind of foodie delights and as ever, we made lots of new discoveries.  I usually plan our meals with military precision but decided to loosen things up this time and go wherever our hearts and stomachs took us.

When we arrived in Paris and settled in to our lovely room at Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, a lazy Sunday afternoon was in full swing.  Our Paris trips are almost always mid-week, so it was a rare pleasure to see Parisians and visitors strolling around with their pooches, kissing in the Tuileries and making the most of a sunny weekend.

One of my favourite people-watching spots in Paris is the terrace of Cafe Le Nemours on Place Colette, sandwiched between the Louvre and the Palais Royal.  We managed to score an outside table and ordered two Croque Madames for a tasty refuel.  I’m always on the hunt for these traditional Croques with bubbling, oozing Gruyère, crispy buttered bread and a runny egg yolk (none of that slim slice of pain Poilâne nonsense).

As much as I tend to seek out creative neo-bistros and hip new bars, I also love a bit of Parisian old world charm.  The kind of institutions that have been serving up exemplary steak frites to the hungry masses for decades without a care for the latest trends.

There’s no better place to find these gems than around the Palais Royal with its many traditional arcades nearby.  So later that evening, we headed to Bistrot Vivienne set in the characterful, early 19th century Galerie Vivienne for a relaxed supper.

We both had our hearts set on steak frites and washed them down with a Monaco instead of the usual red wine.  My Scotch beef onglet steak was tender and lean, served perfectly medium with a velvety, mild gorgonzola sauce.  Steven’s Scotch Beef entrecôte with Guérande sea salt had a more mature flavour and a melt-in-the-mouth texture and was served with pot of a tangy, herby Béarnaise sauce.

The accompanying hand-cut fries are possibly the best I’ve ever tasted in Paris – hot, crispy, golden and freshly cooked.  We didn’t find room for dessert but will no doubt be lured back next time for the Brioche pain perdue and the Bourbon vanilla rice pudding with salted caramel.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a luxury Paris trip without a little casual fine dining and what better than a leisurely three-course lunch at Le Lulli, the stunning restaurant at Grand Hotel du Palais Royal?

I loved the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere and contemporary design with a pretty winter garden referencing nature in the Palais Royal Garden.  It was quiet when we visited but is generally popular among the local business crowd and ladies who lunch, looking for something special and more private than nearby bistrots.

At the helm of Le Lulli is Executive Chef Clément Le Norcy, who honed his skills under the guidance of Michelin starred chefs at Hotel Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly, L’Abbaye Saint Ambroix and Hotel Le Saint-James and Le Gabriel in Bordeaux.

I started with the most delicious Gambas with roasted sucrine and shellfish vinaigrette.  The plump gambas were perfectly cooked and had an Asian twist with the slightly sweet vinaigrette and tiny mushrooms infused with soy.

Steven’s Salmon marinated with rose berry, cucumbers and spring onions was a delight with plenty of nicely-cured salmon, mini blinis and tempura spring onion.

After the previous evening’s indulgent steak, I went with a light and healthy Cod with mashed mushrooms and pistachio pesto.  It was succulent and crispy on top and the accompanying sauces were full of flavour with a smooth texture.

The winning dish, however, was Steven’s Lamb marinated with thyme and lemon, grilled leeks and spiced yoghurt.  The tender, lightly glazed lamb was ever so satisfying with a rich, meaty jus and delicate, fresh leeks.

Our meal ended on a high note with delicious desserts and a pot of tea.  My Entrement Chocolat, described as melty and crunchy from Tanzania, was simply heavenly.  The exquisite, velvety milk chocolate mousse (obviously made from very high quality chocolate) was filled with sticky sponge and topped with a chocolate sablé biscuit and drops of shimmering fruit gelée.

Steven’s Lemon tart was a refreshing classic with zingy lemon curd softened by lightly-whipped meringue, a buttery pastry base and crunchy lemon sugar tuiles.

We walked off this delicious, memorable meal around the Palais Royal Gardens and the Tuileries before checking out the Perspective Playground by Olympus at our favourite art space, Palais de Tokyo.

That evening, it was back to Le Lulli Bar for an aperitif with a long-time Twitter friend.  We chatted about all things Paris and travel over the most fantastic cocktails – head barman Maxime Rousseau’s cocktails are so tempting it took us a while choose.  My cocktail, Le Louvre, was a potent, fragrant blend of Hendick’s Gin, iced tea, hibiscus syrup and lime.  If you’re in the mood for bubbles, there are over 30 types of Champagne available.

After cocktails, we raced across town to meet our friends Coralie and Sunny at Glou in the Marais.  We have Coralie to thank for suggesting this cosy, loft-style bistrot by ex-food writer Julien Fouin.  It’s all about simple, honest cooking with a focus on organic ingredients from French terroirs and natural, biodynamic wine.

My Perigord chicken with Paris mushrooms and potato purée was the very best of comfort food and Steven was impressed with the Cod fillet with fennel choucroute and black olive oil.

Coralie enjoyed her Grilled plaice with potato purée and while the vegetarian Moussaka had run out, Sunny was brought a platter of rich, creamy vegetable-based dishes.

Desserts were typically French Tarte Tatin and Caramel rice pudding, which were executed well and with few surprises.  Glou is a great spot if you’re in the mood for fresh, home-cooked food in a pleasant atmosphere with friendly service – we would certainly visit again.

Of course, a trip to Paris is only complete with at least one beautiful cake.  I was delighted that our hotel was so close to the Sébastien Gaudard Patisserie Salon de Thé des Tuileries, as I’ve wanted to visit since discovering his first patisserie on the rue des Martyrs last year.

Since we were running late for the Eurostar (time is always too short in Paris), we ordered cakes to take out as a special treat for the train ride home.  A great idea in theory, but the baggage scanners aren’t always patisserie-friendly and they looked a little rough and ready, but still edible.

Steven’s Rum Baba was a classic done exceedingly well, but my Religieuse au Chocolat wasn’t really to my taste.  I rarely meet a cake I don’t like, but the dark chocolate filling was a little too heavy and intense (the selection at Ladurée remains undefeated as my favourite).  I am however undeterred and will continue to work through Sébastien Gaudard’s sweet repertoire on my next trip.

Our trip to Paris was a foodie success and there are still plenty of restaurants on my wish list for next time – Rachel’s, Monsieur Bleu, Lazare, Paris-New York and Le Grand Colbert to name but a few.

Have you tried any of these cafes and restaurants?  Where are your favourite foodie spots in Paris?

Photos by Chérie City (restaurant interior by Le Lulli)

Chérie City was a guest of Le Lulli as part of a two-night stay at Grand Hotel du Palais Royal 

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: www.tapasrevolution.com

Chérie City was a guest of Tapas Revolution

Photos by Chérie City and Tapas Revolution

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

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: www.bombayb.co.uk

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

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.

NENI

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


Paris, Restaurants

Top Eats in Paris

As Audrey Hepburn once said, ‘Paris is always a good idea’ and it’s even better when you really indulge in the city’s exquisite gastronomy.  With so many tempting French dishes, chic terrace cafes and hidden gems to navigate, it’s hard to know where to start!

On my regular trips to Paris, I try to find a balance between traditional specialities that I can only find in France and the city’s new international style of cooking, however there’s always room for cake…and a lot of it!

A fabulous foodie trip to Paris can be done on all budgets (it’s the home of gourmet bakeries and markets, after all), but you’ll want to leave plenty of Euros for some memorable eating.  That’s where low-cost regional airline Flybe can help with cheap flights from a number of UK cities to both Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly Ouest Airports.  I’m particularly happy to find out that Flybe runs a Newcastle to Paris route, so I can meet my mother in Paris for a girls’ weekend of shopping and dining.

So, what should you be eating on an autumn trip to Paris?  Here are some of my top bites in the City of Lights…

Le Hamburgé 

Burgers are a big deal in Paris and there’s just something about a French hamburgé that really hits the spot.  Two of the best I’ve ever tasted can be found on or around the rue St-Honoré at chic brasserie Le Castiglione and cosy family-run restaurant Ferdi (Kim and Kanye’s favourite French comfort food spot).  It’s the gooey melted cheese, grilled bacon and secret sauce maison that make these Parisian burgers oh so special.  Other notable American-style patties can be found at Ralph’s, Hotel Amour and Maison Mère.

Onion soup

A traditional brasserie classic, soupe a l’oignon gratinée is one of the best things you can order for a tasty lunch in Paris.  Not all onion soups are created equal, but I recently had a fantastic one at Bar du Central in well-heeled Saint-Germain.  A really good onion soup should be rich and piping hot, packed full of thin caramelised onions, topped with a bubbling Gruyère crouton and ideally served with a basket of baguette and French butter.

Steak frites

A true joy of dining out in Paris is a juicy, tender steak served with slim, crispy fries and a yummy Béarnaise or Café de Paris sauce.  Three Michelin starred chef Yannick Alléno is renowned for his ground-breaking cooking, but a more hearty meal of excellent steak frites can be found at his two casual restaurants Terroir Parisien and STAY at Paris Le Faubourg.

Neo-bistro fare 

Explore Paris’ innovative neo-bistro scene with a daily-changing, affordable set menu created by Michelin standard chefs in modest surroundings.  A hot neo-bistro opens almost every month in Paris, but I highly recommend established players Inaki Aizpitarte’s Le Chateaubriand, Chez l’Ami Jean by Stéphane Jégo and Grégory Marchand’s Frenchie.

Croissants

A breakfast staple the world over, but no one can bake a croissant quite like the Parisians – they even have an annual competition to award the best ones.  Most Parisian hotels will source their breakfast croissants from their trusted local boulangerie, but you can also go straight to the source and queue at the counters of Gerard Mulot, Boulangerie Pichard and Arnaud Delmontel like a true Parisian.

Patisserie 

My days in Paris are usually spent on a rose-tinted sugar high, as it’s impossible to resist the copious, beautiful cakes.  The ultimate tea salons to enjoy decadent pastries are the gilded Angelina, Ladurée Champs-Élysées and Le Jardin Francais at Hotel Le Bristol where you can choose from the sweet trolley.  To sample the coolest pastry trends, visit L’Éclair de Génie, Popelini for pretty profiteroles and Pierre Hermé for exciting new macaron flavours.

Are you tempted by a foodie trip to Paris?  What are your favourite Parisian hotspots?

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Photos by Chérie City

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: www.yauatcha.com

Chérie City was a guest of Yauatcha City

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Yauatcha City)

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

Glasgow, Restaurants

A Foodie Trip to Glasgow

I fell in love with Glasgow when I lived there as a student for four years, so when I was asked by People Make Glasgow to revisit to explore the Scottish city’s thriving foodie scene, it was a no-brainer.

I already had more than a few favourite food spots (and far too many bars), but a lot has changed in the eight years that I’ve been away and I was excited for a whirlwind weekend of new discoveries.

After a very civilised and stress-free British Airways flight from City Airport, we swiftly checked in to our shiny, high-tech rooms at citizenM Glasgow.  The plush king-size corner bed, iPad-controlled mood lighting and pod-style rainfall shower made for a fun, comfortable stay.

Then, it was straight back out for a late supper and drinks at Hutchesons with my Glasgow pal, Katie Chutzpah.  This stylish Merchant City restaurant and bar is housed in the striking 19th century Hutcheson Hospital and boasts some opulent interiors.

We nestled in a corner booth in the cosy ground-floor bar and grazed on the most amazing Scottish prawns on ice, dressed crab and skinny fries.  Our libations of choice were a Parma Violet, Twinkle and Bollinger Champagne, however there is also a collection of £5 signature cocktails – as if we needed any more reason to love a night out in Glasgow.

The next morning, our epic foodie day in Glasgow started with a spicy kick at Babu Bombay Street Kitchen just a short walk from our hotel on West Regent Street.  Owner Rachna Dheer found Glasgow lacking in authentic, healthy Indian street food, so she introduced Babu at farmers’ markets around the city before setting up this basement kitchen gem in the city centre.

Babu serves freshly-prepared roti wraps, dahls and curries all day and the morning offering is an Indian take on typical Scottish breakfast dishes.  The pungent aromas are intoxicating and the kitchen is filled with fresh herbs, spices – this place is the real deal.

We basked in the sun and enjoyed a selection of dishes including Spicy scrambled eggs on a Mortons roll (Scotland’s famous everyday bakery) and Bacon chapatti wrap with fresh salad.  I was in the mood for something sweet and tried the most delicious, aromatic Chai brownie washed down with warming ginger tea.

This set us up well for a morning of foraging with Monica Wilde at Boden Boo urban wood in the shadow of the Erskine Bridge over the River Clyde.  This was my first time foraging and I was truly amazed by the copious plants and flowers that can be eaten or distilled to benefit the body.

Monica guided us through the wood, highlighting useful plants and plucking pieces for us to taste.  She also had a well-stocked forager’s bag full of alcoholic botanical tinctures for us to taste along the way, while the chefs from the acclaimed Riverhill Restaurant & Bar filled a basket in preparation for lunch.

Feeling inspired by nature, we headed back to Riverhill in the city centre for our special Boden Boo’s Bounty four-course lunch, complete with potent cocktails.  We were all impressed with the chefs’ high end, flavoursome vegetarian creations and how they utilised our foraged (and completely free) ingredients.

My favourite dish from the menu was the Aviemore girolles & Lanark oyster mushroom fricasse, chicken of the woods & parmesan powder, fermented wild garlic puree and deep-fried Luss duck egg.  I also loved the fragrant, delicate dessert of Dog rose jelly, meadowsweet sabayon, wild berries, gorse sable & yellow raspberry sherbet.

Scotland has long been synonymous with whisky, but gin is having quite a moment there, so off we went to an industrial estate on the Southside to discover the first gin to be produced in metropolitan Glasgow.

The Glasgow Distillery Company was originally founded in the 1770s and was revived just two years ago, debuting its first new product Makar Gin.

Named after the Scots word for bard or poet, Makar Gin is a juniper-led botanical dry gin that’s made in small batches of 300 in a copper still called Annie.  We tried this bold, vibrant gin both on its own and as a typical G&T and as if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to a wee sip of the distillery’s other produced spirit, Prometheus Whisky (a cool £500 per bottle).

We spent our Saturday night dining around Glasgow’s hip new foodie quarter Finnieston in the West End. This was my neighbourhood for four years and so much has changed since it was simply a low-key residential area with students occupying the grand tenement buildings just a stroll away from beautiful Kelvingrove Park (how lucky we were to live there).

I would never have expected to see pugs and Mulberry Bayswaters in this area, but that was the vibe at our first stop of the night, The Finnieston.  Graham Suttle’s popular Scottish seafood bar and restaurant opened just last year and is designed like an urban fisherman’s tavern.

The Finnieston is known for its extensive gin collection, so of course we kicked things off with a Scottish gin cocktail made with Caorunn Gin, Fentimans Tonic and Red Apple.

We grazed on a selection of starter dishes including Fresh Pacific oysters, Heritage carrot, orange & kipper salad and Double dived scallops with roast baby aubergine & courgette, crowdie stuffed courgette flower and Romesco sauce.

The main course was served next door at The Finnieston’s slicker and more relaxed sister restaurant Porter & Rye, a temple of fine dry-aged meats.  We were treated to a succulent, perfectly-cooked Porterhouse steak and literally all of the side dishes on the menu to share.  I particularly enjoyed the Ayrshire potatoes with smoked Abernathy butter and the indulgent Mac and cheese with thick-cut smoked bacon.

A brisk walk back towards the centre of town was very much needed before our final foodie stop of the night, the renowned Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery.  Two Fat Ladies is a real Glasgow institution and its romantic, old world Scottish decor – complete with tartan and oak panelling – is just irresistible.

We were seated in a beautiful private room with Scottish thistle wallpaper by Glasgow design company Timorous Beasties and various ornaments lovingly collected by the general manager.

We finished the night on a sweet note with the Two Fats grand dessert tasting plate, an impressive cheeseboard, petit fours and of course a Scottish whisky tasting.  It was lovely to get a glimpse of Two Fat Ladies, but I would love to revisit on another trip, as the fine dining experience seemed quite magical.

The next morning started with a caffeine kick at Gordon St Coffee Roastery, conveniently located inside Glasgow Central Station.  Well-known on the Glasgow coffee scene, Gordon St’s beans are roasted and ground in-house on the mezzanine level – there’s even a special Glasgow Blend.  I could only inhale the delicious aromas enviously due to my coffee intolerance (mine’s an Earl Grey), but I can report that they do a fantastic bacon roll and posh giant blackcurrant marshmallows served on pretty floral china.

Our next stop was a real adventure, visiting the Plan Bee hive at privately-owned home Haggs Castle.  Plan Bee provides and manages bee hives for Glasgow businesses (including Two Fat Ladies) and arranges visits for schools to connect children with nature.

We got kitted up in protective overalls, veils and wellies and chief beekeeper Warren Bader opened the hive, filled to the brim with over 60,000 honeybees.  At first it was a little daunting, but the bees were quite calm and good-natured, allowing the most courageous in our group to take a close look at the frames covered in honeycomb.

Once the bees were safely back in their home before the rain came, we tasted the fruits of their labour.  We tried the most delicious honey in flavours such as cinnamon, Italian truffle and vanilla and the good news is they can be bought directly online.

For our final meal in Glasgow, it was posh comfort food all the way at The Vintage at Drygate Brewery.  A collaboration between Williams Bros. and Scotland’s famous beer company Tennents, Drygate Brewery is an ‘experiential’ craft brewery, restaurant and event space that hosts gigs, comedy nights and marketing – very cool and very Glasgow.

Most of us went for the awesome Drygate beef burger with jerk ox cheek served with triple cooked chips and house slaw.  It’s a meaty, satisfying burger and the jerk ox cheek is a great addition, but if you come with an appetite, it’s also worth ordering some punchy Sobrasada beans and potatoes, bacon and oats for the table.  Wash it all down with a chilled Gladeye IPA, Outaspace Apple Ale or Bearface Lager and watch them being brewed through the transparent glass.

There’s also a retail shop with an unbelievable selection of rare and interesting craft beers.  If only we weren’t restricted by the flight carry-on liquid allowance, I would’ve brought home a few bottles, especially since the labels are designed with stunning artwork by Glasgow Art School students.

My weekend in Glasgow was so memorable and exciting and I loved seeing how vibrant the city has become. It’s a real haven for foodies with top notch restaurants doing wonderful things with the best Scottish produce and a community that’s so passionate about good eating and hospitality.  But don’t just take my word for it, get yourself up to Glasgow for an amazing weekend.

For further information for booking your trip to Glasgow, visit: www.peoplemakeglasgow.com

Chérie City was very happily invited by People Make Glasgow

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by The Finnieston & Two Fat Ladies. Plan Bee by People Make Glasgow)

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: www.hakkasan.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hakkasan Hanway Place

Photos by Chérie City and Hakkasan Hanway Place

Click to add a blog post for Hakkasan on Zomato

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: www.minjiang.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of Min Jiang

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Min Jiang)

Click to add a blog post for Min Jiang - Royal Garden Hotel on Zomato